Evangelical Christian Scientist:
Gary, I don’t know where you are getting your understanding of Hebrew from, but the Hebrew word sometimes translated “firmament” doesn’t have as its primary meaning that of a dome. My Hebrew dictionary defines it as “vault of heaven, firmament, sky; pavement, floor.” Many translations translate the word as “atmosphere” since this is the best Hebrew word to describe the atmosphere. As I have written in my blog, ancient Hebrew has only about 3000 words, so many words have multiple meanings and the context tells the meaning. Gary, the more you comment, the more it becomes clear that for just about any subject, you will choose one and only one perspective that supports your biased view and ignore all of the other possibilities even when they are much more probable. Your bias and assumptions seem to overshadow your ability to see these subjects with any degree of open-mindedness or objectivity.
Mike, have you heard of the group called “Biologos”? They are a group of Christian scientists essentially attempting to do the same thing as you: Reconcile Christian teaching with Science. However, you seem to have a more conservative view (dare I say it…fundamentalist) than these Christians, who to me, talk like moderate Christians.
These Christian scientists agree with me that the entity described by the Hebrew word which the KJV translates as “firmament” is most definitely solid. It is NOT an expanse, or a description of the sky or atmosphere. So how do they harmonize an obviously incorrect description of the universe as found in Genesis with modern science which has proven beyond any doubt that no solid structure hangs above the earth?
Answer: They deny that the literal interpretation of the text was the true INTENT of God when he was speaking in that passage. God was simply speaking in terms that Bronze Age or Iron Age people could understand. God, of course, KNEW that the earth did not have a solid firmament (upside down bowl) hanging above it, but he chose not to give a scientifically accurate description of the atmosphere above the earth…because ancient peoples would not have understood this.
Hmm. That brings up a point: Why didn’t God simply tell us about gravity, atmospherics, proper agriculture techniques, disease prevention, etc., when he was writing his Holy Word to mankind? Why give us silly, unscientific descriptions of the universe and leave us to flounder about in the darkness of ignorance, only to discover the majority of scientific truths during or after the Age of Enlightenment??
Here is an excerpt from these “moderate” Christian scientists on the Firmament:
“Arguing for a non-solid raqia in Genesis is extremely problematic, for two reasons. First, the biblical and extrabiblical data indicate that raqia means a solid structure of some sort. The second problem is a much larger theological issue, but is actually more foundational. Regardless of what one thinks of the raqia, why would anyone assume that the ancient cosmology in Genesis could be expected to be in harmony with modern science in the first place?
This second issue creates a conflict where they need not be one. The raqia “debate” is not the result of new evidence that has come to light. Our understanding of ancient perceptions of the cosmos has not been overturned by more information. The debate exists because of the assumption made by some Christians that the ancient biblical description of the world must be compatible on a scientific level with what we know today.
Genesis and modern science are neither enemies nor friends, but two different ways of describing the world according to the means available to the people living at these different times. To insist that the description of the sky in Genesis 1 must conform to contemporary scientific [evidence] is a big theological problem. It is important to remember that God always speaks in ways that people can actually understand. In the ancient world, people held certain views about the world around them. Those views are also reflected in Genesis. If we keep this in mind, much of the conflict can subside.”
Gary continues: Or there is a more simple solution, my dear moderate Christian friends: Recognize that PEOPLE wrote the Bible, not an omniscient deity, and the people who wrote the Bible were scientifically ignorant. The reason the authors of the Bible wrote about a “firmament” is because that is what ALL ancient peoples believed from their natural observations of the sky. This interpretation made sense, just as it makes sense to think that the earth is flat…(unless you live on the coast and pay attention to what happens to ships on the horizon).
Bottom line: Yahweh is the invention of ancient, scientifically ignorant people trying to make sense of their scary, dangerous world. Let’s admire the beauty and entertainment value of these ancient tales and stop trying to turn them into…MESSAGES FROM AN INVISIBLE BEING WHO LIVES IN OUTER SPACE.