Evangelical Christian Insists that “Firmament” does not Mean a Solid Dome

Michael, evangelical Christian and university scientist:  I’ve been reading some of the best scholars of ancient Hebrew and finding more and more of them who do not believe the author of Genesis is describing the dome which was the common near east belief of the time. For instance, John Sailhamer, an eminent Old Testament scholar has written, “Is there a single word or idea that would accommodate such uses of the term “expanse”?

Cosmological terms such as “ceiling,” “vault,” or “global ocean,” which are often used for “expanse” in chapter 1, do not suit the use of the term in v.20. Such explanations, though drawn from analogies of ancient Near Eastern cosmologies, appear too specific for the present context. Thus it would be unlikely that the narrative would have in view here a “solid partition or vault that separates the earth from the waters above” (Westermann, p. 116). It appears more likely that the narrative has in view something within the everyday experience of the natural world, in a general way, that place where the birds fly and where God placed the lights of heaven (cf. v.14). In English the word “sky” appears to cover this sense well.
The “waters above” the sky is likely a reference to the clouds. That is at least the view that appears to come from the reflections on this passage in later biblical texts. For example, in the author’s account of the Flood in chapter 7, reference is made to the “floodgates of the heavens [hashshamayim],” which, when opened, pour forth rain (vv.11-12; cf. 2 Kings 7:2; Pss 104:3; 147:8; 148:4). The writer of Proverbs 8:28 has read the term “expanse” in Genesis 1 as a reference to the “clouds” (shehaqim).” So the more I study, the more it seems my view is supported by good Hebrew scholars despite the cultural view of the time and that your view seems to be shaped more by your presuppositions than a good reading of the text. You seem so convinced that the Bible is full of errors that you don’t seem to be open to viable readings of the passage that don’t contradict known facts.

 

Gary:  Have you ever checked out what Jewish scholars say on this subject, Michael?  Here is a very interesting Jewish article on the topic of “the firmament” mentioned in Genesis.

http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/01/what-firmament-really-is.html

It seems even in Judaism there are those who believe that the Hebrew Bible must be congruent with modern science and those who believe that God spoke to humans using terms they would understand.  This later group points out that if we look at the sky, it looks as if it has a ceiling (dome). So these more “moderate/liberal” Jews believe that that is how God spoke to scientifically ignorant peoples in Antiquity:  He used their terminology, based on their worldview, even if that worldview was scientifically incorrect (which, of course, the omniscient Yahweh would have known full well).

I suggest that both Christians and Jews should consider another option:  an omniscient god had nothing to do with the writing of the book of Genesis.  The Book of Genesis was written by scientifically ignorant people attempting to make sense of their dangerous, scary world…without the assistance of ghosts, spirits, or other invisible beings.

THAT is why the “creator” in the first book of Genesis creates a solid “dome” over the earth, an entity we know today does not exist.  It is a mistake.

The author of the first chapter of Genesis made a mistake based on his lack of scientific knowledge.

You said:  “So the more I study, the more it seems my view is supported by good Hebrew scholars despite the cultural view of the time and that your view seems to be shaped more by your presuppositions than a good reading of the text. You seem so convinced that the Bible is full of errors that you don’t seem to be open to viable readings of the passage that don’t contradict known facts.”

Gary:  No, my view is supported by the overwhelming majority of Bible scholars, including Jews, Christians, and non-believers.  Your position is supported by a small minority of scholars, such as Mr. Sailhamer, almost all of whom happen to be fundamentalist/evangelical Christians or fundamentalist orthodox Jews.

I suggest, Mike, that you seriously consider exactly WHO in this discussion is biased.

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