This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Dr. Craig I have been listening to your lectures and such off of YouTube, and they greatly help me with questions. However, this one is more along the lines of interpretation of the Scriptures. Recently, I have noticed, is the huge amount of Christians who are popping up along the Internet, claiming the Bible supports the flat earth theory. They theorize that the world is flat, with a dome, or firmament above it, supported by pillars. They also say the stars reside in the "dome". They use verses such as Job 37:18, 38:13, Psalm 96, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Genesis 1 and 2, and 1 Samuel 2:8. I have searched for answers, and I have found some, but I would like to hear some answers from you, as well. Thank you in advance
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
I suspect what’s going on here is internet infidels masquerading as Christians in a misguided attempt to make the Bible look silly. These people have no understanding of literary interpretation or literary genre. I have seen one person even claim that when the Bible uses such figures of speech as “the four corners of the Earth” it asserts that the Earth is a square! Imposing such wooden literalism on even modern parlance would make all of us Flat Earthers as well!
I suggest you listen to or read my Defenders lectures (Series 2, Section 9) on Creation and Evolution, parts 9-12. There I discuss ancient creation stories such as ancient Egyptian creation myths and ask whether ancient peoples understood these literally. I think it’s evident that they did not. These accounts are often metaphorical or symbolic, and ancient people would have been quite surprised if one of these modern literalists were to confront them with the claim, ”So you believe that the world literally ____________ (fill in the blank) ?”. In order to appreciate this point just take a look at the artistic illustrations in Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden, In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 2012) of what a literalistic understanding of such myths would involve. I doubt that any ancient Israelite believed, for example, that if he traveled far enough north he would eventually come to some gigantic pillar supporting the dome of the sky.
The burden of proof, then, lies upon these literalists to justify their assumption that such ancient literature was intended by its original authors and readers to be understood literally.