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How many Stars?

On a sparkling moonless night (away from the city's smog and lights) when the stars jump out of the velvety blackness, how many stars can you see? A million? Ten million? How many?

Surprisingly, by actual count, only two to three thousand at any one time. With normal eyesight, on an ideal night, the unaided human eye is unable to see stars fainter than the sixth magnitude on the astronomer's brightness scale.

"But why does it seem like there are so many more?" you might ask.

We have all grown up with the awareness that the universe contains countless millions of stars, even though we can actually see only a very few thousands. The spectacular knowledge that the observable universe may contain 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars has come only since the development of the telescope in 1609. When the human eye is aided by even a small optical instrument, like a pair of ordinary binoculars, the number of stars that becomes visible rises to about 10,000. But without such instruments available man is very limited in what he can see.

But what about the ancients ? What about the patriarchs of the Bible? What did they know about the universe? Most people would assume that they knew very little. After all, they were simply wandering nomads in a primitive agrarian society. Or were they?

Consider these two Bible passages. In Genesis 13:16 God told Abraham, "I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." A simple examination on Abraham's part would have quickly revealed that this number far exceeded a mere two to three thousand.

Yet in Genesis 15:5 God expands the same promise saying, "Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be."

God was using simple analogies to explain to Abraham how numerous his descendants would be — as abundant as the dust of the earth or the stars of heaven. Of course Abraham knew better than to start counting stars in a pharisaical attempt to find out the exact number of his progeny.

But even if Abraham had, he couldn't possibly have known there were more stars than he could see with the naked eye. Or could he?

In theory, optics is a highly complex science. But in practice an unskilled amateur can produce a very functional telescope from two pieces of glass, a little abrasive and a lot of patient rubbing. If suitable glass had been available, a telescope would have easily been within the scope of the ancients.

According to the Roman historian Pliny, in his Natural Historia (77 A.D.), the first glass dates back many thousands of years B.C. It is attributed to Phoenician sailors using soda to prepare a meal on a sandy beach along the river Belus. Archaeological evidence generally points to Mesopotamia, Abraham's birthplace, as the home of glass manufacture. There is evidence of glass objects as early as "3000 B.C." Fragments of man-made blue glass suggest a glass house in the period of "2500 B.C."

Current anti-Bible, anti-God knowledge would have us believe that the patriarchs of the Bible were illiterate shepherds groping in the darkness of scientific ignorance. To coincide with the evolutionary theory, we are led to believe that the farther back in history one goes, the more primitive men were. Yet even this small insight into history throws a remarkable light onto the potential knowledge of the ancients. The real truth is that modern man is just emerging from an era of scientific darkness that fell over the whole earth during the Middle Ages as a result of the religious suppression of knowledge. The world would stand in amazement if it could realize just how much the patriarchs of old really knew!