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Is the Raqia necessarily solid?

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  • Is the Raqia necessarily solid?

    Here are some reasons why not:

    1. The raqia is equated with the heavens in Genesis 1:8. The heavens (shamayim) refer to the regions where birds are in and where walls of cities touch. Therefore, the shamayim (and hence, raqia) is not solid.


    2. In Genesis 1:20, birds are said to fly ‘al pane’ (literally “on the face of”) the raqia. This term is used a number of times in the Old Testament and seems to imply contact with some sort of boundary every time the term is used (whether vertical or horizontal). Since the birds do not touch the solid sky, the raqia here means something else.

    3. It is believed by scholars that the tabernacle (later the temple) is meant to represent the cosmos. Therefore, Hulisani Ramantswana writes:

    The Tabernacle was structured along graded holiness: Most Holy Place - Holy Place -Court. The Most Holy Place represented the invisible heavenly reality - the throne room of Yahweh (Pss 103:19; 123:1; Is 63:15; 66:1; cf. Is 14:13). The Holy Place represented the land - the locus of human habitation and land creatures. The Table of Presence on which was placed twelve loaves of show bread (Lv 24:5-6) represented the Lord‘s provision for his people Israel – the twelve tribes. The lampstand is often associated with the seven major lights: five planets, sun and moon (Walton 2001:148;Beale 2004:34-35; Poythres 1991:18-19). For others, the lampstand represented the tree of life, which symbolised God‘s provision (Sarna 1991:162-65; Stuart 2008:580). According to Meyers (2005:232), the lampstand – considering the iconographic context of the Mediterranean in the Late Bronze and Iron Ages – represented― the divine power that provides fertility of plant life. The Court where the wash-basin was set up represented the sea (Ex 30:18 – 20; 35:11–18; cf. 1 Ki 7:2 –26). Bloch-Smith (1994:20) notes that the bronze sea in Solomon‘s temple court was so huge that―no practical application is offered for the sea during the time of Solomon which is indicative of its symbolic value as representing the―cosmic waters or the waters of life. The wash-basin in the Tabernacle court and later the bronze sea in the temple court are better viewed as representing the third part of the cosmos – the sea. The pragmatic function of the wash-basin for the washing by priests should not detractfrom the significance of where it is located, the court, which within the graded holiness is the least holy space of the Tabernacle.

    What divided the Most holy place from the Holy place was a veil, said to separate (using the same word found in Genesis 1 regarding the function of the raqia). This lines up with the raqia being the heavens that separate God from man in total and not in part. So, the raqia here is not solid.

    4. Ezekiel 1 portrays the cosmos in the form of a chariot. Critically, it provides a distinction between the raqia which looks like ice (that is, white) and the throne looking like lapis lazuli ,which is blue and above the raqia (see Exodus 24:10) thus making a distinction between the blue sky and the raqia and placing the raqia beneath the blue sky.

    5. Hebrews did not think about the world in a material sense like we do. They thought about the world in terms of what they did. Therefore, the idea that the word raqia refers to something necessarily solid is a non-starter.

    6. There is no word in Ancient Hebrew that specifically refers to ‘hardness’. All words that could refer to hardness (e.g. chazaq, amats) are better understood with terms like ‘strong’ ‘powerful’ and ‘mighty’ since they can refer to wind, sound of a trumpet etc.

    7. The word raqia itself is used in Psalm 150 to refer to power and in the Dead Sea Scrolls to refer to light. Neither of these things are solid and so the word itself does not necessarily refer to something solid.

    8. The word raqia was translated into Greek as stereoma. This word need not refer to something solid (e.g. Col 2:5). It is used of part of an army in 1 Maccabees (all of an army is solid) and a ratification in Esther 9:29. Its verbal and adjective forms are used of famine, wounds, thunder and something smoke does. The Church father Basil rejects the interpretation that the stereoma is solid and instead understands it in terms of strength. The word was then translated into latin as ‘firmamentum’, a word that was previously used in rhetoric and has the meaning of support (in the political sense as well, see Tacitus). One other pre-Copernican translation is expansium, with no connotations of solidity.

    9. In Bereshit Rabbah, one interpretation of “Let there be a firmament” is let the firmament gleam, not something associated with solidity, but associated with power.

    10. In the Aramaic Targum to Song of Songs, Moses is said to be in the raqia to receive the 10 commandments. In Exodus 24, this refers to a cloud. Further evidence that clouds can be raqia is found in Deuteronomy, where the Hebrew has shachaq (a word normally translated cloud), the Greek has stereoma, commonly translated firmament.

