The Raqia - Solid after all

I personally think ‘expanse’ (or maybe plate) is the best translation, as such the ESV is the best translation of Genesis 1:6-8. But there is nothing about an expanse which implies non-solidity. The are Mesopotamian texts which place emphasis on the breadth of the Jasper Heavens:

May he open the teat of the elmešu (Jasper stone) heavens, may he make the rain of heaven rain down.

Let the breasts of the broad heavens be opened for him, let the clouds. [ … ] the rain.

@Christy, Yes, I see your reference. But I was speaking about a different text I believe… and in an earlier posting to @Reggie_O_Donoghue, I presented two groups of translations:

One group makes Raqia an “expanse” of nothingness… and the other group makes it an “expanse” of something!


As you can see in this “definition” from Strong’s (Blueletter Version), each time the word “expanse” is used, it is associated with the term of something that means something solid:

“extended surface (solid), expanse…” or “expanse (flat as base, support)” - There is even an explanatory note: “considered by Hebrews as solid and supporting ‘waters’ above”.

Strong’s translates H7549 17 times. And each time it is translated with the English neologism: “firmament”, derived from the Latin for something “firm”… like a “floor”… or a “ceiling”.

Replace the Firmness with the Nothingness
I have provided 15 quotes from the various bibles conveniently extracted in the Blueletter tool. 8 of these quotes have removed the word and the meaning of “solid” or “firm” from the verse entirely. The translators clearly didn’t want to make it look like the scribes of Genesis didn’t know how the solar system worked. So instead of suggesting that there was something solid that separated the waters… they simply said “the expanse” separated the waters! Now we just have waters up there … all on their own. Does that improve the reading?

8 Translations for Gen 1:7 that replace “firm/firmament” with an “expanse of nothingness”:
NET: New English Translation
So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. It was so.

NLT: New Living Translation
And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens.

NASB: New American Standard Bible
God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the [fn]expanse from the waters which were above the [fn]expanse; and it was so.

HNV: Hebrew Names Version
God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so.

CSB: Christian Standard Bible
So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so.

YLT: Young’s Literal Translation
And God maketh the expanse, and it separateth between the waters which are under the expanse, and the waters which are above the expanse: and it is so.

DBY: Darby Translation
And God made the expanse, and divided between the waters that are under the expanse and the waters that are above the expanse; and it was so.

ESV: English Standard Version
And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so.

Okay, so how did “empty expanse” separate the waters? Is this just a magic trick? And if there is literally nothing solid up there, holding up the waters, how does this solve your problem? We are still stuck with all that water up there!

But let’s look at the 7 versions that admit that there is something solid up there…

7 Translations for Gen 1:7 that explicitly state there is something up there holding up the waters
KJV: King James Version
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.

RSV: Revised Standard Version
And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.

NKJV: New King James Version
Thus 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.

NIV: New International Version
So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.

ASV: American Standard Version
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.

WEB: Webster’s Bible
And God made the firmament; and divided the waters which wereunder the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

VUL: Vulgate
et fecit Deus firmamentum divisitque aquas quae erant sub firmamento ab his quae erant super firmamentum et factum est ita
[End of Extract]

You must consider that the surrounding pagan nations will corrupt whatever truth they had. The Holy Spirit gave the Biblical authors the right story. So there’s a danger in using legends of surrounding nations to shape the interpretation of Scripture.

That’s not what I’m doing at all. All I’m recognising is that scripture in some times says the same things they said. I’m not presupposing they had this worldview, I’m just reading scripture for what it says, and it just so happens that they had the same scientific views.

How do you know they had the same scientific views?

None of those translations say the “firmament” held up the waters above.

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See here:

Nonetheless, an expanse can still be solid, and reference to the ‘foundations of heaven’, alongside the fact that it has the intention of holding back waters, indicate that it was solid. The phrase ‘foundations of heaven’ found in 2 Samuel 22:8, with a parallel in Psalm 18:7 which suggests they are mountains, suggests that the heavens require support. Parallels to this notion are found in the Mesopotamian idea of the ‘bonds of heaven’ (2), as well as with reference to the god ‘Shu’ supporting the sky in Egyptian texts (6). Another Egyptian text mentions mountain ranges at the sides of the earth supporting the sky (7). In any case, mention of the supports of the heavens was hardly ‘just’ poetic language in the Ancient Near East. Belief in a solid ‘Raqi’a’ was held by a preponderance of Christians and Jews until the renaissance (5).


