ALLEGED SCIENTIFIC ERRORS IN THE BIBLE
This is a list of a few of the supposed scientific errors and problems in the Bible that its critics have claimed they have found.
Are bats called birds?
And these are they which you shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle,…And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:13-19)
A similar list can be found in Deuteronomy 14:11-18. The problem is just the translation into the English. The word translated “fowls” in the original Hebrew means a creature with wings. Both bats and birds have wings. Similarly, the list in Deuteronomy uses the word “birds” for clean birds, but the word for the unclean flying creatures is not given, we just have the list, which takes us back to Leviticus. The Bible identifies both birds and bats as creatures with wings, which is correct. There is no reason to demand a particular classification in either passage.
Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. (Leviticus 11:21-22)
This is both a translation problem and a reading comprehension problem. First, the word translated “beetle” should probably be translated cricket as in some translations for the Hebrew word means “a leaping insect.” Secondly, verse 21 describes all six legs. First is says, “it goes upon all four.” These are the front four legs, but not the only legs described in the passage. Then it says they “have legs above their feet to leap with”, these are the two hind legs. This is the part the critics miss. The Bible is describing the particular arrangement of anatomy. Look at a locust, grasshopper or cricket, the two legs used to jump with are distinct from the four legs it would use for crawling. While the description is foreign to us, it is accurate rather than incorrect.
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: (Genesis 3:14)
This is included to demonstrate the strange things that critic’s stumble over. One critic thought it was odd that a talking snake eats dust, but didn’t seem to be bothered about the talking part. What makes him think that the serpent in Genesis 3 was an ordinary garden variety snake? It should be fairly obvious from the description in the passage that it was not. What we can’t assume from this passage is that this is the father of all snakes or that it was not the last of its kind. We can’t assume that the passage did not merely mean that being close to the ground the serpent would taste dust with all its food. We can’t look at modern day snakes to determine if the serpent in the garden was described incorrectly. Basically, this is not a Bible error; it’s an example of how the critic’s bias skews their examination of the Bible.
And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.” (Genesis 30:39)
The apparent problem here is created by taking the verse out of context, jumping to conclusions and a bit of misinterpretation. The full context of the story of how Jacob was trying to influence the sheep population starts in Genesis 30:37 but doesn’t actually finish until 31:13. Read the full passage. First we have to ask what Jacob was actually trying to do? What were the sheep doing? And what did God do? Jacobs idea about removing the bark from the rods and putting them in the water had nothing to do with what color he wanted the sheep to be, but rather he thought the rods in the water would put them into heat.
And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. Genesis 30:38
The word translated “conceive” means “to be hot.” We are told that the flocks conceived before the rods, but not that the rods were the cause of their behavior. That is an assumption. Note that the procedure of putting the rods in the water was not attributed to God. In fact we are not told where Jacob got the idea. Jacob was “drugging” the water with what he thought was a sheep aphrodisiac.
Next, the passage in question (verse 39) is taken out of context and does give the impression that the rods were the cause of the coloration of the sheep, something we know is not possible. The Bible is however correct in the way it presents the genetic inheritance of the sheep, which it does in chapter 31. Jacob relates a dream that God gave him, showing how the sheep came to be ringstraked and speckled.
And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. (Genesis 31:12)
So we see that the Bible is correct. The offspring were ringstraked and speckled because the father’s were ringstraked and speckled. The confusion comes when people read the Bible thinking that anything that is written relates to or comes from God. We find however that man’s ideas are often contrasted with God’s. In this case Jacob using sticks as a sheep aphrodisiac is contrasted with God controlling the sheep’s breeding. Did the writer understand the laws of inheritance?
As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: (Psalm 58:8)
This one takes the cake, talk about going out on a limb… What cake? What limb? Why would someone want to take the cake up into a tree? The Bible writers use both literal and figurative language when they wrote; they also used idioms as illustrated above. The Psalms are poetry, and the passage above is poetry. It is not trying to teach us something about the nature of snails but using figurative language to describe people. If you are having trouble with this verse, first, read the whole Psalm and try to understand what the writer was talking about, then observe some snails and see if you understand the analogy being drawn. When you try to interpret figurative language literally you get nonsense. The critics want the Bible to be nonsense so their interpretation creates the nonsense they were looking for.
How Did God Create Birds?
Did God create birds from the water?
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:20-21)
Or did He create them from the ground?
