What About Geocentrism?

Geocentrism is the belief that the earth is the center of not only the solar system but of the universe itself.  This belief is usually based on the King James translation of some of the verses in Psalms as well as the misunderstanding of a word used in Genesis which has been mistakenly translated.  We will deal with the Psalms and the extended quote at the end by Dr. Bernard Northrup deals with that one particular word.

93:1:  The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength wherewith He has girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

96:10 – Say among the heathen that the LORD reigns: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved.: He shall judge the people righteously.

Of course there is always Psalm 99:1 – The LORD reigns: let the people tremble: He sits between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.

In Psalms 93 and 96, the word for “world” is Strongs 8398: tedel.  It is derived from 2986: yabal, meaning “to flow, something which brings forth with pomp, to bring forth or to lead forth.”  Thus, the meaning of tedel is referring to the fact that the earth is inhabitable – it was brought forth that way; and that will not be changed.  It is in Psalm 99:1 that we find the word “eretz,” meaning “that which is firm,” and is often used to denote land masses in the Bible. 

It may then be said that to depend on the Bible for any indication that the earth is the physical center of the universe is based upon a lack of understanding of the context and the Hebrew words used.  There is more regarding this later.

Still, the question remains, and it is one we have been asked a number of times:  does the earth really revolve around the sun or do the sun and other astronomical bodies revolve around the earth.

Here are a few simple indications that the earth is indeed circling the sun, as are the other planets:  several times each year we are hit by meteor showers.  How is this possible if they are circling the earth?  They would not be able to close in on the earth.  If, on the other hand, we are circling the sun, it makes good sense that we occasionally pass through sections of our orbit which contain these remnants of past cometary passages.

In fact, we can see the comets actually orbiting the sun and predict their appearances based on that.

The primary proponent of the geocentric idea is Dr. Gerardus D. Bouw.  He is a very personable individual.  Because he is involved in mathematics, he can show you mathematically how it is possible to get a rocket to the moon or to another planet in a geocentric universe.  However, that method has not been used by NASA or other agencies to get spacecraft into orbit around the earth, to land on the moon, to land on Mars, to orbit other solar system bodies, or out to Pluto to photograph it.  The mathematics used by these agencies is based on the fact that the earth and the other planets in the solar system are rotating around the sun.

So we have two mathematical systems available to us to get things out there – the very complicated Bouw system or the relatively simply NASA system. 

Then, of course, there are the geostationary satellites.  They are designed to remain in one spot above a certain part of the earth.  The way that is done is to figure their orbit rate in conjunction with the earth’s rotation rate.  At about 22,000 miles out, if they were not in a maintained orbit, they would fall back to the earth.  This is definite proof the earth is rotating.

Bouw’s response to this is that the 22,000 mile point is exactly where the gravity of the earth is balanced by the pull of gravity of the rest of the universe.  That is why the geostationary satellites do not fall into earth.  They are not moving, they are simply at a point of balance.  If this were true, however, then the rest of the universe could not possibly be rotating around the earth but would be rotating in respect to its own stronger gravitational forces outside the 22,000 mile mark.  This distance, even in comparison to the moon, is very, very close to earth.  The moon, our closest astronomical neighbor is about 250,000 miles away.  There seems to be no argument about that.  So if the earth’s gravitational force is balanced by the rest of the universe at the tiny distance of 22,000 miles, why is the moon still there?  Why is the rest of the solar system going around the earth?  There is no way for that to be possible in the geocentric model.

 In fact, geocentrism claims the entire universe swings around the earth once every 24 hours.  If this were true, then even the closest astronomical objects outside our solar system would be flying apart.  Geocentrists admit that the stars are outside our solar system, although they usually claim the stars are much, much closer than astronomers say they are.  That leads to the problem that if the stars were really that close, they would be interacting with each other, and probably violently.  We do not see that.

