Firmament (Hebrew worldview)
mc2499 at mclink.it
Thu Jan 18 09:46:20 EST 2001
>But the examples i give are more clear and more parallel to Ezk. 1.
Actually, no you haven't. I had the aim of reproducing the form as found in
Ezek. 1, though as you pointed out some of the examples I gave didn't fulfil
that aim. However, I have given one parallel (Gen22:9) which reproduces the
form found in Ezek. 1, you have given none.
>> >Also, the use of _RAQIA(_ here may be quite different from
>> that in Genesis.
>> What makes you think that?
>Because one is the context of the physical universe in Genesis, and Ezekiel
>is a vision which may or may not reflect the same kind of a scene. We
>normally don't these apocalyptic visions in the same way as what is
>obviously intended as literal in Genesis.
When you try to make some sense of difference then I can understand you
finding some. We are presented with information which you classify in
specific ways. That classification needs to be seen as appropriate from the
ancient world view you are attempting to analyse rather than imposing your
differences upon it.
>Like i said, Ezekiel's point is
>theological, and it's an apocalyptic vision. The Genesis narrative has the
>literal presentation you desire to find.
So the understandings of the world which the writer presupposes are
applicable in both cases?
>> >Whatever is going on here none of us can know in detail, and that (the
>> >literal phenomenon in his vision) is certainly not the point. But in any
>> >case, if something "physical" (as you say) is implied for the sky, it is
>> >also a sky that can be "stretched out" _NTH_ like a tent (v. 23), not
>> >(if you want to press the imagery).
>> >> >> The Job reference, 37:18, says that God "spread out [rq`] the
>> >> >> skies, hard as a molten mirror." This "spread out"
>> >> >> obviously entails beating it out.
>> >> >
>> >> >Sorry, it's not obvious to me.
>> >> The verb I thought actually entails the spreading out by
>> >> beating if the object is metallic. That's where the simile
>> comes in.
>> >The metaphor concerns the action of God in making the
>> heavens, the simile
>> >compares the stability of the finished product with the
>> firmness of a cast
>> >metal mirror.
>> What evidence is there that there is any metaphor in the particular
>> sentence? (I see none.)
>It is obviously a metaphor if it is considered in light of Gen. 1 where it
>is said that God created only by speaking,
I see no logic here at all as yet.
>not by exerting physical energy
>to personally construct the various parts of the universe. The only
>exception is the making of man.
(If there is some distinction in the verbs `$h and br', it's usually taken
that the first involves a physical exertion, where as such is not implied in
the latter. `$h is employed in the creation of the dome in Gen 1:7.)
>If you ignore Genesis and divide up the
>Bible into lots of conflicting, unrelated perspectives, then of course it's
>at least possible (but not necessary) to take Job's poetry as literally
This is quite revealing. You seem to evince so many assumptions about the
text, they are hard to see as they fly by. Note first, that the Bible is a
series of books collected together, as seen historically in the debates of
what should be and what should not be included in the OT/HB by the rabbis.
Some of these books show clear signs of not having been written by one
1) was the Isaiah of the reigns of Uzziah to Hezekiah the same as the Isaiah
of the turn from Babylonian hegemony to Persian?
2) was the same person who wrote about Abram, Sarai and pharaoh, the same
who wrote about Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech, or who wrote about Isaac,
Rebekah and Abimelech?
3) was the toledoth organizer of Genesis ever aware that there would be
another creation account placed before his first toledoth?
4) was the half of Nehemiah which was unknown to Josephus written before the
second century CE?
5) were all the glosses found in the Psalms by Briggs (of BDB fame) in his
CEE commentary based on his metrical studies of those texts all written by
the original authors of those psalms?
I could of course go on with very many other philological examples, but this
is only dealing with one of your assumptions: there is no dividing up of the
Bible; there is an acceptance of its basic heterogeneous structure as seen
in the free circulation of separate works in DSS times.
As the texts are separate works which have had numerous hands working on
them, though under the control of particular groups in different periods we
can expect a certain editorial unity applied to them, it's not strange to
find conflicts in them as well as differing perspectives, which can be
unrelated as you put it.
>> >Also, the verb _RQ(_ is used not only of making the heavens,
>> >but also of the earth (Isa. 44:24). Do you think that the
>> >Hebrews thought the earth was made of metal too?
>> I said "The verb I thought actually entails the spreading out
>> by beating *if the object is metallic*."
And that's precisely how it was used in Job.
>And when the object is *not* metallic, as in the case of the
>earth here (and the heavens/sky; they are in parallelism), then it
>*imagery,* not literal beating out of metal or anything else.
