flat-earth-bible

I have recently written about the scientifically inaccurate correlation between the mind and heart that was common in the ancient world. To reiterate, ancient cultures believed that our emotions, and in many cases our intellect, came from within our heart, and also that the heart was ethereally connected (if not itself the) immaterial soul. The biblical authors, writing in the Ancient Near East, used this type of language to discuss issues of personhood and being. If we try to read their phrases, such as “thinking in your heart” with our scientific mindset, we would read them erroneously for the biblical authors wrote in a local context that was lacking much scientific knowledge about the world.

Yet, it turns out that ancient neurology was not the only field lacking scientific accuracy. The whole understanding of the universe by ancient people was immensely shortsighted. It was literally shortsighted, because most of our knowledge about the cosmos is very recent, and was only discovered after the invention of the telescope in the 17th century!

What do we know about the cosmos?

Very little. But compared to the people of Antiquity, infinitely more. For example: if we know 5% of what there is to know about the universe, the ancient people only know 0.0000001% about it. And 99% of what they “knew” was wrong.

  • We know that the earth is an ellipsoid sphere, rotating on an axis, hurling around the sun, being held in orbit around the center of our galaxy, and moving out in an expanding universe. We are on a spherical rock madly spinning, soaring, and moving at speeds we cannot fathom.
  • We know that the stars are not little lights but that they are in fact suns, just like our own sun, vast distances away from us. Our sun is one out of 300,000,000,000 stars in our galaxy, and we estimate there are between 200,000,000,000 to 500,000,000,000 such galaxies, each with infinities of stars.
  • We also know that all of these stars have planets, whole worlds, of their own. Each of these planets have their own rocky terrain, caverns, caves, plains, mountains, their own weather patterns, storms, solar cycles, and perhaps many other things we cannot even imagine.
  • We estimate that there are around 4,000,000,000,000 planets in our galaxy alone. If we take multiply that by the estimated number of galaxies, we get 12,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets. Can you even imagine what that means?   That means our planet represents only 0.000000000000000000000000083% of the worlds out there.
  • In the last two centuries, astronomers have discovered and learned so many things about this cosmos, many being so complicated most of us don’t even grasp them completely.

What did they know about the cosmos?

If we look at the recorded writings left to us by our forebears, what did they believe about the earth? Generally this is a very difficult question to answer because of the huge diversity of early beliefs and progressive evolution of knowledge that spread from Greece to the other parts of the ancient world. Different philosophies and ideologies spread in waves throughout different parts of the planet, some like Hindu thought, stayed contained within their borders, whereas Greek thinking eventually prevailed throughout the western world.

Also consider that today conceptions of the universe widely vary. Almost everyone in academia accepts the theory of biological evolution, the old age of the earth, and the cosmological theory of the big bang. Yet, the public, in large droves, doesn’t believe in any of these and imagines a very different world. And this is in a time when most people are literate! Historians say only 1% of people in the ancient world knew how to read or had access to education. Our views are diverse even though education is mandated. So you can see why it’s difficult. That said, we can study many ancient documents and see what the 1% who were usually intellectual elites believed.

The sky above

The people of the Ancient Near East, often called the “cradle of civilization” because it included Mesopotamia, Babylon, Egypt, and of course, the Hebrews, left many writings depicting their belief that the sky above was “firm,” like a canvass or a tent, stretched over the disc shaped earth below. The Hebrew bible speaks of a “firmament” which is translated so because it comes from the word “firm.” In the Ancient Near East the stars were seen as the representations of gods, spirits, or small lights suspended on the firmament/dome celling. The early Greeks believed a magical ether was above the earth, but a few centuries before the turn of the millennium, they developed a belief that the earth and other heavenly bodies rotated around an invisible flame in a small circular universe. This was evolved more clearly into a belief that the universe is composed of a few concentric spheres (like a ball inside of a ball, inside of a ball) and outside of these spheres was the realm of heaven. This cosmology was adopted by Christians who drew heavily on Greek philosophers like Plato, and thus it was the dominant cosmology throughout the middle ages, until the Copernican revolution. If you would have asked a Middle Ages person what the universe was like, they would have drawn concentric circles, and stated that God literally lived in the realm outside of these circles.

