Did the Jews of Jesus' Time Believe The World Is Flat?

The Pixie

Well-known member
This is based on a discussion with Lucian in another thread, and I thought it was worth giving it its own thread.

I should say up front that I am correlating belief in a firmament with the celestial bodies as lights attached to the solid dome with belief in a flat earth. I feel the two necessarily go together, but if you feel otherwise, do please make your case!


Ancient Greek Belief​

I believe this view of the firmament to be distinct to the Greek view that the earth was round, but at the centre of the universe, with stars and planets revolving around it at a considerable distance. By the third century BC, the ancient Greeks had a pretty accurate figure for the diameter of the earth and for the distance to the moon, though they seriously under-estimated the distance to the sun.

They understood the universe to be a sphere, hundreds of thousands, even millions of miles across, which stands in contrast to firmament, which was understood to be just a couple of thousand miles away.

A question that arises is: How wide-spread was the concept of a round planet? Did the idea spread rapidly around the known world? Or was it only of interest to a very small number of Greek philosophers? My feeling is that the latter is closer to the truth. There was no internet, no newspapers, so no obvious way to spread new ideas like this. And no reason to suppose the ordinary man in the street even cared.


Educated, Hellenic Jews​

To illustrate this, I want to look at two Jews who were well educated and would have had unusually high exposure to Greek ideas.

Firstly, Josephus (c. 37 - c. 100 CE), a Romano-Jewish historian,.

He also placed a cristalline [firmament] round it; and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth; and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews. On the third day he appointed the dry land to appear, with the sea it self round about it. And on the very same day he made the plants and the seeds to spring out of the earth. On the fourth day he adorned the heaven with the sun, the moon, and the other stars; and appointed them their motions and courses: that the vicissitudes of the seasons might be clearly signified.

Secondly, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE – c. 50 CE), a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher.

And on the fourth day, after he had embellished the earth, he diversified and adorned the heaven.... ... he said: (46) "Let them run over in their minds the first creation of the universe, when, before the sun or the moon existed, the earth brought forth all kinds of plants and all kinds of fruits:...

Of all the Jews in the whole at that time, these would be the two we would most expect to be exposed to Greek philosophies. In fact, I find it hard to believe they were not familiar with the claims of a round earth - but they still rejected that idea and believed the world was flat.


Christian Jews​

John of Patmos, author of Revelation, apparently had a similar understanding of the firmament, as these verses illustrate:

Revelation 6:13 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.
Revelation 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Note that in the second passage he talks of a third of the stars; this confirms he is talking about stars as we understand them, rather than meteors and meteorites. To him, the stars are lights adorning a solid dome, and they might fall to earth if shaken or knocked.

A similar idea is also see in the gospels:

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

I would further suggest that the star of Bethlehem only really makes sense in this cosmology.

Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

A star that is sufficiently close to the ground that it can be followed to a specific building indicates it is a light adorning the firmament, not a star as the ancient Greeks would understand it.


Earlier Beliefs​

The cosmology in Genesis 1 clearly indicates a firmament - and is undoubtedly where Philo and Josephus get they ideas from.

6 Then God said, “Let there be a [c]firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus 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. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
...
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great [d]lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 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. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.


Later Beliefs​

This is the abstract of a paper that points out that Talmudic Jews believed the world was flat; this was the belief just a couple of centuries after Jesus time, so seems likely to be the belief when Jesus was around:
https://oxford.universitypressschol...54793.001.0001/acprof-9780199754793-chapter-2


Conclusion​

All the evidence indicates the Jews believed the world was flat at that time. I have seen nothing to suggest ant Jew, whether Christian or not, believed otherwise. To my mind, that makes it pretty certain.
 

Lucian

Member
This is based on a discussion with Lucian in another thread, and I thought it was worth giving it its own thread.
I'll respond here, as things were getting turgid in the previous thread.
A question that arises is: How wide-spread was the concept of a round planet? Did the idea spread rapidly around the known world? Or was it only of interest to a very small number of Greek philosophers? My feeling is that the latter is closer to the truth. There was no internet, no newspapers, so no obvious way to spread new ideas like this. And no reason to suppose the ordinary man in the street even cared.
That may be your feeling, but the idea that cosmological ideas couldn't spread for lack of newspapers or the internet is clearly false: ideas and news spread in the ancient world, as indeed in the medieval and early modern, long before modern communication networks developed to make it easier. On your own chronology, this particular idea had had centuries to do so: it needn't have been rapid.

