On the Astronomy-Biased Hermeneutic of many modern YEC's


Adam and Eve were created in the daylight. So their first experience of their world was that divided between that daylit sky and the Earth. They saw the Sun and Moon in that sky. And we know that that sky is the life-critical atmosphere. The main question is whether they knew it. The second question is whether Genesis 1 addresses it. If both questions are accurately answered in the affirmative, then there is (1) little or no cause to see the rest of the Bible as being unconcerned for it, and (2) every normal cause for assuming that the Bible is concerned for it.

But Danny Faulkner* claims that the Bible is silent on the cosmic preciousness of the Earth's atmosphere.

Faulkner sees an astronomy-centric concern for most any Bible passages that can be so construed. He thereby deems the Bible not to have any special concern for the atmosphere. He bases all this on his presupposition that the 'concept' that the air does not extend to the luminaries was never known to humans until 'modern' times. Presumably, this use of the term 'modern' implies not only the institutional instantiation of the geophysical sciences, but the level of such sciences as include, at least, direct empirical measurements of air density at high altitude.

Faulkner's argument has a number of glaring flaws, most of them profound. And it seems likely even that his astronomy bias is what has caused him to miss two instances of (haš)šāmayim in Genesis 1. He counts only to v. 20, and claims that there are only seven instances of 'šāmayim'.

By the actual Hebrew, there is only one instance of šāmayim (v. 8). And there are not exactly seven instances of (haš)šāmayim, but exactly nine. Faulkner not only: (a) misses the two instances the context of which cannot readily suggest outer space (vv. 26, 28); but (b) fails to consider that haššāmayim may not be equivalent to šāmayim.

Faulkner implicitly admits that a knowledge of the cosmic preciousness of Earth's vital atmosphere is essential to a complete basic understanding of God's Cosmos. In fact, this preciousness would seem to be one of the basic reasons why the stars are not visible in broad daylight: Our proper main concern is not the celestial realm by itself, but rather of life within that realm.

So why would God not include in the Bible a knowledge of that cosmic preciousness? Indeed, why would God have created the phenomenon of the sky such that it lacked sufficient visible information by which the normal human readily could deduce that preciousness? Surely it is not divine caprice that God did not create Adam and Eve inside a nearly-windowless, non-rotating space ship in interstellar space?

The deepest of many flaws in Faulkner's position on the Bible's relation to the atmosphere is that, despite that he reduces the Bible thereon to a condescension of pre-modern' humans, he readily allows that the Bible explicitly describes one or more merely astronomical concepts and, or, objects that he admits of which no pre-'modern' humans can have had any natural knowledge:

Th[e] understanding [that](...) rāqîaʿ [in Genesis 1:8 is outer space] nicely incorporates the Old Testament verses that speak of the heavens being stretched or spread out(...). ( . . .) In each case where the stretching of the heavens is mentioned in the Old Testament, the context is within the sovereignty and omnipotence of God based upon His role as Creator. Therefore, one ought to look into the creation account for the meaning of these passages. Since Genesis 1:8 equates šāmayim with rāqîaʿ, and we know from the verb from which rāqîaʿ comes means to beat or spread out, the best fit for understanding the stretching of the heavens is with what God did on Day Two. ( . . .) [T]he Bible implies that the boundary of the universe is accompanied by water. (...)This is borne out by Psalm 148:4, which speaks of waters above the heavens still being there. (...) [So the Bible explicitly says that], in the post-Flood world, the universe is surrounded by water

Faulkner, therefore, thinks that this water is what Genesis 1:7 means by that 'above' the rāqîaʿ; and, therefore, that rāqîaʿ in this passage is outer space, and that (haš)šāmayim is just God's name for outer space.

This part of Faulkner's reasoning is very coherent argument as far as it goes. Nevertheless, it begs two questions. One, why, therefore, does the Creation Account identify the location of the birds' flight specifically and explicitly in relation to outer space (v. 20)? Two, why does the account also refer to that location simply as haššāmayim (vv. 26, 28)?

Faulkner presumes that the instance in v. 9 is outer space, and reasons:

the four times that šāmayim is used in the remainder of Genesis 1, it always appears in construct with the word rāqîaʿ, as it is translated “firmament of heaven” in the KJV. Three of these uses are in the context of the Day Four account (verses 14, 15, and 17), with the fourth appearance in the Day Five account (verse 20). The implication seems to be [that], lest there be any confusion, (…) this entity mentioned is the same thing that God made on Day Two.

But v. 9 does not use “firmament of heaven”, but merely “heavens”, even though it is the first instance of (haš)šāmayim after that in v. 8 (šāmayim). That in v. 9 more normally would be understood to refer to the Earth's own sky: the atmosphere, not outer space.

So, not only (i) does Faulkner base this anti-confusion logic on a faulty count of (haš)šāmayim, and (ii) this faulty count seemingly the result of an astronomy bias, but (iii), per (ii) fails to explain why the author of the Creation Account would allow the kind of confusion that would consist in referencing the location of the birds' flight supposedly by the very term by which God supposedly named outer space?

So, as part of his reasoning that 'raqia' cannot be the Earth's atmosphere, Faulkner claims that the word 'šāmayim' 'appears only seven times in Genesis 1.' Let me review: This claim is mistaken on two counts:

(1) There actually is only one simply 'šāmayim' in the entire text; all the others are 'haššāmayim'. Here Faulkner either (a) is relying on a reference source that makes its own simplistic version of the Hebrew forms, or (b) he himself is unconcerned for that kind of detail of the Hebrew terms. If (b), then he presupposes that there never is any critical semantic difference between 'šāmayim' and 'haššāmayim':

šāmayim = haššāmayim

(2) There are not exactly seven of '(haš)šāmayim' in Genesis 1, but, rather, exactly nine:

    one each in vv. 1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20, 26, 28.

So it seems that Faulkner has himself missed the count. Specifically, he reasons (my bold for emphases):

The word šāmayim appears only seven times in Genesis 1. The first three appearances are in Genesis 1:1, 8, and 9. The first verse is part of the encapsulatory introduction. Verse 8 is God’s equation of the rāqîaʿ with the šāmayim. Verse 9 involves God’s command for the waters under the heavens to be gathered into one place and that dry land appear. Since this immediately follows God’s equation of the rāqîaʿ and the šāmayim and the conclusion of Day Two, it ought to be abundantly clear that the rāqîaʿ ought to be equated with šāmayim in verse 9. The four times that šāmayim is used in the remainder of Genesis 1, it always appears in construct with the word rāqîaʿ, as it is translated “firmament of heaven” in the KJV. Three of these uses are in the context of the Day Four account (verses 14, 15, and 17), with the fourth appearance in the Day Five account (verse 20). The implication seems to be, lest there be any confusion, that this entity mentioned is the same thing that God made on Day Two. Within the context of the Day Four narrative, this “firmament of heaven” is where God placed the luminaries—the sun, moon, and stars. In the Day Five account, the birds are said to fly “across [or upon] the expanse of the heavens.”

Here Faulkner ends his count of (haš)šāmayim at v. 20. The reason why he missed the final two (in vv. 26 and 28) is presumably because of his astronomy bias. These two are embedded in the midst of respective verses that, even at a quick glance, accurately are determined not to address any astronomical matter.

* Danny R. Faulkner: Thoughts on the rāqîa‘ and a Possible Explanation for the Cosmic Microwave Background, Answers Research Journal 9 (2016):57-65, https://answersingenesis.org/astronomy/cosmology/thoughts-raqia-and....

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