The earth below

What did the earth look like? “For thousands of years the earth was thought to be anything but a sphere by ancient people. The Mesopotamians and Egyptians saw the earth as being flat, as did the earliest Greeks. It was the Greeks, however, that changed the view of the earth and set forth a series of theories that proved the earth was round.” (1) What is interesting is that, contrary popular opinion in Elementary school, the scholars of the Middle Ages did not believe in a flat earth, certainly many of the villagers might have, but the academics did not. Most educated people of the Middle Ages inherited Greek philosophy and cosmology, which as far back as the 3rd century BC established that the word was spherical. However, in ancient Mesopotamia, Sumer, and other lands bordering the Hebrews, the people unilaterally believed that the earth was flat, it was conceived as a flat circle or disk. Below is an illustration produced by Christian biblical scholars of the Old Testament. (2)

The center of it all

The ancient Greeks believed the center of the universe was an invisible flame. Yet other groups, especially in the Ancient Near East, firmly believed that the earth was the center of it all. The last two thousand years saw the advent of the Christian church and Islamic theology, both of which served as the backdrop for most of the cosmological ideas of the middle ages. Both of these religions have texts that are very geocentric, or present the earth as the center of the universe. This is why Galileo was denounced by the church. There has been plenty of attempts by conservative apologists redefine this story, but the papal decree issued against Galileo says otherwise: “The proposition that the Sun is the center of the world and does not move from its place is absurd and false philosophically and formally heretical, because it is expressly contrary to Holy Scripture.“ (3) Fortunately a recent Pope has apologized and recognized this was indeed a fatal error by the church.

A blue speck in the infinite ocean of space

Yet, Galileo himself did not get the whole picture, for he only considered that the sun replaced the earth as the center of the universe. In reality, it was only the center of one small solar system, one out of 300,000,000,000 in our galaxy, out of perhaps 300,000,000,000 galaxies! While a few visionary thinkers in ancient era suggested that our sun was a star, and other stars were suns, this was only accepted a few hundred years ago. It was only in the early 1800’s that astronomer Herschel theorized the sun was not the center of the universe. A few years before, Kant proposed that there were other “Island universes.”  Then in 1918 it was proven that sun was not in the center of the universe, but off on a distant arm. Astronomers only agreed that there are other galaxies in the early 1920’s. Think about that for a second, people who lived before my grandfather was born, did not know there were other galaxies! (Though to be honest, at the time most of the public didn’t even know there were other planets with mountains and valleys.)

What does the Bible depict about cosmology?

There is no indication that the Biblical text depicts anything different than the accepted theories of it’s day. The Hebrew Bible unabashedly describes the earth as a flat disk, covered by a physical dome, at the center of the universe, without trillions of galaxies, stars, and planets outside. Many of these ancient Hebrew phrases and ideas were borrowed by the New Testament authors, although the era of the New Testament did include many scholars influenced by the Greeks who that believed the earth was spherical.

1. The sun moves

  • The Bible never mentions the earth moving, but always speaks of the sun moving. To an observer standing on the earth, the sun indeed appears to move, and perhaps some people even use phenomenological language today, for example, we speak of “sunsets” and “sunrises.” Yet we must note that these very words were invented by our predecessors, who taught that the sun literally orbited around an immobile earth. Had they believed otherwise, we would have inherited different terminology.
  • The difference is, any modern scientifically inclined person knows “sun moved” really means “earth rotated,” yet, from the cultures of the Ancient Near East all the way up to the 16th century, people did not know this but actually believed the sun moved around a stationary earth. The Catholic church and reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin firmly believed this based on their interpretation of the Bible.
  • “Then Joshua spoke… ‘sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon in the valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped” (Joshua 10:12-13)
  • “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation” (Habakkuk 3:11)
  • “The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
  • “he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.” (Psalm 19:5)
  • “It’s rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them.” (Psalm 19:6)
  • “the sun knows when to go down.” (Not the earth knows when to rotate) (Psalm 104:19)
  • “from where the sun rises to where it sets.” (Malachi 1:11)

2. The earth does not move

  • The Bible never mentions that the earth is moving in an orbit around the sun, while rotating. We know the earth is in perpetual motion, yet the Biblical authors described it from their perspective, completely motionless.
  • This was interpreted literally, John Calvin wrote “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.” (4)
  • “Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.” (1 Chronicles 16:30)
  • “Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1)
  • “Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved” (Psalm 96:10)
  • “He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” (Psalm 104:5)

3. The earth has foundations

  • “the channels of the sea appeared, The foundations of the world were laid bare” (2 Samuel 22:16)
  • “channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare” (Psalms 18:15)
  • “All the foundations of the earth are shaken.” (Psalm 82:5)
  •  “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.”(Psalms 102:25)
  • “He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.” (Psalm 104:5)
  • “when He marked out the foundations of the earth” (Proverbs 8:27-29)
  • “For the windows above are opened, and the foundations of the earth shake.” (Isaiah 24:48)
  • “laid the foundation of the earth” (Isaiah 48:13)
  • “stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth” (Isaiah 51:13)
  • “the foundations of the earth searched out below” (Jeremiah 31:37)
  • “stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth” (Zechariah 12:1)
  • “laid the foundation of the earth? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4-6)

4. The earth has a foundation of pillars

  • “Who shakes the earth out of its place, And its pillars tremble” (Job 9:6)
  • “When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.” (Psalm 75:3)
  • “For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, And He set the world on them.” (1 Sam 2:8)
  • The earth and all who dwell in it melt; It is I who have firmly set its pillars” (Psalm 75:3)

