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The Bible:
Genesis 1


My approach to Genesis one is to first look at the Hebrew text to see what it means in Hebrew. Next I want to look at other translations from the Hebrew text to see how they understood the text. Then I want to look at how ancient Jewish writers and the early church fathers understood the text of Genesis one. Finally, I want to look at the ancient Near Eastern texts that will help us understand Genesis one.

Hebrew Text

The basic Hebrew text is called the Masoretic Text (MT), which is named after a group of scribes in the ninth century that preserved the text and added vowels and punctuation marks. The original Hebrew just had consonants, but a few consonants functioned as vowels. No one would know how to pronounce the Hebrew words unless vowel marks were added. This is a great help in understanding the text. (Hebrew Bible)

There were three different tasks of copying the OT. The Sopherim wrote the consonantal text. The Nakdanim added the vowel points and accents. The Masoretes added the marginal notes. An example is the Kethib (what is written) and Qere (what should be read). There are over 1,300 of these. The vowels of the Qere were written in the text of the Kethib. There are three different systems of vowel pointing, the Babylonian, Palestinian and Tiberian which the Masoretes created. The marginal notes called Masora were mainly written in Aramaic and were like a concordance.

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls the Nash Papyrus was the oldest known witness to the OT which dated to the first or second century AD. It contained the decalogue. The second oldest were the Cairo Geniza fragments (about 200,000) which date to the fifth century AD (See Princeton Geniza Project). Most of these are in the Cambridge University Library and the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The oldest known text of the OT was discovered in 1979 in tombs across the Hinnom valley from Jerusalem. The text is the benediction of Aaron (Numbers 6:24-26) written on a silver amulet from the 7th century BC (Hoerth 1998, 386).

The oldest surviving manuscript of the complete Bible is the Codex Leningradensis which dates to 1008 AD. A Facsimile edition of this great codex is now available (Leningrad Codex 1998, Eerdmans for $255). The BHS (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) follows this codex. The most comprehensive collection of old Hebrew manuscripts is in the Russian Public Library in St. Petersburg formerly called Leningrad. Another important text is the Aleppo Codex which is now in Jerusalem. The HUB (Hebrew University Bible) follows the Aleppo Codex. The Isaiah and Jeremiah editions are now available. For a more detailed study see The Text of the Old Testament by Ernst Wurthwein and Textual Criticism: Recovering the Text of the Hebrew Bible by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.

Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) like the magnificent Isaiah scroll closely follow the Masoretic Text (MT), but there are a few exceptions. For example, Psalm 136 is an alphabetical psalm. Each verse begins with the next letter in the alphabet, but "N" is missing in the MT. In the DSS it is there, so somehow a scribe left this verse out. Another important difference is in I Samuel 11 where the MT is shortened. The longer reading in the DSS explains what happens in this chapter.

Three of the most important Biblical texts from Qumran are: (1) The Isaiah Scroll from Cave 1 which has two different text types, with about 1,375 differences from the MT. (2) The Habakkuk Commentary from Cave 1 which uses the pesher method of interpretation, and the name Yahweh is written in paleo-Hebrew. (3) The Psalm scroll from Cave 11 contains 41 canonical psalms and 7 apocryphal psalms mixed in among them. The order of the psalms differs largely from the MT (Wurthwein 1979, 32).

Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch (SP), is an important witness to the Hebrew text. It is preserved in ancient Hebrew called "paleo-Hebrew," whereas the Masoretic Text (MT) is in Aramaic block script. Some places differ from the MT especially where to worship, but when the SP agrees with the Septuagint it can be an important alternate reading. There are 1900 such instances (Wurthwein 1979, 43). The only striking difference in Genesis is the chronology in chapters 5 and 11.

The Samaritan Targum translates the Samaritan Pentateuch into Aramaic which can show us how they understood the text. There was no official recension of this targum so surviving manuscripts have their own text.


The oldest and most important translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (OT) is the Septuagint (LXX). It translated the Hebrew into Greek in the third century BC in Alexandria, Egypt. The Letter to Aristide tells the story how the Egyptian king Ptolemy II (285-247 BC) ordered his librarian, Demetrius to collect all the books of the world. Demetrius thought there should be a Greek translation of the Torah so 72 Jews, six from each tribe, were sent to translate the Torah into Greek which they did in 72 days (Charlesworth 1985, 7-34).

There are a number of differences in the LXX from the Masoretic Text (MT), most noticeable is the Book of Jeremiah where the LXX is a third shorter. The chronology in Genesis is also very different than the MT. (Finegan 1998, 195; Larsson 1983, 401-409). Larsson believes that the translators of the LXX tried to harmonize the Biblical chronology with the Egyptian chronology of Manetho by adding 100 years to the patriarchs ages to push back the time of the flood before the first Egyptian dynasty because there is no record of a great flood. Early Christian chronologists emphasized the perfect agreement of Manetho with the LXX (Larsson, 403-4). It is interesting to see how they understood Genesis by the way they translated the text.

There several other important Greek translations that came in the 2nd century AD and later. There is Aquila's (126 AD) translation of the OT into Greek which was upheld by the Jews to counteract the Christian's use and interpretation of the LXX. It is a very literal translation which can be helpful in textual criticism. Aquila might be identified with Onqelos who complied the Targum on the Pentateuch. Symmachus' translation is known for its literary elegance, just the opposite of Aquila's harsh literalness. Theodotion's translation of the OT into Greek is half way between these two extremes. He is known for his transliterations instead of translating. Irenaeus states that Theodotion was an Ephesian and a proselyte to Judaism. Theodotion's translation of Daniel supplanted the original LXX version which was quite different. The Book of Hebrews (11:33=Daniel 6:23) and Revelation both agree with Theodotion's translation (Origen's Hexapla contained these translations). It is also interesting to compare the LXX with New Testament quotations of Old Testament.


The targums are the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew texts. As a result of the Babylonian captivity the Jews learned Aramaic and forgot Hebrew. From the conquest of Cyrus the Great to the conquest of Alexander the Great the lingua franca of the day was Aramaic. Even in the New Testament Jesus most likely spoke Aramaic, the common language of Palestine at that time. The book of Matthew was probably originally written in Aramaic. I think this accounts for the differences in the other synoptic gospels. It is very interesting to see how the Targums translated and explained the OT.

The block script of Aramaic was adopted for writing the Hebrew text. This might have been to distinguish it from the Samaritan Pentateuch. In some of the Dead Sea Scrolls the name of God was written in Paleo-Hebrew while the rest of the text was in Aramaic block script.

The Targums can be divided geographically into two parts; Palestinian targums, and the Babylonian targums. There are three major Palestinian targums; Targum Neofiti I, Fragment Targum (Jerusalem II), and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (Jerusalem I). There are two major Babylonian targums; Targum Onkelos for the Pentateuch, and Targum Jonathan for the Prophets. These two are authoritative for Judaism. These targums have been purged of midrashic additions.

New Testament Quotation

Another important source is the New Testament (NT) when it quotes the OT. Most quotes are from the LXX which was the Bible of the NT church. From Alexander the Great onward Classical Greek became the most important language. At the time of the NT an easier "Koine" Greek was spoken which the NT is written. Before other ancient Greek manuscripts were discovered, it was thought that the NT was written in a special Holy Ghost language. The gospel of Matthew was most likely originally written in Aramaic then translated back into Greek. This would explain the similarities and differences it has with the other gospels. See web site New Testament Greek for resources.

There are about 5,000 Greek manuscripts which contain part or all of the NT. There are three different kinds of manuscripts: (1) papyri, (2) uncials (written in large capital Greek letters), and (3) minuscules (written in small Greek letters). There are also three different text types: (1) Western, (2) Caesarean, and (3) Byzantine.

The two most important collections of papyri were obtained by Mr. Chester Beatty of London in 1930-31 and by Mr. Martin Bodmer of Geneva in 1955-56. The oldest know papyrus fragment of the NT is p52 which contains John 18:31-33, 37-38. It was obtained by Bernard Grenfell in Egypt around 1920. It was discovered by C.H. Roberts in 1934 among other papyri in the John Rylands Library at Manchester (Metzger 1964, 38).

The two most important uncials are A and B. A is also know as codex Sinaiticus since it was discovered at the monastery of St. Catharine on Mount Sinai by Dr. Constantin von Tischendorf in 1844. B is also called codex Vaticanus because it is housed in the great Vatican Library at Rome. Both date to about the 4th century AD. Another important discovery were Greek papyri at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt.

Jewish Literature

Ancient Jewish writers are another important source. The two major ones are Josephus and Philo. There are also pseudepigrapha writings, apocryphal writings, and Rabbinic literature.


Josephus Flavius was born about 37 AD in Jerusalem. He was a general in Galilee in the Judean army in 67-68 AD. He went over to the Roman army to avoid death. He became a Roman prisoner and interpreter for the Roman army. He wrote The Jewish War around 75 AD, Jewish Antiquities in 93 AD, Against Apion, and The Life around 95 AD. In Jewish Antiquities Josephus starts from Genesis chapter one to explain the history of the Jews to his present time. He offers interesting insight on how the Jews understood Genesis around the time of Christ and his apostles.


Philo the Jew or Philo of Alexandria lived from about 20 BC to about 50 AD. He came from a wealth prominent family in Alexandria, Egypt. He was well educated. His brother Alexander held various offices for Rome. Alexander's son Marcus, Philo's nephew married Bernice, the daughter of Herod Agrippa I. Bernice is mentioned in Acts 25:13, 23; 26:30. Alexander's other son Tiberius became procurator of Judaea from 46 to 48 AD.

Philo is important in understanding first century AD Hellenistic Judaism and NT writings of Paul, John (logos) and Hebrews (shadow; see Williamson 1970; Attridge 1989, 29). Philo is considered to be a Middle Platonist (Philo 1993). He is also know for his allegorical interpretations. Philo wrote On the Creation (De Opificio Mundi) which helps us understand his view of Genesis. He also wrote Questions and Answers on Genesis, but this only starts with chapter two of Genesis.


Pseudepigrapha is the transliteration of the Greek plural noun that means "with false superscription" (Charlesworth 1983, xxv). This refers to a collection of writings that are falsely attributed to an important Bible character. Most of these writings were written between 200 BC and 200 AD. The Apocrypha are the books preserved in Greek, but not Hebrew that are included in the canon of the OT by the Roman Catholic Church. Ecclesiasticus also called the Wisdom of Ben Sirach has a description of God's creation in Chapter 43.

The Book of Jubilees is the supposed account of events from creation to Moses. Chapter two tells of the six day creation of the world. Events are dated according to their jubilee year. The book defends the 364 day calendar year which assures that festivals fall on the same day of the year. The date of this book is about 100 BC (Charlesworth 1985, 35-142).

The Book of Enoch contains vivid descriptions of Enoch's journeys through the universe. There are 10 heavens that one must pass through to where God dwells. He also tours earth and Sheol. Fragments of I Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The 3 (Greek Apocalypse of) Baruch tells about Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah who weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. God sends an angel to comfort and guide him through the heavens. Five heavens are graphically described, but there were probably a total of seven heavens because the work is incomplete, and Origen states that Baruch refers to seven heavens (Origen 1936, 91; Charlesworth 1983, 653).

Rabinic Literature

According to Jewish tradition, Ezra founded the "Great Assembly" of teachers who would preserve the oral traditions. Towards the middle of the third century BC the Great Assembly ceased and another organization the "Sanhedrin" took charge of the affairs of the community. Hillel started the school of Tannaim (meaning Teachers) with a lenient view of the law. His contemporary Shammai also started a school, but was stricter in his views of the law. Judah the son of the great Simeon Gamaliel (Acts 5:34, and teacher of Paul, Acts 22:3), complied the Mishnah about 200 AD which is like the official textbook of the torah. Mishnah is from the root meaning "to repeat" the oral teaching. The Mishnah is arranged in six sections called Sedarim (Orders), each Order has a number of Massichtoth (Tractates). The Tosifta (Supplement) is another work that has additional teaching that was not as authoritative as the Mishnah. Commentary about the Mishnah accumulated which was called Gemara (completion) because it completes the Mishnah. The Mishnah together with the Gemara is called the Talmud. Two Talmuds were complied; the Palestinian Talmud written in Western Aramaic (similar in Biblical Aramaic), and the Babylonian Talmud written in Eastern Aramaic. Miscellaneous material of the Talmud is divided into subject matter into two categories known as Halachah and Haggadah. The Halachah is the section of the Mishnah and Gemara that deals with the law and how to keep it. The Haggadah deals with all non-legal sections, the moral lessons and opinions of the teachers. The Talmud was completed about 600 AD.

The oldest and first complete Jewish commentary on Genesis is Genesis Rabbah. It was complied about 400 AD, but includes teachings much earlier. Verses outside Genesis are brought in to further explain Genesis. There are comments, questions, and arguments from the great Rabbis about the meaning of each verse in Genesis one.

Church Fathers

The early church fathers is another source for OT quotations, and how they understood the OT text. We will now look at some of the important early church fathers who wrote major books on Genesis.

Origen was born about 185 AD in Alexandria. He was a great scholar and author. His greatest work was the Hexapla which put in parallel columns the Hebrew text of the OT, a Greek transliteration, the Greek translation of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, and the LXX. In his major work on theology called First Principles, he expounds on creation. He also wrote homilies on Genesis and Psalms. He is known for his allegorical interpretation of scripture.

Basil preached one of the oldest series of sermons (nine in all) on six days of creation called the Hexaemeron. These homilies were held in high esteem by the early church fathers. St. Basil spoke these sermons extemporaneously to the elite at Caesarea in Cappadocian. Along with his brother Gregory of Nyssa and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus they are know as the "Cappadocian Fathers." Basil was born about 330 AD and succeeded Eusebius as bishop of Caesarea in 370 and died in 379 AD.

Ambrose in 374 was elected bishop of Milan, Italy. He even borrowed from St. Basil's sermons to develop his own nine homilies on the six days of creation called the Hexameron.

Jerome was born about 345 AD. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damascus around 382 to translate the Bible into Latin. In 386 he settled in Bethlehem in seclusion to complete his translation. It took him 23 years to do this. It is called the Vulgate. St. Jerome also wrote Hebrew Questions on Genesis. He died in 420 AD.

Augustine was born in 354 AD in Northern Africa. He became a follower of Manicheism for nine years before becoming disillusioned with it. St. Ambrose led him to orthodox faith. In 396 he became the bishop of Hippo. His early work is Confessions then later the City of God. Less well known is his three works on Genesis. The first one, On Genesis Against the Manichees, was written about 389 AD. The second one, On the Literal Interpretation of Genesis: An Unfinished Book, was written about 393 AD, but not finished. The third and longest (12 books) is On Genesis Literally Interpreted which was written after 404 AD. In the last three books of his Confessions he talks about Genesis and lastly again in the eleventh book of the City of God which was written about 417 AD. He died in 430 AD.


The Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome from the original languages was declared to be the official text of the Roman Catholic Church by the Council of Trent in 1546. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I (366-384). Augustine was disturbed at Jerome for setting aside the inspired LXX to go back to the original Hebrew text that no one else could understand (The City of God 18,43).

The Old Latin versions were translated from the LXX which are important witnesses to the LXX before its recensions (revisions). There are two main groups of Old Latin texts; African and European.


The next important step is understanding the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts and culture that relates to the Bible. Ugaritic is the closest language to Hebrew. A number of Ugaritic words are the same as Hebrew. It can help us understand words that are unclear in Hebrew.

In the spring of 1928 an Syrian farmer was plowing his field when he uncovered a stone over a grave. Archaeologists were called in which led to the discovery of the near by ancient city of Ugarit, modern day Ras Shamra (Curtis 1985, 18; Craigie 1983, 7). Many clay tablets were uncovered which were written in cuneiform (Latin for "wedge shaped", letters) in a language called "Ugaritic." There are a number of texts grouped together called the Baal Cycle. It gives us much information about the Canaanite religion.


Another important language is Akkadian. It is also written in cuneiform. Henry Rawlinson went to work for the East India Company in 1827 where he learned Persian. He then went to Persia as a military advisor. In 1835 he copied the cuneiform from the cliffs at the Rock of Behistun. In 1837 he sent his first translation to London (Millard 1985, 28-31). There were three different languages on the Rock of Behistun, Old Persian (Akkadian), Elamite, and Sumerian.

There are very important similar stories to Genesis 1-11 written in Akkadian. There is Enuna Elish which is about Marduk assuming the supreme position in the pantheon. The 7th tablet tells how Marduk created the world. Atra-Hasis is a cosmological epic that tells of the creation of the world, early human history, and a great flood. The Gilgamesh Epic is about the adventures of Gilgamesh, ruler of Uruk He meets Utnapishtim the only survivor of the great flood.


Sumerian is probably the oldest known language. About 3000 BC the Sumerians started using abbreviated pictograms by pressing a reed stylus into clay tablets (Von Sodon 1994, 32-33). It is syllabic language which basically developed from simplified pictograms which became abstract. Many signs have multiple word and phonetic meanings so determinatives were used. The number of signs was later reduced to about 600. It is a very complex language.

Sumerian has stories similar to Genesis 1-11. Some the important texts are: Eridu Genesis which parallels Genesis 1-11, The Sumerian King List which is similar to Genesis 5, The Sumerian Flood Story, The Song of the Hoe which tells about the creation of the world and man, Enki and Ninmah which is the earliest text dealing with man's creation, Emerkar and the Lord of Aratta which deals with times before civilization began.


Egyptian Hieroglyphics also can be helpful. Some creation stories are similar to Genesis, as well as their view of the world. Egyptian wisdom literature is also similar to the book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon.

With the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by a soldier of Napoleon's army, Champollion was able to decipher the ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics in 1822 (Millard 1985, 26-7).

There are several stages in the development of the Egyptian language. Old Egyptian was used from Dynasties I-VIII. An example is the Pyramid Texts. Middle Egyptian was used from Dynasties IX-XI. Late Egyptian was used from Dynasties XVII-XXIV. A cursive writing known as Hieratic (Greek meaning "priestly") was used for documents which is like Egyptian shorthand. Later Demotic (Greek meaning "popular") emerged which is a rapid form of Hieraitic which was used in books and documents from Dynasties XXV (715 BC) to late Roman times (470 AD).

Finally, the early Egyptian Christians used Coptic which is Egyptian written with the Greek alphabet. There were three dialects of Coptic; Akhmimic used in upper Egypt which gave way to Saidic, and Bohairic used in all of Egypt. The Nag Hammadi papyri was written in Coptic and gives us a window into the beliefs of the Gnostics which means "knowledge" (Robinson, 1977). The most famous book is the Gospel of Thomas which has Gnostic sayings of Jesus (Guillaumont et al, 1959).


Greek literature can be very helpful in Biblical studies, especially the NT. Most of the great literature is written in Classical Greek which is more formal than Koine Greek.

Homer is credited with composing the Iliad and the Odyssey probably some time before 700 BC (Oxford Classical Dictionary-OCD1949, 435). Tradition tells us that Homer was a blind bard who probably sang lays for the courts of princes for a living.

Hesiod is said by Herodotus to be contemporary with Homer, but was probably later in the 5th or 4th centuries BC. Hesiod with his father and brother, Perses migrated from Aeolis to Greece at Ascra. Hesiod wrote Work of Days in which he addresses his brother about his dispute and that every man should work for a living. He tells of the Five Ages of the World, and then gives advise on farming. Another important work by Hesiod is the Theogony which tells of the creation of the world and gods from Chaos and Gaea by procreation.

Plato lived from about 429 to 347 BC. He wrote 25 dialogues and the Apology. Most important for this study in Genesis one is Plato's dialogue called Timaeus which is about natural science. Plato describes how the creator made the world from a single spherical living thing which has body and soul made after the ideal model (OCD, 699).

Aristotle lived from about 384 to 322 BC. His father was a physician. At age 17 he entered Plato's school and stayed until Plato was succeeded by Speusippus. Later he tutored Alexander the Great and founded his own school. Two of the most important works by Aristotle for our studies are On the Heavens (De Caelo) and Meteorology (Meteorologica).

Ancient Near East

There are several other languages that are not as helpful at the present time, but sometimes have interesting clues. Ebliate is a very difficult language that they are still trying to translate. Over 24,000 tablets have been found. Hittite is another language that seems more useful for the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

To sum it up, Akkadian was the lingua franca for most of the OT period. From Cyrus the Great Aramaic became the world trade language. From Alexander the Great onward Greek became the most important language. At the time of the NT an easier Hellenistic "Koine" Greek was spoken which the NT is written. With Roman domination Latin came into prominence which the church fathers used in the Middle Ages.

Ex nihilo

Ex nihilo is a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing." It is a theological term that refers to creation not being made out of pre-existing matter.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature

There are at least four major types of creation stories in the ancient Near East; creation by begetting, or spilling semen, creation by battle; creation by action (of separation); and creation by word. There is no express mention of ex nihilo creation. Many accounts assume a watery darkness before creation as does Genesis 1:2. Some start out "When there was not yet" as in Genesis Two (Westermann, 1994, 43). These stories will be discussed further in another chapter.

Jewish Literature

The first mention of "out of nothing" is in 2 Maccabees 7:28 which says, "look upon heaven and earth and all that is in them: and consider that God made them out of nothing, and mankind also" (Douay Version, or DV). The Greek is ex ouk onton. This phrase "out of nothing" is best understood as "out of non-being" or "out of invisible matter" because at that time they still believed in the preexistence of matter. Matter was consider eternal (Goldstein, 1983, 307-10).

The Wisdom of Solomon 11:17 states, "For thy almighty hand which made the world of matter without form" (DV). This verse teaches that God made the world out of formless (eternal) matter (Winston, 1971-2, 185-202; Goldstein, 1984, 127-35). In chapter 7:25 wisdom is seen as a "pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God" (DV).

Philo sees Genesis 1:1-3 through platonic eyes. This is the creation of the invisible world of ideas (On the Creation, 26-37, compare Platoís Timaeus 29E). The book of Hebrews also seems to follow platonic ideas. The visible world comes from invisible matter (Heb. 11:3). Philo sees preexistent matter alongside of God at the beginning. This invisible matter was eternal (On the Creation, 12). God is the active principle, the formless matter is the passive principle (May, 10). Philo even uses the phrase ek mh ontwn, meaning "out of non-being," and not "out of nothing" (Allegorical Interpretation III. 10). Clearly, there is no ex nihilo creation in Philo.

