Does the Bible Teach That the Earth Is Flat?
The Bible’s answer
No, the Bible does not teach that the earth is flat. a The Bible is not a science textbook. At the same time, nothing in the Bible contradicts proved science. What the Bible says is “always reliable, now and forever.”—Psalm 111:8.
What does the Bible mean by “the four corners of the earth”?
The expressions “the four corners of the earth” and “the ends of the earth” used in the Bible are not to be taken literally, as if the earth were square or had ends. (Isaiah 11:12; Job 37:3) Instead, these evidently are figures of speech referring to the entire surface of the earth. The Bible uses the four points of the compass in a similar way.—Luke 13:29.
The Hebrew term translated “corners” or “ends” seems to be an idiom based on the word for “wings.” According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “because the wing of a bird is used as a covering for its young, [this Hebrew term] acquires the meaning of the extremity of anything stretched out.” The same reference work adds that at Job 37:3 and Isaiah 11:12, “the term means the coasts, boundaries, or extremities of the land surface of the earth.” b
What about the Devil’s temptation of Jesus?
To tempt Jesus, “the Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (Matthew 4:8) Some claim that this Bible account teaches that the entire world is visible from a single spot on a flat earth. However, the “unusually high mountain” in this account seems to be a metaphor and not a physical location. Consider why this conclusion is reasonable.
There is no literal mountain on earth from which all the kingdoms of the world are visible.
The Devil showed Jesus not only all the kingdoms but also “their glory.” Such details could not be seen from a great distance, so it seems that the Devil used some sort of vision to show these to Jesus. This could be similar to the way a person uses a projector and a screen to show someone pictures of various places on earth.
The parallel account at Luke 4:5 says that the Devil showed Jesus “all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time,” which would not be possible through normal human vision. This implies that the Devil presented this temptation to Jesus through some means other than literal human sight.
a The Bible refers to God as the “One who dwells above the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) Some reference works allow for the possibility that the word here rendered “circle” could mean a sphere, although not all scholars agree on this point. In any case, the Bible does not support the idea of a flat earth.
b Revised Edition, Volume 2, page 4.