Underneath a Solid Sky


Critics of the Bible have often said that the writings of Genesis reflect an “unscientific view” of the universe — one that reflected the cosmology of the ancient world. One of these criticisms centers on the Hebrew word raqia used in the creation account of Genesis 1. Several Bible versions, such as the New King James, translate this word as firmament:
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day (Genesis 1:6–8).

The argument from these Bible critics is that the ancient Hebrews believed in a solid dome with the stars embedded in the dome. They say that the word firmament reflects the idea of firmness, and this reflects erroneous cosmology. Therefore, the Bible is not the inspired Word of God, and we don’t need to listen to its teaching.

However, other versions of the Bible, such as the New American Standard, translate raqia as “expanse”:

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day (Genesis 1:6–8, NASB).

But which is the correct term to use? Where did the word firmament come from? The Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures produced by Jewish scholars in the third century B.C. at the request of the Egyptian pharaoh) translates raqia into the Greek word stereoma, which connotes a solid structure. Apparently, the translators of the Septuagint were influenced by the Egyptian view of cosmology, which embraced the notion of the heavens being a stone vault (after all, they were doing their translation work in Egypt!). Later, this Greek connotation influenced Jerome to the extent that, when he produced his Latin Vulgate around A.D. 400, he used the Latin word firmamentum (meaning a strong or steadfast support). The King James translators merely transliterated this Latin word — and thus was born the firmament.

But what does the Hebrew word actually mean? The Hebrew noun raqia is derived from the verb raqa, which means “to spread abroad, stamp, or stretch.” This word is used in the Old Testament in several places for the stamping out of metal into a sheet. Gold is a good example of this process. Gold is malleable, and people use a hammer or other tool to flatten and stretch it into very thin sheets (e.g., Numbers 8:4). However, we must remember that the context always determines the meaning of a word, not just the etymology of the word or how it may be used in other verses.

So, we need to ask ourselves, why did the author use this word to describe the expanse? What property did the author intend to be understood by the word raqia? It is possible that the author intended to get across the solid nature of the expanse. However, what if the intended understanding was the stretched-out nature of the raqia rather than its hardness? This understanding is consistent with the terminology of many other verses, such as Psalm 104:2 and Isaiah 40:22, which speak of the stretching out of the heavens. The Hebrew word used in these verses for heaven is not raqia, but shamayim (literally “heavens”). However, in Genesis 1:8, God explicitly calls the expanse “heaven,” thus equating raqia with shamayim. If the stretched-out nature of the raqia is what is intended, then firmament may not be the best translation; expanse is more accurate.

The context of Genesis 1:6–8 and 14–22 makes it clear that Moses intended his readers to understand raqia simply as the sky (atmosphere and heavens or space) above the earth, as even the sun, moon, and stars were placed in them. In fact, in modern Hebrew raqia is the word used for sky, and there is no connotation of hardness.

Genesis 1 is perfectly worded for what the author wanted to communicate. It says nothing more than God created the sky and its constituent elements, while remaining completely silent about what those elements were. It really depends upon where one starts: if one starts with the presumption of a solid dome, one will read that into the text. However, if one starts with a modern conception of sky, the text permits that understanding as well, and hence, there is no contradiction.

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Time of Death


Why didn’t Adam and Eve die the moment they ate, as Genesis 2:17 implies?

The basis for this questions stems from Genesis 2:17, where Adam was told not to eat from forbidden fruit.
“. . . but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

Some have claimed that the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean what it says in Genesis 2:17 since Adam and Eve didn’t die the moment they ate. They argue that the passage really means “die,” not “surely die,” which is what gives the implication that Adam and Eve should have died that day.[3]

Die That Day or Begin to Die?

It is true that Adam and Eve didn’t die the exact day they ate the fruit (Genesis 5:4–5), as some seem to think Genesis 2:17 implies. So, the options are either that God was in error or man’s interpretation is in error. But God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18), so then fallible humans must be making the mistake. Let’s take a look at where the confusion begins to arise. The Hebrew phrase in English is more literally:

“Tree knowledge good evil eat day eat die (dying) die.”

The Hebrew is “die die” (muwth—muwth) with two different verb tenses (dying and die), which can be translated as “surely die” or literally as “dying you shall die,” indicating the beginning of dying — an ingressive sense — and finally culminating with death. At the point when they ate, Adam and Eve began to die and would return to dust (Genesis 3:19). If they were meant to die right then, God would have used muwth only once, as is used in the Hebrew to mean dead, died, or die, not beginning to die or surely die as die-die is used in Hebrew. Old Testament authors understood this and used the terms appropriately, but sometimes we lose a little during translation.

There are primarily two ways people translate: one is literal or word-for-word, and the other is dynamic equivalence or thought-for-thought. If this were translated word-for-word, it would be “dying die” or “die die,” which is difficult for English readers to understand since our grammatical construct doesn’t have a changed emphasis when a word is repeated. The Latin Vulgate by Jerome, which permits such grammatical constructs, does translate this as “dying die” or “dying you will die” (morte morieris). So most translations into English rightly use a more dynamic equivalence and say “surely die,” which implies that it isn’t an instant death but will certainly happen (surely).

What Is Yom Referring To?

With regard to the Hebrew word yom for “day” in Genesis 2:17, it refers directly to the following action — eating — not the latter “dying die.” For example, Solomon used an almost identical construct in 1 Kings 2:37 when referring to Shimei:

For on the day [yom] you go out and cross over the brook Kidron, you will know for certain that you shall surely [muwth] die [muwth]; your blood shall be on your own head (NASB).

