Seely, Paul H. "The Geographical Meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10," Westminster Theological Journal 59, no. 2 (Fall 1997): 231-55.
The upshot of this article is that truly grammatical-historical exegesis of Genesis 1:10 must recognize that the earth spoken of there is a flat disc that floats on the single sea that surrounds the land since this is the view of all ancient peoples.
In a very brief postscript Seely raises the question of whether interpreting these verses "according to their historico-grammatical meaning impinge negatively on the biblical doctrine of inspiration?" (155). He appeals to Warfield to argue that it does not: "A presumption may be held to lie also that [Paul] shared the ordinary opinions of his day in certain matters lying outside the scope of his teachings, as, for example, with reference to the form of the earth, or its relation to the sun; and it is not inconceivable that the form of his language, when incidentally adverting to such matters, might occasionally play into the hands of such a presumption" (Warfield, "The Real Problem of Inspiration," in Works, 1:197).
It is important to note that Warfield makes two points in this quotation. Before the semi-colon Warfield is referring to what Paul thought apart from what he wrote in Scripture. Warfield is clear in the preceding context that Paul can err in his thinking in any number of ways , including his view of "the form of the earth, or its relation to the sun." After the semi-colon Warfield is referring to what Paul wrote in Scripture. Here he makes the more limited claim that Paul’s erroneous views could affect the wording of Scripture. Warfield does not say that Paul introduces error into Scripture on this account (since that is precisely what he is arguing against). Rather Warfield is saying the wording could be understood in harmony with the error while not actually being in error itself (this is the import of the phrase "play into the hands of such a presumption"). In other words Warfield is teaching that God did not correct all the popularly-held (but erroneous) opinions of the day held by the biblical writers and that some of the wording of Scripture could fit some of those views, while not affirming those views and thus remaining free from error. (It is important in this regard to remember that the Bible teaches that the text of Scripture is inspired and not that the authors were inspired.)
This reading is substantiated by Warfield’s earlier discussion of accommodation in the same article. There he notes, "It is one thing to adapt the teaching of truth to the stage of receptivity of the learner; it is another to adopt the errors of the time as the very matter to be taught. It is one thing to refrain from unnecessarily arousing the prejudices of the learner, that more ready entrance may be found for the truth; it is another thing to adopt those prejudices as our own, and to inculcate them as the very truths of God" (ibid., 1:194).
In this article Seely argues for the latter: he argues that the errors of the time are taught by the text when interpreted in a grammatical-historical manner. For this reason alone Seely’s interpretation must be rejected as inconsistent with the Bible’s own teaching regarding its inspiration. Seely’s interpretation should also be rejected for limiting grammatical historical interpretation to the human plane. The words of Genesis 1:9-10 are not merely the words of Moses written within his own cultural milieu. These are also the words of God. This is an especially relevant factor in interpreting Genesis 1 since the events of this chapter lie beyond human observation; God alone could reveal these truths to Moses. There is little reason therefore to insist that these words can only be rightly interpreted when understood strictly as someone of Moses’s time would have understood them. If the prophets did not always understand the spiritual import of what they wrote (1 Peter 1:10-12), must we insist that they always understood the physical import? Their words may "play into the hands" of an erroneous understanding from their time (though I think that would be an overstatement in this case), but they do not demand of the reader to be read in light of such an understanding.
Importantly, Seely’s argument is not that Genesis 1:10 necessitates this reading on the textual level, but rather that given that all ancient cultures held to belief that the earth was a flat disc surrounded by an ocean, modern interpreters must read the Bible through this ancient lens. To the contrary, historical background must play an ancillary role to the Scripture; it is the servant of the text rather than its master. Otherwise the sufficiency of Scripture is undermined just as surely as when tradition moves from an ancillary role to that of master. The historical background that Seely introduces provides a helpful window into the worldview of ancient peoples, but it does not determine the meaning the divine Author intended for Genesis 1:10. To say otherwise undermines both the doctrines of the inerrancy and the sufficiency of Scripture.