Before around 300 BCE, all the most brilliant men and women with the most astounding intellects believed that the earth was a circular piece of land sitting in a huge puddle. The Sun and the stars were obviously attached to the sky which rotated overhead just a few miles up.
Today however there are some that claim that the even more remarkably clever Greek thinkers that first surmised that the earth was in fact a sphere just a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, only needed to pick up a copy of what would later become part of the Bible’s text and read all about it because it was already written there.
But what did the Bible authors really believe about their universe?
Some today claim that when the earth was referred to as a circle in the Old Testament that they really meant sphere, they just didn’t have a word for sphere in the ancient Hebrew.
These same people also often turn around and say that it’s remarkable that the Bible’s authors knew the earth was a sphere instead of a circle. The truth is that the ancient Hebrews did in fact have a word for spherical objects that they could have used had they really meant sphere.
What else does the Bible say about the earth?
Well, the authors had it propped up with pillars and they said it was immovable.
The apologetics say that these authors didn’t actually believe this, they were just speaking in metaphors.
Also, as everyone else believed in their time, the Bible authors mention that the sky is a solid structure with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars attached to it. Many people are aware of the story of Joshua ordering the Sun and the Moon to stand still in the sky so his army could see well enough to continue killing Amorites.
Jesus himself apparently believed this as he spoke about a coming time when the stars would fall from the sky. Being really clever today, we are aware that stars are not tiny little lights attached to the sky just a few miles up. We know that stars are typically millions of times larger than the earth and unimaginably distant so the concept of stars falling from the sky does not indicate someone who has advanced knowledge of astronomy beyond their day.
There’s also a story in the Bible where Satan takes Jesus up to the top of a very high mountain so that Jesus can see “all of the Kingdoms of the world.” If one thinks about this for a moment, it becomes apparent that on a spherical earth, you couldn’t see all of the Kingdoms no matter how high the mountain is. Some are going to be on the other side of the sphere below the horizon. Being able to see all the kingdoms is perfectly reasonable however for an ancient person who believed in a flat earth.
Rain? Where does rain come from?
As excitingly clever as ancient people were, they weren’t aware of the concepts of evaporation and condensation. In order to explain where rain comes from, they assumed that there was just an awful lot of water up there above the sky and that occasionally it leaked through to cause the clouds and rain.
The Bible appears to be no exception here either. In the Bible there are references to “heaven” (same Hebrew word as sky) being shut when there was no rainfall (and no, that wasn’t just a metaphore).
There are also references to the God walking on top of the sky, God looking down from the sky, God throwing things down from the sky to kill people, etc…
To sum up, the Bible authors were stranded in the understanding of their day just like everyone else.