In Genesis Rabbah Rabban Gamaliel explains by quoting other scripture that everything mentioned in Genesis 1:2 was created, therefore, denying that unformed matter was used by God to create the world. May concludes, "a firm, unambiguously formulated doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is not worked out in ancient Jewry" (1994, 23).

In the Middle Ages Moses Mainmonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed. He gives three main views of Creation: The scriptural view that the world was created out of nothing; the platonic view that God can not create matter out of absolute non-existence, matter must be eternal; and finally the aristotelian view that agrees with Plato that matter can not be created, but added that it can also not be destroyed, time and motion of the heavens are eternal (Trans. By Friedlander, 1956, 171-73; Burrell and McGinn, 1990, 128). Another great Jewish thinker who came after Maimonides was Gersonides (1288-1344 AD) Gersonides asked some probing questions like "When were the waters created?" Because there was no mention in Genesis of the creation of water, he rejected the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (Burrell and McGinn, 6; Staub, 1982).

New Testament

Hebrews 11:3 states, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (KJV). It seems here that God made the world out of invisible matter (Romans 1:20), or as Plato would say, "inert gas." It seems that the writer of Hebrews is understanding Genesis 1:2 as the LXX did because tohu is translated as "unseen" or "invisible." Is the "word of God" in Hebrews 11:3 the Logos that created the world in John 1:1-3? It may also be similar to Platoís world of ideas, the logos, and even more closely to Philoís use of logos.

Romans 4:17 says, "the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they are" (NIV). This is in the context of the birth of Isaac. A similar comparison is found in Xenophonís Memorabilia that parents "bring forth their children out of non-being" (II,2.3; May, 8). This does not mean that children are creatio ex nihilo.

Early Church Fathers

The early church fathers seem to believe the platonic idea of eternal matter from which God fashioned the world. Justin Martyr is an example. In The First Apology of Justin he says, "He in the beginning did of His goodness, for manís sake, created all things out of unformed matter" (Chapter 10). Justin and Plato in Timaeus both agree that everything came into being through God (Apology I:20, 4). Justin says that Plato took his ideas about God making the world out of unformed matter from Genesis. Justin states, "Plato borrowed his statement that God, having altered matter which was shapeless, made the world (Apology I:59). The world was made out of preexistent matter.

The successor of Justin Martyr was Athenagoras who was an Athenian philosopher who became a Christian. His Apology or Embassy was presented to Emperors Aurelius and Commodus about 177 AD. He explicitly believed in the pre-existence of matter (Chadwick 1966, 12, 47).

Clement of Alexandria three times "declares that the world is made 'out of nothing', but in each case the phrase he employs is ek me ontos, not ex ouk ontos; that is to say, it is made not from that which is absolutely non-existent, but from relative non-being or unformed matter" (Chadwick 1966, 46).

May in his book Creatio ex Nihilo argues very persuasively for the second century AD development of the doctrine of "creation out of nothing" (1994). It was not until the second century AD that the church fathers saw a theological problem with eternal matter. It was their conflict with the Gnostic and middle platonists that developed the idea of God creating "out of nothing."

Genesis One

I see Genesis one as a polemic against the surrounding heathen nations, who worshipped many gods. It also seems to be etiologically in nature, explaining the Sabbath as a day of rest. One must understand the ancient Near Eastern background in order to properly interpret Genesis. The genre of Genesis one seems to be half way between poetry and prose. Cassuto argues that Genesis one goes back to an original poetic prototype (1961, 8, 10). Genesis two seems to reflect an earlier tradition than Genesis one. Genesis one demythologizes ancient creation stories.

I see it as wrong to try to draw out scientific data about the creation of the universe from Genesis one. Both young-earth creationists and old-earth creationists are guilty of pouring modern scientific terms back into Genesis. God could have written in scientific terms like E=Mc2, but He did not. I believe God had to accommodate himself to our limited knowledge, and limited language to communicate with us. God did not choose to use technical scientific terms to communicate with us. God used the common language, and familiar phrases of their day. God could have told us that the sun does not rise nor set, but that the earth is spinning around the sun. God instead used the common language of sunrise and sunset which was literal to the writers back then, but which modern concordists excuse as phenomenal language that we still use today. God is trying to communicate absolute spiritual truths, not shifting scientific theories.

Godís purpose of inspiration is clearly stated in II Timothy 3:16 which says that the Bible is inspired by God so that it is profitable for instruction in righteousness not instruction in science. To take a poem and use it as a scientific text is wrong. It is like trying to use a hammer as a screwdriver. It does not work. One must understand the historical context and meaning of the original language that the Bible was written in. Let us now look at Genesis 1:1.

Genesis 1:1

Summary Statement

The opening verse of Genesis is still a puzzle. There are two major ways to understand this verse. Is it an independent clause, or a dependent clause? If it is an independent clause, is it a summary statement or heading, or is it the creation of matter out of nothing? If it is a dependent clause, what would it modify, verse two or three? If it is an independent clause it would most likely be a summary statement rather than a heading like in the Psalms. The concept of creation out of nothing, ex nihilo, did not develop until the second century AD in reaction to gnosticism (May, 1994).

The Masoretic punctuation of בראשת with a tipha favors verse one as an independent clause. Ancient translations like the LXX imply that verse one is an independent clause. The New Testament in John 1:1 also understands verse one as an independent clause. In the Middle Ages verse one was seen as a dependent clause. Westermann sees the first verse as a heading to a hymn of praise to God for creating the universe which has been reshaped into a sentence (1984, 94).

Even in Ugaritic a summary statement is given, then the details of the story are told. In the Baal Cycle it tells how the palace of Baal was built. First a summary statement is given, then the details. Gibson translates, "[Quickly] his mansion was built, [quickly] his palace was raised" (1978, 62; KTU 1.4 VI 16-17). Choice cedar trees from Lebanon are brought. A fire is set that burns for 6 days, and on the 7th day it ends. The fire turned the silver into ingots and the gold into gold bricks. Some scholars think the building of Baalís palace is the building of the universe (Fisher, 1965, 313-24).

By comparing Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:4 that starts with "when," a dependent clause, and the parallel passage in Hosea 1:2, and other ancient Near Eastern creation stories like Enuma Elish, a strong case is made for taking the first verse of Genesis as a temporal dependent clause modifying verse three (Speiser, 1982, 12; Andersen, 1987, 140-1). Even if it is a independent clause, I think the understanding of it is clearer, if I translate it as a dependent clause in English. I would translate it into English as, "(In the beginning) when God began to separate (or order) the heavens and the earth." Whether one takes Genesis 1:1 as a dependent or independent clause, one thing is certain, creation does not start until verse 3 with light.

In Beginning

Hebrew Text

בראשת - In beginning

The first phrase in Hebrew, בראשת, is in a very peculiar construct state with no noun to modify because it is unarticulated which means it does not have the article "the" modifying it. As a construct it would be translated as a temporal phrase "when God began to create" making Genesis 1:1 an incomplete sentence dependent on the next clause (Andersen, 1987, 140; Speiser, 1982, 12). It still can be taken as absolute in meaning even if there is no article (see Isa. 46:10; Eichrodt, 1984, 66), but I think the reasons that there is no article is so that it will be normally taken as a temporal phrase as in Hosea 1:2 which is an almost exact parallel, and for literary assonance, or alliteration (Bullinger, 1968, 171). The first three letters are arb which are exactly the same in the next word arb "he created" (Wenham, 1987, 14). arb בראשת sounds pleasant to the hearers, and is easier to remember. This would also indicate the poetical nature of this chapter. The Samaritan Pentateuch is even closer in rhythm, Barashith Bara (BHS, Kahle, 1959, 318). Another important parallel is with Genesis 2:4b-6 which also starts with a temporal phrase followed by negative statements as is the case with ANE creation stories like Enuma Elish. The opening paragraph of Genesis depicts the situation before creation begins in verse 3. It does not tell us the ultimate origin of the darkness or the abyss. I think Delitzsch is correct in the meaning of the first verse when he says, "His point is not that heaven and earth had a beginning, but that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the beginning of all history" (Westermann, 1994, 98).

The root word for tyvar is var (rosh) which literally means "head." Some have tried to identify Rosh in Ezekiel 38:2 (chief prince) with Russia, but the word "Russia" comes from Old Russian Rus meaning "Norsemen" from the Old Norse Rothsmenn meaning "sea-farers" not from the Hebrew var (American Heritage Dictionary 1979, 1137).

Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth" (NIV). This is creating by spoken word which similar to the Egyptian creation story of Ptah. The targums seem to personalize the "word" as an emanation of God which is further developed by Philo under the influence of Plato and becomes the Logos of John 1:1. Could not the wind of God be seen as the breath of God speaking the words of God causing creation?

In the book of Proverbs tyvarb is interpreted as "wisdom" (1:7, 3:19, 8:22, also Jer. 10:12). Proverbs 3:19 says, "The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth" (KJV). This seems to reflect the Frag. Targum translation. The earliest Jewish commentary on the book of Genesis is Genesis Rabbah (400 AD) which begins with the interjection of Proverbs 8:30 which probably meant that the Torah was at the beginning to show the process of creation. Using Proverbs 8:22 as a proof text, tyvarb is equated with the Torah (Neusner, 1985, 2).

Dead Sea Scrolls

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls their are two fragments, 4Qgenb and 4Qgeng that record the opening verses of Genesis. There is not a single textual variant from the MT (Ulrich et al, 1994, 31). There is however, a difference in the way the divisions of the text are noted. In the MT the major divisions are marked by (P) after verse 5,8,19,23, but in 4Qgenb the rest of the line is left blank.


The LXX translates בראשת as a prepositional phrase modifying the verb arb (created), which I literally translate "In beginning the God made the heaven and the earth" (Wevers, 1993, 1). The Hebrew בראשת (beginning) is unarticulated which means it does not have the article "the" modifying it; therefore, the LXX translates it with no article as En arch, which literally means "in a beginning." This same phrase is found in the NT unarticulated in John 1:1 and I John 1:1 which follow the LXX rendering of בראשת. Both the LXX and the NT take the first verse as a main clause. Wevers states that the LXX translation of verse one is to be taken as "a superscription to the creation account" (1993, 4). Aqullaís translation is very literal en kefalaiw meaning "in head" (Wevers, 1974, 75; 1993, 1). This may be a reaction to the early Christianís translation of "In the Son."

New Testament

John 1:1 follows the LXX in translating בראשת as unarticulated. Peter Borgen argues, "Johnís prologue is essentially a targumic exposition of Gen.1:1-5" (Hamilton, 1990, 144). Burney believes that Colossians 1:16-18 is a midrashic exposition of the first word of Genesis 1:1, בראשת (Hamilton, 1990, 145). Paul connects the tyvar of Genesis 1:1 and the "wisdom" in Proverbs 8:22 with Christ which Genesis Rabbah interprets as the "torah" (I.I,2.H; Neusner, 1985, 2).

Aramaic Texts

tyvar was thought to be the name for "Wisdom" in Proverbs 8:22, therefore the Fragment-Targums say, "With wisdom the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth" (Klein, 19890, 3). This must be a summary statement since creation is not perfected until the 7th day (Genesis 2:1).

The Targum of Onkelos from Babylon which is authoritative for Judaism says, "In Antiquity the Lord created the heavens and the earth" (Grossfeld, 1988, 42). This translation of tyvarb may indicate that no precise order of creation was intended.

The Targum Neofiti I from Palestine translates, "From the beginning with wisdom the Memra (Word) of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth" (McNamara, 1992, 52). In this text both meanings of בראשת are separated to form a doublet.

The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan also from Palestine literally says, "From the beginning the Lord created the heavens and the earth" (Maher, 1992, 16). Bowker concludes that all three major targums change the Hebrew word in different ways (1969, 100).

Jewish Literature

Josephus in his book Jewish Antiquities translates בראשת with no article. He sees creation of heaven and earth in verse one, but the earth is hidden by thick darkness.

Philo in his treatise On the Creation states, "In the beginning he created, is equivalent to 'first of all he created the heaven'" (Book I:27). He does not see this as a time indicator, but as a number in sequential order of importance (Wolfson, 1947, 320) .In Genesis Rabbah (I.X) there is a big discussion on why the first letter in the OT is b and not a. Genesis Rabbah also states, "the word for 'beginning' refers only to the Torah, as Scripture says, 'The Lord made me as the beginning of his way'" (Proverbs 8:22; Book I.I.2.H; Neusner 1985, 2). Proverbs 8:22 refers to "wisdom" which the Rabbis interpreted as the "Torah." According to Morris Jastrow Proverbs 8 is "a poetical paraphrase of the account of Creation in Genesis" (Landes 1974, 279), but Landes concludes that Proverbs 8 and Genesis 1 are not directly related in language, style, and purpose (1974, 289-90). It is interesting to note that the Rabbis were forbidden to discuss the Ma'aseh Bere'sit (Account of Creation) in public. The Mishnah states, "the Account of Creation may not be expounded before two or more persons, nor the Chariot before even one, unless he is a scholar who understands of his own knowledge" (m.hag. 2:1; Charlesworth, 1983, 230; Danby, 1933, 213). The Account of the Chariot (Maíaseh Merkabah) which are descriptions about the heavens like the ascension of Enoch into heaven, was banned (see 2 Cor. 12:1-7 where Paul is caught up into the third heaven).The most extensive passage about creation in the Babylonian Talmud is Hagigah 11b-16a (Epstein, 1935, 59). It also warns of discussions "concerning the pre-creation period" (Ibid, 62).

In the Middle Ages Rashi (a medieval rabbi) takes בראשת as a temporal phrase meaning "At the beginning of his creating" (Bowker, 1969, 101).

The Vulgate

Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation says, "In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram" which the Douay Version translates, "In the beginning God created heaven, and the earth." Jerome in his book Hebrew Questions on Genesis states, "most people think that in the Hebrew is contained In the Son, God made heaven and earth, which the facts of the matter itself prove to be mistaken. For both the Septuagint, and Symmachus and Theodotion, translated it as In the beginning" (Hayward, 1995, 30).

Church Fathers

Van Winden states, "The first chapter of Genesis is one of the most discussed texts in early Christian literature" (1963, 106). Many Church fathers try to explain the Bible in terms of Greek philosophy. There are two points of contact made in Genesis 1:1; that the term "earth" means "matter" which will be discussed later, and the term arch (beginning) is identified with the Greek doctrine of arcai (origin) which looks at the causes of origin.

Basil see arch as temporal in sense. There are four deeper senses to the word arch; "the first movement", "the basic reality", "the craftsmanship", and "the aim or end" (Van Winden 1963, 108). These seem to correspond to the four arcai of Aristotle (Metaphysics 1013a16s; Aristotle 1952, 533: Van Winden 1963, 108).

Ambrose follows Basil, but divides arch into seven deeper senses of which four also correspond to Aristotleís. Ambrose adds a hidden mystical sense or allegorical meaning that "beginning" refers to "Wisdom" (Proverbs 8:27) which equals the Logos, Christ. Ancient Near East Heidel states, "most Mesopotamian creation stories begin with a subordinate clause, starting with enuma in Babylonian and ud-da in Sumerian, both of which expressions mean 'on the day'or simply 'when' and corresponds to Hebrew beyom" (1942, 95). This phrase in found in Genesis 2:4b. Then there follows negative statements of creation. Enuma Elish starts off by stating, "When on high no name was given to heaven, Nor below was the netherworld called by name" (COS, 391).

He Created

Hebrew Text

arb - he created

The Hebrew word arb may come from the root which originally meant "to cut, or separate." Most of creating involved a separation of things. arb does not imply ex nihilo creation since it is used in parallel to "make" (NIDOTTE, 1997, Vol. 1, 731). The verb arb is Qal active, and occurs 49 times in the OT. In the Piel stem arb means "to cut." In Numbers 16:30 arb even in the Qal stem clearly means "cut" or "separate" with Yahwah as subject. Van Leeuwen states, "This root begins in the OT with a theologically rich wordplay. But it also, in a punning way, accents the manner in which God gives order to his creation: he divides its various cosmic components from one another through a series of 'cuts or separation'" (NIDOTTE, 1997, Vol.1, 732).

Note that arb does not occur in the book of Job or other wisdom literature, therefore, Westerman argues that arb is a late word from exilic to post-exilic times (99; TDOT, II, 245). Let's look at some of the verses in which arb occurs.

All these above examples show that people, individuals, animals, and Israel are said to be created, yet it was not ex nihilo. From studying these contexts arb can not be proven to mean ex nihilo.

arb seems to have more the sense of "separate" than "create" especially out of nothing in Genesis 1:1. Nothing is said about where the darkness and watery deep came from. It was probably considered eternal. Isaiah 45:7 says, "I create the light, and form the darkness: I make peace, and create evil" (KJV). This is more a separation than ex nihilo creation. God is like a builder who makes the world by separating the abyss. Once unformed elements are separated and named, they are considered ordered or "created." This is much different than our normal way of using "create" in our English language. Genesis as well as Isaiah sees the created world as sets of binary opposites, like heaven/earth, earth/sea, light/darkness, day/night, man/woman, peace/evil (Deroche, 1992, 20).

Dead Sea Scrolls

In the DSS the word for "create" is used a number of times. In the War Scroll (1QM10:12) it says, "creator of the earth." One of the Hymns 1QH uses arb for the creation of man, and the just man (Col.VII:18). In Col.IX:13-14 arb is in parallel to "founded" and in verse 28 "breath" is created. In 1QS the Rule of the Community says, "He created man to rule the world and placed within him two spirits--spirits of truth and deceit" (Martinez, 1996, 6). All these contexts seem to mitigate against the idea of ex nihilo creation. Man was formed from the dust of the earth not "out of nothing" (TDOT, 1974, Vol.2, 249).

Many ancient Near Eastern creation stories also start with a watery beginning of formless matter from which the universe is made by separating them. Let's look at some of these.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature

Creation in the OT and in the ancient Near East is not what we think of creation implying "out of nothing." As stated earlier, there are at least four major types of creation stories in the ancient Near East; creation by begetting, or spilling semen; creation by battle; creation by action (of separation); and creation by word. Creation in Genesis is mainly separating, and naming formless matter as in the ancient world.

The Sumerian poem entitled Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Nether World begins with a cosmological statement like most other Sumerian poems which says:

"After heaven had been moved away from earth,
After earth had been separated from heaven,
After the name of man had been fixed,
After (the heaven-god) An carried off the heaven,
After (the air-god) Enlil carried off earth." (Kramer, 1959, 82).

Separating and naming orders (or creates) the world as also seen in Enuma Elish's opening lines. Naming creation brings it under God's control. If one in the ancient world knew the name of God or an enemy, one could control him. Magical incantation bowls are based on this. Egyptians would write the name of their enemy on a bowl or figurine, then smash it to destroy the enemies power (COS, 50; ANET, 328; ANEP, #593).


It is interesting that the LXX used the Greek word epoihsen, "make" for arb . This is not ex nihilo creation. God is using invisible matter to make the universe. Aquila on the other hand uses the Greek word ektisen, "created" which may indicate ex nihilo creation. It is only after the LXX that ektisen, "created" took on the specialized meaning, "created" in Hellenistic times. Its basic meaning is "to cultivate the land, make habitable" (Westermann, 1994, 100).

Aramaic Texts

The Fragment-Targums and the Targum Neofiti I as seen earlier, added "perfected" along with "created." The verb "perfected" is probably from Genesis 2:2 from the word "Finished." This may indicate that Genesis 1:1 was a heading.

Jewish Literature

In Jewish writings Josephus used ektisen, "created" while Philo used the word "made" following the LXX. In Genesis Rabbah R. Huna in the name of Bar Qappara asks, "God created heaven and earth (Gen.1:1) from what? From the following: And the earth was chaos (Gen.1:2)" (Neusner, 1985, 3-4).

The Vulgate

The Latin Vulgate used the word "Created." Jerome translates, In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. According to Jerome, in the original beginning there was nothing. Creation is distinguished by creatio activa, ex nihilo, and creatio passiva, the ordering of the world. There are two stages of creation, creatio prima, the creating of unformed matter out of nothing called materia prima, and creatio secunda, where God gives form and life to the materia prima (Muller, 1985, 85).


Hebrew Text

<yhla - God

<yhla is plural, yet the verb arb is singular. Jewish writers say this is the plural of Majesty, but it is more likely an intensification or absolutization with the meaning of "God of gods" or "supreme God" (NIDOTTE, 1997, Vol.1, 405). The root meaning of <yhla is probably "power, strength, might." <yhla is the more general and universal name for God while Yahweh is the specific God of Israel. It may be used for apologetic purposes in Genesis one. Some Christians take the plural to refer to the trinity, but this is just the general term for God.

There are three similar words for God that probably come from the same root. They are El, Eloah, and Elohim. They are all used interchangeably. In Psalm 29:1, and 89:6 there are the sons of Elim, and in Genesis 6:2 and Job 1:6 they are the sons of Elohim. Eloah is found mainly in the book of Job (41 out of 57) and El occurs 55 times, while Elohim occurs only 4 times in dialogue. Elohim is used 2570 times in the OT. El is mainly found in poetic or archaizing texts (TDOT, Vol.1, 272).

In this first verse of Genesis "God" is unarticulated. It is thought that Elohim was originally an appellation, a title, which was changed into a proper name and therefore drops the article. Mainly in Genesis Elohim is used without the article. Other archaic words are used without the article like tehom in Genesis 1:2 (Gesenius, 1976, 402-3). This is mainly found in poetic language.

Ugaritic Texts

In Ugaritic El is the god who is head of the Canaanite pantheon and may be identified with the planet Saturn. Some see Elohim as a composite of El+Yam, but this is unlikely. The plural of El in Ugaritic is Elm. The feminine form is Elt singular, and Elht for plural. Note the addition of the "h" in the plural form. There is a rare corresponding plural Elhm (Pope, 1955, 7, TDOT, Vol.1, 271). Therefore, Elohim would just be a rare form of the masculine plural El or Elh. It may be that Elh in Job is singular and the plural is Elohim. Maybe Elh is the vocative form. Elohim is probably the plural form of El expanded with the "h" which occurs else where in Hebrew and Aramaic (Ibid, 273; Gesenius, 399).

