The Bible Foreshadows Scientific Discoveries
Is There Science In There?
Many skeptics of the Bible search for scientific corroboration within the scriptures to verify its accuracy, or more likely, to prove that it is NOT really the Word of God. Part of the problem is that we sometimes think that the Bible is supposed to be some kind of science manual, designed to explain everything related to our origins and the nature of the cosmos. Maybe that comes from hearing that the Bible has all of the answers to life’s tough questions. But what kinds of questions? If I am looking for information on how to configure my computer, I don’t turn to the Bible. If I’m looking for information about how to tune up my car or motorcycle, I don’t turn to my Bible. If I’m looking for advice about how to plant my back yard, I don’t turn to my Bible. But some people who want to discredit the Bible, would argue that all scientific answers should be found in the pages of scripture. Scripture is designed as a manual of sorts, but NOT as a science manual. The Bible has been given to us by God so that we can understand who He is and who He has designed us to be. It is a SPIRITUAL manual, and it does explain something about our origin only because our origin (how we got here) has something to do with God’s plan for our lives. But, don’t try to find detailed answers to scientific questions here. That’s not what God has given us in the Bible. He certainly could have, but that is not what’s important to God. He cares more about our spiritual life than anything else.
That being said, I think it is fair for us to examine the scientific claims of the Bible as well, even though these claims are often secondary comments, subordinated to the spiritual truths God is trying to give us. If there were scientific inaccuracies in the pages of Scripture, I think it would be fair to doubt the other truth claims as well! If the scientific observations found in the Bible are in reality superstitions reflective of the culture in which they were written, the Bible should be disqualified as the inspired Scripture of God. But, if the scientific observations of the Bible agree with the facts of science today, then the Bible is once again affirmed as the inspired Word of a true and living God. Why? Because the Creator and God of the universe is the God of science — the author of the scientific laws that govern His universe. Only the God of science could cause scientific facts to be recorded in a book —the Bible — hundreds or thousands of years before scientists discover them.
Now if we are going to measure the Bible in this way, I think it is also fair to measure other religious writings in a similar way. For that reason, this article will sometimes compare Judeo Christian writings to the writings of other faith systems. It’s important to do this for two reasons. First, the concurrent beliefs of other contemporary groups will highlight the divine revelation found in the Bible. Secondly, this comparison will reveal that only the Judeo-Christian Bible contains references that anticipate scientific discovery by hundreds and in some cases several thousand years. Let’s take a look at a few of them:
What is the Shape of the Earth?
Today we take the shape of the earth for granted, but remember that primitive man had no way to actually know that the earth is spherical. In fact, without access to exploration and distant observation, the world most certainly seemed flat, and that is exactly how primitive men and cultures described it. But the Bible describes it differently:
For thousands of years, the Jews were surrounded by people who believed the earth was flat. They believed that if they were to travel too far in any direction, they would fall over the edge. This was also taught in both Hindu and Buddhist scripture. In the 1500’s however, the first ship sailed around the world, proving that the earth was round. But even before this explorative discovery, the round earth was recorded in the Judeo-Christian Bible! The prophet Isaiah spoke of the 'circle of the earth.' Solomon wrote, 'He [God] set a compass [circle] upon the face of the deep.' Hundreds of years later, Arab Muslims would speak of infidels being pushed over the edge of the earth into space. Yet even 3,000 years ago, our Bible said the earth was round.
How is the Earth Seated in the Cosmos?
Primitive cultures saw the flat earth as something like a table top. That was natural for them considering the perspective from which they viewed their environment. The earliest of thinkers and writers tried to understand just how this flat earth was held in place related to the cosmos that they observed surrounding them. A number of ideas were proposed, but the Bible made a striking and remarkable claim:
OK, imagine yourself living 3,000 years ago, and then imagine yourself writing a book. Like everyone else in your day, you wonder what holds up the earth. Surely it has to rest on something. Now today, we know about the force of gravity, but that’s only because modern scientists have discovered it. Aside from that knowledge, living on the earth, observing only what a human can see and feel, wouldn't it be the logical conclusion that the earth rests on or is supported by something? What did ancient man believe the earth rested on? Today, after examining the mythologies of the cultures that existed alongside the ancient Jews, we can see that many of them actually believed that the world rested on the back of a turtle. That seemed to make sense to human beings living thousands of years ago. Perhaps it seemed logical that the earth would rest on something slow and steady, and a giant turtle was perhaps the ideal platform. But in addition to this explanation, there were other mythologies that tried to answer the question. The book 'Myths and Legends' tells us:
'When one examines the writings of the Hindu, Buddhist or Greek pagan worships, for example, one finds clear reference to the concept of the earth being held up by a man, elephant, catfish, or some other physical support.'
