The word “universe” is not found in most English translations of the Bible. However, there are several instances where the concept of the universe is described, even if the specific word is not used. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about the cosmos and whether it supports the idea of a universe.
The universe is typically defined as the entirety of space and time, including all matter and energy. The observable universe contains billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, spanning a vast expanse of space. This matches what we know from science about the scale and scope of the physical world. But is this concept found in Scripture?
While the Bible was written long before modern science developed theories about the origin and expanse of the universe, it nonetheless speaks about the cosmos in ways that align with scientific discovery. Let’s survey some key biblical themes that point to the reality of a vast universe:
Key Takeaways on the Biblical Concept of the Universe
- God created the heavens and the earth, implying a large cosmic domain.
- The heavens are described as being stretched out, expanded, and vast.
- God’s glory and power are on display across the expanse of creation.
- God cannot be contained by the physical universe.
- Heaven is portrayed as transcendent realm beyond earthly limits.
In the remainder of this post, we will explore each of these biblical themes and see how they support the idea of an immense universe, even without using the specific term.
God Created the Heavens and the Earth
The Bible opens with a majestic description of God creating the entire cosmos:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 NKJV)
This verse establishes the biblical view of two primary realms—the heavens and the earth. While the “earth” refers to our planet, the “heavens” signifies the entire expanse beyond earth. This duality is repeated frequently throughout Scripture (e.g. Psalm 115:15; Isaiah 37:16).
The Bible depicts God “stretching out” and expanding this celestial realm. Isaiah refers to God as:
He who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (Isaiah 40:22 NKJV)
The Hebrew word translated as “heavens” here is shamayim, referring to the sky and celestial sphere. The verse portrays God expanding the cosmos like a tent, implying a vast domain. The psalmist also speaks of God “stretch[ing] out the heavens” (Psalm 104:2). This ancient description aligns with the modern scientific discovery that the universe is continuously expanding.
These verses reveal that the biblical authors conceived of the cosmos as far more than just the earth. God is portrayed as creating and expanding an immense heavenly realm encompassing all we now call the universe.
The Heavens are Vast and Expansive
In addition to depicting God expanding the cosmos, the Bible describes the heavens as spatially vast and seemingly unbounded. For example, God questions Job:
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding… Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. (Job 38:4,18 NKJV)
God’s questions highlight Job’s lack of knowledge about the full breadth of creation. The implicit idea seems to be that the cosmos extends far beyond what humans can fully grasp.
The psalmist also speaks of the grandeur of the heavens:
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him? (Psalm 8:3-4 NKJV)
Contemplating the majesty of the moon, stars, and celestial heavens makes the psalmist feel small. Once again, this suggests an awe at the sheer scope and size of creation, containing billions of stars and galaxies.
These passages depict the heavens as overwhelmingly vast—aligning with modern knowledge that the observable universe is at least 93 billion light years across! This biblical perspective points to the reality of an expansive cosmos.
God’s Glory and Power Displayed in Creation
Not only does the Bible speak of God expanding the heavens, it also proclaims that His glory and power are on display across the breadth of the cosmos. David exclaims:
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1 NKJV)
The celestial dome (“firmament”) visibly manifests God’s majestic glory. Similarly, the prophet Jeremiah declares:
He made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. (Jeremiah 10:12 NKJV)
Here the greatness of the heavens illustrates God’s omnipotence. By emphasizing how creation displays God’s attributes, these passages imply the universe is large enough to showcase divine attributes like glory and power. Once again, this aligns with modern science, which has revealed that the observable universe is magnificent enough to elicit a sense of awe and wonder.
God Cannot be Contained by the Universe
While the Bible depicts the heavens as incredibly vast, it also stresses that God cannot be confined by the physical universe. When Solomon built a temple for God, he acknowledged:
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27 NKJV)
Solomon admits even the immense celestial realm of “heaven and the heaven of heavens” cannot contain God’s infinite being. In the prophecy of Isaiah, God proclaims:
Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24 NKJV)
Rather than being confined within the cosmos, God fills all of heaven and earth. Passages like these imply the universe, no matter how vast, has finite dimensions that cannot limit an infinite God. Once again, this aligns with modern cosmology, which posits that even if the universe is unimaginably large, it still likely has boundaries.
Heaven as a Transcendent Realm
While the Bible presents the observable skies and celestial bodies as extremely vast, it also depicts Heaven as an entirely distinct metaphysical realm that transcends physical limitations:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20 NKJV)
Christ promised his disciples:
In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2 NKJV)
Passages like these portray Heaven as not merely a physical location in the skies, but an eternal kingdom completely outside earthly dimensions. Once again, this aligns with modern cosmology, which posits that our three-dimensional universe likely does not encompass all of reality.
While the specific term “universe” is not found in Scripture, the Bible clearly supports the concept of an astoundingly large and even unbounded material realm created by God. Descriptions of God stretching out the heavens, their vast expanse displaying His glory, and Heaven’s transcendence all imply the existence of a totality of spacetime and matter that aligns with the modern concept of a universe.
The biblical authors expressed this idea in terms of “heavens and earth” rather than “the universe.” But this is simply because they lacked the modern scientific frameworks to conceptualize the cosmos this way. The biblical view of an immense cosmic domain governed by a sovereign Creator who transcends all finite dimensions laid the philosophical foundations that allowed scientists like Newton and Hubble to later describe the physical details of the universe.
So while the word “universe” is absent, the breaths and expanses of the biblical heavens strongly affirm the reality described by this term. The Bible upholds the concept of an astoundingly vast universe that glorifies its infinite Creator.