There are several descriptive titles or epithets of El that indicate that he is the creator. El is called ab adm, "Father of man;" qn `rs, "Creator of the earth;" qny [w] `adn [i]lm, "Begetter and Lord of the gods;" and bny bnwt, "Creator of Creatures" (De Moor 1980, 171-187; Pope 1994, 47-62).

It should be noted that in the ANE there is not a clear distinction between creation and procreation. Elís wife was atrt or Asherah. They had 70 sons. Asherah is called `um ilm, "Mother of the gods" (De Moore 1980, 175). Yahweh is said to have Asherah at his right hand (Deut. 33:2; Dijkstra 1995, 43-73).


In the LXX the word for God is qeos. It adds the article "the" before God. In John 1:1 qeos is used with the article also. This is the typical name for God, and should have the article in Greek for a proper noun.

Aramaic Texts

In the targums Yahweh is used in place of Elohim. This may be to avoid the plural form of God, or to name the specific god who created everything. Usually you have the God of _____. In the Targum Neofiti I the "Memra (word) of the Lord" created the world which may correspond to "logos" in John 1:1, but "in Christian tradition from earliest times the opening word of Genesis was understood to mean in the son (Jesus, the word)" according to Jerome (McNamara, 1992, 52).

Jewish Literature

Genesis Rabbah takes Elohim as singular which says, "In the beginning [gods] created is not written, but rather, in the beginning [God] created [in the singular]" (I,VII.1.H; Neusner, 1985, 7). It also discusses why God is the third word in the OT and not mentioned first because of modesty (I.XII).

The Heavens and the Earth

Hebrew Text

xrah taw <ymvh - The heavens and the earth

Here the universe is described in terms of opposites. This is called a merismatic word pair that expresses comprehensiveness (NIDOTTE, 1997, Vol.4,160). This bipartite division of the universe was common in Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, and Ugaritic. In the Egyptian Hymn to Atum the phrase "to the height of heaven and to the breadth of earth" is used (TDOT, I:389). There seems to a chiastic structure here and the next several verses of Genesis. Heaven and earth are named, but then the reverse order is talked about. In Rabbinic literature there is debate as to what was created first, the heavens or the earth (Bowker, 1969, 102-3).

<ymvh - The heavens

The Hebrew word <ymv, "heavens" is dual in form, meaning literally "two heavens." There are several explanations for this. Some scholars take it as an abnormal plural (Stadelmann, 1970, 39). Egypt conceived of two heavens, or two skies. The heaven of day, and the heaven at night. This may have been originally behind the dual form of <ymv. Another view is that the first heaven may be everything between the earth and the firmament, or the atmosphere. The second heaven would be everything above the firmament which would be the dwelling place of God. There is also the highest heaven, called the zenith. In Ugaritic El dwells at the source of the two deeps. This could be where the heavenly and subterranean oceans meet at the horizon. The heavens are said to be stretched out over the abyss. The earth also is stretched over the abyss, or subterranean waters. I will go into more details about heaven in verse 6.

The phrase "heaven of heavens" is the superlative expression for heaven by the Hebrews meaning "the highest heaven." This was the common way they stressed something. This does not mean there are many heavens; but many ancient writers believed in a number of heavens.

In the New Testament Paul is caught up into the third heaven where God especially dwells (2 Chore. 12:2). The three heavens may be; the atmosphere below the firmament, the firmament containing the stars, and above the firmament where God dwells. The book of Enoch tells of ten heavens in detail (Charlesworth, 1983, 22). Others in Rabbinic literature say there are seven heavens (Cohen, 1975, 30).

It should be noted that the heavens are named, but not created until verses 6-8 and the earth not until verses 9-10. This is also found in other ancient literature. One example is in Enuma Elish which starts, "When above the heavens had not (yet) been named, (and) below earth had not (yet) been called by a name; (When) Apsu primeval, their begetter, Mummu, (and) Ti’amat, she who gave birth to them all, (Still) mingled their waters together" (Heidel, 1942, 18). These are negative statements whereas Genesis one is positive statements.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature

The word <ymv probably comes from the Proto-Semitic relative pronoun plus the noun, sa-maii meaning "place of water" The Assyrian name for "heavens" is sa me which they thought meant "place of the waters" (NIDOTTE, 1997, Vol.4, 160). The Egyptians pictured heaven as an ocean which the sun sailed in his boat across the sky daily.

There is one very interesting Babylonian text where heaven is divided into three regions; upper, middle, and lower heaven each made of a different precious stone (Livingstone 1986, 83).

xrah - The earth

Not only is the earth the antithesis to heaven, vertically, but earth in the sense of land is also antithesis to sea, horizontally. Earth can also mean the Underworld in certain contexts. The Underworld is said to be in the earth, or in the depths of the earth, or under the earth.

In Sumerian and Akkadian the earth can be divided three parts, the upper earth where man lives, the middle of the earth where the water god Ea ruled, and the lower earth of the underworld. This corresponds to the three-fold division of the heavens. This tripartite division of the earth is also seen in the OT. Sheol is under the water in Job 26:5. In Jonah 2:2,3 Sheol is associated with the sea. The Rabbis divided the earth into seven layers which corresponds to the seven layers of heaven. According to Genesis 1:9 the earth seems to be submerged under the waters of the deep, or mingled with the waters.

Church Fathers

Justin Martyr, a gentile, was born around 110 AD in Samaria and was martyred about 165 AD under the rule of Marcus Aurelius. Justin Martyr as seen earlier believed like Plato that matter was eternal. He quotes the LXX to show that the heavens and earth were created out of the invisible and unfurnished matter in Genesis 1:2, but not from Plato’s world of ideas (First Apology, Chapter 59; Address to the Greeks, Chapter 30). Justin defends the Christian faith by showing the antiquity of the scriptures, and that the great Greek philosophers and writers (like Plato and Homer) must have borrowed their ideas from scripture.

Tatian, an Assyrian, was a student of Justin Martyr who lived about 110-172 AD. In his old age he fell into errors maybe because of infirmities and severe asceticism. He wrote Diatessaron which is a harmony of the four gospels, and Address to the Greeks. He believed that the creation of the earth in Genesis 1:1 referred to matter.

Theophilus of Antioch the earliest Church historian lived about 115-181 AD and succeeded Ignatius. He believed that matter was created in Genesis 1:1, and not the literal earth.

Origen follows Philo who follows Plato in Timaeus by interpreting the earth and heavens in Genesis 1:1 as corporeal and incorporeal intelligible matter. Philo saw the heavens and the earth as belonging to the world of Ideas in Genesis 1:1 which was confirmed by the creation of man mentioned twice. Origen defends his view in his theology, the First Principles (II, 9,1; Van Winden 1962, 210-11).

Basil sees a literal earth and Heavens created in Genesis 1:1. He sees matter as created by God, not eternal, but he does not equate matter with the earth in Genesis 1:1-2 as Ambrose does.

Ambrose equates the creation of the earth with matter (visible substances) and the heavens with invisible substances (probably following Origen) in Genesis 1:1. A literal earth was not created in Genesis 1:1, but just the matter or elements that make up the earth (Van Winden 1962, 212). Ambrose usually follows Basil’s commentary, but differs with him on a literal earth. Ambrose differs with Greek philosophers who say matter is eternal.

Augustine states, "in the beginning God made heaven and earth, but the very earth which God made was invisible and without form before God arranged the forms of all things by ordering and distinguishing them in their places and ranks" (Against the Manichees, Book 1:5; 1991, 53). Matter was created in verse one, and it was ex nihilo. Augustine says, "God made all things from nothing. For, though all formed things were made from this matter, this matter itself was still made from absolutely nothing" (Ibid, Book 1:10, 57-8). So in Genesis 1:1 heaven is the invisible or spiritual creation, and earth the visible formless matter.

Genesis 1:2

Pre-Creation State

In verse 2 the earth is a barren wasteland and devoid of life. The word paints a picture of an arid desert. It is used in Isaiah 45. This verse seems to assume that matter was all ready here, eternal. It is similar to the state of chaos at the beginning of creation in Greek writings. The closest parallel is in Philo of Byblos. It seems a contradiction in terms for God to create chaos. Nowhere is God said to create tohu wa bohu. Verse 2 is a clear indication that there is no creation in verse 1. Darkness is also part of chaos. Darkness is not the absence of light, but like a black cloud that spreads across the sky (Psalm 18:12; TDOT, Vol. V, 245-59). Darkness also surrounds God (Psalm 97:2). There was an abode for darkness like the snow and wind. It seems also that the wind and spirit are synonymous. The wind is the very spirit or breath of God which make also the words of God, the very emanation from God.

Pictured at the beginning of creation is the earth mingled with (or covered over by) the watery abyss. When the flood waters of the Nile came dirt was mingled with the waters, so that when the flood retreated new soil was left behind to fertilize their fields. Both sweet water and bitter salt water were also mixed together. It is desolate of life like a desert from the Hebrew word tohu. The watery abyss or primeval chaos was shrouded in the darkness of thick clouds. A mighty wind of God blows, or swirls across the face of the waters clearing away the clouds so God can command the light of dawn to shine forth and spread across the sky.

Probably the closest cosmology to the Bible is the Phoenicians. Philo of Byblos says, "He (Sanchuniathon) posits as the source of the universe a dark and windy gas, or a stream of dark gas, and turbid, gloomy chaos. These things were unbound and for the ages were without limit" (Attridge and Oden 1981, 37).

And the Earth Was

Hebrew Text

htyh xrahw - And the earth was

The Hebrew verb htyh means "was" not "became" in this context (Waltke 1974, 18-36). There is no room for the gap theory here. The earth did not become waste and void. No ancient translation or commentary that I know of has this meaning. It is describing the state or condition of the earth before creation. The question of where this pre-creation state came from, is not answered. The LXX takes a different view that imbibes the platonic world of ideas.

Desolate and Lifeless

Hebrew Text

whbw wht - Desolate and lifeless

This pair of words appears three times in the OT, Gen.1:2, Isa.34:11, and Jer.4:23. It appears as a juxtaposed phrase in Gen.1:2 and Jer.4:23, and as a parallel word pair in Isa.34:11 (Tsumura, 1989, 23). This phrase seems to be used mostly around the time of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Isaiah 34:11 says, "And He (God) shall spread over it (Edom) the line of desolation (tohu) and the plum stones of barrenness (bohu; my own translation). This is a return to chaos before creation.

Jeremiah 4:23 says, "I (Jeremiah) looked on the earth and behold, (it was) a dark desert and void of life, and (I looked upwards) to the heavens, and there was no light" (my own translation). This seems to be a return to chaos before the world was ordered. There is a chiastic structure here in Jeremiah 4:23 and in Genesis 1:2 as well, tohu wabohu//hosek, and earth = abyss.

Ugaritic Texts

There is an interesting Ugaritic phrase tu-a-bi-(u?) that may be the same as the Hebrew tohu wa bohu. In one of the polyglot vocabularies tu-a-bi-(u) is equivalent to the Akkadian na-bal-ku-tum and Hurrian tap-su-hu-(u)m-me (RS 20.123:II:23; Tsumura, 1989, 23). The Akkadian phrase occurs twice in the Atr-Hasis Epic. The earth’s womb is said to be na-bal-ku-tum or barren (out of order). It is parallel with the phrase "no plants growing" (Lambert and Millard, 1969, 108:49, 110:59). It is also used for the older phrase u-ul ul-da which clearly means barren, parallel to the phrase "no plants were growing" (Ibid, 78:4).


h de gh hn aoratos kai akataskeuastos - But the earth was invisible and unformed

The LXX translates tohu wa bohu as aoratos kai akataskeuastos which means "invisible and unformed." This same word aoratos "invisible" is similar to Hebrew 11:3 ek fainomenwn, meaning "out of unseen things" the world was created. This seems to be related to the platonic ides that the visible world came from the invisible world including the idea of logos.

Another possibility is the way Josephus may have understood it that the earth was covered with water and thick clouds and therefore could not be seen (LCL, 1930, 15).

Aramaic Texts

aynqwrw aydx twh auraw - Now the earth was desolate and empty

The above Aramaic is from the official Jewish targum, the Targum Onkelos (Sperber, 1959, 1; Translation by Grossfeld, 1988, 42).

The Targum Neofiti I interprets wht as the absence of faunal life, and whb the absence of floral life. It translates, "And the earth was waste and unformed, desolate of man and beast, empty of plant cultivation and of trees" (McNamara, 1992, 52). The earth was not a primeval chaos, but just void of life (Anderson, 1990, 23).

The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan says, "The earth was without form and void, desolate of people and empty of all animals" (Maher, 1992, 16).

The Fragment-Targums states, "And the earth was unformed and void, and desolate of people and empty of all work" (Klein, 1980, 3).

Jewish Literature

In 1 Enoch 21:1 it describes this unformed chaos. It says:

And I came to an empty place. And I saw (there) neither a heaven above nor an earth below, but a chaotic and terrible place. And I saw seven stars of heaven bound together in it, like great mountains, and burning with fire.These are among the stars of heaven which have transgressed the commandments of the Lord and are bound in this place until the completion of ten million years, (according) to the number of their sins (Charlesworth, 1983, 24).

2 Enoch has very similar view which says:

Before anything existed at all, from the very beginning, whatever is I created from non-being, and from the invisible things into the visible.Before any visible things had come into existence, and the light had not yet opened up, I, in the midst of the light, moved around in the invisible things, like one of them, as the sun moves around from east to west and from west to east. But the sun has rest; yet I did not find rest, because everything was not yet created. And I thought up the idea of establishing a foundation, to create a visible creation (Charlesworth, 1983, 143).

It seems from 2 Enoch that the invisible things are eternal with God. God could not rest until he created. Note that "non-being" does not mean ex nihilo, but the invisible things (Ibid, 142,n,f).

Josephus writes, tauths d’ up’ oyin ouk ercomenhs, alla baqei men kruptomenhs, meaning " The earth had not come into sight, but was hidden in the thick darkness" (LCL, 1930, 15). This seems similar to the LXX reasoning since darkness covered the deep, the earth must be invisible, but Josephus goes a step further to show that the earth is alone in darkness (Franxman, 1979, 39). There is no mention of waters, may be to avoid the idea of Greek chaos.

Philo in On The Creation (29) writes:

First, then, the Maker made an incorporeal heaven, and an invisible earth, and the essential form of air and void. To the one he gave the name of Darkness, since the air when left to itself, is black. The other he named abyss, for the void is a region of immensity and vast depths. Next (He made) the incorporeal essence of water and of life-breath and, to crown all, of light (LCL, 1929, 23).

According to Philo whbw wht are "the essential form of air and void." The air is called "Darkness" and the void is called the "abyss." Wolfson in his chapter, Creation and Structure of the World, explains the platonic ideas behind Philo’s view of creation (1947, 295-324). Runia gives an even more detailed comparison of Philo to Plato in his book entitled Philo of Alexandria and the Timaeus of Plato (1986).

According to the Rabbis wht was thought to be "a green line which encompasses the whole world (the horizon line) from which darkness issued," and whb "denotes the slime covered stones sunk in the depths from which water issued" (Cohen 1975, 33; Epstein, 1935, 63-4; Hagigah 12a).

Greek Literature

Genesis 1:9 seems to indicate that the earth was under (or mingled in) water. How can the earth be described as a desert when covered by water? Maybe wht refers to the sandy desert beach just below the water, and whb to the barrenness of life along the shore just under the water. A better explanation is that the ocean is described as a barren desert. One could compare the desert dunes to the waves of the sea. No plants or trees are growing there.

Homer several times describes the sea as barren. He writes "the barren sea" or "the desolate sea" (Iliad, I. 316; XV. 27; Odyssey, II. 370). The Greek word is atrugetos (L&S, Vol. 1, 273). In Hesiod’s Theogony it is translated "the unfruitful sea" (X. 730; LCL, 133).

Hebrew Text

wht - Desolation

In other passages where wht occurs alone, it is used to describe a desert void of life. See Deut. 32:10, Job 8:18, 12:24, Psalm 107:40.

Deuteronomy 32:10 says, "In the desert land he found him, in a barren (wht) and howling waste" (NIV). This verse clearly indicates the meaning of wht as "desert," or "wasteland."

In Job 26:7 God stretches the northern sky over the desert void (wht) and hangs, or suspends the earth over the abyss (hmylb, literally, "not anything" or "nothing"- BDB, 1980, 116a) so that there is no more empty space, or even better, suspends out the earth to completely cover over the abyss (Holladay, 1971, 40-41). wht describes desert wasteland, and <wht the watery abyss.

In Isaiah 45:18, God says, "He did not create it (earth) a desert or wasteland wht. wht is also in parallel with ;vj meaning "darkness" as in Genesis 1:2. This shows that God did not start creating until verse three of Genesis one.

Ugaritic Texts

The Ugaritic cognate word thw can be helpful in understanding the Hebrew term wht. KTU 1.5:I:14-16 says, lbim. thw. hm. brly. anhr. bym which means, "the lions in/of the desert(s) or a desire of the dolphin(?) in the sea" (Tsumura, 1989, 18). It seems that thw and ym make a merismatic pair expressing comprehensiveness (Ibid, 19). This seems to also be the case in Genesis 1:2 with wht and <wht.

whb - Lifelessness

Westermann thinks whb is added for alliteration. It does seem to add poetic force. Speiser describes it as "an excellent example of hendiadys" (Westermann, 1994, 103). Hendiadys is a figure of speech where two words are connected by a conjunction to express a single idea (Morris, 1979, 615). It seems that whbw wht is a common ANE phrase that was used to emphasize "barrenness."

Some have suggested that the term whb comes from the Phoenician divine name Baau who is the goddess of night. Whb is probably similar to the Arabic bahiya meaning "to be empty" (BDB). It is emptiness in the sense of void of life, barrenness. All probably come from the same root word bhw (Tsumura, 1989, 22).


Hebrew Text

;vj - Darkness

Darkness was not the absence of light in ancient times. It is associated with thick black clouds (TDOT, 5:245-259). God inscribed a circle upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. This circle is the horizon. Darkness has its own abode or storehouse like the light, snow, and hail. Darkness was a created matter (Isa. 45:7), but creation may mean it was ordered, named, and subjugated to God’s control. In Genesis 1:2 darkness covers the deep like thick black clouds. It is not just the absence of light. Did the absence of light cover the deep? No! In Genesis darkness is not abolished, but is subjugated to God’s control by separating it and naming it.

In Job 26:10 God inscribes a circle (gj) upon the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness. This boundary circle is the horizon. This circle held the heavens and earth together. A rip in this would flood the world with water. It is at the horizon where the light of dawn comes forth.

In Job 38:19 God asks Job, "What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings" (NIV)? Job does not know the abode or the way of the light or the darkness. He has not entered the storehouse of the snow or hail (verse 22). Darkness is considered a substance that has its own house. Today we define darkness as the absence of light.

Psalm 18:11 says, "He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him-the dark rain clouds of the sky" (NIV). Here "darkness" is defined as "dark rain clouds." It seems that the substance of darkness is thick dark clouds. It is the dark clouds that cause or bring darkness.

Psalm 97:2 (also Job 22:14) says, "Clouds and thick darkness surround him (God)" (NIV). Darkness is like a tent or veil that shrouds the glory of God like the tabernacle. Darkness is a characteristic of theophanies.

Ancient Near Eastern Literature

According to the Babylonians the light of the moon kept the darkness of night from turning into the darkness of the netherworld where demons dominate especially when there was an eclipse or new moon.

In Egypt the Apophis is the dragon of darkness that is defeated by Re each morning. Apophis is said to swallow the sun when there is a solar eclipse. There is a constant struggle between light and darkness. In the Hymn to the Aton "Darkness is a shroud" which the sun, Aton drives away (ANET, 1969, 370).

Jewish Literature

Philo states, "To one he gave the name Darkness since the air when left to itself, is black" (On The Creation, 29; LCL, Vol. 1, 23). Here wht is translated as air and given the name Darkness.

In Genesis Rabbah the future is seen is this verse. According to R. Judah the darkness upon the deep refers to the generations of Enosh because their works are in the dark (Isa. 29:15; Neusner, 23). This may reflect the Fragment-Targum translation. R. Simeon states, "Darkness refers to Greece which clouded the vision of the Israelites through its decrees" (Neusner, 24).

The Deep

Hebrew Text

<wht - The Deep

The Deep is a watery abyss. There is no monster (Tiamat). There is no battle (theomacy). It is demythologized.

At the beginning there was the preexistence of a watery abyss, a primordial ocean where the bitter and sweet waters mingled together. The bitter water was the salt water of the ocean while the sweet water was rain, springs, and river waters. These waters were separated on day two to form a heavenly ocean and earthly ocean which is part of the subterranean ocean. In Ugaritic El’s abode is at the source of the two rivers, or oceans which might be the source of the bitter and sweet waters (Herdner 1963, 4:iv, 21-24) or more likely the heavenly ocean and the subterranean ocean that meet at the horizon. In the Bible "living water" would be "sweet or fresh non-salty water," while dead or bitter waters, like the Dead Sea is salty water. Many times the sea is used in parallel with the deep in poetic passages. The ancients may see the sea and deep as part of the same ocean which extended under the earth. This seems clear from the cycle in Ecclesiastes 1:7. The rocks of the earth sweeten the ocean water and the clouds filter the salt water.

In the OT <wht is the subterranean ocean where springs well up, rivers flow, and floods burst forth. They did not view rivers as water from melted snow, nor floods from torrential rains, but from the deep subterranean ocean. This is clearly seen in Noah’s Flood where the fountains of the deep burst forth. In the vassal-treaties of Esarhaddon it says, "may a flood, an irresistible deluge, rise from the bowels of the earth and devastate you" (ANET, 472).

