Friday, February 19, 2010

Genesis and Ancient Cosmology

Does Genesis 1 reflect ancient cosmology, which we now believe to be erroneous?

Many Christians scholars argue this to be the case. Peter Enns, for example, in a recent article, The Firmament of Genesis 1 is Solid but That's not the Point, says, "Genesis 1 and 2 tell the story of creation, and it says things that are at odds with what modern people know to be true...".  He asserts that ancient Israelites, like other ancient people, assumed the world was flat, and so it looked like the earth was covered by a solid dome (raqia or firmament of Genesis 1), and the “blue sky” is the “water above” held back by the raqia.
Enns gives the following diagram of his conception of biblical cosmology:

A similar view of Genesis cosmology can be found in John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One. Walton thinks the Israelites so dim-witted that they did not even know that the Sun was further away than flying birds (p.16). Much of the recent promotion of this can be traced to various articles by Paul Seely. Seely contends that the Hebrews were scientifically naive and thus would be influenced by their Babylonian and Egyptian backgrounds to believe that the raqia of Genesis was solid (p.235).

The implications are far-reaching. Enns concludes that God accommodates Himself to the limited scientific knowledge of the time, presumably to convey theological truths. Seely extends such accommodation to many other historical events in Gen.1-11 (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 60 (2008):44-47). He contends that the message of Gen.1-11 is theological, not history or science as such. This clearly limits the range of biblical authority. It also raises the obvious problem of how to discern the divine kernel from the accommodated chaff.

Does Genesis 1 in fact reflect ancient cosmology?

1. Let me note first that the above diagram is more a reflection of the ignorance of modern scholars than of ancient civilization. Ancient man was a much keener observer of the night sky than modern desk-bound scholars. They were well aware that the stellar sky rotates daily. Hence it cannot be a solid hemisphere held up by pillars fixed on the earth. Further, they were well aware of months and seasons. Hence the sun and moon were not fixed in a stellar shell. They were also well aware that the sun and moon were much more distant than flying birds. 

2. A second difficulty is that ancient cosmology as such does not really go back earlier than about 550 BC, with the advent of Greek science. Before that cosmology was entertwined with mythology, making it very difficult to determine what the ancients actually believed about the nature of the physical universe. Noel K. Weeks ("Cosmology in Historical Context,” Westminster Theological Journal 68.2 (Fall 2006): 283-293)elaborates on this in his detailed critique of Seely.
3. A further difficulty, noted also by Weeks, is that there is no uniform pre-modern belief regarding cosmology/mythology. Sumerian, Egyptian, Canaanite and Babylonian mythologies had signficant differences.

4. Much of the evidence for Mesopotamian belief in a flat earth floating on a sea is based on one ancient drawing:
This is the oldest known world map--the Imago Mundi of 6th century BC Babylonia. It shows Babylon on the Euphrates, surrounded by a circular landmass including Assyria and Armenia, surrounded by a "bitter river" (Oceanus).

Note, first, that this map dates much later than the time of Moses (ca 1500 BC).  Also, at first sight, it looks similar to medieval world maps, which depicted  the land mass of europe-asia-africa surrounded by an ocean. However, the latter is known to be just a 2-d depiction of a spherical earth.
Finally, a closer look shows that the Babylonian map has islands beyond the surrounding ocean. So it is not a complete world map.  In sum, this map provides no evidence that ancient people believed in a flat earth.

5. Genesis itself says nothing about a flat earth. Seely's case rests primarily on one word: the raqia (firmament or expanse [ESV]) of Gen.1:7, created to separate the waters beneath from the waters above. This is generally thought to refer to the atmosphere and sky or space. Seely, however, claims that raqia refers to the common pre-modern conception of the sky as a solid dome. Yet the Genesis raqia is clearly not solid. Note first that in Gen.1:8 the raqia is called heaven (shamayim). But birds fly in the shamayim (Deut.4:17), so that it can't be solid. Also, the sun, moon, and stars are placed in the raqia (Gen.1:14-18). The sun and moon clearly move at different rates than the stars, of which the Israelites would have been well aware (else there would be no months, seasons or years). Hence the raqia mentioned in Genesis 1 can't be solid.

6. What about the water above the raqia? Calvin thought this referred to clouds; James Jordan believes it refers to the sea of crystal in heaven (Creation in Six Days, p.180). Here we must remember that God created more than meets our physical eye.

