I’ve suggested before that some of High Ross’ attempts to harmonise science and Scripture are unconvincing.
In my view, he threatens to brings the Bible into disrepute by imposing interpretative schemes that are untenable. He writes:
My interpretative approach is to identify a passage in Revelation…as symbolic only if its implied symbol is used and defined elsewhere in the Bible or if certain words within the context clearly indicate that the author intended something other than a literal meaning.
Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, 196
Well, this would be the right way to approach most biblical texts. But the right way to approach Revelation is just about the opposite of what Ross suggests. The right approach would be to regards a passage in Revelation as symbolic unless there were compellng reasons not to do so.
We all know that the interpretation of book of Revelation is fraught with problems. But Ross, it seems to me, has taken a wrong turn as soon as he gets down the driveway, and so he ends up in completely the wrong place. Here, for example, is his attempt to subject the description of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21 to a ‘scientific’ explanation:-
The walls of the New Jerusalem are said to be 216 feet (66 metres) thick. The city’s length, width, and height measure 1,380 miles (2,220 kilometres) each. The city has corners, implying that it is an enormous structure in the shape of a cube or perhaps a pyramid. Thus, some kind of spacial dimensionality (or its equivalent) must exist in the new creation. But gravity, mass, or both, at least as we know them, will not exist. (Gravity turns all massive bodies larger than about 300 miles or 500 kilometres in diameter into spherical shapes).
Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, 197
It’s a question of genre. What kind of literature is the Revelation? B.B. Warfield, I think, hits the nail on the head with his customary clarity and wisdom:-
The apocalypse is a book of symbols. The whole action of the book and every detail of the representation, alike, is wrought out not directly, but through a symbolical medium. And as nothing is stated, so nothing is to be taken, literally; but every event, person, and thing, that appears on its pages is to be read as a symbol.
Selected Shorter Writings, I, 652.
And, with regard to the passage referred to by Ross, Leon Morris in his standard commentary writes,
The city was square. When the angel measured it up, the length, breadth and height were all 12,000 stadia. The city is thus more than a square: it is a perfect cube. This shape is that of the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:20) and indicates perfection. It is probable that John wants us to see the heavenly city as itself the Holy of Holies. It is the place where God dwells. There will be the added thought that God’s people dwell there too in perfect fellowship with God. The number 12,000 is the number of Israel, twelve, multiplied by the cube of ten, the perfect number. It thus stands for the perfect total of God’s people. Twelve thousand stadia is approximately 1,500 miles…A city of this size is too large for the imagination to take in. John is certainly conveying the idea of splendour. And, more importantly, that of room for all.
Revelation (Tyndale New Testament Commentary), 250f