5. The sky has foundations and windows

  • “Then the earth shook and quaked, The foundations of heaven were trembling” (2 Samuel 22:8)
  • “The pillars of heaven tremble And are amazed at His rebuke: (Job 26:11)
  • “the great deep burst forth and the windows of the heavens were opened.” (Genesis 7:11)
  • “the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained” (Genesis 8:2)
  • “For the windows of heaven are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble.” Isaiah 24:18
  • “not open the windows of heaven for you” (Malachi 3:10)

6. The heaven is a hard physical “firmament” (dome)

  • Even recent interpreters of the Bible believed that heaven was a physically “hard thing” which was called the “firmament” in the Old Testament. For example, Martin Luther said: “Indeed, it is more likely that the bodies of the stars, like that of the sun, are round, and that they are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night, each according to its endowment and its creation.” (5)
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia says “The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars. So slight is this elevation that birds may rise to it and fly along its expanse” There are also “upper waters… shut up in heaven.”(2) This explains why early Hebrews believed heaven had windows, for there was water above the firmament of heaven.
  • Saint Augustine wrote about the firmament that “We may understand this name as given to indicate not it is motionless but that it is solid.” (6)
  • In Genesis 11:4-7 we see the ancient people saying “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens” clearly showing their cosmological views. They did not know that heaven was an infinite vastness of trillions of stars and galaxies, but the top of dome that one could physically reach.
  • Firmament is the English for the Hebrew raqia which means “something hammered out.” Its Greek equivalent in the Septuagint, used by New Testament Christians, is stereoma or “something solid.”
  •  “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. God said let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear.” (Genesis 1:7-8)
  • “Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?” (Job 37:18)
  • “when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep“ Proverbs 8:27-29
  • “Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
  • “My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together.” Isaiah 48:13
  • “he stretches out the heavens like a tent”  (Psalm 104:2)
  • “And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; all their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine” (Isaiah 34:4)
  • “Clouds are a hiding place for Him, so that He cannot see; and He walks on the vault of heaven.” (Job 22:14)
  • “He wraps up the waters in His clouds, and the cloud does not burst under them” (Job 26:8)
  • “Is not God in the height of heaven? Look also at the distant stars, how high they are!” [stars connected to heaven/dome because the author imagined God lived just beyond the stars.] (Job 22:12)

7. The earth is a circle not a ball

  • “above the circle of the earth… the heavens like a curtain.. spread…out like a tent to dwell in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
  • “When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep [waters], when he made firm the skies above” (Proverbs 8:27-29)
  •  “He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters”  (Job 26:10)
  • “who spread out the earth upon the waters” (Psalms 136:6)
  • The Biblical authors called the earth a “circle” (חוּג, chug). This word is used in nominal forms four times in the Old Testament to refer to “circle instrument” a device used to draw a circle on paper. The ancient people, standing on a tall mountain, could look all around them, and phenomenologically see the earth appearing as a flat disc or a circle and because of this believed it was circular. (1)
  • There is Hebrew language that distinguishes a 2D circle with a 3D shape, something “round” or a “ ball,” but this language is not used in reference to the earth, though it is used for other things. Example: “and throw you like a ball into a wide land. There you shall die” (Isaiah 22:18)

8. The earth has “edges” or “corners”

  • There are hundreds of passages that speak of “the ends of the earth” and the  “corners of the earth” (ex: Jeremiah 51:16, Isaiah 41:9, Psalms 65:5, Ezekiel 7:2, Mark 13:27). The translation of “corners” does not mean the Hebrews believed the earth was square with 90 degree geometric corners, but the Hebrew qatsah is often translated as  “ends” or “edges.” For example, in the descriptions of the temple, derivatives of qatsah are used to describe the edges of the curtains, not geometric corners.
  • Today it’s common to reinterpret “ends of the earth” figuratively instead of literally. Yet there is nothing in the text to tell us this is metaphor, the only reason we say these are not literal “ends,” is because we have circumvented the globe, we know it doesn’t really have ends. The reason such terminology was invented by the ancients, is because they sincerely believed the earth had ends.
  • Common usage of “ends” of earth: “And the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other” (Deuteronomy 28:64)
  • “For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees everything under the heavens.” (Job 28:24)
  • That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? (Job 38:13)
  • “The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth.” (Daniel 4:10-11)
  • “as far as the east is from the west” [there is a distance from one to the other, not that they are directions on our globe that come back into each other] (Psalms 103:12)

9. The stars are small “accessories” to the earth, not giant suns much larger than the earth

  • “And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.” (Gen 1:16)
  • “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7)
  • “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars” (Isaiah 14:13)
  • It grew great, even to the host of heaven; and some of the host of the stars it cast down to the ground and trampled upon them. (Daniel 8:10)
  • “The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (Joel 2:10)
  • “though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (Obadiah 1:4)
  • “I will cover the heavens and make their stars dark” (Ezekiel 32:7)
  • “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven (Matthew 24:29)
  • “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven” (Mark 13:24-25)
  • “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.” (1 Corinthians 15:41)
  • “and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale”(Revelation 6:12-13)
  • “The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star fell from heaven, blazing like a torch, and it fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water.” [a great star is 10,000 times larger than the earth](Revelation 8:10)
  • The fourth angel blew his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of their light might be darkened, and a third of the day might be kept from shining, and likewise a third of the night. (Revelation 8:12)
  • His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth“ (Revelation 12:4)