7. Another interesting line of thought is pursued by Peter Leithart (A House for My Name 2000) , who sees many similarities between Genesis 1 and the building of the temple. God's universe is described as His three-storied house. Also G.K. Beale (The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism 2008) contends that Genesis is expressing its theological conceptions of the universe, understood to be a huge temple for God (p.163). Hence the architectural despictions of the temple-house are to be understood figuratively. He argues that Israel's temple is a small model of the cosmos, which is a huge temple. (for more on this see the post Cosmology and Heaven). Beale specifically (pp.196-201) rebuts Seely's notion of a solid raqia.

8. The fact that ancient cosmology is entertwined with mythology should alert us to a further important factor. Unlike modern man, ancient man was well aware of the existence of the supernatural. Ancient man understood that the universe was much broader than the mere three dimensions we normally see. The ancient view of the universe included space for God, heaven, angels, and demons. Modern cosmology, on the other hand, with its materialist reduction of reality, has no place for the supernatural or for heaven. The difficulty, thus, is not that ancient man was one dimension short (i.e., a flat earth) but, rather, that he attempted to depict an extra dimension using 3-d imagery. The multi-dimensional universe of ancient man is bound to be distorted by modern man when interpreted in terms of his truncated 3-d model of reality.

In sum, I conclude that the Bible says very little about the details of physical cosmology beyond the creation of the sky, sun, moon and stars. However, it does point to the existence of  a heavenly realm beyond the 3 usual physical dimensions.

It seems to me that the current attempt to read Genesis as accommodation to erroneous ancient pagan cosmology is motivated primarily by the desire to constrain biblical authority so as not to contradict modern secular science. This itself is just another form of accommodation, whereby God's word is tailored to fit human reason.


RubeRad said...

In sum, I conclude that Genesis 1 says very little about cosmology beyond the creation of the sky, sun, moon and stars. 24 hours?

Anonymous said...

Great post! Keep it up.

Eric Greene

Scott C said...

These have been very helpful posts. It is so refreshing to see someone take Biblical authority and Genesis so seriously without sacrificing intellectual credibility.

James B. Jordan said...

I suggested in *Creation in Six Days* that the firmament of Day 2 may well have been a hard superdense shell, the "curtain" of Isaiah 40:22, which then expands or explodes to form the "tent" of Is. 40:22 on Day 4. Hence, analogous to the Tabernacle and Temple, the firmament barrier between the angelic heavens and the cosmos is both a veil and a tent (the holy place).

I cannot speak to the physics of this, but if my suggestion be correct, the rapid expansion of the firmament on the 4th day and subsequence slowing down to present velocities, might account for the appearance of age of the universe.

I also note that in Gen. 1:20, birds do not fly "in" the firmament but "across the face of" the firmament. Here again, the Bible knows that the heaven of the stars is not the atmospheric realm of birds and clouds. As you point out, birds fly in the "heavens" in Deut.4:17, but not in the "firmament."

I'm glad you're doing this blog. Keep it up, please.

James B. Jordan

Anonymous said...

Dr. Byl,

You present a few reasons to be cautious, but I can't quite follow you to your conclusion. So I will outline a few points I would like to discuss.

There is literature from about the time of Christ or earlier that presents the cosmos as including a solid sky. The Book of Enoch, starting at chapter 72, describes the sun, moon and weather as entering and exiting through gates. In 3 Baruch the author elaborates on the story of the Tower of Babel:

“And the Lord appeared to them and confused their speech, when they had built the tower to the height of four hundred and sixty-three cubits. And they took a gimlet, and sought to pierce the heaven, saying, Let us see (whether) the heaven is made of clay, or of brass, or of iron. When God saw this He did not permit them, but smote them with blindness and confusion of speech, and rendered them as thou seest.” (3 Baruch 3:6-8)

Anonymous said...


A number of Early Church Fathers believed that the firmament should be interpreted as solid. Augustine, Origen and Ambrose were among them. In fact, it appears to be the common belief among Christians that the sky was solid, until about the 15th century. Likely you have come across the following quote from Luther:

"Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which heaven are the waters... It is likely that the stars are fastened to the firmament like globes of fire, to shed light at night... We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding."
- Martin Luther, Luther's Works. Vol. 1. Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan, Concordia Pub. House, St. Louis, Missouri, 1958, pp. 30, 42, 43.

