Raqia / Firmaments : Floors of Heaven vs Outer Space?

(George Brooks) #1


I don’t believe you have a leg to stand on …

Below is a link to a Google Book file for the following book:

The Early History of Heaven
By J. Edward Wright
Published by OXFORD University Press,
New York, © 2000


Or you can use this link:

Google Books Link: The Early History of Heaven, by J. Edward Wright © 2000

I believe @Jon_Garvey will enjoy this Babylonian material as well.

I have reproduced the key pages below. There are four images, with a top and bottom half for each image. Next time, I’ll put some image boundaries to make it more clear when one image ends and another image starts:

If you scroll back up to page 227, you will see that I have included 3 three English-language citations and a 4th German Citation. These are Wright’s citations, so I cannot be sure how relevant they will eventually be.

David Neiman, “The Supercaelian Sea” JNES 28 (1969): 243-249.

Mettinger, “YHWH SABOATH”, pages 131-134.

G. W. Ahistrom, “HEAVEN AND EARTH – AT HAZOR AND ARAD”, Religious Syncretism in Antiquity, ed. Birgel A. Pearson (1975, pages 67-83)

Ben Stanhope addresses AiG positions
Is the Raqia solid or not?
(RiderOnTheClouds) #2

I think it’s very possible that the Jasper heavens were a metaphor for the clarity of the atmosphere, since the appearence of Jasper is often paralleled with the appearance of clouds, and it is the lowest of the three heavens, yet birds are still able to fly ‘in’ the heavens.

(George Brooks) #3


But aren’t you just describing the interpretation you need for No Firmament… rather than describing
what archaeology tells us about Babylonian views? I didn’t realize you were of the same temperment
as our YEC visitors - - tilting against science in order to obtain the “reality” they think must exist.

All you are doing is re-arranging words based on necessity … and haven’t done anything with evidence
to support your position. At one time, you and a few others confidently boasted there wasn’t anything
known about the ANE that supported a firmament theory. Now we have a book, and not a flimsy one,
describing a situation where there is not only one firmament (connected with a celestial ocean), but at
least two MORE firmaments!

I think you are wandering in the land of Nod… [L
and of ND, or left to right, Land of DN!].

(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

George, how bout one of us creates another thread to discuss the Raqia, then we can use this thread to discuss other aspects, like I intended to?

(George Brooks) #5


I think that is a good idea. The only reason I have invested this kind of time and effort on the firmament topic is because I found Stanhope’s treatment of that topic to be one of his more persuasive sections!..

@Christy or @jpm:
Would it be easy to split off my posting immediately above with the book page images into a new thread called “Raqia / Firmaments : Floors of Heaven vs Outer Space?” - - or whatever you think is appropriate?

If you think I should just copy the same “text/with/code” into a new thread of my own making, I’ll be happy to do that as well.

Thanks for your continued patience in these matters.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #6

Good to see you agree, but please don’t misrepresent my position. In no way am I reading modern science into the text. I don’t think it is ‘outer space’ at all, I argue that the Hebrews didn’t distinguish between what we would call outer space and the atmosphere

(RiderOnTheClouds) #7

So here is my evidence for a non-solid Raqia

  1. The fact that the verb ‘Raqa’ means to spread/stretch out. Elsewhere the heavens are said to be stretched out using the verb ‘natah’, which has nothing to do with stretching out metal.
  2. The parallelism between day 2 and day 5, this works best if birds fly ‘in’ the created space, not below it.
  3. If the firmament is a solid dome, why is no time given to discuss the atmosphere below it?
  4. The sun and moon are placed in the Raqia, why do they not move in unison with the stars?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #8

Perhaps @Jon_Garvey could join us

(George Brooks) #9


These are your two strangest proof points.

When you write this,

[1] The parallelism between day 2 and day 5, this works best if birds fly ‘in’ the created space, not below it.

