Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thought for the day

When I try to think about the new heavens and earth, the future God has graciously promised, my hope cannot survive if it thinks in terms of usual possibilities or potentials. But in the resurrection of Jesus Christ I believe the dawn of the future new creation is glimpsed, a creation as depended on God as it was for its origin and continual existence. There, and only there, my hope finds its anchor, animation, energy and purpose.


At 3/24/2008 2:22 AM, Blogger mike said...


(somebody's been reading Paul...)

At 3/24/2008 12:16 PM, Blogger matthew said...

good stuff - I am becoming more and more convinced that resurrection is a key way of expressing the grace of God for Paul - the grace that both destroys and perfects... certainly I think this is the point of 1 Corinthians 15: We look forward to a future that has continuity with the present, but is transformed, as a gift from God. (Just discovered your blog - I'll keep posted, as my research is also on Paul - at Nottingham, under Anthony Thiselton)

At 3/25/2008 4:40 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

According to the book of Revelation a “new earth” and a “new heaven” will be created after Jesus returns. Occupants of other planets throughout the hundred billion galaxies of our present “heaven” will no doubt be surprised to receive such an unearned favor, all because of what happens on our little world. Or is this simply another example of how the Hebrews viewed the earth as the flat firm foundation of creation with the heavens above created simply for the earth below?

At 3/25/2008 4:44 AM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...


The last book of the Bible mentions a fabulous city called the “New Jerusalem”:

And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth... twelve thousand furlongs [about 1500 miles according to most commentaries]. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
- Revelation 21:16

In other words the New Jerusalem is a gigantic cube and it is supposed to descend out of heaven.

The author who wrote about the city apparently made it of such gargantuan proportions so that the length of just one of its sides was equal to the distance from Jerusalem to the capital and heart of the Roman Empire. Or perhaps the author had in mind that God meant to flatten Rome just as Rome had flattened God’s holy temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Who knows?

Other questions also come to mind, especially for inerrantists:

Wouldn’t a cube that was 1500 miles on all sides simply see-saw on the earth’s curved surface, since the earth is not flat, but a sphere? Even if it didn’t see-saw and settled onto the surface of the earth gently, would not its sheer mass cause the earth’s crust to buckle or crack beneath it, and initiate earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Wouldn’t it also cause a wobble in the earth’s daily rotation? (Just try gluing a small cafeteria-sized carton of milk to a large bowling ball and spin the bowling ball to see what I mean.) How could a cube that was 1,500 miles on each side maintain its cubic shape since much smaller objects in space that are merely 400 miles in diameter, collapse into spherical shapes due to the force of their own gravity? And, what would prevent the city, after it landed, from growing as wide and flat as any mountain range due to its mutual attraction with the earth’s own gravity?

And the New Jerusalem is so tall it would extend 1,300 miles further out into space than the International Space Station that is situated only about 200 miles above the earth. In fact the New Jerusalem would block jet streams in the upper atmosphere, and be pummeled by natural and man-made objects orbiting the earth, as well as its topmost floors being hit by solar winds and radiation. If you happen to live on any floor higher than merely the first 100 miles above sea level, I wouldn’t suggest opening your windows without first donning a space suit.

Do the questions end there? No.

Here’s another: The author of the book of Revelation wrote that the “twelve gates” of the New Jerusalem are “twelve pearls; every gate is of one pearl.” (Rev. 21:21) Hence the slang expression for heaven, “The pearly gates.”

But where can you find “one pearl” large enough to make a “gate” for a city that size? I’d pay money to see the oyster that popped those babies out! It must be bigger than one of the biggest animal of all time, the blue whale.

Of course some Evangelical apologists like Grant R. Jeffrey simply assume that the description of “The New Jerusalem” must be true without a doubt because “what reason would God have for describing such details so precisely unless they were true?” [Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations (Bantam Books, Toronto, 1994), p.351]

But then, who ever said “God” was the one describing such details?