They attempt to overcome that problem by saying that space, in the Bible, is described as “the firmament,” which means something solid, and so the universe itself must be a solid, dense rotating body. 

This, then, gives the lie to a great deal, if not just about all, of standard astronomy.  This is also a reason they must deny the red shift is due to motion.  While we agree the distant red shifts are not due to motion, there seems to be pretty indisputable evidence that the red and blue shifts in our local group of galaxies is due to motion both away from and toward us, respectively.

There is another relatively sticky point for geocentrism that I have not seen satisfactorily dealt with.  When we have a major earthquake, it changes the earth’s rotation rate.  We know this because we can see the difference in the apparent movement of the background stars.  Is the entire universe reacting to the quakes on earth, or is it simply that the earth is stuttering a bit in its rotation rate so that we do not see the background stars exactly where they should be?  While the changes on earth are quite minor, if the earth itself were not affected by the earthquakes, but the universe was, then the reaction of the universe to our little earthquakes must be massive.

One thing that convinced Galileo that we are in a heliocentric (sun-centered) solar system was when he saw, through the telescope, the four main moons of Jupiter rotating around Jupiter, not around the earth.  They were clearly not rotating around the earth.  Jupiter itself gave clear evidence that it, also was not going around the earth, but was rather going around the sun, following Kepler’s laws.

Because of the argument that the stars are actually quite close, we have been asked if parallax is a viable way to measure star distances.  Parallax is a way of measurement where a closer object is measured against a background object.  If you are standing in a field and there is a tree close to you and a forest of trees farther on, then if you move, the relative position of that close tree against the background trees will change.  The change in the “movement” of the background trees relative to the near tree creates an angle, whose point is the near tree.  That angle, coupled with knowing how far you have moved on the ground gives you the distance between the near tree and the far trees.

The same thing is done with relatively near stars.  When we can see a change in the relative positions of a nearer star against the background stars, first of all we can check it for a year or more to make sure it is due to our movement and not something else.  When we know it is due to our movement, and we know how much the earth has travelled, we can then determine the distance between the near star and its background.  This depends on knowing the diameter of our orbit.  Geocentrists, however, state this method of determining distances is entirely inaccurate as the earth does not move.  Bouw has worked out a system called the “Tychonic Model,” in which, in addition to the sun and the entire universe revolving around the earth once a day, also has the sun and other stars following an annual path around the earth.  This gets complicated.  The annual orbit of the sun around the earth is a path whose diameter is equal to what we see as the diameter of the earth’s orbit.  This results, in his model, of stars having an annual parallax movement which exactly corresponds to standard parallax measurements based on the diameter of the earth’s orbit. 

Now, if their measurement of the sun’s annual change is the same as our earth’s orbital diameter, then the parallax measurements must be the same and the distances measured the same in either case.  If this is true, then why do so many geocentrists claim the stars and other galaxies are actually quite close and not as far out as standard astronomy claims?  Parallax works in either case, determining the same distances for the same objects.

Because we have determined the distances by parallax to some Cepheid variable stars, and know their intrinsic brightness, when we see similar Cepheid variable stars in distant galaxies, and measure their brightness, we know how far away those galaxies are. 

There is so much more that can be said scientifically.  Theologically, Dr. Bernard Northup, a close friend of ours for many years who is with the Lord now, wrote an excellent theological argument countering Bouw’s presentation of his model. Dr. Northrup was a recognized scholar in Hebrew and Greek and was often consulted by Bible translators around the world regarding the proper meanings which were needed in various tribal languages. He gave us a copy of that paper years ago and the following excerpts are from the paper by Dr. Northrup.

