Some attempts to find scientific knowledge in the Bible are misplaced. For example, in Isaiah 40:22 the ‘circle of the earth’ does not describe the earth as a sphere; the Hebrew word for ‘circle’ is used, not the Hebrew for ‘sphere’ or ‘ball’. However, the Bible does contain information which has historically been of considerable scientific value.

Demythologizing the cosmos

Unlike every other Ancient Near East cosmology, the Bible describes the universe in naturalistic terms. The sun, moon, and stars are inanimate objects rather than gods, the universe was not created from the recycled body parts of divine beings, and the universe operates according to fixed laws. Early Jewish and Christian commentators understood that nature is regular and orderly, since everything in nature takes place according to fixed laws which God has instituted, which never change. [1] [2]

This concept of the universe, which we take for granted, was revolutionary in the Ancient Near East and was not even approached by the Greeks until around the 4th century BCE. In fact the inadequacy of Greek science led to a complete dead end. [3] Unable to free itself completely from mythology, Greek science finally stagnated and failed to advance any further. [4] Western science was not revived until the 6th century CE Christian philosopher John Philoponus challenged the pagan cosmology inherited from the Greeks. [5]

A pagan Greek philosopher,  Proclus, had written a massive polemical commentary explicitly criticizing the Biblical description of the universe and its origin, on the grounds that it was scientifically unsupportable. Philoponus destroyed Proclus’ arguments in his reply, demonstrating the many flaws in Proclus’ work. [6] He also wrote numerous commentaries on Aristotle’s works which identified their errors, using the Biblical cosmology as his tool. [7]  This breakthrough was instrumental in the formation of Western science as we know it. [8] Philoponus’ work was used by later scientific investigators such as such as Bonaventure, Gersonides, Buridan, Oresme, Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton, all of whom made significant scientific progress as a result.

The universe had a beginning

Philoponus had defended the Christian cosmology, deriving powerful arguments from observations of the universe that it must have had a beginning, and that it was finite in duration. He singlehandedly debunked the greatest pagan philosopher and cosmologist in recorded history (Aristotle), as well as burying Proclus’ criticism of the Christian cosmology. Later Jewish and Christian cosmologists throughout the medieval era made similar arguments, based on the same observations. Christian scientists from Francis Bacon to Isaac Newton all understood this, for centuries.

Incredibly, some of the greatest 20th century scientists such as Eddington and Einstein claimed it could not be true (apparently Einstein later said it was possibly the greatest error in his career). Eddington even admitted he didn’t want it to be true, for philosophical reasons. [9] It was only recently that scientific evidence for the ‘Big Bang’ proved that the universe did indeed have a beginning and would have an end, contrary to what many scientists had believed.

Health & hygiene regulations

Examples of cleansing rituals (and other commandments), carried out under the Law of Moses with excellent hygiene benefits include:

  • Carrion is not to be eaten (Leviticus 7:24)
  • The examination and cleansing of objects known to have come into contact with infectious persons, and their destruction if they are unable to be cleansed (Leviticus 13)
  • The quarantine and routine inspection of those suffering from infectious diseases, and the washing or destruction of objects touched by that individual while infected (Leviticus 13, 14)
  • Dwellings known to be infected with mold are to be repeatedly cleansed and examined until the mold has been completely removed, persons in the dwelling to wash themselves and their clothes, any physical material in the house which carries the mold is to be disposed of outside the residential area (and replaced with new material), and if the dwelling cannot be cleansed or if the mold keeps reoccurring the entire dwelling is to be destroyed and the debris disposed of outside the residential area (Leviticus 14)
  • Men and women with abnormal genital discharges were to wash themselves and their clothes, if they touched anyone or anything without washing their hands that person or thing had also to be washed (Leviticus 15)
  • Cleansing rituals involved washing with running water, avoiding the danger of stagnation and the transmission of infection by contaminating a static body of water with unclean material (Leviticus 15)
  • Those in contact with a dead body to wash themselves and their clothes, and any open container which was in a room where a person had died was to be considered unclean, together with its contents (Numbers 19:11-20)
  • Latrines to be dug well clear of residential areas (Deuteronomy 23:12-13)

Historical, medical, and scholarly commentary on these passages has noted the value of these instructions. [10] [11] [12] [13] George Washington actually used and enforced the hygiene rules in the Law of Moses to improve the health of his troops, and to give them a significant advantage over their English enemies, who were not so aware. [14]

Egyptian medical science was crippled by its belief in the supernatural cause of many illnesses. [15] The Law of Moses never attributed sickness to supernatural evil such as demons (unlike the nations around them). This gave them a tremendous advantage when approaching the issue of health and medicine. [16] [17]


[1] Sirach chapter 16, verses 26-28, 180-175 BCE.