And who ever said that human writers didn’t have imaginations capable of adding details to a story?

Maybe the author of the book of Revelation assumed like most people of his day that the earth was flat [see NOTE], so a cube-shaped object would sit securely and squarely on it?

He probably also made the New Jerusalem a cube because that’s how the holy of holies of Solomon’s temple was shaped. The author of Revelation, probably had no idea that the enormity of the city he had envisioned would raise scientific questions in the minds of 20th-century readers, especially since he probably assumed that the heavenly abode of God and angels existed not very far overhead, instead of that region being filled with orbiting bits of matter, solar radiation, and the vacuum of space?

Finally, maybe Grant R. Jeffrey should cease making a career out of trying to anaesthetize the frontal lobes of people’s brains, and embark on an expedition to find that oyster that pops out pearls as big as city gates? And he had better hurry and find that whale-sized oyster before King Kong enjoys it as an appetizer. (But where is Kong going to find a lemon large enough to squeeze on it?)

[NOTE] The author of the book of Revelation wrote in flat earth fashion: “I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 7:1); and added elsewhere, “There was a great earthquake... and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casts her figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” (Rev. 6:12,13). “Stars of heaven falling to earth” after the earth below has been “shaken,” mirrors the way that the sun, moon, and the stars are portrayed in the creation story in Genesis, being “made” and “fixed” above the earth. And just as those stars were “fixed” there, they would one day “fall to earth” like “figs” from a shaken tree after the earth below had experienced “a great earthquake,” because to the ancient Hebrews the whole of creation consisted of a cosmos whose two halves were the earth below and the heavens above.

Edward T. Babinski

Will Christ ever return? The New Testament is now older than the Old Testament was when the New Testament was written, and still no word from the God of the Bible. So, what’s holding Jesus up? (Subtract two points if you answered, “The nails in his hands.”)

Edward T. Babinski

At 3/25/2008 5:59 AM, Blogger byron smith said...

(somebody's been reading Paul...)
Or Moltmann.

Edward - Not sure you'll find many readers of this blog who take those wonderful (and, as you point out, decided odd) images literally. For instance, you've noted the link to the cubic Holy of Holies; the image of the New Jerusalem also has no Temple, since the whole thing is one giant temple for God to inhabit: now the dwelling of God is with humans.

At 3/25/2008 6:00 AM, Blogger byron smith said...

Oops - pressed 'post' before I added my line:
Great symbolism. Crummy geophysics.

At 3/27/2008 1:40 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Matthew,
Thanks for stopping by. What is your research on?

Hi Edward,
I would second Byron

You cited: "“The New Jerusalem” must be true without a doubt because “what reason would God have for describing such details so precisely unless they were true?” [Apocalypse: The Coming Judgment of the Nations (Bantam Books, Toronto, 1994), p.351] "


At 3/28/2008 2:41 PM, Blogger matthew said...

hi chris... my research is on the literary flow (particularly the placement of chapter 15) and therefore the essential message of 1 Corinthians. In practice, this means I am also doing substantial work on Redaction Criticism and Pauline Ethics, among other things... My supervisor is incredibly thorough and encouraging, so I'm really enjoying it. I'm off to Israel next week to deliver a little discussion paper on Redaction Criticism in Paul, so that's kinda exciting... I'm hoping to use the opportunity to make some earth-shattering archaeological discoveries at the same time, but we'll see how that goes...

At 4/01/2008 11:31 PM, Blogger Edward T. Babinski said...

Double Groan. Yes, I'm aware of the symbolic approach to Scripture, or in fact toward life in general. Though I thought the symbolically oriented among us would still get a kick out of the way literalism has yet to be abandoned by many Christians.

And that raises the question of what happens after literalism is abandoned, after the primeval history chapters of Genesis (from the creation and garden and "fall" story--to the Flood and tower of babel), are viewed as symbolic, along with last chapters in the Bible as well, like Revelation.