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Excerpts from “Eccentricities Observed in Bouw’s 'Geocentricity'” by Bernard E. Northrup, Th.D, October, 1995

For years Gerardus D. Bouw has edited the “Bulletin of the Tychonian Society,” a creationist publication which has insisted that the earth is the center of the universe.  It is a position which insists that rather than recognizing that the earth rotates on its axis before the sun, the center of our solar system while it is in orbit around it, holding that the universe is within the firmament which rotates at immensely high speed around the earth.  In his paper, “Massive Superstrings and the Firmaments,” which he delivered in August, 1995, at the Sixth European Creationist Congress, Bouw seeks to develop a mathematical defense of his position, arguing from “mathematical logic”  He is Professor of Math and Computer Science at Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.


It is obvious from his paper that mathematics is his specialty rather than astronomy or the Bible.  In the paper he presents his “firmament theory” which has been a major focus for him since 1977.  In his “mathematical logic” he rejects the concept of space which was popular when I studied physics over 50 years ago and accepts the idea that the aether is an infinitely dense medium called a plenum.  He does so for a reason which seems strange to me as a theologian.  He says that “…in the last century the field of mathematical logic has shown that motion is possible in a plenum if the plenum is infinite in extent, eternal, and uncreated.”  On the basis of the Word of God, which is my final authority I cannot accept any one of these three elements, especially when he seeks to distinguish between the eternal plenum, which he equates with God, and the created universe.  He says:

Recall that, according to mathematics, motion within a plenum is impossible if the plenum is created or finite in extent.  At first glance this would appear to leave us only with the rare aether models such as the ill-fated luminiferous aether model, but is it possible that a created, finite medium could behave as a plenum to objects inside it?  God would have to create that plenum so that the material bodies within it could not physically perceive that it is neither infinite nor eternal.  In other words, such a created plenum could under no circumstances allow its finiteness to be noticed by the material in the universe.  In particular, this means that material measurements could never be made to infinite precision; that the absolute properties of matter in space must be indeterminate.  As long as that condition is met, bodies can move through that created plenum without hindrance…Furthermore, the created plenum, as is the case for the uncreated plenum, must allow motion only along closed or cyclical paths.  In particular, such allowable paths would include rotational and revolutionary motions as well as waves; but perfectly straight-line (rectilinear) motion is not allowed.


For one whose advanced mathematics barely enable him to meet the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service, this sounds like quite a bit of ivory tower gobbledygook.  It seems to me to be a thesis that is exceedingly difficult to prove except on paper.  I will not attempt to dispute Bouw’s math since that is not my field.  But when Bouw turns to extract Scriptural statement from its linguistic and contextual settings in order to adapt it to fit the interpretation which he promotes, that is quite a different matter.  He plainly demonstrates his inadequacies in the understanding and handling of the clear import of Scripture.

For example, he says:

Now the key to identifying the created plenum is to recognize that there must be a space for it first.  After the creation of the heaven (space) [parenthesis in original] and earth, we find that there is mention of the creation of such a medium in the Holy Bible.  God calls it the firmament, and inside it he set the sun, moon, and stars (Genesis 1:15,17).  Since firmament is the God-chosen name for the created aether, we shall henceforth us it instead of the word aether.

One should immediately recognize the logical leap in his words,“After the creation of the heaven (space)…” and the fact that his interpretation scarcely is in alignment with Psalm 104:2. There the Psalmist, undoubtedly reading the flow of Genesis One when careful consideration to the flow of events in the Psalm is given.  The Psalmist speaks first of the Eternal Lord’s creation of the heavens.  As the Psalmist considers the successive events of the creation week he speaks of this first event as he views the Eternal Lord “…stretching out the heavens like a curtain…”  It must be recognized that the Psalmist does not utilize the root RQ’ (the letters RESH, QUOPH, AYIN) from which RAQIA’, firmament in the KJV, to describe the act of the Creator’s stretching out the heavens. 

Rather the Psalmist used the continuous action participle NOTEH from the verb root NTH.  This Hebrew verb includes such meanings as “to stretch out, to extend and to spread out.”

