At the time that the Bible was written, roughly during the millennium running from 800 BCE to 200 CE, we understood that the earth was flat and, importantly, that it was at the center of the universe. That was understandable since we considered ourselves the most important beings in the universe, the very reason God created the universe in the first place. We observed that, in addition to the sun and moon, there were stars in the night sky and we surely had observed that some of them (the planets) moved against the otherwise fixed background of stars. Of course, all of the objects in the sky revolved around the earth, because we could see that they rose and set each day. We had no idea how large the universe was, since our ability to travel through it was so limited. But the sky appeared to be a dome that fit over the earth, so that defined the extent of the universe. Beyond that was God’s realm. In terms of age, we understood the universe to be old—as we understood that term—as old as all the generations of humans that we could recall or invent stories about. We believed that the universe, since it was God’s creation, was perfect, but we didn’t know the rules under which it operated, and so we assumed that God continued to “operate” the universe much as a human might operate a mechanical device that he had made. From time to time there were unexpected celestial events, such as meteors, comets, and eclipses, but we assumed those were orchestrated by God for purposes about which we could speculate.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
In June of 1970 I found myself sitting in the second row under a big top tent in an open field, sweating in the heat and humidity of an early summer evening. But this was no circus. Instead, I watched as dozens of animated and agitated people lined up in front of a low stage, waiting eagerly to be struck on the forehead by a man in a business suit. But this story really began more than 15 years earlier.