In Hebrew <wht can appear in the plural form as in Isaiah 63:13, and Psalm 106:9. <wht never occurs as a third part of the universe as heaven/earth/sea. Only <y, sea occurs. <y corresponds to the Akkadian Apsu and Tiamat. <wht refers to the subterranean waters like the Babylonian Apsu, but since <wht is under or in the earth, it is considered part of the earth. <wht is not a person or god because it says, "face of the deep" indicating a physical place. <wht is used mostly in poetical passages as seen below.

Many scholars today think Habakkuk 3 contains imagery of divine conflict with the dragon and the sea as in Ugaritic literature (Tsumura, 1988, 25). Baal, rider of the clouds (his chariots), fights with the Yam-Sea and wins (KTU 1.2 III: Gibson, 1977, 37). Baal’s arrows are lightning like God’s arrows in Habakkuk 3:11 (See also Psalm 29; Amos 7:4; Hillers, 1964, 221-5). In Genesis 1:2 there is no conflict or battle between God and Tiamat or Yam (Tsumura, 1989, 62-65).

Sumerian Literature

In Sumerian thought the sea was all one with no distinction between salt and sweet water. Later Tiamat came to represent the salt sea while Apsu came to represent the sweet water. (see Kramer, 1959, 77). The Sumerians believed the sea fed the rivers, not the mountains (Kramer 1944, 27-28).

Akkadian Literature

In Akkadian the cognate for <wht is tiamtum which is used for ocean and a god. In Atra-Hasis six times the phrase, nahbalu tiamtim, meaning "the bar or bolt of the sea" occurs (rev. i 6,10, ii 4,11,18,34). This would be at the horizon which is the bond between heaven and earth. If there is a rip, waters will flood the earth. It stops the waters from mixing again. Taiamtum is also used in parallel with the word "sea." Marduk defeats Tiamat, cuts her in half, from one half the heavens are made, the other half the earth is made.

In Enuma Elish "When above the Heavens had not (yet) been named" (Tablet 1:1) Apsu (sweet water, male god) and Tiamat (salt water, female god) "mingled their waters together" (Tablet 1:5; Heidel, 1942, 18). It should be noted that there is no monster to slay in Genesis to form the heavens as Marduk did by killing Tiamat. Heidel does a good job of comparing Enuma Elish with Genesis. Both have primeval watery chaos, primeval darkness, and light before luminaries (Heidel, 97-102).

Ugaritic Literature

The Ugaritic cognate for <wht is thm which sometimes ends with a feminine ending t. It appears once as a proper noun that is part of a compound divine name Heaven and Ocean, smm-w-thm (KTU, 1.100:1). It is used in parallel with yam-sea. It is also used in the dual form especially describing El’s abode (Herdner 1963, 4:iv, 21-24).

There is much debate on the location of El’s abode. The following four lines in Ugaritic repeatedly give a description of El’s abode, Žm Žil mbk nhrm qrb Žapq thmtm tgly zd Žil wtb’u qrs mlk Žab snm (CTA 4:iv, 21-24) which I translate as: Toward El at the source of the two rivers, amidst the springs of the two oceans (thm); she penetrated the heights of El, and entered the hillside of the king, the father of years. The source of life-giving water was from the gods in paradise, not from the stagnant underworld. El’s mountain seems to reach up to connect earth and heaven, and therefore is able to supply water to the heavenly and earthly oceans.

A cylinder seal of white stone discovered at Mari dates back to around 2350-2150 BC. (Keel 1978, 390). On this seal is a picture of a god sitting on a mountain with two rivers flowing out of it. Keel believes that this god could be the Canaanite god El (Ibid, 47). The god Ea from Mesopotamia sits enthroned "in the midst of the mouth of the two rivers" (Ibid, 48). Another cylinder seal from Ur pictures the god Ea seated in his inner chamber surrounded by water. From his arms flow two rivers. To the right the sun god ascends up a mountain to the gate of heaven where Ea is (Ibid, 390). This is very similar to the description of El’s abode.

When one compares El’s abode with Mot’s underworld abode one will discover many differences (CTA 4:viii, 11-14). Mot’s abode is clearly below the earth, while El’s abode seems to be above the earth. El’s abode is also the place where the assembly of El meets. This probably refers to the stars of heaven which are thought to be gods (CTA 10: I, 3-5).

Phoenician Literature

Probably the closest cosmology to the Bible is the Phoenicians. Philo of Byblos was a Phoenician scholar who was born about 64 AD. He reworks ancient Phoenician myths into the Hellenistic spirit by demythologizing them (Loewenstamm 1980 391). Traditional gods are replaced by physical forces that represent them to bring Greek science in harmony with ancient Phoenician tradition. The Church historian Eusebius preserves in his book Preparation of the Gospel the most important quotations from Philo’s book Phoenician History (For a detailed commentary see Baumgarten 1981).

Philo of Byblos in Phoenician History says, "He (Sanchuniathon) posits as the source of the universe a dark and windy gas, or a stream of dark gas, and turbid, gloomy chaos. These things were unbound and for ages were without limit" (Attridge and Oden, 1981, 37). Note that there is no god who created this chaos. This watery chaos is "the equivalent of the Tehom covered by darkness in Genesis 1:2 (Baumgarten, 106).

Greek Literature

To translate <wht the LXX usually uses abussos which means "bottomless, unfathomed" (L&S, Vol. 1, 4). The LXX never uses abussos to translate the Hebrew sheol, the abode of the dead. In Classical Greek abussos is always an adjective. Herodotus writes that the source of the Nile is unfathomed (Book 2.28). He says, "Psammethichus king of Egypt proved by experiment: for he had a rope woven of many thousand fathoms’ length and let down into the spring, but he could not reach the bottom (LCL, 1920, Vol. 1, 305).

Homer speaks of a watery beginning of the gods. In Iliad 14:200-4 Homer writes, "For I am faring to visit the limits of the all-nurturing earth, and Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung (Zeus) thrust Cronos down to dwell beneath earth and the unresting (or unfruitful) sea" (LCL 171, 81). Again in the same book Homer writes (line 245) "even the streams of the river Oceanus, from whom they (the gods) all are sprung" (Ibid, 85).

Hesiod in his Theogony writes that chaos arose before the creation of the earth. Brown translates:

First of all, Void (Chaos) came into being, next broad-bosomed Earth. Out of Void came darkness and black night, and out of Night came light and Day.Earth first produced starry Sky, equal in size with herself, to cover her on all sides (to be the solid and eternal home of the blessed gods; (II:116-128; LCL, 1953, 56).

In Greek mythology Chaos was the original condition of the universe before creation. "Chaos was a dark formless void of infinite size and ungovernable fury" (Wilson, 1976, Vol. 4, 328).

Orphic cosmogony probably drew on Hesiod’s Theogony. Apollonius Rodius relates how Orpheus sang a song "how the earth, heaven and sea, which were formed joined together in one form, were separated from each other after deadly strife" (Argonautica I. 494; LCL, 1979, 39).

Aristophanes states, "There was Chaos (Void) first, and Night, dark Erebos (Darkness) and wide Tartaros; there was no earth, nor air, nor sky, but Night, she of dark wings, bore first of all a wind-egg, nesting in the limitless bosom of Erebos" (Birds, 688-702; LCL, 1979, 41).

Hermetica contains various Greek and Latin writings of religious and philosophical teachings that are attributed to the Egyptian sage, Hermes Trismegistus complied around the 2nd century AD. Libellvs I says, "Earth and water remained in their own place, mingled together-but they were kept in motion, by reason of the breath-like Word which moved upon the face of the water" (Scott 1993, 119). Libellvs III states, "There was darkness in the deep, and water without form; and there was a subtle breath, intelligent, which permeated the things in Chaos with divine power. Then when all was yet undistinguished and unwrought, there was shed forth holy light; and the elements came into being" (Ibid, 147).

New Testament

The NT in contrast to the LXX uses abussos for the abode of the dead (Romans 10:7), the abode of demons (Luke 8:31), the abode of Antichrist (Rev. 11:7, 17:8), the abode of Abaddon, the angle of the underworld (Rev. 9:11), and the dungeon where the devil is bound for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:3; A&G, 1957, 2).

In the NT usually Hades is used for the place of the dead, tartarus is used for the prison house of angels, and the abyss in the book of Revelations is used for the bottomless pit which imprisons fallen angels.

Jewish Literature

In the book of Enoch there is a graphic description of the abyss which is the prison house for fallen angels. "The place had a cleavage (that extended) to the last sea, pouring out great pillars of fire; neither its extent nor its magnitude could I see nor was I able to estimate" (21:7; Charlesworth, 1983, 24).

Philo describes the abyss as "the void is a region of immensity and vast depths" (On The Creation, 29; LCL, 1929, Vol. 1, 23).

It seems that the sea and the deep, <wht are connected. Rivers run into the ocean and the ocean returns under the earth to the rivers. The Targum of Ecclesiastes states, "All the rivers and streams of water go and flow into the waters of the ocean which surround the world like a ring, and the ocean is not full, and to the place where the streams go and flow there they go again through the channels of the sea" (Glossfeld, 1973, 503).

And a Mighty Wind

Hebrew Text

Myhla jwrw - and a mighty wind

The Hebrew word hwr can mean "breath, wind, or spirit" (BDB, 924). Its most basic meaning is "blowing, air in motion, wind" (NIDOTTE, 3:1073). To the ancient Hebrews breath, wind, and spirit were the same (Gaster, 1969, 5). There is no article in the Hebrew which indicates "wind" not "The Spirit" as well as the following Hebrew participle tpjrm denoting motion. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew and Akkadian word for "day" mwy and umum, respectively, can mean "wind" (Hildegard and Lewy, 1943, 5). The word <yhla can also be used as a superlative describing the wind, therefore meaning "a mighty wind" or "raging storm." Moscati and Freeman argue against taking it as an elative because of the context (1947, 305-10; 1996, 9-13). The only other exact Hebrew phrase with vav mentioned in the Masorah is in 2 Chronicles 24:20 where the Spirit of God comes upon Zechariah (Kelley, Mynatt, and Crawford, 1998, 113). There are six other references listed, Gen. 41:38, Ex. 31:3;35:31; Num. 24:2; Ezek. 11:24; and 2 Chr. 15:1. Psalm 33:6 says, "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth" (NIV). Here "word" and "breath" are used in parallel. Job 26:13 states, "By his breath the skies became fair" (NIV). Clearly, in this passage the wind which is considered God’s breath is blowing the clouds away causing fair skies.

LXX Text

pneuma qeou - a wind from God

The LXX has translated the Hebrew phase as pneuma qeou with no article as the Hebrew which seems to indicate that "a wind from God" was meant (Wevers, 1993, 2).


ywy mdq nm ajwrw - and the wind from before Yahweh

Grossfeld in his notes states that ajwr means "wind" not "spirit" even though it has an article in the Targum Onqelos (1988, 42).

In the Targum Neofiti I McNamara translates, "and a spirit of mercy from before the Lord was blowing over the surface of the waters" (1992, 52).

In the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Maher translates, "and a merciful wind from before God was blowing over the surface of the water" (1992, 16). This same phase "merciful wind" occurs in Genesis 8:1 to dry the flood waters.

In the Fragment-Targums Klein translates, "and a merciful wind from before the Lord was blowing over the surface of the waters" (1980, 3).

The Targums seem to believe by their translation that "a wind from the Lord was blowing" not the "Spirit of God" moving.

Jewish Literature

Josephus in Jewish Antiquities writes, pneumatos d’ authn anwqev epiqeonyos, meaning "a wind (or breath) from above was moving over it." Framxman notes, "The alteration of the ruah `elohim to a Žbreath from above (anothen)’ cannot help call to mind the similar effort employed by the Targumim to interpret this 'breath' as something a bit apart and distinct from God himself" (1979, 39).

Philo renders it "life-breath" and comments, "The one he entitles the 'breath of God', because breath is most life-giving, and of life God is the author" (On The Creation, 30; LCL, 23).

In Genesis Rabbah Rabban Gamaliel understands ruah as "wind" referring to Amos 4:13 (I.IX; Neusner, 1985, 13). R. Judah b. R. Simon understands it in light of Genesis 8:1 "And God made a wind pass over the earth" (Ibid, 23).

The Babylonian Talmud in Hagigah 12a translates, "And the wind of God hovered over the face of the waters" (Epstein, 1935, 63)

Was Blowing Upon the Surface of the Waters

Hebrew Text

mymh ynp-lu tpjrm - was blowing upon the surface of the waters

Hebrew participle tpjrm, indicates continuous action. The root word pjr occurs only two other times in the OT (Deut. 32:11, and Jer. 23:9).

Deuteronomy 32:11 says, "like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers (pjr) over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions" (NIV). There is some debate whether pjr means brooding, hovering, soaring, or violent flapping in this verse. This is the same verb form as in Genesis 1:2, and both are describing the creative activity of the spirit. Some have suggested that the spirit is like a bird brooding over the world egg from which the earth hatched. Gaster sees here the ancient idea of the wind-bird where the wind is described as a bird-god (1969, 5). The wind in the OT is sometimes described as having wings (2 Sam. 22:11; Psa. 18:11, 104:3; Hos. 4:19).

Jeremiah 23:9 says, "My heart is broken within me; all my bones tremble. I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine" (NIV). Here pjr clearly means shake or tremble.

Stadelmann concludes, "The meaning of the verb rhp is the same in three places in which it occurs, and it indicates in all cases violent, not gentle motion" (1970, 15).

Ugaritic Literature

The cognate word for pjr in Ugaritic is rhp. It occurs in Aqhat which says, "above him eagles hovered, a flock of hawks looked down, [Among] the eagles Anat hovered" (KTU 1.18 IV.31-2; Gibson, 113; COS, 350).

In the Baal-Yam Cycle it seems that Baal uses the winds to defeat the sea. It says, "You’ll whirl in Ba’lu hand, like a hawk in his fingers. Scatter (him) O Mighty [BA’lu]" (COs, 249, KTU 1.2).

Akkadian Literature

In the Disputation Between Bird and Fish it says:

Then came Bird, lion-faced, and with an eagle’s talons,
Winging towards its nest. It stops in mid-flight;
Like a hurricane whirling in the midst of heaven, it circles in the sky;
Bird, looking about for its nest spreads open wings and legs. (COs 1997, 583).

Here the bird soaring around is described as "a hurricane whirling." It is not a gentle breeze.

In the Legend of Adapa, Adapa was mad at the South wind for capsizing his boat and said, "I will break thy wi[ng]! Just as he had said (this) with his mouth, The wing of the sou[th Wi]nd was broken. For seven days The [south win]d blew not upon the land" (ANET, 101).

In Enuma Elish Marduk uses the winds to help him defeat the monster Tiamat. It says, "He brought forth Imhullu the Evil Wind, the Whirlwind, the Hurricane, The Fourfold Wind, the Sevenfold Wind, the Cyclone, the Matchless Wind; Then he sent forth the winds he had brought forth, the seven of them" (ANET, 66).

Jewish Literature

Genesis Rabbah says, "The spirit of God blew is not what is written, but rather, The spirit of God hovered like a bird which is flying about and flapping its wings, and the wings barely touch [the nest]" (II.IV.4.E; Neusner, 35).

Tertullian lived from 145 to 220 AD. Later in life he became a Montanist. His writing Against Hermogenes is written against the view that matter is eternal. God did not use pre-existent matter to create the world (Roberts and Donaldson 1981, Vol.3, 477-502). He also says that the word "earth" does not mean "matter" (Ibid., 490-1).

Basil follows the LXX saying the earth was invisible for which he gives two reasons. First, the earth was submerged under water and therefore could not be seen. Second, light had not been created so the earth lying in darkness could not be seen. Darkness was unlighted air (1963, 22). He views a literal earth that was created but submerged contrary to Ambrose.

Basil sees the Holy Spirit of God stirring above the waters with warm and fostering care like a bird brooding over its eggs (Ibid., 31).

Ambrose uses the theory of atoms to explain the matter called "earth" in Genesis 1:1-2. Greek philosophy used similar terms to "invisible" and "unformed" to describe matter (aneideos, amorfos, apoios; Van Winden, 208).

Augustine concludes, "Hence, all these expressions, whether heaven and earth, or the earth invisible and without order, and the abyss with darkness, or the water over which was borne the Spirit of God, are names for unformed matter" (Against the Manichees, Book 1:12; 1991, 60).

Jerome in Hebrew Questions on Genesis states, "In place of what is written in our codices as moved, the Hebrew has merefeth, which we can render as was brooding over or was keeping warm, in the likeness of a bird giving life to its eggs with warmth" (Hayward, 1995, 30).

Genesis 1:3-5 DAY 1

Let There Be Daylight

Hebrew Text

rwa yhy - Let there be daylight

Another important concept in understanding the ANE context is the separation of daylight from sunlight. In the ancient world the light of dawn was different than the direct light of the sun. Daylight occurs an hour to two hours before the sun rises, and continues for an hour or more after the sun sets. In this pre-scientific age daylight was not the result of the sun light. When this is clearly understood many verses of the Bible, and the creation of the sun on day four fall into place. Aalen has an excellent article about light in TDOT (Vol. 1, 147-67).

Another interesting phrase that ties in here is "the spreading out of the heavens." Daylight spreads across the sky from East to West, as well as darkness spreads across the sky after sunset. Joel 2:2 says, "Like dawn spreading across the mountains" (NIV). This fiery red sunrise spreading across the mountains, pictures the coming judgment. It is described as a thin veil in Isaiah 40:22. The heavens are also said to be rolled out as a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14).

The picture described here in Genesis 1:3 is the dawning of creation like the dawning of a new day. Job 38:14 describes it as a seal pressed on the clay. The formless images in the darkness take shape in the light of day. This verse has nothing to do with a potterís wheel or the earthís rotation. In the ancient world each new day was a new creation. In Egypt the sun was reborn each day. There are several OT passages that indicate the difference between daylight and sunlight.

Ecclesiastes 12:2 states, "before the sun and the light (rwa) and the moon and the stars grow dark" (NIV). Here the sun is distinct from rwa, daylight.

Isaiah 30:26 proclaims, "The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days" (NIV). Note the three types of light. In ancients times they did not realize that moon light was reflected sunlight.

Daylight is known for its "brightness" and is nowhere used to describe the sun, while the sun is known for its "heat." In Exodus 16:21 it says, "Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away" (NIV).

The Hebrew word rwa is explicitly used in connection with dawn while there is no mention of the sun at all. There seems to be a period of time between dawn and when the sun rises as seen in Genesis 19:15-23. Lot has time to flee to Zoar before the sun rises and the city of Sodom is destroyed.

According to Aalen "In Job 38:4ff., the primeval morning is represented as the beginning of the creation of the world" (TDOT, Vol. 1, 152). There is no mention of the sun in this context of morning creation.

In Job 3:9-10 dawn is compared to the birth from the womb. It says, "May its morning stars become dark; may it wait for daylight in vain and not see the first rays of dawn, for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me" (NIV). There is no mention of the sun. The morning star is the planet Venus which heralds the dawn (Isa 14:12). The birds sing at dawn and may have been equated with the morning stars in ancient times (Job 38:7).

Psalm 104 is a creation poem that seems to parallel Genesis one. The light mentioned in verse two is different than the sun and moon which are not mentioned unto verse nineteen. Verse two says, "He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent" (NIV).

In Psalm 139:9-12 the dawn has wings, and its light in contrast to darkness is separate from the sun. The sun is not mentioned at all. It says, "If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even your hand will guide me, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you" (NIV). Wakely comments on the "wings of dawn" by saying it is "a poetic description of the first rays of dawn rapidly fanning out to the far horizon" (NIDOTTE, Vol.4, 88).

In John 1:4-9 which seems to be a midrash of Genesis one, Jesus is seen as the light "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (KJV).

In the NT in the Book of Revelations (21:23) the new heavens and new earth will not need the sun or the moon to shine for the glory of God will give light. This seems to assume a difference in daylight and sunlight,

Skinner comments, "The thought of light as the first creation, naturally suggested by the phenomenon of dawn, appears in several cosmogonies" (1910, 19). We want to look at some of these.

Sumerian Literature

The Sumerain god of the air is Enlil. Aalen comments, "The bright-eyed god of the air, father of the gods, and creator-god, separated heaven and earth. He causes the day to appear. His light 'rises up,' he 'makes his emblems bright'(TDOT, 1:149). The light of Enlil, daylight, is different from the sunlight and moonlight.

In text NBC 11108 it describes the pre-creation period. It says, "The moon did not sh[ine,] darkness spread; Heaven showed its shining face in Dagan[=heavenly dwelling], (Clifford 1994, 28).

In the poem Praise to the Pickax, it states, "To separate earth from heaven he (Enlil) hastened. To make light shine in Uzumua, He bound the pillar (of heaven and Earth) in Duranki. He worked with the pickax: the light of the sun came out" (Ibid, 31). It seems that daylight and sunlight are different here. Enlil has to poke a hole in the horizon with a pickax for the sun to come out, while the axis of heaven is set for daylight to shine.

Akkadian Literature

Enuma Elish

Heidel compares Enuma Elish to Genesis, and states, "Both accounts refer to the existence of light and to the alternation of day and night before the creation of the heavenly bodies" (1942, 101). Day and night are mentioned in line 38, and the brightness of the light of Apsu in line 68 before the sun and moon are created.

Egyptian Literature

In the Hermopolitan story of creation there are eight primeval gods of which two represent darkness are said to create light. In other stories the Primeval Ocean, Nun, is "the water that made the light" (Ringgren, 1969, 141-2). Kuk is said to bring "the light and the sunrise into being" (Ibid). It seems that light came out of a watery darkness as in Genesis one.

Coffin Texts, Spell 334 states, "When they behold Shu (Air-god) bearing the light.When Shu arises, father of the gods, river around him is ablaze with light. As I carry yonder sky that I may steady her brightness" (Ibid, 144). Clark states, "Shu is the dazzling light of an Oriental morning" (Ibid, n.3).

Ringgrens comments, "this combination of Shu with light implies that light is not necessarily bound up with the sun (or the moon) as its source, but it is conceived as something that fills the air between the earth and the sky" (1969, 144).