Greek mythology, for example, claims that the god Atlas was holding the earth on his shoulders. But our Bible makes a remarkably sophisticated claim, that '[God] hangeth the earth on nothing.' What a remarkable statement of fact, especially considering the competing primitive notions we’ve already looked at! The earth is suspended in space. Nothing is holding it up. Job wrote about the same time the Hindu Scripture was written, so how did Job know this scientific fact? Only God could have revealed this to Job. The Old Testament prophets wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
Is the Universe Expanding?
Primitive cultures had extreme limitations on their ability to observe the nature of the universe. With the naked eye alone, there is only so much that a person can see and understand. So it shouldn’t surprise us that little is written in ancient writings about the nature of the universe and its creation. But the Bible does have something to say about it:
The expression ‘stretched out’ is used over and over again in the scriptures to explain the process by which God created the universe. There are many other words or expressions that could have been used, but God inspired men to use THIS expression. Why? Well, it is certainly consistent with our present understanding of an expanding universe. Our present ability to observe the cosmos has confirmed that the universe is, indeed, expanding. The distance between the stars is ‘stretching’, just as the writers of scripture first indicated, even when their contemporaries were completely silent or mistaken on this issue.
Is there a Beginning to Time and Matter (a Cosmological Singularity)?
Philosophers throughout the ages have given great thought to the nature of space and matter in our universe. Many ancient Greek thinkers posited that matter and form are eternal and had no beginning. Yet the writers of the Bible did not take this position. They wrote that all time and matter had a beginning, a point at which everything came into being. In modern science, we call this singular point of beginning a ‘singularity’. Look at what the Bible has to say about this:
Both the Genesis and 1 Corinthians passages, along with many more, indicate that time does have a beginning just as current propositions of singularity suggest. In the early 1900’s, Albert Einstein, extended his Theory of Relativity beyond velocity effects and on to the acceleration effects between observers. The results were the ten field equations of General Relativity. Subtracting one set of these equations from another yielded the surprising result that everything in the universe is simultaneously expanding and decelerating. The only physical phenomenon which expands and decelerates at the same time is an explosion. But, if the universe is the aftermath of an explosion, then sometime in the past it must have had a beginning. There must have been a moment at which the explosion began. And unfortunately for Einstein (who did not believe in a creator God), if the universe had a beginning, then there must be a Beginner. Even though Einstein's own worldview initially kept him from adopting such a conclusion, astronomer Edwin Hubble soon proved that the galaxies indeed are expanding away from one another in the manner predicted by Einstein's original formulation of General Relativity. Confronted with this proof, Einstein gave grudging acceptance to 'the necessity for a beginning,' and to 'the presence of a superior reasoning power.' Einstein’s work simply confirmed what the Biblical writers already knew. The universe was NOT eternal, but had a beginning. God created it, and He alone exists in that realm that exists ‘before time began’.
Is the Universe Something That We Should Fear?
Early man was amazed by what he saw in the night skies. And in many cases, these skies terrified ancient cultures. They developed a variety of theories related to the cosmos, and the vast majority of these societies failed to understand the vast scope of the universe. In response to their awe of the stars and cosmos, most of these cultures invented theologies in which they tried to explain what they saw. But the writers of the Bible took a calm approach to the cosmos, even though they had unusual insight into the scope and magnitude of the universe:
The contemporaries of the Jews were afraid of the sun, moon and stars. They thought they were alive - that they were gods. But over 5,000 years ago, the Judeo-Christian Bible in the first chapter of Genesis pointed out that the sun, moon and stars were created by God. The ancient Jews understood that God had revealed that He is the one and only God. And for that reason, they knew that the sun, moon and stars were simply His creation. They were not gods.
