Mikael Angelo Francisco, Syndicated from The Grunge
Serving as both a history book and a life manual of sorts for nearly a third of the global population, the Bible is one of the most frequently read and widely distributed books in the entire world. In a 2014 survey conducted among more than 2,000 British adults, the Bible was named the world’s most influential book. This is hardly surprising since, according to The Economist, about 100 million Bibles are either given away or sold each year.
That said, it’s inevitable for doubts to arise about the accuracy and authenticity of a book with over 30 authors (and whose oldest chapters are at least 2,700 years old). Given how some believers take everything written in the Bible as absolute truth, a number of skeptics have questioned just how credible its words are, particularly with regard to scientific accuracy.
The Bible was written before modern science could shed light on how species extinctions affect nature or why it’s important to wash our hands properly — which is why it’s fascinating to note how certain interpretations of Biblical text end up aligning with today’s scientific knowledge. Obviously, searching for 100% literal scientific accuracy in the Bible is a fool’s errand, for many reasons. Still, the following examples of spiritually syncing nicely with science do merit a closer look.
Humans are related ‘by blood’ (and cannot live without blood)
Two chapters of Genesis (2:4-3:24) tell the story of Adam and Eve, a specific take on the origin of man that’s so well-known, pretty much everyone’s familiar with it (or some version of it). And while it’s understandably challenging to imagine a person being formed out of another person’s rib, science says it’s likely that all of Homo sapiens really did have a common ancestor — a “Mitochondrial Eve” (via Your Genome).
As the National Museum of Natural History explains, H. sapiens may have originated in Africa approximately 300,000 years ago, a period of time during which the world’s climate was undergoing some drastic changes. The so-called shared ancestor of all modern humans may have been a Homo erectus female who lived at some point between 500,000 and 50,000 years ago. According to Your Genome, this idea is supported by the fact that Africa has more genetic diversity than all the other parts of Earth combined.
Meanwhile, Leviticus 17:11 talks about how the life of a creature is in its blood. Interestingly enough, one can consider a literal interpretation of this to be scientifically accurate. Apart from traveling around the body to supply oxygen, nutrients, and other vital elements for continued survival, blood also protects the body via infection-fighting agents, prevents blood loss through clotting, regulates body temperature, and even ensures that waste products go to the liver and kidneys like they’re supposed to (via Hematology.org).
Earth’s water is always changing states
In a paper published under the University College Dublin’s Centre for Water Resources Research, hydrologist James Dooge shares some facts that show the roots of our understanding of Earth’s water cycle. According to Dooge, ancient ideas about water’s relationship with the planet can be traced from as early as 1,000 B.C., with the Greek poet Homer depicting Earth “floating on a primal ocean.” Of course, man’s understanding of the water cycle has greatly improved since then. Nowadays, scientists understand that Earth’s water cycle (or hydrologic cycle) involves water’s never-ending movement and state changes across, above, and even within the planet (via the U.S. Geological Survey)
However, the distinction of being the hydrologic cycle theory’s “discoverer” typically goes to Bernard Palissy, a hydraulics engineer who, in 1580, published that maintaining rivers was possible with just rain. His theories would be tested nearly a hundred years later, and only gained traction among scientific thinkers in the early 1900s.
Interestingly enough, interpreting a few passages from the Bible in a certain way shows alignment with how modern science understands evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Ecclesiastes 1:7, for instance, describes how water flowing from streams into the sea eventually returns to its origin. Meanwhile, both Amos 9:6 and Job 36: 27-28 reference water rising from larger bodies of water such as seas or streams, and then falling back to Earth as rain. Even Psalm 135:7 talks about clouds rising and then pouring down as rain.
Earth is not flat, is hot inside, and is not propped up by anything
As the Bible probably wasn’t written with scientific accuracy in mind, determining how its text could get along with science requires an openness toward interpretations that aren’t literal. For example, Isaiah 40:22 talks about “the circle of the earth,” which some interpret as a reference to Earth being circular when seen from outer space (via Baguio Herald Express). There’s photographic proof of this, of course. As seen on FlipScience, the famous photo “Earthrise,” which was snapped on December 24, 1968 by Apollo 8’s crew, shows Earth as an orb floating in space. (The idea that Earth isn’t flat isn’t a new one, though — thinkers like Pythagoras and Erathosthenes were already toying with the idea before Jesus Christ was born.)
There are more lines in the Bible supporting scientific truths about the Earth. Take Job 28:5, for instance, which talks about how hot the Earth is deep inside. As the Baguio Herald Express reiterates, temperatures inside the Earth can rival the degree of heat on the Sun’s surface. Another noteworthy example is found in Job 26:7: Here, the chapter’s writer talks about how the Earth is simply floating in space, unsupported by any fixed physical structure whatsoever.
