Re: Genesis 1 on ocean and atmosphere

From: David F Siemens <>
Date: Mon Feb 20 2006 - 20:39:49 EST

I love your approach. We don't know the language source or the time of
Genesis 1 so we don't know what to make of it, so we don't know how to
interpret it. At least this seems to be one point you're trying to make.

As to translations, I have found them slanted. NIV, alone among the many
translations I have checked, has a note that "and the earth was" could be
"became." It is not in the Spanish equivalent. They adapted the
translation to the Scofield notes which promote the gap theory. A noted
scholar, don't have my library along, declared that the birds fly in the
/raquia`/, which is NOT what the text says. When you demonstrate how the
/raquia`/ in Ezekiel is air, I'll take your approach seriously. But then
you should also explain how to //raqa`/ the air to form the /raqia`/ when
the ancients did not have a term for air except in motion.

On Mon, 20 Feb 2006 13:45:08 +0100 Peter Ruest <>
> David F Siemens wrote (and Michael Roberts endorsed it):
> > Peter,
> > I should have answered your earlier letter, but it is at home and
> I am on
> > the road. But this gives a second chance. My take on your approach
> is
> > that one can twist the language to fit almost anything desired.
> This fits
> > /raquia`/, which is "expanse" only by ignoring the birds flying in
> front
> > of it and heavenly bodies stuck onto it. That there is water above
> the
> > /raquia`/ also does not fit the notion that it refers to the
> atmosphere.
> > It certainly cannot apply to space. To try to connect Genesis 1 to
> modern
> > cosmology, I am convinced, demands twisting the ancient language
> into
> > nonsense.
> > Dave
> Dave (and Michael),
> All these issues have been discussed in the 2 PSCF papers:
> A. Held & P. Rüst (1999), "Genesis reconsidered", PSCF 51/4,
> 231-243;
> and
> A. Held & P. Rüst (2000), "Taking Genesis as inspired", PSCF 52/3,
> 212-214;
> It seems to me that even modern language (in things perhaps read in
> published
> papers, or in uncounted list posts) can be twisted to fit almost
> anything
> desired, and then ignored.
> But I don't want to rehash old explanations if it's not necessary.
> Let me quote
> a paragraph from N.T.Wright, "The Resurrection of the Son of God"
> (Minneapolis:
> Fortress Press, 2003), p.655, which I just happened to come across
> two days ago.
> It may be relevant for these questions:
> "We may remind ourselves at this point of two basic rules for modern
> readers
> reading ancient Jewish texts. First, two-decker language about a
> 'heaven' in the
> sky above the earth almost certainly did not betoken a two-decker,
> let alone a
> three-decker, cosmology. Just as we speak of the sun 'rising', even
> though we
> know that the earth is turning in relation to the sun, so ancient
> Jews were
> comfortable with the language of heavenly ascent without supposing
> that their
> god, and those who shared his habitation, were physically situated a
> few
> thousand feet above the surface of the earth. Second, and related to
> this, the
> language of 'heaven' and 'earth', though it could be used to denote
> sky on the
> one hand and terra firma on the other, was regularly employed in a
> sophisticated
> theological manner, to denote the parallel and interlocking
> universes inhabited
> by the creator god on the one hand and humans on the other. To speak
> of someone
> 'going up to heaven' by no means implied that the person concerned
> had (a)
> become a primitive space-traveller and (b) arrived, by that means,
> at a
> different location within the present space-time universe. We should
> not allow
> the vivid, indeed lurid, language of the Middle Ages, or the many
> hymns and
> prayers which use the word 'heaven' to denote, it seems, a far-off
> location
> within the cosmos we presently inhabit, to make us imagine that
> first-century
> Jews thought literalistically in that way too. Some may indeed have
> done so;
> there is no telling what things people will believe; but we should
> not imagine
> that the early Christian writers thought like that."
> I have repeatedly emphasized similar ideas, but I hope Wright makes
> more
> impression. Is there any reason not to extend this attitude Wright
> commends to
> the Old Testament, indeed to Genesis 1? If the Jews of 2000 years
> ago were less
> "primitive" than Bultmann thought, how about those one or more
> thousand years
> earlier? Wright sharply criticizes theologians (not just Bultmann,
> but also
> modern ones) who are erroneously reading Greek philosophy into NT
> texts and into
> the thinking of early Christians. Curiously enough, biblical writers
> are never
