Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Falling stars in the Bible

The Bible has some texts that inform us more about the geocentric world view that ruled in Ancient Near East and during the Roman period and later and was only replaced by heliocentric world view at the dawn of the Modern Age. (Today we live in what could be called a no-centric universe!)

The firmament
Genesis tells how after creating light, Day and Night, God next separates the waters to those that are up and those that are down using a structure,  firmament ( KJV) Hebrew רקיע (râqı̂ya‛).

"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 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. And the evening and the morning were the second day."
Gen 1:6-8

On third day of creation God separates dry land from the waters below and tells green plants to grow on land. On the fourth day He sets the Sun, Moon and stars into the firmament for a specific benevolent purpose:

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
Gen 1:14-18

The first story of creation in the Bible in Genesis 1:1-2:4 does not try to explain how God sets the celestial objects into the firmament or what that major structure is that separates primeval waters up and down and constitutes the Heaven above us with Sun, Moon and the stars. But somehow it works and these Big lights and small spots of light stay up there as told by God.

Bible has verses that give us some more details about how these fundamental things of Creation were understood by the people who wrote the books in it.

Very high up and very deep down!
The proportions of the Cosmos as it was known in the ancient Near East were not easy to grasp. To help the mind to comprehend the heavens human mind found something more measurable - the high mountains.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
Isaiah 14:12-15 KJV

This famed fallen star, latin Lucifer, son of the morning (morning star, Venus) is mentioned by Jesus:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.
Luke 10:17-18

What goes up must come down!
The imagery in Isaiah is very concrete, those little lights are up there like the leaf in a vine or figs in the tree:

And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
Isa 34:4 

Revealing the true Heavens
The image of falling stars and a surface folding together like a book scroll comes to the Apocalypse of John from the verse in Isaiah 34:4. But in addition to the prophecy of Isaiah, when heavens are folding away people upon earth begin to see the true Heaven and the throne that was somehow hidden behind it.

"And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;
And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? "
Rev 6:13-18

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