Report on the Firmament

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The Creation Concept

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Contents

Introduction

The Traditional Explanation

The Rigid Sky in Greek Philosophy

Temples of Zeus

The Letter of Aristeas

Antiochus and the Jews

Ezekiel's Firmament

Varro on Pagan Religion

The Firmament in New Testament Times

A Quotation from On the Sublime

The Christian Era: Domed Cathedrals

The Demise of the Firmament

Daniel's 2,300 Days

The Search for the Firmament

Waters Above the Heavens?

Canopy Theories

Conclusion

Bibliography

Introduction

This report examines the question of the identity of the firmament in the Bible, made on the second day of Creation Week, as described in the first chapter of Genesis. This is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. Various explanations have been supported; the problem has vexed theologians and philosophers for centuries.

Most Creationists and conservative Christians interpret the scriptures which refer to the firmament literally; it represents some real part of the universe. The firmament, or expanse has been identified with the atmosphere, or distant space, or with both the atmosphere and space beyond. In some theories, the creation of the firmament is associated with a structure of some sort, called a canopy, perhaps consisting of water vapor, or a shell of ice, or rings which once surrounded the earth, which no longer exists. This report considers the thesis that the firmament of the Bible does not refer to something in the sky at all, but is found within the earth. This concept is explained in this report.

On the other hand, most secular scholars, liberal Christians, and skeptics suppose that the firmament of scripture is simply a relic of a pre-scientific culture. Critical scholars have translated the Hebrew "raqia", which is rendered "firmament" in the KJV of Genesis 1:6, as "dome" or "vault" in the modern Bibles. This concept has been prominently featured in the New American Bible, the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, and others. These scholars apparently consider this to be the most accurate rendering of the original, and it is probably the most widely held view about the firmament today. But as this report explains, this theory is exploded by a remarkable prophecy in the book of Daniel, found in chapter 8.

The Traditional Explanation

Until about the time of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) [See biography], Christian scholars understood the firmament of the Bible as depicting the rigid sky, which revolved around the earth once each day, carrying along all the stars. This assumed motion of the sky reflected the common-sense notion that the earth was stationary. For the stars to move in a manner consistent with observation, they had to be held fixed in their relative positions. The stars seemed to trace partial circles around the poles each night. Their movements appeared exactly as if they were fixed on the underside of a great revolving dome, or the inner surface of a sphere. This belief in a rigid sphere of heaven gave rise to the expression "the sphere of the fixed stars."

The planetary motions did not conform to this explanation, and it was the detailed study of the orbits of the planets by Johannes Kepler, his discovery of the elliptical form of the orbit of Mars, and Newton's interpretation of Kepler's discoveries, which led to the recognition of the law of gravity, and the abandonment of the idea of a rigid rotating firmament.

The apparent absurdity of the scriptural references to a rigid heavenly firmament and "waters above the heavens" has been exploited by humorists as an object of ridicule. Dietz and Holden include an account of the cosmology of scripture in their Creation/Evolution Satiricon. They claim the biblical earth is flat, and state: "The Genesis creation story tells that the earth is covered by a vault and that celestial bodies move inside this firmament. This makes sense only under the assumption that the earth is flat."

Along with their account, two cartoons depict the earth and the universe as they suppose the ancient authors of scripture believed it to be. A curious feature of these drawings is that the waters beneath the earth seem to conflict with the concept of fires of hell. These waters are shown in the cartoons being held up in a kind of sheet by two angels in one picture, and by two demons in the other, above the subterranean fires, over which Satan presides. The waters beneath the earth's crust seem to be about to put out the subterranean fires. The biblical universe, as they picture it, would have three water layers, one above the heavens, the next being the oceans and lakes of the world, and the third consisting of the waters beneath the earth. They wrote [p.65]:

While priests found it relatively easy to ignore the flat-earth implications in the Bible and to adopt the spherical system of Ptolemy, they were rudely shaken by Copernicus and Galileo. Galileo, of course, was arraigned before the Catholic Inquisition and forced to recant his heretical view that the earth rotated and also revolved around the sun. For scriptural reasons other early Protestant reformers also rejected the Copernican system. These included Luther, Calvin and Wesley. Some Protestant creationists are still fighting a rear-guard action against heliocentricity.

[For an example, see Introduction to the Firmament.]

[See also The Geocentricity Question.]

Dietz and Holden continue:

Biblically, the earth is arched over with a solid firmament (Genesis 1:7). Isaiah and the Psalms state the heavens are stretched out "like a curtain" and again "like a tent to dwell in." The universe, then, resembles a simple house with the earth as the ground floor and the firmament as the ceiling beneath which God suspends the sun to rule the day and the moon and stars to rule the night. Waters or seas lie both above the firmament and beneath and surrounding the square or rectangular earth. Waters are let down upon the earth by the Lord and his angels through the "windows of heaven." Water also ascends to the earth through the "fountains of the deep." St. Augustine said it mattered little whether the celestial dome rested on pillars or hung over the edges of the earth.

Dietz and Holden describe the ideas of the 6th century AD Egyptian monk, Cosmas Indicopleustes, who believed in a flat earth. They quote his statement: "We say therefore with Isaiah that the heaven embracing the earth is a vault, with Job that it is joined to the earth, and with Moses that its length is greater than its breadth." They quote Genesis 1:6-10 from the New American Bible, which has: "Then God said, 'Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters to separate one body of water from another.' And so it happened... God called the dome 'the sky.'..." The authors continue:

Envisioned in this pre-scientific account is a flat terrestrial plain over which is erected the great crystalline firmament or the dome of the sky. Water not only partially covered the earth but also formed a vast reservoir above the dome. And why not? This model accounted nicely for rainfall and explained why the sky is blue-the colour of pure water.

In the ancient biblical view the universe was three storied. It consisted of the cavernous underground of Hades or Hell, the flat earth proper, and the sky-dome beneath which were attached the sun, moon and stars. It was quite natural to believe that stars fell from time to time and that there was a real danger of the sky itself falling. These themes occur throughout the Bible. (There follows a list of scriptures.)

A similar approach to the firmament of scripture was adopted by Paul H. Seely. While affirming scripture was divinely inspired, Seely pointed to statements of Jesus and the prophets of the Old Testament which seem to indicate the stars were small and could fall from the firmament to the earth, and suggested that Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:45 that God "makes his sun to rise" shows Jesus believed in a geocentric universe. According to Seely, "the Bible portrays a three-storied universe, a cosmology which any modern man will reject as being scientifically erroneous." He wrote [Seely 1969, p. 18]:

The three-storied universe is a cosmology wherein the universe is conceived of as consisting of three stories. The ceiling of Sheol, the bottom story, is the surface of the earth. The surface of the earth, in turn, is the floor of the middle story. The ceiling of the middle story is the firmament with its contiguous heavenly ocean. This firmament with its ocean is, in turn, the floor of the top story, heaven.

Dietz and Holden pictured Biblical cosmology in this fashion for a joke, but Seely was not joking. A rebuttal to Seely's argument was made by Stanley Udd, who defended a canopy theory in which liquid water is supposed to have formerly existed above the earth's atmosphere. He described the interpretation of the biblical firmament by Seely and other scholars:

Such critics contend that the Genesis narrative reflects an early Hebrew understanding of cosmology in which the sky was over-arched by a ponderous, hemispheric bell called the "firmament." This supposed vault supported the "waters above the firmament" and was equipped with trap-doors through which rain might descend. From this imagined structure were then hung the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation.

The firmament was commonly depicted in medieval religious art as an arc or dome above which God and the angels resided. It was also represented by domes on churches and mosques. The origins of this concept, however, belong not in the scripture, but in the philosophy and epic poetry of the Greeks, as this report explains.

References

Dietz, Robert S., and John C. Holden. 1987. Creation/Evolution Satiricon. The Bookmaker, Winthrop WA.

Seely, Paul H. 1969. The three-storied universe, Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 21(1):18- 22. (See p. 18.)


See also these papers by Paul Seely: The Firmament and the Water Above Part I: The Meaning of raqiaà in Gen 1:6-8, from the Westminster Theological Journal 53 (Fall 1991) 241-261, and The Firmament and the Water Above Part II: The Meaning of "The Water above the Firmament" in Gen 1:6-8, Westminster Theological Journal 94 (1992) 47-63.

Seely, Paul H. 1989. Inerrant wisdom: science and inerrancy in biblical perspective. Evangelical Reform Inc. Portland Oregon.

Udd, Stanley V. 1975. The Canopy and Genesis 1:6-8. Creation Research Society Quarterly 12(2):90-93.

The Rigid Sky in Greek Philosophy

The worship of Zeus in the ancient world involved a cosmology that was built on the assumption of a stationary earth. Many arguments were available that appeared to support this idea; clouds would be left behind, it was reasoned, if the earth rotated. Observations showed that a stone or an arrow shot straight up into the air fell back down to the same place, and was not deflected towards the west.

The ancients noted that after sunset, the stars appeared in the formerly bright blue sky, and they observed the regular daily movement of the stars, which seem to rotate about a point in the sky above the north pole each night. To keep the stars in their relative positions, they reasoned a rigid spherical shell was required, centered on the earth's center, in which all the fixed stars were embedded. The rigidity of the heavens was regarded as an amazing discovery, which seemed to account for many observations. The concept was the basis for the worship of the Olympian Zeus in the ancient world.

Zeus was the rigid heaven of the ancient world, which shone bright blue in the day, and held up all the stars, which were thought to be embedded like nails on its inside surface. The sky was the focus of Greek religion. Zeus was chief of the Olympic deities, and was called "the father of gods and men" by Homer. Herodotus says Homer gave the gods their names, or defined them. We might say today that he invented them. There were twelve main Olympian gods. Zeus, youngest son of Cronus, was the supreme ruler, identified with the sky. Hera, his wife, was the protector of women and marriage. Apollo, god of light, was identified with Helios (the sun) in Hellenistic times. Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo, and goddess of hunting and wildlife, was the moon goddess, identified with Diana by the Romans. Athena, born from the head of Zeus in an ancient myth, seems to have originated as a deity of the Athenians, and was a protector of cities. She is identified with wisdom, or craftiness. Poseidon, the sea, was identified with Neptune by the Romans. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions were attributed to him, reflecting the ancient belief that water underlies the earth's crust. Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, was associated with the Roman Venus, Ishtar of Assyria, and Astarte of Phoenicia. Hades, whose name means "the unseen," was also called Pluto. His name referred to the underworld, the place of the dead.

The Greek philosophers taught that the sky was a solid sphere, which rotated, and held all the stars in place. It was necessary to postulate such a sphere since they denied the rotation of the earth. The larger the sphere of heaven was thought to be, the stronger it would need to be, to keep from flying apart. That is why their "wisdom" maintained the sky was strong. In the Iliad 8:5-27, Homer has Zeus boast he is the strongest of all the gods, saying that if a golden chain were fastened to the sky, he could hold up all the other gods, sun and moon and earth and sea, so that they would dangle in mid-air, but all of them combined could not drag him down from heaven.

The strength of the sky suggested by Homer's story implied it was rigid. The works of Homer were the basis for a Greek education down through the Hellenistic period. The plays, poetry, and philosophy of the Greeks all depended a great deal on Homer. What Homer wrote about Zeus defined the conception of him down through many centuries. In some ancient cultures, the sky was thought to be made of stone or iron, and this view was supported by the occasional fall of meteorites that were interpreted as objects of divinity since they came from the sky. The development of Greek thinking about the nature of the universe is revealed in the following brief review of the ideas of Greek philosophers. [For another review, see Inventing the Solar System: Early Greek Scientists Struggle to Explain How the Heavens Move.]

Thales of Miletus (c. 624-548 BC) [See biography] was one of the seven sages of antiquity. He taught the earth was made from water, and rested on water. Herodotus reported that Thales had predicted an eclipse, which occurred on 28 May, 585 BC. The sudden change from daylight to darkness so startled the warring armies of Medes and Lydians, they gave up the battle and made peace. Thales learned geometry from the Egyptians. A story about Thales says he was once was so intent in his observations of the heavens, he fell into a well.

Anaximander (c. 611-547 BC) thought the cosmos was spherical, and rotated. For him, air was the substance of all things in the heavens. The earth was a disk floating on waters which filled the bottom half of the spherical universe. He guessed the thickness of the earth's disk was equal to one-third of its diameter. The sun, he said, was a circle 28 times larger than the earth. It resembled a chariot wheel with a hollow rim full of fire. The sun was an opening in the rim through which the fire shone out. An eclipse results when the opening is closed.

Pythagoras (c. 582-507 BC) was born at Samos, and studied under Thales. He visited Egypt, Babylon and India, and about 530 established a school at Crotona, a Greek colony on the southern coast of Italy. He believed, with the Babylonians, that the earth was a sphere. He identified the evening and morning star as the same planet. He taught the earth is suspended in the midst of the universe, which rotates around it. There were three parts to the universe: the zone of air and clouds above the earth, in which exists all that is subject to change and corruptible, was called Ouranos; the region above the moon, with the sun and planets was called Cosmos, and the sphere of the fixed stars was called Olympus. [Tauber, p. 40]

In Pythagorean cosmology, there were spheres for the sun and moon, one for each of the five known planets, one for the stars, the earth itself, and a "counter-earth" was postulated to bring the number of heavenly spheres up to ten, since ten was considered a perfect number. For Pythagoras and his school, number was reality, and principles of mathematics and number formed the basis of all things. The Pythagoreans discovered irrational numbers, but cult members were sworn to secrecy concerning the discovery, as this was regarded as a threat to their system.

Anaximenes (c. 550-480 BC) said the stars were fixed on the surface of a crystal hemisphere which made a daily rotation around the flat earth.

Philolaus (fl. 470 BC) a pupil of Pythagoras, taught the earth floated in space and revolved in a circle once each day around a central fire, called "the hearth of Zeus," or the hearth of the universe. The side of the earth on which the Mediterranean region is located always faced away from this fire. The heaven appeared to move because of this circular orbiting motion of the earth.

Empedocles (c. 495-435 BC) estimated the moon's distance was one third the distance to the stellar sphere.

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (499 - 428 BC) went to Athens about 480 BC. He claimed "the sun and stars are flaming stones which are carried round by the revolution of the ether." He claimed the sun is larger than the Peloponnesus, the moon shines with the light of the sun, and he explained a large meteorite which fell on Aegospotamoi as a result of a landslide on one of the heavenly bodies. He was charged with impiety and narrowly escaped being exiled from Athens. Euripides said he had reduced "the all seeing Helios, who traversed the sky every day in his flashing chariot and was the awful witness of men's most sacred oaths, to the status of a lifeless lump of glowing stone." [Olson, p. 79]

Protagoras in 411 BC was less fortunate. He was accused of denying the gods and illegally teaching about the heavens. He was brought to trial for impiety and exiled from Athens. Copies of his books were collected and burned in the marketplace. He died in the following year when the ship was wrecked during departure.