The man on the street may not have cared much about the Earth's shape, but that tells us nothing about what he thought on the matter, if anything. Indeed, that latter is important: if he didn't have an opinion, then it's untrue that Jews of the first century (or for that matter Jesus' time) generally believed the Earth was flat, as you claim.

As I have said elsewhere, the evidence about what people in the ancient world (including in the first century) believed about the Earth's sphericity is pretty limited, and not always clear where it does occur. This consideration is a crucial one when examining other evidence you cite.

Educated, Hellenic Jews​

To illustrate this, I want to look at two Jews who were well educated and would have had unusually high exposure to Greek ideas.

Firstly, Josephus (c. 37 - c. 100 CE), a Romano-Jewish historian,.
...
Secondly, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE – c. 50 CE), a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher.
...
Of all the Jews in the whole at that time, these would be the two we would most expect to be exposed to Greek philosophies. In fact, I find it hard to believe they were not familiar with the claims of a round earth - but they still rejected that idea and believed the world was flat.
You say that they believed the Earth was flat, but the two passages you cite do not convincingly show as much. They do presumably show that these authors in some sense endorse the cosmology we find in Genesis, as we should expect. But to what extent, and in what way, they endorsed that cosmology, and what this can tell us about their views of the Earth's sphericity, is a different matter.

With regards to your longer Josephus passage, it's important to highlight that Josephus tells us that he is relating what 'Moses' said, and goes on to tell the reader more about what happens in Genesis; he's not simply articulating his own view (though not simply relating what someone else said, either, of course). It cannot be assumed that Josephus just accepts everything he's relating, and given he takes the time to remind the reader that this is what Moses said (1.33), it's quite possible, given his presumed knowledge of Greek cosmology (which you accept), that he may not have done (though n.b. what I say above about the manner in which one may endorse a cosmology: it needn't be a simplistic acceptance or rejection, and cosmology and cosmogony are things with which one can be creatively interpretative).

Moreover, your translation has incorrectly rendered κρύσταλλός: it just means 'ice' here. The word doesn't occur in Genesis, and isn't the Greek word for 'firmament'.

Christian Jews​

John of Patmos, author of Revelation, apparently had a similar understanding of the firmament, as these verses illustrate:

Revelation 6:13 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.
Revelation 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Note that in the second passage he talks of a third of the stars; this confirms he is talking about stars as we understand them, rather than meteors and meteorites. To him, the stars are lights adorning a solid dome, and they might fall to earth if shaken or knocked.
I think this is highly problematic. Revelation is a notoriously complicated, difficult, apocalyptic, theological text, about whose circumstances of composition we know almost nothing. To read straightforwardly from such locutions to the author's cosmological beliefs seems perilous, especially when the purpose of the work evidently isn't to tell you about them. I invited you to compare the risk of someone inferring that I must believe the Earth to be flat (or else must possess scientifically illiterate cosmological beliefs) if I say that the sun has gone down, or say I would go to the ends of the Earth for someone's sake. In these cases, we are dealing with everyday speech. Imagine how much less one should make such an inference were I writing poetry, or explicating my views of the end of the world at the hands of an angry deity, vel sim.
A similar idea is also see in the gospels:

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.
We've similar problems here: we're dealing again with theologically-charged apocalyptic. I, too, might reference the stars, among other celestial bodies, falling, and again do so in everyday speech. But this tells you nothing about my cosmological beliefs, which, as with the evangelists, I'm not trying to tell you about in the first place.

In any case, these are quotations from Isaiah, complicating matters still further vis-à-vis determining the evangelists' cosmological beliefs.
I would further suggest that the star of Bethlehem only really makes sense in this cosmology.

Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

A star that is sufficiently close to the ground that it can be followed to a specific building indicates it is a light adorning the firmament, not a star as the ancient Greeks would understand it.
This is perhaps the most promising piece of evidence you've come up with so far. However, I don't quite understand the argument, as it stands. I suggest fleshing this one out.

Later Beliefs​

This is the abstract of a paper that points out that Talmudic Jews believed the world was flat; this was the belief just a couple of centuries after Jesus time, so seems likely to be the belief when Jesus was around:
https://oxford.universitypressschol...54793.001.0001/acprof-9780199754793-chapter-2
I don't see why that makes it seem likely. Are our beliefs about the role of women in society, for example, the same as those for people of 1821? 'Just' seems a peculiar word to prefix to 'a couple of centuries', in this as in so many other contexts.

Conclusion​

All the evidence indicates the Jews believed the world was flat at that time. I have seen nothing to suggest ant Jew, whether Christian or not, believed otherwise. To my mind, that makes it pretty certain.
You're making a rod for your own back by introducing words like 'certain': even if the evidence you had cited were much more compelling than it in fact is, we would be a long way from certainty, as we are for almost everything non-trivial we can claim about antiquity. It may well be true that Jews of the first century largely believed the Earth was flat. But if that is so, we wouldn't be able to safely infer as much from what you've talked about so far.

As a general observation, it's worth bearing in mind that there's quite a lot more to interpreting ancient texts than one would gather from what you've said above. Inferences to what people believed (as opposed to how they lived, or what they did) are especially challenging, except on the level of basic generalities. To be clear, I'm not saying you're mistaken in what you're claiming about Jews and belief in sphericity. Rather, I'm saying you've insufficient reason to be as confident as you are about what you claim.
 

Algor

Well-known member
This is based on a discussion with Lucian in another thread, and I thought it was worth giving it its own thread.

I should say up front that I am correlating belief in a firmament with the celestial bodies as lights attached to the solid dome with belief in a flat earth. I feel the two necessarily go together, but if you feel otherwise, do please make your case!


Ancient Greek Belief​

I believe this view of the firmament to be distinct to the Greek view that the earth was round, but at the centre of the universe, with stars and planets revolving around it at a considerable distance. By the third century BC, the ancient Greeks had a pretty accurate figure for the diameter of the earth and for the distance to the moon, though they seriously under-estimated the distance to the sun.

They understood the universe to be a sphere, hundreds of thousands, even millions of miles across, which stands in contrast to firmament, which was understood to be just a couple of thousand miles away.

A question that arises is: How wide-spread was the concept of a round planet? Did the idea spread rapidly around the known world? Or was it only of interest to a very small number of Greek philosophers? My feeling is that the latter is closer to the truth. There was no internet, no newspapers, so no obvious way to spread new ideas like this. And no reason to suppose the ordinary man in the street even cared.


Educated, Hellenic Jews​

To illustrate this, I want to look at two Jews who were well educated and would have had unusually high exposure to Greek ideas.

Firstly, Josephus (c. 37 - c. 100 CE), a Romano-Jewish historian,.

He also placed a cristalline [firmament] round it; and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth; and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews. On the third day he appointed the dry land to appear, with the sea it self round about it. And on the very same day he made the plants and the seeds to spring out of the earth. On the fourth day he adorned the heaven with the sun, the moon, and the other stars; and appointed them their motions and courses: that the vicissitudes of the seasons might be clearly signified.

Secondly, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BCE – c. 50 CE), a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher.

And on the fourth day, after he had embellished the earth, he diversified and adorned the heaven.... ... he said: (46) "Let them run over in their minds the first creation of the universe, when, before the sun or the moon existed, the earth brought forth all kinds of plants and all kinds of fruits:...

Of all the Jews in the whole at that time, these would be the two we would most expect to be exposed to Greek philosophies. In fact, I find it hard to believe they were not familiar with the claims of a round earth - but they still rejected that idea and believed the world was flat.


Christian Jews​

John of Patmos, author of Revelation, apparently had a similar understanding of the firmament, as these verses illustrate:

Revelation 6:13 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.
Revelation 12:4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Note that in the second passage he talks of a third of the stars; this confirms he is talking about stars as we understand them, rather than meteors and meteorites. To him, the stars are lights adorning a solid dome, and they might fall to earth if shaken or knocked.

