~ credit and thanx to Susie over at Ifersboards.net.
STANDARD Hebrew lexica and a number of modern biblical scholars have defined the raqiac (fyqr, “firmament”) of Gen 1:6-8 as a solid dome over the earth.1 Conservative scholars from Calvin on down to the present, however, have defined it as an atmospheric expanse.2 Some conservatives have taken special pains to reject the concept of a solid dome on the basis that the Bible also refers to the heavens as a tent or curtain and that refer-ences to windows and pillars of heaven are obviously poetic.3
The word raqiac, they say, simply means “expanse.” They say the understanding of raqiac as a solid firmament rests on the Vulgate’s translation, firmamentum; and that translation rests in turn on the LXX’s translation stere<wma, which simply reflected the Greek view of the heavens at the time the trans-lators did their work.4
The raqiac defined as an atmospheric expanse is the historical view according to modern conservatives; and the modern view of the raqiac as a solid dome is simply the result of forcing biblical poetic language into agreement with a concept found in the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish.5
The historical evidence, however, which we will set forth in concrete detail, shows that the raqiac was originally conceived of as being solid and not a merely atmospheric expanse. The grammatical evidence from the OT, which we shall examine later, reflects and confirms this conception of solidity.
The basic historical fact that defines the meaning of raqiac in Genesis 1 is simply this: all peoples in the ancient world thought of the sky as solid. This concept did not begin with the Greeks.
In North America, in Indian belief, the earth is a circular disc usually surrounded on all sides by water and the sky is a solid concave hemisphere coming down at the horizon to the level of the earth. In Cherokee and other Indian myths the sky is continually lifting up and coming down again to the earth like the upper blade of a pair of scissors. The sun which lives outside the hemisphere slips between the
earth and the sky-line in the morning when there is a momentary slit, and it returns from the Western side in the evening in the same fashion.