Scientific evidences in the Bible: Information or misinformation?

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Figure 1: The Evidence Bible, with commentary by Ray Comfort. Living Waters Publications, USA.

It is not unusual to find Christian publications and websites1 extolling ancient scientific knowledge revealed in the Bible thousands of years ago. For example, see “Scientific Facts in the Bible,”2 which are claimed to be Answers from the Evidence Bible. I came upon this topic when asked to compile a list of genuine scientific knowledge revealed in the Bible between 2 to 4 thousand years ago. I collated my own list from what others wrote and from my own Bible searches.

In collating that list I found that there are many lines of evidence that are genuine examples of either a foreshadowing of true scientific knowledge that at the time given was yet to be discovered or clear Godly wisdom and knowledge known to those who read the Scriptures. But also I found that there is a significant amount of misinformation being disseminated. There are many examples given that could not possibly be interpreted, with any confidence, to mean what is claimed. The very same errors are repeated by many authors and websites.

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Figure 2: We are admonished to study the scriptures (Acts 17:11) to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

To put this into context, it must be understood that the Bible was not written as a scientific text or collection of scientific books. It contains some books that deal with history, some with prophecy, some with songs and poetry and some moral teachings, but, as the revealed Word of God, any book, where it touches on a scientific subject, will be scientifically accurate, even if no detail is given. The knowledge in those verses was revealed to mankind by the Holy Spirit and as such must be accurate.  But that does not mean we are not expected to test all things to correctly interpret the meanings. The true meaning of the Scriptures can survive any examination.

As a believing Christian reading incorrect interpretations of some Scriptures, which are even promoted as witnessing tools, I grimace at the thought that some naïve believer may attempt to use such false arguments in their own apologetics. We need good exegesis when it comes to the Holy Scriptures but we certainly don’t need fanciful storytelling, reading into Bible verses something that they don’t say (pure eisegesis). Of course, deciding what is and what is not the correct interpretation of a passage of scripture may be disputed and I am sure that there are many out there who would not agree with the following assessment, at least in some cases.

Let me give some common examples of claimed scientific knowledge. Possibly the fact that several different websites list the same examples is the result of some just repeating what others have written. But we are admonished to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). That is saying we are to test what others write, and hold to the truth. We are also told to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). That is, we should not disseminate falsehoods or misinformation in an effort to convince the unbelievers that the Bible contains some amazing knowledge that we have just realized in this current era. That would be wrong.

Radio waves

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Figure 3: Radio waves are produced by an oscillating electric field. Credit: Facts about Radio Waves

A very common claim is that radio waves were predicted about 4000 years ago in the Scriptures. The proof verse is Job 38:35:

“Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you Here we are?” (Job 38:35, KJVER)

The claim is that the meaning intended is radio communication, which was not invented until Guglielmo Marconi in the early 1900’s.3 This interpretation is more invention that the invention of radio waves. If you read the context of the chapter in Job that is easy to understand. God is asking Job a series of rhetorical questions and this is one of them. Several verses before this verse in the same chapter of Job we read:

“Who has divided … a way for the lightning of thunder; to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is…?” (Job 38:25,26, KJVER)

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Figure 4: Lightning is an electrostatic discharge that travels between two charged regions. Credit: Wikipedia

Quite obviously, in verse 35, God is challenging Job asking him if he can predict where lightning will strike or can he guide it to where it will strike next, as only God can. The verse is in a poetic form, yet was never intended to suggest any sort of radio waves or electromagnetic radiation of any kind. The New Living Translation (NLT), which is only a paraphrase, and not a real translation, gives the straightforward meaning.

“Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?” (Job 38:35, NLT)

The error of radio waves is cited in the so-called Evidence Bible from Living Waters.2 It is unfortunate as it unnecessarily provides ammunition for those who wish to attack the Scriptures,4 yet, in fact, it is not evidence for radio waves nor of any error in Scripture but only in some human interpretation. But as such could deter those seeking genuine evidences and that is regrettable.

There are two more big claims from Job 38.

Light parted into colours of the spectrum

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Figure 5: White light dispersed into colours of the rainbow Credit: www.honolulu.hawaii.edu

In Job 38:24a we read:

“By what way is the light parted…?” (KJVER)

It is claimed by some5 that this is a description of the scattering of light into the colours of the rainbow and that that knowledge was not known until Sir Isaac Newton discovered it, when light was dispersed into different colours using a prism.

But if you read the second part of the verse to get context, Job 38:24b “which scatters the east wind upon the earth?” God is rhetorically asking Job does he know how light is cast onto the earth’s surface or where the wind blows on the earth’s surface. The English Standard Version (ESV) renders this correctly.