Interpreting the firmament as solid is not a novelty. It seems to me:(a) that the novel interpretation is that the firmament is merely the atmosphere, and (b) that this interpretation is influenced by advancements in science and cosmology.

I have question concerning point #1. How do you determine that scholars who study the Ancient Near East are ignorant, and that your presentation of how ancient people viewed the cosmos is more accurate?

Thanks in advance,
a brother in Christ,
Ben Vandergugten

john byl said...

Hi James

Thanks for your comments. Your thoughts regarding an initially expanding firmament seem similar to those of Russell Humphreys (Starlight and Time, p.66, 78). This proposal is an interesting possibility. However, taking texts such as Isaiah 40:22, which speak of God stretching out the heavens, as referring to the expansion of the universe I personally find a bit of an exegetical stretch, if you will pardon the pun. This may read more into the text than is warranted.

If, as Gen.1:7 says, the firmament is what separates the waters beneath from the waters above (which are beyond heaven), then the firmament seems to start at the surface of the water, thus including both the atmosphere and outer space. Further, Gen.1:8 equates the firmament with heaven, suggesting the two are synonymous.

However, I have no great objection to your differentiation between the atmospheric heaven and the firmament of outer space. My prime contention is that the Genesis firmament is not solid and, hence, not an accommodation to erroneous cosmology.

James B. Jordan said...

Thank you, John.

I'll only add that for me, the waters below include clouds and atmospheric vapor.

But there's plenty of room for discussion!

James B. Jordan said...

To Mr. Vandergugten,

Let me suggest a few matters, writing as an Old Testament scholar.

1. The expressed beliefs of authors of apocryphal works, and of Luther and other churchmen, do not govern what the Holy Spirit inspired to be put into the Bible. That is, the Spirit is the giver and editor of the inspired text. The question before us is this: What precisely does the text claim and what does it not claim. Moses may well have believed X, Y, and Z, but if the Spirit did not put those things into the inspired text, then they are not part of the teaching or worldview of the Bible. The worldview of the Bible is what emerges from the text, not what any given Bible-writer himself may have thought. I suggest that the Biblical text, as it stands, is pretty "neutral" on these matters.

2. It is not true that the ancients thought the sky was solid. It was the faraway unmoving stars that were thought to be fixed on a solid sphere. But the firmament was deep, with the moon nearer than the sun, and in fact the seven "moving stars" arranged at various distances between the clouds and the fixed stars. The picture that Dr. Enns provides is simply not correct.

3. Hence, no ancient astronomer priest in any high culture thought that the sky was solid. Only the far end, where the stars were fixed, was solid. The "firmament" in which the sun and moon moved, was deep. The relative positions of the planets to the earth was well known with one exception: there was debate over whether Mercury or Venus occupied the position above the moon.

4. All of which is interesting, but as a wrote above, of questionable relevance in interpreting the text of the Bible.

I hope that helps somewhat.

john byl said...

Hi Ben

Thanks for your comments. I concur with the response given by James Jordan. As he notes, the ancients may have considered the stars as fixed onto a celestial sphere but they were most certainly aware of the relative motion of the Sun and moon with respect to the stars.

I contend that the picture of ancient cosmology as presented by Enns is contrary to the most elementary observation of the sky and contrary also to what we do know about ancient astronomy/astrology. Anyone with eyes can see that the Sun and night sky rotate about a pole tilted from the upward position. That in itself is sufficient to refute Enn’s inane diagram.

The constellations date back to at least 1300 BC, probably much earlier. They were placed on a rotating celestial sphere, not on a fixed hemispherical dome as depicted by Enns. Hence it could not have been supported by pillars fixed to the earth. It was well-known that this celestial sphere rotated daily and that the Sun travelled through it once a year, thus marking the seasons (the Egyptians marked the beginning of the year by the heliacal rising of Sirius).

James B. Jordan said...

In addition, the ancients were aware of the precession of the equinoxes, which means that the celestial sphere shifts slowly, not merely rotating around the earth.

RubeRad said...

JBJ:"there's plenty of room for discussion!"

But not too much room...

RubeRad said...

Oopx, wrong link:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Byl and Dr. Jordan

First of all, thanks to both of you for taking the time to discuss these matters with me. I find this topic very interesting and am always committed to reading and interpreting the Bible with integrity.

