because everyone else in the ancient world thought the sky was solid.
Need a little more from you here and what you’re thinking. I’ve got a few quick thoughts:
- Does a non-solid raqia eliminate all the other similarities from the ANE? Nobody is arguing that they just copied stuff from others in the ANE, but rather were part of the same world. Each culture developed their own unique take on things in the world and so there will always be things that aren’t the same as the surrounding groups.
- It’s obviously not a scientific account given everything else and clearly serves multiple other purposes. One thing we see with ancient documents is that if you interpret bits and pieces certain ways, you can squeeze them into modern scientific perspectives. People do the same thing with the Quran, Rig Veda, finding bits and phrases and saying ‘ooh, ahh, science.’
So what was the Raqia and the waters above then, if not literal waters above a solid dome?
My position is that the scribe of Genesis erroneously believed the firmament was firm.
Why is this so hard to believe? The Genesis scribe was wrong about “poof” creation too!
It is currently my position too, but I’m told that my evidence is completely wrong.
My positive evidence is:
- The Raqia is created ‘in the midst of’, the deep with deep water above and below it.
- The Raqia is a stretched out expanse, which matches the stretched out sky which holds back water in the Enuma Elish.
The problem here is that you are using the word EXPANSE… when that is the alternate terminology used by translators who assert the Hebrew word for “firmament” means “empty expanse”!
Read in the Hebrew, a better understanding of raqia is ‘expanse’. You can read my translation and commentary here. If you don’t want to read through the whole commentary, here’s what I wrote about this word:
Many English translations render the Hebrew noun רָקִ֖יעַ (raqia) as ‘firmament’ (notably the English translation of the Septuagint, the LXA) while others render raqia as ‘expanse’. The latter translation is arguably more reasonable given that its verbal root, רָקַע (raqa), has a connotation of flattening, say, as a ball of dough is flattened by a rolling pin. In Exodus 39:3 the RSV renders the verb as “beat thin”, and in Jer 10:9 as “spread into plates”. The idea, therefore, of flattening an object and denoting its sheetlike appearance as an ‘expanse’ seems more reasonable than ‘firmament’. Also supporting this view, is the occurence of raqia in verse 1:20, where flying creatures are commanded to “fly-about over the land above the surface of the raqia of the skies”. In this verse, I believe that ‘expanse of the skies’ may make more sense than ‘firmament of the skies’.
I would also offer a general practice when puzzling over a difficult translation: the ancient Hebrews experienced the same ‘sky’ we do today. It’s unlikely, therefore, that the author, knowing that the sky was not solid, would represent the sky as such unless such a representation served another purpose, say, a more artful description. In other words, the author was representing the sky as a huge expanse, as if God had pounded a ball of ‘sky’ into an infinite plane of blue. Just a thought.
Thank you for sharing Michael! Also @Reggie_O_Donoghue, @Edward_T_Babinski and @gbrooks9 I’ve merged the most recent Raqia thread with the same topic from last week to get all the recent discussion in one place.
I disagree with you for a few reasons:
- We know that all other Ancient peoples thought the sky was solid, and the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians thought there was water above. In the case of the Babylonians, these waters were not rain, since the creation of rain clouds is discussed later on in the Enuma Elish.
- With that in mind, since most scholars argue that Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish mirror each other, as both texts mention ‘waters’ in conjunction with the creation of the sky, it is very likely that their waters are the same.
- Finally (and most importantly), the raqia is created ‘in the midst of’ the waters, which presumably are ‘the deep’, so there is deep water above and below.
Still, I agree that ‘expanse’ is the correct translation of Raqia, and I believe this refers to the skin which is stretched out to hold back the waters in the Enuma Elish.
Thanks for the response. It should be noted that many professional / academic translations that advance different understandings are not without merit. It’s an ancient language that largely disappeared by the time Jesus was born. The translation of raqia is similarly contentious. Anyway, I’d be interested in any comments you may have about this translation and exegesis of 1:6-7 before I respond to your post.
Thanks, and blessings
She is blue … AND appended to her are the stars!
If we compare all the leading English translations, there are is a branch of them which interpret raqia as “an empty expanse”…
… and another branch which interprets raqia as a “solid expanse” which makes an empty expanse possible.
The word “expanse” has been taken captive by both sides!
Ask JP Holding directly for constructive criticism. It’s worth a shot. But don’t expect him to cease mocking since he usually remains in his Theology Web hangout and mocks. He even has mocking videos on YouTube if you search under “flatearthery” (one word) in which he claims that the flat storied cosmos assumed by biblical authors was no such thing like other ancient assumptions of a flat storied cosmos. He says “fundy atheists” are the ones making such a connection: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYUE9NijJWFY_ztMDKXBUQt3WCcuRcclA
Yep. As in many (most?) translation issues, there are legitimate arguments on both sides. I do not claim ‘expanse’ or “empty expanse” to be absolutely what the author meant. However, I think the weight of the linguistic and contextual support for ‘expanse’ outweighs the alternative (but probably not by much).
Anyway, I prefer clarity to agreement and I think we have reached that point. Thanks for the give and take.
I think part of the question is also, what is the Raqia doing- in its separating waters from waters- what waters is it referring to? I see your take @mtp1032 is reasonable, though I can’t help but think of it being a bit broader with the separation of the water below the raqia with the cosmic ocean:
Later we see that there could be windows or ‘gates’ that could be opened in this raqia as it was able to hold back the cosmic ocean and opened up during the Noachian Flood for example. My take is solid but flexible, much like a tent. You noted in your translation that the birds flew at the bottom of this raqia, certainly possible even if it was solid. Just a few thoughts from me.
Yep. I’m familiar with the “cosmic ocean”. And the ideas floated in this understanding (pun intended ) is not without merit. Nice clarification.
Ordinarily, I could agree with you … except when Job says that God has storehouses (implicitly in the sky) where he keeps hail and snow for times they are needed.
The ancients didn’t have a clue about cosmology … and this reality affects all the other Literal Inspirations that are supposedly to be found everywhere in Genesis.
The Flood Story makes no sense… unless it is a Regional Flood… and if it is, then all the content used to shore up a Global Flood plot line is terribly out of place.
The idea that the Hebrew scribe would use a word meant to describe something solid as “really… just open expanse” is just more of the same apologia.
Such is my view too, I believe the Babylonians also held this view when they described Marduk as stretching out a skin to hold back the waters, I believe the ‘expanse’ refers to this skin, which is ‘stretched out’.
Holding knows full well that is not the case, I responded to his response to Paul Seely, an evangelical christian. John Walton (whom Holding gave a positive review of his Genesis 1 book, so presumably knows this full well), Mike Heiser, R E Friedman, Nahum Sarna, Stephen C Meyers (not the ID proponent) and other Christians and Jews know this full well.