The cosmology of the Old Testament scriptures was modified in the hellenistic period, by policies initiated by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, and it was foretold in the prophecy of Daniel 8.
Daniel was a prophet who lived in ancient Babylon. In the vision reported in Daniel 8, he was at the palace at Shushan in Elam, one of the provinces of Babylon. Daniel gives the date as the third year of Belshazzar. This was more than three and a half centuries before the time of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, who is identified as the "little horn" of this chapter by most Bible scholars.
This chapter contains another amazing prediction, accurately dating the scientific revolution. This prediction, previously unrecognized, is hidden in the cryptic words of the angelic messengers, whose conversation Daniel records in verses 13-14.
"How long is the vision for?" one of them asks.
"Unto 2,300 days," or evening-mornings, is the answer.
If these are interpreted as years, it refers to a time 23 centuries from the date of the vision, around the mid-eighteenth century, or about 1750 AD.
What event of cosmologic significance occurred in 1750 AD or around the mid-eighteenth century, when the "two thousand three hundred evening-mornings" of Daniel 8:14 came to an end? The 2,300 "evening-mornings" or days in this verse are best interpreted as representing years; they date from the time Daniel received his vision, about 553 BC. The sanctuary which was cleansed is the sanctuary of heaven, or the universe, since it contains the stars, galaxies, and the "host of heaven" mentioned in verse 10. The phrase "host of heaven" means the sun, moon, planets, and other celestial bodies. The heavens were "cleansed", when man's concept of a rigid rotating spherical shell or firmament which had been postulated by the Greek poets and philosophers was overthrown. The postulated rigid heavenly firmament was needed to hold the stars in place in the geocentric cosmology, but it became obsolete when men abandoned their belief in the Ptolemaic system. This false notion of a rigid rotating heaven and the planetary spheres, cycles and epicycles was swept away like old cobwebs, after the works of Isaac Newton and others were translated and widely publicized, and men began to understand and believe that the earth rotated, not the heavens.
The mid eighteenth century was when the "two thousand three hundred evening - mornings" of Daniel 8:14, representing twenty three centuries, came to an end, and the "sanctuary" of heaven was "cleansed" of the old concept of rigid rotating spheres, and the solid firmament holding all the stars fixed in their relative positions. The ideas of Isaac Newton were popularized by Voltaire and others, in that period. The world was introduced to the new cosmology over a surprisingly brief period. Even the Catholic Church removed Galileo's books from the index, around 1755. This was the time of the "enlightenment".
But even a hundred years after the publication of Newton's Principia, some scholars still held out for Aristotle's cosmology; the University of Salamanca in Spain rejected a proposal to introduce Newton into physics courses, saying "The principles of Newton... and Cartesio do not resemble the revealed truth as much as do those of Aristotle." [Durant, p. 294]
The demise of the system of heavenly spheres, of which the firmament was the most prominent, had a profound impact on the world, and the attitude of people to the Bible, and the church. This was due to the presence of statements apparently supporting the Greek cosmology which occur in scripture, that Daniel's prophecy identifies as corruptions. Man seemed less central to creation, as noted by Thomas Orchard:
The beliefs associated with the Ptolemaic system were gratifying to the pride and vanity of Man, who could regard with complacency the paramount importance of the globe which he inhabited, and of which he was the absolute ruler, poised in the center of the Universe, and enclosed by ten revolving spheres that carried in their circuit all other celestial orbs - Sun, moon and stars, and would appear to have been created for his delectation, and for the purpose of ministering to his requirements. But, when the Copernican theory became better understood, and the discovery of the law of universal gravitation revealed the true mechanism of the heavens, this venerable system of the Universe, based upon a pile of unreasonable and false hypotheses, after an existence of over twenty centuries, sank into oblivion and was heard of no more.
As the Apostle Peter foretold in 2 Peter 3:10, the passing away of the old concept of the heavens, the geocentric cosmology with its rigid heavenly firmament and crystalline spheres, was accompanied by a "great noise", and the commotion continues.
For more information, see The 2,300 days of Daniel.
Copyright © 1996 by Douglas E. Cox
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