The participle and its clause properly could be translated timelessly as “…continually stretching out the heavens like a curtain.”  Such and interpretive translation would be made if the translator had made the decision that he must support the concept that the universe is continually expanding.  On the other hand, in the light of the following context, the time of the action more likely should be treated as past be past.  Then it would be translated “…having stretched out the heavens like a curtain.”  The use of the simile “like a curtain” scarcely suggests the creation of empty space.  It implies that the heavenly bodies which are dispersed through the stellar heavens could be likened to the delicate, diaphanous texture of a fine curtain.  Furthermore, it absolutely must be recognized that the Divine and human authors of Psalm 104 clearly recognized that this act of stretching out the stellar heavens like a curtain preceded the laying of the foundation of the earth in perfect accord with the order in Genesis 1:1.

It should be noted that Bouw’s correct recognition that the Bible is the Word of God somehow has allowed him to speak of the word firmament as it is used by the translators in the King James Version to translate the Hebrew noun “RAQIA’ as “…the God-chosen name for the created aether…”  It is obvious that he has not had enough to do with the translation of the original text even to know that the King James Version is scarcely “the God-chosen translation which replaces the original languages.”

He assumes that it is proper for the English reader fully to infuse a translation of the original languages with that which can only be ascribed to the Scriptures in the original languages.  It is only in the original languages that one can be assured that the reader has before him the “God-chosen” words. Inspiration as defined in the Word of God relates to the work of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Author as the human author was guided in his own word choice by that Divine Author so that what he wrote was without error.  It is regrettable but true that no translation can lay claim that the Word of God gives one the right to claim this “God-chosen” inspiration.

When Bouw speaks of the English translation of firmament, which is the key word at the base of his entire assumption concerning our universe, he fails to recognize how every translation falls short of being a perfect translation in so far as translator assumptions, misunderstandings and theological biases cause the translator to fail accurately to reproduce that intended by the Revelator, the Holy Spirit  As a result of the human factor which is altogether too fallible, the translator or translation team may fail to provide the reader with “God-chosen” words in the translation.  Indeed, the major problem facing the reader of any translation is one which most readers to not even recognize.  This is the fact that a translation cannot help but contain “man-chosen” words which do not fully or accurately translate the meaning of a word in a particular context  After all the context in which a word is used in any language affects the precise shade of meaning.

Bouw does not seem to recognize that an interpreter/translator’s theological bias or even his failure fully to understand a text or a word can hinder his translation’s attempt fully to convert the explicit meaning of the original language to another language.  Having worked in the original languages for more than 45 years, I constantly have been faced with translator errors and inadequacies (in my own work as well) as I have compared English translations of the original languages.  As a result, I am very sensitive to this basic error in Bouw’s approach to Scripture.

…The fact that the uses of “firmament” or “the stretched out space of he heavens” in Genesis 1:15 and 17 are bracketed by very clear explanations that this word refers to the atmospheric heavens removes the major pillar from beneath the geocentric explanation of our universe.  It categorizes the presentation of a geocentric universe with other wild ideas which have arisen through improper exegesis.  This discarding of the theory from future creation conferences will remove one of the obstacles which seeking naturalists find standing in the way of their recognizing that the Word of God actually is a fully trustworthy testimony of precisely that which happened in earth’s earlier event series.

Additional note from Barry regarding "RAQIA." -- Geocentrists require a solid firmament so that the whole universe can rotate around the earth in 24 hours. If it were not solid, this could not happen. The argument may be presented that we have an example of the planets orbiting around the sun which is not solid. However each of the planets orbits at its own individual speed. Geocentrism states that the entire universe actually is rotating around the core, the earth, once every 24 hours -- there are no individual orbiting times. For this to be possible, the earth's firmament must be surrounded by a solid covering. The core of the universe must be solid. In fact, the universe itself must be a solid for it not to disrupt at the incredible speeds required to spin around the earth once every 24 hours, despite the idea presented by a number of geocentrists that the universe is not that large at all. Even if it were no larger than our Milky Way Galaxy, the disruption caused by the speeds required would be quite evident. Disruption is not evident.