Ancient Israelite Cosmology Video

Ancient Israelite Cosmology Video June 23, 2016

I've shared images of the ancient Israelite view of the universe before. But above is a video that talks you thought it, created and narrated by Mike Heiser.


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  • John MacDonald

    Seems like special pleading to say the ancient Israelites were completely wrong in their Cosmology, but completely right in their Theology. lol

  • David Evans

    “The Bible is not a science textbook”. No, and a novel is not a geography text book. But if my friend shows me a draft of his novel, and it describes his characters in San Francisco watching the Sun rise over the Atlantic, I will urge him to put it right. People do absorb factual information from novels, so it ought to be correct. And getting it wrong makes the reader mistrust the whole document.

    • Matthew Funke

      That, of course, assumes that the author was trying to convey some kind of plausible alternate history. I wouldn’t take J. K. Rowling to task because people can’t actually fly on brooms or create a working polyjuice potion, but I still think one can learn from the stories lessons about (for example) deciding to act in the face of evil. So you’re right that I wouldn’t trust Rowling to tell me about empirical fact, but that doesn’t mean that I think she has nothing to tell me at all in her works.

      • David Evans

        Good point. But if a significant number of people thought every word of Rowling’s was true, I would be worried. Galileo and Bruno, among others, got into trouble because the Church did regard the Bible as authoritative on questions of astronomy.

        Presuming God inspired the content of Genesis 1 and 2, why did he spell out details, such as the waters above the firmament, which were certain to cause disbelief as science advanced? Why not just be a bit more mysterious?

        • Matthew Funke

          For whatever little it’s worth, it does concern me more than a bit. I tend to write quite a bit on how such a posture cripples our scientific and literary acumen, and thus, our ability to be an activist within society in an informed way.

          I don’t know for sure why the details exist, but I can speculate. I perceive a certain parallelism between the first three days and the second — for example, both Day Two and Day Five have to do with water. (And water, as it turns out, is intensely relevant to the Old Testament narrative, which seems to start in Genesis 2 and reach a climax in 1 Kings 18.) There’s a poetic structure to the whole thing. My guess is that this creation story was meant to communicate to the reader how the Hebrew God is different from other gods — and thus, would tend to address things in its creation myth that other creation myths addressed. The motivations and message thus communicated seem to be left as an exercise for the reader.

          Far from a definitive answer, I know. I’m open to listening to the merits of any interpretation that remains responsible to testable reality. But whatever the reason(s) God has for giving us the Bible He has, He seems content to let us wrestle with questions far more often than simply giving us answers. (I like to point at John 7, for example, where Jesus could easily have clarified a debate among people trying to settle His identity, and didn’t.)

          • Shiphrah99

            BTW, the traditional Jewish view is, as you noticed, of two sets of three days. The first three days create the setting and the second set populate each setting. So:
            Day 1 light ……..> Day 4 luminaries
            Day 2 sky/sea….> Day 5 birds/fish
            Day 3 dry land…> Day 6 animals & humans

          • Matthew Funke

            That’s kind of what I thought. The first set describes locations; the second set describes the major inhabitants of those locations… if I can use these terms in a sort of looser way than we might usually use the terms “locations” and “inhabitants”. Anyway, if you know any good authors who expound on the traditional Jewish way to interpret this passage, I’d appreciate the pointer(s).

          • Shiphrah99

            Umm … I was afraid you were going to ask that! I don’t remember if he addresses it specifically, but a good start would be Danny Matt’s “God & the Big Bang.” I know that Burt Vizotsky did something with it for high school kids, but can’t remember citation. (My books are a disorganized mess, since I just unpacked them after a move. Sorry!)

          • Any mainstream academic commentary should cover this if it is recent. I’d recommend Gordon Wenham’s.

  • Paul D.

    Good video, but the nonsense I was getting in my Youtube recommendations after viewing it (all kinds of alien conspiracies and astrology nonsense) was something awful. Had to delete it from my viewing history.

  • Bob the Skull

    How would you respond to the claim that Genesis presents a metaphorically correct view of the scientific understanding of the universe?

    • Shiphrah99

      See my answer to Matthew upthread. The Matt book should be just the thing.

      • Bob the Skull

        Do you mean the book recommendation? That looks like an interesting book, and I added it to my wish list on amazon. I usually order a bunch of books at the same time, so I’ll get to it eventually!

        • Shiphrah99

          Yes. It’s not scholarly by any means, but a decent intro. Matt is in the midst of translating the Zohar into English, and that’s the background to his philosophy.

          Heh: I heard that he and Larry Kushner were studying a passage of Zohar in which God’s aspect of mercy is seen as masculine, whereas strict judgement is seen as feminine. Kushner wondered about that, and Matt answered, “DeLeon [author of the Zohar] must have had one hell of a mother.”

    • Could you say more about what you mean?

      • Bob the Skull

        I can certainly try to!

        Suppose I were to argue that even though the text of Genesis is not literally correct, it is still in a sense a correct view of the universe’s creation. It is correct in the sense is that the universe was explained in terms that people of that day and age would understand.

        Does that make any more sense?