Was the “Expanse” Overhead in Genesis 1 a Solid Dome?

The first chapter of Genesis depicts the creation of the earth and its living creatures in six days. Here we focus on the nature of the “firmament” or “expanse” which was created on the second day, in order to separate the primordial waters into upper and lower portions. This has implications for Bible interpretation, in general.

The situation on or before Day 1 (e.g. Genesis 1:1-5) is shown below:

This sketch shows the primordial waters, which have an upper surface. The spirit of God was hovering above the surface of these waters, at first in darkness. God then created light, separated light from darkness, and called the light “day” and the darkness “night”.

On Day 2 (Genesis 1:6-8) God created a “firmament” (Hebrew raqia) in the midst of the waters, to divide the waters into two portions, the “waters above” and the “waters below”:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.   And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. [Gen 1:6-7 KJV]

Other translations render raqia  as “expanse”, as discussed below. At the end of Day 2, therefore, we have something like this:

On Day 3 (Gen 1: 9-13), the waters below are gathered into one place (which God calls “seas”) and dry ground appears. God calls the dry ground “earth” (eretz). (It is not clear if the land was created here ex nihilo on Day 3, or whether it was there all along beneath the waters, and simply emerged as the waters are drained off to the side). On Day 4 God made the sun, moon, and stars, and “set them in the firmament of the heaven” (Gen. 1:17, KJV). These celestial bodies can move around in or on the firmament (cf. Ps 19:6). At the end of Day 4 we have:

Old Testament scholars note that the Hebrews believed that the waters of the primordial  waters still underlay the solid land.  In Ps. 24:1-2 we read, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods”, and in Ps. 136:6 that God “laid out the earth above the waters.”

Despite this watery underlayer, the earth remains steady due to “foundation” or “pillars” which God placed beneath the land (e.g. Ps.104:5 “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved”; cf. I Sam. 2:8, Job 38:4-6). The abode of the dead, sheol, was somewhere down there as well, but to keep this sketch simple I did not try to draw in the details of the underworld.

The “waters above” appear to be still extant today.  In Psalm 148:4 we read of “waters that are above the heavens”:

Praise Him, highest heavens,

And the waters that are above the heavens! (NASB)

The Hebrew word (mayim) used here for “waters” is the one for liquid water, not the ones that are used to refer to vapors, clouds or mists (e.g.ed in Gen 2:6, anan  in Gen 9:13, ab in I Ki. 18:44, and nasi in Ps. 105:7).  Thus, Ps. 148:4 is not referring to ordinary clouds.

The great flood of Noah was sourced by the opening of windows or floodgates in the heavens (Gen 7:11), allowing the waters above to pour through, as well as by “fountains of the deep” bringing up water from below. Thus, the Flood involved partially undoing the separations made in Genesis 1, where the waters above (Day 2) and the waters below (Day 3) had been sequestered to allow the dry land to appear. These floodgates were closed (Gen 8:2) at the end of the Flood to stop the water from pouring down, indicating the water is still up there. The celestial waters get relatively little mention after Genesis 8, perhaps because God had promised to never again flood the whole earth. There is awareness in the later Old Testament of the association of clouds with ordinary rain.

In the mid-20th century, it was common in young earth creationist circles to hold that the “waters above” were in the form of a “vapor canopy”, the precipitation of which contributed to the Noahic Flood. They have largely abandoned this theory, following calculation by their scientists showing that a vapor canopy substantial enough to contribute more than about 2 meters (6.5 feet) of liquid water would have made the earth’s surface intolerably hot.

What Is a “Firmament” ?

A key question is: what did the word raqia mean in ancient Hebrew?  The Hebrew root for raqia is the verb raqa. According to the standard Hebrew lexicon of Brown, Driver, and Briggs, raqa  means  to “beat, stamp, beat out, stamp out”. It is typically applied to metal being beaten out into a thin sheet (e.g. Is. 40:19, Ex. 39:3, Num. 17:4, Jer. 10:9; cf. Num 17:3). Thus, raqia (“firmament”) denotes something which has been beaten out or spread out, like a sheet of metal. Brown, Driver, and Briggs define raqia as, “extended surface, (solid) expanse.”  This comports with the way we have sketched the cosmos of Days 3 and 4 above.

This understanding of the raqia as a solid dome is confirmed in Job 37:18, where Job’s wise friend Elihu asks him, “Can you join him [God] in spreading out [raqa] the skies, as hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” It could hardly be any plainer than that.

The main usage of raqia outside of Genesis is in Ezekiel 1:22-26 where Ezekiel’s vision of the four living creatures included the following:

Now over the heads of the living beings there was something like an expanse (raqia), like the awesome gleam of crystal, spread out over their heads.  Under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward the other; each one also had two wings covering its body on the one side and on the other.  … And there came a voice from above the expanse that was over their heads; whenever they stood still, they dropped their wings.  Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. [NASB]

Whatever this “expanse” or (as in the King James version) “firmament” was, it was not just some empty space. It was a substantive “something”, gleaming like crystal, that was spread out above the head of the living creatures and with the throne set above it. With this clear example of a solid raqia overhead in Ezekiel, we expect the raqia of Genesis 1 to also be solid, unless there is some strong evidence to the contrary.

In Gen. 1:8 God calls the firmament “heaven” (Hebrew shamayim). That turns out to give little additional definition to what the firmament (raqia) is, since in all the cases in Genesis 1 where God puts a name to something, there is never a one-to-one correspondence to the original word for the object and the subsequent name. For instance, God calls the primordial light “Day” (Gen 1:5). This does not mean that “light” and “day” are synonymous. Any thorough Hebrew lexicon lists a number of meanings for the Hebrew word for “light” and a different list of senses in which yom, the Hebrew word for “day”, is used.

In Gen. 1:10 God called the dry ground that appeared in Day 3 “earth” (“eretz”). But eretz is used in many different senses: as the whole earth (Gen 18:25); earth as opposed to the heavens (Is. 37:16); the land as opposed to heaven and seas (Ex. 20:4; similar to the usage in Gen 1:10); the people of the earth (Gen 11:1); a country or territory (Gen 10:10), inhabitants of a territory (Lev 19:29); sheol, the place of the dead (Job 10:21-22); surface of the ground (Gen 18:2); productive soil (Lev 19:9).

Likewise, “heaven” is used in many senses of the visible sky and of the abode of God. Thus, we need to let context and usage inform our understanding of what shamayim and raqia mean in their specific occurrences. Sometimes “heaven” refers to some aspect of the physical sky and sometimes it does not. God was not homeless prior to the separation of the waters on Day 2.  The fact that Gen 1:14-17 uses the compound phrase “the firmament of the heaven” further indicates that “firmament” (raqia) is not one-for-one synonymous with “heaven” (shamayim). The Israelites would understand this phrase to mean “the spread-out dome of the sky”.

In Isaiah 40:22 it says that God “stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” A tent, of course, is a domed structure with a flat floor, made of relatively thin sheeting. At some point the sky will be “rolled up like a scroll” (Is. 34:4). This comports with the firmament being a relatively thin solid layer of some sort, rather than empty space.

Heaven is supported by “foundations” or “pillars” (II Sam 2:8, Job 26:11). These are common architectural terms (e.g. Jud. 16:25-26, I Ki. 7:2-3). They are appropriate for supporting a solid dome, but seem to have little relevance to heaven (used here in the physical sense) as empty space.

The folks best placed to understand the meaning of the ancient Hebrew text would be the ancient Hebrews themselves.  The Septuagint translation of Genesis into Greek was done by Jewish scholars around 300 B.C. The Septuagint was an authoritative version; typically the New Testament uses the Septuagint rather than the current Hebrew texts when citing the Old Testament. The Septuagint translators rendered raqia as “stereoma” which connotes solidity. The Latin translations of this passage followed the Septuagint’s lead in rendering this word as “firmamentum,” which again connotes solidity. The Jews of the Second Temple period, followed by practically everyone up through the Renaissance, all understood the raqia to denote a solid dome above the earth.  The Jewish literature of that era includes discussions, for instance, of whether this dome was made of clay or copper or iron (3 Apoc. Bar. 3.7-8).