You imply that without a celestial ocean, day 2 and day 5 become incredibly compelling. Hardly. What even tempts you to think this?

Setting aside the idea that we can dismiss all sorts of references to a different kind of firmament, based on the idea that the aesthetic appreciation of poetic symmetry must somehow be determinative in the proper unveiling of the Bible’s unveiling of the Earth’s physical nature …

where exactly is all this symmetry?

In Day 2, we read about the waters. And we read about the Waters that are divided. There is nothing at all about the land, or the Earth. It is all about the Sky and the Waters. Ok. Good so far.

Here are the living things of Day 5, according to the Revised Standard Version!:

Gen 1:20-23
And God said,
[Section A]
(a1) "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures,
(a2) let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." (Reggie says “in the firmament”)
[Waters mentioned, and the sky mentioned.]

So God created
[Section B]
(b1) the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves - - with[in] which the waters swarm
. . . and
(b2) every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
[Waters mentioned, but no mention of the sky]

And God blessed them, saying,
[Section C]
(c1) "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas,
… and
(c2) let birds multiply on the earth."
[Waters mentioned, and the birds are mentioned … on the Earth?]

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

The first thing we notice is that unless you are reading King James, the birds don’t fly in the firmament, they fly across the firmament. So your entire premise based on in becomes dubious from the get-go.

Secondly, Section A establishes that Birds appear out of nowhere ! Or you can conclude that Birds appear out of the Ocean. This is an immediate breakdown in the proposal that there is any symmetry at all.

For there to have been symmetry, there would have needed to be waters - - And Land - - in order to talk about the creatures of the Sea and the Creatures that Flew above their dwellings on land. Birds don’t have dwellings in the sea. So introducing them is, frankly, a bit of a bungle (in respect to section A).

Section B? Symmetry? Only strange or incomplete symmetry. We have sea creatures that swarm the water … and then we have birds. But it doesn’t say where the birds are. Are they flying? Or are they nesting? We have to assume the Birds are flying … in order to complete the symmetry.

How about Section C?
Well, we have the fruitful multiplication of the creatures filling the waters… and birds filling ?.. filling the ?
Nope… not filling the sky! The birds multiply on the Earth!

Day 2 says nothing about the Earth. Only about the Sea and the Sky.
Section A of Day 5 says birds fill the sky.
Section B of Day 5 says something about the waters… and finally,
Section C of Day 5 says waters and the Earth!

If there is no symmetry in Day 5, how can you use the even greater asymmetry between Day 2 and Day 5 as evidence of anything?

Your claim for symmetry is not only rejected as irrelevant, it is rejected for non-existence.
… without even mentioning that there is actually no Hebrew word for the word “in” that you keep injecting into the “the firmament”.

Thus I find it ironic that you then ask why there is no time given to discuss the atmosphere below the firmament! I would turn that question on its head: if the firmament is the atmosphere why doesn’t your so-called symmetry spend more time with it? Instead, the waters of the sea creatures are mentioned three times, but the sky for the birds is only mentioned once, which is exactly the same number of times Day 5 mentions the Earth of the Birds (section C)!

And yet day 2 mentions the waters and the sky, and the fish and the birds … so, symmetrically, and given “equal time for opposing states of matter”, day 5 should have mentioned the sky in section B (instead of silence) and should have mentioned the sky in section C (instead of mentioning the Earth, which isn’t mentioned in Day 2 at all).

Talking about the compelling nature of the Symmetry of day 2 and day 5 is like describing the compelling nature of Shakespeare’s sonnet on praising the beauty of a woman in comparison to the mixed blessings of a Summer’s Day - - which must suggest, then, that Shakespeare thought the woman was as beautiful as the Moon - - even though the moon is not mentioned once in that sonnet.

In the matter of Day 2 and Day 5 of Genesis, you cannot build symmetry on a single mention of the sky!