In the accession of Amen-hotep II it says, "When the next morning dawned The sun disk shone forth, The sky became bright," Frankfort sees three events here; the first light of dawn, the spreading of light across the sky, and finally the sun rises (Ibid, 149; Kingship and the Gods 1948, 148).

After Re, the sun-god rose to prominence all light is seen as coming from the sun. Each morning Re must defeat of Apophis (darkness) so light can spread over the world. Re is reborn each morning.

Ugaritic Literature

In Ugaritic texts Dawn and Dusk are mentioned as the first sons of the creator-god, El. Daylight seems to be separate from sunlight. Gibson translates, Look, [Gupn] and Ugar, the daylight [is veiled] in obscurity" (CTA 4,vii,54-55).

There is a partial story about the birth of Dawn, shr and Dusk, slm. El sees two women by the seashore. He kills a bird and roasts it on the fire for them. He then seduces the two women who become pregnant and give birth to two males Dawn and Dusk who are called "The gracious gods, cleavers of the sea, children of the sea" (Gibson, 1978, 126; UT 52:61-2; CTA 23; KTU 1.23). According to Gibson the light of dawn and dusk comes from the sea. They cut a hole in the sea so light can come out; however, Pardee translates ym as "day" and not "sea" (For full translation and notes see COS, 1.87.60). I would translate agzrym bn ym as "dividers of the day, sons of the day." In Genesis one God does the dividing between light and darkness.

Greek Literature

In ancient Greek literature dawn is a goddess called Eos. The light of dawn is distinct from sunlight. Homer describes Dawn as "saffron-robed (krokopeplos, Iliad viii,1), "rose fingered" (Žrododaktulos, Iliad i,477), "beautiful" (kalh, Iliad ix 708), "fair-tressed" (euplokamos, Odyssey v,390; McKay 1970, 460).

In the Odyssey book 23:240-46 it says:

And now would the rosy-fingered Dawn have arisen upon their weeping, had not the goddess, flashing-eyed Athena, taken other counsel. The long night she held back at the end of its course, and likewise stayed the golden-throned Dawn at the streams of Oceanus, and would not suffer her to yoke her swift-footed horses that bring light to men, Lampus and Phaethon, who are the colts that bear the Dawn (LCL 1919, 391).

In the Iliad book 11:1 it says, "Now Dawn rose from her couch from the beside lordly Tithonus, to bring light to immortals and to mortal men" (LCL 1924, 481). Dawn is said to sleep in the ocean bed with her lover Tithonus from which she awakes and rises each morning. Dawn is also awakened in Psalm 108:2.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are some apocryphal psalms. 11Q5 XXVI is a Hymn to the Creator. It says, "He separated light from darkness established the dawn with the knowledge of his heart" (Martinez 1996, 309; verse 11). It seems that the ones at Qumran equated the light of Genesis 1:3 with the light of dawn.

Jewish Literature

In Genesis Rabbah R. Judah says, "The light was created first. The matter may be compared to the case of a king who wanted to build a palace. But the site was shaded. What did he do? He kindled lights and lanterns to know how to lay the foundations" (Neusner 1985, 27).

According to R. Berekhiah it was "Not by hard work or toil, but by a word" that light was created (Ibid, 28).

Rabbi Simeon asked "from what source was light created?" R. Samuel replied, "The Holy One, blessed be he, cloaked himself in it as in a cloak, and the splendor of his majesty shown forth from one end of the world to the other" (Ibid, 29; Psalm 104:2).

Based on Tannaite authority the light of Genesis 1:3, since the creation of the sun, has been stored away for the righteous in the age to come (Ibid, 30; Isa 30:26).

God Said, Divided, and Called

Hebrew Text

arqyw, ldby, <yhla ary - God said , divided, and called

God spoke and light came into being. In the Hebrew this is a command followed by its execution. The idea of creation by spoken word is not new. It probably comes from the royal court where the king gives a command, and it is carried out. Words were also seen as having magical powers in the ancient world (Moriarty 1974, 345).

God divides or separates the light from the darkness. The act of separation in creation is common in ancient Near Eastern creation stories.

Godís act of naming something brings it under Godís control. In the ancient world if you know the names of your enemies, you could control them by magic. The Egyptians practiced the magical cursing of their enemies by inscribing pottery bowls and figurines with the names of their enemies, and then smashing them to break the power of their enemies. These are called execration texts.

Sumerian Literature

A bilingual text of a hymn to the moon god Nanna praises the power of his word which says, "Thou! When thy word is pronounced in heaven the Igigi prostrate themselves. Thou! When thy word settles down on the earth green vegetation is produced" (Moriarty 1974, 346-7; ANET, 386).

Creation by separation especially heaven from earth is mentioned a numbered of times in Sumerain texts. Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Underworld says, "When heaven had been moved away from the earth, When earth had been separated from heaven, When the name of man had been fixed" (Clifford 1994, 23). The poem Praise of the Pickax and Enki and Ninmah also tell of the separation of heaven from earth (Ibid, 31, 40).

Akkadian Literature

Enuma Elish

Marduk destroys and creates "images" by magic words in Enuma Elish.

Open thy mouth: the Images will vanish!
Speak again, and the Images shall be whole!
At the word of his mouth the Images vanished.
He spoke again, and the Images were restored (ANET, 66; Tablet 4:23-26).

It does not seem that God is using magic words to create in Genesis one. Marduk did not create the universe by spoke word, but by a battle against Tiamat.

The opening lines of Enuma Elish show the importance of naming an object which is synonymous with creation which say:

When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined (ANET, 60-1).

Egyptian Literature

In The Theology of Memphis Ptah creates by thinking in his heart, and then speaking with his tongue. It says:

There came into being as the heart and there came into being as the tongue (something) in the form of Atum. The mighty Great One is Ptah the Ennead (of Ptah), however, is the teeth and lips in this mouth, which pronounce the name of everything. Indeed, all the divide order really came into being through what the heart thought and the tongue commanded (ANET, 5).

Ugaritic Literature

In Ugaritic there is also evidence of the power of the spoken word. In Keret it says, "The massage of the noble Keret, the word of the gracious one, [page of El]" (Gibson, 1978, 90; KTU 1.14.VI.40; COS, 337; ANET, 145). The Ugaritic thm may parallel the Hebrew dbr (Moriarty, 353).

Another passage in the Baal Cycle says, "Your decree (word), El is wise, your wisdom is everlasting. A life of good fortune is your decree" (Gibson, 60; KTU 1.4 IV.41-43; COS, 259; ANET, 133).

Day One

Hebrew Text

dja <wy - Day One

The Hebrew word <wy, day is used three different ways in this section. In Genesis 1:3 the light is called day which would be about 12 hours. At the end of this verse it says that it was evening and morning day one which would be 24 hours. Then in Genesis 2:4 it says, "in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." Here <wy refers to the six days of creation. The phrase "in the day" is beyom which means "when." Beyom is used at the beginning of ANE creation stories.

Psalm 90:4 says, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday" and 2 Peter 3:8 says, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

The "Day of the Lord" seems to be a period of time not just 24 hours. So one must depend on the context to determine what the meaning of "day" is.

In Genesis one creation is seen as the dawning of a new day. Maybe the six double hours of day (Babylonian time) are parallel to the six days of creation which may come from the phases of the six day moon cycle (Enuma Elish V:16).

The ancient Jews would not have read a Day-Age theory into Genesis one. They would understood these days as regular 24 hour days. There is the question, Did the day begin at evening or morning? For the Jews the day begins with the evening at dusk. For example, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening (See Stroes 1966, 473; VT 16; Westermann, 115).

In ancient times the phrase dja <wy meaning "day one" was much discussed, because the cardinal number (one) is used as opposed to the ordinal (first) as in the rest of this chapter (Bowker 1969, 103). A look at other ancient languages show a similar use. Loewenstamm concludes, "The use of the phrase "one day" for "a first day" stands midway between Proto-Semitic (Ugaritic) which did not express the concept of "first" at all, and the developed language which assigned a special word for this concept" (1980, 16).

Ugaritic Texts

Cryus Gordon writes, "the first day of the week is not called yom rison 'First Day' but yom ehad 'Day of One.' Inasmuch as ehad 'One' is a name of God, the first day of the week may well be named after the great God who was number One in the ancient pantheon, and alone survives as the only God in the historic monotheisms. This process is already attested in a ritual tablet from Ugaritic, where the first day is called ym ahd (and not prí ym 'first day') (1979, 299-300; UF 11; UT 29.1-3; 19.14-19; 49 V.22; 55.5,29; 56.16,21,35). Loewenstammís view seems to be the better explanation of "day one." Letís look at a few passages.

Aqhat says, "Behold! a day and a second he fed the Kotharat and gave drink" (Gibson, 106; KTU 1.17.II.32-3; COS, 345; ANET, 150). Here there is no need for a number for just one. It is just named. Numbering starts after one.

Keret says, "Go a day and a second, a third, a fourth day, a fifth, a sixth day; then with the sun on the seventh (day)" (Gibson, 85; KTU 1.14.III.2-4; COS, 335; ANET, 144; see also KTU 1.14.V.3).

In the Baal Cycle the temple of Baal was built in seven days which says, "Behold! a day and a second the fire consumed in the mansion" (Gibson, 62; KTU 1.4 VI.24). There is no use of "one" or "first" here.

Akkadian Literature

In the Gilgamesh Epic "one day" is used like in Genesis one, instead of the "first day." The Gilgamesh Epic says, "One day, a second day, Mount Nisir held the ship fast, Allowing no motion" (ANET, 94; Heidel 1946, 86). On the seventh day a dove is set free.

Jewish Literature

Josephus says, "This should be the first day, but Moses spoke of it as 'one' day. (LCL, 242, 15: Jewish Antiquities Book 1:29). Josephus does not take the time to explain the reason for this.

Philo in On The Creation (35) says, "its Maker called Day, and not 'first'í day but 'one,' and expression due to the uniqueness of the intelligible world, and to its having therefore a natural kinship to the number 'One' (LCL, 226, 27). In another place Philo says, "Creation cannot have taken place in six natural days, for days are measured by the sunís course, and the sun is but a portion of creation" (Philo 1929, xiii).

In Genesis Rabbah R. Yannai says that "one day" refers to the "Day of Judgment" (Neusner 1985, 34). R. Tanhum says, "It was the day on which unique things were made, heaven, earth, and light" (Ibid). There is also a listing of other important events that happened on the first day of the week (Ibid, 35).

Creation of the Firmament

Hebrew Text

uyqr yhy - Let there be a firmament

The Hebrew word for firmament is uyqr. It comes from the verb uqr which means "stamp, beat out, spread out" (BDB, 1980, 955). It refers to the vault of heaven that God made on the second day of creation to separate the waters. The Greek word for "firmament" in the LXX is sterewma, and in the Vulgate it is firmanemtum. These words stress the solidness of the firmament (A&G, 1957, 766).

Exodus 24:9-10 says, "Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire (or lapis lazuli), clear as the sky itself" (NIV). Here the firmament is described like the appearance of lapis lazuli which is blue in color like the sky above.

Deuteronomy 28:23 says, "And the heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron" (KJV). In Leviticus 26:19 the metal are reversed. It says, "and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass" (KJV). This is poetically describing a drought.

Job 37:18 says, "Hast thou with him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten looking glass" (KJV). The mirrors in those days were polished brass. The Hebrews thought the firmament was like a strip of hammered out brass. Even if this verse is just a metaphor, it still indicates that the Hebrews thought the firmament was a solid substance. BDB (1980, 1051) translates Job 26:13 as "by his breath the sky becomes fair." God breathes (with the wind) on the mirror like sky to polish and clean it. The firmament supported a celestial ocean above it according to Genesis one.

Ezekiel 1:22 states, "Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse (firmament), sparkling like ice, and awesome" (NIV). The firmament is described as jrqh /yuk meaning "like sparkling ice." This seems to be a change of thinking about what the firmament was made of from lapis lazuli to ice.

Amos 9:6 says, "he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth" (NIV). The Hebrew word tdga is used in parallel with twlum which means "upper chambers." The root meaning of the word tdga is "band" (BDB, 8). It is used in 2 Samuel 2:25 for a band of men, and in Exodus 12:22 for a bunch of Hyssop. BDB (8) says that here it refers to the vault of heaven. Rinaldi explains, "the root to bind, yields bundle for concrete concepts, and bond or frame used in support of a building" (1985, 202-204; OT Abstracts 1986, 716). The universe is described as a huge building. The roof is the firmament that holds the wind, rain, snow, and hail in certain chambers (Psalm 104:13). There are windows that let the rain out. Genesis 7:11 and 8:2 mentions the windows of heaven that are either opened or closed to let the water in or out. Wind, snow, and hail are said to be in storehouses ytwrxwam, and qhsaurwn in the LXX (Psalm 135:7, and Job 38:22). The storm-wind is said to come out of the rdj meaning "inner chamber or store rooms" (BDB, 293). In Job 9:9 there are chambers rdj of the south where constellations are stored. The upper chamber ytwylu in Psalm 104:3, and 13 are said to contain water which God rains on earth.

The terminology used to picture the firmament in Amos 9:6 is that of a heavenly building. Proverbs 8:27 says that God is erecting the heavens. Psalm 11:4 says, "The Lord is in his holy temple; the lord is on his heavenly throne." Here Godís abode is described as a temple and a palace. Isaiah six is a graphic picture of Godís dwelling place. Comas in book 5 explains that Mosesí tabernacle is a picture of the universe. The curtain in the Holy place is the firmament. Above the firmament is the Holy of Holies where God dwells (McCrindle 1897, 138-243).

New Testament

Revelation 4:6 says, "Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal" NIV). The Greek is ws qalassa ualinh omoia krustallw. This is probably based on Ezekiel 1:22. The LXX has wsei sterewma, ws orasis krustallou, meaning "like the firmament, clear as ice.

In the Targum of Ezekiel the firmament is compared to a great ice field (Aune 1997, 296). It says, "The likeness above the heads of the creatures was a firmament, like a mighty ice field" (Levey 1987, 22). In the Book of Wisdom 19:20 it says, "On the other side, the flames wasted not the flesh of corruptible animals walking therein: neither did they melt that good food which was apt to melt as ice" (DV).

In Homer and Herodotus krustallos means "ice" (L&S, 1000). Herodotus (Book 4:28) says, "The sea freezes over, and the whole of the Cimmerian Bosphorus; and the Scythians, who live outside the trench which I mentioned previously, make war upon the ice (krustallou), and drive wagons across it to the country of the Sindi" (Selincourt, 280).

In the Iliad (Book 22:152) it tells of two springs. Homer writes, "The one floweth with warm water, and round about a smoke goeth up therefrom as it were from a blazing fire, while the other even in summer floweth forth cold as hail or chill snow or ice that water formeth (ex udatos krustallw)" (LCL 171, 465).

In the Odyssey (Book 14:477) it says, "night came on, foul, when the North Wind had fallen, and frosty, and snow came down on us from above, covering us like rime, bitter cold, and ice (krustallos) formed upon our shields" (LCL, 69).

This word krustallos also appears in Revelation 22:1 which says, "Then the angel showed me the river of water of life, as clear as crystal" (NIV). Because krustallos is used with the words "sea, river of water" the older meaning of "ice" should be preferred (A&G, 454).

The Greek verb, krustallixw, appears only once (hapax legomenon) in Revelation 21:11 meaning "shine like crystal, be as transparent as crystal of jasper" (A&G, 454).

In Revelation 15:2 it says, "And I saw what looked like a sea of glass (ualinhn) mixed with fire" (NIV). Daniel 7:9-10 says, "His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out before him" (NIV). Possibly this is a reflection of a fiery sunset on the horizon of the ocean where water and fire are seemingly mixed together. In the Book of Gates there were five pits or lakes of fire. Budge explains:

The pits of fire were, of course, suggested by the red, fiery clouds which, with lurid splendor often herald the sunrise in Egypt. As the sun rose, dispersing as he did so the darkness of night, and the mist and haze which appeared to cling to him, it was natural for the primitive people of Egypt to declare that his foes were being burned in his pits or lakes of fire. The redder and brighter the fiery glare, the more effective would the burning up of the foes be thought to be (1906, 178-9).

The other possibility is that of hot springs that boil up steam that look like they are coming from a fire.

Revelation 21: 18 and 21 say, "The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass" (NIV; ualos diafanhs). The Greek word ualos originally meant "some kind of crystalline stone" (L&S, 1840). Herodotus (Book 3:24) writes, "These coffins are said to be made of crystal, and the method the Ethiopians follow is first to dry the corpse, either by the Egyptian process or some other, then cover it all over with gypsum and paint it to resemble as closely as possible the living man; then they enclose it in a shaft of crystal which has been hollowed out, like a cylinder, to receive it. The stuff is easily worked and is mined in large quantities. The corpse is plainly visible inside the cylinder; there is no disagreeable smell, or any other cause of annoyance, and every detail can be as distinctly seen as if there were nothing between oneís eyes and the body" (Selincourt, 213). This word is used also in Job 28:17 which says, "Gold and crystal shall not be equaled to it" (LXX). This word is also used for glass. The adjective means glassy or transparent. The verb means, "to be green like glass" (L&S, 1840). Maybe the frozen sea is like green glass.

Akkadian Literature

There are two very interesting Akkadian texts KAR 307 30-33 and AO 1896 iv 20-22 that divided heaven into three regions; upper, middle, and lower heaven. Each heaven is made of a different precious stone. It is described as follows:

 The upper heaven is Luludanitu stone of Anu. He settled the 300 Igigu  inside. The middle heaven is Saggilmut stone of Igigu. Bel sat on a throne within, on a dais of lapis lazuli. He made glass and crystal inside (it). The lower heaven is jasper of the stars. He drew the constellations of the gods on it (Livingstone 1986, 83; see also Horowitz 1998, 4; SAA 3, 100).

The upper heaven is said to be made of Luludanitu stone which is said to be red covered with white and black patches. Several texts refer to the red color of the sky at sunrise or sunset (Horowitz 1998, 10). It may also refer to Anu who is identified with a red bird with white patch on its head (Ibid.).

The middle heaven is made of Saggilmut stone which is blue colored stone. Its appearance is like lapis-lazuli (Ibid.). This is similar to Exodus 24:10.

The lower heaven is made of jasper which is a hard, glassy, translucent quartz. Pliny in his Natural History (Book 37:37) tells of a sky blue "aerizusa" jasper from Persia which seems to best fit this context (LCL 10, 258-9). It seems that the stars were directly etched onto the jasper stone surface (Horowitz 1998, 14-15).

There are two traditions about the heavens being made of water and stones. The best way to explain this is that the waters are held in place by the stone floors of heavens. There are close connections between the Sumerian and Akkadian words for "heaven" and the words for "rain." The stars are also connected with dew (Ibid., 262).

Egyptian Literature

The ancient Egyptians had a strong sense of symmetry and balance. A sky above meant that there must be a sky below. Each god had his goddess. Heaven was an ocean that paralleled the earthly ocean. The sun sailed in a ship across the heavenly ocean. They believed that there was a nocturnal ocean beneath the world on which the sun would sail at night. Boats have been dug up around the Great Pyramid so the king would have a boat to sail on the heavenly ocean.

The Pyramid Texts are the oldest Egyptian writings. They are very short, and are mainly concerned with the destiny of the dead in order that they might dwell in the sky like the gods. They could journey with the sun-god in his ship, or live in the fields of the Blessed, the Field of Food-Offerings, or the Field of Iaru. There are many utterances that have been written on the Pyramids. Here are some excerpts from the texts about their view on heaven (Faulkner 1969).

Set the rope aright, cross the Milky Way(?), smite the ball in the meadow if Apis! Oho! Your fields are in fear, you izd-star, before the Pillar of the Stars, for they have seen the Pillar of Kenzet, the Bull of the sky, and the Ox-herd is overwhelmed before him. Ho! Fear and tremble, you violent ones who are on the storm-cloud of the sky! He split open the earth by means of what he knew on the day when he wished to come thence (Utterance 254).

The king takes possession of the sky, he cleaves its iron (Utterance 257).

Stand up, remove yourself, O you who do not know the Thicket of Reeds, that I may sit in your place and row over the sky in your bark, O Re, that I may push off from the land in your bark, O Re. When you ascend from the horizon, my sceptre will be in my hand as one who rows your bark, O Re. You mount up to the sky, you are far from the earth, far from wife and kilt (Utterance 267).

If you wish to live, O Horus in charge of your staff of justice, then you shall not slam shut its door leaves before you have taken the kingís double to the sky (Utterance 440).

From these utterances one learns that there is a heavenly ocean with gates that keep the waters in, and the sun travels by boat across this ocean. There is a parallel underworld ocean and sky.

In utterance 257 the word for "iron" is better translated "bronze," (Faulkner 1991, 80) which indicates that heaven was made of hard metal. Mercer (1952, 2:142) takes this as a figurative sense meaning "hardness" or "firmness."

There are a number of drawings on Egyptian walls that explain their view of the world. In the Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos there is a drawing of the universe on the ceiling in the sarcophagus chamber (Keel 1978, 32, 389). Shu, the god of the air, holds up Nut covered with stars. The sun is born again each morning from Nutís birth canal, and is swallowed by her mouth at dusk which leads to the underworld. The underworld is both in heaven and under the earth. Those whose souls were lighter than the feather of righteousness could continue on to heaven while the others would be punished in pits of fire. The sun is drawn as a winged disk, and right beside it is written:

The majesty of this god [the sun god] enters the world of the dead through her mouth. The world of the dead is opened when he enters into it. The stars follow him into her and come out again after him, and they hasten to their place (Keel 1978, 32).

In a much later drawing from Ptolemy IX there are two heavens (Ibid., 34, 389). The lower heaven contained the moon while the upper one contained the sun. The Tuat is surrounded by the earth. Sometimes the earth is identified with the underworld. The Egyptian word for earth, t, and the Hebrew xra can designate the upper surface of the earth as well as the interior underworld (Keel, 35; Psalms 7:5, 44:25, 63:9).

A papyrus from the New Kingdom pictures the sky as a heavenly ocean on which the sun sails in its special boat. In the boat is Maat with a feather on her head sitting before the falcon-headed sun god. Maat symbolizes world order (Ibid., 36, 389).

