Help with a creationist/AIG argument

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

This article from AIG has been bugging me for some time. It makes me think that there may be some scientific foreknowledge in Genesis 1, I can’t find anyone refuting this and I don’t know how a scientific reading of Genesis 1 can be reconciled with the facts of evolution:

(Casper Hesp) #2

It is a rather long article. Can you cite the paragraphs that bother you, specifically? It’s bothersome having to dig through the mud-slinging to find some actual arguments in this article.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #3


"The problem with this argument is that the claim that shamayim is ‘broader in meaning’ than raqiya‘ in Genesis14 is simply groundless—the result of circular reasoning. In Genesis 1:8, the implication is that the raqiya‘ has the name shamayim in an exact one-to-one correspondence, just as is the case for the ‘Earth’ and the ‘Seas’ when they are named (v. 10). There is no reason to see a broader meaning of shamayim than an exact equation with raqiya‘.

In fact, Seely’s only reason for saying that shamayim and raqiya‘ are not equal seems to be that it would result (because of verses like Deuteronomy 4:17, and other like Psalm 11:4) in the absurd conclusion that the birds fly or God sits enthroned ‘inside’ a solid structure! In other words, Seely has done precisely what Sailhamer has warned against: he has started with the idea of the solid sky, based on the views of ancient people, and forced onto the text divisions in the shamayim that are simply not specified, and in the case of Genesis 1, not even permitted, by the text.

We therefore argue that raqiya‘ is intended rather to refer to that which serves to ‘separate the earth from all that is beyond it’,15 (that is, what we call the atmosphere, and interstellar space) and that because no differentiation is made otherwise, there is no reason why Genesis can not be read to permit a description of the heavens and the natural order as we know it.

What of the other verses cited? Psalm 19:6 says, ‘It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat’ (NIV). This occurs after one of only two uses of raqiya‘ in the Psalms, in verse 1: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork’ (KJV).16 The poetic parallel of verse 1 strongly suggests that raqiya‘ and shamayim are meant to be equal in some sense, and in that case this verse would be contrary to Seely’s argument. But without any specific definitions from the author of this Psalm, any argument is simply speculative. Psalm 19:6 offers support for neither Seely’s position nor my own.

Psalm 148:4 says: ‘Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens!’ (NASB) No comparison is made to the raqiya‘ at all, and we can hardly assume without any definition or comparison from the writer of this Psalm that the two were or were not in exact correspondence; much less can it be assumed that there is embedded in this passage all of the given assumptions about what the shamayim consists of. At the same time, that the Psalmist refers in this poetic genre to multiple heavens no more means a division in types of heavens than his reference to the ‘most High God’ (78:56) and a ‘lowest hell’ (86:13) means that he knew of a God lower than the highest one or of a hell higher than the lowest one! Like the previous verse from the Psalms, this verse supports no specific interpretation.

Psalms 2:4, 11:4, and 139:8 all refer to God’s ‘location’ in heaven. It is difficult to see (especially since no explanation is offered) how these prove that there is some portion of shamayim that is ‘above’ the raqiya‘. Not one of these verses speaks of the shamayim in reference to the raqiya‘; nor do they make any kind of distinction between them.

Psalms 8:8 and 79:2 both refer to ‘birds of the shamayim’, again, with no reference to the raqiya‘. Moreover, the ‘birds of the shamayim’ are referred to in Gen. 1:26, a verse that Seely bypasses without comment! There is nothing in either of these verses, especially in light of Gen. 1:8 and 26, that in any way indicates that the two words refer to anything different within their contexts. Seely appears to make the differentiation only because to do otherwise would lead to an absurd conclusion.

That leaves Gen. 1:20. Many commentators regard this verse as phenomenological.17,18 But what of Seely’s ‘fish in the sea’ distinction? The analogy is in fact completely inappropriate. Water presents a definitively visible and tactile barrier to the human observer; the heavens do not. We know where the water starts, but where does the sky start? How high must something be to be ‘in the sky’? 2 Samuel 18:9 describes Absalom caught in a tree by his hair as hanging ‘between heaven and earth’. Is heaven very low, or is this a very tall tree, and was Absalom riding tall in the saddle? Ezekiel (8:3) was ‘lifted up between the earth and the heaven’ in his vision. No altimeter accompanied him, but it is difficult to see why any great height needs to be implied. 1 Chr. 21:16 refers to ‘the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth’ (NIV). So does one have to be at least as tall as Jerusalem to be considered ‘between’ heaven and earth?’ (If I were Absalom or Ezekiel, or the woman called ‘wickedness’ [Zech. 5:9], I’d consider flight insurance.)

Genesis 1:7, read with wooden literalism, would suggest that the raqiya‘ began at the very surface of the waters! I don’t think that even Seely would read a solid raqiya‘ into that one—this is a reductio ad absurdum of Seely’s position."


“It is shocking that all that Seely offers contrary to this is a vague assertion that ‘anyone can tell’ that from the perspective of earth, the stars look like they are ‘embedded in a solid vault’. I have never gotten such an impression at all about the stars. Nor, it seems, did at least one biblical writer, perhaps the earliest of them, think that the expanse was solid. The natural implication of Job 26:7 is that the writer understood that the stars, like the earth, were hung upon nothing. Nowhere does Genesis even use words like ‘embedded’ to describe the relationship”.