Plato (c. 427-347 BC) derived his cosmology from the Pythagoreans. The heavens were divine, eternal, and characterized by circular motion, while the material world (the earth) was decrepit, and characterized by rectilinear motion. Later, this became a dogma which hindered the discovery of the true nature of the heavens. Plato considered the theory of the invisible celestial spheres to be on a higher level than visible things. He has Socrates saying in a passage about astronomical observations in his Republic, book 7, 529a:

These intricate traceries in the sky are, no doubt, the loveliest and most perfect of material things, but still part of the visible world, and therefore they fall far short of the true realities - the real relative velocities, in the world of pure number and all perfect geometrical figures, of the movements which carry round the bodies involved in them. These, you will agree, can be conceived by reason and thought, not seen by the eye... If we mean, then, to turn the soul's native intelligence to its proper use by a genuine study of astronomy, we shall proceed, as we do in geometry, by means of problems, and leave the starry heavens alone...

Eudoxus of Cnidus (c. 406-355 BC) [See biography] proposed an "onion-like" system of 27 "spheres within spheres," to explain all the motions observed in the heavens. Neugebauer wrote: [Neugebauer 1953, p. 225]

Few astronomical theories have exercised so deep and lasting an influence on human thought as the discovery of Eudoxus that the motion of the planets can be explained, at least qualitatively, as the combination of uniform rotations of concentric spheres about inclined axes. The sphericity of the universe, the fundamental importance of uniform circular motion, must have appeared from then on as an established fact. Combined with Aristotle's idea of the "prime mover" the universe could be understood as one great system, truly geocentric. No wonder that this theory held its fascination for almost two thousand years over the minds of philosophers and even astronomers, in spite of the fact that serious difficulties were apparent almost from the start.

Eudoxus found that the motion of a planet could be represented as the result of four concentric rotating spheres, each with distinct axes. When the axes were suitably oriented, the planet, located on the innermost sphere, moved in a figure-eight loop called the "hippopede" or horse-fetter. When combined with the diurnal rotation, the movement resembled that of a planet in its course among the stars. In this arrangement, each planet required four spheres, while three were necessary for sun, and three for the moon, and one for the stars. The system was developed further and made even more complicated by Callippus (c. 370-300 BC) and Aristotle.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) applied the teachings of Plato and elaborated on the theory of concentric spheres of Eudoxus, modified by Callipus. Aristotle explained the movements of the heavenly bodies in terms of the basic assumption that circular motion characterized the movements of heavenly things. His system contained 55 nested spheres, each with a mind of its own. The outermost sphere in Aristotle's system was kept in motion by the deity, which he called the "prime mover". Summarizing Aristotle's thoughts on the movement of this, the greatest sphere, Dicks wrote:

The first heaven exhibits everlasting circular movement; there must therefore be an entity that moves it, and this entity must be itself unmoved and everlasting. It operates by acting as the goal for desire and thought. Being itself utterly and unchangeably good, the first and best entity in the universe, it causes the motion of the primary form of movement, that of revolution in a circle, which strives after it as a lover strives after a loved object; and on such a principle the whole physical universe depends. The prime mover's activity is the highest form of joy which is pure contemplation with itself as object, such as we mortals very rarely attain to, but which is the natural state for the divine; the prime mover is a living entity, the best possible and eternal, and since these are attributes of the god, it is itself divine; it is immaterial and has no parts and no magnitude.

Aristotle distinguished between heavenly things, that he considered to be incorruptible and eternal, and things of this material world, that were corruptible, and made up of the four basic elements, fire, air, earth, and water.

[See Aristotle's On the Heavens.]

[See Aristotle's Astronomy.]

Heraclides of Pontus (c. 390-322 BC) explained the apparent rotation of the heavens by the rotation of the earth. He proposed that the sun was the center of the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and that it also orbited the earth. The "central fire" was abandoned.

Aristarchus of Samos (320-250 BC) proposed a heliocentric cosmology. [See biography]. This demanded a universe of immense size, which men in those days found too difficult to comprehend. He estimated the diameter of the moon to be one third that of the earth, and the distance to the moon to be 40 earth diameters. The diameter of the sun, he gave as 19 earth diameters, and its distance 764 earth diameters. Aristarchus was accused of impiety, because his theory clearly implied some of the gods did not exist. Plutarch mentions this accusation against Aristarchus in the dialogue of On the face of the moon [923a]:

Do not bring against me a charge of impiety such as Cleanthes used to say that it behoved the Greeks to bring against Aristarchus of Samos for moving the Hearth of the Universe, because he tried to save the phenomena by the assumption that the heaven is at rest, but that the earth revolves in an oblique orbit, while also rotating about its own axis.

Seleucus (2nd century BC) taught at Seleucia on the Tigris in Mesopotamia. Plutarch reports that Seleucus also upheld the heliocentric concept, which he regarded not as a hypothesis, but as a fact.

Hipparchus of Nicaea (fl. 146-127 BC) [See biography] followed the methods of Aristarchus, and estimated the diameter of the moon as 0.29 of the earth's diameter, and its distance 30.25 earth diameters. The sun was 12.33 times as great as the earth and its distance 2550 earth diameters, about 10% of today's values. He discovered the precession of the equinoxes, compiled a star catalogue, and invented trigonometry. He added eccentrics to the arrangement of the spheres of Aristotle, further complicating the system.

Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90-168 AD) [See biography] working at Alexandria, summed up the Greek science based on a stationary earth and geocentricity in his Almagest, the only comprehensive work on Greek astronomy which has come down to us intact. Ptolemy reviewed arguments for the earth's rotation, concluding it did not. As he considered the spheres of heaven to be divine, the assumption that the earth remained stationary seemed necessary and fundamental. He further elaborated on the geocentric cosmology by adding a refinement called "equants."

Plato and Aristotle reasoned that the sphere was the most perfect figure, and that the greatest sphere, which imparted motion to the sphere which held the stars, and all the other spheres, was god. This harmonized quite well with the Homeric tradition, in which Zeus was the identified with the solid sky, Olympus.

The academy founded by Plato in Athens, and Greek education generally, aimed at the training of "philosopher-kings" capable of promoting the Greek ideals in the world. Aristotle was a tutor of Alexander the Great. It is said that Alexander carried a copy of Homer with him, which was kept beneath his pillow when he slept. The theories of Greek philosophers tended to reinforce popular religious beliefs derived from Homer. The Hellenistic Greek rulers promoted the Greek culture and the cosmology underlying it. Neugebauer wrote [Neugebauer 1963, p.532]:

It is useful occasionally to remember that the so-called Greek mind not only produced works of the highest artistic and intellectual level but also could indulge in the development of the most absurd doctrines of a pseudo-rational superstition which contributed heavily to the "darkness" of later ages.

In another paper, Neugebauer commented on evidence that ancient astronomical knowledge and techniques were suppressed by the Greeks [Neugebauer 1946, p 120]:

The unique role of the Hellenistic period in the field of sciences, as in other fields, can be described as the destruction of a cultural tradition which dominated the Near East and the Mediterranean countries for many centuries, but also the founding of a new tradition which held following generations in its spell.

References

Dicks, D.R. 1970. Early Greek Astronomy to Aristotle. Thames and Hudson, London. p. 217-218.

Herodotus, The Histories

Neugebauer, O. 1946. The history of ancient astronomy: problems and methods. Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific 58(340):17-142. (See p. 120.) Reprinted in: Neugebauer, O. 1983. Op. Cit.

Neugebauer, O. 1949. The astronomy of Maimonides and its sources. Hebrew Union College Annual 22:322-363. (See p. 336.) Reprinted in: Neugebauer, O. 1983. Astronomy and History: Selected Essays. Springer-Verlag p. 382-423.

Neugebauer, O. 1953. On the "Hippopede" of Eudoxus. Scripta Mathematica 19(4):225-229. (See p. 225.) Reprinted in: Neugebauer, O. 1983. Astronomy and History: Selected Essays. Springer-Verlag, 305-309.

Neugebauer, O. 1963. The survival of Babylonian methods in the exact sciences of antiquity and middle ages. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 107(6):528-535. (See p. 532.) Reprinted in: Neugebauer, O. 1983. Astronomy and History: Selected Essays. Springer-Verlag, p. 157-164.

Olson, Richard. 1982. Science deified & science defiled. University of California Press. Berkeley. p. 79.

Plutarch, Platonic Questions 1006c.

Tauber, Gerald E. 1979. Man's View of the Universe. Crown Publishers Inc. NY.

Temples of Zeus

Worship of Zeus and the Olympian deities was a popular religion in the Seleucid period in Syria and Palestine. The Greek mythology made the gods seem almost human, and some of the Seleucid kings considered themselves to be deities, in the tradition of Alexander the Great.

Antiochus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, took upon himself the title Epiphenes, or "god manifest". He promoted the cult of the Olympian Zeus in Syria and Palestine. His father, Antiochus III, was defeated by the Romans at Magnesia in 190 BC. As a provision of the treaty of Apamea, the young Antiochus was among those held hostage in Rome. The Roman Senate insisted that he should be replaced by Demetrius, the son of his older brother, Seleucus IV Philopator. Antiochus went to Athens, where he ran for and won civic office.

In 175 BC Seleucus was assassinated by his first minister, Heleodorus. Antiochus left Athens and sailed to Pergamum in Mysia. The king of Pergamum, Eumenes II, agreed to assist Antiochus to become established as king on the Seleucid throne. Antiochus, in return, would maintain peaceful relations with the Pergamum kingdom. Antiochus initially acted as regent for his infant nephew, but Daniel 11:21 says "he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries."

Eumenes II actively promoted of the worship of Zeus and the other Olympian gods in Pergamum. He built up the great temple complex and library for which the city became famous. This was a major religious center during the Hellenistic period, and second only to Alexandria as a center of learning.

[Pergamum altar]
Reconstruction of the great altar at Pergamum

The altar of Zeus at Pergamum was famous for its elaborate frieze, which is now located in Berlin. There was no temple of Zeus, which recalls an ancient custom mentioned by Herodotus [1.131]:

The following are customs practiced by the Persians of which I have personal knowledge. They are not wont to establish images or temples or altars at all; indeed, they regard all who do so as fools, and this, in my opinion, is because they do not believe in gods in human form, as the Greeks do. They offer sacrifices to Zeus, going up into the highest mountains and calling the whole circle of the heaven Zeus. They sacrifice, too, to the sun, moon, and earth and fire, water, and winds. These were the sole gods of their worship in the beginning, but they have since learned besides to sacrifice to the Heavenly Aphrodite.

On a coin of Septimus Severus, the altar at Pergamum is depicted, covered by a baldachin, or canopy, supported by four columns. [Baldwin Smith; Fig 106]

In Revelation 2:12-13, the city of Pergamum, rather than a subterranean region, is identified as the location of Satan's throne.

Another center of the worship of Zeus was the temple at Olympia in the state of Elis in Peloponnesus. It was here that the Olympic games were held. The temple of Zeus housed a colossal gold and ivory statue of Zeus, made by Pheidias of Athens in the fifth century BC. The statue was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Antiochus IV had a copy of it, with the same dimensions, made for the temple of Apollo at Daphne, near Antioch.

Pausanius provides a description of the statue of Zeus and the temple area at Olympia. Pausanius says a woollen curtain, of eastern design, "adorned with Assyrian weaving and Phoenician purple", was dedicated to Zeus at Olympia by Antiochus IV. Some scholars have speculated that the curtain was one taken from the temple in Jerusalem, when Antiochus plundered its treasures.

Antiochus resumed construction of a great temple of the Olympian Zeus in Athens, that had been begun about 530 BC. The columns were made of Pentelic marble, in the Corinthian style. This enormous structure, the largest temple in Greece, was finally completed by the emperor Hadrian three centuries later, in the 2nd century AD. Its ruins can still be seen.

Temple of Zeus at Athens
Ruins of the Zeus temple in Athens built by Antiochus IV
Another view of the Olympieion, Athens, from the SE.

A temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was built in Antioch, his capital, and its walls were covered with gold, mostly pirated from other eastern temples.

Under Antiochus, several eastern cities were renamed "Antioch." This included Jerusalem, and the title was conferred as a favour or a privilege by the king.

References

Baldwin Smith, E. 1950. The Dome: A Study in the History of Ideas. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.

The Letter of Aristeas

In the time of Antiochus IV a Greek translation of the Pentateuch was being prepared in Alexandria, where a large Jewish population had been transferred by Ptolemy Philadelphus in the previous century. The Jews of Alexandria had gradually lost their knowledge of the ancient Hebrew language, and many had adopted the Hellenistic culture to some extent.

In the document known as the Letter of Aristeas, which scholars believe was written by a Hellenistic Jew in the mid second century BC, an elaborate story is related about how the translation of the Pentateuch was done, and the reasons for it, and the circumstances. The Aristeas document pretends to date from more than a century earlier, and the setting of the story is the court of Ptolemy Philadelpus in Alexandria. Scholars generally view the work as fiction, but nevertheless, it is the basis for the name by which the Greek Bible has become known, the "Septuagint" or "LXX". It is also regarded as an important source document for the history of the period.

The Aristeas story was clearly intended to persuade Jews of the authority and sanctity of the new Greek text. Whatever the specific date the translation occurred, evidence within the Bible itself, in the prophecy of Daniel chapter 8, suggests that changes to the cosmology of the Bible were ordered by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, who reigned in the second century BC. These changes, in the guise of "corrections", probably first appeared in the Greek translation of the scriptures, and were subsequently introduced into the Hebrew text from the Greek.

The Letter of Aristeas indicates that when the Greek translation of the Bible appeared, it was claimed that the new Greek text was even more authoritative than the Hebrew text. The Aristeas text contains a document purportedly written by Demetrius of Phalerum, the president of the library of Philadelphus the king. This document is reproduced below. Demetrius claims the Hebrew scriptures had been "somewhat carelessly committed to writing and are not in their original form." Further, this was supported by the evidence of "experts." Demetrius proposed that this could be rectified by making the new translation.