“What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?” (Job 38:24, ESV)

Light has a way

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Figure 6: Representation of the electric field vector of a wave of circularly polarized electromagnetic radiation. Credit: Wikipedia

In Job 38:19a we read:

“Where is the way where light dwells? (KJVER)

The Living Waters website states:2

“Modern man has only recently discovered that light (electromagnetic radiation) has a “way,” traveling at 186,000 miles per second.”

What does that mean? If you read the next part of that same verse: Job 38:19b “and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,” it is apparent, when you read it in context, that God is asking Job, does he understand the origin of darkness (in the second part of the verse) and thus what is the origin of light (in the first part of the verse). Again a rhetorical question that he was not expected to answer.  The NLT gets it half right; it gives a reasonable paraphrase of the first part but is not so accurate for the second.

“Where does light come from, and where does darkness go?” (Job 38:19, NLT)

But it absolutely has nothing to do with the speed of, nor the method of propagation of, electromagnetic radiation. If anything it is a question about the origin of light, which before the creation of the sun and the stars must have come from the Creator Himself.

Nuclear fission

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Figure 7: Nuclear reactions include fission (splitting of atomic nuclei) and fusion (combining nuclei). Credit: Wikipedia

One website writes:6

“The Bible suggests the presence of nuclear processes like those we associate with nuclear weaponry. This is certainly not something that could have been explained in 67 AD using known scientific principles (when Peter wrote the following verse). 2 Peter 3:10:” (emphasis added)

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting to the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:10-13, KJVER)

From the context of the passage above there is no doubt that verse 10 is referring to the final judgment when Christ returns and the heavens “pass away” and the earth shall be “burned up”. But what that exactly means is subject to prophetical interpretation. For one thing the verse says “works … shall be burned up”. So this is a reference to judgment on men and the use of the expression “the earth” commonly means in prophetic language the inhabitants of the earth. It also says “heavens shall pass away” but we read in Psalms 148:

“3 Praise you Him, sun and moon: praise Him, all you stars of light. 4 Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters that be above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for He commanded, and they were created. 6 He has also stablished them for ever and ever: He has made a decree which shall not pass.” (Psalms 148:3-6, KJVER) (emphasis added)

So the starry heavens, the physical stars are going to be around forever. Then these verses in 2 Peter 3 are prophetically describing the coming judgement, which ends with “for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.” This describes the spiritual state of the creation both in heaven and on earth. We read this same concluding judgment in the book of Revelation. In chapter 21 verse 1 we read that God makes a new heaven and new earth. I do not think this even means God remakes the earth’s surface and its atmospheric heavens (but it could). It definitely means God renews the state of those in heaven (in the spiritual realm) and those on earth so that there is only His righteousness; all evil is eradicated.

Thus the language is symbolic as much of prophecy is. In the same way 2 Peter 3:10 uses prophetic symbolism. When ‘elements melt’ it is not referring to physical elements like atomic or nuclear particles (nuclides) that fission or fuse to form other atomic species but rather to the fundamental principles that rule world (Ephesians 6:12), which will be destroyed, and mankind will be judged by their works whether good or evil.

So, regardless of your eschatology, it would be wrong to say that this verse, 2 Peter 3:10, describes nuclear fission or fusion as used in nuclear weapons of any kind.

Total matter/energy content of the Universe is constant

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Figure 8: Einstein realised the equivalence of matter (m) and energy (E), so that its total amount remains constant even in a nuclear reaction.

According to Noether’s theorem the conservation energy law is a consequence of time invariance; energy conservation is implied by the empirical fact that the laws of physics do not change with time itself. This is understood as the mass/energy of a system is constant throughout time, which was stated by Isaac Newton as the first fundamental law.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only transformed from one form into another.

In this regard it is claimed that Genesis 2:1,2 is a proof text from which the following can be interpreted.5

“The First Law states that the total quantity of energy and matter in the universe is a constant. One form of energy or matter may be converted into another, but the total quantity always remains the same. Therefore the creation is finished, exactly as God said way back in Genesis.” (emphasis added)

The First Law is absolutely true. Of that I am certain. It is a law ordered by God after the Creation was finished. But the verses in question state:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.” (Genesis 2:1,2, KJVER)

The passage states that God finished His creative acts and rested. You might infer that that means He stopped creating stuff out of nothing, and maybe you could conclude that that means the total matter/energy content of the Universe is constant, because no more new stuff is created ex nihilo. But it relies on a series of inferences from known modern scientific knowledge. You cannot find anywhere in those verses where it states that conclusion. It is pure eisegesis at best.

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Figure 9: God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush which was not consumed (Exodus 3:2).