10. There are thousands of stars, not trillions

  • There are estimates that with the naked eye (without telescopes), humans can see from 5,000 to 10,000 stars. With powerful telescopes we have discovered many orders of magnitude more individual stars and clusters of stars called galaxies than are not visible with the human eye. There are some be 300 billion stars in our galaxy, and perhaps 300 billion galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars each.
  • “make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” Genesis 22:17
  • “The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are today as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deuteronomy 1:10)
  • “Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.“ (Deuteronomy 10:22)
  • “You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number” (Deuteronomy 28:62)
  • “You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven” (Nehemiah 9:23)

What does this mean for theology?

  • The Bible is not a science book and should not be used as such. It is not written with the intention of portraying accurate descriptions of natural processes. Certainly there are some thing that are mentioned with an accurate understanding, like the hydrologic cycle, yet these are usually things what were more or less understood by other ancient people. For example, the idea of the hydrologic cycle was documented by ancient Indians almost a millennium before the birth of Jesus. Other things, like the cosmological understanding of the world, whether in India or in Jerusalem, was different from our contemporary understanding because written through the cultural, conceptual, and linguistic limits of the human authors
  • Some might argue that all of these descriptions of the earth with foundations and pillars are metaphors. I would ask these people to find one cosmological reference that is not a metaphor, and explain to me how an ancient person without telescopes was supposed to know which one was a metaphor, and which one was not. Certainly, we know, because we put a man on the moon, yet what about an ancient Mesopotamian farmer? In any case, we still have to concede that every single cosmological reference in the Bible is a metaphor, which yet again would show that the Bible is not written to give scientific facts, but to speak about a spiritual journey.
Jesus sweat blood

All around the world there are billions of people journeying through Holy Week and contemplating on the death of Jesus. Being written, performed, and watched are tens of thousands of local depictions, plays, films, characterizations and songs. One image that is often found in these depictions is that of Jesus having sweat like small beads of blood.

This is indeed found in most contemporary English bibles (in some there are tiny little asterisks and footnotes).  The passage in question is:

“And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

This is indicated only in Luke’s Gospel, and not included in Mark’s, Matthew’s, or John’s account of the Garden of Gethsemane.

What is interesting is that there is even a very rare medical condition, known as hematohidrosis or hemidrosis which includes bloody sweat, and is usually preceded by a very debilitating form of severe stress and agonizing fear. It has been hypothesized that this is the medical condition Luke is describing. This would paint a very interesting picture of Jesus, as a person who is stressed to the point of breaking, who is experiencing unequaled emotional anguish and succumbing to a helpless anxiety and trepidation.

And yet, many biblical scholars, who affirm that Jesus suffered terribly, don’t believe this sweat-blood incident actually happened to Jesus, based on the fact that some of the earliest manuscripts of Luke are missing Luke 22:43-44.

The manuscript evidence

We don’t have the “original bible” or the “original” letters and texts that were penned by its human authors. Instead, we have many copies, which come to us on manuscripts of papyrus or vellum (dried animal skins). Some of these manuscript copies are complete books (a minority) others are small fragments (the majority) that only contain small sections of the New Testament (like Papyrus P52, recognized as the earliest copy of the New Testament, which contains only a few verses from John, and dates back to 125AD, slightly under a hundred years after the death of Jesus).

The job of biblical scholars and textual critics is to go through thousands of these manuscripts and piece together what the original text should have said. Because of the huge variety of manuscripts (5800ish texts in Greek, and thousands of translations in Syriac, Aramaic, Coptic, and Latin), these scholars often find many differences, called textual variants. Sometimes the earlier manuscripts contain phrases that are absent from later ones, or later text have added phrases not present in earlier manuscripts. Scholars then research the textual evidence and decide on what is the most likely answer to account for the discrepancy

This brings us to Luke 22:43-44, which is precisely this type of situation. Some of the most ancient texts that contain the text we call Luke Chapter 22, do not have these verses. Some later manuscripts do. And to make things even more confusing, a few other manuscripts have them inserted elsewhere.

Here are some of the examples cited by textual critics:

A. Manuscripts that do include the text

The following is a list of ancient books (a book was called a codex) or manuscripts/fragments that contain these verses as part of Luke. Uncial refers to large Greek font (capital letters), used very early on, and miniscule refers to small fonts used more recently. These are followed by the best estimated age of the manuscript per modern scholarship.