‘When the Lord created his works from the beginning, and, in making them determined their boundaries, he arranged his works in an eternal order, and their dominion for all generations. They neither hunger not grow weary, and they do not abandon their tasks. They do not crowd one another, and they never disobey his word.’

[2] Basil of Caesarea, ‘Hexamaron’, chapter 5, sections 10, 370 CE.

‘It is this command which, still at this day, is imposed on the earth and, in the course of each year, displays all the strength of its power to produce herbs, seeds, and trees. Like tops, which after the first impulse continue their evolutions, turning upon themselves, when once fixed in their center; thus nature, receiving the impulse of this first command, follows without interruption the course of ages until the consummation of all things.’

[3] John McKenna, article ‘John Philoponus, Sixth Century Alexandrian Grammarian, Christian Theologian and Scientific Philosopher’, Quodlibet Journal, Volume 5, Number 1, January 2003.

‘The Greek concept of God caused a deep confusion between cosmology and theology and was a dead-end to science, as we know it in our time.’

[4] Wilderberg, ‘John Philoponus’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

‘Reading Philoponus as well as the writings of his great adversary Simplicius, one gets the sense that in the 6th century CE, traditional pagan Greek learning had become desperately insular.’

[5]  Dan Graves, ‘Aristotle’s Earliest Creationist Critic’, 1998.

‘A widespread religion of Philoponus’s time was pantheism, a belief system that sees God as equivalent to nature. In his rejection of this, Philoponus argued that the Creator transcends nature rather than being within it. Having been created, nature exists without constant intervention by God. This radical conception shocked the pagans who believed the gods were imbedded within the material universe.’

[6] Wilderberg, ‘John Philoponus’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

‘The Athenian Neoplatonist Proclus (c. 411-485), the teacher of Philoponus’ own teacher Ammonius, had written a defense of the pagan Greek (Aristotelian, Platonist) belief in the eternity of the world. His aim was to show that Christian creationism was intellectually untenable.’

‘Like the polemic against Proclus, Against Aristotle is mainly devoted to removing obstacles for the creationist. If Aristotle were right about the existence of an immutable fifth element (ether) in the celestial region, and if he were right about motion and time being eternal, any belief in creation would surely be unwarranted. Philoponus succeeds in pointing to numerous contradictions, inconsistencies, fallacies and improbable assumptions in Aristotle’s philosophy of nature relating to these claims. Dissecting Aristotle’s texts in an unprecedented way, he time and again turns the tables on Aristotle and so paves the way for demonstrative arguments for non-eternity.’

[7] John McKenna, article ‘John Philoponus, Sixth Century Alexandrian Grammarian, Christian Theologian and Scientific Philosopher’, Quodlibet Journal, Volume 5, Number 1, January, 2003.

‘However, of greatest important is Philoponus’ cosmology, based upon his monotheism. Believing that heaven and earth were both created by God ex nihilo  he vehemently attacked Aristotle’s assumptions with regard to the eternity of the universe and its dichotomy into a heavenly and sublunary region.’

[8] Dan Graves, ‘Aristotle’s Earliest Creationist Critic’, 1998.

‘Philoponus’s application of Christian theology to physics prefigured a new era in science. The Alexandrian scholar was the first to combine scientific cosmology (the study of the nature of the universe) with monotheism and the Christian doctrine of creation. In doing so, Philoponus anticipated not only the findings but also the methods of modern science.’

‘Philoponus’ replies anticipated the great Renaissance scientists Galileo (1564-1642) and Simon Stevin (1548-1620).’

[9] Arthur Eddington, ‘The End of the World: From the Standpoint of Mathematical Physics’, Nature, volume127 (1931), p. 450.

‘Philosophically, the notion of a beginning to the present order is repugnant to me.’

‘I should like to find a genuine loophole.’

Eddington also acknowledged that the theory of the universe expanding, as proved by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, was a powerful argument for the truth of the Biblical description of the universe as having a beginning (Eddington, ‘The Nature of the Physical World’).