> thought to have heard of some more "advanced" concepts of Greek
> philosophers,
> such as a spherical earth - quite apart from the possibility that
> they
> themselves might easily have made some pertinent observations.
> The fact is that the belief that Gen.1 reflects a pagan mythological
> cosmology
> is based on indirect inferences, which may be disputable. It is
> unknown when
> Gen.1 was originally written. It is unknown who wrote its original
> text. It is
> unknown in which language and in which script it was written
> originally. It is
> unknown when and where the possibly earlier oral source(s) of the
> Genesis
> text(s) originated. It is unknown whether they were influenced by
> known
> extrabiblical texts or orally transmitted stories, or whether they
> influenced
> them, or whether both were influenced by still earlier events or
> facts. It is
> unknown which similarities between Genesis and extrabiblical texts
> are
> source-critically relevant (in biology, there is plenty of
> convergent
> evolution). It is unknown which of these similarities are
> hermeneutically
> relevant (in biology, it is often difficult to distinguish homology
> from
> orthology or paralogy, and virtually impossible when there are just
> two or a few
> genes to compare).
> It seems clear to me that Gen.1 contains some "polemics" against
> pagan
> religions, but against which in which millennium between 0 and 5000
> or more BC
> (if you allow me a little bit of rhetorical exaggeration)? This is
> inextricably
> linked up with the dating question. But such polemics is a recurring
> feature
> throughout the OT, because God's people were and are always
> surrounded by
> pagans, at least from Adam onward. But even if Gen.1 does contain
> polemics, it
> doesn't follow that it accepts any pagan cosmology - this would be
> eisegesis.
> To emphasize it for the umpteenth time, I have never claimed that
> the bible
> "teaches modern science". All I am saying is that I found Genesis
> (including
> ch.1) to be remarkably free from obvious contradictions to the
> reality as we
> know it today. Of course, this judgment depends on the
> interpretation of the
> text, but where interpretation stands against interpretation, every
> one of them
> should be left standing as a possibility until it is clearly
> refuted. And this
> is exactly what none of those who denigrate such harmonization
> models as
> "concordism" has done up to now. To say it again, God may have had
> his reasons
> to keep his prophet from writing nonsense even where the prophet
> would not have
> recognized it as nonsense himself. God inspired (of course not
> mechanically-literalistically) his word for all times and cultures.
> On 18 Feb., Michael wrote: "Tomorrow the readings for the day are
> all on
> creation Proverbs 8 22-31, Ps 104, Col 1 and John 1. Great passages
> to preach
> from. But how would Glenn and Peter interpret them?" How about
> recognizing
> different genres? Basically:
> - Proverbs 8 22-31 is poetry, using allegory;
> - Ps 104 is poetry, using metaphors;
> - Col 1:15ff is theology, period;
> - John 1 is theology, intermixed with narrative;
> - Gen.1 is retroprophetical narrative, using poetical language.
> All of these of course proclaim God's primary authorship and
> activity in all
> that happens, including what is accessible to scientific
> investigation. I don't
> see the point behind the question about how I would interpret these
> texts. Nor
> do I see where and how these passages would contradict the
> harmonization of
> Gen.1 with reality - which I suggested as one of various different
> aspects of
> the text.
> Dave declares it quite impossible to translate /raqia^/ with
> "expanse". Yet
> there are many translations which have "expanse" (or corresponding
> terms) for
> /raqia^/: among the English ones ESV, NAU, NIV, NLT, YLT; among the
> French: LSG,
> NEG; among the Spanish: LBA; among the Italian: NRV; among the
> Dutch: LEI, LUV;
> I am sure there are more (abbreviations according to "BibleWorks").
> Are all
> those translators dupes?
> Michael, may I ask you to refrain from your abrasive language?
> Phrases such as
> "we are stuck with either YEC or some doomed Concordist approach",
> "no matter
> how hard the bleat whether Glenn, Peter or AIG", "We need to stop
> reading the
> Bible like a motor repair manual" reflect negatively on your
> readiness for
> rational, friendly discourse.
> Peter
> --
> Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
> <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
> "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
Received on Mon Feb 20 21:07:48 2006

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