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If the Bible originated entirely by ancient human endeavor, its content would conflict sharply with modern science. Unfortunately, biblical interpretations have caused some distinct conflicts. For example, many religious people have been taught to scoff at Big Bang and Inflation theory. They discard modern cosmological concepts without even a perusal of biblical content.

Without doubt, the Bible conveys a simple message to people of cultures that lack understanding of modern science. Consequently, it contains figurative expressions that convey the intended message without the encumbrance of unnecessary detail. People intent on proving the Bible wrong and people bent on defending anti-science doctrines seek out those figurative passages as proof-texts and perpetuate conflict.

When we take a look at the bigger picture of what the Bible teaches, some interesting details tend to supply a picture of harmony between science and the Bible.

At least 15 times, the Old Testament states that God stretches out or spreads out the heavens. In Isaiah 45:12, the Lord says, “It is I who made the earth / and created mankind upon it. / My own hands stretched out the heavens; / I marshaled their starry hosts.” Most of those passages use the present tense as in Isaiah 40:22, “He stretches out the heavens.” Might that be an interesting detail in this expanding universe?

The word stretches implies process. If these passages all described God's action as putting or placing the stars and the heavens, we would tend to draw a different conclusion about the event. However, many religious people still reach that different conclusion and scoff at Inflation and Big Bang. They see the result but deny the process.

The term “Big Bang” was first used in derision by Sir Fred Hoyle to ridicule that new cosmological theory. Later, Hoyle endorsed Big Bang, but his nomenclature stuck. Before that time, most cosmologists believed in Steady State. That theory endorsed the idea that the cosmos was eternal. Big Bang required a beginning and was repulsive to atheists. While Christians could have viewed this change of theory as a positive step toward harmony between the Bible and science, many chose to make fun of it and intensify the conflict.

I find it intriguing that Old Testament writers use an expression that is congruent with modern science. If their writings did not come under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it is unlikely that they would have included the stretching out process in their explanation of creation. Many modern interpreters ignore that phrase and exclude that process from their understanding of creation.

Another expression that gives subtle insight into the creation process occurs in the New Testament. This expression occurs ten times. In the 44 translations on the Bible Gateway network site, 26 translate it, “the foundation of the world,” five, “the creation of the world,” and others present various similar translations.

The Greek phrase is katabole kosmon. The common prefix kata means down. The word bole means to cast or throw and is found only in Luke 22:41 in the Greek New Testament. In that verse, Jesus withdrew a stone's throw from the apostles. The Greek kosmon is, of course, the word from which cosmos is derived. In Acts 17:24, it is most frequently translated “world” but sometimes “universe.” Though it can have other meanings, a common definition of it as found in Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon is “the world, i.e., the universe.”

So, while our English translations fail to present this idea from the Greek text, “the casting down of the universeā€ is the most literal translation of that text. Other than the ten verses that use the phrase katabole kosmon the English word “foundation” is always a translation of a different Greek word, themelios. I'm not sure why no current translation uses “casting down,” but translating it as “the foundation of the world” could have started from a bias of a creation firmly set in place by God. Discussion about the meaning of this phrase can be traced back to early church writers. Translating katabole as “foundation” has not always been popular, though it may be plausible. Translating it as “creation,” as in the NIV, is mere interpretation.

So biblical expressions indicating a process by which God stretched out or cast down the universe are intriguing. They stand apart from creation explanations in other ancient literature. We can rightfully be excited about the way biblical and modern cosmology mesh.

Though it is true that many concepts are imagined or read into the Bible, I am convinced that many things contained in it cannot be disproven by resorting to the claim of coincidence. Faith can be underpinned by rich bits and pieces of Scripture.

Picture credits:
©http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/star/pr2008025c/: NASA, ESA, and L. Bedin (STScI)