    11. Some medieval rabbis (Such as Ibn Ezra and Radak) believed the firmament (of Genesis 16) to be the air. Thus, the raqia here is not solid.
    -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
    Sir James Jeans

    -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
    Sir Isaac Newton

  • #2
    On what grounds is the contrary case, that it is solid, made ?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Rushing Jaws View Post
      On what grounds is the contrary case, that it is solid, made ?
      I'll bite.

      It was based on a very literal description of various verses like Genesis 1:6-8, 14; 7:11; Exodus 39:3; Numbers 16:38-39; Job 36:27; 37:18; 38:22; Psalm 148:4; Isaiah 24:18; 40:19; Jeremiah 10:9; Malachi 3:10 etc.

      While many of these don't sounding very convincing to modern readers, with some very obviously being able to be understood in different ways, that is influenced by the fact that we know that the firmament/raqia is not a solid construct but rather an expanse -- a vastness. But ancient readers didn't have this knowledge and appear to have taken the term to mean something solid, with physical windows and storehouses for snow and hail atop it.

      From awhile back

      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
      Again when I researched this a few years ago I couldn't find anyone who didn't see it as a physical barrier (although it appears that Basil might have been familiar with some). Among those who said it was solid are Theophilus of Antioch (d.185); Clement of Alexandria (d.215); Origen (d.253); Novatian (d.258); Hilary of Poitiers (d.368); Athanasius (d.373); Basil the Great (d.379); Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386); Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus (d.394); Ambrose (d.397); John Chrysostom (d.407); Severian, Bishop of Gabala (d.408); Augustine (d.430); Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th cent.); John Philoponus (a.k.a., John the Grammarian of Alexandria) (d. 570); Isidore, bishop of Seville (d.636); Venerable Bede (d. 735); Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1253); Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) all either explicitly or implicitly stated that the firmament was a solid, physical structure. The same with such books like "Apostolic Constitutions" (or "Constitution of the Holy Apostles"), Book of Enoch, Book of Baruch, Genesis Rabbah and the pseudo-Clementine "Recognitions."

      Martin Luther was probably the last great theologian to accept a watery, solid firmament above the clouds and sky.

      frontispiece from Martin Luther’s
      translation of the Bible (solid firmament)


      None of this means that this view was the correct one but rather it is the result of an overly literal translation of the text.

      And while today we translate the Hebrew word raqia as meaning "expanse" it needs to be understood that for many centuries the word was thought to mean something solid. If we ignore this then the writings and beliefs of early theologians becomes unintelligible, and a good deal of the symbolic significance of medieval architecture, art and literature is lost. For example, the belief in the concept of a solid firmament was illustrated and reinforced by the tradition of incorporating the firmament in a background arc or border in medieval paintings beyond which God and the angels dwelt.

      A few examples might be in order...

      Origen called the firmament "without doubt firm and solid" in his "First Homily on Genesis."

      Hilary of Poitiers wrote "For although, as Moses teaches, each act of creation had its proper order the making the firmament solid, the laying bare of the dry land, the gathering together of the sea, the ordering of the stars..." in his "On the Trinity"

      In his "Catechetical Lecture 9" Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that God "reared the sky as a dome, who out of the fluid nature of the waters formed the stable substance of the heaven. For God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water. God spoke once for all, and it stands fast, and falls not. The heaven is water, and the orbs therein, sun, moon, and stars are of fire: and how do the orbs of fire run their course in the water? But if any one disputes this because of the opposite natures of fire and water, let him remember the fire which in the time of Moses in Egypt flamed amid the hail, and observe the all-wise workmanship of God."

      Ambrose, commenting on Genesis 1:6 wrote, "the specific solidity of this exterior firmament is meant" in his "Hexameron."

      Augustine said the word firmament was used "to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and constitutes an impassable boundary between the waters above and the waters below," in his "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim" ("The Literal Meaning of Genesis").

      And it wasn't just early Christians. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia:

      The Hebrews regarded the earth as a plain or a hill figured like a hemisphere, swimming on water. Over this is arched the solid vault of heaven. To this vault are fastened the lights, the stars. So slight is this elevation that birds may rise to it and fly along its expanse.


