Invasion of the Bible Snatchers: Ray Comfort’s ‘Scientific Facts in the Bible’ – A Tent for the Sun

To see other posts in this series, please go to the series’ page.

INTRODUCTION

Ray Comfort in his book Scientific Facts in the Bible: Amazing Truths Written Thousands of Years Before Man Discovered Them quotes from Psalm 19:4-6 (NKJV) and writes,

For many years critics scoffed at these verses, claiming they taught that the sun revolves around the earth. Scientists used to believe the sun was stationary, but discovered recently that it is moving through space at about 600,000 miles per hour. The sun is traveling through the heavens and has a “circuit” just as the Bible says. Its circuit is so large that it would take around 200 million years to complete one orbit.[1]

So, is Comfort right? Is the psalmist describing the sun’s orbit around “the heavens” as opposed to an orbit around the earth?

THE HEAVENS DECLARE

Psalm 19 is a psalm of praise to the god of Israel, Yahweh. It opens with two lines set in parallel:

[A] The heavens are telling the glory of God;

[B] and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1).

This is synonymous parallelism at work. “The heavens” [hašāmayim] and “the firmament” [hārāqîaʿ] are synonymous; “are telling” and “proclaims” are synonymous; and “the glory of God” and “his handiwork” are synonymous.

For the psalmist, it would have been only natural to think of hašāmayim and hārāqîaʿ as equivalent. The Priestly creation narrative of Genesis 1 describes the Israelite god as creating a barrier for the primordial waters. This barrier is referred to as a rāqîaʿ in v. 6 and its function is to hold back the waters above the rāqîaʿ from the waters below it (v. 7). In v. 8, the rāqîaʿ is referred to by God as šāmayim. Later in the narrative, it is in the rĕqîaʿ hašāmayim (“the dome of the sky,” or “the firmament of heaven”) that God places the sun, moon, and stars (vv. 14-19). On the fifth day of creation, God creates birds that are to fly above the earth ʿl-penê rĕqîaʿ hašāmayim (“on the face of the dome of the sky”; v. 20). The psalm writer was likely familiar with the worldview described in Genesis 1 and his own cosmology reflected it.

According to v. 4, it is in hašāmayim that God “has set a tent for the sun.” This comports with the view of Genesis 1:14-19 that the sun (“the greater light”) is placed in “the dome of the sky,” or “the firmament of the heavens.” That is to say, it is in the barrier that separates the waters above and below that the sun is said to exist. But in Genesis 1, the sun as “the greater light” is said to “rule the day” (Genesis 1:16). At night, a different body rules. So, where does the sun go when it is not ruling? The psalmist tells us: “a tent.” This imagery makes sense of what we read in v. 5 where it describes the sun as that “which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy.” While in the wedding canopy, the bridegroom is hidden from view. But when he comes out, he is in full view of everyone. So too the sun is at night hidden from view in “a tent.” But when morning comes, the sun is in full view of everyone.

It is here we begin to see why Comfort’s eisegesis fails. In order to rescue the text from its implied geocentrism, he has to mangle the meaning of everything else in the passage. This is especially acute in v. 6 which describes the sun’s “rising…from the end of the heavens.” Rising relative to what? He cannot be referring to the sun’s orbit around the galaxy because he is clearly describing the sun’s effect on earth, as the end of v. 6 makes plain. So, what phenomena describe the sun’s rising from one end of the sky to the other? Sunrise and sunset, of course! Additionally, the sun’s orbit around the galaxy takes well over two-hundred million years and, in Comfort’s worldview, the world is only around six-thousand years old. If that’s the case, then the sun has never made a complete circuit like the one that the psalmist describes. Why would the psalm writer offer as an example of God’s glory something that has never occurred? But if the psalmist is instead describing something that everyone knows about (i.e., sunrise and sunset) then this language fits perfectly. Every day is evidence for God’s glory then.

CONCLUSION

Once again, we are left disappointed but not surprised by Comfort’s poor handling of the Bible. It makes you wonder what motivates him: finding the truth or confirming his own views? I think we all know which one it is.


[1] Ray Comfort, Scientific Facts in the Bible: Amazing Truths Written Thousands of Years Before Man Discovered Them (Bellflower, CA: Living Waters Publications, 2016), 12.

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