Eclipses are an example of something that ancient people feared. When either the sun or the moon were blocked in an eclipse, ancient cultures were desperately frightened. Some thought eclipses happened when the moon was mad at the earth and turned its face away. The Chinese believed that an eclipse was caused by a demon or some huge animal that ate the sun and then would give them up again. God reassured Jeremiah that the universe is under God’s control. Scientists later learned that heavenly bodies were not alive and that man need not fear them. But thousands of years before scientists discovered that the planetary bodies were inanimate, the Bible contained this scientific fact.
Are There Valleys in the Seas?
Now there are many areas in our world that are unseen and difficult to explore. But as we progress in time, we certainly have explored more and more of the world around us. But what about the ancient cultures of our world? How much more were they unaware of? How much more was still unseen and undiscovered? Many ancient writings assume false premises about those areas of our world that were yet unexplored, but the writers of the Bible happened to describe accurately a part of the world that they could not examine in any way:
Until modern times people actually thought that the ocean floor was sandy like the desert and saucer shaped. They assumed that it was at its deepest in the very middle. This belief was even accepted by geologists as recently as the 19th century! But in the 1900's oceanographers found the sea had many deep valleys or canyons. The deepest canyons were called trenches. The Marianas Trench in the Pacific is so deep that if Mt. Everest (29,000 feet high) was dropped into it, the peak would still be a mile below the water’s surface! We also discovered underwater mountains. In fact, we discovered that the Atlantic Ocean contains an undersea range of mountains 10,000 miles long! Yet the writers of the Bible, 3,000 years ago, spoke of the valleys and mountains of the sea thousands of years before scientists discovered them.
Are There Springs and Fountains in the Sea?
Sometimes the stories and claims of the Bible seem preposterous. And sometimes we, as Christians, feel as though we have to suspend our examination of the physical evidence in order to believe the claims of scripture. One example of this, for over 300 years, was the description in the Bible of springs and fountains in the Ocean. Check out what the Bible has to say on the subject:
Well, are there really fountains or springs in the oceans? Many people thought that the Bible got this one wrong and they held on to their disbelief for some 3,000 years; until 1977. Deep water exploration had been underway for nearly 60 years by this time, but ocean springs were still unknown and undiscovered until 1977. Then, with only 5% of the ocean floor explored, Lewis Thomas (The Medusa and the Snail) wrote that scientists found springs in the ocean off the coast of Ecuador, and they found them at an ocean depth of 1.5 miles! They contained super heated water of about 450 degrees, and according to the article, explorers found even more springs of this nature. Scientists exploring another section of ocean found six springs about 60 miles apart. If this many springs were discovered with only 5% of the ocean floor explored, how many more springs might there be in the other 95%?
In the past, many Bible skeptics have claimed that the oceans and the atmosphere together could not have contained enough water to flood the earth to the depth needed to cover the mountains as described in the Great Flood story in Genesis. But is that really true? With the discovery of ocean springs, and the fact that the Bible says the springs in the oceans were broken up at the time of the flood, isn’t it possible that their flow would increase? How much extra water could the broken up springs produce? The Biblical statements about springs in the oceans, written 3,000 years ago, were against all that was known, or indeed could possibly have been known, at the time.
Are There Water Paths (Ocean Currents) in the Seas?
Today we take it for granted that the oceans contain currents. But in ancient times, this was a hidden fact of the seas. Primitive people had no idea that ocean currents existed, mostly because they really had no idea exactly how large the oceans really were! Remember that the known world to these cultures was really a very small part of the earth. But look at what the Bible writers wrote:
In the 1800’s, Matthew Maury, an officer in the United States Navy, believed his Bible. As a Christian, he loved to read the scriptures, and one day Maury was reading about the dominion man was given over the animals in Psalm 8. He was amazed that verse 8 spoke of the fish and all creatures that swim in the 'paths of the sea.' He wondered what was meant by this expression. In his experience, he had never known of such a thing. He was determined to find out if these “paths of the sea” were really true. Maury discovered that the oceans have many paths or currents, which were like rivers flowing through the sea. Maury wrote the first book on oceanography and became known as 'the pathfinder of the seas', and 'The father of modern navigation.' Maury received his idea about ocean currents from reading Psalm 8:8, written about 3,000 years ago by King David. David wrote as he was moved by the Spirit of God and probably never actually saw an ocean current with his own eyes.
Is There Something Called the Hydrologic Cycle?
