The biblical authors are definitely thinking of the great fishes and monsters of "the deep" itself. The fertility goddesses of the land and the seas were Yahweh's principal rivals. Some evangelicals claim that the author of Job believed that the earth was suspended in empty space: "The shades below tremble, the waters and their inhabitants. Sheol is naked before God. He stretches out the north over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing" The first thing that can be said here is that the context is not one of God's creation which comes next at vv.
Second, none of the ancients, except for possibly the Greek atomists, had any notion of empty space. The Hebrew words for "void" and "nothingness" have parallel uses in many Old Testament passages and generally refer to a watery chaos Gen. Therefore we must conclude, as does Marvin H. Pope, that Job does not have the Pythagorean notion of the earth suspended in space. Although it sounds odd at first, the rabbinic idea that the sky-dome was made of congealed water makes eminent sense in terms of creation out of watery chaos.
This doctrine, and not creatio ex nihilo , is the prima facie implication of Genesis ; and the scholarly consensus is that this initial impression is indeed correct. Buchanan has now shown that this was very tenuous indeed: "The author's concern for the unseen was not primarily that which was invisible or intangible, but that which was future, that which had not yet happened. It was a concept of time rather than of substance or essence. When there were no depths tehom I was brought forth Here there seems to be a clean break with previous creation models: watery chaos is not a coeternal substance along with Yahweh and Sophia, his co - craftsperson.
Creatio ex nihilo represents yet another parting of the ways between process and evangelical views. The process theologians of course reject God as absolute power and support Whitehead's own version of creation out of chaos. In contrast to all traditional views, the process God does not create the universe at one point in time nor does this God create it continuously throughout all time; rather, God prepares "initial aims" for an essentially self-creating universe.
The Biblical Firmament: Vault or Vapor?: Robert C. Newman:
This brilliant and unorthodox separation of "creativity" from God gives sufficient independence to the world so that certain devastating implications of creatio ex nihilo are avoided. Specifically, I have argued elsewhere that such a doctrine of creation leads to the unavoidable imputation of all evil to God.
See www. There is yet another problem with creatio ex nihilo. With regard to theological language, its proponents have only the via negativa, for as William T.
Jones has phrased it, "God's creativity and man's have nothing in common but the name. Charles Hartshorne expresses this crucial aspect of a process doctrine of creation well: "Creativity, if real at all, must be universal, not limited to God alone, and it must be self-creativity as well as creative influencing of others.
Dillow discusses at great length the possibility that the biblical view presented in the preceding section with some exceptions of course was indeed a fact before Noah's Flood. Although Dillow rejects the hermeneutical excesses of the detailed inerrantists, he still remains squarely within this view.
In his book Dillow takes great pains to point out the errors of apologists who have interpreted the heavenly oceans as a figure of speech or as a way of portraying water-filled clouds. Dillow argues persuasively that the Bible makes a clear distinction between clouds and the waters of heaven and concludes that the "cloud" interpretation is "clearly impossible.
Dillow believes, without good justification, that Moses corrects much of the cosmology he inherited from others, but "one of the things he does not correct is the notion of a literal liquid ocean placed above the atmosphere. Dillow elaborates: "In view of the principle of sharable implications It is clear that the Hebrews were aware of the literal liquid ocean concept from the surrounding myths why not also a metallic sky-dome? We have neither the space nor expertise to consider Dillow's long detailed, scientific defense of the vapor canopy theory; instead, we shall propose some criticisms from the standpoint of biblical hermeneutics and comparative religion.
One point, however, in the area of science should be made. Without a solid skydome, Dillow must resort to divine intervention in at least two ways: God must support the waters of heaven from Creation to Noah and must also change them from their original liquid state to the hypothesized vapor. Dillow's use of divine miracles does not make it likely that his vapor canopy theory will be seriously considered in scientific circles.
Dillow himself admits that an "entirely different set of natural laws would have had to have been in operation for such a state to have been maintained. Since the alleged celestial ocean was drained during the Deluge, one would not expect to find reference to it after this time. But Psalm clearly refers to "you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens"; Job speaks of the "waterskins of the heavens" ; and when God "utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens" Jer.
