OF THE BIBLE
From the Painting by Sir Edward Burne-Jones in the Birmingham Art Gallery.
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM.
"We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him."
OF THE BIBLE
AN ELEMENTARY COMMENTARY ON THE
OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
E. WALTER MAUNDER, F.R.A.S.
'THE ROYAL OBSERVATORY, GREENWICH: ITS HISTORY AND WORK,'
AND 'ASTRONOMY WITHOUT A TELESCOPE'
WITH THIRTY-FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS
Richard Clay & Sons, Limited,
BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., AND
My helper in this Book
and in all things.
Why should an astronomer write a commentary on the Bible?
Because commentators as a rule are not astronomers, and therefore either pass over the astronomical allusions of Scripture in silence, or else annotate them in a way which, from a scientific point of view, leaves much to be desired.
Astronomical allusions in the Bible, direct and indirect, are not few in number, and, in order to bring out their full significance, need to be treated astronomically. Astronomy further gives us the power of placing ourselves to some degree in the position of the patriarchs and prophets of old. We know that the same sun and moon, stars and planets, shine upon us as shone upon Abraham and Moses, David and Isaiah. We can, if we will, see the unchanging heavens with their eyes, and understand their attitude towards them.
It is worth while for us so to do. For the immense advances in science, made since the Canon of Holy Scripture was closed, and especially during the last three hundred years, may enable us to realize the significance of a most remarkable fact. Even in those early ages, when to all the nations surrounding Israel the heavenly bodies were objects for divination or idolatry, the attitude of the sacred writers toward them was perfect in its sanity and truth.
Astronomy has a yet further part to play in Biblical study. The dating of the several books of the Bible, and the relation of certain heathen mythologies to the Scripture narratives of the world's earliest ages, have received much attention of late years. Literary analysis has thrown much light on these subjects, but hitherto any evidence that astronomy could give has been almost wholly neglected; although, from the nature of the case, such evidence, so far as it is available, must be most decisive and exact.
I have endeavoured, in the present book, to make an astronomical commentary on the Bible, in a manner that shall be both clear and interesting to the general reader, dispensing as far as possible with astronomical technicalities, since the principles concerned are, for the most part, quite simple. I trust, also, that I have taken the first step in a new inquiry which promises to give results of no small importance.
St. John's, London, S.E.
THE HEAVENLY BODIES
Chapter I. The Hebrew and Astronomy
- Modern Astronomy—Astronomy in the Classical Age—The Canon of Holy Scripture closed before the Classical Age—Character of the Scriptural References to the Heavenly Bodies—Tradition of Solomon's Eminence in Science—Attitude towards Nature of the Sacred Writers—Plan of the Book 3
Chapter II. The Creation
- Indian Eclipse of 1898—Contrast between the Heathen and Scientific Attitudes—The Law of Causality—Inconsistent with Polytheism—Faith in One God the Source to the Hebrews of Intellectual Freedom—The First Words of Genesis the Charter of the Physical Sciences—The Limitations of Science—"Explanations" of the First Chapter of Genesis—Its Real Purposes—The Sabbath 12
Chapter III. The Deep
- Babylonian Creation Myth—Tiamat, the Dragon of Chaos—Overcome by Merodach—Similarity to the Scandinavian Myth—No Resemblance to the Narrative in Genesis—Meanings of the Hebrew Word tehom—Date of the Babylonian Creation Story 25
Chapter IV. The Firmament
- Twofold Application of the Hebrew Word raqia‘—Its Etymological Meaning—The Idea of Solidity introduced by the "Seventy"—Not the Hebrew Idea—The "Foundations" of Heaven and Earth—The "Canopy" of Heaven—The "Stories" of Heaven—Clouds and Rain—The Atmospheric Circulation—Hebrew Appreciation even of the Terrible in Nature—The "Balancings" and "Spreadings" of the Clouds—The "Windows of Heaven"—Not Literal Sluice-gates—The Four Winds—The Four Quarters—The Circle of the Earth—The Waters under the Earth—The "Depths" 35
Chapter V. The Ordinances of the Heavens
- The Order of the Heavenly Movements—Daily Movement of the Sun—Nightly Movements of the Stars—The "Host of Heaven"—Symbolic of the Angelic Host—Morning Stars—The Scripture View of the Heavenly Order 55
Chapter VI. The Sun
- The Double Purpose of the Two Great Heavenly Bodies—Symbolic Use of the Sun as Light-giver—No Deification of the Sun or of Light—Solar Idolatry in