A similar idea is also see in the gospels:

Matthew 24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
Mark 13:24 But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light,
25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.

I would further suggest that the star of Bethlehem only really makes sense in this cosmology.

Matthew 2:2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

A star that is sufficiently close to the ground that it can be followed to a specific building indicates it is a light adorning the firmament, not a star as the ancient Greeks would understand it.


Earlier Beliefs​

The cosmology in Genesis 1 clearly indicates a firmament - and is undoubtedly where Philo and Josephus get they ideas from.

6 Then God said, “Let there be a [c]firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus 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. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
...
14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great [d]lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 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. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.


Later Beliefs​

This is the abstract of a paper that points out that Talmudic Jews believed the world was flat; this was the belief just a couple of centuries after Jesus time, so seems likely to be the belief when Jesus was around:
https://oxford.universitypressschol...54793.001.0001/acprof-9780199754793-chapter-2


Conclusion​

All the evidence indicates the Jews believed the world was flat at that time. I have seen nothing to suggest ant Jew, whether Christian or not, believed otherwise. To my mind, that makes it pretty certain.
If you are interested in Talmudic natural history, and the Jewish religious reactions to it, can I recommend Nathan Slifkin's books? He's written several on biology esp as it relates to evolution. He has an accessible discussion of your particular subject here:


He demonstrates that, at least in the era of Chazal, the rabbis were familiar with the Greek view, and rejected it. I'm not so sure that you can discern what any individual Jew of the era believed on the matter, without some specific reference. Philo was an independent mind, a Hellenized Jew and might not have wanted to pick unnecessary religious fights. Self censorship is a consideration. The idea of the firmament I don't think necessarily implies a dome, and later usage I believe used the same word to refer to a sphere, but I am not sure of this. I do agree that there is no evidence that Philo did think the earth was a sphere.

You might also be interested in J Preuss Talmudic Medicine, which is a fairly comprehensive discussion of the anatomical physiological, medical ideas of Roman-era Jewish culture. It is old, but still in print in English and very well referenced. It is more a source reference book than an analysis, though.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
So ? Who didn't?
Actually, that was my original point - this is what people originally believed. Another poster (not Lucian) made a big deal about atheists back then thinking the earth is flat, but the reality is that if you go back far enough, everyone did.
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
That may be your feeling, but the idea that cosmological ideas couldn't spread for lack of newspapers or the internet is clearly false: ideas and news spread in the ancient world, as indeed in the medieval and early modern, long before modern communication networks developed to make it easier. On your own chronology, this particular idea had had centuries to do so: it needn't have been rapid.
Looking back, I said that to strongly. Yes, ideas did spread, but what I should have said is that the spread was much much slower than today.

The man on the street may not have cared much about the Earth's shape, but that tells us nothing about what he thought on the matter, if anything. Indeed, that latter is important: if he didn't have an opinion, then it's untrue that Jews of the first century (or for that matter Jesus' time) generally believed the Earth was flat, as you claim.
I disagree. If he has no opinion, he would assume it was flat because it looks flat. At one time everyone thought the world was flat for that reason.

Plus, the flat earth is what the cosmology in Genesis indicates, and the Jews of that time would have cared about that.

As I have said elsewhere, the evidence about what people in the ancient world (including in the first century) believed about the Earth's sphericity is pretty limited, and not always clear where it does occur. This consideration is a crucial one when examining other evidence you cite.
I accept that, but what evidence we have all points to them believing in a flat earth.

You say that they believed the Earth was flat, but the two passages you cite do not convincingly show as much. They do presumably show that these authors in some sense endorse the cosmology we find in Genesis, as we should expect. But to what extent, and in what way, they endorsed that cosmology, and what this can tell us about their views of the Earth's sphericity, is a different matter.
Then suggest an alternative cosmology that fits.

The fact that the texts so perfectly fit a flat earth coupled with the fact that everyone originally believed the earth is flat is, to me, convincing.