I think you are confusing two separate things, $mym and rqy`
It is interesting however that with the consistent number of examples of
physical activities applied to heavens, earth, and firmament, that you
continue to sustain the notion that the firmament is not a physical term.
You have churned out example after example, each of which you must turn into
>> >Genesis says God created by speaking only (except for man), so
>> >the variety of images used to describe it are just that, images, and no
>> This is assumption, nothing more, tied to modern necessities
>> of making sense of a text which was written by people whose world
>> views and approaches are so different from yours.
>It may be *your* assumptions that allow you to not believe what the text of
>Genesis says about the nature of creation from a "literal" standpoint, but
>you must admit that it does in fact say that, whether you believe it or
I have no problem with divine fiat, you want to make it metaphorical and
everything else attached as literary images. That is the unjustifiable step
I say is your assumption.
>I should add here that the opening of the windows of heaven is always a
>special, way-out-of-the-ordinary, *super*natural event (like a flood in
>7, or like a besieged city being full of food in 2Kg. 7 [for which rain
>would not help, but the way!]), not the norm. God did not have to open the
>windows of heaven every time to make it rain (like Baal does). I Kings
>says nothing about windows when God sent rain, just that clouds came, a
>storm, etc. (cf. Eccl. 11:3). Job 28:26-27 implies that He has established
>set manner in which rain and lightning should work. Job 36:27-29 actually
>explains how this (rain) works better than any of us could ever do apart
>from scientific study (cf. Job 38:28-30).
There are two separate issues here: an assumption of uniformity in the
composition and perspective of the OT/HB and an argument from silence. The
first I've already looked at. As to the second, if I say I went down to the
shop (I always walk), do I have to say something about legs every time?
>Job 36:27-29 actually
>explains how this (rain) works better than any of us could ever do apart
>from scientific study (cf. Job 38:28-30). (How did Job know that, Ian?)
(Job didn't, but I guess Elihu went to a Greek school.)
>Again, the "windows of heaven" is imagery--not for rain--but for a
>supernatural event, either good or bad, of anything from God.
Point assumed, not shown.
>> I see no reason not to read
>> the text for what it says and you see no reason to read the
>> text for what it says.
Thanks! And it gets to the difference.
>> >> >Enoch is much later [than Genesis]
>> >> How on earth do you know??
>> >Good point. I suppose that i don't really know--it's
>> >theoretically possible that Enoch was written the 2nd
>> >millennium BC just like Genesis was ...
>> I don't believe you. When did the "Canaanite" dialects
>> including Hebrew separate from Phoenician? If Hebrew did
>> not exist in the second millenium then you'll have to at
>> least consider that the text was translated from something
>> else, or, more likely, written later. This latter explains
>> the anachronisms in Genesis.
>There is plenty say in response to this as you ought to know, but i'm
>expending too much time already.
You go on to expend a lot more time in your post on other things. But I can
understand the coyness here though. Is the Gezer "calendar" in a form of
Hebrew or is it in a form of Phoenician? If the distinction between Hebrew
and Phoenician was not easy to deduce from that text of the tenth century
BCE then the distinction between the Palestinian dialects (of which Hebrew
was only one) and Phoenician was not yet made, ie Hebrew as a language did
not exist in the second millenium BCE.
>I am not convinced of even a single
>anachronism in Genesis (most argue from former silence which has now been
>overturned by archeology),
Just some -- already discussed on this list -- for a little argument's sake:
1) Philistines did not arrive in Palestine until after the fall of Hatti,
circa 1190 BCE (this is well sen in both epigraphy [Egyptian] and
archaeology [destruction of, and imposition of foreign culture, on sites])
and long after the attributed time of Abraham;
2) Lower Palestine was never within the realm of the Hittites; in fact the
border between Egypt and Hatti was almost exclusively in northern Syria,
except during the reign of Shuppiluliumas I who pressed the border further
south down the Orontes valley; besides, Hatti never made it south of the
Taurus until around 1600 BCE; there was no opportunity for the patriarch to
have communicated with a Hittite called Ephron; the non-Hebrew speaking
Hebrews were already in Egypt (using Genesis data);
3) Tubal and Meshech, both post-Hittite states, ie did not exist prior to
the downfall of Hatti, indicate that the text was written after about 1000
4) one might like to include the fanciful battle of the kings of Shinar,
Elam and "the nations (Goyim, eQnoi)" against a pitiful coalition of Sodom,
Gomorrah, et al.; not strictly an anachronism, but a clear mistake caused by
having been written long after the reputed events;
>but i'm willing to admit the possibility of
>revision and updating of the text over time just as various old
>are continually updated even today.
