Again, the Bible is not a textbook on Cosmology or Astronomy.  However, from a few scanty tidbits of Scripture and a conviction that Mesopotamian astronomy is the norm for Hebrew views on this subject, Liberal scholars today assume that the worldview of the Old Testament was that of a flat earth in a geocentric universe.1,2  Their assumption of the flat earth is from Isa 11:12 which speaks of the "four corners of the earth" as well as Isa 44:24 which speaks of God who "...stretched out the heavens , who spread out the earth by myself...."  Now in regards to the expression, "the four corners of the earth," Willis says this:

The expression four corners of the earth (vs. 12; cf. Job 37:3; Rev 7:1) do not reflect an ancient notion that the earth was flat and the shape of a square or rectangle.  Deuteronomy 22:12 speaks of the four corners of a cloak, and Ezekiel 7:2 of the four corners of the land of Israel, but in neither case is it implied that the biblical writer thought that the cloak or the land of Israel was square or rectangular.  This is simply an idiomatic expression meaning "entirety."3

Therefore, there seems to be a rush on the Liberals' part to assume such phrases imply an ancient Hebrew belief in a flat earth.  Rather, Isaiah 40:22 appears to imply that the earth is indeed not only "circular," but also a substantial three dimensional object.  The Hebrew word chug in this verse can mean either "circle" or "vault," but two highly acclaimed Hebrew-English Lexicons prefer the meaning of "vault" for chug in Isaiah 40:22.4,5  Contrary to this, most of the English translators choose "circle."  However, TMSG has "God sits high above the round ball of the earth" and DRB has "It is he that sitteth upon the globe of the earth", both trying to capture something of the three dimensional nature of this Hebrew word.

If indeed the meaning is that of a globe (as would also be implied in Luke 17:34-36), then we have here some scientific foreknowledge of a substantial nature.  Now concerning the date of writing Isaiah, conservative scholars, staying with the understanding of the ancients, date the ministry of Isaiah from 740-700 (or even 680) BC.  Of course those unwilling to believe in predictive prophecy (Liberal theologians) rather choose a date after Cyrus in 536 BC, since Isaiah prophesied about this ruler by name (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7).  That is their way of destroying the power of predictive prophecy.  However, they have no manuscript evidence for this, and certainly there was never a hint of this found in the Jewish writers before Christ or in the Church Fathers living and writing after the apostles to suggest an author other than the historical Isaiah of the 8th century BC.  In addition, there are 21 passages in Isaiah that are attributed directly to "Isaiah" in the New Testament (7 in Isa 1-39, 12 in Isa 40-55, and 2 from Isa 56-66), and the strongest of these is found in John 12:38-41 where John specifically attributes Isa 53:1 and 6:9 both to Isaiah.6

According to Wikipedia, the earliest date documenting the concept of a round earth is in the 6th century BC:

The concept of a spherical earth dates back to around the 6th century BCE in ancient Greek philosophy.  It remained a matter of philosophical speculation until the 3rd century BCE when Hellenistic astronomy established the spherical shape of the earth as a physical given.7

However, it would appear that Isaiah predates the Greeks by 200 years in knowing the earth was round.  How?  Well, God told him, or at least that is what the Bible says.

In addition to the thought in Isaiah that the earth was spherical, we also find in Job 26:7 the suggestion that the earth is completely unsupported in space:

7“He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
Job 26:7 (NASB95)

Now is it uncertain when Job was written.  It nicely describes the milieu of the patriarchs, such as Abraham, who lived about 1800 BC.  However, opinions abound about when it was actually written.  The Talmud says Job was written by Moses,8 or about 1440 BC.  Others think it was put into its current form in the 5th to 6th centuries BC.  I am more inclined to honor the opinion of the Talmud on the subject.  But the point is that here is a shocking statement from antiquity about the earth not being held up or hung up on anything, and we find it in Job.

Lynne S. Wilcox, M.D., M.P.H, wrote an interesting article in which she summarized the mythology of the ages to answer the question, "Who Holds Up the World?"  This is what she found:

From earliest human history, people have created myths that depict the sacred and at times terrible responsibility of supporting the world.  Although these myths vary from culture to culture--and the entities charged with the awesome responsibility of holding up the earth range from deities to animals to the elements--the underlying purpose of all of them is to assure people of the world's stability and order.  In the Haudenosaunee (i.e., Six Nations or Iroquois), Hindu, and Gabrielino Indian religions, turtles and tortoises support the earth.  The indigenous Japanese Ainu people describe the world as a vast ocean resting on the backbone of a trout that creates the surging of the tides each day by sucking in the ocean and spewing it out.  In other mythologies, a single entity is responsible for carrying the heavy burden of the world.  In Greek mythology, for example, Atlas was forced to support the earth after fighting unsuccessfully against Zeus, the leader of the Olympian gods.  Hercules came to Atlas and requested that he obtain the Hesperides' golden apples.  Atlas agreed on the condition that Hercules would support the earth while he was away.  Atlas had no intention of accepting his eternal burden again, but Hercules tricked him into taking it back.9

Hinduism is called by some the oldest living religion, and the roots of that religion may have began during the post-flood times that were characterized by a deterioration of monotheism back into polytheism.  If so, we have two very different ancient views of earth.  Job said that the Lord "hangs the earth on nothing."  However, all the other ancient writings seem to attribute this to someone or something holding up the earth.  Could this be "scientific foreknowledge" in the Bible?  I am inclined to think so.  I have tried to find documentation going back further, but I cannot find anything earlier than Job with the true concept of the earth floating in space.

What about Job's statement that God "...stretches out the north over empty space...."?  Walter Sullivan published an article in the New York Times on October 2, 1981 entitled, "Vast Hole in Space Appears to Defy Theories."  You can read the article at the link indicated in the ENDNOTES.10  Now it appears that scientists prefer to consider these as "Molecular Clouds," and these bar our view of the stars behind such clouds.  Take a look at Molecular Cloud Barnard 68 from NASA at the following link in the ENDNOTES.11  My point is that the perception of a lack of stars is certainly possible with these phenomena, and may well be what Job was writing about.  Clearly, some of these holes are large enough be seen by the naked eye.  If so, we have another example of scientific foreknowledge.

ENDNOTES:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_the_Bible
  2. Heard, RC.  "Genesis," in The Transforming Word, MW Hamilton, General Editor.  Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, TX, © 2009, p 109.
  3. Willis, JT. The Living Word Commentary on the Old Testament: Isaiah. Sweet Publishing Company, Austin, TX, © 1980, p 206.
  4. Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (2000). Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Strong's, TWOT, and GK references Copyright 2000 by Logos Research Systems, Inc. (electronic ed.) (295). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems.
  5. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.) (DBLH 2553, #2). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  6. Willis, ibid., p 30.
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Round_earth
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Job
  9. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1893119 (You can get her references from the online article.)
  10. http://www.nytimes.com/1981/10/02/us/vast-hole-in-space-appears-to-defy-theories.html
  11. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap090623.html