Is the Raqia solid or not?

(Phil) #81

and also that birds fly across it:
" let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”


That also. Maybe we are being picky!!!


I think you misunderstood my question. Where physically is the raqia, the water below, and the waters above?


You changed your question! But if you want to learn Ancient Near East Cosmology, you might enjoy

Denis Lamoureux’s Web Lecture Page (Hint: think of a snow globe)

Lamoureux is an expert in ANE cosmology and a science/religion prof at at U Alberta/ St Joseph’s College.

See the 'Bible and Ancient" part of the page. There are lectures and handouts showing just how the people of the ANE viewed their world.


Did you all know that “Hollow Earth Theory” is a thing? (not to be confused with Flat Earth Theory)

Check out Hollow Earth Theorye

(Randy) #86

Denis Lamoureux is very helpful. He is the only one I know who has PhDs in both theology and evolutionary biology (he has several papers about jaw development and investigated the formation of teeth from scales as well; you can find his papers on PubMed). He talks about the Three Tier Universe impression that God used from ancient Near East cosmology to communicate His truths. The Bible alludes to “under the earth” in Philippians 2:10 (“at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth; and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” and Revelation 5:3.

It’s worth reminding myself that the Greeks also thought that there was an underworld–my son is reading the Percy Jackson Greek mythology series, and Tartarus, etc, are thought to be under the earth, as I understand it. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t communicate truth to us in His word, using cosmological terms others could understand. As Lamoureux points out from the Galileo controversy, “The Bible was given us to show us how to go to Heaven, not how Heaven goes.”

(RiderOnTheClouds) #87

Here is one Egyptologist who disputes the notion that the Egyptians believed in a solid sky (Joyce Tyldesley):

Nut, Geb’s sister-wife, is both a woman and the celestial cow or sow who arches herself above the earth with her feet and hands, so forming the firmament that separates the world from the waters of chaos and the darkness of the undefined place. She is a boundary or edge rather than a solid barrier, so that the sun is able to sail along her watery body during the daylight hours. She may even be the milky way.

I happen to share her view that the waters above of Genesis could very well have included the milky way, as a celestial river, alongside all other heavenly waters.


Thanks for that. The ancient Hebrews also believed in an underworld. And sci-fi is amazing–there is Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

The problem is that there are people today who believe that the earth is flat or the earth is hollow, etc. The scientist Don Prothero is currently writing a book about these crazy ideas. I’m thinking of starting a “Pita Earth Theory” – which declares that the earth is both flat and hollow.

(George Brooks) #89


This photo of a Babylonian engraving, associated with the Enuma Elish, may offer you some additional insights (from posting #67 in this very same thread!):

(RiderOnTheClouds) #90

The plot thickens, turns out, NOT all Jews throughout the ages have interpreted the Raqia as solid:

The other group believes that, in spite of the indisputable existence of the firm sky, the word raki’a describes something else. For example, raki’a may mean space, or air between earth andthe clouds. Advocating this view, we find Ibn Ezra and Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak). 6 Maimonides isalso usually put into this group. 7 Abravanel, for example, understood that Maimonides saw raki’a as space and brought many arguments against this view. This caused Malbim to refute Abravanel’sarguments at length. 8

(Tim) #91

If anything, we see that God took all the credit, and in doing so showed that what was done stood on it’s own merit and did not need a core of engineers or gods to keep it running.

The Babylonians claim Marduk did it, but through conflict of war with the other gods. I still think that Genesis shields us from an evolutionary process of gods building upon gods. Even viewing the original god as infinite space or ocean, goes from monotheism to polytheism. Not because humans were inventing gods, but treated each phenomenon as a god. So it took multiple gods to keep the solar system going.

Genesis claims God created it, was seperate from it, and it ran like a smooth physical entity. I’m not sure how an advanced view of the earth evolved from all the previous ANE accounts. Nor do I think the Hebrews would have even thought to adapt the other stories to come up with one of their own. For one they had to constantly fight for their inheritance, yet Genesis does not mention any struggle as put by a few ANE accounts. When they did fight and adapt their thinking to follow other gods, it did not change their creation account. The other nations seemed to revel in receiving help from their sky gods. If the Hebrews consistently kept with a monotheistic view when it came to creation, the account remained firm even while having affairs with other gods.