B. Manuscripts that do not include the text

The following is a list of those that do not that contain these verses as part of Luke. (This means the text jumps from what we call verse 42 to verse 45, though the “verse numbers” are a 16th century invention.) These are followed by the best estimated age of the manuscript per modern scholarship.

C. Manuscripts that do something different altogether

Other manuscripts mark these passages with asterisks to denote them with some kind of footnote. In some they are moved to another place in the text. Or else they leave written history of annotations and edits.

  • Many miniscule texts from the 8th to 13th century leave footnotes that question the originality of the text. These include the following Miniscule texts: 354, 045, 166, 481, 655, 661, 669, 776, 829, 892
  • In a group of texts known as Family 13, these verses are moved to into the text of Matthew 26:39, most of these manuscripts date from  11th to the 15th century.
  • Codex Sinaiticus, is the oldest “complete” copy of the New Testament in Greek, dating to the 4th century. This Codex excludes some sections or chapters from a few NT books and include the noncanonical Shepherd of Hermes and Barnabas. According to a Greek text published by some of the most prolific textual critics, the passage from Luke was “included by the original scribe, marked by the first corrector as doubtful, but the third corrector (c) removed the mark” (1)

The three options

1. It is the return of an earlier removed text

This was the idea put forward by Joel B. Green and Scott McKnight. The argued that the verse was (a) likely included in the earliest manuscripts, (b) was removed to hide the humanity of Jesus and help promote the idea that Jesus was God, and (c) later added. However, the very earliest manuscripts we have already exclude these verses, and there is no way to conclusively prove earlier manuscripts did contain these verses, so McKnight and Green had to make their case based on the vocabulary and literary style in the passage. The argue that while the “textual evidence is ambiguous” the “omission of these verses from so many and diverse witnesses… could not have been accidental”  and that “the presence or absence of these two verse is crucial to an interpretation of the scene as a whole.” (2)

2. It is an interpolation to combat the heresy of doceticism

This idea was made famous by Bruce Metzger, who is considered, even by staunch Biblicist conservatives, to be the greatest English textual critic of the last century. He wrote “These verses are absent from some of the oldest and best witnesses, including the majority of the Alexandrian manuscripts. It is striking to note that the earliest witnesses attesting the verses are three Church fathers – Justin, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus – each of whom uses the verses in order to counter Christological views that maintained that Jesus was not a full human who experienced the full range of human sufferings. It may well be that the verses were added to the text for just this reason, in opposition to those who held to a docetic Christology“(3) This point is also taken up by Bart Ehrman, one of the top textual critics today, who was student of Metzger. Ehrman argues that the two verses are very unnatural and “intrude” into a figure of speech called a chiasmus because they were “added in the second century by scribes intent on demonstrating that Jesus was fully subject to the anxieties and distresses that plague the human condition.” (4)

3. It is an interpolation that was based on an oral tradition

This idea is found vaguely suggested in a few biblical commentaries and theological books that are not academic textual criticism texts. One writer, Mark Moore, states that “Since it is more likely that this information would be later added than purposefully cropped, we conclude that it was probably not penned by Luke, but added later, likely based on a reliable oral tradition” (5) Likewise in a tome edited by the famous conservative apologist/scholar Gary Habermas there is an argument that these verses have “higher potential” to be edited in by someone who had access to “early oral traditions.” (6) However, the authors show some restraint in saying whether this “early oral tradition about Jesus [should be] judged reliable or not is another matter.” (7)

What do I think?

First off, I suppose it doesn’t really matter what I think, I’m not a textual critic. But if we are really pushing me, I think it’s hard to tell, and without the textual evidence, I wouldn’t make an argument that this was in the originals. If an earlier manuscript could be provided, I would be certainly join Scott McKnight (as would everyone else) however, since that hasn’t happened and probably never will, my gut instinct is to stick with Metzger and Ehrman.

At the end of the day, undergoing crucifixion in the Roman empire was a brutally agonizing experience, sweat and blood or no.

heart brain

Science is often seen as an enemy of the Bible. In the minds of many, science is an open search for truth, the Bible is a closed declaration of truth. Science invites us to prove something is true, the Bible calls us to believe something is true. Science asks many questions, the Bible is an answer book. Science is changing and self-correcting while the Bible is eternal and never needs correction. In addition to this false dichotomy, there are other portrayals of Science and the Bible, some are accurate, others are very crude and erroneous. Part of the conflict, is because many Christians have an “all or nothing” mentality about the Bible. They believe that “the Bible must be ‘true’ in every possible way for it to be God’s Word.” This includes what we can call “scientific truth,” or an accurate description of natural processes in the world around us. And so, many Christians have written books, preached sermons, and even made crafty websites purporting that the Bible is a very accurate scientific book. (For some reason the Muslims also do this with the Koran.)