THE MEMORANDUM OF DEMETRIUS

An exerpt from the Letter of Aristeas, lines 28-34

When this business had been dealt with, he ordered Demetrius to submit a memorandum about the copying of the Jewish books. For at the court of these kings, everything was managed by means of decrees, and with maximum security, and nothing was done in an offhand or casual manner. I have therefore recorded the copy of the memorandum and the copies of the letters, and the list of gifts sent and the description of each, because each of them was of extraordinary quality and craftsmanship. This is a copy of the memorandum:

To the Great King, from Demetrius. In accordance with your Majesty's order concerning the library, that books needed to complete the collection should be acquired and added, and that those accidentally damaged should receive suitable attention, I submit the following report, having attended to my responsibility in the matter in no casual manner. Books of the Law of the Jews, with some few others, are wanting. For it happens that these books are written in the Hebrew script and language, but, according to the evidence of the experts, have been somewhat carelessly committed to writing and are not in their original form; for they have never had the benefit of royal attention. It is important that these books, duly corrected, should find a place in your library, because this legislation, in as much as it is divine, is of philosophical importance and of innate integrity. For this reason writers and poets and the great majority of historians have avoided reference to the above mentioned books and to the people who have lived and are living in accordance with them, because, as Hecataeus of Abdera says, the view of life presented in them has a certain sanctity and holiness. If, then, your Majesty approves, a letter shall be written to the high priest in Jerusalem, asking him to send elders of exemplary lives, expert in their country's Law, six from each tribe, so that, having established the agreement of the majority and obtained an accurate translation, we may give the book a distinguished place in our library, in keeping both with the importance of the affair and of your own purpose. May you ever prosper!

In view of this memorandum, the king ordered a letter on the subject to be written to Eleazar, informing him also of the accomplished emancipation the prisoners. In addition, he gave for the crafting of the bowls and flagons, table, and libation cups fifty talents weight of gold and seventy talents of silver and a fully adequate quantity of precious stones (ordering the treasurers to leave the choice of materials to the craftsmen), and up to a hundred talents of coined money for sacrifices and other details.

The parts of the original Hebrew scriptures, and specifically, the Pentateuch, most likely to have been viewed by Greeks and Hellenistic Jews at Alexandria as needing such modification, were cosmological passages such as the creation account of Genesis 1, that omitted mention of the rigid sky, Olympus, in appropriate places. The concept of a rigid sky was essential for the geocentric theory, but would be entirely absent in the original Hebrew text, inspired by God. The Greek poets and philosophers supposed that the rigid sky, represented by Zeus Olympus, carried the stars around, and held them up.

Thus, the above statement by Demetrius alleging deviations from the "original form" existed in the Hebrew scriptures seems very much like a ruse or a pretext for altering the cosmology of the Greek version of the scripture, and Letter of Aristeas apears an attempt to explain the discrepancy between the Hebrew and the Greek text, which was subsequently hidden when the Hebrew text was altered to conform to the Greek. The changes, identifying the 'raqia' with the sky had been introduced into the Greek translation; the Letter of Aristeas was apparently designed to account for them.

The Memorandum of Demetrius provides clear evidence that alterations were made to the scriptures, resulting in discrepancies between the Hebrew and the new Greek version; these were the parts that had been "somewhat carelessly committed to writing" and so were "not in their original form." The story related by Aristeas about the translation of the Pentateuch in Alexandria presents the new Greek text as superior to the Hebrew. The Greek text is touted as the more accurate version, in which the deficiencies due to "careless transcription" had presumably been corrected by the Israelite scholars.

[See Important Early Translations of the Bible.]

[See also The Importance of the Septuagint for Biblical Studies.]

References

Bartlett, J.R., 1985. Jews in the Hellenistic World, Cambridge U. Press. p. 20-21. Or, see HTML version of The Letter of Aristeas, R.H. Charles, ed.

Antiochus and the Jews

According to the account of 1 Maccabees, the High Priests at Jerusalem appointed by Antiochus were involved in systematically changing the traditions of the Jews that were based on the laws of Moses, to make them conform to Greek beliefs. A gymnasium was constructed in Jerusalem, and instead of learning their ancient law, the priests engaged in wrestling contests in the Greek fashion, which meant they were naked. Those who were circumcised endeavoured to conceal it. A general history of the reign of Antiochus IV is given by Morkholm.

Antiochus' program of Hellenization also involved altering the scriptures. Greek cosmology was introduced into the Hebrew scriptures. The nature of the changes which were made at this time were described in Daniel's prophecy, in chapter 8. This prophecy, written by Daniel in ancient Babylon, depicted the rise of the empire of Alexander the Great, the division of his kingdom into four parts after his death, and the emergence of a remarkable "little horn" which grew up to assault the stars of heaven.

Critical scholars have assumed it would be impossible for Daniel to have so accurately foretold future events, so they have invented an unknown Jewish writer, contemporary with Antiochus IV, who represented himself as a prophet who lived centuries before, and who wrote history rather than prophecy. But if this were true, the author of the work must have been a very clever person indeed. He not only managed to convince his contemporaries the book was centuries old, but his message, intended for interpretation in a future generation, reveals the fraudulent introduction of the Greek cosmology in the Hebrew scriptures by Antiochus Epiphanes!

Image of Antiochus IV
Portrait of
Antiochus IV
on a silver tetradrachm

Antiochus managed to change the cosmology believed in by subsequent generations. He caused the truth about the earth's constitution to be "cast to the ground," indeed. The crust of the earth, made on the second day of creation week, was identified with heaven, by the addition of the phrase "and God called the firmament Heaven," in Genesis 1:8. Before this time, the term "raqia" or firmament referred to the earth's rocky crust. This was expressed in the prophecy of Daniel 8 by the figure of a little horn, depicting Antiochus IV, exulting himself to the stars, and casting them to the earth, along with heaven itself. The raqia (firmament) became identified with heaven in the scripture, by certain alterations to key passages which involved locating the stars in the raqia or firmament, and identifying the raqia (or firmament) with heaven. Thus heaven was identified with the earth's crust! So heaven, and the stars, could be said to have been "cast to the earth". A fraud was successfully perpetrated, one that was to endure for more than two thousand years before its exposure.

[See A Restored Text of Genesis 1.]
[See also Psalm 19 Restored, a text file containing a series of posts discussing a restored version of Psalm 19.]

Daniel's prophecy also indicates the "tamiyd" would be taken away. This word is rendered "daily sacrifice" in the KJV. The word "sacrifice" is shown italicized so was not in the original scriptures in verses 11-13, and probably does not belong. It was added by the KJV translators in an attempt to clarify the passage. The reference is to something "continual" or "perpetual," and it may depict the daily rotation of the earth about its axis. The earth's rotation is "continual" and "perpetual," as well as "constant" and "daily," all words which have been suggested as the meaning of "tamiyd." The knowledge of the earth's rotation was extinguished in the realm of Antiochus. Amongst the Jewish people it was suppressed, perhaps by alterations to the scriptures, such as the addition of the phrase "the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved" in Psalm 93:1 and again in Psalm 96:10. These phrases were cited against Galileo centuries later as evidence that his teachings about the earth's rotation about its axis and its orbit around the sun were unscriptural.

Another effect of the corruptions to the scripture introduced under Antiochus was that the Genesis account seemed to say the creation of the stars was subsequent to the formation of the earth. Yet there are many indications in scripture that the heavens were made before the earth, as the heavens are mentioned first in passages which paraphrase the events of Creation Week. Examples are Exodus 20:11, Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 136:5-6, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 45:18. In scripture, when heaven and earth are mentioned together, heaven is generally mentioned first, and it was also created first. Jesus also followed this rule when he referred to heaven as God's throne, the earth as his footstool, as we read in Matthew 5:33-37.

The true order of events in creation week seems to be, first the heavens were created, with all the stars, and galaxies; on the second day the earth's crust was formed in the midst of the waters, the land rose above the waters on the third day, and the sun, moon and planets of the solar system were made on the fourth day.

[See: Antiochus IV, the Little Horn of Daniel 8.]

References

Morkholm, Otto. 1966. Antiochus IV of Syria. Classica et Mediaevalia Dissertationes VIII, Copenhagen.

Ezekiel's Firmament

The vision of the throne of God described in the first chapter of Ezekiel included the reference to a firmament. This was a rigid structure. It was a platform, composed of a crystalline substance, which supported the throne of God. It was supported by four living creatures. This firmament or platform was described in Ezekiel 1:22-26:

And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight... And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads... And above the firmament 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.

Ezekiel's description of this crystalline firmament, together with the statement in Genesis 1 that the firmament made on the second day was named Heaven, was interpreted in medieval times as an indication that God's throne was located on top of the firmament, or the empyrean, the highest heaven. But the use of the symbol of the sapphire fits the identification of the starry heavens with God's throne. Ezekiel's account clearly shows the Hebrew word raqia referred to a solid structure. Jesus's statement identifying heaven with God's throne, the earth with his footstool, applied to Ezekiel's vision, leads to the identification of the firmament with the earth's crust.

The first and tenth chapters of Ezekiel contain descriptions of "wheels" associated with the vision of God. Some scholars consider these verses referring to the wheels to be later insertions. Klein wrote:

The most serious question about the integrity of the chapter deals with the account of the wheels. It is not clear how we are to conceive the connection of the wheels to the animals in general and to the legs in particular, and Othmar Keel has argued, convincingly in my judgment, that the wheels represent a shift from the basic idea of the vision.

Klein suggested "someone, presumably early in the traditional history of the book, found it appropriate to add wheels to the visionary scenery." In his commentary on Ezekiel 1, Carley pointed out the Septuagint does not contain verse 14. Referring to verse 15, he wrote :

The report of the vision went directly on to describe the throne of God above the heads of the living creatures (verses 22-28a). But there has been inserted a somewhat puzzling description of wheels beside the creatures... There are secondary expansions even within this section. Verse 17 anticipates the movement of the wheels referred to in verses 19f.; verse 18 elaborates the appearance of the wheels; and verse 21, which is absent from some manuscripts, largely repeats verses 19f.

Other scholars suspect the account of the "wheels" may have been inserted into Ezekiel's prophecy by a later writer. Why was there so much interest in these mysterious wheels, and so much elaboration on their properties? The answer could be that the wheels of Ezekiel represent an attempt to introduce the celestial spheres of Greek cosmology into the Scriptures.

Jewish scholars seem to have interpreted the wheels in a cosmological sense, and "the old rabbis declared that if anyone knew the secrets of the merkabah, he would know all the secrets of creation." There are similarities between the wheels and the circles or spheres of Eudoxus and Aristotle. Perhaps this is another example of cosmological editing of the Scriptures in the 2nd century BC. Some versions of the Septuagint do not contain Ezekiel 1:14 of the KJV. In the Aramaic Targum, this verse reads:

And the creatures, when they are sent to do the will of their Master who makes His Shekinah dwell on high above them, are like the eye seeing a bird on the wing, they turn and circle the world, and the creatures return together, quickly, like a flash of lightning.

Could the quick movement of the wheels, and their instantaneous return, have something to do with an attempt to explain meteors in terms of the theory of homocentric heavenly spheres? Meteors were identified with stars in ancient times, so a mechanism was needed for movements other than the regular motion of the heavens.

The wheels of Ezekiel "circle the world," they are homocentric, like the spheres of Eudoxus; one wheel is identified with the earth; they are said to be "so high that they were dreadful" (verse 18), which seems to indicate a size of cosmological proportions, and they revolved in a constant direction like the heavenly spheres of Greek philosophy. The wheels are animated; "the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels" (verse 21). This is reminiscent of the teaching of Aristotle about the nature of the heavenly spheres. There does not seem to have been any specific word for sphere in the ancient Hebrew, and the word for circle, "chug", often designated a sphere. The idea behind the word translated "wheel" seems to be that it is something revolving, as the heavenly spheres were thought to do.

Image on coin From as early as the fourth century BC, gentiles of the land of Palestine identified the Hebrew Yehveh or "Iao" with one of the Greek sky-gods; sometimes Zeus, and sometimes Helios or Apollo. This seems to be illustrated on the Phoenician silver drachma at right, showing the image on a coin struck about 350 BC, now in the British Museum; it depicts a bearded divinity enthroned over a winged chariot wheel, interpreted by some scholars as a solar chariot, but quite possibly representing the rigid rotating sky of the geocentic cosmology. The deity is depicted wearing a long garment that extends to his feet; he holds an eagle on his outstretched hand; he is labelled with the letters YHW. Arthur B. Cook says there is little doubt it is a gentile representation of the Hebrew deity; "the coin represents Jehovah under the guise of a solar Zeus". There are several elements in the image that may possibly be associated with some of the concepts present in the first chapter of Ezekiel; perhaps some ancient Jewish scribe attempted to introduce imagery similar to that of this coin into Ezekiel's prophecy.

The book of Ezekiel was written about 593 BC, long before Eudoxus and Aristotle proposed their cosmologies. The account of the "wheels" in Ezekiel's prophecy may be a veiled reference to the geocentric cosmology, introduced in the Hellenistic period, superimposed onto Ezekiel's throne vision. Naturally, this procedure would produce a somewhat garbled account.

References

Carley, K.W. 1974. The book of the prophet Ezekiel. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. p.17.

Levey, Samson H. 1987. The Targum of Ezekiel. Michael Glazier, Inc. Wilmington Delaware. p. 21.

Klein, Ralph W. 1988. Ezekiel: The prophet and his message. University of South Carolina Press. p. 18.

Varro on Pagan Religion

Roman writer Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC) is an important source of information about language and religion during the first century BC. He was the author of about 620 books, including 25 books on Latin, and many more on religion, mythology, antiquities, and other subjects. Centuries later, Augustine referred to him as "a highly intelligent and learned writer," and a man with a "first-rate mind."

In his treatise On the Latin Language [V, 19], Varro gave his views about the origin of the word caelum:

On the whole I think that from chaos came choum and then cavum 'hollow,' and from this caelum 'sky,' since, as I have said, 'this around and above, which holds in its embrace the earth,' is the cavum caelum 'hollow sky.' and so Andromeda says to Night, 'you who traverse the hollows of sky, with your chariot marked by the stars.' And Agamemnon says, 'In the shield of the sky, that soundeth on high,' for a shield is a hollow thing. And Ennius likewise, with reference to a cavern, 'Enormous arches of the sky.'

The Romans, he said, identified the sky with Jupiter and Earth with Juno: "These same gods Sky and Earth are Jupiter and Juno..." and he quoted Ennius who said Jupiter is called air by the Greeks, and is identified with wind and cloud, rain, and cold. Varro added: "Because all come from him and are under him, he addresses him with the words: 'O father and king of the gods and the mortals.' [On the Latin Language, V, 65.]

