Historical Astronomy: Concepts: Bible Problems

Most people are aware that there was religious resistance to a heliocentric model of the solar system. In fact, most people today mistakenly believe it was only for religious reasons that there was a hesitation to believe in the sun-centered universe of Copernicus. Part of the reason for this whole unit is to show that there were a lot of "scientific" reasons for this hesitation, and that the religious issues were secondary.

The religious issues all stem from lines in the Bible that were taken literally by many to mean that the earth didn't move and that the sun did. It was not just the Catholics. In fact, the Lutheran Church was the first one to very quickly and publically attack Copernicus' work - while the Catholic Church basically ingored it until the time of Galileo.

While the religious issues of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are fascinating, they are way beyond the scope of this course and website. (Part of the point of this unit is to show how the "bad physics" is at the root of most people's preference for a stationary earth.) Ask Green or Google if you want more information on any of this.

Here are a few of the lines from the Bible, all taken from http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org, that were taken literally to reject the heliocentric model:

These are passages interpreted as meaning that the earth can't move (and so obviously can't go around the sun):
Psalms 93:1
The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.
Psalms 104:5
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
Job 38:4
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.
1 Chronicles 16:30
Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.

These are passages interpreted as saying the sun moves (and so the sun has to move around the earth):
Joshua 10:12-13
Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
Ecclesiastes 1:5
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
Isaiah 38:8
Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.

last updated 6/13/13 by david mcclung, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.