True science in the KJV: Identifying the firmament in the creation account
Examples of correct modern science concepts in the KJV and its textual basis are presented in essay 11f on Jonah & his big-fish experience, essay 11g on dinosaurs and their relatives, essay 6b on birds & bats, essay 11a on one un- changing Bible, and essay 8 on the topic of wind-generation technology. Here we add another example of accuracy in science in the KJV & its textual basis, one that stands alone in regard to the implications of its unique context & grammar. This relates to the term firmament that some think was utilized in Hebrew tradition in a figurative sense to signify the vault or dome of heaven, as if it referred to a solid substance of great dimensions. Actually, the context in which firmament appears in Genesis enables us to understand the identity of the firmament as air in the first heaven and heavenly bodies in the second.
Gen.1:7,8 And 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...
Gen.1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
Gen.1:16-17 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.
Verse 7 indicates God began creating the earth in the form of a gigantic cloud of water vapor, inserting into it a firmament, the atmosphere, placing water vapor over and under the atmosphere. That under the atmosphere would be condensed to form liquid water, and ongoing creation of rock & soil within the body of water would push the water outward until it eventually settled in depressions of an irregular surface to form oceans, seas, etc. Water vapor over the atmosphere, acting as a canopy, would remain there until the time of the Great Flood when it would condense to contribute water to the Flood.
Now verse 8 says God called this firmament heaven, and verse 20 proves this refers to first heaven, the atmosphere, saying birds fly in the open firmament of heaven. Yet verse 17 says that God set the sun & moon in the firmament of the heaven, which might seem to place the sun in the atmosphere, but that would cause instant destruction of the earth. However, the Hebrew heaven is of dual plurality that refers to first heaven, the atmosphere, and to second heaven, outer space, and two construct chains (nouns joined by of) in the Hebrew distinguish them properly.*
* Hebrew nouns said to be dual for no reason actually have reasons. Dual Jerusalem can signify a pair, the old city & heaven's New Jerusalem. Dual Egypt can signify a pair, the nation & the world. Waters can be dual in Hebrew due to a pair of creation waters, vapor above and liquid below the 1st firmament. Waters for bodies of water is plural in English convention, for seas, rivers, springs etc. relate to variant geographic locale, but heaven, dual in Hebrew, is singular in English, for 1st heaven extends our view of the 2nd, the pair of heavens constituting one sky displaying heavenly bodies.
Contrasting the KJV & modern English versions
The KJV Gen.1:7 firmament is the atmosphere, with water vapor above & liquid below. The Gen.1:14 firmament of the heaven is the firmament of second heaven, heavenly bodies of outer space. Hebrew dual no. heaven signifies two heavens, each with a firmament, the latter as a part of its heaven due to a construct-possessive link (signified by of).* The Gen.1:14 let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven would be a command initiating nuclear reactions to make giant masses created in a dark state become luminous.
*Ross, A.P. 2001. Introducing Biblical Hebrew. Baker. para. 12.7
The atmosphere of 1st heaven is confined to the earth by attraction of gravity, and a 2nd heaven firmament, stars, planets, etc., are in fixed positions relative to each other by gravitational attraction balanced by relative motion. Psalm 19:1 says of this The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. The glory of heavenly bodies shows His handiwork in the firmament,* excluding essentially-empty outer space, the primary part of expanse/sky that replace firmament in modern versions.
* Attraction by gravity confines/anchors the atmosphere to the earth, giving to air a sense of the solidity of a firmament, despite its lateral motion. Heavenly bodies fixed in position relative to each other by gravity, balanced by relative motion, show a sense of solidity, all of these being joined together throughout a vast immeasurable distance, acting like a universal solid. Thus, the heavens do indeed declare the glory of God by His handiwork, the firmament!
In the NIV Gen.1:7-8, expanse, a property of the sky, is improperly made its equivalent, and here there is no sense of a substance separating water above from that below. In the NIV 1:14, expanse of the sky, a property of the sky, offers no sense of a component of the sky necessary to differentiate this ex- panse from that in Gen.1:7-8 where it applies only to the atmosphere; readers might conclude that the NIV places the sun & moon in the atmospheric expanse. Further, the NIV sky eliminates the dual no. of heaven(s).