There is a text that states that there are two heavens. There is the heaven that is above, and the heaven that is in the underworld on which the sunís boats float. The text says:

(Thus) thou shalt be in thy shrine, thou shalt journey in the evening-barque, thou shalt rest in the morning-barque, thou shalt cross thy two heavens in peace, thou shalt be powerful, thou shalt live (ANET, 7).

Greek Literature

In ancient Greek literature heaven was described in similar terms as in the OT. Homer describes heaven several different ways. In Iliad heaven is described as calkeos (brass), and polucalkos (solid brass; LCL, 17:425, 5:504). The Odyssey also describes heaven as sidhreos, meaning "iron" (LCL, 1:2,3). According to Liddell and Scott (1857, 1068), the Greek heaven was like "a concave hemisphere resting on the verge of earth, with an opening in it, through which the peak of Olympus stretched upward into pure ether. It was upborne by the pillars of Atlas" (Odyssey 1:54).

Jewish Literature

Josephus describes the creation of the firmament as follows:

After this, on the second day, He set the heaven above the universe, when he was pleased to sever this from the rest and to assign it a place apart, congealing ice about it and withal rendering it moist and rainy to give the benefit of the dews in a manner congenial to the earth (LCL, 1930, 4:15).

According to Josephus God froze some of the water to keep it uplifted above the earth. The ice melts to let it rain on the earth. The Greek word is krustallos which can mean "crystal" or "ice." Ice is the older meaning (A&G, 1957, 454).

Philo (30-45 AD) was a citizen of Alexandria, the chief city of the Jewish dispersion, and the center of Hellenistic culture. Philo brings together Hellenism and Judaism. Philo is famous for his allegorical interpretation of scripture. About the second day of creation Philo says, "Fitly then, in contradistinction to the incorporeal and purely intelligible, did He call this body-like heaven perceived by our senses 'the solid firmament'" (Philo 1929, 29).

Ber.R. writes, "The firmament resembles a lake, and above the lake is an arched vault. From the heat of the lake the vault oozes out drops of water, which fall into the salt waters, yet do not mix with them" (Bowker, 1969, 104).

Fragments of 1 Enoch have been found among the Dead Sea scrolls. This book sets forth some interesting beliefs about the universe. It says:

And they took me into a place of whirlwind in the mountain; the top of its summit was reaching into heaven. And I saw chambers of light and thunder. And they lifted me up unto the waters of life, unto the occidental fire which receives every setting of the sun. And I came to the river of fire which flows like water and empties itself into the great sea in the direction of the West. And I saw all the great rivers and reached to the great darkness and went into the place where all fresh must walk cautiously. And I saw the mountains of the dark storms of the rainy season and from where the waters of all the seas flow. And I saw the mouths of all the rivers of the earth and the mouth of the sea. And I saw the storerooms of all the winds and saw how with them he has embroidered all creation as well as the foundations of the earth. I saw the cornerstone of the earth; I saw the four winds which bear the earth as well as the firmament of the heaven. I saw how the winds ride the heights of heaven and stand between heaven and earth; These are the very pillars of heaven. I saw the winds which turn the heaven and cause the star to setůthe sun as well as all the stars. I saw the souls carried by the clouds. I saw the path of the angels in the ultimate end of the earth, and the firmament of the heaven above (Charlesworth, 1989, 17-18, 20-21).

In the book of 2 Enoch which was probably complied at a much later date, there are ten heavenly spheres. Enoch travels through each one describing what is there. Seven spheres contain the sun, moon, and planets. Creation of the world is described as follows:

And I gave the command: Let there be light and some of the darkness. And I said, Become thickened, and be wrapped around with light! And I spread it out, and it became water. And I spread it out above the darkness, below the light. And thus I made the solid waters, that is to say, the bottomless. And I made a foundation of light around the water. And I created seven great circles inside it, and I gave them an appearance of crystal, wet and dry, that is to say glass and ice, and to be the circuit for water and the other elements. And I pointed out to each one of them his route, to the seven stars, each one of them in his own heaven, so that they might travel accordingly. And thus I made solid the heavenly circles (Book 27:1-28:1; Charlesworth, 1983, 46).

There are several opinions on how thick the firmament was. One Rabbi said, "It is like a thin metal plate," and another one said, "It is two or three fingers thick" (Bowker, 104). In Genesis Rabbah the firmament is the same thickness as the earth because the Hebrew word gwj is used for both heaven and earth (Neusner, 1985, 41). In the Babylonian Talmud it says, "But the distance from earth to the firmament is a journey of five hundred years, and the thickness of the firmament is a journey of five hundred years, and likewise [the distance] between one firmament and the other" (Epstein, 1935, 8:74).

In the Talmud the Hebrew word for heaven, shamayim, was explained as, "the combination of sham and mayim (the place where there is water), or esh and mayim (fire and water), and from these two elements the celestial region was made" (Cohen, 1975, 30). Because there are seven different Hebrew words for heaven, there must be seven different heavens (Epstein, 69-70). Vilon retires in the morning and issues forth in the evening, and renews the work of creation daily. Rakia is where the sun, moon, and stars are placed. Shechakim is where millstones grind manna for the righteous. Zebul is where the celestial Jerusalem is, and the Temple with its altar. Maon is where there are bands of ministering angels who sing at night. Machon is where there are treasuries of snow and hail, a loft of dews, a chamber of whirlwind and storm, and a cavern of smoke with doors of fire. Araboth is where there is righteous, judgment, charity, and storehouses of life, peace, and blessing. There are the souls of the righteous, and souls of them not yet born. There are also angels, and the very throne of God.

There are several ways in which the heavens could have been made according to the Rabbis. One Rabbi explained the phrase "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters" as "the central drop of water became congealed and both the lower and upper heavens were made" (Cohen, 31). Another Rabbi said, "the works of creation were in liquid form, and on the second day they solidified." Rabbi Hanina said, "Fire came forth from above and licked at the face of the firmament" (Neusner, 38). The fire dried the surface of the water and hardened it. Another Rabbi said, "He, took fire and water and beat them up together, and from them the heaven was made" (Freedman and Simon 1939, 32). Genesis Rabbah says, "when a mortal king builds a palace, he will roof it over with stones, timber, and earth. But the Holy One, blessed be he, made a roof over his world only with water, as it said, Who roofs your upper chambers with water" (Neusner, 37; Psalm 104:3).

In the Apocalypse of Baruch Baruch is carried up through the heavens by an angel. It says, "he led me to where the heaven was set fast and where there was a river which no one is able to cross" (Charlesworth 1983, 665). Heaven is seen as resting on the earth encircling ocean. Baruch asks the angel to tell him how thick the heaven is? The angel Phanael answers, "The gates which you saw are as large as (the distance) from east to west; the thickness of heaven is equal to the distance from earth to heaven" (Ibid., 664). In the Slavonic version it says, "They took an auger so that they could proceed to bore heaven so that they could see whether heaven is (made) of stone or of glass or of copper" (Ibid.). In the Greek version it says, "And taking an auger, they attempted to pierce the heaven, saying, "Let us see whether the heaven is (made) of clay or copper or iron" (Ibid., 665). This seems to indicate what they thought heaven was made of back then.

The partially preserved Apocalypse of Zephaniah starts off with Zephaniah being taken up into the fifth heaven. Chapter 2:5 says, "And [I saw] the whole inhabited world ha[nging] like a drop of wa[ter], which is suspended from a buc[ket] when it comes up from the well" (Charlesworth 1983, 510). This is similar to Isaiah 40:15 which states, "the nations are as a drop of a bucket" (KJV), and the Wisdom of Solomon 11:23 which states, "For the whole world before thee is as the least grain of the balance, and as a drop of the morning dew that falleth down upon the earth" (DV). In the Apocalypse of Zephaniah chapter 10:2 it says, "Heaven opened from the place where the sun rises to where it sets, from the north to the south. I saw the sea which I had seen a the bottom of Hades. Its waves came up to the clouds" (Ibid., 514).

The Sibylline Oracles which dates from the 2nd century BC to 70 AD starts out by describing the creation of the world. It says, "It was he who created the whole world, saying 'let it come to be' and it came to be. For he established the earth, draping it around with Tartarus, and he himself gave sweet light. He elevated heaven, and stretched out the gleaming sea, and crowned the vault of heaven amply with bright-shining stars and decorated the earth with plants. He mixed the sea with rivers, pouring them in" (Charlesworth 1983, 335).

The 4th Book of Ezra retells the story of creation in six days. Chapter 6 starts at the beginning before the heavens and "circle of the earth" where created. Verses 38-54 describe the 6 days of creation. On the second day it says, "you created the spirit of the firmament, and commanded him to divide and separate the waters, that one part might move upward and the other part remain beneath" (Ibid., 536). This may mean that the wind separated the waters by uplifting part of the waters for the firmament.

The Greek Apocalypse of Ezra describes Ezraís ascent up into the first heaven then descent into Tartarus and then back up into the heavens. This was written sometime between 150 to 850 AD.

In the Apocalypse of Sedrach Sedrach is taken as far as the third heaven. He wants to know why God created the earth? This was probably composed sometime between 150 and 500 AD, and its final form after 1000 AD.

The Apocalypse of Abraham tells of the secrets of heaven that were revealed to Abraham when he visited the eight firmaments. Chapter 15:5 states, "And we ascended as if (carried) by many winds to the heaven that is fixed on the expanses. And I saw on the air to whose height we had ascended a strong light which can not be described. And behold, in this light a fiery Gehenna was enkindled" (Charlesworth 1983, 696). This was probably written after 70 AD and before the middle of the second century.

The Testament of Levi states, "And I entered the first heaven, and saw there much water suspended. And again I saw a second heaven much brighter and more lustrous, for there was a measureless height in it. In the uppermost heaven of all dwells the Great Glory in the Holy of Holies" (Ibid., 788). The first heaven is dark because it sees all the sins of mankind. The second heaven contains the armies of angels, and in the upper most heaven God dwells with the archangels serving.

The Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah describes Isaiahís travels through the seven heavens. Each higher heaven is brighter and better then the lower one. This was written at the end of the first century, but the tradition behind it goes back further. In Joseph and Aseneth (12:1-3) creation is described as, "(God) who brought the invisible (things) out into the light, who made the (things that) are and the (ones that) have an appearance from the appearing and non-being, who lifted up the heaven and founded it on a firmament upon the backs of the winds, who founded the earth upon the waters, who put big stones on the abyss of the water, and the stones will not be submerged, but they are like oak leaves (floating) on top of the water" (Charlesworth 1985, 220). In the second part Levi will "see her (Asenethís) place of rest in the highest, and her walls like adamantine eternal walls, and her foundations founded upon a rock of the seventh heaven" (Ibid., 239). This seems to be a Jewish legend written around 200 AD.

In the Ladder of Jacob it says, "you who have made the skies firm for the glory of your name, stretching out on two heavenly clouds the heaven which gleams under you, that beneath it you may cause the sun to course and conceal it during the night so that it might not seem a god" (Ibid., 408; 2:10-12).

The History of the Rechabites tells of a righteous man named Zosimus who is taken by an animal for many days to reach the great ocean. Zosimus says, "I looked and (saw) in the midst of the sea (something) like a dense bulwark of cloud suspended upon the sea; and the top of the cloud extended to the height of heaven" (Charlesworth 1985, 451; 2:8). No one can cross this ocean, but two large trees bend down and took him to an island on the other side of the ocean and cloud. Chapter 10:7-8 explains, "And after the angles of God brought us and placed us in this place in the midst of the water of this great sea, God commanded and the waters rose up from the deep abyss and encircled this place. And by the command of God a cloud became a bulwark above the water and rose up as far as heaven" (Ibid., 455). Because of this cloud the sun does not shine there, but a glorious light. This was probably written sometime between the 2nd and 6th century AD.

There are some interesting Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers written sometime between 150 to 300 AD that tell about Godís creation. These are contained in the Apostolic Constitutions, Book 7 and 8. Prayer 3 says, "(God) who separated waters from waters with a firmament, and put a lively spirit in these; who settled the earth (firmly), and stretched out heaven. While heaven, having been pitched like a vault, is adorned with stars" (Charlesworth 1985, 679). Prayer 4 says, "Heaven knows the one who raised it as a vault upon nothing, like a stone cube, and united earth and water with each other" (Ibid., 681). This may indicate that they thought the universe was cube shaped. Prayer 12 says, "For you are the one who placed the heaven like a vaulted arch, and like a screen stretched it out; and founded the earth upon nothing, by judgment alone; the one who fixed a firmament, and prepared night and day; the one who brought light out of the treasuries"

Genesis 1:5-8 DAY 2

Circle of the Heavens

Hebrew Text

The Hebrew word for "circle" is gwj. This root word is used six times in the OT (Isa 40:22, 44:13; Job 22:14, 26:10; Prov 8:27 also Sir 43:12, 24:5: 1QM 10:13). BDB says the meaning of gwh is, "vault, horizon; of the heavens, sea and earth" (1980, 295). First the phrase "circle of the heavens" will be studied, later the "circle of the sea" and then finally the "circle of the earth."

Job 22:14 says, ilhty <ym? gwj which I translate, "but He habitually causes himself to walk around the vault of heaven."

LXX Text

The LXX in Job 22:14 has, kai guron ouranou diaporeuetai which I translate, "and he passes through the vault of heaven." In the Hebrew, God is walking on the arched shaped firmament, but in the LXX God is passing through the vault of heaven. This may reflect the new thinking that there are different spheres surrounding the earth that one must pass through to get to heaven. It is also an attempt to avoid any anthropomorphic terms for God.

Latin Text

The Vulgate in Job 22:14 says, et circa cardines caeli perambulat, which I translate, "and He walks around the poles of heaven." The Vulgate seems to translate this verse as referring to the rotation around the poles of heaven. The Vulgate implies that heaven is a sphere that is revolving around the earth.

Akkadian Literature

In Akkadian literature the sky is divided into a 360 degree circle. The stars move one degree each day, and there are 360 days in an astronomical year. The sky is also divided up into three paths; the northern path belonging to Enlil, the central path belonging to Anu, and the southern path belonging to Ea. The sun and moon are also said to have certain paths across the sky that cross these other paths or regions. The entire heavens (naphar same) seems to picture a cattle pen for the creatures of heaven (Horowitz 1998, 253-55). Horowitz states, "The image of the starry sky as a cattle-pen may provide indirect evidence that the sky was perceived as a dome" since the roofs of cattle-pens may have been dome-shaped (1998, 255-6 n.14).There seems to be a drawing of a dome vault sky at Mari (Or 54:202).

The Neo-Assyrian ziqpu-star text BM 38369+38694 states, "[A tota]l? of 12 leagues of the circle of (those that) cul[minate] amidst the stars of the Path of [Enlil]" (Ibid., 186). The text CT 46 55 (BM 123379) states "circ]le? of heaven" (Ibid., 178). The texts K.9794//AO 6478 seem to indicate the path of Enlil is a perfect circle which would make the height of heaven 109,200 leagues and the diameter of the earth's surface 218,400 leagues (Ibid., 187; league = 3 statue miles). This may also indicate a ferris-wheel like motion of the stars from east to west.

There is a royal inscription from Ashur-nasir-pali II to the goddess Sharrat-niphi which says, "shinning countenance who like the god Shamash her sibling inspects equally the circumference of heaven (and) [underworld]" (Grayson 1976, 2:169).

There are two repeated Akkadian phrases that indicate the heavens where circular; kippat burume meaning "circle of the sky," and kippat same meaning "circle of heaven." Burume comes from the root word meaning "speckled" (CAD B 103). This refers to the night sky speckled with stars. The phrase "writing of the night sky" (sitir burume) refers to the fixed arrangement of the stars.

In Assurbanipal's Acrostic Hymn to Marduk and Zarpanitu it states, "You are exalted in the heavens grasper of the discs of the celestial firmament" (kip-pat bu-ru-um-me; SAA 3, 7:7-8).

In two hymns to the Sun-god it states, "You are their (mankind's) light in the circle of the distant heavens," and "[You are the direc]tor of people in the circle of heaven" (kippat same; Horowitz 1998, 264).

There is a group of ancient astronomical texts called "astrolabes." There are circular and list forms of astrolabes. This indicates that they thought the heavens were circular. On these circular astrolabes there are three concentric rings for the paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea which are divided into the 12 months of the year (Ibid., 154-156).

A limestone kudurru found at Susa, has a coiled serpent at the top that represents the heavenly circular ocean that mirrors the earthly circular ocean. Below the heavenly serpent are symbols of the high gods that are revealed in the constellations (Keel 1978, 46-7). The top of this stone is dome-shaped which probably indicates that they thought the sky was dome-shaped. The whole stone may be what they thought the whole universe looked like from a side view.

There is an important Babylonian world map that depicts the earth as circular surrounded by a circular sea as seen from an aerial view (Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum 1906, part xxii, pl. 48). Beyond the circular sea of the Babylonian world map lies probably eight districts that lead to the heavenly regions which surround everything. According to my translation Unger states:

The sky was the abode of the gods, it is surrounded by the heavenly ocean. The earth, like a mirror shaped image of the sky, is therefore encircled by the 'Bitter water,' namely the earthly ocean. The connection between the heaven and the earth places the seven districts or rather islands there (Unger 1931, 21).

Beyond the eight districts lies the heavenly ocean which contained animals that the god Marduk created. Many of these animals are well known constellations. The animals are summed up by the words. "the past gods." Unger says:

They are namely, the gods of primitive chaos of the first world, that after the story of world creation were conquered by the god Bel-Marduk of Babylon in violent combat, and subdued them, and now these are transferred below the stars. The seven districts are the actual objects described on the tablet. The Babylonians know how they are shaped, but except for Ut-napishtim, the Babylonian Noah, and the flood hero, and another hero of old, who was transfigured, was being raised below by the gods, nobody more is able to enter the inner districts (Unger 1931, 22).

Unger concludes:

This goes back to the old Sumerian view, that all which is seen in the Heavens will be also found again on the earth. 'What is above, is (also) below.' So are also the designs of the city, and the temple, since pre-history 'also the writing of the heavens' in the constellations were drawn. In a parallel epic to the great world creation Enuma Elish is now being described as the creation of the heavenly Babylon and the heavenly temple Esagila (Ibid).

This map seems to be more of an explanation of the heavens than of the earth. Because the earth is drawn as circular, and is a mirror image of heaven, then heaven itself is circular in shape as seen by the coiled serpent on the kudurru.

There is a badly preserved wall painting in Room 132 of the Old Babylonian palace of Mari where the sky seems to be pictured as a dome (Lambert 1985, 202; see pictures in Syria 18 pl. xxxviii 2, and page 352 fig.14; MAM II/2 pl. xx 1).

In The Legend of the Seven Evil Demons it says, "The Evil Gods are raging storms, Ruthless spirits created in the vault of heaven; When the seven evil gods Forced their way into the vault of heaven" (Thompson 1903, 89-93). Twice the phrase "vault of heaven" is mentioned in this text. In Akkadian it is su-puk same(e). Same is the common name for heaven. According to Von Soden's Akkadische Handworterbuch (1965, 1280) supku means Grundung (foundation), and su-puk same means Himmelsgrundung (heavenly foundation, firmament). So "vault" is more an interpretation than a literal translation of the word su-puk. The foundations of a circular heaven are probably set on the circular sea and circular earth which meet at the horizon.

Egyptian Literature

The Egyptians like the other ancient people saw the universe as three parts; however, the Egyptians viewed the underworld as another part of the earth. Since the ancient Egyptians had a strong sense of symmetry and balance, a sky above meant that there must be a sky below. Each god had his goddess. Heaven was an ocean that paralleled the earthly ocean. The sun sailed in a ship across the heavenly ocean. They believed that there was a nocturnal ocean beneath the world on which the sun would sail at night.

There are two texts that may indicate that the heavens were circular in shape. A coffin text says, "O Re, may he who is in his evening be gracious to me, when we have made the circuit of heaven" (ANET, 12). Another text from Thutmose III says, "there shall arise none rebellious to thee as far as that which heaven encircles" (ANET, 374). From some of the drawings in tombs it seems clear that some Egyptians viewed heaven as circular in parallel with a circular earth surrounded by a circular ocean. One such example pictures a man with two circular serpents which represent the upper and lower oceans (Keel, 45).

Ugaritic Literature

The Canaanites saw nature alive with different gods. The gods were different parts of nature, and controlled certain phenomena. The sea was personified as the god Yam. Baal controlled the storm clouds. Lightning was his weapon. Nature was explained by the supernatural.

Familiar things and events were used to explain unfamiliar things and events in nature. Clouds were viewed as Baal's ships carrying snow (Gibson 1978, 60). Baal is called lrkb. 'rpt, "rider on the clouds" (KTU, 1.2 IV:8,29; CTA, Herdner 1963, 2:iv,8,29). Here the clouds are pictured as Baal's chariots. The OT also describes God as the "rider of the clouds" in Psalm 68:4 (cf. Psalms 18:9, 68:33, 104:3, Isa 19:1, Matt 26:24). Even though there are conflicting metaphors of the same thing or event, these differences did not upset the Canaanites. Even today modern man uses many metaphors to categorize, and to explain his world. The Canaanites basically saw the universe as three levels, heaven, earth with the sea, and the underworld.

The Ugaritic phrase dr dt smm, "the circle of the heavens," may refer to the zodiac that completes a circle each year (KTU 1.10 I:3-5; CTA, Herdner 1963, 10:I,3-5), however, the phrases bn `il (the sons of El), phr `ilm (the assembly of El), and phr kkbm (the assembly of the stars) are all used in parallel with dr dt smm (the circle of the heavens; KTU 1.10 I:5; CTA, Herdner, 10:I,3-5). So "the circle of heavens" probably refers to the stars of heaven that circle around. It may just be the circumpolar stars, but all the stars were personified as, or identified with gods. Stars (kbkbm) are also used synonymously with the word heavens, smm. The stars always stayed in the same place as if immoral. Certain stars marked the beginning of different seasons. El is said to be the father of the gods which the phrase bn `il indicates.

