Thanks for the kind follow-up! Some more thoughts and questions from me. I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue.
My position is that an interpretation of Genesis that fits the original audience and author includes these two beliefs:
- The firmament was solid and held the waters above it. The “windows” of heaven/the firmament were opened for rainfall.
- The firmament contained within it the lights of heaven.
Following this, one question is this: Is it an appropriate methodology of Biblical interpretation to first study the scientific literature and then look for ways to interpret the Biblical text to line up with what the scientists have discovered?
Or can we simply read the Bible on its own terms? If Genesis reflects a pre-scientific understanding of the atmosphere, does that reduce its credibility?
Or does it demonstrate that God revealed himself and his purposes within the understanding of the people who lived at that time?
Given that we worship Jesus, fully God and fully human, who was so willing to condescend to people’s understandings that he himself became a baby, spoke the languages of his day, and wore clothes appropriate to first century Judea, I am more inclined to see God meeting people where they are in order to bring each of us to a knowledge of him.
With this in mind, let me try to fairly present your position and some considerations that lead me to another conclusion. I welcome your correction on any point, particularly if I have misunderstood you.
If the firmament is what separates the waters, and half of the earth’s water is above the firmament, and there are 12,000 feet of water, then it seems we must conclude that at Creation, 6,000 feet of water was suspended above the firmament, all around the earth? Am I understanding you correctly?
That is, at Creation, we have half of the current ocean on earth, and another half-ocean above the firmament?
6,000 feet is 1,828.8 meters. If we calculate the weight of 1,828 cubic meters of water, we arrive at a weight of 4,030,049 pounds. That’s 2,015 US tons.
I’ll need to rely on a more brilliant person than myself to calculate the total weight of that much water distributed across the entirety of the earth’s atmosphere, but I think it would be an incredible amount of weight for the firmament to bear?
As best I understand it, light does not penetrate water very well. After we go down just 800m into the ocean, “there is no visible sunlight.” If we are talking about 1,828 meters of water suspended above the firmament, this would completely black out all light from the sun and stars from reaching the earth’s surface.
However, according to Genesis 1:14, the lights themselves are in the firmament:
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens…
Given these conclusions - and I very well may be misunderstanding you - I don’t know how you arrive at the understanding that the firmament is just the upper atmosphere or the sky?
How can God divide all the water down the middle, with half the water above the firmament, but the firmament not be a solid dome?
As for the best interpretation of 2 Corinthians 12:2, I again think we want to honor the Apostle Paul and seek to understand him on his own terms. It seems to me that we are reading into his words if we insert a scientific understanding of the atmosphere into his meaning of the third heaven?
Dr. Murray Harris of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School comments on this verse:
The eschatology of late Judaism drew a conceptual distinction between the first paradise (Ge 2 and 3), the last or eschatological paradise (cf. Rev 2:7), and the hidden paradise of the intervening period (cf. Lk 23:43; 2Co 12:4).
I look forward to hearing from you.