Biblical cosmology is the biblical writers’ conception of the cosmos as an organized, structured entity, including its origin, order, meaning and destiny. The Bible was formed over many centuries, involving many authors, and reflects shifting patterns of religious belief; consequently, its cosmology is not always consistent. Nor do the biblical texts necessarily represent the beliefs of all Jews or Christians at the time they were put into writing: the majority of those making up Hebrew Bible or Old Testament in particular represent the beliefs of only a small segment of the ancient Israelite community, the members of a late Judean religious tradition centered in Jerusalem and devoted to the exclusive worship of Yahweh.
The ancient Israelites envisaged a universe made up of a flat disc-shaped Earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below. Humans inhabited Earth during life and the underworld after death; there was no way that mortals could enter heaven, and the underworld was morally neutral; only in Hellenistic times (after c. 330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven. In this period too the older three-level cosmology in large measure gave way to the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the center of a number of concentric heavens.
The opening words of the Genesis creation narrative (Genesis 1:1–26) sum up the biblical editors’ view of how the cosmos originated: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; Yahweh, the God of Israel, was solely responsible for creation and had no rivals, implying Israel’s superiority over all other nations. Later Jewish thinkers, adopting ideas from Greek philosophy, concluded that God’s Wisdom, Word and Spirit penetrated all things and gave them unity. Christianity in turn adopted these ideas and identified Jesus with the Logos (Word): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)
Like Dr. Ross, we, at EMMI, believe in progressive creationism, a view which posits that while the earth is billions of years old, life did not appear by natural forces alone but that a supernatural agent formed different lifeforms in incremental (progressive) stages, and day-age creationism which is an effort to reconcile a literal Genesis account of Creation with modern scientific theories on the age of the Universe, the Earth, life, and humans. Ross rejects the young Earth creationist (YEC) position that
the earth is younger than 10,000 years, or that the creation “days” of Genesis 1 represent literal 24-hour periods. Ross instead asserts that these days (translated from the Hebrew word yom are historic, distinct, and sequential, but not 24 hours in length nor equal in length. Ross and the RTB team agree with the scientific community that the vast majority of YEC arguments are pseudoscience and that any version of intelligent design is inadequate if it doesn’t provide a testable hypothesis which can make verifiable and falsifiable predictions, and if not, it should not be taught in the classroom as science.
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