The King James version retained this usage (“firmament”), while modern translations render it as “expanse” to better mesh with today’s science. “Expanse” is not strictly incorrect, since it can refer to something solid, but modern readers are so conditioned to think of the sky as NOT solid, that when we read “expanse” we tend to think of something wide but empty, like the atmosphere or outer space. However, that is not what this word meant to the ancient Hebrews. So “firmament” is a clearer translation, even if it raises awkward questions about the physical picture in Genesis.

MODERN CONTROVERSY OVER THE FIRMAMENT

By the early 1500’s, scholars (“philosophers”) were questioning the validity of a solid dome above the earth. Martin Luther was an accomplished Hebrew scholar, having translated the entire Old Testament from Hebrew to German. He took a firm stand on defending the plain, literal meaning of the Bible:

Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters… It is likely that the stars are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night… We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding.

[ Luther’s Works. Vol. 1. Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan, Concordia Pub. House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1958, pp. 30, 42, 43 ]

By medieval times, the Greek notion of a spherical earth had supplanted the ancient Near Eastern view of a roughly circular flat earth (the term “circle of the earth” in Isa. 40:22 uses the Hebrew word for a flat circle, not the word for spherical ball).  A colored woodcut from the 1534 Luther Bible, is shown below [click to enlarge]. It shows God (top of the picture is cut off) presiding over creation. Adam and Eve are shown in Eden, with its four rivers and animals, including the snake. Note the liquid waters up above the heavens, just like Genesis says. Luther’s stand on the firmament is like of today’s fundamentalists on a literal Adam and a six 24-hour day creation: “the Bible says it, I believe it, phooey on the scientists, and anyone who doesn’t agree with me is wicked or presumptuous”.

Cover of 1534 Luther Bible, showing the created world of Genesis 1

That is actually not a foolish viewpoint, as long as it is held consistently. It is philosophically similar to the “Appearance of Age” position on the age of the earth, where the believer can freely acknowledge that the physical evidence (position of rock layers, sequence of fossils, radioactive dating, layers in glacier cores) is all consistent with an earth that is far older than is consistent with the Genesis story. The believer claims, however, that the fossils and the radioactivity levels are all an illusion, created by God to give the appearance of an old earth. The reality is that the earth is only 6000 years old, but was created to look old. Likewise, with the firmament, one could hold to the clear, literal meaning of the Genesis text (i.e. solid dome or sphere, with waters above), and dismiss the appearance of empty space as an illusion, sent perhaps to test our faith.

Even the most conservative Christians today find that level of literalism too much to bear, and seek some way to harmonize the text with what modern science teaches us about the earth and its environs. One approach is to equate the firmament with the earth’s lower atmosphere, and take the “waters above” to be ordinary clouds.  However, the “waters above” the firmament are not presented in Genesis 1 as clouds or mist, but as liquid water. As noted above, there are different Hebrew words that would have been used for vaporous water. Also, the birds in Genesis 1:20 did not fly “in” the firmament, but “across the face of” it. Most importantly, the sun, moon, and stars were “set into” it, so the firmament cannot be merely the atmosphere that separates the ground from the clouds.  These celestial bodies are far removed from the earth’s atmosphere.

Another suggestion, which comprehends the actual position of the planets and stars, is that the firmament refers to both the atmosphere AND the vast reaches of outer space. Thus, the “waters above” are still up there, but way, way up there, beyond human detection. A variant of this theory is that the primordial waters were different than today’s water.  However, it is clearly the case that the “waters above” are of the same constitution as the “waters below”, which are the liquid H2O of the ocean: the “waters below” became today’s oceans mainly by being moved to the side to allow dry land to appear, and there is no justification for claiming that the waters which poured down through the floodgates in the heavens to propagate Noah’s flood were other than regular water. Also, if we are looking for outer space in Genesis 1, it would be present on Day 1, when the spirit of God was moving over the topmost surface of the waters, prior to the division of the waters on Day 2.

Placing the celestial ocean billions of light-years away is a convenient means of dealing with   the fact that we cannot detect it, but it is difficult to imagine how floodgates could open in the interstellar void to conduct a ruinous deluge to the Noahic earth. Also, the firmament (raqia) was a “something” that God “made”.  That does not comport well with “raqia” denoting just an empty space between two bodies of water.  We reviewed at some length the usage of raqia, and find no grounds to overrule the definition given by the Hebrew lexicon, namely “extended surface, (solid) expanse.”  Had the author or inspirer of Genesis wished to describe an empty space, there are more appropriate Hebrew words to use. The three following verses each use a different word to refer to the “space” between two tangible entities:

And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by themselves; and said unto his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space [“revach”] betwixt drove and drove. [Gen 32:16 – – referring to Jacob’s droves of cattle, goats, etc.]

Yet there shall be a space [“rechoq”] between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure [Jos. 3:4, referring to space between the people and the ark]

Then David went over to the other side, and stood on the top of an hill afar off; a great space [“maqom”] being between them [I Sam. 26:13, referring to space between David and Saul’s camp]

One could, of course, nitpick at each of these word choices, but the fact remains that each of them has been demonstrated to refer to a more or less empty space between two entities, whereas raqia normally connotes a thin layer of something. If the notion of empty space were intended, it would also be easy enough to express this by using the word “empty” (several Hebrew words available) together with a word for “space” or “place” (again, several choices).

Does This Mean The Bible Is Wrong?

I wish I did not have to write what I did above.  I wish I could report that the Bible marvelously presented an accurate scientific view of the world, with knowledge beyond the age of its writing, that would vindicate it over against other religious writings and secular critics. That, I cannot honestly do. But I can share a perspective which has helped me to deal with the facts as they are.

It is disturbing to conservative Christians, and perhaps to conservative Jews as well, to have the sacred Scriptures, given and inspired by God, making statements that are manifestly incorrect.  I get sad or angry responses from folks that I consider to be my brothers and sisters in Christ, accusing me of heresy or apostasy. I would counsel those folks to ponder Proverbs 26:7, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” If you don’t hear about this from me, you or your children will likely hear it from someone else, who may try to use it to destroy faith.

This post is already pretty long, so I will make this treatment compressed. Here is the basic problem: many Bible-believing Christians have an UNBIBLICAL view of the scope of authority of the Scriptures.  Yes, all Scripture is inspired by God – but for what purpose ?  Yes, the Scripture is inerrant, but in respect to what, exactly?  Paul spells it out very clearly in II Tim. 3:15-17 [NKJV]:

…and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.           All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Likewise, Jesus said that the function of the Old Testament was to testify about him and his saving work (John 5:40; Luke 24:44). Peter (I Pet 1: 10-12) wrote that prophets spoke of the sufferings and glory of Christ. This is all theology and morals. Nothing here about authoritatively teaching geology or biology. This is a biblical view of the Bible’s intent, which differs from some evangelical statements about inerrancy which mistakenly over-extend the Bible’s sphere of authority into science or history.

Getting Over Our Ignorance

That said, the literal Genesis story is so very far from physical reality. That can feel problematic, even if we can intellectually excuse it by noting that the Bible does not claim authority in teaching geology and biology. But that sense of the problematic here is just a symptom of how ignorant most moderns are of the ancient past. If we had a shred of historical understanding, we would be applauding Genesis rather than excusing it.

Let’s dial back to the era of 1500 B.C. to 500 B.C when Genesis was written and edited to its final form. The authors and early readers of the Bible had a “science” of their day, a shared understanding of the physical world. As discussed above, the stars were set in a solid firmament, which formed a barrier to the (liquid) “waters above”, and which was “hard as a mirror of cast bronze” (Job 37:18). The notion that the sky is solid was not peculiar to Bronze Age Semites.  This is the common assumption among nearly all pre-scientific peoples.  Paul Seely  here   presents many citations showing that Indians, Melanesians, sub-Saharan Africans and Native Americans, as well as Egyptians and Babylonians, held the sky to be a solid dome. The concept of a limitless vacuum overhead would not occur to them, since it did not correspond to anything in their experience. An empty sky would seem as bizarre to them as a solid sky does to us.

God could have corrected this ancient science, but chose not to. This was not a mistake or “error.” Rather, God wisely and graciously accommodated His spiritual revelation to the existing physical understanding, in order to facilitate communication of vital spiritual and relational concepts. We need to understand the physical aspect of the ancient worldview, without taking it to be authoritative, in the same way that we do not endorse slavery even though the Bible treats it as normative and do not require veils on women despite Paul’s direct command (I Cor 11:3-16). It’s just part of the task of translation.