The Hebrew version does.

Here are the English versions that agree with the Hebrew. Which one is your favorite? Would it be King James? Or do you prefre the Revised Standard? Or how about the New King James?

What’s all that water doing up there if something isn’t holding it up?

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It’s even conceivable that the ancients (maybe including the Hebrew) thought the air which surrounded the 'eretz was completely submerged under the celestial ocean…

Without TV to constantly distract humanity, studying the natural world around them became a way of understanding the parts of the Cosmos they couldn’t study up close and personal…

Bubbles forming on submerged objects could inspire the keen observer that perhaps the celestial ocean wasn’t just a deep layer … but perhaps it totally surrounded the entire world.

I’m not going to insist on such an interpretation … but seeing things like this go a long way to thinking that just having a layer of water above your head wasn’t a complete fantasy…

I have texts from elsewhere in the ANE which attest to the same cosmology:

Victory Hymn of Thutmose III: “I set the glory of thee and the fear of thee in all lands, the terror of thee as far as the four supports of heaven

Asiatic Campaigning of Ramses II: “I rise like the sun disc and shine like Re, as the heaven is firm upon its supports

Pyramid text 1208: “Thou art a god who supports the sky”

1 Enoch: I saw the treasuries of all the winds: I saw how He had furnished with them the whole creation and the firm foundations of the earth. 2. And I saw the corner-stone of the earth: I saw the four winds which bear the earth and the firmament of the heaven. 3. And I saw how the winds stretch out the vaults of heaven, and have their station between heaven and earth: these are the pillars of the heaven (1 Enoch)

Epic of Gilgamesh Tablet 9:38: “To Mashu’s twin mountains he came,
Which daily guard the rising [sun],
Who’s top [supports] the fabric of heaven,
Whose base reaches down to the netherworld”

Rig Veda 1.160.4: “Among the skilful Gods most skilled is he, who made the two world-halves which bring prosperity to all;Who with great wisdom measured both the regions out, and stablished them with pillars that shall ne’er decay.”

Rig Veda 6.72.2: “O lords of resplendence and bliss, you bestow light to the dawns; you upraise the sun with his splendour; you prop up the sky with the supporting pillar of the firmament; you spread out the earth, the mother of all.”

Hymn to Aten: There is a Nile in the sky for the strangers
And for the cattle of every country,
That go upon their feet. . . .

Enuma Elish Tablet 5: He split her up like a flat fish into two halves;
One half of her he stablished as a covering for heaven.
He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,
And bade them not to let her waters come forth.

Here is the tablet of Shamash:


Note the waters?

Again, what’s holding up the clouds?

Moses would know by the Spirit of God, Who moved him to put Genesis together. It’s that too hard to believe?

Except the Holy Spirit gave the authors the story in a language no one speaks anymore. So it makes a lot of sense to see how language is used similarly in similar culture contexts to cross-check our understanding of what words mean and what concepts those words triggered. That is how translating ancient documents works.

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Again, they are not clouds

Who would confuse Moses with science he did not understand.

As it happens I think total Mosaic Authorship is an Ostrich position. The Genesis stories frequently use Mesopotamian literary styles, which I don’t think would have been known by someone like Moses.

Big difference between comparing language and comparing cultural stories. The cultural stories can’t be used to nullify or distort clear Biblical truth.

Not saying they’re clouds. Just giving an example of water that seems to defy gravity.

The whole “The Bible is not a science document” objection is a canard. What’s hard to understand about “things evolved”? If it really happened that way, God could have easily told Moses in a simple way that everyone could understand, without going into gory scientific details. He could have easily told Moses about millions of years. I think the ancient Hebrews could count that high.

Then that’s a false equivalence, clouds are not liquid water.

It’s hard to understand if you are an Ancient Semite who believed the gods made humans from clay.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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