The NASV Gen.1:14 expanse of the heavens rightly indicates the dual no. of heavens, but expanse, a property of the heavens, offers no sense of a compo- nent of the heavens needed to differentiate it from the expanse in Gen.1:7, allowing a notion that the sun & moon are located in the atmosphere. And creating an expanse in 1:7 is illogical, this essentially-empty space not being suitable to speak of as created, serving only as a background for all that is created.
Water above the firmament
A water-vapor canopy above the atmosphere is further indicated by windows of heaven opened in rain of the Great Flood (Gen.7:11), which would include collapse of a canopy contributing to earth’s first rain (Gen.2:5). Loss of the canopy and its notable shielding from excessive solar radiation explains a major cause of post-flood loss of great human longevity as life-limiting cancer from exposure to intense harmful radiation (gamma, UV & X-rays). Further, a canopy above the first firmament explains the evidence of a uniformly-warm early earth observed in fossil studies,* a greenhouse effect ending with the flood. Extreme earth heating expected of a substantial canopy thickness could be negated by a heat-shield effect of ice crystals in the upper canopy** Or the canopy thickness could have been modest, most of the rain of the Flood being provided by the evaporating warm groundwater in erupting fountains of the great deep (Gen.7:11 - tectonic activity could be the mechanism of eruption).
* Petersen, D.R. 1990. Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation. Creation Resource Foun- dation. p26-29. Fossilized specimens of plants now growing only in temperate climates have been found in frigid climates.
**An ice-crystal shield atop the atmosphere is possible and sustainable (see icr.org/ research/canopy/pdf -Temperature Profiles for an Optimized Water Vapor Canopy. L Vardiman). Small icy comets steadily enter the atmosphere, so water in the form of ice still exists above the atmosphere (smallcomets.physics. uiowa. edu)
The three firmaments
The first-heaven firmament is air enabling respiration, controlling earth tem- perature, creating wind, promoting rain, etc. Beyond this is a second-heaven firmament in outer space, including some very thin water vapor involved in creating heavenly bodies.* Water and it’s constituent hydrogen are in the sun, stars, comets, gas clouds,**etc., and they exist as extremely-scattered mole- cules in essentially-empty outer space.
* Humphries, D.R. Creation
Cosmologies Solve Spacecraft Mystery. ICR Acts & Facts. 10/07
**European Space Agency. Bul.91. Aug.1997 - and U. of Waterloo, ON.
Press Rel.115, 7/17/97.
The third heaven, God’s dwelling place, is the
basic firmament, and like air in the atmosphere, third heaven is invisible, seeming to lack substance, but it’s the
true substance, the firmament of the universe as the ultimate locale of the power of creation. Further, the Trinitarian person of God is reflected in the Creation since the elements of creation are triune in form. Water created first is liquid, solid and vapor below the firmament, extending in
various forms in the second heaven. And the physical first and second
heavens are created and superintended by the third heaven. And man’s favored
place in creation is signified by a triune Jerusalem, a present earthly one for a fallen
mankind and a present heavenly one superintending entrance of glorified saints into the final eternal New Jerusalem (Rev.21:2) where glorified saints will dwell with
Gen.1:8 firmament is heaven, the atmosphere, with water
vapor above & liquid below. The Gen.1:14 firmament of
the heaven is a second firmament of second heaven, outer space and its heavenly bodies. The Hebrew heaven, a
dual-no. noun, signifies two heavens, each with a firmament,
the latter as a part of its heaven, due to a construct-possessive
The first-heaven atmosphere is fixed in place by gravitational attraction, and a second-heaven firmament, planets, stars, etc., are located in fixed positions relative to each other, by gravitational attraction balanced by relative motion. The Gen.1:14 let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven would be a command to initiate nuclear reactions to make matter created in a dark state become luminous. Psalm 19 summarizes this aspect of Creation, saying The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork; here the heavenly bodies show His handiwork in the firmament, which does not include the essentially-empty dark barren outer space of expanse/sky that replaces firmament in modern versions. Further, the rendering of firmament, which refers to solid matter, is correct figuratively, due to a sense of solidity through an influence of gravity in confining/anchoring the atmosphere to the earth and causing the heavenly bodies to act as if they were a universal solid.