It should be emphasized that God "established them the heavenly waters forever and ever" Ps. Dillow cannot accept the standard conservative interpretation of clouds, so he must embrace the celestial ocean here too. He cautions us not to take "forever" too strictly, because from the biblical perspective, God can always change what he has created: "So the fact that these waters are described as lasting forever does not necessarily mean that the temporary water of heaven theory cannot be meant. Dillow's response to Psalm is somewhat desperate and in his anxiety he reveals his true hermeneutical colors.
He maintains that if he reads verse four as referring to the celestial ocean, he must somehow admit that "not only did the Hebrews believe in a celestial ocean prior to the Flood, but they also embraced the world view of the metallic dome and present existence of the celestial sea held by the Canaanites.
The latter view contradicts the inerrancy of Scripture The editors of the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament also embrace a priori inerrancy in their rejection of "gods" as the translation for 'elohim in Exodus They state: "This is unacceptable from the point of view of Scripture's attestation to being God's Word and its clear doctrine of the existence of only one God.
Some evangelicals prefer to stick to their ideology of inerrancy rather than honor scholarly and scientific methods. One of the predicted or "postdicted" results of the vapor canopy theory is that there would have been more protection from age-inducing cosmic rays and a uniform and stable earthly climate. Dillow contends that this would mean that humans would have lived longer, that there would have been no rain, wind, or storms and that moisture would have been produced by mists and dew. Dillow argues that this type of life and climate is precisely what the Bible and other ancient literatures describe.
He quotes from the Persian story of Yima who lived for years and at a time when there were neither cold nor hot winds. He also cites accounts of the Golden Age in Greek and Hindu literature. These halcyon days disappeared after the Flood when the protective vapor layer was removed. If we turn to the stories of the ancient Sumerians, who are definitely antediluvian, we find that Dillow's theory is disconfirmed.
For example, Enki, a Sumerian water-god of wisdom, is said to have caused life-giving rain to fall and he put the storm-god Ishkur in charge of it. We can also read of P'an Ku, the primal man of Chinese mythology, whose sweat became earthly rain. As to the extended longevity of the prediluvian patriarchs, ancient historians are well aware of hyperbolic chronologies in Indian literature especially Jainism and Near Eastern records.
Sumerian kings, for example, had reigns from 18, to 65, years. Speiser believes that this mythical chronology was appropriated and partially demythologized by the priestly writers: "The P source, then, did not invent the abnormal life-spans of the Sethite list; if anything, they have been drastically reduced. While it is true that the Hebrews had a rough understanding of the circulation of water vapor and the source of rain in the clouds Job , 28 , they also conceived of mechanisms in heaven whereby God could directly induce great atmospheric catastrophes. Obviously the clouds themselves could not have held enough water for the Great Flood, so "all the foundations of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened" Gen.
This is also further proof that the earth was surrounded by watery chaos. The Old Testament talks about divine "chambers" heder in heaven and this notion seems to have been borrowed from Canaanite mythology. Marvin Pope has discovered a direct parallel to the Ugaritic God 'El who "answers from the seven chambers," usually through the media of the seven winds. Significantly, we find that Yahweh "brings forth the wind from his storehouses" Ps. From Amos we learn that God "builds his upper chambers in the heavens" , and the psalmists speak of God storing "his upper chambers" with water so that he can water the mountains Ps.
Job gives us the most detailed account of God's chambers: "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? We must not forget that "Yahweh is a warrior" Ex. In the noncanonical Ecclesiasticus we discover that Yahweh has more than storms in his chambers: "In his storehouses, kept for proper time, are fire, famine, disease" Dillow argues convincingly that Yahweh's storehouses of rain are not just clouds or ocean basins; rather, they most definitely have a celestial location.