There are many, many stars, each with different degrees of brightness
Judging from what today’s scientists know about the stars, Jeremiah 33:22 had the right idea by saying that the stars in the sky were “countless.” Physics of the Universe explains that there could be up to a trillion stars in a single galaxy. That’s just a rough estimate, though, based on the evidence that astronomers, astrophysicists, and other space scientists have to work with. Applying some good old math to this makes the picture even clearer: Across the universe’s 100 billion galaxies, there could be approximately 10^22 (ten billion trillion, or a 1 followed by 21 zeros) stars.
Meanwhile, a literal interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:41 would reveal an astonishing level of alignment with modern astronomy, at least in terms of stars’ brightness or magnitude. The Bible verse talks about the different “splendors” of the Sun, the Moon, and other stars in the universe. As it turns out, there’s a clear scientific reason why certain stars look brighter to Earthlings than others: Stars vary in brightness from the vantage point of people on Earth, and this depends on factors such as the amount of light energy a star emits, how far it is from the planet, and more (via Space.com). In a 2003 instalment of Cornell University’s “Ask An Astronomer,” Dave Rothstein stated that it was a Greek astronomer named Hipparchus who first came up with a chart of the different degrees of stars’ brightness.
Heavenly bodies don’t last forever
The Bible includes constant reminders about how things will end. The Book of Revelation paints a particularly grim picture of how this will go down, but it’s hardly the only part of the Scriptures that talks about the finiteness of everything. In fact, the Bible even discusses how the stars in the sky and other celestial bodies won’t last forever, centuries before modern science could support this with evidence.
According to Matthew 24:35, both heaven and Earth will eventually “pass away.” In the context of astronomy, stars reach the end of their lives once they’ve exhausted all the nuclear fuel that keeps them burning. As Science Focus explains, the bigger the star, the faster it burns through its hydrogen fuel. And when the fuel’s completely depleted, the star either collapses into itself (if it’s not that massive) or becomes a black hole (if it’s massive enough). A black hole has an incredibly strong gravitational field due to the star’s mass; it’s so strong that not even light can escape it (via The Guardian). For a long time, however, the existence of black holes (as proposed by Einstein in the early 20th century) couldn’t be proven with direct evidence. In fact, the first-ever photograph of a black hole was taken on April 10, 2019 — a historic endeavor that required 200 scientists and eight super-powerful telescopes across five continents (via FlipScience).
The universe is made up of invisible components
According to Hebrews 11:3, God didn’t make the universe “out of what was visible.” One way to interpret this is that the building blocks of the universe are simply imperceptible to the naked human eye — and of course, physics supports that notion with the concept of extremely tiny atoms making up virtually everything.
As Lumen puts it, atoms are what form pretty much all that the human senses can perceive, from everyday objects to other people to the planet itself. Identical atoms, when together, form the chemical elements, which are the simplest forms of substances obtainable through ordinary chemical processes.
Atoms are so small that if you were to take 100 million atoms of hydrogen and line them up, they would not exceed a centimeter in length (via the University of Hawai’i). Atoms are made up of even smaller particles: It would take a thousand protons or neutrons to match the diameter of a single atom of hydrogen. Protons and neutrons, in turn, are a thousand times bigger than electrons. Does your head hurt yet?
A great flood likely did happen (and Noah’s Ark could have actually floated)
Yet another well-known story from the Bible is the tale of the world-engulfing Great Flood and Noah’s ark (also known as the Noachian Flood). This story is spread out throughout three chapters of Genesis, detailing how one man and his family successfully constructed an ark and saved all the animals of the planet from a massive flood that lasted 40 days (via the National Center for Science Education).
Interestingly, there are various kinds of sedimentary rock across the planet with different chemical compositions, serving as geological evidence that at some point in Earth’s history, massive floods could have actually happened. However, it is highly unlikely that water engulfed the Earth’s entirety in a single flood, as the Noachian Flood story describes. This is due to the fact that it’s not possible for the evaporite deposits to have formed simultaneously, going by fossil evidence and basic scientific knowledge. It’s possible, however, that the Great Flood was just a regional flood that looked like a world-ending flood to anyone affected by it.
And then there’s the ark. At first glance, it may seem impossible for such a vessel to properly accommodate 35,000 different animal species and float. In 2014, however, students from the University of Leicester students crunched the numbers and learned that such an ark could indeed float. (Whether all the animals could actually fit in there, however, is an entirely different topic for discussion.)
What Nazareth was like in Jesus’ time
LiveScience explains that the Bible paints a particular picture of Nazareth, the city in Israel where Jesus Christ reportedly lived. According to the site, the biblical Nazareth was “a community that followed Jewish religion and customs,” and wasn’t particularly fond of the Romans. Archaeological digs in recent years support this idea — and may have even revealed the house where Jesus spent his early years.
In an interview with LiveScience, Ken Dark, a professor at the United Kingdom’s University of Reading, talked about the discovery of a first-century house that, for some reason, served as the foundation for a place of worship called the Church of the Nutrition. The house was also decorated with mosaics. Most interestingly, 12th century Crusaders reportedly worked on restoring the church after it had experienced dilapidation, perhaps due to poor maintenance. As it turned out, they also believed that the house formerly belonged to Jesus.