Thoughout their history even up to modern times they accepted that the firmament was destroyed in the Flood even if they notated and used the parlance of the ANE around them. It was almost like they took God’s Word by faith even if they did not have any evidence to back it up. As of yet knowledge gained through scientific methods has not ruled out the Genesis account but we can see that viewing the solar system as gods was left behind.

The reason the atmosphere was considered firm would be that it actually separated the water above the earth and overcame the gravity that such a feat would require. Just because it looks like in perspective from one vantage point a flat earth with a dome does not mean it was a flat earth with a dome. I guess that would be the extent of their scientific inquire as there was not a need to change said view. The Babylonian picture does not show any spacial relation as a map of the solar system would. It was more of the dominance between gods. All may have been wrong in their science, but not in their evidence. I do not think that the sun and moon were the great lights in Genesis 1. If you accept billions of years of life, neither should you, as the sun at first was different than today, and if there was a vapor canopy the earth was further out near the gas giants. There is indication that the moon was formerly an actual planet nearby. So this planet and one of the gas giants provided the light during the day and at night. It was not until the Flood and Marduk, according to the Babylonians, split up the solar system, which caused the earth to collide with the other planet and formed the moon, and both were “knocked” closer to the sun. This was the advent of the sun god and the moon god.

I think this is another difference between Genesis and other ANE accounts. God separating the waters was a time of darkness. This would represent the time between the original “big bang” and when all the stars “came online”. The Flood brought the earth and moon to it’s current location and that is the separation of Tiamat by Marduk. There was already a solar system in place when Tiamet was split. In the ANE accounts Tiamat represented the solar system as separate from the Milky way. There was no separation with water from water but there was the description of a shake up in the solar system itself. The Egyptians never depict a separation of water from water nor a shake up in the solar system, but only the sun and moon in their courses above the sky. So either the Hebrew view was evolving to a more scientifically correct view of the Universe or it copied a source previous to the Babylonian account which had less detail than the Hebrews but more than the Egyptians. To stretch out the expanse of the firmament and hold back actual H2O, is closer to modern thought than calling the Milky Way a river ocean. I realize that a water canopy has been refuted, and the Babylonians put forth a change in the planetary lineup, but if the earth was once an “ice ball” it clearly could have been further out than it’s current position and could have been more gaseous like the other gas giants indicating more levels of different types of gasses, yet still have a heated core. It could also explain the drastic change in life expectancy after the Flood. There would have been no seasons nor rain but a perfect mixture of gasses to create a perfect atmosphere for a perfect place for plant and animal life.

As a footnote, Noah after the Flood sounds a lot like Zoroaster the founder of Zoroastrianism. As Noah basically ended up in Persia. Either God or the Hebrews stole his story, or the Magi stole it from the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity. Noah would have been a feasible candidate to spread all the information about the earth before the Flood and even Monotheism. Which came first? God who gave humans the abilty to think, or humans thinking there is only one God? Noah’s teachings could have been the foundation of the eastern religions as well with their start in celestial battles that Noah would have had first hand knowledge of.

(Daniel Fisher) #92

Jumping I here if I may… and granted that birds were on the “face” (pnh) of the firmament… but unless I’m mistaken, the sun and moon were, in fact “in” the firmament. And I think most ancient peoples were able to notice that these things moved in the firmament, no? Maybe this transparent firmament was both rigid and yet fluid enough for the moon and sun to go through?

Thus I still have trouble believing that the language they used to describe the cosmos way reflected a rigid (no pun intended) and strictly literalistic view of the cosmos that somehow exactly corresponded in reality to the language used.


I am not sure we can come to an exact understanding of what the language meant to the original audience. Looking at the art that depicts the cosmos helps but even then it would be an assumption that it represents exactly how they understood the firmament.

