How truly refreshing it would be for the God haters to be honest for once. Wouldn't it be nice if they simply gave Jesus credit for his awesome handiwork of creation, while admitting that they hate him, despite the majesty of what surrounds them? But then I guess that would make them look like jerks, right? But I digress, I'm on a mission to study the mystery of the firma-ment, not expound upon the dishonesty of the God haters claims. And so, getting back to the subject at hand, let's look at the very first time the firmament is mentioned in the Bible.
Genesis 1:6-8 King James Version
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
The Hebrew Definition of "firmament."
The Hebrew word behind the English word "firmament" is raqiya (rah- kee-yah). This word is of course a noun, and according to Strong's Concordance, it means:
- extended surface (solid), expanse, firmament
B. firmament (of vault of heaven supporting waters above)
i. considered by Hebrews as solid and supporting 'waters' above
I'm going to look a little deeper here by using another modern Latin derived English word "expanse" which fits very well into the context where raqiya is used. I will first define our English word and then put it in the Scriptures along side the Latin/Old French derived word "firmament."
2. something that is spread out, especially over a relatively large area
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament (expanse) of heaven. -Gen.1:20
Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament (expanse)of his power. -Ps.150:1
And above the firmament (expanse) that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. - Ezk. 1:26
So if the idea of the firmament (expanse of heaven i.e. Gen. 1:8) as being a solid pot lid didn't come from Scripture and its context clues, then were did Strong's get its definition from? Apparently that concept came from Egypt. Why there? Well, according to Bert Thompson, Ph.D. of Apologetics Press, it seems that there was some political and religious bias going on when certain Jewish scholars produced the Septuagint, let's see what he has to say....
The Septuagint (a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek produced by Jewish scholars in the third century B.C. at the behest of the powerful Egyptian pharaoh, Ptolemy Philadelphus, for inclusion in his world-famous library in Alexandria) translated raqia into the Greek as stereoma, which connotes a “solid structure” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1967, p. 774). Apparently, the translators of the Septuagint were influenced by the then-popular Egyptian view of cosmology and astronomy [they were, after all, doing their translating in Egypt for an Egyptian pharaoh] that embraced the notion of the heavens being a stone vault. Unfortunately, those Hebrew scholars therefore chose to render raqia via the Greek word stereoma—in order to suggest a firm, solid structure. The Greek connotation thus influenced Jerome to the extent that, when he produced his Latin Vulgate, he used the word firmamentum (meaning a strong or steadfast support—from which the word “firmament” is transliterated) to reflect this pagan concept (McKechinie, 1978, p. 691).
In his Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words , Old Testament language scholar W.E. Vine stressed:
While this English word is derived from the Latin firmamentum which signifies firmness or strengthening,...the Hebrew word, raqia, has no such meaning, but denoted the “expanse,” that which was stretched out. Certainly the sky was not regarded as a hard vault in which the heavenly orbs were fixed.... There is therefore nothing in the language of the original to suggest that the writers [of the Old Testament—BT] were influenced by the imaginative ideas of heathen nations (1981, p. 67). Raqia denotes simply an expanse, not a solid structure (see Harris, et al., 1980, 2:2218). Furthermore, the actual substance of the expanse is not inherent in the word. For example, Numbers 16:38 juxtaposes raqia and pahim (plates), suggesting literally an “expanse of plates.” Here, “plates” specifies the actual material involved in the expansion. In Genesis, “heavens,” not solid matter, is given as the nature of the expanse (Genesis 1:8,14,15,17,20). The original context in which raqia is used does not imply any kind of solid dome above the Earth.
- Article titled: "What was the firmament of Genesis 1" on Apologetics Press website by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
So now that I've discovered that the word "firmament" isn't exactly the best word that the translators could have chosen for the Hebrew word raqiya, now let's look at how the function of the firmament, or expanse of heaven. Does the biblical description of the firmament lack scientific integrity, or does the biblical account support what we now know about our atmosphere? Incidentally, the word 'atmosphere' is a mid 17th century word derived from Greek and Latin, which means: vapor ball (globe). My point is that words (unlike life on earth) evolve into other words and often take on different meanings over time.
And God said, Let there be a firmament(expanse)in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament (expanse), and divided the waters which were under the firmament (expanse) from the waters which were above the firmament (expanse): and it was so. - Genesis 1:6-7
He who builds His layers in the sky, and has founded His strata in the earth;
Who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the face of the earth--
The LORD (Yahovah) is His name. Amos 9:6
The Ancient Skies