While not completely unanticipated (e.g. in the Egyption Aten cult), the ethical monotheism of the ancient Israelites was radically different from the common Near Eastern polytheisms and local gods. These competing religions typically included some account of creation which lent authority to their beliefs and helped to make sense of the world. Let’s look at the options available to God in making his revelation to the Israelites:

(1) Do not provide a creation story at all

(2) Provide a very general statement of creation, with little or no physical details

(3) Provide a creation story including physical details, with those details corresponding to the science of the first millennium B.C.

(4) Provide a creation story including physical details, with those details corresponding to the science of some later era (e.g.  early 21st century).

Option (1) would have left the Israelites impoverished and disadvantaged relative to their pagan neighbors.  Option (2) would have been a “safe” approach, just to state that The One God created everything (e.g. Gen 1:1), and leave it at that. But ancient peoples thought in terms of concrete stories and genealogies, so this would not have been a huge improvement over giving no creation account at all.

Option (3) provided a means to effectively communicate a number of key concepts about God, humans, and the world. While employing the categories of ancient Near Eastern “science”, it completely overturned the pagan theology.  In contrast to the quarrelling, needy gods of the pagans, the Genesis story depicts the Hebrew God as sovereign, calmly and freely choosing to create the universe, and delighting in his work.

The creation was done in an orderly set of stages: the first three days of creation God formed various spaces or realms (e.g. the heavens, the seas, and the dry land), which He filled in the second three days (e.g. with birds, fishes, and land animals). Thus the earth, which was initially “formless and empty” (Gen 1:1), becomes formed and filled.

In pagan thought, the celestial lights represented gods which held power over men. The Israelites themselves had a hard time to shaking off worship of the sun and moon (Job 31:26-28). Genesis 1 thoroughly subverts this idolatry: the sun, moon and stars are totally demythologized, being mere created objects. In delicious irony, instead of humans serving them, they are (in Genesis) to serve humans by providing light and marking off the days and seasons.

The closest parallel to the Genesis story is the Babylonian creation myth known as Enuma Elish. There humans are created out of the blood of a slain god in order to be slaves, working so that the gods could be relieved of their labors and be at ease.  This conception of humans helped to justify the Babylonian social order, where most men were effectively enslaved to the royal leaders.     In Genesis, mankind has a far more dignified status. Adam is created from ordinary matter and then infused with the breath of life from God, being “in the image of God.” God does not need Adam’s labor or sacrifices. Instead, God works for the benefit of mankind, graciously giving them authority over the whole earth (Gen. 1), and making a fruitful garden and a suitable mate for Adam (Gen 2). God does “rest” at the end of the Genesis creation epic, but this is because He is satisfied with what He has sovereignly spoken into being, not because some flunky is fanning Him with a palm leaf.

Thus, the pre-scientific Genesis creation account marvelously accomplished what II Tim 3:15-17 says is the purpose of the Scriptures. It vividly conveyed a high doctrine of God’s goodness and power, and His authority to give moral direction to humankind. It was thus “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Retaining the ancient physical concepts (instead of  trying to correct them) was essential in accomplishing this divine purpose for the people to whom this revelation was given.

For those who are still not satisfied with this Option (3), consider what the remaining option might look like.  With Option (4), the ancient Israelites would be told that God created the universe initially as a tiny point of unimaginable temperature and density; this fireball expanded and cooled, with matter condensing into hydrogen and helium; over ensuing billions of years, clouds of hydrogen and helium coalesced to form stars, some of which later exploded in supernovae, thereby creating the heavier elements that compose ordinary solid matter; some of that matter accreted to form the earth; for a billion years, one-celled organisms floated around the seas; through a partially understood process of mutations and natural selection,  more complex life-forms developed, including gigantic reptiles, ape-like humans and finally anatomically modern humans.  To me, a scientist of the 21st century, the sweep of this  evolutionary drama evokes admiration for God’s prowess and purposefulness, but for ancient Israelites this would all be a confusing mess.

I fail to see how this would be an improvement over Option (3) for accomplishing the designated purpose of the Scriptures. Apparently God saw it the same way. In inspiring Genesis He chose Option (3), and I honor that choice.

Advertisements

About ScottBuchanan

Ph D chemical engineer, interested in intersection of science with my evangelical Christian faith. This intersection includes creation(ism) and miracles. I also write on random topics of interest, such as economics, folding scooters, and composting toilets. Background: B.A. in Near Eastern Studies, a year at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a year working as a plumber and a lab technician. Then a B.S.E. and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Since then, conducted research in an industrial laboratory. Published a number of papers on heterogeneous catalysis, and an inventor on over 80 U.S. patents in diverse technical areas.
This entry was posted in Age of Earth, Bible Interpretation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Was the “Expanse” Overhead in Genesis 1 a Solid Dome?

  1. Your point being? The only flaw in the Scriptures is our perception and finite understanding. I dare not judge God’s Word with a microscope of science, or so called “papers” and knowledge. God is fully capable of communicating with his creation accurately, succinctly, and with timely relevancy. If your point is to say the Scriptures are somehow flawed, or in error based upon YOUR subjective understanding, then I’d presume you are placing your own opinion over the authority of the Word of God. The Bible is in complete harmony with God’s own laws.

    • Huck, thanks for your comment. I simply note that the plain, literal meaning of Genesis 1 is at odds with physical observations. This is true for a number of aspects of the Creation story. Here I focused on just one (the firmament). Where this usually comes up is with the age of the earth and with evolution, but the principles are the same. All too often, people deal with this by simply dismissing the Bible as being divine revelation because the science is not up to date. Part of what I try to do here is offer alternatives to that wholesale dismissal.
      I offered the two honest ways I know of to deal with this. One approach is to hold firmly to the literal meaning and refuse to accept the physical evidence as real – – this was Luther’s response, and I hoped I made it clear that this could be a honest, consistent way to treat all conflicts between science and Bible. This is easier to do if you have not engaged deeply in physical research, since it is then easier to belief that “those scientists” are foolish or deluded.

      The other approach is to take a biblical view of the scope of the bible’s authority. I agree that God is fully capable of communicating however He wishes. In setting forth a detailed creation story to the people of c. 1000 BC, He could have spoken of an expanding space-time continuum, first-generation stars exploding in supernovae to produce the heavier elements that accreted into our planet, a billion years of only microsopic lifeforms, the appearance of fish, then amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and finally humans (in that order, incontrovertably in the rock layers). I think that would have been quite confusing to the Israelites. It seems that He wisely and graciously chose to work mainly with the physical concepts the Israelites already had, in order to communicate the doctrine, reproof, instruction, and training in righteousness that is the stated purpose of the Scriptures.

      There may be other honest ways to deal with the apparent disconnect between the literal meaning of Genesis, and the physical evidence, while honoring the revelation in Scripture. These are just the two I am aware of. I do realize this is a painful, contentious area, and appreciate your high view of the Scriptures.
      Best wishes,
      Scott

      • “lean not to thine own understanding”. For hundreds of years, the Bible was “at odds” with “physical observations” such as the sun being at the center of the universe, and the earth being flat. The Bible holds true always. As I mention in the opening lines of the Blog, you need to first prove Moses a liar before any critical inquiry. In a court room, a written testimony is considered truth unless proven otherwise. There is no evidence of Moses account being misleading in any way. Moses had no reason to lie, The genealogies with given years are literal, theres no other way to read it. “physical evidence” is purely subjective. NO archaelogical discovery has ever controverted the historical accounts given in scripture. Not one single word of any historical account given in scripture has ever been refuted. Sodom? found. Walls of Jericho? found. Proof of King David, and Pilate? found. All were once called “myths” by skeptics. 95% of “scientists” are atheists, and atheism is a belief system. The literal meaning of Genesis is the only way to interpret it, which is how the Bible is written, unless otherwise stated in its text.
        I find it interesting and saddening that folks like you dont dispute Jesus being resurrected from the dead after three days (or do you?), the evidence for which is Emperical, but for what ever reason, refuse to believe God made the Universe, and everything in it in 6 days, and if you refuse to believe what he says in Genesis, Then what do you say to the account of the crucifixion, death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Is that “literal”? or a fairy tale? and if you can believe in that, then why is it such a stretch for you to believe in Moses account of the creation and the age of man?