Yet, is it possible that the Bible is wrong about certain scientific principles because it was never intended to portray them? Or that the people who used their hands to write “words inspired by God” were writing those words through their own understanding of the universe? An understanding that was lacking a great deal of contemporary scientific knowledge? The biblical authors did write those words using their own local language like Hebrew or Greek, using their personal style, their own location as a reference, is it not also likely that they used their own, often faulty, scientific descriptions? I believe a careful and honest reading of the text will lead us to that position. If we don’t perform the historical sacrilege of “anachronism” (reading modern day ideas into ancient depictions that were never meant to convey such things) we will be able to read the biblical text in its historic context.

Ancient Neuroscience

In the ancient world the physical heart was seen as the root of all emotion and feeling, while the brain was often wholly ignored. The Egyptians believed the heart was the seat of Intelligence. The great philosopher Aristotle believed that the heart is the source of sensation like pleasure and pain. (1) A famous Roman physician, Galen (130 AD) who was a medicinal visionary, understood that the brain was involved in thinking but still believed that “the spiritual soul was in the heart” and that our physical heart was the source of our passions, such as anger. (2)

The ancient world had two major views about the center of emotion, thoughts, feelings, and intelligence:

1. Both thoughts and feelings come from the heart. The heart and mind refers to the soul, manifested in the physical heart. The physical head and brain are not involved. (Aristotle thought the brain was a cooling chamber.)

2. Rational thoughts came from the “mind,” which is the immaterial soul, but the seat of all emotions, passions, desires, and feelings was the physical heart.

*A tiny minority (only a few thinkers in history) believed the physical brain was involved with thinking, while the heart was the organ of feeling.

Modern Neuroscience

While a few against-the-grain thinkers in the ancient world were surprisingly accurate and included the brain a cognitive processes, these people had no way to prove or document this. (3) Then the renaissance spawned a great deal of anatomical dissections of the brain and modern medicine was born.

1. In the last hundred years we have finally documented that the brain is solely responsible for all thoughts, feelings, and actions. This became available due to neuroimaging. We can scan a brain, and see which parts of the brain are responsible for certain actions. I was trained to do 3d SPECT scans of the brain, and have myself performed these on numerous patients. (4)

2. We have also been able to replace the heart with an artificial “heart” machine, in response to which those persons without a physical heart gave continued to be just as human, just as emotional as before. (5) The heard does not think. The heart does not feel.

3. We have tested our reality and proven that the brain/head is responsible for all thinking and feeling; the heart does nothing. For the first time in history we know that the “mind” is not in the heart, but in the brain.

Biblical Neuroscience

It is my contention that the views of the biblical authors were consistent to the beliefs of their age, which we now know are scientifically inaccurate. The Greek word for heart, that is used in the New Testament & Septuagint is kardia (the word cardiology is derived from this.) Today anything related to kardia refers to the physical heart. The Bible uses ‘heart’ for both the physical heart (“the arrow went through his heart” – 2 Kings 9:24) and the feeling/thinking organ of the human being. Let’s examine the evidence:

1. The word “brain” is not used in the whole Bible, not even one time.

  • There is not one mention in the Bible that a physical organ in our heads is the source of all our thoughts and feelings. There is not even one indication that this physical organ we call the ‘brain’ was ever important in the biblical era, for it is never even alluded to.

2. The word “head” is never used in the Bible in connection with thinking, feeling, or the “mind.”

  • There are references to the “head” as the part of the body that can be injured or pointed to (obviously people knew there was this thing called a “head” as they knew there was a “leg”). There are also references to the “head” as the authority of above something. For example “head of the household” (Luke 14:21) or Christ is the head” (Col 2:10). But we never see a phrase like “think in your head” or “feel with your head.” In fact, the definition of the Greek word for ‘head’, kephale, has nothing to do with brains or minds either. (3)

3. The word “mind” appears in the Bible numerous times, however, it never appears in conjunction with the head.

  • After the recent advent of neuroscience and brain scans, it’s evident to us that the “mind is inside the head,” in fact this is how we define this word. However, that was not how the word was defined in antiquity. The mind was not affiliated to the organ inside our heads, the word “mind” was always defined as the thinking part of the soul. There is not even one passage in the whole Bible where the words mind and head are in the same sentence. Yet, mind appears with heart hundreds of times.

4. The word “mind” in the biblical text was understood to be the same thing as the “soul”

  • For example, a common Greek word in the New Testament that is used for mind is nous, which is not defined in connection to the physical head/brain. In fact, Aristotle, who wrote in Greek, used that same Greek word nous, to refer to the rational/intellectual part of the immaterial and nonphysical soul, and according to him, the mind/nous was most assuredly not in the brain. (4)
  • Other New Testament passages tie in the “mind” with the spirit or soul, and show that “mind” does not refer to a physical brain.. For example, “you be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23) and “he knows the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:27)
  • In the ancient Hebrew the “mind” and the “soul” can be equally synonymous, and both exclude the head. For example, in 1 Samuel 2:35 we see that conservative Bible translators have used different English words for the same Hebrew word, nephesh: some say “in my heart and in my mind” (ESV/NIV) while others say “in My heart and in My soul” (NASB/NET). (5)

