From: Gary Collins (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Jun 24 2003 - 04:04:14 EDT
--Original Message Text---
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2003 21:17:17 EDT
Regarding the firmament mentioned in Gen 1, Gary wrote,
I was going to suggest that perhaps this isn't a physical barrier at all, but a pre-
scientific way of stating that the universe we live in is closed. I'm not sure what the current consenus
on that is... But then someone mentioned the waters above the firmament, thus putting a finger on the one weak spot... Drat, and double drat....
All of the evidence which exists agrees that the firmament is a solid object. That evidence in a nutshell is:
1. All peoples everywhere on earth until touched by modern science have believed the sky was literally solid.
2. The peoples of the ancient Near East in particular the dominant cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia believed the sky was solid.
3. The firmament in Gen 1 is called "heavens" shamayim; this is cognate with the Akkadian shama'u which is spoken of in Akkadian documents
as made of rock.
4. The only passage in Scripture which indicates the nature of a raqia' , a firmament, is Ezek 1:22-26; and every commentary which has a
comment on that issue has said the firmament was solid. (I checked 33 of them.)
5. If one says the firmament is atmosphere, one must conclude that the sun, moon and stars (Gen 1:15, 17) are in the atmosphere!
6. There is NO objective evidence for defining raqia' (firmament) as non-solid.
Since there is such an abundance of data showing that the firmament is something solid and absolutely no data showing that it is not solid, the
concordist (and creation science) interpretation of it as non-solid is resting solely upon a subjective conviction That conviction is apparently the
belief that the doctrine of the scientific inerrancy of Scripture should take precedence over the Word of God.
You have correctly and with admirable honesty recognized that if the firmament is the edge as it were of outer space, having water above it (as
Scripture describes) does not work out scientifically. The water of the _tehom_ (Gen 1:2, 6-8), which is a sea not clouds, and is above the
firmament is an integral part of ancient Near Eastern cosmology and was understood by both Jews and Christians until quite late in history as
being literally a sea above the sun, moon and stars (which were under the firmament.)
For documentation of the above, see Paul H. Seely, "The firmament and the water above, Part I: The Meaning of raqia' in Gen 1:6-8,"
Westminster Theological Journal 53 (1991) 227-240 and "The firmament and the water above, Part II: The Meaning of 'The Water above the
Firmament" in Gen 1:6-8," Westminster Theological Journal 54 (1992) 31-46
Thanks for the references, they are certainly appreciated and I'll try to check out as much as possible as time permits. I'm not actually a
concordist myself, though I certainly listen to what concordists have to say, since I often find in their writings much that is interesting and helpful
to bear in mind. My own take is much more along the lines of Henri Blocher, i.e. that Genesis describes real events using symbolic language,
and that the days are a literary device to describe creation in a logical, thematic way rather than a historical chronological way. But I like to try
to understand other viewpoints and to obtain as far as possible an accurate appreciation of them. Perhaps the best way to do this is to try to
consider how I would argue for a position if I were to hold it. In this particular instance, though, the suggestion was not really a serious one (note
the smiley at the end of my last message). Even in the case of YEC, which I think is flawed both theologically and scientifically, I like to make
sure that any argument I use against their position is sound (to the best of my knowledge).
Are any of your references available online?
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