Perhaps we should be more precise about who we are speaking about with regards to “the ancients.” A cosmology that included a celestial rotating sphere was first proposed the Greek Anaximander of the 6th century BC and later developed by Aristotle and Ptolemy. I am not aware of any person or culture that developed this view prior to the Greeks, but perhaps I am missing something. By the time of Augustine, and until the time of Luther, this Aristotelian cosmology was the standard model for the cosmos. To read the concept of a celestial sphere into any culture previous to the Greeks is anachronistic, unless there is evidence that it was also developed by other ancient cultures. This would then preclude the idea of a celestial sphere from having any relevance for the interpretation of Genesis one.

I think it also insufficient to merely appeal to an “elementary observation of the sky” to refute the ancient concept of a hemispherical solid sky. Whether we like it or not, the thinking of every 21st century Westerner is subject to the epistemology of the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. Taking a look at the skies with our modern common sense and deciding that the ancients must have understood it in a similar way is not a legitimate argument.

We do know, however, that ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians were keen observers of the skies, thanks to modern scholarship. But if we accept this, it would be prudent to also take seriously what modern scholarship says about the rest of ancient cosmography.

Ben Vandergugten (continued below)

Anonymous said...

Wayne Horowitz (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, 1998, Eisenbrauns. Available on Google books) summarizes the Mesopotamian view of the ends of the Earth’s surface:

“All the available evidence agrees that the earth’s surface ends at the horizon, the place where heaven and earth meet. Yet, there is widespread disagreement about the topography of the ends of the earth’s surface. Some texts suggest that the ends of the earth’s surface are marked by cosmic mountains, while others suggest that the cosmic ocean extends to the ends of the earth. Still others are ambiguous.” (p. 330)

He supports this with a few quotes from primary sources, a text called Bit Rimki being one of them:

“Sun-god, when you rise from the Great Mountain,
When you rise from the Great Mountain, the Mountain of the Spring,
When you rise from Duku, the place where the destinies are determined,
When you rise at the place where heaven and earth embrace, at the horizon.” (p.331)

He also argues that there are two traditions concerning the composition of the heavens; one stone and the other water (pp. 3-9, 262-3). On a tablet designated KAR 307, line 33 reads as follows, “The Lower Heavens are jasper. They belong to the stars. [Bel] drew the constellations of the gods on them.” (p. 4)

Ben Vandergugten (continued below)

Anonymous said...

There was of course diversity in the views of the cosmos throughout the Ancient Near East. But Ancient Near Eastern studies and Egyptology will get us a few thousand kms and a few thousand years closer to the culture of Israel.

So it would seem that the diagram that Dr. Enns presented is not inane, but the result of the work of scholars trying to understand how the people of the Ancient Near East viewed the cosmos.

In response to Dr. Jordan’s first point, I do not think it is irrelevant how the author and first hearers would understand the firmament and waters above. Attempting to determine what any particular biblical text would mean to its first hearers is an important part of exegesis, and the same principle applies for Genesis one. I agree with Dr. John Walton when he writes, “Taking the text seriously is not expressed by correlating it with modern science; it is expressed in understanding it in its ancient context.” (The Lost World of Genesis One, p. 111)

Note: In a previous comment I suggested that the traditional Christian interpretation of the firmament was that it is solid. I should mention that in the little I have studied, this does not appear to be a unanimous view. Augustine and Aquinas discuss some interpretive problems with Genesis 1, one particular issue being the waters above the firmament. With Aristotelian cosmology, it became difficult for many to accept that there would be waters above the air, because this was not its natural place.

Sorry for being so long. I should stop now, though I do have more to say. Again, thank you for your earlier responses and also for your patience with my long responses.

A brother in Christ,
Ben Vandergugten

John Byl said...

Hi Ben

1. I considered Enns’ diagram inane because it has a fixed sun, moon and stars embedded in a solid, hemi-spherical domed sky held up by distant mountains. If this were true, there would be no daily movement of the sun, moon and stars—no morning, evening or night--and no relative movement between these. This, I asserted, is contrary to both common sense and ancient astronomy.

You defend Enns by claiming that my notion of common sense is distorted by modern epistemology. Do you then seriously believe that ancient man did not know that the sun rose and set every day? that it got dark at night? that the moon goes through different phases? that different stellar constellations appear in different seasons?

