They are so often seen as two opposing sides: science on the one hand and the Bible on the other. The Bible is consistently considered as being anathema to science. But is that really the case? Is it fair to label the Bible as a scientifically backward text of religious dolts?
Actually, upon closer inspection—with regard to science—the Bible was thousands of years ahead of its time. Many scientific principles described millennia ago in the Scriptures have only recently been “discovered” and explained by science. Listed below are a sampling of them.
The Water Cycle
Ancient intellectuals believed all water originated below the Earth’s surface. Around 800 b.c.e., Homer said a huge cavern inside Earth supplied all river water. By the fourth century b.c.e., Greek philosophers hypothesized that the hydrologic process was cyclical, and that Homer’s theory had not been correct. Yet it wasn’t until 1580 that a full scientific explanation of the cycle was delivered by Bernard Palissy—about 2,500 years after King Solomon had described it in detail.
Solomon said it: Ecclesiastes 1:7, c. 950 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1580
Man Made From Dust
Scientists believe that the human body is made up of 25 elements, each essential for human life. Each one of these is found in the Earth’s crust. The Bible indicated this roughly 3,400 years prior to 1982, which is when researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center confirmed that every element in man is found in the soil, prompting one scientist to famously remark: “[T]he biblical scenario for the creation of life turns out to be not far off the mark.”
Moses wrote it: Genesis 2:7, c. 1400 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: late 1800s
There are Countless Stars
Before the 1608 invention of the telescope, scientists such as Ptolemy (c.e. 150) taught that the stars in the heavens numbered 3,000 or fewer. Today astronomers say the Milky Way galaxy alone contains 400 billion stars. They estimate that the observable universe contains more than 170 billion galaxies, many of which contain trillions of stars. The universe beyond that is unknown. As Jeremiah said 2,500 years ago: “[T]he host of heaven cannot be numbered.”
Jeremiah said it: Jeremiah 33:22, c. 580 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1608
(See also Job 9:8; Zechariah 12:1)
Earth Is Suspended in Space
Most ancient cultures believed the Earth was supported by giant animals, men or pillars. Greece’s Anaximander (611-547 b.c.e.) was one of the first known intellectuals to posit the idea that it is suspended in space. Later in the sixth century b.c.e., Pythagoras conducted astronomical studies, which he said proved Anaximander’s theory. This came 1,000 years after Job had spoken of it as a fact. The explanation of how the Earth “floats” in space didn’t come about until the late 1600s when Isaac Newton posed the theory of gravity.
Job said it: Job 26:7, c. 1550 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: late 1600s
Quarantine and Sanitation
Throughout history, even advanced cultures understood nothing about bacteria. The Black Death of the 1300s killed 50 million in Europe alone—over half the population. During this plague, Jews (who obeyed biblical instructions on quarantine and hygiene) experienced far lower infection rates. Only in the 1800s did advances in bacterial study give researchers understanding of the importance of quarantine, sanitation and hygiene. This was 3,200 years and millions of lives after these principles were outlined in Moses’s writings.
Moses wrote it: Numbers 19:3-22, c. 1400 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1800s
(See also Leviticus 11, 13, 14 and 22)
Life Is in the Blood
For thousands of years, people practiced bleeding as a means of treating diseases. This medical practice caused countless deaths because it failed to understand that life is in blood. When the blood is removed, the life ends. Around 1628, William Harvey accurately described the function of the heart and the circulation of blood around the body. It wasn’t until 1840 that the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin was discovered in the blood. The Bible specified that the “life is in the blood” more than 3,000 years beforehand.
Moses wrote it: Leviticus 17:11, c. 1400 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1628
An intricate network of currents flows through the oceans, heavily influencing Earth’s weather. The paths of these currents change little. Medieval sailors mentioned ocean currents, but understood very little about them. In 1770, Benjamin Franklin mapped out parts of the Gulf Stream, but the big picture remained obscure until Matthew Maury (1806–1873) revolutionized sea travel by charting winds and currents. His quest was to find the “paths of the seas” that King David had written of 2,800 years earlier in Psalm 8.
David wrote it: Psalm 8:9, c. 1000 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1800s
Circumcision on the Eighth Day
Circumcision has been practiced for at least four millennia. In Islam, it is generally done at any time up until the age of puberty. Polynesians, Australian Aborigines, and a number of African tribes circumcise at the age of puberty. The ancient Egyptians circumcised adolescents. The guidelines in the Bible are unique in that they prescribe circumcision on the eighth day after birth. It was only discovered in the last century that the blood-clotting agents, vitamin K and prothrombin, peak to their highest levels on the eighth day (110 percent of normal). This is the only day in a normal male’s life when levels surpass 100 percent. This makes the eighth day by far the best one for circumcision, especially in a more primitive medical setting—reducing the risk of severe bleeding and infection.
Moses wrote it: Genesis 17:10-12, c. 1400 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1900s
Listen to this Watch Jerusalem webcast at 12:00 for more information on this subject.
Washing With Running Water
In 1846 Ignaz Semmelweis realized that unwashed hands spread diseases. Before him, doctors would routinely handle dead bodies and then, without washing, treat expecting mothers. This sent women’s death rates soaring. Semmelweis convinced many doctors to wash their hands between procedures, but most only washed in a bowl of water. It wasn’t until late 1800s that Joseph Lister realized they needed to wash with running water. Moses had made this clear some 3,200 years earlier.
Moses wrote it: Leviticus 15:13, c. 1400 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: late 1800s
In the fourth century b.c.e., Aristotle said the universe was finite in size and had remained unchanged throughout eternity. This theory prevailed until 1576, when English astronomer Thomas Digges posited the idea that the stars extend to infinity. This theory was solidified in the 17th century by René Descartes and Isaac Newton. In 1929, by measuring the redshifts of a number of distant galaxies, Edwin Hubble conclusively proved that the universe is indeed expanding. Without the benefit of telescopes, Isaiah, Job and Zechariah had recorded the same fact centuries earlier.
Isaiah wrote it: Isaiah 45:12, c. 720 b.c.e.
Man “discovered” it: 1929
These are just some of the scientific concepts revealed by the Bible—long since ignored or forgotten, only to be proved true millennia later. Imagine the time and effort that could have been saved!
Actually, many early scientists—throughout the 16th and 17th centuries—held the Bible in high regard. Apparently, they even went into their scientific observations with the aim of observing how science glorifies God! Today, the opposite is true. Yet to simply dismiss the Bible, as is the common modern view, isn’t scientific. It is anti-science. And frankly, it exposes a deeper and more sinister motive. Instead of objectively trying to find truth, science is degraded to the level of mere personal bias.
So the question remains: How could this kind of biblical information have been known so early on? For the nonbeliever, the answer is a conundrum. But for the Bible-believer, it is clear: The Creator of the universe has understood every detail of how His universe works since He first brought it into being. He revealed a certain amount of those truths to Bible writers long before scientists came to understand them.