Religious Studies: Ancient and Modern Cosmologies

Subject: Religion
Pages: 8
Words: 2008
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


The topic of cosmology has ignited a heated debate over a long period. Both religion and science have offered to contradict explanations regarding the origin of the universe (Ruggles 2005). Major religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are described to be monotheistic, and they attribute the creationism of the universe to a superior and transcendent God who sustains its continuance.

Cosmology has always been integrated as a topic of theism, but only recently has it started to disregard the workings of God. A shift has occurred whereby people have challenged God’s role and asserted that cosmology is centered on astronomy, physics, and mathematics. The study of physics regarding the universe was explored in the 19th century in Christian doctrines. On the other hand, in the 20th century, physical cosmology emerged with the major discovery of the earth’s expansion in 1930. Soon enough the observation of this expansion through the interaction of physical cosmology advanced towards the “cosmic microwave”, which is now known as the widely accepted Big Bang Theory.

Despite physical cosmology compiling the utilization of modern sciences, religious ideologists still aim at addressing fundamental questions of the age of the universe, its end, why it is present, and its natural laws. For a long period, science and religion have been seeking to offer a reliable and harmonized explanation about the origin of the universe. There exists a thick line between religious cosmology and scientific cosmology since each has different ideas to offer. As opposed to theological cosmology, modern cosmology has dwelled majorly on mathematical techniques in a bid to explain the universe. Religious-based cosmology is an effective way of justifying the origin of the universe (Scranton 2010).

Different religions in the world have disparate teachings about the origin of the universe. Therefore, it can be concluded that religion plays a great role in explaining the origin of the universe. Through sacred books, different religions attempt to offer explanations regarding the origin of the universe. The major contributors are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The aforementioned religions are all monotheistic, but they have different explanations regarding the existence and the origin of the universe. Most religions attribute the universe to creation by a supernatural power. This paper seeks to determine the implications of religion in modern cosmology.

Ancient cosmologies

The early universe was seen to have three components, viz. the heaven, which appeared in the form of an arch and the land that was flat and the world beneath. The gods occupied the heavens while people resided on the surface of the earth. The gods controlled the operation of all-natural bodies such as the stars, the moon, and the sun (Carone 2005). Also, the gods controlled seasons. They had the power to cause floods, drought, and other calamities. The ancient cosmology recognized the omnipresent nature of the gods, and thus the gods could observe the peoples’ behavior from heaven.

The majority of ancient scientific studies centered on cosmology. However, ancient cosmology did not explain much about the universe. Nevertheless, in the subsequent periods, knowledge regarding the universe increased with the evolution of science. The nature of modern cosmology has detonated in the past few decades with new evidence regarding the nature and structure of the universe emerging (Smith 2004). The invention of space observatory instruments such as telescopes has changed the face of cosmology as the tools have facilitated the gathering of more reliable evidence regarding the structure and organization of the universe.

There has been evidence about vast and cosmological ideas discovered in archival cites (Mukhanov 2005). One of the pieces of evidence is a lunar calendar discovered on a bone scrap in Sub-Saharan Africa (Douglas 2004). The calendar is dated about 20,000 BC and its discovery was a major step in understanding ancient cosmology. All the ancient cosmological structures discovered so far exhibit certain similarities and the view that they were developed by different societies at disparate times is a clear indicator that the ancient cosmologies were related significantly.

Einstein is the most influential scientist regarding the development of the theory of relativity to propagate the structure of ‘space-time’ (Walton 2010). The original model of cosmology by Einstein in 1917 described a universe with constant spatial geometry. During the 1920s, it was concluded that The Redshift data brought forth the idea that the stars were becoming more distant, and faster, thus indicating the expansion of the universe. This cosmological model asserts that the universe was extremely dense and hot, which ultimately led to the Big Bang theory (Teresi 2010). Religious cosmological views may be different, but they overlap on some aspects especially the origin of the universe, whereby most religions hold that an all-powerful God created it.

Cosmology from a religious perspective

Islam is the second-largest religion in the world with a population of about 1 billion people. The religion is monotheistic just like Christianity and it follows the teachings from a sacred book known as the Qur’an (Sharples 2010). According to its followers, the Qur’an contains God’s will as communicated through His prophets. They believe that God sent his prophets to convey His word to the people.

However, the most influential prophet in the Islamic religion is Prophet Muhammad, since he is said to have been chosen by God as the only prophet to convey the final word of the creator to the followers (Sisti 2008). They believe in one God called Allah who is said to be invisible, omnipresent, and formless. Muslims also believe in angels and demons that are said to reside in heaven with God. Muslims allege that the angels and demons are charged with the responsibility of documenting the deeds of the living on earth to be used in judgment day.