Varro explained that the name 'Jupiter' was derived from "Diespaiter, that is, 'Father Day;' from which they who come from him are called dei 'deities,' and dius 'god' and divum 'sky,' whence sub divo 'under the sky' and Dius Fidus 'god of faith.' Thus from this reason the roof of his temple is pierced with holes, that in this way the divum, which is the caelum 'sky,' may be seen. Some say it is improper to take an oath by his name, when you are under a roof." [On the Latin Language V, 66.]

Varro continued, "Because Juno is Jupiter's wife, and he is Sky, she Terra 'Earth,' the same as Tellus 'Earth,' she also, because she iuvat 'helps' una 'along' with Jupiter, is called Juno, and Regina 'Queen,' because all earthly things are hers." [On the Latin Language V, 67.] He showed Apollo was the Greek name for the sun, and that the Romans called the moon Diana. According to Varro, the sky was also called templum, the temple of Iovis or Zeus. He cited the poets: "One there shall be, whom thou shalt raise up to sky's azure temples.. " and, "Trembled the mighty temple of Jove who thunders in heaven..." [On the Latin Language VII, 6-7.]

Varro also helps to clear up the question of whether Olympus meant the sky, or the name of a mountain. He wrote [On the Latin Language VII, 20]:

Olympus is the name which the Greeks give to the sky, and all peoples give to the mountain in Macedonia; it is from the latter, I inclined to think, that the Muses are spoken of as Olympiads...

Varro does not associate the word firmamentum with the sky.

References

Varro, Markus Terentius. On the Latin Language. Translated by R.G. Kent, Wm Heinemann Ltd., Harvard Univ. Press.

The Firmament in New Testament Times

On the surface, it seems that nothing is mentioned about the identity of the firmament in the New Testament. Christ apparently had nothing to say about this. His statement that heaven was God's throne, and earth his footstool identified the heaven where God dwells with the entire material universe, and directly contradicted Aristotle and the Greek philosophers. Jesus confirmed the Mosaic account of creation, and the prophecies of Daniel. For example, see Matthew 5:17, and Matthew 24:15. He referred to the Abomination of Desolation, which would be recognized at the Holy Place in Jerusalem at some future time, and he indicated that this would be a major sign to the Church. This was known to be an image of Zeus, and the worship of Zeus was well known to the Jews in Christ's time. Jesus also referred to a future time of "restoration of all things" in Matthew 17:11. This implies that something had become lost, or hidden, or needed to be set right, or corrected. Could the true identification of the firmament be part of this missing information that needs to be restored?

The worship of Zeus is alluded to in Acts 19:35, when the townclerk at Ephesus addressed the people who were gathered in the theatre, to defend their worship of Diana. A near riot arose because a silversmith named Demetrius felt that his business of making silver shrines for Diana was threatened by Paul's preaching of the gospel. The townclerk said to the citizens:

Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus?

The KJV has "Jupiter," which is the Roman name for Zeus, derived from "Deus pater" or "Father Zeus." Speaking Greek, the townclerk most likely mentioned Zeus, and Artemis rather than Diana. The image which fell from Zeus was likely a meteorite, and was venerated as a piece of the sky or something sent from the divine sky. This reference shows Zeus was identified with the sky, or heaven. He was, in fact, the supposedly rigid sphere of heaven, the blue sky of the day, and the night sky which held the stars in their positions. This would lead one to suppose that an image of Zeus might be in the form of a dome or a sphere. (Zeus was also depicted as a bull or as a swan in classical and medieval art.)

Another important New Testament reference to the firmament, although indirect, is found in 2 Peter 3. The Apostle Peter's description of the "last days" in his second epistle highlights the influence of the principle of uniformitarianism in geology. After exhorting his readers to give their attention to the prophecies of the scripture, and referring to "scoffers" who would deny God's intervention in the past, Peter mentioned the creation of the heavens, and commented specifically on the events of the second day of Creation Week. The order in which the events of creation are mentioned is significant, and confirms that the heavens, or the stars and galaxies, were formed before the earth. In verse 5, Peter says "the heavens were of old:" they were created on the first day. Then he says the earth was "standing out of the water and in the water." This refers to the earth's crust being formed on the second day. This implies the heavens, or stars and galaxies, existed before the second day. Peter indicated that men were "deliberately ignorant" about the interior structure of the earth, and the significance of the role of the earth's interior waters as a mechanism for the flood. Thomas Burnet (1635-1715) interpreted the passage this way in his Sacred Theory of the Earth. Men were willingly ignorant, Peter said, about the fact that the earth was so constituted, with internal waters, that a flood was possible. Peter wrote his comment to counter the effects of the corruption of the first chapter of Genesis. Scepticism about the earth's internal waters is certainly prevalent today.

Peter goes on to say the ultimate destiny of the earth is to be a fiery one. From a geophysical point of view, this would follow if the distribution of radioactive isotopes within the earth was similar to that of the earth's crust. If this were so, the earth's interior heat would increase with the time since creation, eventually melting the earth, so that no life would be possible. It would follow that the earth must be quite young, since such melting has not yet taken place.

Most geologists suppose the earth was formed in a molten state billions of years ago, and that the radioactive isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium were somehow concentrated in the earth's crust and are not distributed throughout the interior, but this assumption may be invalid. One could argue that since the accumulated heat from radioactive decay of these isotopes within the earth has not yet melted the earth, the earth must be young.

The scriptures about waters within the earth's interior are indeed ignored, for the most part, by many Christians. Russell Humphreys has reviewed these scriptures, in an article in which he proposed that the "waters within the earth" are located at the earth's core.

[See text file containing a posting on Peter's prophecies about modern science.]

In Paul's writings there is an interesting account of a man being caught up to heaven and hearing "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12:2-5.) In those days, anyone caught up to paradise, which is identified with "the third heaven," might well have been shocked to see that the rigid sky did not exist. The Corinthians would likely have understood Paul's reference to the third heaven in the context of the three-fold division of the universe by Pythagoras: Ouranos, the zone of the air; Cosmos, the region from the sphere of the moon to the sphere of Saturn, and Olympus, the sphere of the fixed stars. Paul's experience seems to be reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 where he speaks of "one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars," but makes no mention of the spheres which were supposed to carry them around. These spheres, postulated by the Greek philosophers, would have been of special interest to Paul's readers in Corinth. Paul ignored the fifty five spheres of Aristotle when he identified paradise with the third heaven. Not only would it have been unlawful to question the existence of the rigid sky, the terminology for describing the universe from a scientific point of view was not yet developed, and so the things this man heard, if they had anything to do with science or cosmology, would be properly described as "unspeakable."

The New Testament, as a whole, is remarkably free of statements supporting the Greek cosmology and the idea of a solid sky, as one would expect of a book written under the inspiration of God's Spirit. Perhaps this man's experience was a factor which influenced the apostles, probably Peter and John, who selected the writings which were to be included in the New Testament Canon, to exclude writings which might have supported the cosmology of their age.

Paul also wrote in Romans 1:25 that men had "changed the truth of God into a lie," which may refer to attempts to introduce corruptions into the text of the scripture in the Hellenistic period to make the cosmology of scripture conform to the grocentric cosmology of the Greeks.

The architect Vitruvius, who lived in the first century AD, included some comments on cosmology in his treatise On Architecture, written in Latin. He wrote:

Mundus autem est omnium naturae rerum conceptio summa caelumque sideribus conformatum. Id volvitur continenter circum terram atque mare per axis cardines extremos. Namque in his locis naturalis potestas ita architectata est conlocavitque cardines tamquam centra, unum a terra inmane in summo mundo ac post ipsas stellas septentrionum, alterum trans contra sub terra in meridianus partibus, ibique circum eos cardines orbiculos circum centra uti in torno perfecit, qui graece apsides nominantur, per quos pervolitat sempiterno caelum. Ita media terra cum mari centri loco naturaliter est conlocata.

Here is a translation of the passage:

The universe is the total conception of the whole system, and the firmament with its ordered constellations. It rolls continually round the earth and sea, on the furthest poles of its axis. For there the power of nature like an architect, has contrived and placed the poles at the top of the universe and behind the very stars of the Great Bear, and the other opposite, under the earth in the regions of the south; and there has constructed rims of wheels (which the Greeks call asides) round centres as in a lathe, about which the firmament for ever rolls. Thus the middle of the earth and sea is set by nature in the central place.

Curiously enough, although the word 'firmament' appears in the English translation, there is no mention of the word firmament in the original Latin text. Apparently, in the time of Vitruvius, the word 'firmament' did not refer to the sky. A firmamentum, in those days, was 'a strong point in an argument'.

Here is another cosmological passage from Vitruvius, translated, wth the original Latin word noted where 'firmament' appears in the English translation:

Now while these twelve signs possess each the twelfth part of the firmament [mundi] and continually turn from east to west, through these same signs in the opposite direction the stars of the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun himself and also Mars, Jupiter and Saturn as though they revolved upon a rising staircase of degrees, each with an orbit of its own, wander in the firmament [mundo] from west to east.

In translation, the words caelum and mundo in the above passages were translated "firmament", because our English word "firmament" conveys the sense of these words [ie, the rigid sphere of heaven] as used by Vitruvius. Only in later centuries was the Latin word firmamentum applied to the sky.

References

Burnet, Thomas. 1691. The sacred theory of the earth, 2nd ed. Reprinted 1965, Centaur Classics, London.

Humphreys, D. Russell. 1978. Is the earth's core water? Creation Research Society Quarterly 15(3): 141-147.

Vitruvius, On Architecture. Translated by Frank Granger. Leob Classical Library, London 1962.

A Quotation from On the Sublime

The identification of the raqia with the earth's crust in the original version of the Genesis creation account is supported by a famous quotation in a ca. first century AD literary work which paraphrases the first verses of an apparently uncorrupted version of Genesis 1. The first few statements in the first chapter of Genesis, which seem so garbled to us today, were offered as an example of the world's most eloquent prose by a writer whose real name is unknown, in a treatise on sublime expression in literature.

The treatise, On the Sublime, was ignored by scholars until it was published by Francis Robertello in Basel, in 1554. In the midst of a series of quotations from Homer, in which he pointed out with some irony how the gods were debased by that poet, by being made like men, while the men who fought at the Trojan war were exulted to the status of gods, this writer quoted from Genesis. The words of Moses, who he called "no ordinary person," were set in stark contrast to those of Homer. He quoted passages from Homer which graphically portrayed the pagan deity Poseidon, and then, referring to Moses, and the opening verses of Genesis, he wrote:

A similar effect was achieved by the lawgiver of the Jews - no mean genius, for he both understood and gave expression to the power of the divinity as it deserved - when he wrote at the very beginning of his laws - I quote his words - "God said" - what? - "'Let there be light.' And there was. 'Let there be earth.' And there was."

Certainly these words, as quoted above, from D.A. Russell, p. 93, are among the most truly sublime ever contemplated by man. They fit well in a treatise on sublime language and expression. They are concise, clear, and powerful. They are almost unique in ancient pagan literature. But this paraphrase does not correspond with what is actually found in our present Bibles, which have suffered from systematic attempts to alter the cosmology.

The name of the author of the treatise "On the Sublime" is unknown, but scholars refer to him as Pseudo Longinus, as the work was initially attributed to Cassius Longinus (213 - 273 AD) but is now thought to have been written before his time, in the early first century AD. The internal evidence in the treatise supports this view, as no writers later than the first century AD are mentioned.

There is an obvious discrepancy between the text of the first few verses of Genesis 1 in our Bibles and the quotation by Pseudo Longinus. Part of the text quoted by Pseudo Longinus cannot be found in our versions. The statement "God said, 'let there be light, and light was,' is there, but the next thing we read about in our present Bibles is that God separated light from darkness, and gave names to day and night. There is no mention of God having said, "'Let the earth be,' and it was so." In fact, some scholars have remarked about the absence of any specific reference in the Genesis creation account to God actually creating the earth, although other scriptures affirm that he did.

The discrepancy between the quotation from Genesis by Pseudo Longinus, and the text of scripture as we have received it, has given rise to a considerable amount of scholarly discussion over several centuries, which continues today. A bibliography was published by Rhys Roberts. Commenting on the early controversy, William Smith wrote:

This divine passage has furnished a handle for many of those who are willing to be thought critics, to shew their pertness and stupidity at once. Though bright as the light of which it speaks, they are blind to its lustre, and will not discern its sublimity. Some pretend that Longinus never saw this passage, though he has actually quoted it; and that he never read Moses, though he has left so candid an acknowledgement of his merit. In such company some, no doubt, will be surprised to find Huet and Le Clerc. They have examined, taken to pieces, and sifted it as long as they were able, yet still they cannot find it sublime. It is simple, say they, and therefore not grand. They have tried it by a law of Horace misunderstood, and therefore condemn it.

Boileau undertook its defence, and has gallantly defended it. He shews them, that simplicity of expression is so far from being opposed to sublimity, that it is frequently the cause and foundation of it (and indeed there is not a page in scripture, which abounds not with instances to strengthen this remark). Horace's law that a beginning should be unadorned, does not by any means forbid it to be grand, since grandeur consists not in ornament and dress. He then shews at large, that whatever noble and majestic expression, elevation of thought, and importance of event can contribute to sublimity, may be found united in this passage.

Commenting on the scholarly discussion on the legitimacy of the quote from Genesis, Rhys Roberts wrote):

Another objection raised, on internal grounds, to the quotation is that it is not only unexpected but inexact. The first portion of the divine fiat differs slightly, and the second altogether, from the original as we know it. The question, indeed, suggests itself whether the passage can - with reference to any original known to us - be properly described as 'a quotation' at all. It reproduces the substance rather than the precise form of three verses at the beginning of Genesis.... We do not know the exact nature of the source upon which the author is drawing.

The writer of 'On the Sublime' must have been acquainted with the Hellenistic cosmology, but he did not relate the first verses of Genesis to the cosmology of his age. How could a first century AD writer have found the writing of Genesis 1 to be among the world's most sublime, while today we cannot say with confidence what it was that was created on the second day, or whether the universe was made before the earth, or even on which day the earth was made? The ancient writer who has been called Pseudo Longinus must have been referring to a different version of Genesis than the one we have inherited.

In his version of Genesis 1, light was made, and then the earth, which suggests the earth's crust is the raqia that was formed "in the midst of the waters" on the second day, enclosing the interior waters, and it rose on the third day, so that oceans and continents were formed. The oceans were the waters above the raqia, and the primeval waters enclosed in the interior of the earth when the earth's crust was formed were the waters below.

References

Rhys Roberts, W. 1897. The quotation from Genesis in De Sublimitate. Classical Review 11, 431-436. [See p. 433.]

