Isaiah 40:22

Lawrence May lgmay at
Thu Jul 18 16:11:35 EDT 2002

Does this mean that the bible teaches that the ancients knew the Earth
was round contrary to those contemporary with Christopher Columbus who
believed in a flat earth

Rolf Furuli wrote:

> Dear John,  I think the comments in this thread have failed to address
> the main part of your question, so I will give some comments. The
> central sense the word heth waw gimel is a geometric circle, and this
> is evidently the sense in Isaiah 40:22. As to the term aleph resh
> sade, it is of paramount importance to keep in mind that word meaning
> is not found in lexicons and word books, which just contain glosses,
> but word meaning is found in the minds of living people, those who
> spoke Hebrew in ancient times. The letters of a Hebrew (or English)
> word have no intrinsic meaning, but they signal a concept (or
> sometimes two or more concepts) in the minds of native speakers. The
> context in which a word occurs does not generate new meaning, but
> helps the reader to understand which part of the concept the writer
> wanted to make visible. The word in question can refer to a particular
> area inhabited by a nation, a smaller part of this area, or to the
> whole earth. So, which part of the concept signaled by aleph resh sade
> does the author of Isaiah 40:22 make visible? The setting is heaven
> and earth and their creation, and God is enthroned above the circle of
> the earth. The sense can hardly be anything  but the planet earth. Do
> I hear another question behind your written question, namely, did the
> writer of the chapter imply that the earth is a sphere? The question
> is somewhat anachronistic, but it can be rephrased. If your physician
> suspects that you have experienced a small bleeding inside your brain
> and a CT or MR picture is taken, and it shows a small bright spot, the
> physician will not say: "This finding proves that you have had a
> bleeding." But the physician will say: "This finding conforms with our
> suspection that you have had a bleeding." So the question can be
> rephrased thus: "Do the words of Isaiah conform with the modern view
> of a spherical earth?" To this question the answer is yes. To
> illustrate the case further, we can take a look at 40:26-28. These
> words conforms with the first and second laws of thermodynamics, which
> are two of the most fundamental laws of nature. The first law tells
> about the constancy of energy an mass, energy can be transformed into
> mass, vice versa, but energy/mass cannot destroyed, so the amount is
> constant. The second law tells that the total amount of usable energy
> will allways decrease until equilibrium is reached. The words of
> Isaiah about the eternal God whose power/energy is the cause of the
> universe conforms well with law I (energy can be turned into matter -
> energy is eternal). The words about the creation of the universe (it
> had a beginning) conforms well with law II. If the universe was
> eternal, equilibrium had already been reached and radioactive material
> and and temperature differences would not have existed in the
> universe. While the words of Isaiah conforms with the two laws, he did
> not know about these laws or about the equation E=mc2, which can be an
> expression of law I. My conclusion is that we should not try to read
> modern science into the Bible, but neither should we read mythology
> into it if that is not warranted. A more balanced approach is to ask
> whether particular words conform with or contradict fundamental
> data.  Regards Rolf  Rolf Furuli University of Oslo
>> How is the expression "circle of the earth" to be viewed based on
>> the the
>> original Hebrew word "chuwg" as found at Isaiah 40:22
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