Sunrise or Earthrise?

From Issue: Discovery 5/2/2011

The Bible comes from God. That means there should be no errors in it. However, some people claim that the Bible does have errors and was not written by God. They say that the Bible was written by mere human beings without God’s guidance. Are these claims true?

In the past, some people believed that the Sun revolved around the Earth (a belief called geocentricity). We have learned in modern times that heliocentricity correctly describes our solar system (the Earth and other planets from our solar system revolve around the Sun). In Psalm 19:6, the Bible says that the Sun rises “from one end of heaven…to the other end.” Because of this verse, critics of the Bible claim that the writer of Psalm 19 incorrectly believed in geocentricity. We use the same kind of language today, however, when we mention “sunrise” and “sunset,” knowing full-well that the Sun does not actually rise and set. The psalms are full of poetic, figurative language not intended to be taken literally, in the same way that many poems today are not intended to be taken literally. In truth, the psalmist is using figurative, accommodative wording known as “phenomenal” language—language that is used to describe “phenomena” as people see them. He is not intending to state scientific truths about the nature of our solar system.

John 4:24 says that God is spirit. He does not have a physical body. But Exodus 31:18 says that the Ten Commandments were “written with the finger of God.” How can God have a finger without a body? Is this an error in the Bible? In this passage Moses used another type of accommodative language that is often used in the Bible known as anthropomorphism (ann-throw-poh-MORF-ism). This language is used to describe God to humans in ways that we can understand, but which is not supposed to be taken literally. We use the same kind of language when we say things like, “The hand of Rome reached all the way across the known world in its influence.” Did the Roman Empire literally have a hand that could reach? Of course not, but we still use such language figuratively. When the Bible is studied fairly, without bias, it proves to be flawless in every way.


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