(Casper Hesp) #4

I don’t see anything here indicating “scientific foreknowledge”. Just that ancient phenomenological descriptions of nature aren’t necessarily wrong because they leave the physical details unspecified.

In astronomy, we talk about objects we observe “on” the sky. Is that wrong? If we meant it as a physical description, yes. But we intend it as a phenomenological description, so it isn’t wrong. However, it does not imply any (fore)knowledge about where those objects are located in the physical sense.

(George Brooks) #5

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, I have to side with @Casper_Hesp on this issue.

Considering the poverty of letters in the Hebrew language, the intent or meaning of “on”, “in”, “by”, “near”, “around” is all dependent on context.

There is an obscure reference in the Old Testament to men wearing “rope on their heads” when they made a plea to King David for mercy.

But they were not wearing rope on their heads - - they were wearing the rope “around their heads”… and to be even more clear in English, it would be more precise to say the rope was “around their necks” instead. This was the practice known in the middle ages as “wearing a [horse] halter” or “wearing a noose”, to indicate complete humility and defenselessness.

Any translation that says birds were flying “in” or “on” the Firmament, would almost certainly also be flying “near” or “by” the firmament… because Hebrew often expressed this kind of meaning without the linguistic articles commonly found in Greek or English to specifically indicate “the how”.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

So basically. Birds do not fly ‘in’ the Shamayim, they fly ‘around’ it? Okay, perhaps this is still an issue with Seely’s paper, but I get it.

(George Brooks) #7


Have you had any formal instruction in a foreign language? My experience is limited to Latin, and what I have gleaned from those knowledgeable in Hebrew and who have taken Hebrew and rendered a literal translation, followed by an interpretation of the Hebrew idiom into English idiom.

Since there are many texts in the Bible where the little words are completely absent, it is up to the translator to convey the meaning into the idiom of the reader:

“in”, “on”, “to” , “from”, “near”, “around”, “above”, “below” and so forth …

So… if the translator intentionally chooses “in” or “on” as the idiom for the English translation… it is stacking the deck for how to interpret the sentence in question.

If the translator intentionally chooses the more vague (but still correct) “around”, or “near”, or “by” - - all of a sudden the English reader has more latitude in understanding the nature of “that thing” that a bird is flying “by” or “near” (rather than “in” or “on”).

We should all know by now that “context” driven translations sometimes have more than one perfectly good translation, where the correct translation becomes clear to the reader who knows exactly what all the other words in the sentence mean.

In the case of the firmament, we have a disputed term (for “firmament”), and a semantic difference in context that would have been almost immediately clear to anyone who already knew what the Hebrew word for “firmament” actually intended. Unfortunately, we are left guessing to some degree what was meant.

In my view, the only support for “firmament” refering to the “wide open sky” or “the clouds of the sky” is when a translator attempts to exploit the semantic vagueness of the sentence to say that the Hebrew “firmament” could have meant “sky” or “clouds”.

Any sober attempt to line up all the specific uses of the Hebrew term, however, pretty much eliminates the ambiguities! … especially the Job text about the firmament being hard and hot like the making of a brazen metal mirror.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

There is still the small issue of the Bible taking of ‘birds of the heavens’ (Shamayim) (Psalm 104:12) with no reason to distinguish between the heavens and firmament.

(George Brooks) #9

Okay, @Reggie_O_Donoghue, let’s look at Psalm 104:12

Translations for Psa 104:12

By them [the waters / the streams] shall the fowls of the heaven [shamayim] have their habitation, which sing among the branches.

By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches.

The birds nest beside the streams and sing among the branches of the trees.

The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.

Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches.

The birds of the sky live beside the springs; they make their voices heard among the foliage.

[fn]Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; They [fn]lift up their voices among the branches.

By them the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches.

By them the birds of the heavens have their habitation; They sing among the branches.

So, Reggie, what exactly do we have here. You seem to think that the reference to “the Heavens” or to “the Sky” someohow indicates the sky is the Firmament?

How do you conclude that? The birds’ habitations were certainly not the “sky”, right? Not even the Hebrew thought birds “resided” in the sky. And if they did… that would almost certainly support the idea that the sky was a “firm something”, rather than just “wide open space”.

Some of the translators go so far as to say that the nesting is by the waters, not in the sky.

If any thing, the “firmament” demarked the highest part of the “sky” birds could reach, without bumping their heads.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

You misunderstand what I’m saying. I’m saying that the firmament is called heaven (shamayim), and there is no reason to see the word shamayim as being broader in meaning.

(George Brooks) #11

I’m not sure about that interpretation, @Reggie_O_Donoghue

Genesis 1:8 says God called the Firmament Heaven… but then, in rapid succession, we get four verses in the same chapter that uses the following language:

Gen 1:14
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Gen 1:15
And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

Gen 1:17
And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

Gen 1:20
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

So I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say:

If the term Firmament was perfectly equivalent to Heaven, the scribe would not have to say:

“in the open Sky of the Sky”.

The “Firmament” OF the Sky suggests that Firmament and Sky share the equal trrait of being “lofty” or “high” …

but the Firmament is still different.

My personal view of Hebrew cosmology
(system) #12

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