Then you should stop the arguments you go on to here which imply uniqueness
of vision, which is a presupposition underlying your arguments for calling
so many things metaphors.
>> >> >As the modern scientist is permitted to speak of the sunrise or
>> >> >the Hebrew language speaks of the sun "exiting [the horizon]" in the
>> >> >(Gen. 19:23) or "entering" in the evening (Gen. 28:11).
>> >> Modern scientists are not particularly relevant to ancient thought. To
>> >> with ancient thought you need to work with other examples of it.
>> >Correct, but modern language has analogy with ancient language. That was
>> >only point i made here. We use phenomenological language just as they
>> >but it says nothing about one's understanding of cosmology.
>> How does one discern this "phenomenological" language from
>> "normal" language used for cosmological descriptions?
>It can be difficult, but my preference is to consider the whole of divine
>revelation in the OT
This is the assumption that underlies most of your argumentation. It is not
one that one can analyse; once you put the label "divine" on it, it becomes
a belief you impose on the text, and as such, it cannot be delved,
questioned or, more to the point, of relevance in a philological analysis of
a text. It is the reason why you make everything that doesn't simply fit
your divine revelation theory metaphorical, so then it does fit.
>and distinguish literal accounts as intended by the
>author (e.g. Gen) from other types of language such as in poetry. You seem
>to want to take all as literal and attribute errors indiscriminately at
I want to read a text for what it literally says until the text indicates
that there is more than literal significance.
>Considering literary genre, author's intent,
Your notion of divine revelation abnegates the necessity to deal with
author's intent. Literary genre is rather difficult to consider when you
refuse to look at what other related cultures were doing.
>and the entire corpus of revelation
What makes you think any of the literature is revelation?
>as consistent seems much wiser and more consistent with the data to me.
When you have so many assumptions and presuppositions, I find it hard to
accept what you might consider as wiser.
>> >But it's pretty difficult to come up with
>> >a non-substantive analogy when talking about such things.
>> >How do you expect them to describe these?
>> This assumes analogy.
>The text indicates analogy.
>> >Again, it says nothing about their understanding of cosmology.
>> >However, you should note that Isa. 34:4 uses the verb "rot/decay/fester"
>> >parallel with the others here. So did they think the sky was made out of
>> >flesh or fruit or something?? Again, my metaphorical view stands.
>> The subject of the verb is not the sky, but the host of heaven (a plural
>> entity known to have been worshipped by sections of the Hebrew culture).
>Correct, but it's in parallelism to "heavens" in the verse, and my point is
>that if these images in the sky according to the ANE solid dome view were
>part of the heavens, then their "rotting" does not work for the
>view you want to see.
This is somewhat an abuse of the notion of parallelism. While the host of
heaven shall rot away, the skies will be rolled up (like a scroll).
>It's imagery here, just like the imagery when he says
>the heavens will be rolled back "as" (_K_ prep) a scroll in the same verse.
You insist on saying things are images without showing the matter.
>Both are images; a metaphor followed by a simile in synonymous Hebrew
More of the same unsupported claims. Metaphor assumed, synonymity assumed.
>You are debating against an unambiguous text, not me!
I'm not manipulating the text. You are just going metaphor crazy. I wonder
what will be left in the OT/HB when all your metaphors have been removed. Is
calling the moon a great light a metaphor to you or is it simply an ancient
understanding not adhered to in modern times? Was the creation of these
great lights a metaphor seeing as they were created after the diurnal
progression was already in operation, or was it simply an ancient
understanding? Did Joshua's sun actually stand still or was it only an
ancient understanding, or perhaps a metaphor?
>Isaiah continues that those hosts will fall down as the leaf falls from the
>fruit from the fig tree.
But why does God's metaphorical sword have the desire to drink its fill in
>> >> >So it is inconsistent to press some metaphors as intended
>> >> >literally and then throw out the others at our own whim.
>> >> >[..]
>> >> There are a number of diverse notions about cosmology in the
>> >> OT/HB. Let's stick to the one at hand?
>> >I don't agree that there are diverse notions,
>> When you turn all cosmological statements into metaphors,
>I have not yet "turned" anything in the text, Ian. You are the one turning
>the text to see what you want to see. Rhetoric without demonstration does
>not impress me.
If a text says a thing and you declare it is a metaphor rather than being
literal, you need to deal with showing that they are metaphors and not
assuming uniqueness of vision in the texts, so as to conclude that because
one one case we have a metaphor then in all cases we must have metaphors.