With regards to your longer Josephus passage, it's important to highlight that Josephus tells us that he is relating what 'Moses' said, and goes on to tell the reader more about what happens in Genesis; he's not simply articulating his own view (though not simply relating what someone else said, either, of course). It cannot be assumed that Josephus just accepts everything he's relating, and given he takes the time to remind the reader that this is what Moses said (1.33), it's quite possible, given his presumed knowledge of Greek cosmology (which you accept), that he may not have done (though n.b. what I say above about the manner in which one may endorse a cosmology: it needn't be a simplistic acceptance or rejection, and cosmology and cosmogony are things with which one can be creatively interpretative).
I would say he is citing Moses as an authority - he knows it is true, because that is what Moses said.

I am not aware of anything Josephus wrote that would indicate believed different or that he thought Moses was wrong on any other issue, but perhaps you can present something?

Moreover, your translation has incorrectly rendered κρύσταλλός: it just means 'ice' here. The word doesn't occur in Genesis, and isn't the Greek word for 'firmament'.
Nevertheless, he says the celestial bodies adorn the heaven, indicating the same cosmology we see in Genesis.

"On the fourth day he adorned the heaven with the sun, the moon, and the other stars; and appointed them their motions and courses: that the vicissitudes of the seasons might be clearly signified."

I think this is highly problematic. Revelation is a notoriously complicated, difficult, apocalyptic, theological text, about whose circumstances of composition we know almost nothing. To read straightforwardly from such locutions to the author's cosmological beliefs seems perilous, especially when the purpose of the work evidently isn't to tell you about them.
At best you are arguing we do not know. You seem to be saying the entirety of Revelation should be rejected as evidence for any claim on the basis that it is hard to interpret. I find that an odd position to take. I agree the visions are open to interpretation, but the text still tells us about what the author's beliefs, at least to some degree. He clearly believed an apocalypse is coming, to give a trivial example.

To me, the verses in question indicate the author believed the stars are lights adorning a dome, and further more, he expected his audience to believe that too.

I invited you to compare the risk of someone inferring that I must believe the Earth to be flat (or else must possess scientifically illiterate cosmological beliefs) if I say that the sun has gone down, or say I would go to the ends of the Earth for someone's sake. In these cases, we are dealing with everyday speech. Imagine how much less one should make such an inference were I writing poetry, or explicating my views of the end of the world at the hands of an angry deity, vel sim.
I accept it is possible this is just poetic.

Will you accept it is possible it was not?

We've similar problems here: we're dealing again with theologically-charged apocalyptic. I, too, might reference the stars, among other celestial bodies, falling, and again do so in everyday speech. But this tells you nothing about my cosmological beliefs, which, as with the evangelists, I'm not trying to tell you about in the first place.
Can you point me to someone describing the stars falling in such a manner in the last century or so? I would be surprised if there was any such that did not draw heavily from earlier texts like Revelation, but I could be wrong.

To me, the reason he drew on that image was because he believed the stars are lights adorning a solid dome.

In any case, these are quotations from Isaiah, complicating matters still further vis-à-vis determining the evangelists' cosmological beliefs.
What quotations? What verses in Isaiah? I cannot find any verses in Isaiah about stars falling to earth (except as a metaphor the the King of Babylon).

This is perhaps the most promising piece of evidence you've come up with so far. However, I don't quite understand the argument, as it stands. I suggest fleshing this one out.
To be able to follow a light to a specific building, it has to be pretty low in the sky. This indicates the Star of Bethlehem was attached to a firmament that was not that high above the ground.

That the star stayed in the same position relative to the earth also works well with a firmament - it is just fixed in place on the dome. The modern claim would be something in geostationary orbit, but that would put the "star" 22,000 miles away, and it would have to be over the equator. They are others ways this can be explained, so I would not consider it great evidence, but it does fit the picture.

I don't see why that makes it seem likely. Are our beliefs about the role of women in society, for example, the same as those for people of 1821? 'Just' seems a peculiar word to prefix to 'a couple of centuries', in this as in so many other contexts.
So then there are two scenarios:
  • The Jews of Jesus time believed the world is flat, and this continued into the Talmudic era, a couple of centuries later.
  • The Jews of Jesus time believed the world is round, but abandoned this view for unspecified reason and reverted to thinking it is flat at some point into the Talmudic era, a couple of centuries later.
I find the former much more likely. Can you think of any reason why they might have abandoned a belief in a round earth?

