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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Does the Bible Foresee Scientific Discoveries?

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Don Stewart
The Bible does not contain statements that are scientifically inaccurate. They do not make the same absurd mistakes that were made by others living in their day. But the Bible goes further in that it foresees scientific discoveries before they were known to the world at large.

During the time the Bible was being composed there was much superstition and ignorance concerning the nature and function of the universe. Though no nation or sacred writings were immune to superstition, the Bible is a notable exception. We do not find the biblical writers committing the same types of errors as their contemporaries. Kenny Barfield writes:

We might well wonder if there could be among all the so-called revelations of the worlds religions one document that is untouched by the foibles and fallacies of men, one record that reveals an accurate understanding of man and nature, one collection of writings that holds an immutable relationship to scientific truth? One book - and only one - can meet these qualifications. It is known as the Bible . . . .

There is no evidence that any one group of people is inherently more or less intelligent than another. It should also be noted that various cultures have made important progress in the sciences. This progress is understandable on the basis of human genius, equally present in all peoples. Interestingly, within this equality of people is an amazing disparity in certain "sacred writings." The disparity should not be there. But it is (Kenny Barfield, Why The Bible is Number 1, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988, pp. 9,10).

Errors Avoided

Barfield notes some of the scientific errors avoided by the biblical writers:

Medical Errors Avoided

1. Bizarre prescriptions
2. Attributing all disease to demons
3. Magical control of disease
4. Doctrine of signatures
5. Alchemy
6. Astrology
7. Divination and Omens

Astronomical Errors Avoided

1. Incorrect understanding of the sun and moon
2. Deification of the natural universe
3. A flat earth
4. Incorrect understanding of the size of the universe
5. Astrology
6. A limited number of stars
7. Geocentricity
8. Magic and omens

Earth Science Errors Avoided

1. Belief in a living earth
2. Deification of nature
3. Astrological influences regarding nature
4. Magical control of nature
5. Demonological influence of nature
6. Incorrect understanding of earthquakes, storms, oceans, mountains, lightning, and other physical phenomenon

(Kenny Barfield, Why The Bible is Number 1, pp. 40,130,163).

Science Foreseen

The biblical writers not only avoided scientific errors, they also were able to foresee scientific discoveries years ahead of their time. The following examples should demonstrate that the biblical writers were given information that their contemporaries did not have.

Earth Not Supported

The Scripture also says that the earth hangs in space:

He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing (Job 26:7).

This idea was an oddity in the ancient world, for most people believed the earth was supported by something.

Stars Innumerable

The Bible also speaks of innumerable stars:

As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured (Jeremiah 33:22).

Before the telescope was invented, people believed they could count the stars. Even the great astronomer Johann Kepler numbered the stars at slightly over one thousand. Not until modern times did man realize that numbering the stars is an impossibility.

Circularity Of The Earth

The Bible speaks of the circularity of the earth:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22).

Early man usually viewed the earth as being flat.

Dietary Regulations

The Israelites were forbidden to eat the flesh of any animal that had died a natural death:

You shall not eat anything that dies of itself (Deuteronomy 14:21).

Today we know that dead animals can carry lice, flies, and fleas. Each of these are carriers of disease.

Quarantine Of Contagious Diseases

God ordered those who had contagious diseases to be separated from the rest of the camp:

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, Unclean! Unclean! He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his habitation shall be outside the camp (Leviticus 13:45,46).

The Bible is the only book in the ancient world that ordered this practice.

Water Supply

The children of Israel were forbidden to drink water from small or stagnant pools or from water that had been contaminated by coming into contact with animals or meat (Leviticus 11:29-36). It is only in the last 100 years that medical science has learned that contaminated water can cause typhoid and cholera.

