Re: Firmament and the Water above was [asa] Re: Slug

From: Paul Seely <>
Date: Fri Jun 16 2006 - 21:29:46 EDT

Phil gave a number of reasons why the raqia' in Genesis should not be thought of as solid and why the water above the firmament seems to refer to clouds. But in impressive scholarly fashion he says he, "will withhold judgement until I read something more thorough." I would like to see that said more often about any number of subjects. Anyway, first off, I think Phil will find that my two papers on the firmament and the water above are thorough. In his commentary on Genesis, John Walton, professor of OT at Wheaton College, accepts that the firmament was solid (and had a sea above it) and footnotes my papers, adding that they are "comprehensive and persuasive." (p. 111).

For Phil and any other interested readers, My 3 papers on the OT cosmology are: 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; "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; Paul H. Seely, "The geographical meaning of 'earth' and 'seas' in Gen 1:10," Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997) 231-55.

The firmament paper can also be found at<>
The waters above paper can be found at<>
The earth and the seas paper can be found at<>

I just want to add a couple of notes directly related to comments recently made on this subject.

The water above the firmament and the clouds are related, but not the same. Later rabbis said the clouds go up to the firmament to get filled with water and then carry that water off to be dumped on the earth as rain.

Regarding the solidity of the firmament, Dick Fischer added, "So even if the ancients thought of the sky as solid and I can't think of any rational for that, seven planets were known to wander about which would be hard to fathom in a solid sky" When I wrote my paper on the firmament, I thought the stars were attached to it, as was believed by some other peoples, but I believe now the stars, like the sun and moon were understood to be in space just below the firmament, so movement was unhindered by the solid sky.

Morton tried to show from etymology that raqia' just refers to an expanse, and that modern astronomy believes in a solid sphere. And he very inappropriately adds,"Frankly, I think the fact that you guys want the Bible to be factually
false, means you won't go looking for alternative explanations. The
intellectually easy thing to do is to say it is false and move on."

No one on this list to my knowledge wants the Bible to be factually false. But I know I and others do not want to virtually rewrite the Bible to make it factually true. As for etymology, it is only an adjunct to finding the meaning of a word, and the verb raqa never escapes solidity anyway. As for modern astronomy's solid sphere, it is not 100% solid as is the biblical firmament, and it is not a hemisphere as is the biblical firmament. And, most telling, it has no ocean above it. Concordists try to turn the ocean above the firmament into all kinds of diffferent things, but there is a strong consensus of Evangelical OT scholars that the biblical account of the flood is saying the water came from the sea above the firmament (and from the sea below the earth). I venture to say modern astronomy will never agree with that.



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Received on Fri Jun 16 21:27:54 2006

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