Each of us is surrounded by weather all day long, and we generally take it for granted. But ancient cultures were often so mystified by the weather that they attributed mystical forces to everything they saw. But look at how the Biblical writers described the forces of weather (something we have come to call the Hydrologic Cycle):
Remember that in ancient times, most religious scripture taught that lightning bolts were missiles thrown in anger by any number of gods. In China, Taoist scripture regarded the rainbow as a deadly rain dragon. In Confucius scripture, the goddess of lightning, Tien Mu, flashed light on her intended victims to enable Lei Kung, the god of thunder to launch his deadly bolts with precision! And since rain is so necessary to life, ancient people wondered what caused it in hopes of increasing its delivery. Some tried to stab holes in the clouds with spears. The Vedas (Hindu scripture) advised to tie a frog with its mouth open to a particular tree and say a specific set of words in order to cause the rain to fall. Now the Bible also talks about rain, lightning and storms, but it contains none of the superstitious ideas found in other religious writings. The Bible taught that earth’s weather followed rules and cycles.
Centuries later, scientists began to discern the 'rules for the rain' that Job talked about. Rainfall is part of a process called the ‘water cycle’, and here’s how the cycle works. The sun evaporates water from the ocean. That water vapor rises and becomes clouds. The water in the clouds falls back to earth as rain, collecting in streams and rivers and making its way back to the ocean. This process then repeats itself over and over again. Galileo ‘discovered’ this cycle hundreds of years ago. In fact, even today scientists are only beginning to fully understand God’s 'decrees or rules for the rain.' But the process we now know as the "Hydrologic Cycle" was being described by the authors of the Bible thousands of years ago.
Is There Something Called “Entropy”?
The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a relatively recent observation in the field of science, especially considering the long history of human thinking here on planet earth. But the Bible writers already spoke of this law of God:
From a scientific perspective, the law of entropy, also known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is sometimes described in the following manner: “Energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused or dispersed and spread out (in other words, disorder or randomness tends to increase)”. A system will, if isolated from external sources of order or energy or 'information', eventually run down and 'die'. This law is quite basic in every scientific system or process. As far as science has been able to show, the law of ‘entropy’ is universal in scope, with no exceptions known. And remember, this law was only discovered and validated by science about a hundred years ago, and only after much uncertainty and controversy. But had these same men been paying close attention to their Bibles, they would have seen the Second Law of Thermodynamics described quite clearly. The writers of scripture told us thousands of years ago that God created everything in a state of perfection, but sin has initiated a process of decay that continues to this day.
Is There Something Special About Pleiades, Orion and Arcturus?
If you’ve ever read the story of Job in the Bible, you are probably aware of the fact that Job was extremely wealthy and had a great family. But, tragedy struck and he lost his wealth, his children and his wife. To make matters worse, Job was reduced to excruciating pain, and was eventually covered with sores from head to toe. All this was too much for Job, and he eventually accused the Lord of being unjust. God didn’t answer Job’s accusation directly. Instead, He began to ask Job a series of questions and one of these questions demonstrates perhaps the most amazing scientific truth in all of scripture:
Now God makes a statement about three stellar constellations, and as we examine these, we’ll see that science has only recently confirmed something that God told us a long time ago. First let’s take a look at what God says about Orion: 'Canst thou . . . loose the bands of Orion?' God is talking specifically about the three stars that form the belt on the Orion constellation. These three stars appeared to be fixed on our sky, rigidly aligned to form a relatively straight line. Yet God asks Job, “Hey do you think YOU can loosen this band?” It’s as if He is saying, “Well, I can buddy!” It may seem as though the band of stars is fixed, but Garrett P. Serviss, the noted astronomer, wrote about the bands of Orion in his book “Curiosities of the Sky”. Today, this band consists of an almost perfectly straight line of second-magnitude stars that are equally spaced and very beautiful. In the course of time, however, the two right-hand stars, Mintaka and Alnilam, will approach each other and form a naked-eye double; but the third, Alnitak, will drift away eastward so that the band will no longer exist. In other words, one star is traveling in a certain direction at a certain speed, a second one is traveling in a different direction at a second speed, and the third one is going in a third direction and at a still different speed. As a matter of fact, every star in Orion is traveling its own course, independent of all the others. As time passes, this band of stars will indeed be loosened, just as God told Job.