      • I simply note that the Resurrection of Jesus after three days in a grave defies “scientific” observation as well. Genesis is a LITERAL book, and there is no reason to view it any differently. Seems if you don’t have a problem believing Jesus rose from the dead as the scriptures say, then a six day creation would seem trivial by comparison. Just what DO you believe? You will not find a date stamp on a dinosaur bone. If you want to dispute the scriptures, start with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, a verifiable, confirmed miracle.

  2. According to the scriptures, the earth, and all of creation is about 6100 years old. From Adam to Abraham was only 1948 yrs. The rest is verifiable, recorded history. See my blog for the scriptures. You give what you can see and what you have been taught more credibility than the inerrant word of God. If you claim to be a Christian, and believe that Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the grave, then you accept and believe in miracles. By extension, a 6 day creation, and all of the scriptures of The Genesis account are not a stretch by any means. No archaelogical discovery has ever controverted the historical account given anywhere in the scriptures. Not one. And archaelogy continues to confirm the scriptures, and making fools of mens “theorys” and “opinions” on a weekly basis. Walls of Jericho, once called a “Jewish fable”? found. North wall still standing just as the scriptures say. Sodom and Gomorrah? National Geographic did a cover story on it in 2010. Proof of King David? found. and dozens and dozens of other so called “myths” and “fables” of the Bible confirmed. Put the Bible on trial. It will stand without propping.
    Unless Moses is a liar, The Book of Genesis is a LITERAL account. The only conflict you have is your own opinion and understanding. “lean ot unto thine own understanding” Proverbs 3;5

    • Huck,
      Nice job pointing out how archaeology has confirmed and illuminated many Old Testament events and portrayals. Besides the instances you mention, many customs and names mentioned in Genesis 12-50 have been found to be consistent with customs and names in the Fertile Crescent in the 1500-2000 B.C. timeframe.

      You ask an important question: How can we believe in the New Testament story, especially the Resurrection, and yet acknowledge that the Genesis creation account is not literally true? Let’s look at some of the differences between the two cases. The Jesus story was recorded by eyewitnesses or interviewers of eyewitnesses, within a few decades of the events. Hundreds of individuals witnessed the resurrected Christ, and sealed their testimonies by grisly deaths. Unless you know so much about the universe as to KNOW that miracles are impossible, believing in the Resurrection is quite rational. There is no proof against it, and much evidence for it. It is consistent with the facts.
      On the other hand, whether or not Moses penned the Genesis creation story, it is not an eyewitness account of the events. More importantly, it is utterly irreconcilable with the physical evidence. I will not debate that here – I understand that if you are a dedicated young earth creationist, your mind will simply not admit the evidence that the earth is billions of years old. This phenomenon is known as “Morton’s demon”, which I discuss in my Grand_Canyon_Creation article at https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/grand-canyon-creation/ . This article details the depths of deception that young earth creationists must stoop to in order to maintain their views.

      God calls us to faith in the unseen, and to faith that He will do remarkable and even miraculous things in the future. But He does not ask us to lie about what has actually happened in the past.

      Jesus’s primary mode of teaching was to tell stories that likely never happened. I am able to receive moral guidance and appreciation for my Heavenly Father’s grace from the story of the Good Samaritan, whether or not there really was a Samaritan merchant who rescued a robbery victim on the road to Jericho. Likewise, I can appreciate the teachings of the Genesis story whether or not the narrative is literally true.

      There are only a few historical facts which are essential to the Christian faith. Paul lists them in I Cor 15:1-8. These are Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. Paul characterizes these as being “of first importance.” Everything else, then, is secondary. On those secondary matters, including the age of the earth, I suspect that you and I may have to agree to disagree.
      Blessings…

      • Thank you Scott. I’m fascinated at the wealth of information recently uncovered that confirms the scriptures. Let God’s word be true, and every man a liar. God bless you!

      • Oh!, and one more thing… You must first prove Moses is a liar to refute the Genesis account. The burden of proof is on you, not the scriptures.

  3. Greg says:

    Scott – Just saw this article. Very interesting, but I have to side with Huck. The Bible is to be taken literally unless the language and context require otherwise. Since the Genesis account is clearly written as historical narrative, Bible-believing Christians must accept it to be literally true in every detail. For example, God created everything in six literal days. Why else did God give us a seven day week? It is a continual reminder that He did it in six and rested on the seventh!

    Exodus 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

    You say that “There are only a few historical facts which are essential to the Christian faith.” However, you fail to realize that Jesus Christ himself referred to many of the events in the Old Testament as literal history, including Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah and the whale, Moses, Abraham, and last but not least – Adam and Eve. These events were important because Jesus referred to them as He was preaching doctrine.

    With regard to Adam and Eve, the old earth group agrees with the Big Bang story and places mankind at the very end of a billions of years old history. With the Biblical account as written, mankind appeared at the very beginning (Day 6!) This is a huge difference. Jesus Christ said it himself: “Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” Jesus said himself that Adam and Eve were made in the beginning!

    The age of the earth is a pivotal doctrine, because if you believe in millions of years, you believe that death came BEFORE Adam and Eve. However, this clearly is in contradiction to the Bible, that states that death came as a consequence of sin. Additionally, there are many evidences of a young earth (c. 6,000 years old) that you won’t find in the popular media, but are available at many Christian websites such as Answers In Genesis or Creation Ministries International.

    In the end, you really have to agree with the entire Biblical record, or else reject it. There can be no happy middle ground.

    Thanks for your post…

    • Greg,
      I get where you are coming from — I was of young earth opinion for many years, devoured The Genesis Flood, went to lectures by John Whitcomb, etc. We aren’t going to change each other’s minds here, so I’ll just respond briefly to your well-written comment.
      First, the evidences for a young earth offered on AIG and CMI are bogus. Sorry to be so blunt, but I have spent many hours weighing the facts here. I looked in detail at polystrate fossils, shrinking sun, fluctuating earths magnetic field, salt in the oceans, discrepant radioactive dates, dust on the moon, radioactive halos, etc etc. In every case, the young earthers did not tell the whole story. In some cases, AIG and CMI admit the failure of evidences for a young earth (e.g. moon dust, human-dino footprints), but then move on to their next attempt to deny the obvious. This does not seem to stop other YE creationists from hanging on to what they want to hear. For instance, The moon dust meme is still alive and well, see e.g. http://thenaturalhistorian.com/2012/04/27/bring-out-your-dust-the-young-earth-creatonist-moon-dust-argument-that-just-wont-die/.

      I cover many of these issues here https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/stan-2-2/ . In my essay on the geology of the Grand Canyon here https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/grand-canyon-creation/ . I detail the self-deception that young earthers must practice to maintain their views. And my latest post is on how Siccar Point showed an old earth to early geologists https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/unconformities-showed-geologists-by-1800-that-the-earth-was-very-old/ .
      It was for me a slow and disturbing journey of discovery, to find that what I had believed and taught others was not so.

      It is a deep grief to keep learning of the children of my peers who were taught young earth (“If evolution is true, the Bible is false”), and who then find out that that modern science is in fact correct, and are so scandalized at being misled by parents and pastors that they walk away from their faith.

