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Genesis and the Waters Above

The idea that the waters above or firmament in Genesis 1:6-8 indicated a canopy was used by biblical creationists a few decades ago, but knowledgeable creationists have mostly abandoned it [1]. The idea was promoted by Dr. Henry M. Morris, and the Institute for Creation Research still has some hints about it [2], but they were seeing problems with it in the late 1990s [3] and have pretty much put it out to pasture today [4]. I taught that idea myself. Part of its appeal is its explanatory power.

RGBStock / Sias van Schalkwyk

One of the challenges of creation science material (and scientific material in generally, if you study on it) is that things change — often quickly. Theories and conjectures are modified and even rejected, but someone may own a book or video from a few years earlier that influenced their thinking. Perhaps an underinformed lecturer is spreading outdated information. So, we have to cowboy up, get informed, and make changes when necessary.

Theories come and go, but biblical creationists know that the Word of God is forever, not speculations. We are not given much information about the expanse in Genesis. Creationists have tried to work it into their models, and some are considering ways of tweaking the water vapor canopy idea. Let them. However, the rest of us should leave it alone since it has both scientific and theological difficulties.

The ‘waters above’ is one of the most difficult aspects of the account of creation to elucidate, since there is so little biblical data. Many commentators have concluded that the expanse (‘firmament’ in some older translations) is the atmosphere and the ‘waters above’ the clouds, e.g. H.C. Leupold (1891–1972), Professor of Old Testament Exegesis in the Capital University Seminary, Columbus, Ohio:

“These clouds constitute the upper waters. The solid masses of water collected upon earth constitute the lower waters”.

Others disagree, because Genesis 1:17 says that the sun, moon, and stars (luminaries) were in the expanse, so the expanse must be interstellar space. . .

But the older view could still be right as ordinary phenomenological language: For example, ‘I saw a bird in the window’ doesn’t mean that the bird is in the pane of glass or even in the space enclosed by the window frame, but in the line of sight through this space.

To read the entire article, click on "Were ‘the waters’ above a vapour canopy?" Also of interest is a detailed analysis at "The Firmament: What Did God Create on Day 2?"

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