Re: Hyers' Article - Cods Wallop!

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Sun Feb 22 2004 - 15:13:34 EST

On Sun, 22 Feb 2004 13:15:52 -0500 Dick Fischer
<> writes:
Dave wrote:

This, as well as Dick's approach, sounds irenic. However, I have trouble
accepting your views, simply because I have carefully read what Genesis 1
and other passages say. Consider the firmament, _raqia^_.
I find (verses 6f) that there is water above the firmament, so that it
divided upper waters from lower waters. The text specifies _me^al_--_me_,
"from"; _^al_, "above," "over," "upon." This is the same construction as
Ezekiel 1:25 (thanks, Paul). The waters remained there according to
Genesis 7:11; 8:2; Psalm 148:4. So these waters did not disappear during
the Flood, as popular YEC claims. (I don't attribute this to either of
you, so don't bristle. I note it to point out that YEC is biblically as
well as scientifically wrong.)

First, there are waters on the earth - in the sea, in the rivers, in
lakes and ponds, and in irrigation canals. Next there are waters in the
atmosphere in the form of clouds where rain comes from and beneath which
birds fly. Now, did the writer of Genesis conceive of a third layer of
waters above all that? I don't see a clear case from Scripture that he

This imports a modern view into an ancient passage. Please give me a
verse that specifies that the clouds are above the firmament. I have
shown that birds fly under the firmament, yet many persons who have been
on a mountain above the fog will have seen birds flying under the
"firmament" and above the clouds.

From a common sense stand point, I don't think the writer intended three
layers of water. Waters are opaque. What he thought the stars were I
have no idea. And the planets were known to move independently from the
stars, which revolved and changed with the seasons, but remained fixed in
relation to each other. We know this today, they knew that then. Did
the writer think that a layer of water was above the stars? I don't
think a convincing case can be made from Scripture that he did.

I class this as an example of what I call the Evangelical Revised
Version. I first encountered it when a Bible school professor, faced with
such passages as Luke 7:33f and John 2, declared, "I cannot conceive of
my Lord drinking wine." Your conception similarly trumps the language of

In the epic of the creation, tablet 4 had Marduk binding the waters after
he placed half of Tiamat as a "covering of the heavens." Then, tablet 5,
he "ordained the stations of the great gods," the stars, the zodiac and
the moon god. Do you suppose a clear case can be made for the
Mesopotamians to view the heavenly bodies through the carcase of Tiamat?
 I further find that there were lights
placed in (_be_) the firmament (Genesis 1:14f, 17). The preposition,
according to BDBG, when referring to spatial placement, means "in,"
"among," "within," not "above." And I note that the heavenly bodies are
not seen through the firmament and the waters above it. Finally (verse
20), birds fly "above the earth and in face of firmament of the heavens,"
to translate baldly. Since this declares that birds fly below the
firmament, the firmament cannot be the atmosphere where birds fly.

I find it hard to believe that the writer intended to convey something
that contradicts what he could plainly see. Also, the Pentateuch is the
most copied and recopied literature that ever existed. Scribal glosses
cannot be overlooked as a possible source of error. But let's look to
the Septuagint for a change.

"And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water, and
let it be a division between water and water, and it was so.
And God made the firmament, and God divided between the water which was
under the firmament and the water which was above the firmament. And God
called the firmament Heaven, and God saw that it was good, and there was
evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, Let the
water which is under the heaven be collected into one place, and let the
dry land appear, and it was so. And the water which was under the heaven
was collected into its places, and the dry land appeared. And God called
the dry land Earth, and the gatherings of the waters he called Seas, and
God saw that it was good."

I like your reference to LXX, that most ancient translation. _raqia^_ is
translated _stereoma_, whose related term, _stereos_, Lidell and Scott
say corresponds to the Latin _rigidus_, noting "Of bodies and quantities,
_solid, cubic_." They specify _stereoma_ as meaning primarily "a solid
body." "Above" in the passage is _epano_, "above, on the upper side." So
the ancient translators placed water on the upper side of something
solid. Can this sound like moisture in the clouds to anyone?

Here I don't see a problem. The firmament in which birds fly is under
the clouds. "Heaven" is the same word for "sky" in Hebrew, so to say the
firmament is "sky" should pose no problem.

"And, God said Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to give
light upon the earth, to divide between day and night, and let them be
for signs and for seasons and for days and for years. And let them be
for light in the firmament of the heaven, so as to shine upon the earth,
and it was so."

This appears to contradict what the writer told us in the previously
quoted passage. One word would correct everything. If the lights were
"above" the clouds and birds, which they clearly are, instead of "in," as
they clearly are not, then everything fits. Right? So it all hinges on
one word!

Are you really so sure this word was in the original manuscript,
especially since the writer by using this word appears to contradict
himself. How many editors did this pass through in 3500 years (or even
2500 years if you don't subscribe to Mosaic authorship) before we have it
before us in English today? Did not one of them make a mistake? Or is
it a mistake by the inspired writer? I don't know the answer, I only ask
the question.

This is great! If the text doesn't fit your opinion, question the text.
On such a basis I can claim that Elohim may really be Baal, Anu, Osiris,
and all the other deities in the pagan pantheons. Why do you suppose I
prefer to take the text as the best lower criticism has it?

But let me just expand a bit and see if it makes sense. Are the lights
themselves "in the firmament," or do the lights (sun, moon and stars)
from above the sky light the sky beneath, which in turn "shines upon the
earth"? Would that be such a reach? I'm not saying that is correct, but
it is a possibility, is it not?

Or if it said, "Let there be light (instead of lights) in the firmament
of the heaven to give light upon the earth ...," again we would have no
issue. Here the word in the original may have been singular which
through scribal error became plural. Or maybe "lights" means sunlight,
moonlight and starlight.

In short, enough perfectly reasonable possibilities exist that I think it
is unfounded to believe that we have to search wildly for alternative
methods of accommodation.

Dick Fischer - Genesis Proclaimed Association
Finding Harmony in Bible, Science, and History

I love it! The rationalizer can never see that he is rationalizing. Who
has to find means to accommodate scripture to current science according
to the 20th century innovation, scientific inerrancy (something that
Warfield did not accept)? What I recognize is that the author of Genesis
adopted a worldview that was present in Mesopotamia at whatever time the
days of creation were set down. Whether as early as Abraham or as late as
the Babylonian captivity, the cosmology was current. Dick, you find
something strictly comparable in the _Enuma elish_. This last forms a
basis for your interpretation of other passages, why not of this one?
Received on Sun, 22 Feb 2004 13:13:34 -0700

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