This uses yom (day) and the dual muwth just as Genesis 2:17 did. In Genesis 2:17, yom referred to the action (eating) in the same way that yom refers the action here (go out and cross over). In neither case do they mean that was the particular day they would die, but the particular day they did what they weren’t supposed to do. Solomon also understood that it would not be a death on that particular day, but that Shimei’s days were numbered from that point. In other words, their (Adam and Shimei) actions on that day were what gave them the final death sentence — it was coming, and they would surely die as a result of their actions. Therefore, the day in Genesis 2:17 was referring to when they ate (disobeyed), and not the day they died.

THE DEMISE OF “SIMILARITY”


Part 1: THE SAMENESS ILLUSION

Part2: THE “SAMENESS” CLAIM SERVES MULTIPLE PURPOSES

Part 3 A: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-A

Part 3 B: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-B (Noah)

Part 3 C:  THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-(Ibraheem, Moosa & Issa)

Part 4: So Who is Allah

Part 5: HISTORICAL FLASHBACK

PUTTING “SAMENESS” TO REST

We have established from the primary sources of Islam that through the appropriation and recasting of our Biblical narrative in all of its elements, vocabulary and terminology, into the Qur’an itself, there has been a usurpation of the authentic Biblical narrative which is historically accurate, and proven by the fulfilment of its prophecies as well as substantiated by archaeology and related disciplines.

The Islamic counter narrative (with its various threads) has been cleverly woven together, by keeping some apparent similarities in the names and stories of the Biblical characters, thus giving the illusion that they are the same as the Biblical ones. Having done that, the Qur’an takes the bold step of declaring that “your God and our Allah are the same”. Built into that in the Qur’anic narrative is the unsubstantiated assertion that all previous “books” were earlier limited editions of the Qur’an, that their recipients were all Muslims, and that they already knew about Muhammad and paid allegiance to him by Allah’s command. The result is a narrative that replaces the Biblical narrative that points to Christ, to another pointing to Muhammad.

THE DEMISE OF “SIMILARITY”

HISTORICAL FLASHBACK


Part 1: THE SAMENESS ILLUSION

Part2: THE “SAMENESS” CLAIM SERVES MULTIPLE PURPOSES

Part 3 A: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-A

Part 3 B: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-B (Noah)

Part 3 C:  THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-(Ibraheem, Moosa & Issa)

Part 4: So Who is Allah?

On going series on the difference between Allah and Lord GOD of the Bible.

THE INITIAL CALL (DA’WA)

So, how did this all happen in real-time? And what are the implications for today?

Unfortunately, the only source that the Muslim scholars rely on to provide a presumed historical account of Muhammad’s career is given in various versions of what is termed the “Sirah” (purported biography). This was written well after his death at different times by different authors who relied heavily on oral traditions.

The Sirah is both authoritative, and considered to be somewhat speculative. In examining these belated chronicles of Muhammad’s career, it all started with his initial proclamations of absolute oneness of Allah, as in:

Surah 112, “Say: ‘He is Allah, One. Allah, the self-sufficient, besought of all. He neither begot, nor was begotten. Nor is there anyone equal to him.’”

Thus, Muhammad declares all others as forms of idolatry, and in particular, the divine Sonship of Christ, to be the highest form of idolatry and therefore an unforgivable sin (called Shirk in Islam).

HISTORICAL FLASHBACK

So Who is Allah?


Part 1: THE SAMENESS ILLUSION

Part2: THE “SAMENESS” CLAIM SERVES MULTIPLE PURPOSES

Part 3 A: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-A

Part 3 B: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-B (Noah)

Part 3 C:  THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-(Ibraheem, Moosa & Issa)

THE DILEMMA WITHIN ISLAM

Having answered the question from the perspective of whether or not Allah is one and the same, or even tangentially similar to the Lord God of the Bible with a resounding “no”, the question remains: then who is he?

So let us explore the central dilemma that has faced Muslim scholars throughout Islamic history—the dilemma of defining the nature of Allah, or more precisely in developing the so-called Doctrine of Allah, while proclaiming that he never reveals his nature, so his nature cannot be known and that any attempt to discover it is considered the highest level of Shirk (i.e. association of any deity or person with Allah).

They would develop the terms, (a) “Tawheed”, meaning absolute oneness or unity to describe Allah and (b) “Tanzeeh”, meaning that Allah is free of all anthropomorphisms and absolutely incomparable to anything or anyone – in other words, being pure and distinct from all associations (see Figure below). They would then state that Tawheed is the “true monotheism” from the foundation of the universe.

They would use Qur’anic verses and Hadith quotations to denounce the Triune God of the Bible as violating both the Tawheed and the Tanzeeh, and would produce as evidence a distorted definition of the “Trinity” calling it “Shirk”. Islam teaches that the “Trinity” is composed of three gods. There is a school of thought that posits that this trinity is composed of Allah, Maryam and Issa, inferring a physical union between Allah and Maryam. Even when explained that this is not the case, but that the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity is rather Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Muslim scholars would still regard it as polytheism and associating partners with Allah (Shirk). Despite being unable to tell us anything of substance about Allah, they still object and continue to vehemently refute the Biblical doctrine of the self-revealing Triune God

So Who is Allah?