As a general observation, it's worth bearing in mind that there's quite a lot more to interpreting ancient texts than one would gather from what you've said above. Inferences to what people believed (as opposed to how they lived, or what they did) are especially challenging, except on the level of basic generalities. To be clear, I'm not saying you're mistaken in what you're claiming about Jews and belief in sphericity. Rather, I'm saying you've insufficient reason to be as confident as you are about what you claim.
My original claim was really about the Biblical authors.

"It seems likely the Jewish Christians all believed Genesis was literally true, just as modern creationists do, but actually, rather than selectively."
 

stiggy wiggy

Well-known member
Actually, that was my original point - this is what people originally believed. Another poster (not Lucian) made a big deal about atheists back then thinking the earth is flat, but the reality is that if you go back far enough, everyone did.

So that poster was right.
 

Lucian

Member
I disagree. If he has no opinion, he would assume it was flat because it looks flat. At one time everyone thought the world was flat for that reason.
You're contradicting yourself here: if he has no opinion, he could not assume any such thing, else then we would have an opinion after all.
I accept that, but what evidence we have all points to them believing in a flat earth.
So you say, but I'm afraid I don't agree: not only has the evidence you cited been far from compelling, but it's highly unlikely to itself reflect the totality of relevant evidence, unless you possess a depth of expertise in this field of which I'm unaware. If you accept what I say on this point, then you should be tempering the claims you've made. They're far too bold, which is the thrust of my objection.
Then suggest an alternative cosmology that fits.

The fact that the texts so perfectly fit a flat earth coupled with the fact that everyone originally believed the earth is flat is, to me, convincing.
What 'everyone originally believed' is irrelevant: we're dealing with the beliefs of Josephus and Philo, as expressed in the texts you've cited. I'm not arguing a particular cosmology is found in these texts, so decline your request.

You say that the texts 'fit perfectly' a belief in a flat Earth, but this appears merely a fairly immodest way of saying that they don't rule one out. But even if that's the case, what we're interested in isn't consistency, but whether these text bespeak such a belief. Perhaps they do, but you've yet to show as much.

I would say he is citing Moses as an authority - he knows it is true, because that is what Moses said.
I am not aware of anything Josephus wrote that would indicate believed different or that he thought Moses was wrong on any other issue, but perhaps you can present something?
Then I look forward to your evidence, taken directly from the text, that he is doing this, during which time you'll be able to address directly the concerns I raised in my prior post.

At best you are arguing we do not know. You seem to be saying the entirety of Revelation should be rejected as evidence for any claim on the basis that it is hard to interpret. I find that an odd position to take. I agree the visions are open to interpretation, but the text still tells us about what the author's beliefs, at least to some degree. He clearly believed an apocalypse is coming, to give a trivial example.
No, I'm not saying that.

Perhaps, despite its complications, you can get at what the author thought about the Earth's sphericity (or otherwise). But I'm very pessimistic of your ability to do so, and don't currently see a reason to think you've done so.
I accept it is possible this is just poetic.

Will you accept it is possible it was not?
Of course, and this is pretty important. I'm not arguing that you're wrong in your general view that Jewish Christians of the first century thought that the Earth was flat. I'm impeaching your reasons for confidently concluding that they thought this. If your view was that they thought this, but you're only modestly confident of it given the limitations inherent in the evidence (its paucity and ambiguity/complexity) I'd have little, if anything, to object to.
What quotations? What verses in Isaiah? I cannot find any verses in Isaiah about stars falling to earth (except as a metaphor the the King of Babylon).
https://biblehub.com/matthew/24-29.htm
To be able to follow a light to a specific building, it has to be pretty low in the sky. This indicates the Star of Bethlehem was attached to a firmament that was not that high above the ground.