Rhys Roberts, W. 1935. Longinus on the Sublime. University Press, Cambridge, p. 247f.

Russell, D.A. 1964. 'Longinus' on the Sublime, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Smith, W., 1739. Longinus on the Sublime. Intro. by W.B. Johnson, 1975. p. 128-129. Scholar's Facsimiles & Reprints, NY.

The Christian Era: Domed Cathedrals

Clement of Rome (fl. AD 96) echoed the cosmology of his times in his Epistle to the Corinthians , saying the heavens and the earth were created by God, and that "the heavens are moved by his direction and obey him in peace." [20:1] Likewise the sun and moon "according to his appointment circle in harmony within the bounds appointed to them."

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-212) accepted the system of Ptolemy, with whom he was a contemporary, and used it as a basis for allegory. He related cosmology to the tabernacle of Moses.

Origen (c. 185-254) introduced the "heavenly waters" of Scripture into cosmology, and interpreted them allegorically as referring to "good angels." In a letter to Gregory, later bishop of Caesarea, Origen calls the philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks helpful for the interpretation of scripture:

And I would wish that you should take with you on the one hand those parts of the philosophy of the Greeks which are fit, as it were, to serve as general or preparatory studies for Christianity, and on the other hand so much of Geometry and Astronomy as may be helpful for the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The children of the philosophers speak of geometry and music and grammar and rhetoric and astronomy as being ancillary to philosophy; and in the same way we might speak of philosophy itself as being ancillary to Christianity.

Porphyry the pagan, in Against the Christians cited by Eusebius [6.19], accused Origen of mingling Grecian teachings with foreign fables, by which he meant the scriptures, that Origen interpreted as oracles with hidden meanings. Porphyry wrote:

Origen on the other hand, a Greek schooled in Greek thought, plunged headlong into un-Greek recklessness; immersed in this, he peddled himself and his skill in argument. In his life he behaved like a Christian, defying the law: in his metaphysical and theological ideas he played the Greek, giving a Greek twist to foreign tales. He associated himself at all times with Plato....

Lactantius (c. 250-325) denied that the earth has a spherical shape, on the basis of a literal interpretation of the Bible, and ridiculed the idea that antipodes could exist, because he couldn't understand how people could live on the other side of the earth "with their feet higher than their heads."

Basil (329-379) studied at the Philosophical Academy at Athens, and was Bishop of Caesarea for the last ten years of his life. Whereas Aristotle had taught the heavens were eternal, Basil argued in his Homilies on the Hexaemeron that they had been created by God, who he identified with Plato's Demiurge. [Lindberg, p. 33] Basil supposed the Creation account in Genesis spoke of two heavens, one created on the first day, and another on the second. The heavenly waters were in between. On Basil's thoughts about the waters above the firmament, Nebelsick wrote [Nebelsick, p. 94]:

The heavenly waters, that touchstone of the created nature of the heavens, caused Basil a problem but it was not insuperable. There was no doubt in Basil's mind that there were waters above the firmament as attested by the biblical account of creation. However, since the firmament appeared to be curved, the heavenly waters were likely to pour off a dome-like surface and fall to the earth. With admirable ingenuity Basil suggested that the firmament, which appears hemispherical on the underside, may, like a building enclosing a dome-shaped bath, have a flat roof.

Although the argument for the presence of and the description of the waters may seem somewhat far-fetched to us, it indicates both the seriousness with which the early Christian theologians treated the biblical account of creation and the way they used the account to break with the unacceptable idea of the division of the world into an eternal and immutable heavenly sphere and a corruptible earthly realm.

Basil supposed that since Moses gave no discussion concerning the shape of the earth and did not say, for example, that its circumference contains one hundred and eighty thousand stades, such knowledge was quite unnecessary.

Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 387) followed Basil's teaching. He wrote: "God reared the sky as a dome... and out of the fluid nature of the waters formed the stable substance of the heaven." [Nebelsick, p. 97]

Severian, Bishop of Gabala (d. after 408) lacked appreciation of the cosmology of the philosophers, and depended upon Scripture instead. Nebelsick wrote: [Nebelsick, p. 97-98]

The heaven which God created on the first day is a two-storied structure. There are waters above the heavens. The storeys themselves are divided by a ceiling in between them. The upper storey consists of fire without matter which was analogous to an angel, a spirit without a body. The lower storey is composed of fire and matter. Providence has arranged things in such a way that the heat of the fire moves downwards in order to warm the earth rather than moving upwards as is the case with fires on earth. The heaven we see is the lower heaven which was created on the second day. It is in the form of an envelope or bladder, the outside "skin" of which was composed of crystalline, congealed water to resist the fire of the sun, the moon, and the stars. The inside of the crystalline, congealed water structure is occupied by fire. For the present and until the eschaton, the water protects the heaven from dissolving or burning in the heat. On the last day, it will be used to quench the sun, moon, and stars.

On Diodore, Bishop of Tarsus (d. 394) Nebelsick wrote: [Nebelsick, p. 99]

Like Severian, Diodore relied on Scripture for his supposition that there must be two heavens. The lower heaven subsists with the earth and forms the roof of the earth. The roof of the lower heaven forms the floor of the upper one. Heaven, therefore, could not be a sphere surrounding the earth but is rather a tent or vault above it.

Eusebius Hieronymus, better known as St. Jerome, (391-406) is an important figure in this discussion of the history of the word firmament, because he translated the Bible into Latin, producing the standard text known as the Vulgate, which had a great influence in Europe in later centuries.

Before Jerome's translation appeared, several Latin versions of the scriptures were in circulation. The books of the O.T. had been translated from the Septuagint. There were major discrepancies between the various versions.

Jerome was educated in Rome, and studied under the grammmarian Aelius Donatus. He became a priest, and was secretary to Pope Damasus I from 382-385. In the year 383 Pope Damascus asked Jerome to produce a new, uniform edition of the Bible. Jerome's work was distinguished by his use of the Hebrew text, but he also had the LXX and earlier Latin versions available to him. The prefaces to his work show he was as much an editor of the earlier texts as a translator and adapter. Jerome's version of the scriptures was widely used after about the sixth century.

An ascetic, who favoured monasticism, and celibacy, he worked in a monastery in Bethlehem. Apparently, Jerome supposed that the sun and moon were living beings, and he thought biblical geography required that Jerusalem was at the center of the earth.

When it came to translating Genesis 1:8, Jerome needed a word other than "caelum" for the sky; to say "And God called the caelum caelum" would not do. The word he selected was "firmamentum," which was a reasonable translation of the Greek word "stereoma." But in Old Latin, firmamentum was not used for the sky at all. In Classical Latin, such as that of Julius Caesar, for example, "firmamentum" meant "a support", and could refer to "the strong point in an argument".

In line with accepted cosmology, Ambrose of Milan (c.339-397) believed the heaven to be a sphere. Nebelsick wrote: [Nebelsick, p. 100]

For Ambrose the firmament is the spherical heaven which divides the waters from the waters. For him, as for Basil, there was a problem as to how the waters were prevented from flowing off the domed surface of the spherical heaven. There was also a question as to why they did not spin off the swiftly revolving heavenly sphere as it circled the motionless spherical earth. Rather than answer the questions, however, Ambrose considered them too speculative to be answered. Like Basil he did add, almost as an afterthought, that it was quite usual for a building with a dome-shaped ceiling to have a flat roof. He also took comfort in the fact that it was no more difficult to conceive of the waters being suspended in the heaven than it was to conceive how the earth, which is much heavier, stayed suspended and immobile in the void. In addition to being useful as rain, however, Ambrose, again like Basil, was certain that the heavenly waters, which he finally concluded were held in the heavens by rotation, were necessary to keep the earth from being parched by the "fiery stars."

Augustine (354-430) [See biography] thought the study of astronomy was secondary to theology. He introduced an imaginative explanation for the heavenly waters. They were there, he said, to cool the fast moving sphere of Saturn. Nebelsick wrote: [Nebelsick, p. 103]

In his Commentary on Genesis, Augustine's discussion of the waters above the firmament shows a certain ingenuity. The waters are there to be sure. Their particular function was not to cool the whole of the heavens, however, but, with a reference perhaps to the astrological speculation that Saturn is cold, Augustine argued that the function of the waters is to cool Saturn. It was quite logical, as Augustine reasoned, to believe that Saturn needed cooling because of its pace. In that fast-moving objects had a tendency to be heated by friction of the air, the cooling waters would have been necessary for Saturn because, of all the planets, it had the greatest distance to travel each day. In fact, its rate of velocity around the earth is so extreme that, were it not refrigerated, it likely would be much hotter than the sun which had a much shorter distance to travel. Without the waters, then, Saturn surely would have been burned to ashes. Thus, Augustine was certain that the waters occupied heaven and that they functioned for cooling. He was not at all certain of their form, however. Two alternatives offered themselves as possibilities. They are perhaps congealed (glaciali soliditate), as Severian had thought, or they could be of the nature of vapor (vaporali tenuitate), as Basil had suggested.

The worship of the traditional pagan gods was generally abandoned in the late 4th century AD and the pagan temples demolished, statues of the gods disfigured, and the priesthoods disappeared. Some temple sites were converted to Christian shrines, and idols of various Hellenistic gods were renamed as Christian saints and martyrs.

As the religion of Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, lavish cathedrals were constructed in major centers. In the east, especially Syria and Palestine, these were typically domed structures. The construction of domed cathedrals in the eastern cities during this period was thought to aid the faithful to understand the nature of God the Father, as mentioned in an oration made at the dedication of a domed cathedral in Tyre, where Paulinus was Bishop, that is preserved in Eusebius [10.4]:

Such is the great cathedral which throughout the whole world under the sun the great Creator of the universe, the Word, has built, Himself again fashioning this spiritual image on earth of the vaults beyond the skies, so that by the whole creation and by rational beings on earth His Father might be honoured and worshipped.

Baldwin Smith showed that the churches and cathedrals of the east generally featured domes, reflecting the beliefs of the Christians about cosmology. He wrote [Baldwin Smith, p. 97]:

During the fifth and sixth centuries the Church, inspired by the writings of the Syrian churchmen, who attributed cosmic significance to the domical church, was desirous of cultivating the popular appeal of the celestial symbolism already connected with the domical martyrium.

A famous domical church at Edessa in Mesopotamia was called Hagia Sophia. This church was originally constructed in 313 AD, and rebuilt after a great flood in 524 AD under Justinian. It was dedicated in 537 AD. A seventh century Syrian hymn called the Sougitha which was written in praise of this building [Baldwin Smith, p. 90]:

How fully the Christians had accepted the beliefs in a cosmic house is shown by the way in which the Sougitha presents the domical church at Edessa both as the image of God and as a replica of the universe, for the "Essence," it says, resides in the Holy Temple and in effect, it is something truly remarkable that its smallness should be similar to the vast world. The Dome, which it considers to be the most remarkable and exulted part of the church is described as "comparable to the Heaven of Heaven," and ornamented with mosaics of gold, like the firmament, with brilliant stars, while its four supporting arches are "the four sides of the world."

Johannes Philoponos (c. 490-566) a teacher at the Academy in Alexandria, ventured to criticise Aristotle, saying the material of the heavens was the same as that of the earth, and that the heavens were not eternal. He made a distinction between the Creator and all his creation, showing the heavens were not divine. His arguments had considerable benefit for the future development of cosmology. [Lindberg, p. 39.]

Cosmas Indicopleustes, mentioned previously, wrote a treatise "against those who, while wishing to profess Christianity, think and imagine like the pagans that the heaven is spherical." He believed the earth was flat, and rectangular in shape. He thought heaven was constructed according to the plan of the tabernacle of Moses. He argued against Aristotle's animated planetary spheres and the daily rotation of the heavens. Instead, he proposed the heavens moved up and down, and that the sun, moon, and stars are carried along below the firmament by angels. The sun, which is smaller than the earth, moves to the north at night, and is hidden from us during its nightly journey back to its rising place in the east.

Isidore, bishop of Seville (c. 570-636) in De Natura Rerum, "filled the heavens with divine intelligences...." He followed Aristotle's onion model of nested homocentric spheres. [Nebelsick, p. 112]

Like the majority of Christian cosmologists before him, he took account of the waters above the heavens. Indeed, the name "firmament" meant for Isidore that it supported the waters and these were necessary to cool the earth lest the upper fires burned the lower elements. The waters are in the form of an icy solid. They, like the heavens themselves and like the earth, were specifically created ex nihilo. Both heaven and earth are of the stuff of creation.

Venerable Bede (c. 673-735), an English monk, took his cosmology from Pliny. The firmament divided the upper and lower heavens. The upper or superior heaven is bounded by circles, and contains water in glacial form. In the lower heaven, water has a variety of forms, and motion is irregular. He claimed the moon is larger than the sun.

Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204), a Jew from Cordova, Spain, also known as Maimonides, lived in Cairo, where he held an official post at the court of Saladin. He wrote one of the most readable philosophical treatises of the Middle Ages, Guide for the Perplexed. He placed the firmament above the atmosphere, but below the spheres of water, air, and fire, and the planetary spheres. Beyond these were the sphere of the fixed stars and the Primum Mobile. Neugebauer wrote [Neugebauer 1949, p. 336]:

Maimonides was [in many respects] a follower of Aristotlean philosophy though he had to reject the idea of an eternal existence of the world in the past because this would have eliminated the creation ex nihilo, postulated by his religion. Consequently Maimonides emphasizes the incompatibility of Aristotle's cosmic model of concentric spheres and the Ptolemaic system of eccenters and epicycles... "It is on account of my great love of truth that I have shown my embarrassment in these matters, and I have not heard, nor do I know that any of these theories have been established by proof."

William of Conches (2nd half 12th century) found the waters above the firmament contra rationem (against reason). They could not be reconciled with Aristotle's physics. According to the principles taught by Aristotle, since water is denser than air it belongs on the earth, not in the vicinity of the sphere of celestial fire. If the heavenly waters existed beyond the sphere of the stars, William reasoned, the fire would have either vaporised the waters or would have been extinguished by them. He concluded there are no waters above the heavens. The firmament is the air, and the "waters above" are suspended as vapors in clouds. [Hooykaas, p. 31]

Johannes Sacrobosco (d. 1256) an English mathematician who lived in Paris, was the author of De Sphaera, which summarized the Aristotlean-Ptolemaic system. The book remained popular for four centuries and passed through forty editions.

Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253) the first chancellor at Oxford, also wrote a work called De Sphaera, which questioned Aristotle, treating the world as a machine. Grosseteste challenged Aristotle's claim that the stars were eternal and divine. He claimed the heavens were made of the elements rather than an etherial substance, and denied the existence of Aristotle's "prime mover." [Nebelsick, p. 129]

Roger Bacon (c. 1214-1294) of Oxford, a Franciscan, was a student of Grosseteste and a contemporary of Aquinas. He was familiar with the astronomical and astrological writings of the Greek philosophers and the Church Fathers. He regarded nature as part of God's revelation of himself, and wrote: "all wisdom is constituted with a view to the discovery of salvation for the human race." [Nebelsick, p. 132] Thus he thought the study of science was profitable for the Christian. He admonished scholars of his time to make a thorough study of science and to give up a literal interpretation of the Bible, pointing out several passages in obvious contradiction to known facts. This antagonized the clergy and he was jailed for ten years. His writings were forgotten.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), at Paris, reconciled Aristotle's philosophy to Christian theology in a grand synthesis, apparently supported by biblical authority, contained in Commentary on Aristotle's On the Heavens, and On the Eternity of the World. While he accepted Aristotle's cosmology, he denied the heavens were eternal, on the basis of the creation account in Genesis. In his Summa Theologica, Aquinas considers the events of each of the days of creation week in detail. He encounters little difficulty reconciling the cosmology of Genesis 1 with Aristotle, who he refers to as the Philosopher. In Summa Theologica I, 68, 4, Aquinas writes:

In order, then, to understand the distinction of heavens, it must be borne in mind that Scripture speaks of heaven in a threefold sense. Sometimes it uses the word in its proper and natural meaning, when it denotes that body on high which is luminous actually or potentially, and incorruptible by nature. In this body there are three heavens; the first is the empyrean, which is wholly luminous; the second is the aqueous or crystalline, wholly transparent; and the third is called the starry heaven, in part transparent, and in part actually luminous, and divided into eight spheres. One of these is the sphere of the fixed stars; the other seven, which may be called the seven heavens, are the spheres of the planets.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) popularized Aquinas in his Il Convito and The Divine Comedy. He also depended on a work by Alfraganus of Baghdad (ca. 840), one of the successors of Ptolemy, Elements of Astronomy and Chronology, a greatly simplified version of Ptolemy's Almagest. Dante's cosmology included Aristotle's Primum Mobile as the ninth sphere, and he added the Empyrean, the dwelling place of God, and "beatified spirits," as the tenth. This tenth sphere was thought to be immovable, like the earth. Orr wrote:

That Dante should believe the spheres to exist as actual entities was inevitable, for his principal authorities, Greek, Arab, and Christian, all taught this. And there is abundant evidence that he did think of them thus... They are transparent, one sphere not obstructing the light from another; and composed of ether, "questo etera tondo." They have a certain thickness, and would be visible if near enough, for Dante speaks of the inner margin of the Primum Mobile, and says that it was too far above him for him to have seen it yet, when he was in the Star Sphere. He gives the order of the eight heavens as in Ptolemy, and adds the ninth, which is only perceived by the diurnal movement of which it is the cause; and it is called by many the Crystalline, that is, the diaphanous or completely transparent Heaven... To these nine spheres of the astronomers, the Catholic Church, "which cannot lie," adds a tenth, the Empyrean Heaven, which means the heaven of flame or light, and is the abode of the blessed spirits and of God Himself.

He made Purgatory a mountain in the midst of a great ocean, antipodal to Jerusalem, with the earthly Paradise on top. He referred to the interior of the earth as an Inferno, with various levels. He compared the "nobility" of celestial spheres with different branches of science and philosophy.

[See Dante library.]

Belgian Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) in his On Learned Ignorance speculated that the universe was infinite and therefore could not have a center, and hence the earth could not be at the center of the universe.

According to Italian philosopher Johannes Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494), Moses wrote figuratively about the structure of the universe in Genesis. Pico suggested the "waters above the firmament" were symbolic of the crystalline heaven beyond the sphere of the stars. He wrote: "Between the 8th sphere and the empyrean is what Moses symbolically calls 'the waters,' the 9th sphere, the 'crystalline heaven.' Above that sphere the Spirit 'brooded' (Gen. 1:2), i.e. imparted life-giving light to the lower spheres. The terms 'water' and 'earth' in the first chapter of Genesis denote the 9th sphere and the other spheres of the astronomers." [Hooykaas, p. 32]

The concentric structure of the universe was extended not only up to the heavens but downwards, towards the earth's center as well. The center of the earth was considered to be the location of hell as being the furthest possible from heaven. One such proposal about the nature of the earth's interior is that of Giovanni Gallucio. Kelly wrote:

Giovanni Paolo Gallucio in 1558 offered a novel structure for the interior of the earth in an otherwise conservative world system. Underneath Gallucio's region of earth and water, the part of the earth in which metals, earthquakes, and other surface or near-surface events occurred, was Limbo, followed by Purgatory, and then, in succession, the regions for the fighters, the vainglorious, the gluttonous, the oath takers, the angry, the covetous, the proud, the traitors, and finally, at the center, Lucifer. The explanation given for this arrangement was that the inhabitants of these regions were to be as far from God as possible, and the center of the earth was the place the greatest distance from the empyrean.

Robert Recorde (1510-1558) popularized astronomical knowledge in The Castle of Knowledge, which mentioned the Copernican theory but discredited it. He criticised and corrected statements by ancient authorities. Recorde established the custom of presenting learned scientific works in the vernacular tongue.

This brief survey of cosmological thought until the Copernican revolution reveals the overwhelming attraction which a comprehensive system of explanation of the natural phenomena of the heavens had on the mind of man. Aristotle offered such a system, and his system, imposed on the biblical narrative, produced a modified world-picture, one that was complicated by the upper waters. It was this modified cosmology that deeply influenced Christian thought. Dicks wrote [Dicks, p. 217-218]:

Aristotle himself can hardly be blamed for the fact that some of the main features of his universe (e.g. the unmoved movers, which St. Thomas Aquinas interpreted as angels, and the notion of concentric shells) lasted nearly 2,000 years, being incorporated in different forms in the religious beliefs of Mohammedans, Jews, and Christians as official dogma which it was dangerous to question. Moreover, it was not what one might call 'pure' Aristotlean doctrine that appealed to later thinkers that was to prove such a potent influence on Medieval thought, but a composite mixture made up of elements from Plato (especially from the Timaeus), Aristotle himself (in De Caelo and Meteorologica) and the Neo-Planonists (especially Proclus and Plotinus). This blend of doctrines was particularly congenial to the Arabic philosophers such as Avicenna (tenth and eleventh century) and Averroes (twelfth century), who passed it on to the Latin West. If an explanation is needed for the relative stagnation of science during the Middle Ages, it is to be found in this curious amalgum of ideas butressed by the authoritarianism of religious dogma.

The Copernican revolution appeared to the theologians as not only a rejection of Aristotle and the Ptolemaic system, but because the scriptures referred to the rigid heavenly firmament and the upper waters, it seemed to be in contradiction to the Bible as well.

References

Baldwin Smith, E. 1950. The Dome: A Study in the History of Ideas. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ.

Dicks, D.R. 1970. Early Greek Astronomy to Aristotle. Thames and Hudson, London. p. 217-218.

Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, Trans. 1965 by G.A. Williamson. Penguin Books. Baltimore MD.

Hooykaas, R. 1984. G.J. Rheticus' treatise on holy scripture and the motion of the earth. North Holland Publishing Co. Amsterdam.

Kelly, Sister Suzanne. 1969. Theories of the earth in Renaissance Cosmologies. In: Cecil J. Schneer, Ed. Toward a history of Geology, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. p. 219.

Lindberg, David C. 1986. Science and the Early Church. In: David C. Lindberg and Ronald L. Numbers, eds. God and Nature. University of California Press. Berkeley. p. 19-48.

Nebelsick, Harold P. 1985. Circles of God, Theology and Science from the Greeks to Copernicus. Scottish Academy Press, Edinburgh..

Neugebauer, O. 1949. The astronomy of Maimonides and its sources. Hebrew Union College Annual 22:322-363. (See p. 336.) Reprinted in: Neugebauer, O. 1983. Astronomy and History: Selected Essays. Springer-Verlag p. 382-423.

Orr, M.A. 1913. Dante and the early astronomers. 2nd edition, 1965. Allan Wingate, London. p. 133.

The Demise of the Firmament

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) [See biography] studied at the University of Cracow in Poland, and at Bologna and Padua in Italy. He became a canon at Frauenberg Cathedral. During his time in Italy he was assistant to astronomer Domenico Novarra of Ferrara (1454-1504), and made astronomical observations. Copernicus was aware that measurements of the movements of the planets revealed discrepancies in the Ptolemic theory. These were usually explained away by postulating fixes called deferents and epicycles, but the accumulation of "fixes" tended to make the Ptolemaic scheme very complicated. Copernicus discovered, perhaps influenced by his reading of ancient Greek manuscripts that mentioned the heliocentric views of Aristarchius and others, that supposing the sun was the center of the planetary motions could make things much simpler. His ideas were summarized in a manuscript circulated in 1530 called the Commentariolus.

Over the next 13 years he developed his heliocentric theory, culminating in De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, published in 1543. He produced clear arguments against the geocentric view of the universe. His system retained the rigid firmament of the stars, and circular movements for the planets.

[See Copernican System.]

[See charts comparing the Ptolemaic and Copernican systems.]

In 1576 Thomas Digges (1546-1595) contributed a supplement containing sections of Book 1 of De Revolutionibus by Copernicus translated into English, in a posthumous edition of his father Leonard Digges's book, Prognostication euerlasting. The universe was described as extending infinitely. Thomas suggested the resulting astronomical system was more than just a mathematical hypothesis, but was "a Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes." He sought to have these ideas tested by experiment and observation. Copernicus had mentioned the idea of infinite space but did not commit himself to it. His diagram of the heliocentric system showed the firmament as the sphere of the fixed stars, which he thought was large enough to account for the absence of stellar parallax.

Frances R. Johnson wrote that Thomas Digges

...clearly perceived that, the moment the rotation of the earth was conceded, there was no longer any necessity for picturing the stars as attached to a huge, rotating sphere at a definite distance from the earth... Digges had the courage to break completely with the older cosmologies by shattering the finite outer wall of the universe. He was the first modern astronomer of note to portray an infinite, heliocentric universe, with the stars scattered at varying distances throughout infinite space.

Similar views were held by Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) [See biography]. Bruno was in constant conflict with traditional doctrines. His book On the Infinite Universe and Worlds, in which he argued that there are many other inhabited worlds, was published in 1584. Bruno believed that man's perception of the world is relative to the position in space and time from which he views it, and so, there are as many possible modes of viewing the world as there are possible positions. He was tried for heresy by the Inquisition in 1591, and after being imprisoned in Rome, he was burnt to death in 1600.

Digges apparently experimented with an early telescope. He as well as Tycho Brahe unsuccessfully attempted to detect parallax of a supernova which appeared in 1572. Sawyer Hogg stated:

It is one of the ironies of early science that they selected a star of the highest possible absolute magnitude, a supernova, hence the one kind of star visible to the ends of the universe, and therefore on the average having the smallest parallactic shift of any! Even with our modern instruments we could not measure a direct trigonometric parallax for this star.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) [See biography] devoted himself to astronomical observation after noticing a new star, a supernova, in 1572. He made observations of stars at his observatory, Uraniburg, which was financed for him by King Frederick II of Denmark. His theology did not permit him to adopt the Copernican theory, and instead he developed the theory which was part geocentric, part heliocentric. The planets revolved around the sun, but the sun and the firmament revolved around the earth.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) [See biography] constructed a telescope, and turned it towards the sky. He discovered four satellites of Jupiter, and interpreted them as evidence in favour of the Copernican theory. He observed sunspots, and mountains on the surface of the moon, and many new stars. He published his discoveries, creating great interest in science. He provoked controversy when he ventured to express his views on the relation between science and scripture in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina in 1615. The Church reacted by placing the De Revolutionibus of Copernicus on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1616. Galileo was forbidden to hold or defend the doctrine of the motion of the earth. In 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue on the Two Principal Systems of the World, which his adversaries viewed as supporting the Copernican theory. He was denounced to the Inquisition and forced to "abjure, curse and detest" his heresy concerning the motion of the earth in 1633. He was kept under surveillance at Rome till his death.

Galileo Resources:

The Early Years

Heavenly Bodies

The Inquisition

The Galileo Project

For a Catholic view, see: The Galileo Affair.

Paolo Antonio Foscarini (1565-1616) [See biography] founded of a Carmelite monastery at Montalto in Southern Italy. Foscarini was a mathematician, and a teacher of philosophy, as well as a theologian. In Naples in 1615 he published a "Letter concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the Mobility of the Earth and Stability of the Sun, and about the New Pythagorean System of the World", declaring the heliocentric theory to be true. It was dedicated to the General of the Carmelite Order. Foscarini then went to Rome to defend the Copernican theory against charges that it was in conflict with scripture. Christoph Clavius, leading Jesuit mathematician from 1570 to 1612, had argued against the heliocentric theory from the Bible in his astronomy textbook. Foscarini's work was placed on the Index in 1616, and he died shortly afterwards.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) [See biography] used the observations of Tycho Brahe to investigate the orbit of the planet Mars. His three laws of planetary motion initiated a new kind of astronomy. The first law stated that the motions of planets are not circular but elliptical with the sun at one focus. The second law stated that the straight line between the planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times. These two laws were published in Astronomia Nova in 1609. The third law, that the squares of the periods of revolution of the planets are related to one another as the cubes of the major axes of their orbits, was published in 1619 in Harmonices Mundi. Kepler doubted that planetary spheres existed. He calculated the distance of the firmament to be four million sun diameters, which was 2,000 times greater than Ptolemy's universe. Its thickness he estimated as nine English miles, which meant the stars contained in it would be quite small. Kepler supposed the masses of the firmament, the sun, and the ether were equal, and they were the three symbols of the Holy Trinity.