‘Religion first became possible for a reasonable man of science in the year 1927’

[10] C. Singer and E. A. Underwood, ‘A Short History of Medicine’, 1962.

‘Among the physicians of classical antiquity we find no consistent view of transmission of infection by contact. Indeed the whole idea of infection was effectively absent from them, so that preventive measures based upon them could not be developed. It was reserved for the Middle Ages to conceive serious official measures against spread of epidemics. These measures were constantly derived from the leper ritual of the Bible with its fundamental concept of isolation.’

[11] Kim Taylor, ‘Toxic Mold Assessment: Mitigation, and Prevention’, Federal Facilities Environmental Journal (Summer 2004), p. 60.

‘The first documented residential mold assessment and remediation was reported in the Old Testament (Leviticus 14) in which identification, evaluation, and cleanup methods were described. The cleanup methods described in Leviticus have not significantly changed in the present day.’

[12] Peter M Baldwin, ‘Contagion and the State in Europe, 1830-1930’ (1999), p. 5.

‘The ancient Jews had been the first to develop not only the rules of contagionist prophylaxis detailed in Leviticus, but had also formulated other pertinent aspects of public hygiene: a weekly day of rest, protection of the food and water supply, concern with abnormal discharges of the genitals and more general bodily cleanliness, including perhaps (if one is willing to attribute also functional motives to religious rituals) circumcision.’

[13] T Thulchinsky & E Varavikova, ‘The New Public Health: An Introduction for the 21st Century’ (2000).

‘The Hebrew Mosaic Law of the five Books of Moses stressed prevention of disease through regulation of personal and community hygiene, reproductive and maternal health, isolation of lepers and other “unclean conditions”, and family and personal sexual conduct as part of religious practice.’

‘It also laid a basis for medical and public health jurisprudence. Personal and community responsibility for health included a mandatory day of rest, limits on slavery and guarantees of the rights of slaves and workers, protection of water supplies, sanitation of communities and camps, waste disposal, and food protection, all codified in detailed religious obligations.’

‘Food regulation prevented use of diseased or unclean animals, and prescribed methods of slaughter improved the possibility of preservation of the meat.’

‘The Mosaic Law, which forms the basis for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, codified health laws for the individual and for society, all of which have continued into the modern era as basic concepts in environmental and social hygiene.’

[14] Colonel Robert Anderson, Office of the Surgeon General Department of the Army of Washington, ‘The Evolution Of Preventive Medicine In The United States Army, 1607-1939’ (1968).

‘Like Pringle, Brocklesby, Tilton, and others, Washington invoked the Mosaic sanitary code, as stated in the Fourth and Fifth Books of Moses in the King James Version of the Old Testament, Numbers 5: 1-4 and Deuteronomy 23: 12-14. This is shown in the facsimile reproduction (fig. 7) of the broadside of his general orders for the Army under the command of Brigadier General McDougall, issued at Head Quarters, Peeks-Kill [in October? 1777]. A copy of this broadside (43) is reprinted as appendix A, p. 189. In this broadside, Washington refers to Moses as “the wisest General that ever lived, for he was inspired.” He might also, with good reason, have referred to him as “the Founder of Preventive Medicine,” as proclaimed by Wood and others (44).’

[15] The Eber Papyrus (a collection of Egyptian medical texts).

‘When thou meetest a large tumour of the God Xensu  in any part of the limb of a person, it is loathsome and suffers many pustules to come forth; something arises therein as though wind were in it, causing irritation. The tumour calls with a loud voice to thee: it is a tumour of the God Xensu. Do nothing there against.’

[16] Ashland Theological Journal, (29:170), review ‘Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan & Demons’ (1997).

‘In contrast to contemporary Ancient Near-Eastern texts, the OT makes no reference to demon possession or exorcism, nor do the people exhibit undue fear or fascination with these spirits.’

[17] Richard Hess, ‘Review: A Reassessment of the Priestly Cultic and Legal Texts’, Journal of Law and Religion, Volume 17, #1/2 (2002), p. 378.

‘Milgrom argues that there is a basic distinction between the religious understanding of spiritual forces in the ancient Near East and in Israel. In the former, priests used rituals and incantations to thwart the evil powers and intentions of demons. P eliminated the world view that held demons responsible for the evil in the world. In its place, people were to be held responsible for the wickedness. In this sense, people replaced demons.’

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