Some of course, like Crossan and Spong even view the growth of the miracle stories of Jesus as well as the resurrection stories from Paul to Mark and later Gospels as a development of symbolism and myth (perhaps based on a first century preacher, but the greatest miracles remain questionable and only seen by a few--the transfig., walking on water, the resurrection and bodily ascension into the sky, quelling the storm--or such stories remain questionable on other bases, "Jesus appearing to over 500?" "the raising of the many?").

What's left in the end? A lot of symbols and some miracle tales that remain questionable, and some theological doctrines that make little rational sense (like how and why bleeding an innocent man "makes up" for little Tommy disobeying his mommy, whats kind of metaphysical transaction is taking place and how would one know for sure it is?).

At 4/03/2008 8:35 AM, Blogger byron smith said...

It's quite possible for some things to be symbolic and others not. Give credit to the authors and (most) readers of scripture to be able to distinguish between parable and proclamation.

At 7/15/2009 7:08 PM, Anonymous Joseph E. Palmer said...

Hi! As an evangelical Christian, who is a literalist, believes that the Bible in its
original texts is inerrant, and who happens to be a Physicist, I am going to attempt to
answer Mr. Babinski's critique of the final
chapter of the Book of Revelation.

Ok, first to the objections. As I understand it the problems are:

1. The cube would see-saw on the New Earth.
2. The New Earth's crust would buckle or crack beneath it, causing earthquakes and volcanoes.
3. It would interfere with the rotation of the New Earth.
4. It would collapse into a sphere under its own gravity.
5. When it landed, it would collapse under its own weight.
6. If it did not, it would interfere with the jet streams.
7. It would wreak havoc with any satellites.
8. The majority of it would be under constant bombardment by radiation.
9. The majority would also exist above the atmosphere.
10. The pearls (from which the gates are made) are too big.

Can I add some more before I try to answer all of these?

11. The huge amount of gold would interfere with the magnetosphere which protects us from the Solar Wind.
12. None of the materials listed as what the foundations for the city walls are made of could possibly take all the weight of the wall without shattering.
13. If God is the source of light, the rest must be dark, being blocked by all that gold.

All these "problems" ignore one word.


I find nothing in the passage to even remotely suggest that this New Earth is anything like the current version (1.0?). In fact, it would seem to suggest that things are quite different. In fact, my own personal guess is that Earth 2.0 IS flat. So, as a physicist, I'm going to assume that I have to start all over. I have no idea what laws govern this world. That takes care of all the objections (except 10 - I take it that a God who can make a bug's but glow in the dark can deal with making a giant pearl). All of the listed objections make broad assumptions about how things work. Better yet, they assume that things will work as they do now. If they did, why use the word "new" twice (new heavens and new earth)?


"The author of the book of Revelation wrote in flat earth fashion: 'I saw four angels
standing on the four corners of the earth'"

I could attempt to make the point, that has been made repeatedly, that the Bible is not
a science text book, but that does not seem to get the point across. Let's look at it
another way. The Bible is God's attempt to communicate to humanity on the most
important topic to each human: their relationship to the Creator is in serious need of fixing. As such, He is going to use language that would easily communicate those ideas that He wishes to communicate.

Or to reverse the point, are you saying that God is not allowed to use idioms? That He
must always talk in the most technical of details? Or shall we conclude that all the
authors of all the history, biographies, and autobiographies that use either of the
phrases "the Sun rose" or "the Sun set" and any variations on them believe that the
Sun goes round the Earth? Or shall we conclude that we are being unreasonable, and
that idioms are an easy way of communicating ideas when using technical terms are not
conducive to communicate the point?

Shall we go further? Can we give failing grades to biographies of Sir Isaac Newton
that don't include long detailed discussions of calculus?

There is a lot in Scripture that is difficult to understand. Can we try not to add to the list? Please?

Sincerely yours,

Joe Palmer


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