In the diagram at the head of the chapter , the area above the "ocean of heaven" is labeled the "heaven of fire. Again various levels of heaven are not unique to the Hebrews for we can read that the Vedic seer conceived of at least "three superior realms of heaven" Rig-veda 8. One psalmist clearly distinguishes between the two levels: "You highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens" Ps. This area is exclusively Yahweh's domain: "The heaven of heavens belongs to Yahweh These passages have led to endless speculation about the various levels of heaven. Creationist Henry D.
Morris claims that there are three heavens: 1 atmospheric heaven Jer. Commentators will probably never be able to sort out many of these obscure passages. In closing this chapter, something must be said about the process of "demythologizing. It is clear, however, that demythologizing happened with the writing of the Old Testament, and it is occurring at another level within evangelical hermeneutics itself. Recall that James Barr's theory is that fundamentalists take the Bible literally only when it fits the doctrine of inerrancy.
They do not hesitate to naturalize biblical events when they must be harmonized with historical or scientific facts. When Dillow claims, and rightly so, that Moses wrote of a sovereign Yahweh completely in charge of a depersonalized nature, he is conceding that the Hebrew writers, as with our example of the Sumerian chronologies, were historicizing myth. But Dillow and other evangelicals are also demythologizers in disguise, for they want us to believe that a heavenly ocean and the flood it caused are facts and not myths. This is demythologizing at its worst and the evangelical rationalists are its champions.
Full bibliographical information for references will be supplied at a later date. Peter W. Stone and Robert C. For the same view, see Newman and Herman J. Eckles, Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth. Richard S. Kirk and J. Raven, The Presocratic Philosophers , p. Plato preserves this cosmology with references to the "vault of heaven" and the "heaven above the heaven" Phaedrus See also R.
Zaehner, The Teachings of the Magi , pp. The earliest accounts, which were of course pre-Iron Age, described the sky "as an empty shell, perfectly round, made of stone passing beneath the earth as well as arching above it" Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism , vol. Bruce, "Our God and Saviour," p. Lane, "The Initiation of Creation," pp. Anderson, "The Earth is the Lord's," p. Buchanan, The Anchor Hebrews , p. Neidhardt's claim that the author of Hebrews anticipated unseen atomic particles is unfortunately typical speculation among many evangelicals quoted in Henry, vol.
William T. Jones, The Medieval Mind , p. Despite Robert C. The context of Genesis , makes it clear that Moses intended his readers to understand the raqia simply as the sky, atmosphere, or expanse above the Earth. In fact, there is evidence to this effect in their own writings. As Harrison noted in regard to the firmament:. When a word has more than one meaning as firmament obviously does , the context in which the word is used in the passage under consideration is critical to a proper understanding of the meaning of the word.
If Asimov, Schadewald, and Allen had done a bit of comparative study to see how the word was used—not only in Genesis but elsewhere throughout the Scriptures—they surely would have noticed that the context dictates the definition of the word. They also might have realized that the specific context of Genesis does not imply the definitions that are being used to make the Bible look ridiculous.
William White commented on the fallacious nature of such a claim when he wrote:. And lastly, the suggestion that the Bible writers thought the Earth to be flat hardly deserves comment. Rather than teaching a flat Earth, those writers actually depicted our planet as a circular sphere. All of these renderings share a common thought—that of roundness, not flatness.
Those who have set their face against God have railed against the Bible for generations. King Jehoiakim took his penknife, slashed the Old Testament Scriptures to pieces, and tossed them into a fire Jeremiah During the Middle Ages, attempts were made to keep the Bible from the man on the street. In fact, those caught translating or distributing the Scriptures often were subjected to imprisonment, torture, and even death.
Thus, he was the one who ended up in the morgue, while the Bible lives on in the hearts and lives of men in civilizations around the globe. John Clifford , a Baptist minister and social reformer, once wrote:.
I think it is appropriate that we end this discussion with the following assessment from Kenny Barfield in his book, Why the Bible is Number 1. Arndt, William and F. Davidson, B. Harris, R. Laird, Gleason Archer, Jr. Harrison, R. Geoffrey W. Keil, C. Maunder, E. McKechinie, Jean L.
The Biblical Firmament : Vault or Vapor? by Robert C. Newman (2000, Paperback)
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