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. (Genesis 2:19)
This problem is due to several factors, a poor choice of analytical tools and a misunderstanding of the story line in Genesis chapter 2. First, critics of the Bible usually accept the premise that the first five books of the Bible were written by at least four different authors. This idea has been thoroughly refuted for many years. This is the framework through which they interpret the Bible and since it’s incorrect it creates a lot of problems. Since their goal is to show the Bible has problems, they are not inclined to investigate the errors within their own framework of interpretation. Through this analysis they claim that Genesis chapter one is one version of the creation story written by one author and chapter two is a different story from another source. Therefore when they see the origin of birds from the water in chapter one and from the ground in chapter two they have a contradiction that is backed up by their analytical tool.
The fact is that there is one author for the first five books. Chapter one of Genesis is a chronological overview of the creation days. This story continues until chapter two verse three. The chapter divisions were not added until several thousand years after it was written. Chapter two verse four begins in the 6th day with a new perspective. It starts by giving more specific details of the creation, not concerning itself with the order in particular since that was laid out in chapter one. When we get to verse 8 the location of the story becomes specific, the Garden of Eden. All subsequent events happen in the garden. Verse 19 is where the critics have the problem because they either fail to recognize or refuse to accept that the location is in the Garden of Eden and it is no longer talking about the creation days. This passage is where God forms the beasts and the fowls to bring them to Adam. The birds he forms from the ground in chapter two are not the same ones he formed from the water in chapter one. Therefore there is no problem.
Cud Chewing Rabbit
And the hare, because he chews the cud, but divides not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. (Leviticus 11:6)
This is both a translation problem and language problem. The word translated “chews” means to “drag off roughly,” or “bring up again.” It is used to indicate chewing the cud, but in the case of a rabbit, which eats its dung, the word is used to indicate bringing up into the mouth again. The method could be either bringing up from the stomach or bringing it up again from the ground. Although the action of eating its dung is different than chewing the cud, the Hebrew language allows for this usage whereas in English it does not. Therefore, while the English reading does not sound correct, the passage is in fact accurate in the original.
Is the Bible a Flat Earth Book?
There is in fact no passage in the Bible that says the earth is flat, and no evidence in the scriptures how the Bible writers viewed cosmology. We find many passages that describe what the writers saw, but we do not find any place where the earth is said to be flat.
The only place we find the shape of the earth described in the Bible is in Isaiah 40:22 where God is described as looking down from high above the earth and seeing it as a circle. But let’s take a look at the passages the critics use to demonstrate the supposed “flat earth” in the Bible.
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. (Revelation 7:1)
Again, the devil took him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them. (Matthew 4:8)
Notice that neither of these passages indicates that the earth is flat. The critic’s reach this conclusion by how they interpret the passage and end up creating the problem themselves.
In Revelation “the 4 corners of the earth” don’t relate to its shape, but to direction. When we use the phrase today it means in all directions, the same as it meant then. How do we know it means the same today as it did then? Because of the second part of the verse. This states that the angels were holding back the “four winds of the earth.” How do we describe wind? By its speed and direction. So it should be clear that the four corners of the earth are North, South, East and West. The fact is, the phrase “four corners” was being used to describe direction as far back as 580 B.C. It may be that the phrase originally came from a flat earth cosmology, but it had long since lost that meaning by the time Revelation was written.
What about the exceeding high mountain in the passage in Matthew? The critics conclude that a mountain from which you could observe the whole earth, could only exist on a flat earth. They believe this is evidence enough to indicate that the Bible writer thought that the earth was flat. There are two problems with this analysis. First is that in spite of what the writer thinks about the shape of the earth it is not stated in the passage, secondly it fails to consider all the Bible has to say about this event. We find more information in the parallel passage in Luke.
And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. (Luke 4:5-6)
What we find here is a more detailed description of the event, which allows us to further understand exactly what Jesus was shown. Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them in a moment of time. This was not a hike up a mountain side to look over the surrounding landscape. This was an event of a spiritual nature, Jesus saw kingdoms past present and future in a few moments. The location is irrelevant to all that he saw.
There is no reason for the critics to insist that the Bible teaches that the earth is flat. They do, however, because it doesn’t make sense to them that the Bible might be accurate about the shape of the earth. The fact that the Bible is probably the oldest document to declare that the earth is round is a testimony to its accuracy.
Does the Bible Teach an Earth Centered Solar System?
In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
Believers and critics have used this and other passages to claim that the Bible teaches that the sun orbits the earth. The Psalms use poetic language for one thing, in this case comparing the sun to a bridegroom and a strongman. A good way to miss the point of a passage is to interpret it literally when it is figurative or visa versa. There is no indication in this passage that the writer is talking about anything more than the position of the sun in the sky. The observations in Bible passages that are said to support the geocentric view are identical to observations that would be made for the heliocentric view. The passages that are cited talk about the motion of the sun and sometimes personify its actions, as is common to figurative language. Ironically the geocentric system was a big hit within secular science for centuries and it was Bible believing scientists that proved that the earth orbits the sun. Surprisingly the basic observations of the sun’s path in the sky remain unchanged.