      That said, I don’t claim to have the full answer on how to view the Genesis account in light of the consistent evidence that the earth is billions of years old and that God used evolution to get us here; and that (contrary to Genesis 1) there seems to be no solid dome overhead. Here are some thoughts on the Adam/Fall/Death issue https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/2011/08/21/adam-the-fall-and-evolution-christianity-today-and-world-get-it-wrong/ . I’m sure someone could improve on it.
      Blessings,
      Scott

      • Greg says:

        Your rejection of YEC claims by groups such as AIG and CMI is shallow, as partly evidenced by your constant reference to atheist sites such as talkorigins.org. One wonders how much time you really have spent on the age issue, since both of these groups have denied using the “moon dust” as a valid argument for YEC. There ARE real problems with modern dating techniques, as evidenced by several recent dinosaur finds containing soft tissue, including connective tissue and blood cells – even traces of proteins – all in dinosaur bones dated at 65+ million years old. Hmmm…
        You said… “I detail the self-deception that young earthers must practice to maintain their views… (“If evolution is true, the Bible is false”), and who then find out that that modern science is in fact correct…”
        Actually, you have it quite backwards. The Bible says this:
        “Romans 1:20-21 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
        Evolution as proclaimed by “modern science” is a fanciful story not founded on the facts of observational science. In fact, evolution has NEVER BEEN OBSERVED! Yet it is proclaimed as truth. Same for the Big Bang. The whole Big Bang myth is in turmoil right now, but the secular scientific establishment won’t let you hear the real problems with this failed hypothesis. It is a deck of cards waiting to fall!
        You really do have it backwards. It is people that embrace modern science who are being deceived and walking away from the faith – not the other way around. When people teach and affirm that we really don’t need God (He didn’t participate in the universe’s creation anyway it is claimed) it is no leap to then become an atheist. How sad…

  4. dd says:

    All the “proof” we have for our scientific understanding is man’s word for it, scientific papers that claim to have “proof” yet without billions in our bank accounts we can never test them out. We have to believe man’s doctrine because we are taught to in school, by tv and by everyone we meet who has been indoctrinated, or we can believe the doctrine of the infallible YHWH who created the world. Tough call, hmmm…Remind me again, which one is not controlled by the illumati group of satanists intent on control of the world and removing all belief in God? Just such a difficult choice… 😉

  5. Daniel says:

    Nice article on a tough subject. I find it ironic that for years I hung onto genesis as scientific but happily informed the continual scriptural language about the heart being the source of thinking and emotion which runs from genesis through to the gospels and beyond. The moral imperative/message is what counts…

    • Daniel, thanks for the kind words. Not everyone is so appreciative. These are contentious issues, but I am tired of seeing the gospel defamed by earnest but mistaken YE creationists. Blessings in your journey…

  6. bslim says:

    Scott, I don’t see how the “firmament” can be a solid dome as you suggested. On the second day, Genesis1:6-8 “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters .. And God called the firmament Heaven … ” Then in Genesis 1:14-19, God created the sun, moon and stars and placed them in the “firmament of the heaven” on the fourth day. So Genesis 1 gives us the idea that the firmament is the vast outer space where God could place the sun, moon and stars. If the firmament is some metal sheet or solid dome, how could the sun, moon and stars be placed in them?

    • Hello bslim, I understand that it seems weird to us now to think of having the sun, moon, and stars localized on some solid surface. Apparently the ancients were not bothered by this. If you look at nearly any ancient or medieval understanding of this passage, they see these celestial lights as somehow fastened to or embedded in the heavenly dome. I don’t know if they worried about the details of exactly how this fastening or support worked, or how some of those lights could move relative to each other. They did not know as we do now that most of these lights are gigantic objects that are much larger than the earth. Note above how Luther (correctly) insisted on this interpretation, in the face of objections from early astronomers. According the Jewish Encyclopedia, ” The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars.”
      We noted that up above the firmament are much of the primordial (liquid) waters, which can pour through if the floodgates are opened. We discussed why this does not comport with the firmament being outer space.
      I realize that this, and all the other aspects of the Genesis creation story which are not physically accurate, can be disturbing to folks (like me) who have encountered God’s communication through the Bible. There are three main reactions to this problem. One is to deny the physical reality, as in young earth creationism. Another is to evade the plain meaning of the text, as in old earth creationism. I have spent years in both of those stages, so I do not judge anyone’s motives or intelligence here. The third approach is to accept that God gave the ancient Hebrews the creation story they needed at the time. That does not make Him or Moses a “liar”, any more than Jesus was a liar for telling other stories that never really happened, or that the prophet Nathan was a liar for telling David the story of the rich man and the poor man’s lamb initially as though it were true.
      I hope this is helpful to you. – Scott

      • bslim says:

        Scott, when you said the “ancients are not bothered” by the belief that the sun, moon and stars were stuck to some solid dome. But the Genesis account certainly does not say so (Genesis 1:6-8, 14-19), unlike the beliefs of the “ancients” that you referred to.

        We can’t change the reading in Genesis. Your difficulty, I believe, is with how that empty space of the firmament can separate 2 bodies of waters. The body of water on earth is fine because it is resting on solid. But the body of water above the firmament — how can it be resting on empty space? I have 2 comments with regard to this:

        1. Science doesn’t have an answer. Before you rebut, look at this link (http://www.livescience.com/33505-water-strange-physics.html) which describes a list of fascinating things about the nature of water that science has yet to answer. Scientists are puzzled by certain behaviour of water under zero gravity conditions, for instance. The water above the firmament (outer space) is not subject to the earth’s gravitational pull, so you must not assume that they must rest on something solid like the water on earth.
        Physical space, by its nature, is infinite. If it is not bounded, it can just go on forever. Nobody understands this infinite nature of space. How can it not end? The Genesis account tells us that God placed a bound above the firmament (outer space) using water. You can’t quarrel with the fact that that’s what the Genesis account says. You can only question how that is possible.
        In Psalm 131:1 “LORD, my heart, is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.” (You can also read Psalm 131:2). So this idea of water resting above the firmament under different sets of conditions than what we experience on earth, would be one the “great matters” referred to by King David. The Bible has another verse that tells us that man/science can never comprehend fully the work of creation: ” … he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
        The history of science tells us that the more we know the more we know that we do not know.

        2. You are familiar with the fact that the resurrected body of Christ is solid and yet it can walk through the walls. Solid walking through solid. Science can’t explain it. Are we to reject the Bible account that the solid body of Christ actually went through solid? There are solid places, thrones, beings, horses in heaven that Christ ascended to. The nature of this solid is not the same as the solid we understand from our experience on earth or from science.

        I would interested to hear your response.

  7. I realize quite well that there is always more to learn about the physical world. That is why I, a professional researcher, still have a job.

    Christ’s resurrection body, like our future resurrection body, is not the same as ordinary matter (see I Cor 15). But nothing in the Genesis description of water and earth and stars etc. would lead us to believe that other than natural, physical entities are involved. So your analogy does not apply.

    One more time (did you actually read what I wrote?):
    (a) The usage of firmament (raqia) denotes a solid sheet or surface
    (b) This understanding of the raqia as a solid dome is confirmed in Job 37:18, where Job’s wise friend Elihu asks him, “Can you join him [God] in spreading out [raqa] the skies, as hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” It could hardly be any plainer than that.
    (c) When portals in this dome are opened, the waters above poured down to flood the earth, until the portals were closed.
    (d) If we are arguing about how to interpret an old hebrew text, the old hebrews are best placed to do that, and they clearly saw the firmament as solid.

    Now if you want to sweep all that aside and insist on your own authority, no, it must be vacuous outer space, that is your prerogative and it is not my mission to persuade you otherwise. My main purpose here is to be a place where, when people do finally realize that Genesis doesn’t fit the facts, they find someone (me) who fully gets that, but who has not let that diminish his faith. I wish you well….