In Ugarit they believed rain and dew came from the heavenly ocean. In the Baal Cycle it says, rbb. Nskh. Kbkbm, meaning "showers that the stars did pour upon her" (KTU, 1.3 II:41; CTA, Herdner 1963, 3:ii,41; see also Craigie 1977, 33-49; 1978, 374-81). It seems logical that the stars were seen as gods that poured water down from the heavenly ocean to earth when it rained. Compare this to Judges 5:20 which says, "From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera" (NIV). Could the stars have poured down the water in verse 4?

Jewish Literature

The Apocryphal books also shed light on this passage in Job 22:14. In the book of I Esdras 4:34 it says, "great is the earth, high is the heaven, swift is the sun in his course, for he compasseth the heavens round about, and fetcheth his course again to his own place in one day." In the Greek it is the phrase, en tw kuklw tou ouranou, meaning "in the circle of the heaven" (Septuagint 1978, 8).

In the book of the Wisdom of Sirach, chapter 13:2 says, "but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be the gods which govern the world" (Septuagint 1978, 66). Sirach stresses that the stars are not gods. Also in the Wisdom of Sirach 7:18-19 it says:

For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements: the beginning, ending, and midst of the times: the alterations of the sun, and change of the seasons: the circuits of years, and positions of stars (Septuagint 1978, 61).

The phrase "circuits of years" may refer to the cycle of the stars in one year through the zodiac.

The Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 24:4-5 says, "I (wisdom) dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar. I alone compassed the circuit of the heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep" (Ibid, 94). The Greek word for "circuit" is guros which is the same word used in the LXX in Isaiah 40:22. In the Latin text it says, Gyrum caeli circuivi sola which means, "I alone compassed the circle of the sky."

It also says in the Wisdom of Sirach chapter 43:11-12, "Look upon the rainbow, and praise him that made it; very beautiful it is in the brightness thereof. It compasseth the heaven about with a glorious circle, and the hands of the most High have bended it" (Ibid, 112). The Greek word for "circle" here is kuklos which is used often in classical Greek literature to describe the heavens. In the Hebrew text from the Dead Sea Scrolls it reads, hdwbkb hpyqh qwj meaning "inscribe a decree in his glory" (Vattioni 1968, 233). The Latin text says, Gyravit caelum in circuitu glorious suae, which means, "It (the rainbow) encircles the sky in its glorious circle" (Ibid, 232).

Greek Literature

In Greek literature Herodotus in book I:131,2 writes ton kuklos panta tou ouranou Dia kaleovtes which means, "they call the whole circle of heaven Zeus" (Hude 1979, I:131,2; Herodotus 1954, 96). The heavens are described as a circle, vault, or sphere which included the sun, moon, earth, fire, water and wind. In the Homeric hymn 8:6 it says, puraugea kuklos aiqeros which means, "the fiery bright circle of ether" (L&S 1940, 1007). In Sophocles' book Philoctetes it says, 'o anw kuklos which means, "the circle above" (Ibid). Aristotle used the word kuklos to refer to: the milky way, 'o tou galaktos kuklos the zodiac, 'o kuklos 'o twn zwdiwn and the horizon, 'o 'orizwn kuklos (Ibid). Plato viewed heaven as "a single spherical (sfairoeides) universe in circular motion" (Lee 1965, 45; Archer-Hind 1973, 100). Aristotle also said, Schma d' anagkh sfairoeides ecein ton ouranon meaning "the shape of the heaven must be spherical" (Aristotle 1960, 154-55). According to Aristotle there were seven spheres. One for each of the planets, sun, moon, and stars.

After looking at the passages where guros and kuklos appear, there emerges a noticeable difference between the two words. In reference to heaven the word kuklos is used to refer to the circular movement of heavenly bodies while guros is used to refer to the circular horizon. The LXX uses both words. The word kuklos occurs many tines in the LXX meaning, "round about," but guros occurs only three times. The word sfairoeides is never used in the LXX to describe the heavens.


Plato lived from about 427 to 347 BC. His views changed the way the universe was viewed. Heaven was no longer a solid stationary vault, but one huge revolving sphere with stars attached to it and seven inner circles, one for each of the five known planets plus the sun and moon. There was also the demythologizing of nature where everything in nature is seen as gods who behave quite immorally. Plato in his book The Republic (Book X:615) summarizes his view in these words:

And from the extremities the Spindle of Necessity, by means of which all the circles revolve. The shaft of the Spindle and the hook were of adamant, and the whorl (outermost sphere) partly of adamant and partly of other substances. The whorl was of this fashion. In shape it was like an ordinary whorl; but from Er's account we must imagine it as a large whorl with the inside completely scooped out, and within it a second smaller whorl, and a third and a fourth and four more, fitting into one another like a nest of bowls. For there were in all eight whorls, set one within another, with their rims showing above as circles and making up the continuous surface of a single whorl round the shaft, which pierces right through the centre of the eighth. The Spindle revolved as a whole with one motion; but, within the whole as it turned, the seven inner circle, revolving slowly in the opposite direction.

The Spindle turned on the knees of Necessity. Upon each of its circles stood a Siren, who was carried round with its movement, uttering single sound on one note, so that all the eight made up the concords of a single scale (1941, 353-4).

According to Plato the outer heavenly sphere is made of adamant which is a very hard substance. The Greek means "unconquerable" (Wright and Chadbourne 1970, 2). It may refer to a number of hard substances like quartz, emery, hematite, and some transparent gems. Theophrastus (372-287 BC.) called it a carbuncle because it could not be injuried by fire (Ibid.).

Plato goes into great detail about the universe in Timaeus which influenced the church fathers. Some church fathers rejected the Greek philosophers while others later tried to harmonize the Bible with Greek learning.

NT Apocrypha

The Revelation of Paul describes Paul's journey into the heavens. It was written around 380 AD. It says, "And he set me upon the river whose source springs up in the circle of heaven; and it is this river which encircleth the whole earth. And he says to me: This river is Ocean" (Roberts and Donaldson Vol.8, 577). Later on it says, "and set me upon the river of the ocean that supports the firmament of the heaven. And he took me to the setting sun, and where the beginning of the heaven had been founded upon the river of the ocean" (Ibid., 578).

Church Fathers

St. Augustine

The book of Genesis occupied much of Augustine's thoughts through the years. When he was young, he was involved in the Manichean religion that believed in the dualism of light and darkness. He constantly defended the view that God created all things good. He wanted the literal meaning of Genesis to be understood so he wrote twelve books called De Genesi as Litteram. In Book two chapter nine Augustine discusses the shape of heaven as follows:

It is also frequently asked what our belief must be about the form and shape of heaven according to Sacred scripture. Many scholars engaged in lengthy discussions on these matters, but the sacred writers with their deeper wisdom have omitted them. Such subjects are of no profit for those who seek beatitude, and, what is worse, they take up very precious time that ought to be given to what is spiritually beneficial. What concern is it of mine whether heaven is like a sphere and the earth is enclosed by it and suspended in the middle of the universe, or whether heaven like a disk above the earth covers it over on one side?

But the credibility of Scripture is at stake, and as I have indicated more than once, there is danger that a man uninstructed in divide revelation, discovering something in Scripture or hearing from it something that seems to be at variance with the knowledge he has acquired, may resolutely withhold his assent in other matters where Scripture presents useful admonitions, narratives, or declarations. Hence, I must say briefly that in the matter of the shape of heaven the sacred writers knew the truth, but that the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, did not wish to teach men these facts that would be of no avail for their salvation.

But someone may ask: "Is not Scripture opposed to those who hold that heaven is spherical, when it says, 'who stretches out heaven like a skin' (Psa 103:2)? Let it be opposed indeed if their statement is false. The truth is rather in what God reveals than in what groping men surmise. But if they are able to establish their doctrine with proofs that cannot be denied, we must show that this statement of Scripture about skin is not opposed to the truth of their conclusions. If it were, it would be opposed also to Sacred Scripture itself in another passage where it says that heaven is suspended like a vault (Isa 40:22). For what can be so different and contradictory as a skin stretched out flat and the curved shape of a vault? But if is necessary, as it surely is, to interpret these two passages so that they are shown not to be contradictory but to be reconcilable, it is also necessary that both of these passages should not contradict the theories that may be supported by true evidence, by which heaven is said to be curved on all sides in the shape of a sphere, provided only that this is proved.

Our picture of heaven as a vault, even when taken in a literal sense, does not contradict the theory that heaven is a sphere. We may well believe that in speaking of the shape of heaven scripture wished to describe that part which is over our heads. If, therefore, it is not a sphere, it is a vault on that side on which it covers the earth; but if it is a sphere, it is a vault all around. But the image of the skin presents a more serious difficulty: we must show that it is reconcilable not with the sphere (for that may be only a man-made theory) but with the vault of Holy Scripture. My allegorical interpretation of this passage can be found in the thirteenth book of my Confessions. Whether the description of heaven stretched out like a skin is to be taken as I have interpreted it there or in some other way, here I must take into account the doggedly literal-minded interpreters and say what I think is obvious to everyone from the testimony of the senses. Both the skin and the vault perhaps can be taken as figurative expressions; but how they are to be understood in a literal sense must be explained. If a vault can be not only curved but also flat, a skin surely can be stretched out not only on a flat plane but also in a spherical shape. Thus, for instance, a leather bottle and an inflated ball are both made of skin (Augustine 1982, 1:58-60).

St. Augustine in his commentary on the book of Psalms interprets creation figuratively in Psalm 104. "Stretching out the heaven like a skin;" is taken to mean the authority of scriptures is spread over all the world through mortal men. "Who covereth with waters the upper parts;" means the upper parts of Divine Scripture which is the commandment of love. "He hath founded the earth upon its firmness;" means that God founded the church upon Christ (Schaff 1979, 510). This is very different from his other books probably because they have two different purposes.

St. Ambrose

St. Ambrose in his Hexameron believes that heaven is a sphere that revolves around the earth. He tries to harmonize this with Genesis with some fancy arguments. He says:

And first of all these interpreters wish to destroy the profound impressions which frequent reading of the Scriptures have made in our mind, maintaining that waters cannot exit above the heavens. That heavenly sphere, they say, is round, with the earth in the middle of it; hence, water cannot stay on any circular surface, from which it needs must flow easily away, falling from a higher to a lower position. For how, they say, can water remain on a sphere when the sphere itself revolves?

To speak of matters within our knowledge, there are a great many building which are round in the exterior but are square-shaped within, and vice-verse. These buildings have level places on top, where water usually collects. When they state again that the glittering sphere of heaven revolves with its fiery stars, did not Divine Providence necessarily foresee that water more than sufficient to temper the heat of the burning axis should exist within the sphere of heaven and above it (Ambrose 1961, 52-56)?

St. Basil

St. Basil in his Hexaemeron explains about the firmament. He states:

We must examine whether this firmament, which was also called the heavens, is different from the heavens created in the beginning (Gen. 1:1). We, however, say that, since both a second name and a function peculiar to the second heaven was recorded, this is different one from that created in the beginning, one of a more solid nature and furnishing a special service for the universe. They ask us how, if the body of the firmament is spherical, as sight shows it to be, and if water flows and slips off high spots, it would be possible for the water to lie on the convex circumference of the firmament. What, then, shall we say to this? First of all, that, if some body appears circular to us because of an inner concavity, it is not necessary for the outer surface to be made completely spherical, and the whole to be perfectly rounded and smoothly finished. Let us look, indeed, at the stone vaults of the baths and the cavelike buildings which, rounded to a semicircular form according to their interior appearance, often have a flat surface on the upper sections of the roof. It is customary for the Scripture to call the strong and unyielding substance a firmament, so that if frequently uses this word in the case of air that is condensed, as when it says, 'He who strengthens the thunder' (Amos 4:13). And, surely, we need not believe, because it seems to have been its origin, according to the general understanding, from water, that its origin from the percolation of moisture, such as is the crystalline rock which men say is remade by the excessive coagulation of the water, or as is the element of mica which is formed in mines. This is a translucent stone, possessing a peculiar and most clear transparency, it is almost like the air in transparency. Now, we compare the firmament to none of these things (Homily 3; 1963, 39-43).

In Homily 4 Basil states, "The heavens standing, according to the word of prophecy (Isa. 40:22, LXX), like a vaulted chamber" (1963, 56).


Lactantius lived from about 260 to 330 AD. He turned from pagan philosophy to Christianity. In his book The Divine Institutes in chapter 24 he writes how foolish it is to believe in antipodes. This was a much debated subject. If the earth was a sphere then there must be people on the opposite side of the earth upside down hanging from their feet called antipodes. He contends they would fall down to the lower heaven. Rain, snow and hail would fall upward. He explains how this foolish belief started. People saw the sun, moon and stars traveling west then rising in the east again. They did not know how they returned back from the west to the east,

"but supposed that the heaven itself sloped downwards in every direction, which appearance it must present on account of its immense breadth, they thought that the world is round like a ball, and they fancied that the heaven revolves in accordance with the motion of the heavenly bodies; and thus that the stars and sun, when they have set, by the very rapidity of the motion of the world are born back to the east. Therefore they both constructed brazen orbs, as though after the figure of the world, and engraved upon them certain monstrous images, which they said where constellations" (ANF Vol.7, 94).

Lactantius concludes that there are many arguments to prove "that it is impossible for the heaven to be lower than the earth," but he does not have the time in this book to write about them.


Theophilus writing to Autolycus (about 181 AD) describes heaven as follows:

The heaven, therefore, being dome-shaped covering, comprehended matter which was like a clod. And so another prophet, Isaiah by name, spoke in these words: It is God who made the heavens as a vault, and stretched them as a tent to dwell in. This heaven which we see has been called firmament, and to which half the water was taken up that it might serve for rains, and showers, and dews to mankind. And half the water was left on earth for rivers, and fountains, and seas (Chp.13; Schaff and Wace 1979, 2:100; ANF Vol.2, 100).


Origen in his sermons on Genesis states the following about day three of creation:

Although God had already previously made heaven, now he makes the firmament. For he made heaven first, about which he says, 'heaven is my throne.' But after that he makes the firmament, that is, the corporeal heaven. For every corporeal object is, without doubt, firm and solid; and it is this which 'divides the water which is above heaven from the water which is below heaven' (Origen 1982, 48-49).

Origen sees the firmament as solid. In his book Against Celsus he says, "God had made the whole world, and the vault of heaven for us" (Book 4, Chp.9). Several other times in this book he mentions the "vault of the earth" (4:83; 5:2; 7:44). In his De Principlis he mentions the "spheres of the planets" (Book 2, Chp.3; ANF Vol.4, 274) which he explains, "the Greeks have termed spheres, ie., globes, but which the holy Scripture has called heavens" (Book 2, Chp.11; ANF Vol.4, 299). As to the number of spheres Origen states, "The Scriptures which are current in the Churches of God do not speak of 'seven' heavens, or of any definite number at all, but they do appear to teach the existence of 'heavens,' whether that means the 'spheres' of those bodies which the Greeks call 'planets,' or something more mysterious (Against Celsus Book 6 Chp.21; ANF Vol.4, 582-3). He saw Jacob's ladder which stretched to heaven as a way for souls to descend to earth.


Hippolytus lived from about 170 to 236 AD. In his book The Discourse on the Holy Theophany he writes:

For what richer beauty can there be than that of the circle (diskou) of heaven? And what form of more blooming fairness than that of the earth's surface? And what is swifter in the course than the chariot of the sun? And what more graceful car than the lunar orb? And what more wonderful than the compact mosaic of the stars? And what work more productive of supplies than the seasonable winds? And what more spotless mirror than the light of day? Water bears the earth. So necessary is the element of water; for the other elements took their places beneath the highest vault of the heavens, but the nature of water obtained a seat also above the heavens. And to this the prophet himself is a witness, when he exclaims, 'Praise the Lord, ye heavens of heavens, and the water that is above the heavens' (ANF Vol.5, 234-5).


Athenagoras in his book A Plea for Christians (177 AD) writes about the "Absurdities of Polytheism" in chapter 8. He states, "For if the world, being made spherical, is confined within the circles of heaven, and the creator of the world is above the things created" (ANF Vol. 2, 132). Here is sees the earth and heaven as spherical in shape. In Chapter 16 he says, "Beautiful without doubt is the world, excelling, as well in its magnitude as in the arrangement of its parts, both those in the oblique circle and those about the north, and also in its spherical form" (Ibid., 136). The Ptolemaic universe is seen here as a hollow ball or bubble in which spheres are moving around the earth. The oblique circle refers to the zodiac (Ibid., n.2).


In his book The Banquet of the Ten Virgins Methodius writes:

Resuming then, let us first lay bare, in speaking of those things according to our power, the imposture of those who boast as though they alone had comprehended from what forms the heaven is arranged, in accordance with the hypothesis of the Chaldeans and Egyptians. For they say that the circumference of the world is likened to the turning of a well-rounded globe, the earth having a central point. For its outline being spherical, it is necessary, they say, since there are the same distances of the parts, that the earth should be the center of the universe, around which, as being older, the heaven is whirling. For the whole heaven being spherical, and having the earth for its central point (Discourse 8, Chapter 14; ANF Vol.6, 340-1).


Victorinus in On the Creation of the World writes, "And in Matthew we read, that it is written Isaiah also and the rest of his colleagues broke the Sabbathůthat that true and just Sabbath, should be observed in the seventh millenary of years. Wherefore to those seven days the Lord attributed to each a thousand years. Moreover, the seven heavens agree with those days" (ANF Vol.7, 342).


Novatian in his Treatise Concerning the Trinity, "For in the solid vault of heaven He has both awakened the light-bearing Sunrisings; He has filled up the white globe of the moon in its monthly waxing as a solace for the night; He, moreover, kindles the starry rays with the varied splendors of glistening light; and He has willed all these things in their legitimate tracks to circle the entire compass of the world, so as to cause days, months, years,, signs, and seasons, and benefits of other kinds for the human race" (Chp.1; ANF Vol.5, 611). Here the heaven is a solid vault.


In book one The life of the Blessed Emperor Constantine Eusebius writes:

the most Mighty One; whose throne is the arch of heaven, and the earth the footstool of his feet. Yea every light, and specially those divine and incorporeal intelligences whose place is beyond the heavenly sphere, celebrate this august Sovereign with lofty and sacred strains of praise. The vast expanse of heaven, like an azure veil is interposed between those without, and those who inhabit his royal mansions: while round this expanse the sun and moon, with the rest of the heavenly luminaries (like torch-bearers around the entrance of the imperial palace), perform, in honor of their sovereign, their appointed courses; holding forth, at the word of his command, an ever-burning light to those whose lot is cast in the darker regions without the pale of heaven. To him this terrestrial globe itself, to him the heavens above, and the choirs beyond the vault of heaven, give honor as to their mighty Sovereign (Chp.1).

Several other places Eusebius refers to "the vault of Heaven" (Church History, book 10 chapters 4 and 5). The emperor is pictured resting "in an ethereal mansion above the celestial vault" (CH, Book 4 Chp.69; NPNF2 Vol.1).

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

In book 8 section 2 it says, "For thou art He who didst frame the heavens as an arch, and 'stretch it out like the covering of a tent,' and didst found the earth upon nothing by Thy mere will; who didst fix the firmament, and prepare the night and the day; who didst bring light out of Thy treasurers, and on its departure didst bring darkness. Who didst encompass this world, which was made by Thee through Christ, with rivers, and water it with currents, and moisten it with springs that never fail, and didst it round with mountains for the immovable and secure consistence of the earth" (ANF Vol.7, 487). It seems that heaven is like a tent stretched over the earth and fixed or resting on the mountains which surrounds the sea which surrounds the earth.

In chapter 35 book 7 section 2 it says, "who dividedst the waters from the waters by a firmament, and didst put into them a spirit of life; who did fix the earth, and stretch out the heaven, and didst dispose every creature by an accurate constitution. For by Thy power, O Lord, the world is beautified, the heaven is fixed as an arch over us, and is rendered illustrious with stars for our comfort in the darkness. The light also and the sun were begotten for days and the production of fruit, and the moon for the change of seasons, by its increase and diminutions; and one was called Night, and the other Day. The heaven knows Him who fixed it as a cube of stone, in the form of an arch, upon nothing, who united the land and water to one another, and scattered the vital air all abroad. The choir of stars strikes us with admiration (Ibid., ). Here heaven is fastened like a cube of stone in the shape of an arch. It seems to infer that heaven is solid and fastened to nothing (ANF Vol.7, 473).

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa in book two of Against Eunomius writes, "we simply admire as we contemplate the overarching vault. While with the Babylonians the unerring circuit of the firmament was accounted a God, to whom they also gave the name Bel. So, too, the foolishness of the heathen deifying individually the seven successive spheres (Book 5).

In his book On the Soul and the Resurrection Gregory writes:

For if it is true, what you say, and also that the vault of heaven prolongs itself so uninterruptedly that it encircles all things with itself, and that the earth and its surroundings are poised in the middle, and that the motion of all the revolving bodies is round this fixed and solid center, then, I say, there is an absolute necessity that, whatever may happen to each one of the atoms on the upper side of the earth, the same will happen on the opposite side, seeing that one single substance encompasses its entire bulk. As, when the sun shines above the earth, the shadow is spread over its lower part, because it spherical shape makes it impossible for it to be clasped all round at one and the same time by the rays, and necessarily, on whatever side the sun's rays may fall on some particular point of the globe, if we follow a straight diameter we shall find shadow upon the opposite point, and so, continuously, at the opposite end of the direct line of the rays shadow moves round that globe, keeping pace with the sun, so that equally in their turn both the upper half and the under half of the earth are in light and darkness (NPNF2 Vol.5).

Gregory of Nyssa sees the arch of heaven as extending down and all around the globe of the earth to form a sphere. He sees seven successive spheres, one for each of the planets.