5. The word “mind” is almost always used in connection to the word “heart.”

  • There are hundreds of places where the “mind” is used in conjunction with the soul, spirit, or heart. Yet “mind” is not even one time used in conjunction with the “brain” or the “head”)
  • “Test my mind and my heart.” (Psalm 26:2)
  • “sees the mind and the heart” (Jeremiah 20:12)
  • “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “guard your hearts and your minds” (Philippians 4:7))
  • “I will put My laws upon their heart, And on their mind I will write them” (Hebrew 10:16)
  • “who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23)

6. Feelings are depicted as coming from the heart. (Not the “head” or “brain.”)

  •  “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen 8:21)
  • “he will be glad in his heart” (Exodus 4:14)
  • harden his heart so that he will not let the people” (Exodus 4:21)
  • “in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill” (Exodus 31:6)
  • “not hate your fellow countryman in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17)
  • “love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • “your heart will become proud” (Deuteronomy 8:14)
  • “had eaten and drunk and his heart was merry” (Ruth 3:7)
  • “why is your heart sad?” (1 Samuel 1:8)
  • “and she despised him in her heart.” (2 Samuel 6:16)
  • “sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5)
  • You have put gladness in my heart (Psalm 4:7)
  • “boasts of his heart’s desire” (Psalm 10:3)
  • Having sorrow in my heart” (Psalm 13:2)
  • “their heart’s delight” (Ezekiel 24:25)
  • “And their heart will be glad as if from wine” (Zechariah 10:7)
  • “does not doubt in his heart” (Mark 11:23)
  • “love the lord with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37)
  • “sorrow has filled your heart.” (John 16:6)
  • “the intention of your heart”  (Acts 8:22)
  • “the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:24)
  • “he has purposed in his heart” (2 Corinthians 9:7)
  • “their foolish heart” (Romans 1:21)
  •  “making melody with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19)
  • “singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16)
  • “does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart” (James 1:26)
  • “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart” (James 3:14)

7. Thinking and knowledge are depicted coming from the heart. (Not the “head” or “brain.”)

  • “Before I had finished speaking in my heart” (Gen 24:45)
  • “so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:9)
  • “Thus you are to know in your heart” ” (Deuteronomy 8:5)
  •  “Do not say in your heart” (Deuteronomy 9:4)
  • “spend the money for whatever your heart desires” (Deuteronomy 14:26)
  • “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know” (Deuteronomy 18:21)
  • “has not given you a heart to know” (Deuteronomy 29:4)
  • “I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.” (Joshua 14:7)
  • “you know in all your hearts and in all your souls” (Joshua 23:14)
  • “she was speaking in her heart, …lips were moving… voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13)
  • “she spoke with him about all that was on her heart.” (2 Chronicles 9:1)
  • “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend” (Isaiah 14:13)
  • “If you say in your heart, ‘Why” (Jeremiah 13:22)
  • “will say in their hearts” (Zechariah 12:5)
  • “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts” (Matthew 9:4)
  • “understand with their heart” (Matthew 13:15)
  • “out of the heart come evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19)
  • “scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts”  (Mark 2:6)
  • question these things in your hearts” (Mark 2:8)
  • “in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51)
  • “pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
  • “thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35)
  • “all were wondering in their hearts” (Luke 3:15)
  • “Why are you reasoning in your hearts” (Luke 5:22)
  • “knowing what they were thinking in their heart” (Luke 9:47)
  • “if that slave says in his heart” (Luke 12:45)
  • “you have conceived this deed in your heart” (Acts 5:4)
  •  “has decided this in his own heart” (1 Corinthians 7:37)
  • “the secrets of his heart are disclosed” (1 Corinthians 14:25)

Listen to my heart?

Wait a minute, isn’t it normal for someone to say “let me share what is on my heart?” Yes it’s “normal” but it’s not scientifically accurate. Ask yourself, why do we use that phrase? Why did this idea of the “heart” even come into common usage? Did we begin to speak about the emotions of the “heart” after we found out the brain is the center of intelligence and emotion, or before?

  • It’s because we have inherited that type of language from people who literally believed the heart was the source of emotions and thoughts. The human language has been around for thousands of years, but the knowledge that hearts have nothing to do with emotion, thoughts, or knowledge is only a few hundred of years old
  • We have inherited these types of phrases, which we now treat as allegorical, but the reason these phrases were used thousands of years ago, is because they best represented the literal understanding of the time.
  • Should we continue to use “the heart” when speaking and singing about of emotion and intellect? If we want to, but it’s still scientifically wrong, even if more poetic than the “limbic system of the brain.”

What does this mean for theology?