Meanwhile, other excavations reveal strong evidence that people living in Jesus-era Nazareth were completely opposed to the Romans and their culture. Based on findings from a survey of the Nahal Zippori valley, archaeologists found that the people living in the southern side — the area closer to Nazareth — had an equal amount of disdain for the Romans.
David really could have won against Goliath that easily
The way it was told in 1 Samuel 17, it might be difficult to picture how David, a small boy with a slingshot, took out the battle-hardened brute Goliath. However, if this theory about Goliath were true, then David winning was a highly likely outcome, if not a foregone conclusion.
As author Malcolm Gladwell explains in a TED Talk, many mistakenly think that David was just carrying a child’s toy. While a slingshot may not sound as impressive as, say, a sword or a pike, it could be an absolute killer in the right hands and with the right ammunition. And David was working with arguably the best bullets available: the stones from Elah Valley were made of barium sulphate, which were twice as dense as ordinary stones. In other words, David’s slingshot was a 35-meter-per-second death dealer, hitting his gigantic foe with the awesome power of a .45 caliber pistol.
That’s just half of it, though. Goliath may have looked imposing, but the way he was described in the chapter suggests that his gigantic frame may have come at a terrible cost to his health. Gladwell theorizes that Goliath actually suffered from acromegaly, an overproduction of growth hormones due to a tumor on the pituitary gland. This also means that Goliath likely had poor eyesight. As UCLA Health explains, acromegaly can cause a person to lose their peripheral vision, limiting what they can see to what’s in front of them.
The Sun really did stop moving — because an eclipse happened
Joshua 10:12 attributes a key biblical victory to the fact that God supposedly made the Sun “stand still.” Two men of physics saw this as an opportunity to shed light on what could have been a remarkable astronomical phenomenon — and the only tools at their disposal were words and math (via Smithsonian Magazine).
In their 2017 paper “Solar eclipse of 1207 BC helps to date pharaohs,” Sir Colin Humphreys and Graeme Waddington discuss how this game-changing event could have actually been a solar eclipse. They started by speaking to a Semitic languages professor to determine if the account, originally written in Hebrew, could have actually been talking about an eclipse. After learning that it was a possible annular eclipse (an eclipse in which the Moon doesn’t cover the Sun entirely), they cross-referenced it to another source, the ancient Egyptian-made Merneptah Stele, to strengthen their hypothesis
Not content with what they’d unearthed, they even went so far as to calculate for the exact date it happened. By performing some fancy arithmetic (and factoring in the fact that the world spun a bit faster than it does today), the researchers were able to pinpoint a date: October 30, 1207 B.C.
The proper way to handle skin diseases, dead bodies, and human waste
When you hear about the Bible, health and safety guidelines probably aren’t the first things you’ll think of. But, interestingly enough, the book has quite a few of them.
Leviticus 13:1-5 brings up the idea of isolating a patient suffering from a “defiling skin disease” for seven days and observing if their skin condition improves. This is evidence of quarantine before quarantine was even officially a thing: The practice of holding or isolating infected patients for 40 days actually started in 1377, when the city now called Dubrovnik, Croatia forced ships from areas affected with the Black Death to undergo a 30-day isolation period (via FlipScience). This eventually increased to 40 days, for reasons that scholars aren’t completely sure about, but one theory is that the number 40 may have been inspired by the number’s significance in the Bible.
Meanwhile, Leviticus 11:28 and Deuteronomy 23:13 emphasize the importance of cleaning oneself after handling corpses and the proper disposal of decomposing matter, respectively. It may come as a surprise that even though such guidelines are now staple parts of directives from the Department of Health, this wasn’t always the case. Take the story of Ignaz Semmelweis, the father of handwashing, as an example. As explained by FlipScience, his investigation of a mid-19th century outbreak of childbed fever in Europe revealed that doctors of the time didn’t wash their hands properly when they went from handling cadavers to assisting women in childbirth.
How mountains form above the ground and under the ocean
Numerous creation myths from various cultures assert that the mountains of Earth were manually crafted by deities. That’s why it’s a bit of an oddity that the story of Creation in the book of Genesis doesn’t directly mention God shaping the mountains by hand. As it turns out, this small omission could be interpreted as having some slight bearing in science.
Science naturally has an explanation for how mountains are formed: When the tectonic plates on Earth’s crust collide, their edges may crumple, forming the gigantic layers of rock and sediment that become mountains (via Wonderopolis).
At least two passages from the book of Psalms (104:6 and 104:8) talk about mountains underwater. If these texts are interpreted literally, they may actually be referring to seamounts. As Greenpeace explains, seamounts are actually mountains formed from powerful volcanic activity underneath the ocean. Just like terrestrial mountains, seamounts become rich grounds for biodiversity to flourish, due to the fact that they help bring nutrients from the seafloor to the flora and fauna that live near the water’s edge. According to Science Magazine, there are approximately 30,000 seamounts under the ocean.