Pillars under a Flat Earth?

Job 9:6—”This verse says the earth has pillars, indicating a flat earth”

None of these passages are geologic instruction, they are lyric poetry using colloquial metaphor to express God’s all-encompassing power. Furthermore, the critic has committed the etymological fallacy, incorrectly assuming that the Hebrew word “תּבל têbêl ” and “ארץ ‘erets ” means earth in the sense of “globe” or “planet.” More often, these words mean simply “land” as in one particular country, and in some contexts they cannot mean “globe” (Genesis 38:9). In these verses, we should understand “earth” as landmass.

The word translated “pillars” in Job 9:6 and Psalm 75:3 is עמוד ‛ammûd , which the dictionary also defines as ‘stand’ or ‘platform’—a good description for the subterranean masses under the continental plates. There is no problem with this description.

The word for “pillar” used in Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2:8) is matsuq, which is only used twice in the Scriptures and means “situate” in the other verse (1 Sa 14:5). It can be translated as “foundation,” which again is a fair description of the subterranean mass beneath the continental plates. We must remember too that this historical passage is simply quoting the prayer of a fallible human (Samuel’s mother Hannah).

The Qur’ān also has verses which appear to indicate a flat earth:

“Do they never reflect on .. the heaven, how it was raised on high? The mountains, how they were set down? The earth, how it was made flat?” (Al-Ghashiyah 88:18-20 )

Renowned commentator Al-Jalalayn’s tafseer on this verse reads,

“As for His words sutihat , ‘laid out flat’, this on a literal reading suggests that the earth is flat, which is the opinion of most of the scholars of the Law, and not a sphere as astronomers have it…”1

Likewise, the Egypt Shafi’ie theologian Imam al-Suyuti also taught that the earth is flat.

  1. Available online from http://altafsir.com (Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Jordan).

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