While the Bible isn’t a ‘science textbook,’ because it is the inspired word of God, the Creator of the universe (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 19:1), then statements it makes about the natural world ought to be accurate.
In this brief article, I’d like to discuss what many have termed the ‘scientific foreknowledge’ of the Bible. These are statements about the natural world (i.e. astronomy, meteorology, medicine, etc.) that were written down long before the secular world understood or accepted them as being true.
While some of the commonly cited examples of ‘scientific foreknowledge’ are weak, I’ve chosen to emphasize the ones that I find the most compelling.
The placement of earth in space (Job 26:7). According to this verse, the earth “hangs on nothing.” In other words, it’s suspended in space. How could Job have known this? He didn’t have satellite capabilities.
Furthermore, in ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Greek writings, it was believed that the earth was held up by a man or some other creature.
The Water Cycle (Job 36:27-28; Ecclesiastes 1:7; Amos 9:6). Job speaks of the process of evaporation and condensation. Solomon and Amos both speak in greater detail of the water cycle when they describes how the “rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.”
From a historical perspective, in the 1600’s it was finally realized that water could evaporate as a gaseous substance. In 1676, Pierre Perrault and Edme Marriotte made a scientific breakthrough by describing the hydrologic cycle in detail. Yet the Bible described the process thousands of years earlier. Even after people understood the hydrological cycle, they believed that rain, being fresh water, came from rivers and lakes. The discovery that rain comes mostly from seawater as described in the Bible is recent.
Springs on the ocean floor (Job 38:16). The book of Job was written about 4,000 years ago. We might ask how Job knew about what existed on the ocean floor.
From a historical perspective, the earliest secular reference to these springs was by the Roman geographer Strabo, who lived from 63 B.C. to 21 A.D. However, scientists really began to understand deep sea vents and springs in the 20th century: 1. In 1965 scientists first theorized that such vents could exist. In the late 1970’s, oceanographers with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute finally saw and photographed one from the deep water submersible Alvin. Until then it was impossible to travel to these depths because of the intense pressures encountered. Since then many more vents have been found. These are usually referred to as “hydrothermal vents” which are composed of steam and minerals flowing at high pressure into the sea as a result of cracks in the earth’s crust.
Circumcision on the 8th day (Genesis 17:10-12). The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant was to be circumcision. This surgical procedure remained a requirement for all Jews from that day forward until it was eradicated under the Law of Christ (as a requirement).
What is significant here is the day on which circumcision was to be performed. The following quote is from an article by Kyle Butt, M.A.:
“The encyclopedic work Holt Pediatrics remains today one of the most influential works ever written about child care, pediatric disease, and other health concerns as they relate to children. First written in 1896 by L. Emmet Holt, Jr. and going through several revisions until the year 1953, the nearly 1,500-page work is a master compilation of the ‘modern’ medicine of its day. One section, starting on page 125 of the twelfth edition, is titled ‘Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn.’ The information included in the section details the occurrence of occasional spontaneous bleeding among newborns that can sometimes cause severe damage to major organs such as the brain, and even death. In the discussion pertaining to the reasons for such bleeding, the authors note that the excessive bleeding is primarily caused by a decreased level of prothrombin, which in turn is caused by insufficient levels of vitamin K. The text also notes that children’s susceptibility is ‘peculiar’ (meaning ‘higher’) ‘between the second and fifth days of life’ (1953, p. 126). In chart form, Holt Pediatrics illustrates that the percent of available prothrombin in a newborn dips from about 90% of normal on its day of birth to about 35% on its third day of life outside the womb. After the third day, the available prothrombin begins to climb. By the eighth day of the child’s life, the available prothrombin level is approximately 110% of normal, about 20% higher than it was on the first day, and about 10% more than it will be during of the child’s life. Such data prove that the eighth day is the perfect day on which to perform a major surgery such as circumcision”
Sanitation Laws in the Pentateuch. The Law of Moses promoted standards of sanitation long before germs were well understood. For example…
- They believed in quarantining the diseased (Lev. 13:4-5).
- Bodily discharges were considered unclean (Lev. 15).
- The “water of purification” (Numbers 19:6-9):
- Lye soap is made by pouring water through ashes.
- Hyssop contains the antiseptic thymol.
- Water itself is useful in sanitation.
- They weren’t to touch a corpse (Num. 19:11-16).
On one hand, these laws were for holiness, not health (Lev. 11:44-45). We might also add that much of this was observable and easily deduced. But on the other hand, the Pentateuch, albeit incidentally, encouraged certain sanitary and medical practices that were/are beneficial.
Many societal and medical practices throughout history have reflected a lack of understanding of such sanitary principles.
Lightning & the rain (Job 38:25-26; Jeremiah 10:13; 51:16). Jeremiah writes, “He makes lightning for the rain.” Job adds that the “thunderbolt” causes the rain to come forth.
David R. Cook of the Argonne National Laboratory has noted:
“The heavier rain after or just about the time of more frequent lightning is probably not a coincidence. Research on lightning frequency and rainfall suggests that the action of hydrometeors (rain and hail) being carried around in the thunderstorm (in updrafts as well as downdrafts) creates electrical charge buildup in the clouds. The more active the storm and the more hydrometeors there are, the more electric charge is built up and the more frequent the lightning is. The more hydrometeors there are, the greater the likelihood of heavy precipitation, although it may occur after most of the lightning, as a downdraft has to set up or the updrafts decline to allow the hydrometeors to fall towards the ground”
There is a clear, scientific correlation between lightning and rain, just as the Bible describes in many places.
The dimensions of Noah’s ark (Genesis 6:14-17). Many have criticized the account of Noah’s ark. What is fascinating is that this ancient text (ca. 1,400-1,500 B.C.) contains ship dimensions that have been proven to be legitimate, if not perfect.
The ratio of 30-5-3 has been proven to be a legitimate, if not perfect, ratio for shipbuilding:
- In 1844, Isambard K. Brunnel built the Great Britain with these same dimensions.
- Shipbuilders during World War II used these dimensions as well.
- “Noah’s Ark was the focus of a major 1993 scientific study headed by Dr. Seon Hong at the world-class ship research center KRISO, based in Daejeon, South Korea. Dr Hong’s team compared twelve hulls of different proportions to discover which design was most practical. No hull shape was found to significantly outperform the 4,300-year-old biblical design. In fact, the Ark’s careful balance is easily lost if the proportions are modified, rendering the vessel either unstable, prone to fracture, or dangerously uncomfortable. The research team found that the proportions of Noah’s Ark carefully balanced the conflicting demands of stability (resistance to capsizing), comfort (“seakeeping”), and strength. In fact, the Ark has the same proportions as a modern cargo ship,” (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/ am/v2/n2/thinking-outside-the-box) NOTE: Dr. Hong is not a creationist.
These are a few of the examples of ‘scientific foreknowledge’ found in the pages of the Bible. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, if the Bible is the word of God, its statements and observations about the natural world ought to be correct.
But not only are these statements correct, but the element offoreknowledge ought to make any honest observer ask, “How did they know?” If it was once or twice, we might say that they got lucky. It may even be that other ancient cultures had incredible insight into the natural world as well. They also got a lot of things wrong. However, for the Bible to be so consistent and so accurate is one of many evidences of the Bible’s divine authorship.