    • bslim says:

      Scott, let me assure you that I read what you wrote.
      It would not be a surprise that the waters that are above the vast outer space should become frozen. Job 37:18 says “Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?” In John’s vision of the throne of God, he wrote in Revelation 4:6 “And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal …” That waters above the firmament, that “molten looking glass” and that “sea of glass” — I believe they refer to the same thing. There is no way we can fully understand these things just as no man can understand the apparent infinite concept of space in the universe. But from Job 37:18 and Revelation 4:6, we can reason that the upper bound of the firmament is “molten looking” and at least semi-solid. The firmament is vast outer space and its upper bound is made up of waters in a “molten” state.
      Now I do not know why you chose to quote Job 37:18 using the NIV version “Can you join him [God] in spreading out [raqa] the skies, as hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” NIV has taken liberty to place the emphasis on the cast bronze. The emphasis should be on the mirror. You may want to relook this verse again.
      Let me repeat: The Genesis account tells us that God placed a bound above the firmament (outer space) using water (Genesis 1:6-8,14-19). You can’t quarrel with the fact that that’s what the Genesis account says. You may want to show me how else can Genesis 1:6-8, 14-19 be read.
      It is interesting that you pointed out that the “resurrection body … is not the same as ordinary matter”. In other words, there are other type/s of matter that is yet unstudied in the realm of human science. In fact, that’s what I meant when I said: “The nature of this solid is not the same as the solid we understand from our experience on earth or from science.” Otherwise how can solid as we know it passes through solid. So we agree on this point that human science (geology, physics, etc) is far from adequate in helping man to comprehend truths revealed in the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
      We know from the Bible that the resurrection body is able to move from heaven where God is to earth. But our physical body will not be able to allow us to get from earth to heaven. So all the physical matter that we know of can’t wormhole itself into heaven. Whereas it is possible for matter in heaven to wormhole itself into earth. It would not take a long time for the resurrection body to get to earth from heaven. But it will take forever for physical matter to intrude into heaven where God is — forever, that is, never. I suppose we can reason that we can’t even be able to conduct human science with the type of matter that makes up the resurrection body.
      It is strange that you said there is nothing in the Genesis account to tell us that “nothing … other than natural, physical entities” invovled. Well, do you believe in creation? The act of creation? That there is a God, the Creator. If you do, I think you couldn’t but see that there is so much supernatural processes, energy and elements involved in the Genesis account. For instance, vegetation life came into existence before the sun in the Genesis account. That is impossible from the human science point of view. Something has to come out of nothing or from some superntural elements. For vegetation life to appear in a single day without the sun, that is only possible if you believe in the power of the Creator. He will need to speed up the biochemical processes at an astonishing rate. He will have to process the rock substrate on which the plants grew, speeding up the process of chemical rock weathering at again an astonishing rate so that soil formation will allow the root system to penentrate to great depths below the surface. For different types of vegetation to appear the crust of the earth have to be supernaturally altered to accommodate these new creations on land, fresh water and marine environment.
      The Genesis account of creation conflicts with the theories of human science. It certainly does.
      I would be interested again in your response.

      • bslim,
        You bring up a number of interesting points. Just staying on topic with the firmament, Job 37:18 refers to the firmament as “strong” ( chazaq: strong, stout, mighty), which would apply to a solid, not a liquid or gel. This verse also says it is like a “cast mirror”. The word (yatzaq) for “cast” can also mean “molten” or “pour”, but go ahead and look up in any Bible dictionary what it means when used with “mirror” (rei) — it refers to a solid metal mirror, which in practice was formed by first melting the metal to form a smooth surface, then letting it solidify.

        e.g. see here:
        http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/eastons-bible-dictionary/glass.html ,which says:
        In Job 37:18 , the word rendered “looking-glass” is in the Revised Version properly rendered “mirror,” formed, i.e., of some metal. (Compare Exodus 38:8 : “looking-glasses” are brazen mirrors, RSV).

        See also e.g. I Kings 7:16 , where KJV (as in Job 37:18) translates it as “molten” but it does not mean the brass there is actually liquid, just that it was earlier melted, as part of its process of formation, but is now solid.

        Re “ The Genesis account tells us that God placed a bound above the firmament (outer space) using water (Genesis 1:6-8,14-19). You can’t quarrel with the fact that that’s what the Genesis account says. “ – – – I think we are actually close to agreement here – I agree that’s what the Genesis account says apart from your claim that the firmament is outer space. I agree that in the Genesis there is a vast amount of water (regular H2O, since it was divided from the earthly ocean, and since some of it poured down during the flood). Where I think we disagree is
        (a) that the firmament is the vast stretches of outer space, which is contrary to all the wording in Genesis and other biblical references to the firmament,
        and (b) whether we are required to believe that the clear Genesis claim of a vast celestial liquid ocean is true.

        re “If you do, I think you couldn’t but see that there is so much supernatural processes, energy and elements involved in the Genesis account. For instance, vegetation life came into existence before the sun in the Genesis account. That is impossible from the human science point of view….” – – -I agree that Genesis speaks of supernatural power and processes to bring into being the vegetation, the sun, moon , stars, and land and water that comprise our physical world. My point was that those natural created elements are described in Genesis as norrmal natural entities, not a hybrid of natural entities and some resurrection-substance that belongs to the age to come.

        I think I understand better where you are coming from now. If you feel a need to hold to the literal Genesis account, regardless of whether it comports with the physical evidence, I respect your motivation there. But if you are going to do so, why not stick with the plain meaning of the firmament as a solid dome (for all the reasons I have already presented) like Luther did, instead of imposing on it an alien concept of vacuous space (which is not “hard” or “strong”, doesn’t have floodgates to let the H2O gush down through, etc. etc.)? You are getting that outer space concept from the scientists , not from the Bible. Luther had the gumption and consistency to say I am just going to believe what the Bible says , no matter what those scientists are saying.

  8. bslim says:

    Scott,
    Job 37:18 “Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass?” I will look at “sky”, “molten” and “looking glass” in detail below.
    1. Sky is not firmament. The Hebrew word used is shachaq not raqia (firmament). Shachaq is translated as sky, clouds and dust, and heaven in various contexts. Shachaq can refer to the the upper bound of the earth’s atmosphere where the clouds and dust are (see Job 36:27-28 clouds=shachaq and Isaiah 40:15 dust=shachaq). Or it can refer to the upper bound of the physcial universe beyond which God is (Psalm 89:6 heaven=shachaq).
    So Job 37:18 is not referring to the entire firmament of heaven. It is referring to the upper bound of the firmament.
    In Genesis 1:8, “God called the firmament Heaven” — not sky. The vast expanse of this firmament is mainly outer space. Part of this firmament is the lower atmosphere of the earth: Genesis 1:20 refers to this as the “open firmament of heaven” where the birds fly. Genesis 1:17 tells us that God “set them in the firmament of heaven to give light upon the earth” This “firmament of heaven” refers to outer space where the sun, moon and stars are located.
    2. The Hebrew word for “molten” is yatsaq. If it is used as a verb it can mean “pour” or “to make to flow”. Job 37:18 uses “molten”, not as a verb, but as an adjective to describe the “looking glass”. It is used in this way in 1Kings 7:23 “And he made a molten sea …” Note: molten sea. So molten clearly refers to a state of low viscosity, semi-solid, and not complete solid. Also your reference to 1 Kings 7:16 left out the context of the verse: “And he made two chapiters of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars …” The molten brass need to be set for it to harden. Molten brass itself is still semi-solid. So it is incorrect when you attempt to refer to molten as solid.
    3. The Hebrew word for “looking glass” in Job 37:18 is reiy. It refers to a mirror. So we agree on that. I mention in my previous post that this is consistent with what we learn in Revelation 4:6 and Genesis 1:7. Together with Job 37:18, these verses tell us that the upper bound of the physical universe is made up of waters, and this waters in outer space is no longer in a liquid state. It is described as “a molten looking glass” in Job and as “a sea of glass like unto crystal” in Revelation. There is no way we can comprehend this but it is what separates the physical universe from the heaven where the throne of God is.
    In Exodus 38:8, the Hebrew word for “lookingglasses” is marah, not reiy. Marah is translated “lookingglasses” only once in this verse. Marah is translated “vision” or “visions” in all other verses e.g. Daniel 10:7. The use of Marah emphasises the function of revealing or revelation. Exodus 38:8 was describing laver (or large ceremonial basins) made of brass, and the brass was so highly polished to the effect that they could serve the function of “the lookingglasses (marah) of the women”. There is no reference to “brazen mirror” here. Job 37:18 refers to “molten looking glass” — the verse does not make any reference to molten metal or brass. It is not true that only metal can be molten.

    I explain above that Genesis 1:17 refers to that part of the firmament where the sun, moon and stars are while Genesis 1:20 refers to that part of the firmament where the birds fly. When you refer to waters pouring down on the earth during the Flood of Noah — are you thinking of the waters from the sky of the lower atmosphere or are you thinking of the waters pouring out of the upper bound of the firmament mentioned in Genesis 1:7?