      While today we translate the Hebrew word raqia as meaning "expanse" it needs to be understood that for many centuries the word was thought to mean something solid. If we ignore this then the writings and beliefs of early theologians becomes unintelligible, and a good deal of the symbolic significance of medieval architecture, art and literature is lost. For example, the belief in the concept of a solid firmament was illustrated and reinforced by the tradition of incorporating the firmament in a background arc or border in medieval paintings beyond which God and the angels dwelt.



      And finally, there is this: The Firmament of Genesis 1 is Solid but That’s Not the Point by Pete Enns on BioLogos

      I'm always still in trouble again

      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
      "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post

        Augustine said the word firmament was used "to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and constitutes an impassable boundary between the waters above and the waters below," in his "De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim" ("The Literal Meaning of Genesis").
        But the word could refer to something being motionless, as Augustine acknowledges in that quote. Here is the fuller context of the quote:

        With regard to the motion of Heaven, certain Christian writers have enquired whether it is in reality stationary or moving. If it is moving, they say, in what sense is it a firmament? But if it is stationary, how do the heavenly bodies thought to be fixed in it travel from east to west and the stars of the Wain complete their smaller orbits near the north pole? They present the picture heaven turning either like a sphere, if we suppose another axis not visible to us extending from another pivotal point or like a disk, if there is no other axis. My reply is that there is a great deal of subtle and learned enquiry into these questions for the purposes of arriving at a true view of the matter; but I have no further time to go into these questions and discuss them, nor should they have time whom I wish to see instructed for their own salvation and for what is necessary and useful in the Church. They must certainly bear in mind that the term "firmament" does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven: we may understand this name not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassible boundary between the waters above and the waters below. Furthermore, if the evidence shows the heavens actually are immovable, the motion of the stars would not be a hinderance to our acceptance of this fact. The very scholars who have devoted the most exhaustive study to this subject have concluded that if the stars alone were moved while the heavens were motionless, all the know phenomena observed in the motion of the stars might have take place.


        Augustine also includes air above the clouds as being part of the firmament, thus implying he thought it was not solid fully. He ultimately concludes that the firmament is called firmament because of its tranquility, not its solidity. See here.

        Augustine admits that the air below the clouds can be called the heaven (cf. "the birds of heaven": shamayim [Gen 7:23]), but he is unconvinced that this lower air can be called a firmament.In his opinion the firmament (raqia) of heaven is located in the space stretching downwards from the top of the fiery spheres through the thinner air to the top of the heavier air which can support the clouds. It is called a firmament because of its tranquility, by which it resembles the truth, "for nothing is more firm and sure than the truth": thy truth (reaches) even to the clouds (Ps 35:6; 56:11). Hence, in Augustine's opinion the creation of the Four Elements is presented in another way: all together without their distinctive forms under the word ground in verse 1, and then as distinctly formed during the second, third, and fourth days. Air as a distinct element is presented under two names in verse two: the separating out and formation of the dry upper air is expressed under the name firmament, while the moist lower air is presented under the name waters below the firmament. The heavier air is called water in that it contains moisture: it is both vaporous water and condensed air.


        As to this,

        Again when I researched this a few years ago I couldn't find anyone who didn't see it as a physical barrier (although it appears that Basil might have been familiar with some). Among those who said it was solid are Theophilus of Antioch (d.185); Clement of Alexandria (d.215); Origen (d.253); Novatian (d.258); Hilary of Poitiers (d.368); Athanasius (d.373); Basil the Great (d.379); Cyril of Jerusalem (d.386); Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus (d.394); Ambrose (d.397); John Chrysostom (d.407); Severian, Bishop of Gabala (d.408); Augustine (d.430); Cosmas Indicopleustes (6th cent.); John Philoponus (a.k.a., John the Grammarian of Alexandria) (d. 570); Isidore, bishop of Seville (d.636); Venerable Bede (d. 735); Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (d. 1253); Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274) all either explicitly or implicitly stated that the firmament was a solid, physical structure.
        Edward Grant notes, “Most Christian authors and Latin Encyclopedists during late antiquity . . . thought of the heavens (i.e. celestial spheres) as fiery or elemental in nature, and therefore fluid. In this category, Christopher Scheiner included Gregory of Nyssa, Chalcidius, Isidore of Seville, John of Damascus, Peter Damian, Hugh of St Victor, Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure to which we may add Macrobius, Michael Scot, Robert Anglicius and perhaps Peter of Abano." See here.

        -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
        Sir James Jeans

        -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
        Sir Isaac Newton

        Comment


        • #5

          Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
          But the word could refer to something being motionless...
          A point already made.

