Isaiah 40:22 - Circle of the earth

Rolf Furuli furuli at
Sat Jul 20 05:31:11 EDT 2002

Dear Jack,

First I would like to say that I respect your great knowledge of 
Semitic languages that you have manifested in numerous postings 
through the years. We agree in much and we disagree in much, but as 
fellew scholars we do so in a cordial way.

>>  >in all directions and all of the land is covered by a dome..a vault..a
>>  >Raqiya that is a solid, hammered out structure and above which are waters
>>  >that "leak out" as rain and under which are hung the lights of the stars,
>>  >moon, sun, etc.  The concept of the heavens shemayim is all of
>>  >creation...not a cozy cloud in the sky relete with harps.  God sits above
>>  >all this and looks down at us as if we were grasshoppers.  This was not a
>>  >geo-political referent.
>>  >
>>  Dear Jack,
>  >
>  >
>RF: A picture of your solid, hammered out structure is found on p. 5 in
>  > The New American Bible. But sorry to say, this is an example of how
>>  mythological ideas based on the historical-critical paradigm are
>>  forced upon the readers of the Bible. You cannot substantiate this
>>  picture by help of the Hebrew text, but if you look at all the
>>  passages relavant to to RFQIA(, you will find the opposite of a solid
>>  structure. To insist on the idea of "a hammered-out-structure" as a
>>  central idea in the word is tantamount to making the "etymological
>>  fallacy".
>JK: By "etymological fallacy" you mean to say, the word doesn't mean what it

No. In the 19th century literal Bible translations were made on the 
belief that each word had an original (etymological) meaning, and 
somehow this meaning was present i all uses of the word: So each 
Hebrew word could be rendered by one English word. (Even literal 
translations did this only with a limited number of words.) This view 
is fallacious because the meaning of a word may change through time, 
so the question from the point of view of lexical semantics, is the 
synchronic meaning of a word. This meaning is found in the minds of 
native speakers as a common concept, and on the basis of such a 
concept signaled by a word, it can be meaningful to choose one 
English word for each Hebrew word whenever possible - as concordant 
versions do.

Applied to RQ(, I agree that a central sense of the concept is to "to 
beat", "to stamp", and this is applied to solid matter. A writer uses 
the context, not to generate new meaning, but to help the readers see 
the part of the concept that he wants to make visible. Such a concept 
is often quite wide with fuzzy edges, and its central meaning is not 
allways stressed. So the question is whether the verb allways refers 
to something solid that is hammered out or stamped. I have not 
checked all its uses and do not know the answer.

However, there is another area that may be more fallacious (as far as 
the original meaning of beating out something solid is concerned), 
and that is the meaning of the noun. Must RFQIA( also include the 
original meaning of the root/verb?

Let me illustrate the problem with a parallel example. Inside the 
mythological view that is believed to be found in the Bible regarding 
heaven and earth, the earth rests on pillars in a cosmic sea. One 
passage quoted to substantiate that is Psalm 104:5

Psa. 104:5 (NIV) He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

So the earth has "foundations" or "pillars" (MFKWN). A central 
meaning of the concept signaled by the verb KWN is to establish 
something solid, or make it firm. The idea of "foundation", "pillar" 
accords with this meaning. But can we on this basis draw the 
conclusion that Psalm 104:5 indicates that the writer believed the 
earth rested on solid pillars? The figurative expressions of the 
preceding verses hardly suggests such an interpretation, and then we 
have Psalm 89:15

Psa. 89:14  (NIV)Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your 
throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

In this passage we see that abstracts can be said to be the MFKWN of 
something. thus the etymological meaning of the root cannot be 
appealed to. To do that, one would succumb to the etymological 
fallacy. The same is true with RFQIA(. In order to show that it means 
a solid hammered out firmament, we cannot appeal to the etymology of 
the root or the diachronic use of the cognate verb, not even the 
synchronic use of the verb, but it must be shown that the noun itself 
carries this idea.

But don't we see this solid firmament in Genesis 1:6,20? No, the 
birds do not fly beneath the expanse, as several Norwegian and Danish 
translations say (thus introducing mythology into the text), but the 
fly across or on the expanse.

Gen. 1:6 (NIV) And God said,  "Let there be an expanse between the 
waters to separate water from water."
Gen. 1:20 (NIV) And God said,  "Let the water teem with living 
creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of 
the sky."

What about Job 37:18?

Job 37:18  (NIV) can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as 
a mirror of cast bronze?

Job chapter 37 has much figurative language such as the chamber of 
the tempest (verse 9), so we cannot say that the skies literally were 
made of solid material. Note also, please, that "skies" is $CQ which 
signals a concept whose central sense is fine dust or cloud. In the 
previous chapter this word is applied to the clouds in a way that is 
compatible with our understanding of why it rains.

Job 36:27  "He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to 
the streams;
Job 36:28 the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers 
fall on mankind. 

Note also the possible result of God's judgement, namely, that the 
sky ($CQ) and earth will be hard as metal - no rain and no growth - 
so they could hardly be such beforehand.

Deut. 28:23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron.

As to Ezekiel chapter 1, we must keep in mind that this is a vision 
where things in three dimensions, that we can understand, are used to 
illustrate spiritual matters. The symbols cannot be taken literally. 
The RAQI( mentioned is not said to be solid, and it need not be more 
than the atmosphere, as the word refers to in Genesis chapter 1.

>Ex 39:3 And they did beat <rq(> the gold into thin plates, and cut [it into]
>wires, to work [it] in the blue, and in the purple, and in the scarlet, and
>in the fine linen, [with] cunning work.
>Num 16:39 And Eleazar the priest took the brasen censers, wherewith they
>that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad <rq(> [plates for] a
>covering of the altar:
>Job 37:18 Hast thou with him spread out <rq(> the sky, [which is] strong,
>[and] as a molten looking glass?
>Is 40:19 The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth
><rq(> it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
>Jer 10:9 Silver spread <rq(> into plates is brought from Tarshish, and gold
>from Uphaz, the work of the workman, and of the hands of the founder: blue
>and purple [is] their clothing: they [are] all the work of cunning [men].
>Ez 6:11  Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp <rq(>
>with thy foot and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of
>Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the
>The vision of the throne of God described in the Ezekiel 1 included the
>reference to a firmament. This was a rigid structure. It was a platform,
>composed of a SOLID crystalline substance, which supported the throne of
>God. It was supported by four living creatures. This firmament or platform
>was described :
>"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, the one
>toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every
>one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I
>heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice
>of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they
>stood, they let down their wings And there was a voice from the firmament
>that [was] over their heads, when they stood, [and] had let down their
>wingsAnd 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."
>In short, the "firmament" is a solid, beaten or stamped out plate that
>stretches over the "eretz" and keeps those water above it from washing away
>your new RV.
>I see no "etymological fallacy" but sure am willing to



Rolf Furuli

University of Oslo

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