    You refer to “naturally created elements” and “normal natural entities” in Genesis. If anything is created, it has to be supernatural. It either comes out of nothing or it comes out of some supernatural elements. So I do not agree with your use of the phrases “naturally created elements” and “normal natural entities” in the context of the Genesis account. These phrases presuppose that natural processes were at work on naturally occuring elements which science would have us believe. The act of creation as described in Genesis is beyond the scope of human science. It has to be beyond the wildest imagination of man. It is much more fascinating than a fairy tale. Human science will never be able to explain it.
    You said, “I am just going to believe what the Bible says , no matter what those scientists are saying.” I may be wrong but it seems to me that you have been saying that the Genesis account is badly flawed based on what you understand about science. Hence, your idea that the Genesis account was never meant to be a “scientifically accurate” account anyway. I think you believe that life, earth and stellar processes work themselves out over millions and billions of years. And the Genesis account of creation is wrong because it tells us that God created the universe and the earth with its life-forms in six short days.
    Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every word of God is pure … Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” God says “every word” of His in the Bible is pure including Genesis 1. But you said it is full of mistakes, didn’t you?
    I definitely love to hear from you again.

    • bslim,
      Again , I won’t respond to everything. You are missing some very key points.

      Re your: yatsaq. If it is used as a verb it can mean “pour” or “to make to flow”. No, it can also mean “cast” (check any thorough lexicon), and that is the meaning it normally has when describing anything of metal, such as the metal mirrors of Old Testament times, and “seas” ,etc. You can go study it all in detail here:
      http://biblesuite.com/hebrew/3332.htm

      The metal chapiters and seas etc. were not in a molten state indefinitely, just briefly while they were formed (cast). It’s unfortunate that KJV and some other older versions translate it as “molten” but all of these objects were “cast”solids. The “sea” did not remain as a 1000 degree sizzling droopy mass of half-solidified metal. It’s like in English where a “cast-iron bearing” or a “tuna melt” are normally solids.

      So your: So molten clearly refers to a state of low viscosity, semi-solid, and not complete solid. Also your reference to 1 Kings 7:16 left out the context of the verse: “And he made two chapiters of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars …” The molten brass need to be set for it to harden. Molten brass itself is still semi-solid. —-
      —–is incorrect.

      Re your: The Hebrew word for “looking glass” in Job 37:18 is reiy. It refers to a mirror.
      – – yes, and a mirror was a SOLID sheet of (cast) metal, not a red-hot puddle of liquid metal.
      Also, you have sidestepped the primary descriptor of the spread-out (root is raqia) sky, which is that it is “hard” or “strong” – as hard/strong as a sheet of cast metal.

      Re Gen 1:20, birds flying in the firmament:
      The exact wording here is important. I’ll give the Hebrew for 1:20b, with the most literal word for word translation, then offer some comments. It says : we-yoph [and birds] yw-opheph [fly] al-haaretz [above the earth ] al-paneh [on the face of] raqia [the firmament] ha-shammayim [of the heavens].

      The preposition “al” by itself means “upon, above, over,” as used here with “above the earth”. “Paneh” means “face.” Al-Paneh thus normally denotes an object which is above or in front of some surface or object. It occurs, for instance, in Gen 1:2, 1:20, 1:29, 2:6, 4:14, 6:1, etc. , where it refers to something situated vertically above or on the surface of the earth or sea. It can also mean “in front of” as in Lev 16:2, 16:20 “in front of the mercy seat,” where one object is beside rather than above another object. It can carry other connotations as well, but it does not mean “in” or “within”. Thus, it is not the natural meaning of the words to take this verse as saying the birds were flying in or within the firmament.

      Gen 1:20b can be, and is, legitimately translated various ways, but the most straightforward translation would have the birds flying “in front of” or “across the face of” the firmament of heaven. This is consistent with the firmament as a solid surface.

      Re your: The vast expanse of this firmament is mainly outer space.
      — Outer space is a completely unbiblical concept. At the end of time, the sky will be rolled up like a scroll – this applies to the thin, hard shell of a firmament, not to a 3-D vacuum. You are not getting this outer space concept from the Bible, or from primary observations, but from scientists and their “theories”. I’m not going to rehash all the other verses that show the OT concept of the firmament is a solid dome.

      As noted, if you want to hold that the only faithful way to approach the Bible is to hold doggedly to the literal meaning of every verse, even if it means being untruthful about the nature of physical reality (e.g. 6000 year old earth created in 6 days), that is your choice. I have detailed these untruths e.g. re the Grand Canyon here : https://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/grand-canyon-creation/ and I am not going to rehash that here either.

      Re your: But you said it is full of mistakes
      – — If you want to call the parable of the Good Samaritan a “mistake” because the story never actually happened, or the prophet Nathan’s narrative to David about the rich man and poor man and his lamb a “mistake” because it never actually happened, or the Genesis story a “mistake” because it did not actually happen, that is your business. I do not call any of these “mistakes” . Instead, I honor God’s wisdom in giving the Hebrews a creation story that met their needs, and I respect Paul’s statement of the purpose of the Scriptures. He did not say they were given to teach us geology or biology, in contradiction to what observations of the physical world reveal to us. Rather, the Scriptures are “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. “ Let us be diligent to use the Scriptures to guide our doctrine and our conduct, not to misuse them.

  9. bslim says:

    Scott,
    I believe you are aware that “The history of glassmaking can be traced back to 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia…. “(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_glass). Thank you for your last comments above. I have read and I understood you. I have no further comments to add to my previous post.

  10. So you accept the resurrection of a dead man after three days in the grave, as the scriptures say, yet take issue with the “accuracy” of the Genesis account? Is the resurrection account also as flawed as you claim the Genesis account is? Of one is not literal, then surely the other is not as well. You cannot have it both ways. Genesis, as hard as it may be to believe, is a literal, historical account. Seems silly a Resurrection believer would choke on Genesis. Moses accounts for 3000 years from Adam to the first Temple. The only “error” in it is in your own understanding.

  11. Pingback: Evolution and Faith: My Story, Part 2 | Letters to Creationists

  12. Elias C. says:

    My name is Elias – Given your area of study and inquiry, I would like to introduce to you a reason of resolve if I may, with this question of consideration… It will help to bring us to an area of question first, that has not been seen or understood before…
    The scripture refers to two periods in time where the planet is entirely submerged under water:
    First – the beginning condition of the planet with no apparent dry and thus unknown by name as of yet, void and uninhabitable in the creation account…
    Secondly – a much later and unknown period of time, well after God has changed the condition of the planet to one that is inhabited on dry land, even up until the time of Noah and a great flood in which the Planet finds itself entirely submerged under water yet again…
    Qa: What would be the difference in the condition of the planet, in these two periods of submersion?
    The question must be considered because in the ‘second account’ of the planet’s covering of water – The condition of the planet itself is such that, it is able to recede the flooding waters with no intervention allowing for the ‘dry’ to again reappear… Thus Noah and his family eventually land and again inhabit the planet…
    As opposed to however – the beginning condition of the planet was such that, it did NOT have a way for the covering waters to recede without intervention – Thus finding the planet with no dry, void and uninhabitable according to the testified account of its beginning…Again, what would be the difference in the planets condition, which does NOT allow the waters to recede?
    Qb: What intervening event took place that altered the beginning condition of this void submerged planet?
    Enabling the waters to be gathered together to one place and subsequently causing the dry he called earth to appear as it were – That is absolutely essential for life and apparently, can be clearly understood by man after the fact, bearing record to the testament of such an event?
    If this mystery of question has not or cannot be resolved definitively to date –
    Then clearly, man is missing a key determining factor of creation as to the significant origin of mans own existence, to even speak of it…
    Question considered –

    I would like to introduce this dialectical reasoning of resolve at your leisure of course – If you would want to know or see it…

    God does tell us verbatim the mechanism or ‘event made to change’ a void submerged uninhabitable planet into a life sustaining land based environment, that is the ‘lone factor of creation’ that clearly reveals the glory of his hands work…

    The evident dilemma – is that this event identified by name 9 times in the account of this event alone – is unknown to man at present day… Leaving the verification of God’s literal creation to subjective speculation from man to man by the billions, with no way of ‘knowing definitively’ in the heart of man, the truth of its Creators’ very existence… So that man would be without excuse…

    If you would, please at your leisure, take your time as you consider this, its resolve could be important in its intent… If it reveals itself to you, you might share or discuss it with your level of peers.