I am no linguist but to me the mention of waters above, sun and moon in, and birds on sounds more like a space or location. The idea of rigidity probably comes from their experience with solid objects over their heads like tents.

As a child I believed the sky was a blue dome. That is certainly what it looked like to me. Of course this is pre-tv so I really had nothing to base my idea on except for what I could see. So when I heard firmament I just associated it with the blue dome. This is not to say that is what the original audience thought.

(George Brooks) #94


Several English translations of that verse say “in”, several others say “under” or “near” or any other implied prepositional phrase.

(Tim) #95

If you are going to use the first chapter of Genesis to describe the state after the Flood it will never fit. This firm part of the sky (in Genesis 1) would be miles of gas and vapor and ice from the water God put there. There does not have to be anything between normal air and air with more water content. Depending on how far above the planet this water was would determine what form of firmness if any would exist. Far enough out it would be chunks of ice. It was not that H2O in liquid form formed a thick curtain like a canopy around the earth. The water was not there by magic. It would be in it’s natural form like any other gas planet. Nor was some substance needed to divide the water from air. The miles of air itself was the boundary between the two “bodies” of water. The words used were both figurative and literal to convey what science would reveal whenever that branch of science was understood.

What humans deny today is the point of all the gaseous and frozen water miles thick and miles above the earth. They only argue over an invisible barrier and what it looks like.

(Daniel Fisher) #96

I’m not arguing anything beyond the observation that the ancients, just like we do, used metaphorical and phenomenological language to describe their world. Some eriudite scholar may go to great lengths to say, “The ancient Hebrews thought there were literal gates built into a solid firmament,” and the ancient Hebrews would likely just laugh. “Ever heard of a figure of speech?”, they may answer?

I find it very difficult to believe that any ancient people were in fact too dull to notice that rain came from dark clouds.

(Tim) #97

Spiritual truths are not literal physical entities. If we call scripture a rhetorical way to convey a spiritual truth, why not just state the spiritual truth itself?

If you want to record an actual event why use metaphor? Either you are taking a literal event to teach a truth, or you are just recording an event using a metaphor. It seems to me we today want to avoid looking at the Bible as a record of literal events, because those events offend us at the least, or out right contradict our ideologies.

(Daniel Fisher) #98

And it was raining cats and dogs as the sun set tonight, but I didn’t notice as I was sleeping like a rock after drinking like a fish.


It is hard to separate what ancient people would notice from what we would notice as we already know rail normally falls from clouds.

How do you think an ancient people would put these observations together?

Rain happens with clouds overhead.
Rain happens with no clouds overhead. (upper level winds can blow rain out from the rain cloud)
In the morning there appears to have been a rain when the sky was clear. (dew)
When there is fog (or whatever they called it) things get wet like it had rained.

Windows in the firmament would explain these quite well don’t you think?

(Tim) #100

There are two ways to look at the issue. Some look at it as if there was no Global Flood. So there was no interruption in the flow of knowledge and understanding.

The Biblical view is one that claims there was a Flood and you only have the eyewitness accounts of 8 people. Unless you can find a view in the Bible itself, where the author knew there was no global flood, no one had knowledge any more of what this earth looked like or even actually functioned before the Flood.

We look back today, and claim there was no flood as described not because the ancients had no clue what they were talking about, because to us, they did not. I agree they had no clue either, but it was not because we know more. It was because they had to trust what God was talking about, just like we do.

The only issue remains is the timing, because God seems to say one thing, and our dating methods of all types say something different. The ancients had their views and takes on what God was saying. Today we have the means to look at the written account in a totally different way. Saying that a Global Flood never happened though, rules out many ways of re-interpreting the data we have. Perhaps we can say that it does not matter, because the data itself claims there was no Global Flood. Are we stuck with a scenario where creation is capable of out witting God? Even if we claim that the methods of science removes our own biases, we are forced, to say a Flood never happened, even though God chose to make the claim that it did. I do not think the ancients were lying in their accounts, that something did happen, just like we today, do not think the evidence is lying. It is clear to see, that the two views are at odds with each other.