Isaiah 40:22

John Townsend webmaster at
Mon Jul 22 11:52:11 EDT 2002

> --============_-1185104862==_ma============
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; format="flowed"
> 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


Thanks Rolf for your fine comments on this very interesting verse in the
Holy Bible. I think you and I are on the same page here. Since your
background is in languages (and mine is not), I wanted to ask you and
others here your views. It is interesting that James B. Moffat in his own
translation renders the key phrase of Isaiah 40:22 this way: "He sits over
the round earth." (Moffats Translation). Also the Douay-Rheims "It is he
that sitteth upon the globe of the earth," this translation being of
course from Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Jerome uses the latin "gyro" or
specifically "super gyrum terrae." I don't know why Jerome would use this
word as there other Latin terms available for "circle". Perhaps you could
tell me.

I am a chemist and mathematician by background. What I have always
appreciated, is that while the Bible is not a science text, the findings
of modern Science have never proved the Bible inaccurate in its
statements. I know of no other book of antiquity that can make this claim.

Thanks for your time and consideration,


More information about the b-hebrew mailing list