    All references and bibliography to this 5000 word piece are at the end of its ‘fourth’ resolve…
    http://www.firmament-theresolve.com

    If you would not want to know or see this hid mystery of question –
    Continue to love your family…

    Good day,

    EC

  13. Robert Marie says:

    This was not Noah’s flood which took months for the water to recede: This was the first destruction of the first earth age when we were with God in Spirit form and all life perished killing the dinosaurs, making way for human flesh. The reason being Satan want God’s throne.

    Psalm 104 King James Version (KJV)
    104: 4 -Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

  14. Dear Scott, thanks for an excellent, thorough and honest look at an important biblical matter. I agree wholeheartedly with your interpretation and its implications, and I share your concern with the ways groups like AiG and ICR try and distort the gospel to make Christianity about a particular view of science and Genesis. I also appreciate the patient way you are responding to those who disagree with you in the comment thread here (even if, as far as I can tell, no one is really responding to your arguments about the firmament). I get a lot of that, too, over on my blog God of Evolution. You might want to check it out sometime, if you’re unfamiliar. Thanks!

    • Hi Tyler, I just rattled around GOE for a while. Lot of good stuff. Someone, maybe you, comments on God’s Not Dead that there may be a place for “shallow”, faith-affirming movies/books/tracts for younger Christians. There is plenty of time to wade deeper into the ambiguities.

      “What Ken Ham’s ‘Ark Encounter’ money could buy instead ” — yeah, that is one of my heartaches over this movement. But, my goodness, the energy these folks pour into it. Wonder what is the source of all that energy?\
      Blessings….

  15. RussellDowns says:

    Thanks Scott for that useful presentation. There is nothing much in it that is new to me, but is so well done that I am tempted to steal it and use it, although if I do I’ll make some changes. I will of course acknowledge you as the author.

  16. Dre says:

    I’d like to point out that water without any light-source in space turns to ice. That’s something that few people notice or think about, but it may worth mentioning. Excellent article, and thank you for making all of your work public.

  17. SteveDJ34 says:

    Conservatives 500 years ago called the science of Copernicus and Galileo “apostasy” and considered them heretics. But it has been proven, of course that the world is not flat, and that the Sun is the center of the universe. Leaders of my Catholic faith persecuted them, too, even though the Catholic church has always been more accepting of science than most religions.

    What strict “creationists” don’t understand is that the Bible is a book of “truth” NOT historical “fact”. Inspired by God, for sure, but meant for our instruction. Not to be taken literally. Think of Jesus’ teaching: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6 Does that “literally” mean you can act like a Jedi master and make a tree move? NO!!

    When it comes to science we would all be wise to heed the advice of St. Augustine Of Hippo who wrote:

    “In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it.”

  18. Juan says:

    You forgot to even consider that the “earth” is probably flat. On a flat earth all of the Bible’s descriptions of creation actually fit perfectly. 1.I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I have noticed that we have been seriously lied to. 2. I believe we are in the last days and 3. The bible does also mention that Satan will deceive the WHOLE world. Rev.12:9

  19. Pingback: Exposing the Roots of Young Earth Creationism | Letters to Creationists

  20. Jim says:

    I have studied these options over the past year. As crazy as this sounds……. I now believe in a cold physical firmament. In my opinion it off the only scientific and proven option. Evidence being our own atmosphere that can only exist in s closed system. Star trails are another major evidence. Time lapse photography does all stars rotate around Polaris. If the earth were a spinning globe this could not physically be possible. There have been very well documented experiments that have been suppressed that prove a flat stationary earth. We are not rotating over 1000 mph while traveling 66000 mph the sun while revolving around an arm of the milky way at 550000 mph while being propelled 666000000 mph from the big bang. Yes I realize the implications. Did you know there are over two hundred scientist and college professors who now teach a stationary earth? I was a teacher for twenty years and now see the scientific folly of the globe model. The flat earth model is the only explanation for do many things such as eclipses… Length of days changing etc

  21. Q2 says:

    Scott I find it interesting how those who criticize you for allegedly not taking scripture “literally” and at face value, criticize you for taking scripture literally and at face value when it comes to the firmament as a solid dome. I don’t know if you already posted this link but here’s a paper that explains the clear historical-grammatical meaning of raqia that may be of help to some people- if they’re open to learning: https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/01-genesis/text/articles-books/seely-firmament-wtj.pdf . I also recommend John H. Walton’s book “The Lost World of Genesis One,” which can further help people with a proper understanding of the Genesis creation account (apologies if you already posted on this).

    • Q2, appreciate the thoughts and input here. I actually do link to that Paul Seely article in my post above. He did an excellent job summarizing the common view of the sky as a solid dome among most pre-scientific people groups.
      Paul Seely is kind of a hero to me — some decades ago he dedicated himself to thorough understanding of the Bible, and studied his way through every version in the original languages. He published Inerrant Wisdom in 1989, showing that a wooden literalistic view of biblical inerrancy is actually unbiblical, and that we must acknowledge that the Genesis story was God’s gracious and wise accommodation to the ancient Hebrews science of their day. Since about 2007 there have been a number of books (including John Walton’s volume you mention) that make this point, but Paul was a pioneer. I had the privilege of meeting him in person about 5 years ago at a meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation to thank him.
      Merry Christmas to you!

  22. john says:

    An excellent and honest article. Some of the responses make me dispair. The insistence on a rigid biblical literalism for what are clearly poetic pre scientific explanations of creation is foolish and not honouring to anyone. You have prooved that a literal interpretation involves water in space ect. Answers in genesis should focus on the worldview the text is presenting and stop trying to squeeze scientific truths out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they released a textbook for farming based on the parable of the sower….

  23. Jim Heiling says:

    The literal solid firmament has never been scientifically disproven. There has never been any recorded movement of any constellation from ancient times to present. Modern science claims we are rotating, revolving, circling, and being hurled through space at about 98% of the speed of light. Modern science only works on paper, and has no provable data to support it outside of their own models and phony pictures. The earth is flat as all real science demonstrates. The firmament is a dome as demonstrated by star trails. I taught the lie for twenty years…… No more

  24. Scott, the problem I have with your article is that you appear to have a fundamental misunderstanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Space is not a vacuum as you assert. Space has components of light and time, and the planets and stars have distorted this “firmament” like engravings on a bronze mirror. In fact, I would be interested in your take on how it is that gravity distorts the space-time curve if space is an empty vacuum as you claim.

    • Sergey says:

      Scott. Please reply to the people who are telling you the earth is flat. It’s already proven. The truth is out. Globe science is false. Everything nasa shows is cgi or composites. There is not one real photo of a globe earth. Satellites don’t exist. Zero gravity does not exist. Planets don’t exist. Lightyears dont exist. The Bible clearly explains the flat earth as we see and feel it. 90 something countries signed a treaty to keep people out of Antarctica because they reached the dome there. The sky is blue because it’s water. Do some research on this Scott. The first part of your article is very good but then you go into some bs. There is no proof of anything they say.

  25. tom minkler says:

    Excellent article, i appreciate the way you laid it all out, especially the part about the “Bible being inerrant, but regarding what?” I also like the comments of those who agree with you.

    As a believer i see no reason that the Bible needs to be “inerrant” about anything really. We humans create things in our minds that God didn’t create in reality/nature, such as the concept of perfection. Is there a “perfect” tree or rock? Nonsense! Nothing written, translated etc. by flawed humans is ever flawless. We think we need it to be, so we make the concept up. The idea that the “word of God” “starts” and “stops” (with the last thing John wrote?) is just as silly!

    I haven’t read what you’ve written about Jesus “ascending” but we now know that “up” is “down” 12 hours later; they did not! There is nothing wrong with people 4000 years ago being flat out wrong about stuff! People freak out, oh my God if one part of it isn’t true, how do we know can we believe any of it!? Guess what, we don’t! Welcome to life!!! That’s why it’s called FAITH! 🙂

    The divine word/truth/message/logos/expression is not a book or a person, although a book could contain it or a person such as Jesus embody it, which i believe he does. Although the word “son” is also used non-literally quite a bit.

    Anyway no need to respond, just wanted to express my appreciation for your thoughtfulness and work. Keep up the good work!

  26. Pingback: Listing of Articles on Science, Faith and Other | Letters to Creationists

  27. Pingback: scripture is God’s written word, and the means to an end, not the end itself « Jesus community

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s