The development of the modern concept of universal gravitation, first proposed by Gilles de Roberval (1602-1675), the suggestion by Alphonse Borelli in 1665 that the planets would fall into the sun if they were not counterbalanced by a centrifugal effect, like a stone in a sling, the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia in 1687, and other developments eventually made the idea of a rigid, rotating heavenly firmament obsolete. But the scriptures that seemed to support this idea had to be explained. Theologians began to say that the word firmament could mean "expanse" from the concept of expanding a piece of metal by beating it flat with a hammer. The word "expanse" seemed to apply to the atmosphere, as well as to space beyond. Clouds carried water in vapor form, and so could be identified with the "waters above the firmament." The idea that the firmament could refer to the air might be derived from the statement in Genesis 1:20 that birds fly in the firmament. The identification of the firmament with the air was suggested in the writings of Augustine, as Joachim Rheticus pointed out in a tract on scripture and the motion of the earth written about the year 1543 [Hooykaas, p. 89]:

St. Augustine, in spite of the fact that the Scripture appears clearly to teach what should be understood by "firmament" in the work of the fourth day, yet has praise for him who, because of the authority of Scripture, has managed to find an interpretation about the waters above the firmament both plausible and acceptable to the senses; namely that the clouds in the air should be called waters, - which they are potentially - and the space between us and them "the firmament," since in the Scriptures the air is often called "heaven."

John Calvin's Commentary on Genesis supported this interpretation. Readers who would like to translate the Hebrew word raqia as "expanse" should be aware that for many centuries the word was understood to mean something solid. If this is ignored, the writings and beliefs of early theologians and astronomers become incomprehensible, and much of the symbolic meaning of medieval art, architecture and literature is lost. The Church's commitment to the concept of a rigid firmament in the sky was demonstrated and reinforced by the tradition of incorporating elaborate domes and arches in prominent buildings. Medieval paintings generally featured the firmament in a background arc or border, beyond which God and the angels dwelt.

In the eighteenth century Isaac Newton's theory was gradually accepted by scholars, especially in the English speaking world, in spite of initial severe criticisms from Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) [See biography] and German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716). [See biography]. The competing philosophy of Rene Descartes (1596-1650) [See biography], which invoked vortices of matter to account for the planetary movements, remained popular in France. In Germany, Leibnitz argued that Newton's force of gravity was an occult quality.

[See Newton's biography.]

[See WWW resources related to Newton.]

[See also Newtonia.]

French philosopher Francios Marie Arounet, better known as Voltaire (1694-1778) [See biography], the arch enemy of intolerance in the Catholic Church, and all forms of superstition, popularized Newton's discoveries in France. Elements of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy, dedicated to Emilie de Breteuil, Marquise du Chastelet (1706-1749) [See biography] was an English translation of Voltaire's work. Both French and English editions were published in 1738. Voltaire thought Newton's discoveries were too important to remain in obscurity. He wrote: "Newton's Philosophy has hitherto seemed to many as unintelligible as that of the Ancients; but the darkness of the Greeks proceeded from their having in reality no light at all, while that of Newton arises from his light's being too remote from our eyes. He has discovered truths; but he has searched for, and placed them in an abyss, into which it is necessary to descend, in order to bring them out, and to place them in full light." The story of Newton contemplating the falling apple is due to Voltaire. Emilie, who was a competent mathematician, translated Newton's Principia into French. The work was published posthumously in 1759.

About this time, Mikhail Lomonosov, who had studied at Freiberg, first introduced the Copernican theory at the Academy in St. Petersburg in Russia. James Ferguson published Astronomy Explained by Sir Isaac Newton's Principles in 1756. He claimed astronomy provided strong evidence of creation, because the mechanical principles which governed the universe showed it could not be eternal. The return of a great comet in 1758 as predicted by astronomer Edmund Halley (1656-1742) [See biography] on the basis of Newton's theory gave the final confirmation to the new science. It was Halley who financed the publication of the original edition of Newton's Principia.

Musician William Herschel (1738-1822) [See biography] of Hanover migrated to England in 1757, having fled from the French occupation, and became interested in astronomy. His improved telescope and diligent observations led to the discovery of the planet Uranus in 1781. He demonstrated the sun's motion through space, and discovered over 800 multiple stars, and more than 2,500 nebulae and star clusters in his lifetime.

References

Hooykaas, R. 1984. G.J. Rheticus' treatise on holy scripture and the motion of the earth. North Holland Publishing Co. Amsterdam.

Johnson, Frances R. 1968. Astronomical thought in Renaissance England. Octagon Books, N.Y.

Sawyer Hogg, Helen. Thomas Digges, "A Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes." Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 45(5) 195-201.

Daniel's 2,300 Days

The cosmology of the Old Testament scriptures was modified in the hellenistic period, by policies initiated by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, and it was foretold in the prophecy of Daniel 8.

Daniel was a prophet who lived in ancient Babylon. In the vision reported in Daniel 8, he was at the palace at Shushan in Elam, one of the provinces of Babylon. Daniel gives the date as the third year of Belshazzar. This was more than three and a half centuries before the time of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV, who is identified as the "little horn" of this chapter by most Bible scholars.

This chapter contains another amazing prediction, accurately dating the scientific revolution. This prediction, previously unrecognized, is hidden in the cryptic words of the angelic messengers, whose conversation Daniel records in verses 13-14.

"How long is the vision for?" one of them asks.

"Unto 2,300 days," or evening-mornings, is the answer.

If these are interpreted as years, it refers to a time 23 centuries from the date of the vision, around the mid-eighteenth century, or about 1750 AD.

What event of cosmologic significance occurred in 1750 AD or around the mid-eighteenth century, when the "two thousand three hundred evening-mornings" of Daniel 8:14 came to an end? The 2,300 "evening-mornings" or days in this verse are best interpreted as representing years; they date from the time Daniel received his vision, about 553 BC. The sanctuary which was cleansed is the sanctuary of heaven, or the universe, since it contains the stars, galaxies, and the "host of heaven" mentioned in verse 10. The phrase "host of heaven" means the sun, moon, planets, and other celestial bodies. The heavens were "cleansed", when man's concept of a rigid rotating spherical shell or firmament which had been postulated by the Greek poets and philosophers was overthrown. The postulated rigid heavenly firmament was needed to hold the stars in place in the geocentric cosmology, but it became obsolete when men abandoned their belief in the Ptolemaic system. This false notion of a rigid rotating heaven and the planetary spheres, cycles and epicycles was swept away like old cobwebs, after the works of Isaac Newton and others were translated and widely publicized, and men began to understand and believe that the earth rotated, not the heavens.

The mid eighteenth century was when the "two thousand three hundred evening - mornings" of Daniel 8:14, representing twenty three centuries, came to an end, and the "sanctuary" of heaven was "cleansed" of the old concept of rigid rotating spheres, and the solid firmament holding all the stars fixed in their relative positions. The ideas of Isaac Newton were popularized by Voltaire and others, in that period. The world was introduced to the new cosmology over a surprisingly brief period. Even the Catholic Church removed Galileo's books from the index, around 1755. This was the time of the "enlightenment".

But even a hundred years after the publication of Newton's Principia, some scholars still held out for Aristotle's cosmology; the University of Salamanca in Spain rejected a proposal to introduce Newton into physics courses, saying "The principles of Newton... and Cartesio do not resemble the revealed truth as much as do those of Aristotle." [Durant, p. 294]

The demise of the system of heavenly spheres, of which the firmament was the most prominent, had a profound impact on the world, and the attitude of people to the Bible, and the church. This was due to the presence of statements apparently supporting the Greek cosmology which occur in scripture, that Daniel's prophecy identifies as corruptions. Man seemed less central to creation, as noted by Thomas Orchard:

The beliefs associated with the Ptolemaic system were gratifying to the pride and vanity of Man, who could regard with complacency the paramount importance of the globe which he inhabited, and of which he was the absolute ruler, poised in the center of the Universe, and enclosed by ten revolving spheres that carried in their circuit all other celestial orbs - Sun, moon and stars, and would appear to have been created for his delectation, and for the purpose of ministering to his requirements. But, when the Copernican theory became better understood, and the discovery of the law of universal gravitation revealed the true mechanism of the heavens, this venerable system of the Universe, based upon a pile of unreasonable and false hypotheses, after an existence of over twenty centuries, sank into oblivion and was heard of no more.

As the Apostle Peter foretold in 2 Peter 3:10, the passing away of the old concept of the heavens, the geocentric cosmology with its rigid heavenly firmament and crystalline spheres, was accompanied by a "great noise", and the commotion continues.

For more information, see The 2,300 days of Daniel.

References

Durant, Will and Ariel. 1967. Rousseau and Revolution. Simon and Schuster, N.Y.

Orchard, Thomas N. 1913. Milton's Astronomy. Longman's Green and Co. London. p. 68.

The Search for the Firmament

The enormity of the impact the demise of the old Ptolemaic cosmology and new discoveries in astronomy were having upon man's thought during the early seventeenth century was expressed by English poet John Donne (1572-1631), in these lines from Anniversaries - An Anatomy of the World (1611):

And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out;
The sun is lost, and th' earth, and no man's wit
Can well direct him where to look for it....
'Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone.

[See Donne and Models of the Universe.]

John Milton (1608-1674) made the Ptolemaic system of concentric planetary spheres and a stationary earth the cosmological setting for his Paradise Lost (1667). He placed the waters above the firmament in a crystalline sphere which enclosed the sphere of the stars. The empyrean Heaven was separated from the spheres of the world by a floor of immense dimensions. Chaos and Hell were also located in the region beyond the universe. The account of the fall of the angels and the creation of the stars related by the angel Raphael to the newly created Adam in his poem discusses the question of whether it is the earth which moves, or the heavens:

...whether Heaven move, or Earth,
Imports not, or if thou reckon right; the rest,
From man or angel, the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge
Hid secrets, to be scann'd by them, who ought
Rather admire: or, if they list to try
Conjecture, he his fabric of the Heavens
Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move
His laughter, at their quaint opinions wide,
Hereafter when they come to model Heaven,
And calculate the stars, how they will wield
The mighty frame, how build, unbuild, contrive
To save appearances, how gird the sphere
With centric and eccentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb in orb.

Edmund Dickenson was the author of Physica Vetus et Vera, published in Rotterdam in 1703. He thought that at creation, God caused the primeval chaos to revolve. The fiery sphere of the empyrean was formed by the lightest materials. Denser materials moved towards the center. Tiny globules of water were raised to the empyrean by a centrifugal effect, which constitute the waters referred to by Moses as the waters above the firmament. The firmament included the air and the region of the stars. Beyond the empyrean was the third heaven, the home of the angels and the place of the blessed. Moses made no mention of it because it was immaterial.

Dickenson said that "Aristotle, like the other Greeks and Egyptians, learned from the Jews. In return he taught them his philosophy until they could no longer understand the Mosaic account and denied its truth." [Collier, p. 150]

The firmament was depicted as the spacious sphere of the "blue ethereal sky", that also contained the stars, in the popular hymn, The Spacious Firmament on High, written in 1712 by statesman and writer Joseph Addison (1672-1719). The first verse is:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.

The fourth verse suggests the traditional geocentric concept of the universe, with the stars revolving around the earth:

Whilst all the stars that round her burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

The hymn, which was based on Psalm 19, was included in a popular hymnal published by Charles Wesley (1707-1788), and so was sung in churches long after the idea of a rigid sky had been abandoned by most people.

Another ingeneous explanation of the waters above the firmament that was proposed in the mid eighteenth century was that they are the waters which exist on other heavenly bodies, both stars and planets. The firmament, it was suggested, is the air and ether between the earth and these upper waters; the waters under the firmament are the waters on the earth.

Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), in the first edition of his Sacred Theory of the Earth, "seems to have advanced the suggestion that the firmament was the earth crust itself, which separated the waters of the abyss from those on the surface; but he receded from this position in later editions and said there was no solid firmament." [Collier, p. 304] Burnet was discriminating in his approach to the cosmology of scripture, which he thought "had been adapted to popular stupidity for political reasons." He suggested the account of the six-day creation pertained only to the earth, while the universe was much older.

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) suggested there were two firmaments, one which was solid, identified with the spherical crust of the earth. It supported the oceans above, and was bounded below by waters of the abyss. This resembled the earth structure depicted by his contemporary, Thomas Burnet. The second firmament Hooke identified with the atmosphere. The differential elevation of the rocky crust of the earth on the third day caused dry land to appear. Hooke described a mechanism of the flood, based on his concept of waters beneath the crust, which involved differential vertical movements. While some parts of the crust sank deeper into the interior waters, and waters from the interior emerged at the surface, other parts were uplifted by the pressure. He suggested marine fossils in sediments were produced on the sea floor prior to the flood, and these regions became continents as a result of the flood. Hooke wrote:

What I understand by the great Deep, I shewed before; that is, the sinkings inward of the Firmament in the middle of the Waters; and the forcing up of the Fountains of the great Deep, I conceive to signify the raising again of those parts that were sunk to receive the Sea; and a Consequent of that would necessarily be a sinking of that which was the dry Land, and a Consequent of that, flowing and increasing of the Sea from out of that which is the great Deep, and a prevailing and increasing upon that which was a sinking Earth... the sinking parts went as much below the Level, as they were before above, and the rising parts by degrees ascended as much above as they had been below, and that which had been the bottom of the Sea under the Water, became the dry Land, and that which had been before the dry Land, now became the bottom of the Sea, whether the Waters retreated from off these parts which were raised when the Flood was finished.

Alexander Catcott (1725-1779) published A Treatise on the Deluge in 1761. He believed the subterranean waters of the abyss were responsible for the flood. Like Robert Hooke, Catcott believed there were two firmaments. But for him, they were both identified with an expanse or atmosphere. The upper one, the atmosphere above the earth, had waters below it, the waters of the oceans of the earth. Catcott called this the exterior expanse or firmament. The airs which he assumed existed within the earth, he called the interior expanse. This expanse was below the waters of the abyss, which he identified with "the waters above the firmament." Catcott adopted concepts of the firmament similar to views proposed by John Hutchinson in Moses's Principia, (1724). Geologist Davis Young commented on Catcott's model:

The waters under the firmament were the waters above the solid shell and below the atmosphere. The waters beneath the solid shell and above the interior expanse were the waters above the firmament. Hence, in Catcott's primitive earth we have a bizarre situation in which the waters below the firmament were located physically above the waters above the firmament!

Catcott was a careful observer of landforms and he attributed many of the features of the landscape to the effects of erosion of retreating flood waters. He made important observations of the effects of erosion in mountains and suggested they were carved from newly deposited sediment by currents while the earth's crust was still submerged in the waters of the flood. His explanation of the firmament did not become widely accepted.

Patrick Cockburn (1678-1749) in An Enquiry into the Truth and Certainty of the Mosaic Deluge, published in 1750, supposed the firmament extended from the air to the sun, moon and stars. The waters above the firmament were below the greater part of it, since they were identified with the clouds, which also caused the rain at the time of the flood. Most of the waters of the flood were derived from the subterranean abyss.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) thought he had discovered a solution to the problem of the identity of the firmament which had for so long perplexed Bible commentators. He proposed that the firmament was a ring of watery vapors which once surrounded the earth, like that around Saturn. It was the condensation of these vapors, or perhaps their disruption due to a comet, which produced the deluge. [Collier, p. 247]

References

Collier, Katharine Brownell, 1934. Cosmogonies of Our Fathers. Columbia University Press, N.Y.

