A scientific diagram of the ancient Hebrew cosmos

Illustration for article titled A scientific diagram of the ancient Hebrew cosmos

Designer Michæl Paukner created this gorgeous, simple depiction of what ancient Hebrews believed the cosmos looked like, based on what they recorded in the Old Testament.


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Paukner, who does freelance art directing in Vienna, writes:

The preceding description of the world doesn't share the same scientific view that we have, in which the Earth is one planet around one sun in a universe full of suns and planets. The ancient picture of the universe portrays a world in which the Earth is a disc surrounded by water not only on the sides, but underneath and above as well. A firm bowl (the firmament) keeps the upper waters back but has gates to let the rain and snow through. The Sun, Moon, and stars move in fixed tracks along the underside of this bowl. From below the disc, the waters break through as wells, rivers and the ocean, but the Earth stands firm on pillars sunk into the waters like the pillings of a pier. Deep below the Earth is Sheol, the abode of the dead, which can be entered only through the grave.

As portrayed in the illustration, the biblical cosmos consisted of three basic regions: the heavens, the land, and the underworld. In conclusion, by understanding how biblical writers viewed the cosmos, readers are in a better position to properly interpret the Creation, the Flood, and other biblical stories, and to place them in their proper context. The Bible is not a book of science. It was written in a pre-scientific era and its main purpose was to communicate moral and spiritual lessons. The Children of Israel had no advantage over their neighbors when it came to matters of science. In fact, this erroneous concept of the cosmos was quite common for that era. The Hebrews were inspired by nothing more than their political and religious motivations.

Want to see more of Paukner's amazing illustrations? Check out his Flickr gallery.

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