That the star stayed in the same position relative to the earth also works well with a firmament - it is just fixed in place on the dome. The modern claim would be something in geostationary orbit, but that would put the "star" 22,000 miles away, and it would have to be over the equator. They are others ways this can be explained, so I would not consider it great evidence, but it does fit the picture.
This is interesting. I'm not convinced (is it implicit in flat-earth theories that stars aren't very high?), but I don't see much value in arguing against it, at least for the moment.
So then there are two scenarios:
  • The Jews of Jesus time believed the world is flat, and this continued into the Talmudic era, a couple of centuries later.
  • The Jews of Jesus time believed the world is round, but abandoned this view for unspecified reason and reverted to thinking it is flat at some point into the Talmudic era, a couple of centuries later.
I find the former much more likely. Can you think of any reason why they might have abandoned a belief in a round earth?
I could speculate, but it would be fairly pointless. As I've suggested, this could only be oblique evidence of your position (that is, assuming that I granted that Jews of the later period also in general thought the Earth was flat, which is not claimed in the abstract, at least, of the chapter you cite).
 

SteveB

Well-known member
For discussion purposes, with regards to the issues people have with the imagery of the book of Revelation.

John was a Jewish man. He grew up in the Jewish community and knew the Jewish scriptures, culture, and practices.

So, he would have been given to understand what he saw through the Jewish bible.

As for the bible claiming that the world was flat, you guys are worse than the bible writers you're mocking.

You should learn spherical trigonometry.

Spherical triangles have 90° corners, so there would be the four corners of the world.
If you're not able to see it, take an orange or apple, cantaloupe, or other fruit and cut it into 8 equal portions, as octants.

Looking at a basketball from a distance, it looks round/circle.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Spherical triangles still have three corners.
I never said otherwise.
It's called a triangle for a very simple reason.
There are 3 angles, making it a TRI-angle.
The spherical triangles have a total of 270°. And regular triangles have 180°.

And you called my mathematical knowledge into question. :ROFLMAO:
I wasn't talking to you.
I simply made a statement regarding this OP.
You think spherical triangles have four corners - this is literally the most ridiculous fail I've ever read on here.
Never said that.

If you don't know how to cut an orange into 8 pieces, trying to explain simple spherical mathematics to you won't help you.
Your ongoing desperation to demonstrate your stupidity is embarrassing to observe.

Go to school and learn.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
You said

How does the second part follow from the first?
Yep.
Cut an orange into 8 equal pieces.
First cut it in half.
Then take the two halves, and cut them in half.
You'll have 4 pieces.
Then cut them in half again and then you'll have 8 pieces.

Now, set four together, and notice that there are 4 corners, of which are four 90° corners. Each piece is a spherical triangle.

Seems pretty clear to me.

I've been eating oranges, apples, and numerous other round (semi-spherical) fruits like this since I was a child in the 60's.

Haven't you?
 

Eightcrackers

Well-known member
Now, set four together, and notice that there are 4 corners, of which are four 90° corners. Each piece is a spherical triangle.
No; each of the four pieces is a lune, not a triangle of any discription.
Each of the octants is a spherical triangle, but there are eight of those not four.
Seems pretty clear to me.
Of course - you are so desperate to justify the "four corners" passage that you are prepared to concoct a tortuous path to "four corners" via "eight octants".
 

SteveB

Well-known member
No; each of the four pieces is a lune, not a triangle of any discription.
Each of the octants is a spherical triangle, but there are eight of those not four.

Of course - you are so desperate to justify the "four corners" passage that you are prepared to concoct a tortuous path to "four corners" via "eight octants".
No. I grew up eating oranges and other fruits which were cut into 8 pieces, and when I would play with my fruit, I could plainly see that there were 4 corners of the hemispheres.

It's become quite clear that you're only interested in winning arguments, instead of understanding.

There are 4 corners in spherical triangles to a hemisphere.
 

Eightcrackers

Well-known member
No. I grew up eating oranges and other fruits which were cut into 8 pieces, and when I would play with my fruit, I could plainly see that there were 4 corners of the hemispheres.
Right... but not four corners of the GLOBE.
There are 4 corners in spherical triangles to a hemisphere.
And two hemispheres to a globe.
Making "eight corners of the globe", not four.
 
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