Hooke, Robert. 1705. Lectures and Discourses of Earthquakes and Subterraneous Eruptions. (Reprinted 1978, Arno Press.) p. 415.

Young, Davis A. 1987. Scripture in the Hands of Geologists, Part 1. Westminster Theological Journal 49:1-34. (See p. 22.)

Waters Above the Heavens?

The identification of the firmament with all of space has been proposed by some modern creationists, but the waters above the heaven remain a problem. Harold Armstrong, former physics professor at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, and editor of the Creation Research Society Quarterly, suggested that when the earth was created, it included a great quantity of water, and so was much larger than at present. Much of this water was then raised, and the firmament consists of the space between these waters elevated a great distance above the earth, and the oceans. One could hardly imagine a more literal approach to the first chapter of Genesis as it is found in present Bibles, or one more difficult to comprehend, from a practical point of view. Armstrong wrote:

The thoughts to be offered here are not at all put forward dogmatically; they are intended more as a starting-point for further consideration and discussion. Many wise and devout men have considered these matters; it would be presumption to suppose that my thoughts are better than their's, but there may be, I hope, something helpful in these remarks... So at this stage there was the earth, still in a formless state, although likely spherical in outline. It likely included much more water than there is now, and was much larger than the present earth... Next God raised a large part of the water, leaving a space between it and the water which remained on the Earth. This space was the firmament-the heavens. In a number of places in Scripture it is said that God stretched out the heavens; I suggest that this is the way in which they were stretched out. Moreover, the root idea behind the Hebrew word which is commonly translated "firmament" seems to be stretching or spreading out. In the spreading out some air was provided for the lower part of the heavens... On the fourth day the heavenly bodies were created. Genesis 1,4 says that they were in the firmament; while the waters which were raised were above the firmament. Thus it would seem, if Genesis is taken at all seriously, the waters above the firmament are not the clouds, nor are they the water vapor normally present in the atmosphere, nor are they a canopy of water in some state no more than a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. They are at a great distance, beyond the stars. The water there may not necessarily be in the liquid state now.

As with the other canopy theories, there are immense problems with this interpretation, since the transport of water from the vicinity of the earth to the boundary of the universe or of space seems incredibly inefficient, when God could have just created matter anywhere he wished. The reality of these waters is beyond any possibility of detection, unless the expanding shell of upper waters can be detected in transit - but then, how could light from stars more than a few thousand light years distant still be visible? The remoteness of these upper waters raises the question why any mention of them would be included in the first chapter of Genesis. Then there is the difficulty posed by the vast distance these waters would have to be transported in a single day.

How could the space of the entire universe, along with the earth's atmosphere, have been formed "in the midst of the waters?" It is even more difficult, if that is possible, to comprehend how a layer of water or ice could exist beyond the stars, at the boundaries of the universe, and for what purpose. Paul's statement, "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead," in Romans 1:18-20 seems to indicate the things God created were intended to reveal God's nature and power to mankind, which would include the firmament along with the waters both above and below. The firmament is something which can be seen clearly, and its existence has been made known to men. The firmament, according to Psalm 19:1, continues to rank, along with the heavens, as a means for revealing God's handiwork. It cannot be identified with space or the atmosphere.

References

Armstrong, Harold L. 1979. The Expanding Universe and Creation, in: Repossess the Land. Bible Science Association, Minneapolis, MN. p. 22-27.

Canopy Theories

Several creationists have proposed concepts that assume a former "canopy" existed around the earth, which contained a great deal of water, that precipitated out as rain at the time of the flood. The idea that the canopy consisted of a "thermal vapor blanket" surrounding the pre-flood earth was advanced by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris in their book The Genesis Flood, and their suggestion has received a great deal of attention.

Various proposals, in which the canopies consist of ice, water, or steam have been advanced. One fanciful notion is that the canopy consisted of ice crystals arranged so that it was transparent, and permitted light of the stars to reach the earth. But such a structure, it seems, if it could exist at all, would be highly unstable and might disintegrate in a short time due to meteorite influx.

A discussion and defense of the vapor canopy theory was included in Morris's commentary, The Genesis Record. He suggested the word firmament in Genesis 1 is synonymous with our modern technical term "space." Referring to Genesis 1:6-8, he wrote [Morris, p. 58]:

The firmament refered to in this particular passage is obviously the atmosphere. Unfortunately the English word has been interpreted by many to refer to a solid dome across the sky; consequently this idea has been used by liberal critics as evidence of the "prescientific" outlook of Genesis. Neither the original Hebrew nor any of the passages in which it occurs suggest such an idea, however. A "firmament" is simply "thin, stretched-out space."

This ignores the implications of the derivation of firmament from the Latin firmamentum. Morris denied the waters above the firmament could be the clouds, and said they were in the form of invisible water vapors which permitted the penetration of light from the stars. [Morris, p. 59]

The "waters above the firmament" thus probably constituted a vast blanket of water vapor above the troposphere and possibly above the stratosphere as well, in the high-temperature region now known as the ionosphere, and extending far into space. They could not have been the clouds of water droplets which now float in the atmosphere, because the Scripture says they were "above the firmament." Furthermore, there was "no rain upon the earth" in those days (Genesis 2:5), nor any "bow in the cloud" (Genesis 9:13), both of which must have been present if these upper waters represented merely the regime of clouds which functions in the present hydrologic economy.

Morris suggested the vapor canopy of the original earth had a greenhouse effect on the world's climate, causing nearly uniform temperatures and humidity. It affected weather patterns, so there was no global air circulation, filtered out harmful radiation, and contributed to health and longevity. He suggested the increased atmospheric pressure caused by the vapor canopy may have been beneficial. The waters of the canopy were precipitated at the time of the flood, but the mention of waters above the heavens in Psalm 148:4,6 indicates they may be restored in the millenial earth.

Robert Kofahl has shown that canopy models as a source of a significant amount of water for the flood of Genesis are contrary to the laws of science. He wrote: "Critical analysis of these models shows that the provision of a substantial part of the flood waters or of ice either from a canopy or from extraterrestrial sources is impossible apart from special divine miraculous intervention."

Joseph Dillow proposed a former vapor canopy about 10 km above the earth. This vapor, he claimed, was superheated steam. He wrote [Dillow, p. 171]:

It is likely that Genesis 1:6-8 teaches the existence of a literal oceanic mass raised up above the ancient earth during the creation week. It is proposed by this writer that this liquid ocean was arranged in a water vapor phase by the Creator immediately after it was lifted above the atmosphere. Although there is not a statement to this effect in the Bible, a vapor form (i.e., superheated invisible steam) is the only form in which such a vast canopy could be maintained without appeal to special miracle. The physics by which this canopy was maintained is a serious problem; but a plausible theory has been developed.

The various canopy theories attempt to account for the plausibility of waters above the firmament, assumed to be the atmosphere. Gary L. Johnson proposed a canopy of "large water globules at about 2 km altitude over equatorial regions and large ice fragment clouds at about 2200 km altitude over the polar regions."

All the canopy theories, it seems, can be dismissed because of energy considerations; the potential energy of the water would be converted to kinetic energy or heat as it fell to the earth, heating up the atmosphere to such an extent that life could no longer exist. Johnson wrote:

One of the difficulties of Dillow's model, as with most of the other canopy models, is the heat load or heat energy content of the canopy. The canopy must be somehow cooled from approximately 100 degrees C to the condensation point, the latent heat of condensation must then be removed at the same temperature, and then the liquid must be cooled to the present atmospheric temperature of about 25 degrees C. The potential energy (mgh) of the canopy must also be removed. Dillow shows that if all this energy were released in a short period of time, the temperature of the atmosphere would rise to 2,100 degrees C, an obviously impossible value. Dillow's model also does not deal with winter darkness near the poles.

Robert Whitelaw pointed out another problem with canopy models popular among creationists. If the canopy consisted of water vapor supported by the atmosphere, "no known physical law exists by which one pure gas (water vapor) can maintain a boundary with another (air) without diffusing into it. In fact, at the altitude of 20,000 feet that some have suggested for the canopy boundary, the mean free path between molecules would permit some water vapor to reach the earth's surface within minutes."

Any canopy proposal involves conditions which no longer exist. Proponents engage in theoretical discussions about completely hypothetical former atmospheric configurations, including complicated mathematical expressions and tables of calculations. None of the canopies which have been proposed is plausible. Johnson wrote: "It appears that a miracle is necessary for any canopy model, either to hold the water up, or to get it down without destroying the earth."

The proponents of canopy models seem to ignore the question posed by the placement of the sun and moon in the firmament. If any of their models of the "waters above the firmament" were feasible, the identification of the firmament with the earth's atmosphere would still be problematic, since the sun and moon are not located in the atmosphere, but in space! As Strickling pointed out:

Since the two great lights were placed in the firmament, while the waters above the firmament were above it; if the waters above the firmament were a vapor canopy, the sun and moon would have been beneath the canopy. Hence, the waters above the firmament must have been something other than the earth-encompassing shroud of water vapor so often proposed.

A reasonable question that has been too often completely ignored by the parties in this controversy is whether or not the scriptures reflect the Hellenistic interpretation of cosmology. If so, this would suggest an explanation of the firmament in which on the one hand, the originally inspired scriptures are indeed acknowledged to be true, and on the other, the integrity of those who recognize the solid dome or sphere of heaven that is plainly depicted in the scriptures is vindicated.

A detailed critique of the canopy concept presented by Walter Brown is a welcome exception. In his "Hydroplate theory", Brown assumes a water layer existed beneath the earth's crust, which contributed to the waters of the flood when the "fountains of the great deep" were broken up. Brown examines Genesis 1:8, and apparently reaches similar conculsions to those presented in this report; he suggests as a possibility, that "something is mistranslated or inserted" in the first chapter of Genesis. Brown wrote:

Questions Raised by Genesis 1:8a

Why then, does Genesis 1:8a state, "And God called the expanse heaven"? Perhaps "heaven" is the proper translation for raqia, and the Septuagint and Vulgate translators incorrectly associated solidness with it. The similarities of raqia with baqia and raqa may be coincidences.

However, if raqia means "heaven," was water placed above "heaven," as Genesis 1:7 states? If raqia means the atmosphere in which birds fly (Genesis 1:20), then how could the sun, moon, and stars be placed in the atmosphere (Genesis 1:14, 15, 17)? Since the sun, moon, and stars were placed in the raqia and the water of the canopy was placed above the raqia, then were all heavenly bodies inside the canopy? Either (1) we do not understand the true meaning of raqia, (2) we cannot be equally literal in understanding the highlighted prepositions above, or (3) something is mistranslated or inserted.

If raqia means "heaven," why was it necessary to add the phrase "of the heavens"? That would be redundant. Why do other uses of raqia, which do not have this added phrase, obviously mean a solid expanse?

Finally, notice that Genesis 1:8a defines heaven after the word "heavens" was first used in Genesis 1:1. Normally a word's meaning is understood from the context of its first usage. Furthermore, Genesis 1:1 says that the heavens were created on the first day, while Genesis 1:8 says that the thing called "heaven" was made on the second day. Genesis 1:8a seems inconsistent with many verses.

Brown finds that there are inconsistencies in the creation account, and the crux of the problem is the statement about God assigning the name "Heaven" to the raqia or firmament in verse 8. It is this forced identification of the raqia with the heaven or sky that seems out of context, and inconsistent with the story of Creation, because, as Brown observes, the creation of the heavens had already been mentioned in verse 1. And it is the belief that this idea of a rigid heaven was part of the original creation account that has caused many people to reject the divine origin of the scriptures. Besides, arguments proposed about former canopies that rely on these corruptions result in absurdities. Brown concludes:

The arguments for the various canopy theories do not stand up when examined closely. These theories also contain many biblical and scientific problems, such as those associated with heat, light, pressure, support, nuclei, and ultraviolet light. Even the best-known canopy advocates privately acknowledge these problems. Canopy theories have led many in the creationist movement down a "dead-end street," delaying our understanding of the flood. The flood water came from below, not above. Failure to understand this has caused many to doubt the historical accuracy of the flood account, and, therefore, the Bible itself. Without the flood to explain the fossils buried in the earth's sedimentary layers, the theory of organic evolution fills the vacuum, an explanation that also removes or minimizes the Creator.

[See 'firmament' definition in Easton's Bible Dictionary]

References

Brown, Walter T. 1996. In the Beginning, 6th edition. Center for Scientific Creation, 5612 N. 20th Place, Phoenix Arizona.

Dillow, Joseph C. 1979. Scripture does not rule out a vapor canopy. Creation Research Society Quarterly 16(3):171-173.

Johnson, Gary L. 1986. Global heat balance with a liquid water and ice canopy. Creation Research Society Quarterly 23(2):54-61.

Kofahl, Robert E. 1977. Could the flood waters have come from a canopy or extraterrestrial source? Creation Research Society Quarterly 13(4):202-206.

Morris, Henry M. 1976. The Genesis Record. Baker Book House. Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Whitcomb, John C. and Henry M. Morris. 1961. The Genesis Flood. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., Philadelphia PA.

Whitelaw, Robert L. 1983. The fountains of the great deep, and the windows of heaven. Proceedings of the 1983 National Creation Convention, Twin Cities Creation Science Association, Minneapolis MN. 95-104.

Conclusion

Daniel's prophecy reveals that in the second century BC, Antiochus IV caused corruptions supporting the supported the flawed geocentric cosmology of the Greeks to be inserted in the Greek and Hebrew versions of the scriptures. The creation account of Genesis 1, especially, was altered so that the earth's crust, the raqia made on the second day, was identified with the rigid rotating sky or firmament. Because the original Genesis account referred to the formation of the earth's crust, in the "midst of the waters", the changes to the creation account made it seem as though there were waters above the heavens. This was the ridiculous concept that some of the early Church Fathers wrestled over.

The history of the concept of the rigid sky and the waters above the heavens through the following centuries shows the learned men of the world were victims of this fraud initiated by Antiochus. The condemnation of Galileo's work by the theologians is a notable example; widespread skepticism which arose after the old geocentric cosmology was abolished in the eighteenth century was also due in part to the apparent support the corrupted cosmological statements in scripture gave to the geocentric theory.

However, all of this can now be understood as the unfolding of a great plan and purpose, that is being worked out in man's affairs. God's role is revealed in the rise of modern science, that was foretold by the prophet Daniel.

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