You have not attempted to show these metaphors. Hence you have "turned" them
I will take a text literally until I see that it is not literal. It is safer
that way. You may call this one of my presuppositions: read what a text
says, not what I want it to say.
>> doesn't matter
>> if those "metaphors" are not consistent, but then you don't
>> therefore know
>> anything about the cosmology.
>> I guess we can get no further in this discussion.
>I can agree with that!
>> I tend to see Hebrew cosmology in the context of the various ane
>> cultures, who, I guess according to you, either must all be being
>> metaphorical or are irrelevant to the Hebrews.
>I'm aware of those surrounding cosmologies, and marvel to think that in
>spite of them all, the Hebrew Bible "mysteriously" avoids them.
According to whom?
>I can't say
>what the cosmology of the Hebrews always was, but i can say that the
>Biblical text does not contain those other ideas. There are many examples
>unambiguous statements of the solid dome idea, among others, such as
>climbing up it, coming to the end with no room between it and the sea so
>that you have to swim to continue, etc. No such ideas are in the Biblical
No just of God beating it out, of it holding up the waters above, but these
are metaphors and those are not.
>I find it curious too that you in particular would import the ANE cosmology
>into the Hebrew text, while at the same time you maintain that all concepts
>of resurrection, afterlife, immortality are foreign to the Hebrew Bible
>until post-Persian or Greek times. The entire ANE was preoccupied with such
>concepts since long before Biblical times, and the idea that Hebrews alone
>had no conception of it is absurd. Of course the Hebrew text does, in fact,
>explicitly and implicitly speak of all of these concepts in many places
>Gen. 3:22 onward. If you want to debate that issue too, i'd be quite happy
>to do so, except something tells me it's not time well-spent.
This paragraph is pretty gratuitous. It seems to be an attempt at
resurrecting an earlier discussion on this list, rather than being related
to anything about what we have been discussing.
>Also, you still have not come to grips with my original argument from the
>blessing/cursing texts (Lev. 26:19 is simile; Deut. 28:23 is metaphor). The
>making of earth/heavens like brass/iron is the imagery of a sky that does
>not rain and land that does not grow crops. If you want to take them
>literally, then the sky is not *yet* metal because that would only come by
>the divine curse, and it would mean that the land also must become metallic
>in the curse.
Your logic doesn't make it so, it just shows us how you would like it to be.
Do you not find it strange that these turns of phrase exist? They should be
an obvious signal to you that such thinking was not unnatural to see the sky
as metallic. (And the Job example underlies the connection yet again.) The
thing is, you don't accept that there are different currents of thought in
the OT/HB because of your presuppositions.
>Both ideas are absurd and substantiate clearly that the
>Biblical text does not present a metallic dome for the firmament.
The "Biblical text" is not a single text, but a series of individual texts,
as can be seen by their separate circulation at Qumran. One doesn't expect
separate texts to adhere to your ideas of unique vision. You don't seem to
be arguing for philological aims.
>Ian, whether you like it or not, you need to admit that you have
>presuppositions when you come to the text. Everyone does. I admit mine
>openly while you try, ineffectively, to exploit them as if they are the
>reason why i hold to my interpretation--which in fact i am demonstrating
>from the text itself. Why try to hide yours?
I have been upfront all the time with my presuppositions:
1) a text has a context;
2) to understand the text you need to reconstruct at least part of that
3) you won't understand a text without delving into the context;
an example I have often used is Daniel, which was obviously
not written in the sixth century, as seen in the historical
errors, non-existent king (Darius the Mede), ommission of the
appropriate king (Nabuna'id), calling Belshazzar son of
Nebuchadnezzar, when he was son of Nabuna'id, tranquillity
of the night before the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, when there
had been a battle at Opis a few days earlier in which it seems
Belshazzar died, and Nabuna'id was back in Babylon; context
arrives for Daniel when it's visions start to be unravelled,
such unravelling being available in any of the scholarly
commentaries on that text; the context helps to show that the
text is firmly set in the Hellenistic crisis (and before) and
therefore has nothing to do with Christianizing interpretations
starting from the famous Mk13:26 misquotation of Dan7:13 put
into the mouth of Jesus (not "one like a son of man", but "the
son of man"; as there is no "son of man" messianism in Judaism
this Christian development is relatively late);
4) texts exist in time, needing to be transmitted in time and therefore
prone to change, both scribal and editorial:
when for example was the final chapter of the Hebrew original
of 1 Esdras removed and added to Nehemiah? obviously at the
same time as that original was converted into the canonical
Ezra, after the time Josephus obtained his copies.
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