For example, we obviously now know the Japanese planned a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Should we have known it was coming? Many people review the build-up of hostilities between the Japanese and the United States (war was almost inevitable) looking for any reference to Pearl Harbor, or plans of such a raid.
Any such indication found, or any notes regarding it becomes an “A-Ha!” moment in which the person claims, “See? See? They should have seen it coming.” What is often overlooked, though, was the anticipation the Japanese would initially attack in the Southern Pacific (they did almost immediately after Pearl Harbor) as well as the fact that war appeared imminent for a long period of time. Even the Japanese were extremely concerned about the viability of such a long-range sortie going undetected.
It is easy to look back, “after-the-fact” and see how America could have seen it coming—the better method is to view it in light of what was happening at the time. As is commonly noted in the intelligence gathering community—it is rarely the lack of information but rather the wealth of information that one has to discern what is relevant and what is not that causes the problems.
Scientists have recently (since 1929) discovered and confirmed through observation and experimentation the universe is expanding. Space itself is expanding. Some Christians have taken this relatively new finding and note how the Bible indicates the universe is expanding. This claim is utilized to show how supernaturally accurate it is to make such a prediction 1000’s of years prior to science discovering it.
But does the Bible really make the claim the universe is expanding? Or is this an ad hoc determination made by picking and choosing certain verses? Let’s look at the verses:
Job 9:8 “He alone spreads out the heavens, And treads on the waves of the sea;”
Psalm 104:2 “Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.”
Isaiah 40:22 “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
Isaiah 42:5 “Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it:”
Isaiah 45:12 “I have made the earth, And created man on it. My hands- stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.”
Isaiah 48:13 “Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together.”
Isaiah 51:13 “And you forget the Lord your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens And laid the foundations of the earth;…”
Jeremiah 10:12 “He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.”
Jeremiah 51:15 “He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding”
Zechariah 12:1” The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:”
The word “stretched” is the Hebrew word natah meaning to spread or stretch out. To understand its meaning, let’s see its use in other verses:
“…and pitched [or stretched out] his tent…” Gen. 12:8
“…and spread his tent…” Gen. 35:21
“…Take your rod and stretch out your hands over the waters…” Ex. 8:5
“…The carpenter stretches out his rule…”Isa. 44:15
What we see from that is NOT an infinite and continual expansion, but rather a lengthening with a finite beginning and finite end.
Secondly, we must discuss what is meant by “heaven.” The Tanakh uses the term interchangeably for three regions:
1) The Sky/air where birds fly, winds blow.
2) The area where stars/sun/moon exists
3) The place where God lives.
We see all three examples:
Air/Sky Jeremiah 16:4 “They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.”
Stars/Space Psalm 8:3 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,”
God’s residence Psalm 53:2 “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.”
The heavens were stacked one on top of the other: first the sky, then the stars/sun and then God’s abode. We see remnants of this thought in Paul’s statement of a man being caught up in the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2) and Jesus floating “up;” (Acts 1:9) to get to God’s heaven one had to go past sky, past stars and then hit God’s place.
So what “heaven” were these verses talking about? Go outside. Night, day—doesn’t matter. If you look at the clouds and sun as they stretch from horizon to horizon and almost appear to arch overhead—does it look like a “tent” of sky stretched out? Or at night, if you are away from the city, and can see what look like millions of stars, does it look like a dark tent and tiny pinpricks (with the moon as a great big hole)?
At the time the Jewish authors were writing this—they were poetically describing their impression of what the sky and space looked like from God’s perspective—like a great big tent. There was no intention of making a cosmological claim of the Big Bang Theory.
What the Christian must be claiming is God was sending secret signals across the millenniums—a double-entendre, if you will, informing us in the 21st Century how the Jews were thinking of a tent, but God was sneakily telling us of expanding space. (Makes you wonder what other “secret messages” are out there for future generations!)
Or is this “after-the-fact”? Are people looking for any clue as to any indication of God knowing about an expanding universe, and using this as an excuse?
So I thought for a fun thought experiment, we could pretend the universe isn’t expanding. That scientists discovered it has a finite, definite size. Can we find verses supporting the theory God was sending secret messages of a limited, measurable universe?
Well, what do you know...
Psalm 19:6 “Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Isaiah 13:5 “They come from a far country, From the end of heaven-The Lord and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land.”
Isaiah 40:12 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span. And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?”
Jeremiah 31:37 “Thus says the Lord: "If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the Lord.”
Jeremiah 49:36 “Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.”
Look at what we found! Verses discussing how there are “ends” and “corners” to heaven. An infinitely expanding universe doesn’t have ends or corners—only a finite, fixed one could. The heaven described is measurable—something an expanding universe never is.
We find other verses describing what appears to be a fixed size universe:
Job 22:14 “Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, And He walks above the circle of heaven.”
Job 26: 11 “The pillars of heaven tremble, And are astonished at His rebuke.”
Job 41:11 “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.”
Unless God’s walks are getting longer, it is describing a set-sized universe. Or a God who needs to get on a diet plan:
Jeremiah 23:24 “Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?" says the Lord; "Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord.”
If God fills heaven and earth, and heaven has expanded (quite a bit) since Jeremiah was written—is our God “bigger” than their God?
O.K., that was easy to find. Now let’s try something harder. For our thought experiment let’s assume science discovered our universe is getting smaller--instead of a Big Bang we had a Vast Vacuum. Can we find verses describing such a universe? I could find one:
Isaiah 34:4 “All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit falling from a fig tree.”
Scrolls get smaller as they roll up. Yeah, this one is a bit of a stretch. (he he he) No more of a stretch than claiming:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Rom. 8:20-21
Is “proof” the Bible talks about the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Not kidding.
What’s the point of all this? To demonstrate claiming some book has holy insight is a dangerous thing. It causes people to look for things that simply are not there. There is no great scientific insight into the Big Bang here. No “secret revelation” waiting for Hubble to unlock the hidden code.
Just people trying to bolster the Bible into something it is not.