The counter argument is that God still does miracles. This means He may still create stuff ex nihilo when He intervenes in His own creation, and if so it follows that He violates the First Law. The supply of manna to the children of Israel (Exodus 16) is one example where God created stuff after He rested from Creation week, though we don’t know if He converted some energy to matter to do it. When He spoke with Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3), the bush did not burn up. God must have, at least, recreated/reconstituted the wood that was burning, as quickly as it burned, so it was able to continue burning.

Matter created from invisible particles

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Figure 10: STM image of a superlattice of carbon atoms in a graphene sheet. We can simultaneously observe the superlattice as well as the atomic lattice. Note that the atomic lattice has triangular symmetry, whereas the arrangement of the carbon atoms is in fact hexagonal. Credit: University of Cambridge, Engineering Dept.

This claim centres on Hebrew 11:3. It is claimed that only recently science has discovered atoms, invisible particles, from which all creation was made. One website claims:

“Creation is made of particles, indiscernible to our eyes (Hebrews 11:3). Not until the 19th century was it discovered that all visible matter consists of invisible elements.”5

Another:

“Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of invisible atoms. Here, Scripture tells us that the ‘things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.’ ”2

The verse in question in Hebrews 11 states:

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Hebrews 11:3, KJVER)

This says nothing about atoms or any invisible particles. Besides atoms are among the things that can be seen. We can see matter. We can even image atoms in atomic lattices. See Fig. 10.

The verse in question, Hebrew 11:3, simply describes the fact of God’s creation of the Universe ex nihilo, and how we can only understand that by faith, because we believe what His Word says in Genesis 1:1. The most scientific statement you can make from Hebrews 11:3 on the creation of the Universe is that God created it from nothing. There was no matter, no energy, no space, no time, not even vacuum, nothing! Then God spoke the Universe into existence. Matter was materialized from nothing. The following verse helps us understand this.

“Mine hand also has laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand has spanned the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:13, KJVER)

Here Isaiah wrote of God’s omnipotent power. God called and the stars were created instantly.7 In the same way, in the beginning, He spoke and created the Universe from nothing. Then on the fourth day He called and the stars sprang into existence. It is possible that they were created from previously created energy (which was not visible) or from nothing. We are not told the details.

Black holes, dark matter and dark energy

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Figure 11: Predicted appearance of non-rotating black hole with toroidal ring of ionised matter, such as has been proposed as a model for Sagittarius A*. Credit: Wikipedia

It is claimed that5

“Black holes and dark matter [are] anticipated [in] Matthew 25:30; Jude 1:13; Isaiah 50:3. Cosmologists now speculate that over 98% of the known universe is comprised of dark matter, with dark energy and black holes. A black hole’s gravitational field is so strong that nothing, not even light, escapes. Beyond the expanding universe there is no measured radiation and therefore only outer darkness exists. These theories paint a seemingly accurate description of what the Bible calls “outer darkness” or “the blackness of darkness forever.”

This website suggests that the Bible predicted “dark matter”, a form of matter that the astronomers need,8 which is invisible to all forms of electromagnetic radiation, and “dark energy”, a form of energy allegedly like anti-gravity, but both are really fudge factors9 to fill in what they don’t understand.  The webpage also says these Scriptures foreshadowed the discovery of black holes the existence of which only recently have been supported by strong evidence.10

But nothing could be further from the truth. Matthew 25:30 and Jude 1:13 refer to spiritual darkness. As we know, the Scriptures often compare physical darkness to spiritual darkness. Isaiah 50:3 on the other hand refers to the darkness of the night sky, a reference to the sky being black.11

The authors implicitly assume that cosmologists have gotten it right and detected dark matter, dark energy and black holes. That is just not so. In the case of black holes the evidence is strongly mounting in favour of their existence. But in the case of dark matter and dark energy, there is no direct experimental evidence for them. Dark matter, an exotic form of matter, unknown to physics, has been sought for more than 40 years in lab experiments, yet it should comprise 8o%—90% of the matter all around us but none has ever been detected. Dark energy is only invoked because of the failure of the standard big bang cosmological theory to fit the observational evidence. It is allegedly some exotic form of energy that produces anti-gravity, but conveniently it only applies on the scale sizes of the whole Universe, and cannot be tested for in a local laboratory setting.

Expansion of the Universe

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Figure 12: Expansion of the Universe is often represented by the expanding rubber balloon analogy, where the 2D surface of the balloon is meant to represent expansion of 3D space into a hyper-dimension, in standard big-bang cosmology.

They assume the Universe is expanding5 and, like many of these webpages, make the claim that the Scriptures do support or predicted the notion of an expanding universe.