The Islamic cosmology is based on the belief that God created the universe and set it going. The Islamic cosmology is in some sense related to modern cosmology as it shows some correlation with the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory states that the world came into existence as a result of a single hot object that later broke up to form the various components of the universe (Essien & Umotong 2013). The Quran seems to be consistent with this theory as it asserts that both heaven and earth were at one point bound together, but later separated. Sura 21:30 highlights the early bondage of all the creations and the subsequent separation of the cosmos into the phenomenon observed today (Pennington & McDonough 2008).

The consistency between the modern research findings and the Quran’s teachings are clear indicators of the contribution of the Muslim in modern cosmology. Some sections of the Quran contain messages that support human exploration of space in search of knowledge. About Sura 55, humankind is mandated to travel to the moon and involve in other space exploration activities (Kleinman 2007). This aspect is an indicator that the Muslim religion is consistent with the Big Bang theory. The findings of modern astronauts are in no doubt supported under the Quran’s teachings. Therefore, it is evident that the teachings offered by the Quran are consistent with modern cosmology, and thus there is a strong relationship between Islamic cosmology and scientific cosmology.

Christianity is a monotheistic religion that believes in Jesus Christ as the savior. Christians trace their origin to Abraham. It has attracted more than 2 billion followers spread over all continents in the world. Christianity started during the Roman Empire before spreading to other countries in the world. The religion is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, his life, and his experiences. Christians believe in the trinity of being in their God, viz. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians have their sacred book, viz. the Bible, which is divided into 2 sections – the New Testament and the Old Testament (Ferrari 2008). Christian believers dedicate at least one day per week to worship their God. Christians observe certain rites of passage, which include baptism, circumcision, and marriage (Isenhour 2013).

Christians believe in the existence of a spiritual powerful God whom they claim is the creator of the universe and everything in it. According to the Christian faith, the bible was authored under the guidance of different authors as directed by God. Therefore, the message contained in the Bible reflects the actual thoughts of God. The bible teaches that the universe was created under God’s command in 6 days (Wright 2013). Given that different authors wrote the scripture at different periods, the message is not consistent, thus leading to different interpretations by different groups of Christians. Some Christians have been accused of interpreting the scripture too literally, thus leading to the inherent inconsistencies in the Christian cosmology.

The universe, according to the ancient Israelites, took the shape of a big arch that floated on a mass of water. The ancient Israelites asserted that the living occupied the surface of the earth while the dead occupied the surface below. The underworld was a peaceful place for the dead. The introduction of Greek ideas at around 330 BC changed the view of the nature of the underworld. The underworld was now taken as a place where the wicked would suffer due to their wickedness.

The righteous, on the other hand, would enjoy life in heaven. In the same period, the perception by the ancient Israelites of the world as an arch was replaced by the Greeks’ idea of a spherical world. Contrary to the perception by the ancient Israelites that the earth was suspended on water, the Greeks asserted that the earth was suspended in space.

Just before the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Greek notion that God created the universe took the place of the earlier belief that everything on the earth including the earth itself existed, but in a chaotic state. This idea, which is known as creatio ex nihilo, is the universally accepted one in most Christian and Judaism faiths contemporarily (Chia 2007). Most Christians now believe in the existence of a single God who is the creator of both heaven and earth.

Conceivably, the Greeks were the major contributors to the modern cosmological ideas about the universe (Isenhour 2013). The numerous works by Greek scholars of the day continue to shape modern cosmology even to date. While most ancient cosmologies were founded on myths and legends, the Greek cosmology incorporated evidence in most of its ideas. Also, most Greek scholars used mathematical techniques to prove their theories.

The fundamental theme in Greek discipline is the application of both observation and testing to explore simple common rules. The need to formulate a universal Geometric Cosmology resulted in the discovery of science, which has greatly influenced man’s understanding of the universe. In a roundabout way, via an assessment of various beliefs and creation myths, scientific ideas, and techniques were developed (Jeffers 2007). The key concept of the Greek’s cosmology is the assumption that the components of the universe can be represented mathematically. This idea was crucial to the modern cosmology that is based on scientific ideas and mathematical verification of such ideas

Modern cosmology is founded on both scientific and philosophical notions (Boeke 2007). Both philosophy and science contribute almost equally to the idea of cosmology. According to Gossin (2007, p. 103), modern cosmology is ‘closely linked to philosophy as it seeks to answer important questions regarding the universe’. On the other hand, cosmology is closely linked to science given that it seeks answers in the form of empirical perception by observation and coherent elucidation.


For a long period, human beings have been trying to understand the nature of the universe. In attempting to explore the aspects behind the operation of the universe, ancient man developed theories known as cosmological theories. Also, the idea of divinity normally played a fundamental role in these planetary hypotheses. Nearly all monotheistic faiths hold that God is the exclusive creator and protractor of the universe. In the ancient days, the creation was attributed to supernatural powers that controlled all the activities of nature. Religious cosmology overlaps with scientific concepts like the Big Bang theory.

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