Edward F. Hills is best known for his 1956 book The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts (Christian Research Press). Assessments of Hills’ legacy are offered by both King James Only advocates (here and here), and critics (here). All agree that Hills was unique in being the only defender of the King James that had studied in the field of textual criticism, a ThD from Harvard, no less.
It was actually by reading Hills’ work, that I first began to doubt the tenets of King James onlyism, since he is honest with the evidence and admits to a few errors in the Textus Receptus. Hills also espouses a more Calvinistic bent in his theology than I had been exposed to up to that time, but what most made me pause in my reading of Hills, was his unabashed acceptance of geocentrism. He is not the only King James proponent to hold to geocentrism (the idea that the sun and planets rotate around the earth), see this article by Dr. Thomas Strouse.
With this wariness in my mind, I was intriguted when I found a copy of another smaller title written by Edward Hills: Space Age Science (Christian Research Press, 1964). In this title it appears he backs off of his geocentric views, somewhat – but later editions of his more well known work do not clarify matters.
Here is a brief review of this book, which I recently read with interest, particularly in light of the modern debates over science and the Bible.
This book displays an interesting perspective on science and faith, from the early 1960s. Hills does a good job explaining Einstein’s theories, but his critiques and biblical application don’t stand on much. He doesn’t cite authorities backing up his claims.
At first glance, it appears that in this book, Hills backs away from geocentrism (the view that the earth is stationary and the planets rotate around it). He makes the interesting observation that according to Einstein, Ptolemaic theory (stationary earth) and Copernican theory (stationary sun) are interchangeable and both equally true depending on your perspective. But then he clearly distances himself from a geocentric view:
“When we consider what the Scriptures say concerning the movements of the heavenly bodies, we see that they by no means teach the Ptolemaic theory” (p. 55). He goes on to quote Ps. 19:6 as showing the sun moves on its circuit. And points out the context of Ps. 93:1 a verse taken to prove geocentrism. He points out that God “hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7) and says “The astronomy of the Bible is not earth-centered but God-centered” (p. 55).
After doing some searching, I did find that this contradicts what Hills states in his book The King James Version Defended. There (in the 4th edition, 1984, pg. 7) he states that he thinks it likely that Tycho Brahe’s theory (the predecessor of Copernicus) that the earth rotates on its axis and the sun and planets rotate around the earth is “probably correct.” It appears his conclusions in this volume (Space Age Science) are tentative and underplayed.
Another intriguing element of this book was his concession that God’s initial creation may have been just “mere energy out of which matter was later constituted” (p. 71). But then he disavows the deep time involved in modern astrophysics: “No billion years were required for the light of even the farthest star to reach our earth’s atmosphere, for God’s almighty power was able to bring it there in an instant of time” (p. 73). He even suggests that this may be what is intimated by the fact that God “set” the great lights in the firmament (p. 73).
Overall this is a fascinating insight into a Christian scholar trying to grapple with modern science from a believing point of view. I don’t think his qualifications from a scientific background fit him well for writing this book, and I don’t follow him in all his positions; but his attempt to apply the Bible and asses modern scientific developments is laudable.
About “Classic Look at an Old Book” posts: These posts are short-form book reviews of older Christian books. Many of these works are not widely available or in print today.