The Long Day of Joshua
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. (Joshua 10:12)
One critic claimed that we could use this passage to find the distance of the sun and moon to the earth. He claimed that this verse tells us that the sun was lighting Gibeon and the moon was needed to light Ajalon. The passage however, is only indicating the relative position of the sun and moon in the sky, their is nothing said about their illumination or reference to their light. The Bible writers described direction from the location where they were standing to a landmark or location in the direction they wanted to indicate. The sun was somewhere overhead Gibeon and the moon was in the eastern sky over the valley of Ajalon. The critics also have this problem when Moses writes about the sun setting in the land of the Canaanites. Next time the sun is setting in your neighborhood, check to see if it is setting in the direction of a nearby town, or city? I’ll bet it will be.
A related problem is that the passage seems to indicate that the sun and moon orbit the earth, because Joshua asks God to stop the sun and the moon. This is actually more of the same type of problem as discussed above. Joshua probably did not know anything about the nature of the sun and neither would most of the critics if they hadn’t been taught it in school or read it in a book. Think about this, how far is the earth from the sun? Did you measure that distance yourself, or did you read it in a book or learn it in school. Are you sure of that figure? Did you verify it? Would you verify it by looking it up on the Internet? If you have actually measured the distance from the earth to the sun think about all the other things you “know” from other sources. Things that you take on faith, but have never verified. Joshua wanted more time in the day, the logical solution, from his point of view is to have the sun stop. He didn’t have to understand the mechanics, God did.
Joshua’s beliefs about cosmology are not apparent from the passage, we still say “the sun rises” and “the sun sets” when we know that it’s the earth’s motion that causes the sun to move in the sky. It’s simply a matter of perspective. Joshua’s beliefs about the nature of the sun and moon are irrelevant since he was referring to their relative motion in the sky, not their nature.
Other problems the critics point out are mostly complaining about the way God did things. First, he apparently put things back the way they would have been if the whole thing had never happened. They can tell this because the monuments that lined up with certain stars would be off, but they are not. Well, actually they are. Since the time that the Bible was written, earth’s position has changed slightly in the sky, so none of the monuments are pointing to the stars they did then. Would it be a problem for God to start the earth spinning again so it lined up with were it should have been? So that they continued to function the way the designers intended them to? The critics doubt this. Isn’t it strange that they know exactly what a God they don’t believe in can and can’t do?
Another thing they claim to have noticed is that no other cultures corroborate the story. If an event of such magnitude happened somebody else had to record it. They are incorrect here only because they either haven’t checked the records or they are only looking for writings about a long day. There are in fact several legends from the Americas that talk either about a long night or a very long sunrise. In any case, if there are no records that corroborate a Bible passage it only means that there are no records to corroborate the Bible passage and it proves nothing other than there are no records to corroborate the Bible passage. We don’t have all the records from those times for anything and many of the records we do have are yet to be translated.
Essentially, the critics are just complaining here. The story is centered on a miracle and miracles cannot be investigated empirically. Miracles will violate what we know of natural law. That’s why they’re called “miracles.” That’s also why materialists don’t want God in the lab, they think he’ll screw up their experiments. He never screws up the Christians experiments, why would they think he would screw up theirs? There are no problems with the cosmology in this passage, the problems must be interpreted as being there. While the critics may not like it or believe it, this passage is not scientifically inaccurate or contradictory.
Earthly and Heavenly Foundations
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. (Job 38:4)
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof. (Job 26:11)
The critics see a problem with these verses since they think they know that earth doesn’t have a foundation and that heaven doesn’t have pillars. The problem with their analysis is they have several misconceptions about the Bible that they read into the verses. They generally believe that the Biblical cosmology is no better than the cosmology of the surrounding cultures, making them unable to read the Bible without adding a host of other ideas that are not actually present in the Bible.
The fact is that the earth does have a foundation, gravity. Job of course could not have understood this, so from the critic’s point of view he must have meant bricks, turtles, elephants or one of the many other ideas presented in other cultures. Yet we find that Job did describe the foundation. The earth hangs on nothing in an empty place. This is an actuate description of the earth in space being held in place by gravity.
He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)
The problem with the pillars of heaven is that the critics interpret this as meaning “pillars that support the sky.” Most of us know that pillars don’t support the sky, so the Bible must be wrong. But what pillars are the critics familiar with that would be “astonished”, unless that is some sort of protective coating or hardening process. Heaven in this passage is not the sky, but the place where God dwells. When science identifies these pillars or proves that heaven doesn’t have any pillars then we might have a problem. But the critics won’t be able to see for themselves if they don’t repent.