Rabbits And Pork

Today humans eat rabbits and pork, although both are susceptible to infectious parasites. The children of Israel were not allowed to eat either of these animals. Though they may be cleanly fed and well-cooked, they both can be a source of disease. Roasting pork over an open flame is not sufficient to kill the parasites that could have attached themselves to the animal. Parasites can also be transmitted by the mere handling of pork. Consequently, the children of Israel were not even allowed to touch the body of a dead swine.

Hygienic Regulations

The Bible contains hygienic regulations for the children of Israel. The Bible commands that sewage should be disposed of outside the camp of Israel:

Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse (Deuteronomy 23:12,13).

This precaution would help eliminate diseases such as typhoid fever.

Circumcision On The Eighth Day

God also commanded his people to circumcise the male children on the eighth day:

He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations (Genesis 17:12).

The full meaning of that command has only been recently understood. Doctor Russel J. Thomsen writes:

One simple aspect of Gods command to Abraham helped prevent excessive bleeding with circumcision of the newborn. That was the instruction that the rite should be done on the eighth day of life. Modern medicine has come to understand the mechanisms at work in the clotting of blood. Of major importance in blood clotting is prothrombin, a compound made in the liver and the precursor of the active clotting agent thrombin. It has been well established that within a few hours after birth prothrombin becomes relatively depleted and does not become replenished by the infants liver until about the eighth day of life (Russel J. Thomsen, M.D., Medical Wisdom From the Bible, Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1974, p. 17).

It has been only since 1940 that it has become a standard practice to circumcise all male infants.

Pest Control

The Bible also gave a prescription for the control of pests. Robert Boyd writes:

A sure-fire remedy for the control of pests was given centuries ago, and yet we are plagued today with insects, oftimes with no remedy. Moses commanded Israel to set aside one year in seven when no crops were raised [Leviticus] 25:1-24 . God promised sufficient harvest in the sixth year to provide for this period. Following this plan, heres what would happen - insects winter in the stalks of the last years harvest, hatch in the spring, and are perpetuated by laying eggs in the new crop. Now, if one year in seven no crop were raised, there is nothing for the insects to subsist upon and the pests are controlled by this method. Mans method today is crop rotation, but were still pestered with insects. This method will never approach Gods method. "Then there was the year of Jubilee after every seven Sabbatical years, which would serve to eliminate the insects which had a cycle of seven years or more or less and which were not affected by the one year in seven" (Robert Boyd, Boyds Bible Handbook, Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1983, p. 78).

Many other examples could be added. With regard to science, the biblical writers were separate from their contemporaries in the ancient world in the following two ways: (1) they did not repeat the commonly held errors of their day (2) they spoke of things that only present-day science has come to realize is scientifically accurate.

Be Careful Of Extremes

While we believe that the Scriptures are scientifically accurate and that there are some examples of Scripture foreseeing modern science, there are some writers who have gone too far in their assertion that the Bible anticipates modern science. R.M. Page writes:
Some writers, notably Rimmer, Sanden and Beirnes, have found Scriptural passages in which they see anticipations of modern scientific discovery. The undalatory theory of matter is seen in Genesis 1:2. Wireless telegraph is seen in Job 38:35. The concept of parallax is seen in James 1:17. Atomic theory of matter is seen in Hebrews 11:3 and atomic binding in Hebrews 1:3. Light as the basis of all substance is seen in Genesis 1:3, nuclear fission in Genesis 1:4, and a final chain reaction in Isaiah 34:4 and Luke 21:25-28. An expanding universe is seen in Isaiah 40:22. Motor cars are seen in Joel 2:3,4, airplanes in Isaiah 31:5 and 60:8, and submarines in Revelation 11:3-12 (R.M. Page, "Science in the Bible," The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Merrill C. Tenney, General editor, Volume 5, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977, p. 295).

Summary And Conclusion

The fact that the Bible foresees modern science is another evidence of its divine inspiration. How else can we explain the references to scientific matters that were done years ahead of their time? Furthermore, why didnt the biblical writers repeat the common unscientific errors of their day? The answer is simple. The writings of Scripture were inspired by the Creator Himself.
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