But listen to Genesis. It specifies that the Sun, moon and stars are to separate day from night and to be for “signs and seasons, days and years” (Gen.1:14-18). It speaks of the rising and setting of the Sun (Gen.15:12), phases of the moon (Gen.7:11), and the constellations appearing in their seasons (cf Job 38:31-33). None of this fits into Enns’ diagram.

2. You argue “To read the concept of a celestial sphere into any culture previous to the Greeks is anachronistic, unless there is evidence that it was also developed by other ancient cultures. This would then preclude the idea of a celestial sphere from having any relevance for the interpretation of Genesis one.”

How about your solid firmament? Moses wrote Genesis before 1400 BC. All the evidence you advance (e.g., KAR 307, Bit Rimki, etc.) is long after 1400 BC. Hence, by your own standard, is your reading the concept of a solid firmament into Genesis not anachronistic, thus precluding the idea of a solid firmament having any relevance to the interpretation of Genesis 1?

Anonymous said...

Hello again Dr. Byl, and thank you for your reply,

With regards to point 1:
I agree with you that anyone, living at any time would be quite aware that the sun rises and sets, as well as the moon, and even the stars (although most of us today understand this as caused by the earth rotating, rather than the heavenly bodies moving). I am sure that Dr. Enns and any other scholar who has any interest in studying ancient cosmology is also aware of the same. I disagree with you, however, when you suppose that therefore Ancient Near Eastern people could not have believed in a hemispherical solid sky. You use the words “fixed” and “embedded” to describe the position of the sun, moon and stars in the diagram. When I look at the diagram, the sun, moon and stars look like they are free to move. Certainly Genesis 1:17 states that they are set in the firmament. Does this mean they are embedded, or are they attached yet free to move. Perhaps they are set like I might set a soccer ball down in a field. I don’t know. I am not really qualified to exegete that passage. But Enns is not ignorant of this and discusses it in comments #2634 and #2647 of the blog post.

Previously I quoted from KAR 307 in which Bel is described as drawing the constellations of the gods on the lower heavens, which are made of Jasper. How do drawn constellations move across a solid sky made of Jasper, and then set on the horizon, where heaven and earth meet? I don’t know. In all my experience I have never seen a drawing move across a page. But even though I don’t understand how their system can work in a mechanical or natural sense, I do not then conclude that Ancient Mesopotamians could not have believed in a solid sky over a flat earth. I need to realize that they lived in a totally different culture than me, and some things they do and believe will not make sense to me.

Ben Vandergugten (continued below)

Anonymous said...

With regards to point 2:

If the notion of a solid firmament was only developed after Genesis one was written, then certainly it would not be relevant. But, the evidence I provided is not necessarily the the first occurrence. Those texts at least demonstrate that the “solid hemispherical sky” cosmology is more relevant to the text than a “celestial sphere cosmology.” It is nearer to the author of Genesis one in time, geography and culture. Furthermore, there is evidence for ANE conceptions of a solid sky that is dated earlier than the texts I provided. But don’t rely on me to provide the evidence. There are many competent scholars who study the ANE whom you could consult. I am really not qualified.

I thank you for the time you have taken to discuss this with me Dr. Byl. I have enjoyed this and learned much. I don’t think we are going to convince each other of our positions at this time, so I will leave it at that. But perhaps we will take up the discussion again in the future.

Have a blessed day of worship.

A brother in Christ,
Ben Vandergugten

Anonymous said...

"Those texts at least demonstrate that the 'solid hemispherical sky' cosmology is more relevant to the text than a 'celestial sphere cosmology.' It is nearer to the author of Genesis one in time, geography and culture."

Selective anachronism?

Even allowing that, and if one accepts the premise of a vast chasm between our epistemology and the ancient Mesopotamian's such that they could come to such different understandings about observation and theory/myth, to the resolution of the glaring cognitive dissonance between a solid dome and a rotating moon and sun, we are "nearer" to Greek culture in philosophy, mathematics, and literature than were the Mesopotamian cultures, as they've been heretofore (patronizingly) described. Modern philosophy is saturated with references to Aristotle and Plato. Mathematics has theorems from Pythagoras and geometry from Euclid. And I haven't yet mentioned Homer, Archimedes, Socrates, Thales and others.

"But don’t rely on me to provide the evidence. There are many competent scholars who study the ANE whom you could consult. I am really not qualified."