But now let’s take a look at the Pleiades Constellation. Look at what God says: 'Canst thou bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades . . . ?' God seems to be challenging Job in exactly the opposite manner from what he said about Orion! It’s as if He is saying, “Hey Job, you think you can keep Pleiades together? Well, I can!” As it turns out, the seven stars of the Pleiades are in reality a grouping of 250 suns. And photographs now reveal, that 250 blazing suns in this group are all traveling together in one common direction. Isabel Lewis of the United States Naval Observatory (quoted in Phillip L. Knox’, “Wonder Worlds”) tells us that astronomers have identified 250 stars as actual members of this group, all sharing a common motion and drifting through space in the same direction. Lewis says they are 'journeying onward together through the immensity of space.' Dr. Robert J. Trumpler (quoted in the same book) says that over 25,000 individual measures of the Pleiades stars are now available, And these measurements confirm that the whole cluster is moving in a southeasterly direction. The Pleiades stars are kind of like a swarm of birds, flying together to a distant goal. Sounds a lot like what God described in the Book of Job! “Hey Job, can you bind Pleiades together? I did!”
Finally, let’s take a look at Arcturus. Remember what God said about this constellation: 'Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?' Once again, God seems to be challenging Job here. “Hey Job, you think you can direct Arcturus anywhere you want? Well, I can!” Arcturus may look like it is fixed in the sky, but Garrett P. Serviss wrote that Arcturus is one of the greatest suns in the universe, and it is a runaway star whose speed of flight is about 257 miles per second. Arcturus, according to astronomers, is thousands of times more massive than our sun, which is traveling only 12 ½ miles a second! Charles Burckhalter, of the Chabot Observatory, (again quoted in “Wonder Worlds”) says that Arcturus’ high velocity places it that very small class of stars that apparently are a law unto themselves. Arcturus is a runaway. The combined attraction of all the stars we know cannot stop him or even turn him in his path. When Mr. Burckhalter was directed to the Book of Job, he studied it in the light of modern discovery and made a statement that has attracted worldwide attention:
These scientific facts recorded in the book of Job concerning the Pleiades, Orion and Arcturus constellations anticipated scientific discovery by nearly 3,000 years. Scientists only discovered these startling facts in the Twentieth Century, yet they were recorded in the book of Job nearly 3000 years ago. Twentieth Century science has proven God’s Word, the Bible, is true.
Does the Bible Stand Apart from Other Ancient Religious Books?
As A.A. MacDonell observes in “Vedic Mythology”, the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas and Uparushads, consider that 'all the objects and phenomena of nature which man is surrounded, are animate and divine.' This includes the sun, moon, earth, clouds, rain, rivers, seas and even rocks. According to these ancient religious documents, these objects are alive. Writers of the Buddhist canon also ascribe life to non-living objects like the sun, moon, lightning, rainbows, mountains, and the list goes on. The Taoist and Confucian writings of China contain similar claims. The Koran, the scripture of Islam, written 1,500 years after the Hindu scripture, does not (to its credit) contain many of these ancient superstitions. Yet its observations of the universe are also questionable at many points. The Koran speaks of seven literal heavens, and these heavens are said to be solid. These heavens are also said to contain lamps or stars whose main purpose is to be 'darted at the devils.' In addition to this Mohammed wrote that 'the sun sets in a sea of black mud.' The descriptions and observations of other religious books are also filled with similar mythologies. It is striking, however, that the ancient contemporary of these mythologies, the Bible, still stands the test of time!
Is the Bible Inspired by a Living God?
Our Bible makes scientific observations that were confirmed centuries later by modern science, while the sacred scripture of other world religions usually reflected the scientific superstitions of their culture. How could the Judeo-Christian Scripture anticipate scientific discovery by 3,000 years? Even though the Bible is clearly not written as a science manual, there is nothing in it to contradict the claims of scientists today. And while many would claim that the presence of anything supernatural violates the testing and examination of science (and this is, in fact, true), that does not mean that a God who is divine and powerful enough to reveal incredible science to us thousands of years before we could ever discover it on our own, is not also able to break or bend the very laws of nature and science that He created in the first place. As we see the truth of our world and our universe revealed to us in the scriptures, find solace and confirmation in the fact that the Bible was inspired by the Creator and God of the Universe, who just so happens to also be the God of science.