wobble: Holy smokes! Is this the thread?
Leolaia, ofcourse, has to ruin the party by being all smart and brainy. She wrote this:
It is often claimed by Society and other fundamentalist writers that Hebrew chwg "circle" which appears in Isaiah 40:22can also mean "sphere," but I have not seen any textual evidence furnished in support of this claim. OTOH another word meaning "circle" or "to encircle", dwr (as in Isaiah 29:3) was indeed used to refer to spheres, as it is in Isaiah 22:18(where it has the sense of "ball"), but 40:22 does not say that God resides above the "ball (dwr) of the earth". It is noteworthy that Ibn Ezra's commentary of Isaiah did not take chwg as referring to a three-dimensional sphere but simply noted that the expression implies that the earth is "not square" (also two-dimensional), as one may infer from the biblical references to the "four corners of the earth". It is also significant that in none of the Greek versions (LXX, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion) is the word rendered by the Greek word for "ball, sphere" (sphaira). They all used guros "ring, circle" to translate the Hebrew word. Note too that Deutero-Isaiah also uses the same root in Isaiah 44:13 to refer to the carpenter's use of compasses to make circles: "The carpenter measures with a line and outlines it with red chalk; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses (b-mchwgh)".
There is an interesting parallel in Herodotus who described the maps made by ancient cartographers (such as Hecataeus of Miletus, reminiscent somewhat to the Babylonian Mappa Mundi), "who draw Oceanus flowing around the earth, which is made wheel-shaped as if by compasses (eousan kukloterea hós apo tornou)" (Historiae, 4.36).
What is also interesting about the LXX rendering of chwg is that the Alexandrine translation of Isaiah would have occurred at roughly the time when Eratosthenes, chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria, was active in his scientific studies estimating the circumference of the earth. So knowledge of the spherical earth was probably most acute in Ptolemaic Alexandria, yet the LXX rendering does not reflect this knowledge. Of course we don't know whether Eratosthenes' views were actually commonly shared, or even widely known, in ancient Alexandria, or even within the Jewish enclave, but the contrast is mildly interesting.