There is no scientific problem with these verses; they don’t present anything that disagrees with want modern day science can demonstrate.
The Biblical cosmology created by the critics is basically a straw man argument.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. (Genesis 1:6-8)
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth. (Genesis 1:14-17)
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. (Revelation 6:13)
As discussed above Bible critics often take ideas from other cultures of the day and attempt to fit them with Biblical cosmology. They do this mainly because the writings they find from other cultures predate Moses, and they assume that Moses got his ideas from them. Quite often they demonstrate the fallacy of the cosmology of the other cultures and attempt to associate it with the Bible. The fact is that the Bible does not present a cosmology, it must be interpreted based on what we know, not what we think the writers knew, because the writers generally described only what they saw, not its nature.
In Genesis chapter one the sky is described as an expanse between two bodies of water. The division of the waters occurred on the second day of creation. There was no land, no plants or animals. It wasn’t like the earth we know today. We can’t object to this on scientific grounds for three reasons. First, it was an historical event and science can’t examine historical events. Secondly it was an intelligently guided process, which means it wouldn’t directly follow natural processes. Thirdly there is a layer of water in the sky today, just look outside, if there is a cloud in the sky you’re looking at water separated from the ground by an invisible pressure barrier. So why is it so strange to think something like this could not happen on the early earth? The firmament of the air still divides the waters covering the earth from the waters in the sky, although it is very different.
The critics also make the mistake of assuming the Bible is referring to the physical location of the stars when it says “lights in the firmament of the heavens.” However, even here, in the 21st century, we still refer to the stars being in the sky. Now it is very probably true that the Bible writers didn’t know the true nature of the sun, moon or stars, but it does not change their relative locations in the sky, nor their observations. Which makes it all the more amazing when they get details correct that were not confirmed until the last few centuries.
The Bible makes no claim to explain any of these phenomena. The Bible writers were writing about what they saw, not trying to explain its physical nature. The idea that the stars are fixed to the sky can be extrapolated from some Bible verses, but in no place is the composition or method of how they are fixed ever discussed in scripture. They are simply put in the sky by God. This in no way conflicts with our understanding of stars today.
Lastly, the passage in Revelation is again describing what John saw, the stars falling from heaven. We still see stars fall from heaven today, we just call them meteorites. John did not have to understand what he was looking at to describe what he saw. Again those who seek to discredit the Bible are attempting to make it say something it simply does not say. The sky, the location and movement of stars and the sun are discussed in scripture, but their nature is simply not discussed.
Is Disease Caused by Demons?
It would seem to be pretty clear in our day that demons are not the cause of disease. Yet we find in several Bible passages demons being responsible for disease like symptoms. Is this a conflict? First, if you are familiar with the Bible you can quickly deduce that disease and death can be, but are not always attributed to spiritual forces. The problem is that the times when disease is mentioned, God or spiritual forces are usually involved. It’s the Bible, what do you expect. The Bible does not teach that all disease has a demonic origin or spiritual origin. Also we cannot say that demons could not affect our health, since in order to do that you would have to measure their effects, which is not currently possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that many ideas and practices about the forces of evil came from pagan religions and were adopted by church organizations over time, such as the crucifix having power over demons. These practices and beliefs however, did not come from the Bible, instead, the Bible warns against such practices many times.
The Molten Sea (Brass Laver)
And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. (2 Kings 7:23)
The critics point out that if you add the numbers up, they don’t add up. They attempt to further bolster their claim by pointing out that the Hebrews didn’t know the value of pi and that is why the measurements were off. The dimensions, however, are not a problem if you consider all the information given in the passage, not just the two in verse 23, and if you don’t make the assumption that the circumference and diameter were measuring the same thing. There are four dimensions given altogether in the passage.
1. From brim to brim =10 cubits (180”) =Outside rim
2. Height = 5 cubits (90”)
3. Circumference = 30 cubits (540” /pi = 171” ) =Inside rim
4. Thickness =A hands breadth (4” to 5”). vs 26
10 cubits measured from the outside of the laver would have been 180 inches. 30 cubits measuring the circumference along inside edge would have been about 540 inches, or when divided by pi, 171 inches. This leaves a gap of about 9 inches.
If we add the thickness of a hand’s breadth, about 4 to 5 inches, to the space between the inside and outside of the laver, we gain the missing 9 inches. When we view the picture this way the figures are exact. 171 + 4.5 + 4.5 =180.
How did the figures end up being so exact when the makers didn’t understand pi? Well, you don’t have to know pi to make a circle or measure it. This also demonstrates that even if you can do the math, you have to pay attention to the details to solve the problem correctly.