“The universe is expanding (Job 9:8; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1). Repeatedly God declares that He stretches out the heavens. During the early 20th century, most scientists (including Einstein) believed the universe was static. Others believed it should have collapsed due to gravity. Then in 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble showed that distant galaxies were receding from the earth, and the further away they were, the faster they were moving. This discovery revolutionized the field of astronomy. Einstein admitted his mistake, and today most astronomers agree with what the Creator told us millennia ago – the universe is expanding!”

But is the Universe expanding?12 I say the evidence is equivocal. You can make arguments either in support of expansion or of it being static. I don’t know which it is. I have recently developed a static Universe biblical creationist cosmogony consistent with the Genesis creation account.13

Edwin Hubble himself many years after his ‘discovery’ wrote that he was not so sure that redshifts of the light from the galaxies was indicative of expansion of the Universe. That is the same evidence for which it is claimed he discovered the expanding Universe.  But in 1935 he expressed the following concern.

“… the possibility that red-shift may be due to some other cause, connected with the long time or distance involved in the passage of the light from the nebula to observer, should not be prematurely neglected.”14

What Hubble meant when he wrote “red-shift may be due to some other cause” was that it might be due to something else other than expansion of the Universe. I have explored that with a new extension on the idea of Zwicky’s ‘tired light’ hypothesis.15

Physical evidence aside, does the Bible describe cosmological expansion?16 That is, do the verses like those listed above, Isaiah 42:5 for example, mean God intended to imply in the Scriptures the notion of cosmological expansion, where the Universe has expanded by a linear factor of thousands of times since creation (or by 1030 times if you include cosmic inflation)?  Look at Isaiah 42:5:

“Thus says God the LORD, He that created the heavens, and stretched [נָטָה natah] them out; He that spread [רָקַע raqa`] forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; He that gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:” (Isaiah 42:5, KJVER)

The meaning here for ‘stretched’ is only that God created the heavens and put the stars in the sky above, as one might put up a tent or a curtain (see Isaiah 40:22, Psalms 104:2). The Hebrew word natah was never intended to imply cosmological expansion like in the rubber sheet analogy of big bang cosmology. There is no inference of stretching or expanding space here.

Then in this same verse the Hebrew word raqa` is rendered ‘spread’ in relation to the earth. It has the meaning ‘to pound the earth or to expand (by hammering)’. The straightforward meaning therefore is that God created the earth in all its expanse. There is no suggestion of a rubber-sheet-thousand-fold expansion, and similarly so for the heavens above. The Hebrews understood tents and curtains, which expand very little, but they had no notion of cosmological expansion. To suggest those 17 some OT verses with the words ‘stretched out’ or ‘spread out’ in relation to the heavens implies cosmological expansion would be wrong. For more discussion on this see Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe?

Conclusion

It is important that we apply to the Bible good exegesis—not reading into Bible meanings that are not intended, i.e. eisegesis. It seems that the same incorrect interpretations are used by many ministries and websites in an effort to claim the Bible correctly describes what modern science has discovered. There are indeed many good examples of that, but unfortunately, in the same lists (websites), there are many repeated examples of poor exegesis. This then becomes not information so much as it is misinformation.  And it could become fuel for those whose aim is to attempt to prove the Bible wrong.

References

  1. www.livingwaters.com/witnessingtool/scientificfactsintheBible.shtml; www.inplainsite.org/html/scientific_facts_in_the_bible.html; www.clarifyingchristianity.com/science.shtml; www.eternal-productions.org/101science.html
  2. Scientific Facts in the Bible, Answers from the Evidence Bible, livingwaters.com
  3. Marconi shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”.
  4. Scientific Facts in the Bible: 100 Reasons to Believe the Bible is Supernatural in Origin, RationalWiki.org
  5. 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge, Eternal Productions, eternal-productions.org.
  6. Science and the Bible, clarifyingchristianity.com.
  7. J.G. Hartnett, A student’s understanding of the ASC model, March 12, 2016.
  8. J.G. Hartnett, Is ‘dark matter’ the ‘unknown god’? March 13, 2015.
  9. J.G. Hartnett, Big bang fudge factors, December 24, 2013.
  10. J.G. Hartnett, What impact does the discovery of gravitational waves have on biblical creation? February 16, 2016.
  11. J.G. Hartnett, Why is the night sky black? January 25, 2016.
  12. J.G. Hartnett, Is the universe expanding? May 26, 2015.
  13. J.G. Hartnett, A biblical creationist cosmogony, January 15, 2015.
  14. E.P. Hubble, and R.C. Tolman, Two methods of investigating the nature of nebular red-shift, Astrophysical Journal, 82:302-337, 1935.
  15. J.G. Hartnett, Speculation on redshift in a created universe, February 13, 2015.
  16. J.G. Hartnett, Does the Bible really describe expansion of the universe? April 14, 2014.

Additional Reading