Questions From Readers
● Is it proper to use Isaiah 40:22 to prove that the Bible teaches that the earth is round, Isaiah’s words being written at a time when men thought the earth was flat? Some have expressed the thought that the word “circle” could refer to something circular but flat.—J. L., Denmark.
Isaiah 40:22 reads: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” When this text says that God sits above the circle of the earth, this harmonizes with the fact that the earth is circular, viewed from all directions, but that also makes it globular in form. The Hebrew word hhug here is defined in A Concordance of the Hebrew and Chaldee Scriptures by B. Davidson as “circle, sphere.”
This same Hebrew word for circle is found in Job 22:14, where the New World Translation says of God: “On the vault of heaven he walks about.” Now, we know that the vault of heaven as seen from the earth is hemispherical, or like a half globe. The other half of the hemispherical vault of heaven extends below the earth upon which we stand and hence cannot be seen directly by us. In harmony with this fact, when Isaiah 40:22 says that God sits above the circle of the earth, then the word “circle” here is in the same Hebrew sense as that found in Job 22:14.
Thus it follows that the word “circle” in Isaiah 40:22 must mean something that is rotund, just as the appearance of the sky viewed from the earth is rotund and like a vault.
● If the Bible teaches that heaven is “up” (Acts 1:9), does it not convey an ignorance of earth’s rotation and the structure of the universe?—C. P., U.S.A.
The Bible account of Jesus’ ascension states that while his disciples “were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision.” They continued looking into the sky until advised otherwise by the angels, who informed them that “Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky.” (Acts 1:9-11) Some have raised objections to the account of the ascension, saying that it conveys the primitive concept that heaven is “up” from the earth. However, to satisfy such critics would, in effect, require the virtual elimination of the words “up,” “above,” and so forth, from human language. Even in this space age, we still read of astronauts orbiting the earth as having “ascended to 739 nautical miles” above the earth (New York Times, September 16, 1966), whereas we know that technically they “moved out or away” from the earth’s surface that distance.
Interestingly, the account of the angelic delegation that chorused the announcement of Jesus’ birth reports that, when their mission was completed, “the angels had departed from them into heaven.” (Luke 2:15; compare Acts 12:10.) Thus Jesus’ ascension, while beginning with an upward movement, as related to the earthly locality where his disciples were, may have thereafter taken any direction required to bring him into his Father’s heavenly presence. It was an ascension, not only in a directional sense, but, more importantly, as to the sphere of activity and level of existence in the spirit realm and in the lofty presence of the Most High God, a realm not governed by human dimensions or directions.—Compare Hebrews 2:7, 9.