When a person turns to you, and begins to “speak from his heart” what do you understand? Is that person speaking from the muscular organ that pumps blood throughout his body? No, they are speaking from their brain, not from their heart. After thousands of years of scientifically inaccurate poems about the heart, the brain just doesn’t sound as romantic, does it? In any case, here are the theological implications we can make:

  • Today we understand that a person who is said to be speaking from “the heart” is not speaking form the physical heart, but from the ‘core’ of their being, from the very essence of their consciousness and identity. We know that scientifically this is in the brain, not in the heart, the ancients were wrong.  Yet we reinterpret this “heart speech” to refer to the “essence” of a person. The scientific location for this human essence has changed, but the philosophical concept remains.
  • The biblical authors used the physical heart to identify and refer to that “essence” of personhood, the very core of ones being. They were mistaken about its location, but not it’s existence. The big idea is that each of us “feels” that our emotions come from deep within our chest, even though natural study has shown these are processed in the limbic system of our brain.
  • The biblical authors were not teaching us about anatomy and physiology, if they were, they would be wrong on many accounts. They were using ancient language and poor scientific knowledge to speak about spiritually meaningful topics.
  • The Bible is not a science book, it was not written to teach men about neuroscience, for then it would be wrong, instead it was written to deal with the very essence of what it means to be human and how we relate to God.
reject biblical scholars
I have recently been reviewing some literature by many biblical scholars, the men who imprudently think they can rely on the foolishness of carnal philosophy, and I realized that so many of us are prone to get very easily deceived by these men with big heads and big books. Here are some reminders of why you must keep yourself and your family safe from the majority of these bibliofascists.

1. They read words penned by human hands, we just read God’s dictated words

When these self-deluded biblical scholars read the text, they read it like a historical document, they are picking at things like the way the words are ordered, the type of language structure that is used, the historical and grammatical context, and other foolish fleshly logical approaches. Instead, we need to reject such carnal methods, and just read the bible the way it sounds. Just read it, claim it, and believe it. Amen!

2. They listen to foolish philosophy, we listen to God himself

These hardhearted men read the text through their own logic and foolish philosophy. They actually use their faulty theological systems and mental processes to interpret and frame the words. Instead, we simply listen to God speaking to us. We, on the other hand don’t interpret and think, we just listen and obey. Remember, biblical scholars rely on their brains to understand the bible, and we just listen directly to God. Who do you want to trust? Biblical scholars who tell you what the text says, or God himself?

3. They translate the texts using grammar, we let the spirit do the translation

It is said that the only reason we understand anything in the Bible is because these biblical scholars have translated the text from the ancient Hebrew language and the koine Greek. Some have even preposterously postulated that without biblical scholars using their brains to translate, we would not know what the bible says, and that this didn’t happen until a few hundred years ago. This is simply ridiculous, it is undeniable that the Bible is open to all and known by all. Do these scholars really expect us to believe that for the first 1500 years of Christian history people didn’t read or know what was contained in the biblical texts? Sheer lunacy!

4. They are all shameless liberals, so we know their views don’t matter anyway

It is evident to anyone with a brain that biblical scholars are generally lazy snobs who are ferocious liberals. It is certain that they are just writing books about the Bible because they want to argue for their liberal left-wing agendas. These liberal schemas were imposed on them in the most prestigious, and thereby liberal, and thereby wrong, colleges of the world. Places like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are completely wrong because they are liberal, this is so certain we mustn’t waste paper to prove it.

5. Biblical scholars have presuppositions, we don’t, we just listen to God

Another aspect that shows the complete depravity of most biblical scholars is the undeniable fact that they alone have many presuppositions. When we read the Bible, we do so with a clean slate, never ever presupposing we know what the text should say or does say. We never even imagine or think that certain disputed texts just happen to fit perfectly with the distinctives of our denomination.  Biblical scholars on the other hand, always start off presupposing many silly things, that is why they keep switching positions. When someone has no presuppositions, that person is stable and never changes his mind, ever. Those who keep evolving are obviously spiritually unhealthy and keep shifting their presuppositions just like they will be shifted in the furnace of hell.

6. They’re just acting out of anger, but we never get emotional

There is undeniable proof that every single biblical scholar that presents views contrary to those held by all normal people, like ourselves, is mentally unstable. Most likely they were abused as children and are now very angry at the church. That is the reason they write such malicious “studies.” It has nothing to do with the academic dialogue about the text, but only their helplessly aggravated emotional state. We should feel pity for them, really. On the other hand, we never argue from emotion, but with our nonchalant spiritual acuteness, we wage war against their voracious heresies.

7. They never go door to door evangelizing, but we do

Have you ever heard of a biblical scholar go preaching door to door and saving souls? I haven’t either. All they do is sit in their ivory towers and craft lengthy tirades that no one cares about. Is there any reason why we should care about the historiographical analysis of papyrus p52? Will that save anyone? No, if it doesn’t, it’s completely useless and we do well to completely ignore it. We must reject the study of anything that doesn’t directly culminate in the salvation of souls.

So there you have it, since it is officially ‘Aprils Fool’s day’ I thought it would be best to write about the most imbecilic of fools, biblical scholars who try to tell us something different than we already know.