The symmetry is with the animals named… not in where they spend their time! The latter doesn’t even well accommodate such a thing, since unlike fish, birds must spend a great deal of time not in the Air. Whereas Fish spend 100% of their time in the waters.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #10

You don’t have a clue what your talking about.

Phenomenologically birds ‘appear’ to fly in front of (Al Peney) the sky.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #11

Note how on day four the inhabitants of day and night are formed, and on day six the inhabitants of the earth were formed. Also note what Stanhope says in the video about the many other cogent ways of ordering the narrative without using symmetry, which the author of Genesis could have used. So yes, there IS intentional symettry.

(George Brooks) #12


The point you are trying to make (when you keep using the translation that the birds fly in the firmament/sky), is that birds can’t fly in a solid object. Right.

But, by your own admission, they can fly “in front of” of a solid object. So I think you have forgotten the point you have been trying to make. The Hebrew sentence uses grammar with implied prepositions… and so you are hanging all of your analysis on an implied in - - when you yourself say “in front of” also works.

Even when prepositions are concrete, as in Greek or English, they are difficult to interpret (as per the online grammar page (www.ego4u.com):

“Even advanced learners of English find prepositions difficult, as a 1:1 translation is usually not possible.”

(RiderOnTheClouds) #13

No, I’m not using that translation, I’m saying that even if you use other translations, it still suggests birds fly in the firmament, or at least is not incompatible with the notion, because birds appear to fly in front (or across) of the open sky.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #14

That argument doesn’t work, because:

  1. The word ‘Oph’ includes all creatures which fly.
  2. I don’t think the firmament is the atmosphere, I think it is the whole sky.

(George Brooks) #15

Yes… there is symmetry everywhere … except in the one place you need it … when the scribe should be talking about the sky … he does not. But once.

He associates birds with the oceans… where they don’t really belong at all. If anything, birds become a placeholder, because he doesn’t have anything to sustain the symmetry.

Then when Day 5 comes, except for the one mention of the sky, he either goes silent on the symmetry, or he introduces the Earth as an element that never once appears in Day 2.

So … let’s drop the symmetry argument as proof of anything.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #16

Birds have no association with the seas, they ‘do’ have an association with the sky. I have already mentioned how it isn’t strange that the writer of genesis 1 would only mention the inhabitants of the sky once, ‘because there is a single word which encapsulates all of the inhabitants’.

(George Brooks) #17


My refutation of your symmetry argument (or is it Jon Garvey’s?) is not based on whether the firmament is more correctly defined as “the whole sky” or more correctly defined as “the atmosphere”.

Either way, the symmetry proposition is barely with symmetry, and when it is most symmetrical it is least reasonable … because your claims of symmetry are tied to Day 5, when :

"God created the great sea creatures and every moving creature of the waters . . . and every winged bird…"
leaving the page completely silent about where we find these birds.

Your symmetry is not on the firmament being “the sky”. The symmetry is that birds are sometimes in the sky … and sometimes they are on the Earth. It’s right there on Day 5.

The symmetry is hung on “sea creatures” and “birds”… and except for one place, it has nothing to do with the definition of the firmament or of the sky.

(George Brooks) #18

Yes… yes.

The Birds. It’s the Birds. But Day 5 could have mentioned the firmament as sky three times. It mentions it once. It is silent a second time. And the third and final time it is the Earth.

Your symmetry argument is a desperate attempt to pull meaning from an accident of poetry.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #19

The symmetry is that birds are ‘associated’ with the sky, just as stars are associated with the night, yet (presumably) do not ‘cease to exist’ during the day.

(George Brooks) #20

It is not incompatible with the notion. Nor is it incompatible with the notion that the birds are flying “across”, “near” or “under” the firmament.

So your analysis accomplishes “equality of possibility” … but nowhere does it achieve “preponderance of evidence” - - let alone anything that could be described as “compelling” evidence. I could provide dozens of texts where the sentence could be equally at home with the firmament as a ceiling or as the sky. This technique doesn’t get us to a conclusion.