One should either refrain from postulating, or else stand behind the facts that are presented, instead of appealing to argument by authority. There are many experts who believe this to be true.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this great presentation. I like how you incorporate great images in your blog.

Have you linked to Scot Aaron's Spiritual Astronomy with a new Cosmology based on a Relativity Ratio?

"Psalms 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 in the Old and New Testaments refer to a day of God compared to 1000 human years. This (365 days times 1000 years) can be understood as a simple Relativity Ratio of 1 to 365,000."

Share your thoughts please,

john byl said...

Hi Celestial

Thanks for the link. I have had a look at "Spiritual Astronomy" but I must confess that it looks rather like New Age.

As to your ratio, 2 Peter 3:8 also says that to God 1000 years is as 1 day--so why not take the ration the other way? This text, taken in context, refers rather to God's perception of time. We may think God is slow in fulfilling His promise but God has His own schedule.

At any rate, the "day" in Genesis 1 is clearly defined as a period of light (and darkness)--the last 3 ruled by the Sun-- on the earth. Thus earth days are meant.

Nazorean said...

This underscores the lack of understanding among most Christians and preachers of all religions. The term reflects the Gnostic nature of the authors of the original scriptures, much like Jesus, who were great psychics. Unfortunately, those who interpreted and copied their teachings were not.

The Hebrew word raqia meams to spread or stamp much like a metalurgist hammering out a piece of metal into a thin sheet. Unfortunately, the Septuagint translated it to stereoma which means a form solid structure like a dome. St. Jerome translated this in the Vulgate to firmamentum, meaning strong or steadfast support, which translates as firmament.

If you imagine a tin soldier with a hollow inside. Now, cut a section down the middle from head to foot. What you now have is a 2 dimensional edge or outline of the object. This is similar to the etheric body which can be seen around all objects by clairvoyants. It is not that difficult for anyone to find. If you focus on an object without blinking for about 1/2 a minute you shuld be able to see it.

"I said to Him, Lord, how does he who sees the vision see it, through the soul or through the spirit? The Savior answered and said, He does not see through the soul nor through the spirit, but the mind that is between the two that is what sees the vision and it is…"–Gospel of Mary (5:10,11)

The waters that are referred to are not the waters of the earth and some unknown canopy of water vapor. It is the firmament that separates the upper waters, the emotional body, or masculine polarity from the lower waters, the mental body, or feminine polarity. It is the merging and balancing of these waters that the concept of the Christ is all about and which is taking place even as you read this page.

The scriptures you are reading do not reflect the teachings of Jesus, but were creatd by the Romans who subverted the teachings of Yeshu and the Nazoreans and proclaimed them the revelations of their godman Jesus Christ:

Richard Lanser said...

I just came across your blog and appreciate what you wrote, Dr. Byl! I found it in the course of doing research for an article I have just finished, "The Influence of the Ancient Near East on the Book of Genesis." It deals with the weaknesses of Walton's views. Not yet published in our ministry magazine Bible and Spade, but soon. I also have an article online about the Raqia at you may be interested in reading.

Richard Lanser, MA, MDiv
Associates for Biblical Research

John Byl said...

Hello Richard

Thanks for your comment and link to your worthwhile article. Please let me know once your ANE article is in print.

Anonymous said...

Dr Byl and others,

As the silent readers who are trying to educate ourselves in the truth of the WORD. Thank-you and we encourage you to continue.

God bless your on going work


Anonymous said...

Dr. Byl,

Does Enns say that the sun and moon are fixed? Ancient cosmology believed it moved along the raqia, not that it was fixed to it. This explains why ancients would not have necessarily seen a contradiction between a solid dome and moving celestial bodies. The sun and moon and stars are "on" the raqia, not in it. Genesis 1:15 should be translated "on the raqia of the sky," not "in the raqia of the sky." Note the same is said of the sun and moon in Enuma elish (i.e., "on," not "in").

John Byl said...

You say "Ancient cosmology believed the Sun and moon moved along the raqia". The point of my post was that this still has to be proven. I dispute that the ancients really believed the physical universe to be as depicted by Enn's diagram.

More important is what Genesis asserts. Genesis nowhere says that the raqia (heaven) is solid. Gen.1:14, 15, and 17 all refer to lights being placed "in the raqia". I have not found any translation that says "on the raqia".