Some readers might think the answer to this question is so obvious that maybe we’re offering it as a kind of joke—but it’s no joke. A growing number of people seem to actually believe the earth is flat, a view that a few NBA stars recently voiced.1,2 Do we know the earth is round, and does it matter?
The question matters because if the Bible and science both describe a spherical earth, then those who depart from these sources of knowledge stray from reality. Fortunately, both sources offer clear descriptions of the real, round earth.
Isaiah 40:22 cites “the circle of the earth,” and Proverbs 8:27 also references the earth’s circularity. These match a ball-shaped earth.
One flat-Earth proponent tried to persuade me that Psalm 104:5, which says Earth’s foundations “should not be moved,” means that Earth cannot spin like a classroom globe because spinning is a type of movement. The Hebrew verb here for “moved” is môt, meaning to be shaken, moved, or overthrown. A bicycle frame holds its wheels so they will not shake back and forth, move from their mounts, or get thrown from the frame—yet the wheels spin. This verse does not teach an utterly rigid earth. If it did, then we would have to deny earthquakes, hundreds of parallax measurements, and Scriptures like Job 9:6!3 Instead, it simply describes a stable earth. Earth’s gyroscopic motion gives it the very stability that Psalm 104:5 teaches.4
I asked another flat-Earth apologist what he thought of the millions of pictures and videos of Earth’s rounded surface taken from space since the 1960s, with dozens posted almost daily from the International Space Station. He asserted that NASA uses secret studios to concoct these photographs and that men never really reached the moon. But this would mean that all the astronauts and cosmonauts have lied about their experiences, as well as the thousands of men and women who’ve assisted them. How could they all manage to conceal the same lies for decades? It would mean billions of dollars spent on developing and manufacturing spacecraft, satellites, and spacesuits, all merely to fabricate and mask an ongoing lie. What are the odds of that?
Observations from God’s world match descriptions in God’s Word about Earth’s sphericity.5 First, Earth as a giant ball explains why the tops of distant mountains or tall buildings come into view first as one approaches them. A rotating earth explains prevailing winds, too. For example, the prevailing westerlies lengthen airplane flight times when flying westward across the U.S.
Also, a spherical earth explains the curved shape of Earth’s shadow as it crawls across the moon during a lunar eclipse—no matter the moon’s place in the sky. Fourth, no place on a flat-disk earth would conceal the North Star, which in actuality becomes invisible from the Southern Hemisphere. For that matter, one notices a shift in star positions when traveling north or south, which also confirms a spherical earth.6
Flat-Earth arguments fall flat in the face of forceful biblical and scientific evidence for Earth’s roundness.
- Listen starting at minute 15 to the Road Trippin’ podcast, episode 7. Posted on nba.com/cavaliers February 17, 2017, accessed March 23, 2017.
- Lee, J. Shaq’s Flat Earth Jokes Are No Laughing Matter for Scientists. Bleacher Report. Posted on bleacherreport.com March 21, 2017, accessed March 23, 2017.
- “He shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble.”
- Galileo’s detractors used a similar misinterpretation of Psalm 93:1 to argue against his theory that the earth orbits the sun. See Johnson, J. J. S. 2017. Sloppy Religion and Sloppy Science. Acts & Facts. 46 (5): 21.
- Faulkner, D. R. Is the Earth Flat? Answers in Genesis. Posted on answersingenesis.org May 24, 2016, accessed October 26, 2016.
- Job also referred to the constellations hidden from his latitude in Job 9:9.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his M.S. in biotechnology from Stephen F. Austin State University.