          While many of these don't sounding very convincing to modern readers, with some very obviously being able to be understood in different ways, that is influenced by the fact that we know that the firmament/raqia is not a solid construct but rather an expanse -- a vastness. But ancient readers didn't have this knowledge and appear to have taken the term to mean something solid, with physical windows and storehouses for snow and hail atop it.


          Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
          Augustine also includes air above the clouds as being part of the firmament, thus implying he thought it was not solid fully. He ultimately concludes that the firmament is called firmament because of its tranquility, not its solidity. See here.
          The possibility of air being also above the firmament does not preclude it being solid no more than the idea of there being storehouses for rain, snow and hail. I think you are being influenced by our knowledge that space is effectively a vacuum with no atmosphere. Something that Augustine would not have been aware of.

          One of your sources, Edward Grant argues that many of the ancient Church Fathers and theologians though that the firmament represents a fluid and therefore not solid. But a fluid still represents a physical barrier. It looks like Grant is trying to have it both ways.

          Originally posted by Quantum Weirdness View Post
          As to this,

          Edward Grant notes, “Most Christian authors and Latin Encyclopedists during late antiquity . . . thought of the heavens (i.e. celestial spheres) as fiery or elemental in nature, and therefore fluid. In this category, Christopher Scheiner included Gregory of Nyssa, Chalcidius, Isidore of Seville, John of Damascus, Peter Damian, Hugh of St Victor, Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure to which we may add Macrobius, Michael Scot, Robert Anglicius and perhaps Peter of Abano." See here.
          Lessee...

          Aside from the fact that the celestial spheres don't always correspond to the firmament (IIRC, they can divide the various layers of heaven itself)

          Isidore of Seville, in his Etymologies, while discussing the nature of the sky described the firmament as fixed in placed by the stars ("secured (firmare) by the course of the stars and by fixed and immutable laws"). You can't have an expanse secured and fixed in place.

          John of Damascus did say it was as "delicate as smoke" ("delicate as" does not mean the "same as") but he also referred to it being watery in nature. IIRC, he also posited that it could possibly be "composed of the four elements" or even of a fifth unknown element.

          Peter Damien wrote of how the firmament divided the waters below it from the waters above it. Again this implies a physical barrier of some sort.

          Hugh of St Victor seemed far more interested in the nature of the waters being divided and making metaphysical comparisons, but nevertheless he saw the firmament as a barrier.

          I'd need to dig out my notes to continue but I'll note that Grant also points out how Scheiner "inferred [a] belief in a fluid heavens" onto those who were silent on the issue indicating a habit of being a bit too eager to see something that might not be there.

          I'll close by repeating my concluding paragraph

          While today we translate the Hebrew word raqia as meaning "expanse" it needs to be understood that for many centuries the word was thought to mean something solid. If we ignore this then the writings and beliefs of early theologians becomes unintelligible, and a good deal of the symbolic significance of medieval architecture, art and literature is lost. For example, the belief in the concept of a solid firmament was illustrated and reinforced by the tradition of incorporating the firmament in a background arc or border in medieval paintings beyond which God and the angels dwelt.
          Last edited by rogue06; 08-31-2021, 09:38 AM.

          I'm always still in trouble again

          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
          "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post

            A point already made.

            While many of these don't sounding very convincing to modern readers, with some very obviously being able to be understood in different ways, that is influenced by the fact that we know that the firmament/raqia is not a solid construct but rather an expanse -- a vastness. But ancient readers didn't have this knowledge and appear to have taken the term to mean something solid, with physical windows and storehouses for snow and hail atop it.
            And, hence firmamentum does not mean solid body necessarily, but more something like strong body.

            The possibility of air being also above the firmament does not preclude it being solid no more than the idea of there being storehouses for rain, snow and hail. I think you are being influenced by our knowledge that space is effectively a vacuum with no atmosphere. Something that Augustine would not have been aware of.
            I didn't say air was above the firmament. I said it was above the clouds as being part of the firmament. Here's another quote from Augustine:

            Certainly, in this air it is said that birds fly; in that other higher and purer, which without a doubt is called air, can not fly, since it is so subtle that it does not bear the weight of them. In it the clouds can not condense, nor the tempest be unleashed; because the wind is totally absent, as seen on the top of Mount Olympus, which they say exceeds in height this humid air. As those who, by custom, climbed the aforementioned mountain on the solemnities of their sacrifices, it happened to write certain letters in the dust and after a year they found them intact and intact.
            45. For this reason, with just reason, it can be believed that in the divine Scriptures the space that is up to this point is called the firmament of heaven, and that the most tranquil and serene air belongs to the firmament. Under this name of firmament such serenity and a great part of things can be understood. For which reason I also judge that the following is said in many places of the psalms: and your truth even to the clouds, 16 because nothing is more firm and serene than the truth; but the clouds form below this very tranquil region of the air. Although what has been said is figuratively taken, however, these things have been written as having a certain resemblance to what they represent; in such a way that there seems in reality to exist a certain image of the truth in this most unalterable and pure bodily creature, which extends from the highest part of the sky to the clouds, that is, to the caliginous, stormy and humid air; then rightly they are attributed to the waters, the birds, that fly over the earth under the firmament of the sky, because water is rightly called this air. By this it is to be understood that nothing was spoken of the air; that is, what mode or when it was made, because this low air bears the name of water, and that high, the firmament. And so, no element was overlooked.


            From this quote, we can see the firmament includes air like that found on the top of Mount Olympus and which does not bear the weight of birds. This is not something solid.
            As a side note, I did not think of outer space when making my argument.

            One of your sources, Edward Grant argues that many of the ancient Church Fathers and theologians though that the firmament represents a fluid and therefore not solid. But a fluid still represents a physical barrier. It looks like Grant is trying to have it both ways.
            That still means that the firmament is not solid. Which is the point.



            -The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.
            Sir James Jeans

            -This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.All variety of created objects which represent order and Life in the Universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God.
            Sir Isaac Newton

            Comment


            • #7
              It appears much of our disagreement centers around the meaning of solid wrt the firmament. For me, it denotes a physical barrier -- which is how the Jews viewed it. Something that the stars, sun and moon can be affixed to. That could be like "a cast metal mirror" as it is described in Job, or water. Both present a physical barrier. Neither represents an empty expanse as we now commonly view it. IIRC, it was one of the Cappadocian Fathers who likened into to ice (and he isn't the only one) which would be like both.

              In his The Firmament and the Water Above, Paul Seely wrote

              Does any statement or phrase appear in the OT which clearly states or implies that the raqia is not solid? Does anything in Genesis 1 state or imply the raqia was not (or was) solid? The fact that it was named "heaven(s)" in Gen 1:8 and birds fly in the heaven(s) (Deut 4: 17) seems to imply the raqia was not solid. But the word samayim (heaven[s]) is broader in meaning than raqia . It encompasses not only the raqia (v. 8; Ps 19:6; 148:4) but the space above the raqia (Ps 2:4; 11:4; 139:8) as well as the space below (Ps 8:8; 79:2). Hence birds fly in the heavens, but never in the raqia. Rather, birds fly upon the face or in front of the raqia (Gen 1:20). This phrase upon the face (surface) or in front of the raqia is important in that it implies the raqia was neither space nor atmosphere. For birds do not fly upon the surface or in front of space or air, but rather in space or air. This distinction is illustrated in the case of fish, which no one would say swim upon the surface or in front of the water (Gen 7: 18) but rather in the water (cr. Exod 7: 18, 21).

              Gen 1:17 also testifies that the raqia is not air or atmosphere for it says that God placed the stars (and probably the sun and moon) "in the raqia or the heavens." But the stars are not located in the air or atmosphere. So we know the raqia (in which 1:17 locates them) cannot be air or atmosphere. Even if 1:17 is construed as phenomenal language, the raqia still cannot be air or atmosphere. For the stars do not look like they are located in the air or atmosphere. Rather (as anyone can tell on a clear night away from city lights) they look like they are embedded in a solid vault which is exactly why scientifically naive peoples believe in a solid vault, and why 1:17, in accordance with that belief, says God placed the stars in the raqia. Gen 1:14-17 is such a clear proof that the raqia is not air or atmosphere that some conservatives have tried to dissociate the raqia in vv. 14-17 from the raqia in vv. 6-8. But the statement in v. 14, "Let there be lights in the firmament or heaven," immediately raises the question, What "firmament of heaven"? To which the context immediately replies, the firmament of vv. 6-8 which was called heaven. The contextual identity of the two firmaments is really beyond question. Taken in context it is impossible to say the raqia of vv. 6-8 was just air or atmosphere.





              I'm always still in trouble again

              "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
              "Overall I would rate the withdrawal from Afghanistan as by far the best thing Biden's done" --Starlight
              "Of course, human life begins at fertilization that’s not the argument." --Tassman

              Comment

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