St. Chrysostom

In Homily 10 Concerning the Statues, Chrysostom (374-407 AD) quotes scripture writing, "Who hath placed the sky as a vault, and spread it out as a tent over the earth.' And again, 'Who holdeth the circle of heaven" (NPNF, Vol. 9, 409). He follows the LXX, but writes "circle of heaven" instead of "circle of earth." He refers several times to the "vault of heaven." Again in Homily 12 he says, "The heaven, for instance, hath remained immovable, according as the prophet says, 'He placed the heaven as a vault, and stretched it out as a tent over the earth.' But, on the other hand, the sun with the rest of the stars, runs on his course through every day. And again, the earth is fixed, but the waters are continually in motion" (Ibid., 419) In Homily 19 on Ephesians 5:15-17 he questions, "If there were no superintending Being, but all things combined together of themselves, who then was it that made this vault revolve, so beautiful, so vast, I mean the sky, and set it upon the earth, nay more, upon the waters? And could the vast extent of earth standing on the waters, tell me, ever stand so firmly, and so long a time without some power to hold it together? And if the earth supports the heaven, behold another burden; but if the heaven also is born upon waters, there rises another question. Or rather not another question, for it is the work of providence" (Ibid.,). In Homily 14 on the Epistle to Hebrews 8:1-2 he again questions, "the Lord pitched[or made firm] and not man.' Where are they who say that the heavens whirls around? where are they who declare that it is spherical? For both of these notions are overthrown here" (Ibid., 419). Here he claims that heaven is neither movable nor spherical.

John of Damascus

John of Damascus lived from about 675 to 749 AD. He was born to Christian parents and served in the court of an Islamic caliph. He left to enter a monastery where he wrote a theology for the Eastern church entitled An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. In Book 2 chapter 6 is entitled "Concerning the Heavens." He writes:

Since, therefore, the Scripture speaks of heaven, and heaven of heaven, and heavens of heavens, and the blessed Paul says that he was snatched away to the third heaven, we say that in the cosmogony of the universe we accept the creation of a heaven which the foreign philosophers, appropriating the views of Moses, call a starless sphere. But further, God called the firmament also heaven, which He commanded to be in the midst of the waters, setting it to divide the waters that are above the firmament from the waters that are below the firmament. And its nature, according to the divine Basilius, who is versed in the mysteries of divine Scripture, is delicate as smoke. Others, however, hold that it is watery in nature, since it is set in the midst of the waters: others say it is composed of the four elements: and lastly, others speak of it as a fifth body, distinct from the other four elements.

Further, some have thought that the heaven encircles the universe and has the form of a sphere, and that everywhere it is the highest point, and that the center of the space enclosed by it is the lowest part: and, further, that those bodies that are light and airy are allotted by the Creator the upper region: while those that are heavy and tend to descend occupy the lower region, which is the middle. The element, then, that is the lightest and most inclined to soar upwards is fire, and hence they hold that its position is immediately after the heaven, and they call it ether, and after it comes the lower air. But earth and water, which are heavier and have more of a downward tendency, are suspended in the center. Therefore, taking them in the reverse order, we have in the lowest situation earth and water: but water is lighter than earth, and hence is more easily set in motion: above these on all hands, like a covering; is the circle of air, and all around the air is the circle of ether, and outside air is the circle of heaven.

Further, they say that the heaven moves in a circle and so compresses all that is within it, that they remain firm and not liable to fall asunder.

They say also that there are seven zones of the heaven, one higher than the other. And its nature, they say, is of extreme fineness, like that of smoke, and each zone contains one of the planets.

All, therefore, who hold that the heaven is in the form of a sphere, say that it is equally removed and distant from the earth at all points. That the heaven encircles the earth in the manner of a sphere.

Others have pictured the heaven as a hemisphere. This idea is suggested by these words of David, the singer of God, Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain, by which word he clearly means a tent: and by these from the blessed Isaiah, Who hath established the heavens like a vault: and also because when the sun, moon, and stars set they make a circuit round the earth from west to north, and so reach once more the east.

Now for what reason was it that God placed water above the firmament? It was because of the intense burning heat of the sun and ether. For immediately under the firmament is spread out the ether, and the sun and moon and stars are in the firmament, and so if water had not been put above it the firmament would have been consumed by the heat (NPNF2 Vol.9).

Martin Luther

Martin Luther lived from 1483 to 1546 AD. He started his lectures on Genesis in 1535. He writes:

Hilary and Augustine, almost the two greatest lights of the church, hold that the world was created instantaneously and all at the same time, not successively in the course of six days. Moreover, Augustine resorts to extraordinary trifling in his treatment of the six days, which he makes out to be mystical days of knowledge among the angels, not natural ones. Therefore so far as this opinion of Augustine is concerned, we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively. These days are distinguished in this way: on the first day the formless mass of heaven and earth was created, to which later on light was added (Luther's Works Vol.1, 4-5).

Luther believed in ex nihilo creation. He states, "Out of nothing God created heaven and earth as an unformed mass so that the unformed earth was surrounded by the unformed heaven or mist (Ibid., 10). About the first day of creation Luther writes, "He made the unformed heaven and earth, both of which He provided with a certain crude and imperfect light. Now on the second day's work is that out of this unformed mist which He called heaven God created a beautiful and exquisite heaven. This unformed mass of mist, which was created on the first day out of nothing, God seizes with the Word and gives command that it should extend itself outward in the manner of a sphere. The heaven was made in this manner, that the unformed mass extended itself outward as the bladder of a pig extends itself outward in circular form when it is inflated (Ibid., 23-24).

About Job 37:18 Luther comments, "But as to what Job says, that the heavens were made firm with iron, this pertains not to the material but to the Word, which makes very strong even that which is very soft by nature. What is softer than water, what is thinner and finer than air? Of air earlier Luther says, "air is by nature moist. The philosophers assert that the atmosphere would be a continually moist mass if there were no sun (Ibid., 24) Water above is understood as the clouds (Ibid., 26). About the number of spheres Luther states, "The more recent theologians are in agreement with them and on top of those eight spheres add two more: the crystalline or glacial or watery heaven, and the empyrean. Ambrose and Augustine have rather childish ideas. Therefore I commend Jerome, who maintains complete silence on these ideas (Ibid., 28). Luther states, "But those among us who were experts in astronomical matters were more generous in the matter of the sphere. They teach twelve spheres and a triple motion of the eight sphere. Moreover, in the term 'heaven' is included all that the philosophers divided in to eight spheres, fire, and air. Therefore this division of the spheres is not the teaching of Moses or of Holy Scripture; but it was thought out by learned men for the purpose of teaching, something which we ought to recognize as being of great benefit (Ibid., 28-29). Luther comments, "Indeed, the ancient teachers of the church paid little attention to these matters, as we see Augustine disregarding astronomy in its entirely. Even though this science has many superstitious elements, still it should not be completely disregarded (Ibid., 31-32).

About the earth Luther comments, "The philosophers discourse also about the center of the world and the water that flows around it. Indeed, it is remarkable that they have advanced to the point that they agree that the earth is the center of the entire creation. For from this it is deduced that the earth cannot fall, because it is hemmed in on the inside from everywhere by the remaining spheres (Ibid., 35).

John Calvin

John Calvin lived from 1509 to 1564. Calvin states, "We indeed are not ignorant, that the circuit of the heavens is finite, and that the earth, like a little globe, is placed in the centre" (Commentaries on the First Book of Moses called Genesis 1847, 61).

Circle of the Winds

Another concept that seems to indicate the heavens is circular is the circular motion of the winds. Ecclesiastes 1:6 states, "The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits (bbys ; BDB, 687b)" (KJV). The circular motion of the wind is confined by the circle of the heavens.

In Akkadian there are two Assyrian texts that speak of the "circle of the winds (kippat sare)" and the "circle of the four winds (kippat sar erbetti)" (Horowitz 1998, 260-1). Shalmaneser III, Adad is said to hold the "circle of the winds"(Iraq 24 93:4). In The Tukulti-Ninurta Epic, the Assyrian king has control over the "circle of the four winds" (TN Epic 66 1A:13; Machinist; Horowitz 1998, 261). There is also a diagram of a circle enclosing the winds on BagM Beith. 2 no.98. The four winds are from the four cardinal directions. There are also four winds in the Bible. These phrases seem to indicate that the heavens are circular (Horowitz 1998, 264).

Pillars of Heaven

Hebrew Text

The heavens and earth are said to have pillars that uphold them. The same Hebrew word for pillars ydwmu is used for both the heavens and the earth.

Job 26:11 says, "The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof." The Hebrew word for "pillar" is ydwmu. This word is used to describe the supports of a house in Judges 16:25-26, the pillars of the tabernacle in Exodus 27:10-11, and the pillars in Solomonís palace in I Kings 7:2-3. It is also used poetically of wisdomís house in Proverbs 9:1.

Egyptian Literature

There are a number of places in Egyptian literature that mention the four pillars of heaven that hold up the sky. In The Hymn of Victory of Thut-mose III it says, "I set the glory of thee and the fear of thee in all lands, the terror of thee as far as the four supports of heaven" (ANET, 374). In the Asiatic Campaigns of Thut-mose III it says, "His southern frontier is to the horns of the earth, to the southern limit of this land; (his) northern to the marshes of Asia, to the supporting pillars of heaven" (ANET, 240). In the Asiatic Campaigning of Ramses II it says, "I rise like the sun disc and shine like Re, as the heaven is firm upon its supports" (ANET, 257). These passages show the Egyptians believed that the sky was supported by four pillars that were at the end of the world. Probably, two pillars were in the East where the Sun-god emerged each day, and two pillars in the West where the Sun-god descended each night. These pillars might be the same as the twin mountains called Manu.

Twin Mountains

There is an interesting text that is taken from Middle Kingdom coffins that has survived in the Book of the Dead. It is Coffin Text 160 called The Repulsing of the Dragon which tells us that the western mountains named Bakhu support heaven. A serpent lives there who tries to swallow or destroy the sun. The texts says:

I know that mountain of Bakhu upon which the sky leans. Of crystal (?) it is, 300 rods in it length, 120 rods in its width. On the east of this mountain is Sobek, Lord of Bakhu. Of carnelian is his temple. On the east of that mountain is a serpent, 30 cubits in his length (COS, 32; ANET, 12).

The size of the mountain is about 10 by 4 miles and is made of "crystal" (ti-iaat). The temple is made of "carnelian" which is red in color. This is probably parallels the reddish sunset. The serpent is over 50 feet long.

In the Book of Gates the first gate is at the setting of the sun. A dead personís soul journeys to the mountain of the setting sun which is called Manu which is similar to the Babylonian mountain called Mashu (Budge 1906, 1:109). Usually Bakhu refers to the western mountains, and Manu refers to the eastern mountains that hold heaven up.

The twin mountains both in the East and West from which the sun rises and sets, were combined into one symbol for the horizon that signified the cycle of rebirth. Rambova in the book Mythological Papyri (1957, 30-31). Says:

The two widely separated geographic points of West and East, the sunset and sunrise mountains of Bakhu and Manu, become identified and joined, both in thought and in image. From geographic opposites they become associated symbols of the mysterious achievement of divine purpose.

The Egyptians may have thought the circle of the horizon was a mountain range extending from East to West, or that the mountains went under the earth to hold up the earth as well.

The hieroglyphic sign for the horizon is . It is a picture of the sun setting or rising from between the twin mountains. This is probably due to an optical illusion of mountains when the sun comes close to the horizon. The entrance way of temples and tombs are patterned after this sign, because the entrance way to the underworld was where the sun set between the twin mountains. Rambova says, "Carved over the entrance of the tombs of later kings, this horizon sign with the disk becomes the royal insignia of divine birth. In the example over the portal of the tomb of Ramesses X the stylized 'mountains' support the sky and enclose the great disk with the scarab Khepri and the ram-headed solar deity" (1957, 31). Solomonís Temple seems also to be like this with two bronze pillars named "Jachin" and "Boaz." (1 Kings 7:15-22).

From the different texts and drawings of Nut and Geb one can see different views of the world. For example, sometimes the realm of the dead is in heaven and sometimes under the earth. Sometimes just Shu (the air-god) holds up heaven, and sometimes four pillars help him. One picture shows Nut as a cow, and other show her as a woman. Sometimes the sky is seen as flat, and sometimes it was drawn curved. The sea was seen as a circle, and sometimes it was seen as a coiled serpent. So in Egypt there many different ways of drawing, and describing the universe.

Akkadian Literature

Twin Mountains

The Gilgamesh Epic Tells how Gilgameshís search for eternal life leads him on a long journey up to heaven. On his journey he comes to the mountains of Mashu which are described as follows:

When [he arrived] at the mountain range of Mashu,
Which daily keeps watch over sun[rise and sunset]-
Whose peaks [reach to] the vault of heaven
(And) whose breasts reach to the nether world below. (ANET, 88; Heidel 1946, 65).

The Akkadian word for Mashu means "twin." Mashu "daily keeps watch over sun[rise and sunset]" (ANET, 88). It seems that the Babylonian like the Egyptians merged the two geographic points of East and West together for a symbol religious purpose (Rambova, 30). The twin mountains contain the western gate which the sun enters at night. When Gilgamesh enter there is not light for twelve double miles (or leagues). It is the road that the sun travels at night. For twelve hours the sun travels in subterranean caverns back under the earth to come out in the East at sunrise (Jacobsen 1976, 204). The phrase "vault of heaven" is the same phrase su-pu-uk same(e) meaning the "foundation of heaven." The mountains are seen as holding the heavens up.

There are two Akkadian cylinders that contain drawings of twin mountains from which the solar deity steps out of each morning (Rambova, 32; Keel, 23). One cylinder depicts the sun as an eagle and the other one as a man.

Ugaritic Literature

Twin Mountains

There are two mountains, trgzz and trmg, that are said to gsr `ars, bind the earth (CTA, Herdner, 4:viii,4). Gibson (66) says that these twin mountains were founded in the earth-encircling ocean, and held up the firmament, and also marked the entrance to the underworld.

The Ugaritic word gsr which means "bounding" may indicate surrounding and supporting the earth as well as confining the netherworld. The closest Hebrew word would be r?a, meaning "restrained" (Gibson, 155).

Creeping animals were thought to come from the very foundations of the earth because in CTA 4 col.1, 40-41 it says, mnm dbbm d msdt. `ars, meaning "with creeping animals from the foundations of the earth." Elís mountain seems to be the connection between heaven and earth. The mountains were seen as the foundations of the earth and the support pillars for the heavens.

It seems likely that the Akkadian twin mountain Mashu and the Egyptian Manu is parallel with the twin mountains trgzz and trmg in Ugaritic. Probably these mountains stretch from East to West undergirding the whole earth, and confining the underworld.

In the Near East certain mountains are given special religious significance which some term as cosmic mountains. Clifford (1972, 38-39) says:

These heights can be the meeting place of the gods, the source of water and fertility, the battleground of conflicting natural forces, the meeting place of heaven and earth, the place where effective decrees are issued. In these senses, the mountains are cosmic, that is, involved in the government and stability of the cosmos.

Physically a mountain may not be the tallest, but religiously it has been elevated in importance. The Ugaritic Mount Zaphon is similar to Biblical Zion. In cultures which have a trichotomy view of the world; heaven, earth, and underworld; the mountain is the center axis which connects all three of these areas together (Clifford 1972, 6). Mountains with their massive height and width are naturally imposing, and awesome in sight, and a very logical site where the gods might dwell.

Greek Literature

Herodotus in Book 4:184,3 sarcastically writes, "The natives say that this (mountain called Atlas) is a pillar of heaven (Hude 1979, 4:184,3). The mountain was so high up that they thought it reached heaven and that it held up the sky. Herodotus used the Greek word kiwn while the LXX used the word stuloi to refer to the pillars of heaven. The LXX does use kiwn five times in Judges 16:25,26,29 and in I King 15:15. In Judges 16 Samson pulls down the pillars of the house. Herodotus identifies Atlas with the Atlas mountain range in northwest Africa. Some scholars have recently identified Atlas with two islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Greece, and identified Atlantis with Thera which erupted around 1640 BC.

In the Odyssey (book 1:53) it says, "and himself (Atlas) holds the tall pillars which keep earth and heaven apart" (LCL 1919, 7). Hesiod in Theogony (517) says, "And Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth" (LCL 1914, 117).

Mount Olympus was thought to reach up past the sky into the pure ether. It was the home of the gods (L&S 1857, 1068).

The Ends of Heaven

The heavens and earth are said to have "ends," "quarters," and "corners." There are several different Hebrew and Greek words that indicate the remote regions of the earth that will be studied below.

Psalm 19:6 says, "His (the sunís) going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." The Hebrew word for "end" is hxq. It means the extremity of whatever it modifies. The LXX uses the Greek word akrou which means "the highest part of, or extremity of." The Vulgate has a summo coelo.

Isaiah 13:5 says, "They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land." The Medes are said to be from the end of heaven.

In the New Testament Matthew 24:31 says, "And he shall send his angel with a great sound of a trumpet; and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds from one end (akrwn) of heaven to the other."

In the NT the "ends of Heaven" are probably where the sky and land meet at the horizon. This also seems to assumes that the earth is flat and not a sphere. Jesus when he was taken up to a "very high mountain" could see "all the kingdoms of the world" which could only be true if one assumes a flat earth (Matt. 4:8; Luke 4:5; Seely 1987, 30). In ancient times the earth was considered the center of the universe (geocentric) where the sun revolved around the earth, and for the Jews, Jerusalem was the center (navel) of the earth (Seely, 34).

Plato in Tim. 36E writes, "the ends (escaton) of heaven (Archer-Hind 1973, 114). In PGM 8,8 (Papyri Graecae Magicae) it says, "corners (gwniais) of the heavens" (A&G 1957, 168). This means the extremities of the heaven (at the horizon).

From Psalm 19:6 it seems clear that the "ends of the heavens" are where the heavens meet the earth at the horizon. The "ends of the earth" would also be where the earth meets the heavens at the horizon.

Heavens Stretched Out

Hebrew Text

The heavens and earth are said to be stretched out at creation. The Hebrew word hfn is used for the heavens while the Hebrew word uqr is used for the earth.

The Hebrew word hfn occurs ten times in the OT in the context of God stretching out the heavens. It is used five times in the book of Isaiah (40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13). It also occurs in Job 9:8, Psalm 104:2, Zechariah 12:1 and in Jeremiah 10:12 and 51:15. In Jeremiah hfn is used as a Qal perfect, which means the "stretching" is past completed action. In all other references it is a Qal participle. The participle indicates continuous action; however, the context of these verses show that they are also past completed action at the time of creation.

The spreading of daylight at dawn may have suggested the idea of the firmament being spread out since this is what the Hebrew word uyqr means. The heavens are also said to be rolled out as a scroll (Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14).

In Isaiah 40:22 the heavens are stretched out like a qd, thin veil. Delitzsch explains it as a thin fabric like a thin transparent garment (Keil and Delitzsch 1976, 152). In the next phrase it is like a lha, tent, This is the usual word for tent which was made out of stretched animals skins. In Psalm 104:2 it is described as a juyry curtain. This word is used for the curtains of the tabernacle (Ex 26:1) and curtains of tents in general (Jer 4:20; BDB 1980, 438). In other places hfn is used to describe the spreading, or pitching of a tent (Gen 33:19 and Ex 33:7). The main way of putting up a tent was to stretch out the animal skin over the poles, and then fasten them down.

Psalm 104 parallels the order of creation in Genesis one. The first verse and the first part of the second verse describe day one. Verses 2b-4 describes day two, and verses 5-9 describes day three. Psalm 104:2b says, "he stretches out the heavens like a tent." Herder comments, "They represent God as daily spreading it (heaven) out, and fastening it at the extremity of the horizon to the pillars of heaven, the mountains" (Perowne 1976, 235). Verse three says, "and he lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters." The Hebrew word for "upper chambers" is hylu which means "roof-chamber" (BDB 1980, 751). It is used in I Kings 17:19 and 23. In Nehemiah 3:31-32 it is used for a roof-chamber with walls over a gateway. It is also used in Solomonís temple according to 2 Chron 3:9. In Psalm 104:13 it explains that the upper chambers contains water which God rains down upon the earth. The beams of the upper chambers are probably laid on the waters that are above the firmament to contain the waters for whenever God wants to let it rain; however, it could mean that the support beams of the firmament are founded upon the waters on earth. In Amos 9:6 the firmament is founded upon the earth.

In Job 26:7 it says that God stretched out the North, or heaven over the void, or deep. I think that the context indicates that the "north" is used synonymously with heaven. The part is used for the whole. First of all the word hfn is used only to describe the heavens, not the earth. The parallelism of heaven and earth is common, and to be expected. The Hebrew word for "north" is /px (BDB 1980, 860). In Ugaritic the word spn refers to the mountain on which Baal lived. According to Savignac /px in the OT can mean "cloudy sky" (Savignac 1984, 273-78; OT Abstracts 1968, 154). The basic meaning is "wind accompanied with clouds" (Ibid). Therefore, /px refers to the northern or cloudy sky. The part is used for the whole of heaven. The "void" is the same word that is used in Genesis 1:2. It is the Hebraic way of poetically describing the creation of the world. It was also polemically against foreign views. This stretching is probably describing what happened on the second day of creation. The firmament is stretched upward or pushed up to separate it from the watery deep below. In the beginning there was just the watery deep. Now God separated the waters. On the third day God spread out the earth over the deep.

Akkadian Literature

There is an interesting parallel with an Akkadian phrase in the Poem of the Righteous Sufferer which says, "Wherever the earth is laid, and the heavens are stretched out" (e-ma sak-na-at ersetim rit-pa-su same; Lambert 1960, 58-59). So in Mesopotamia the heavens were also seen as being stretched out.

One should not read into this modern science, like the expansion of the universe, or the Big Bang theory.

In Enuma Elish the heavens are like a roof of a house that is put over our heads. Heidel translates, "Half of her (Tiamat) he set in place and formed the shy (therewith) as a roof" (Tablet IV:138; 1942, 42).

Egyptian Literature

The Hymn of Amon-Re states, Who suspended the heaven, who laid down the ground, Father of the fathers of all the gods, Who suspends heaven, who laid down ground" (COS, 38-9). Wilson translates, "Raised the heavens and laid down the ground" (ANET, 365).

Genesis 1:9-13 DAY 3

Creation of the Seas and Earth

Hebrew Text

<ymhwwqy - Let the waters be gathered

All the waters under the firmament are collected together in one place. This seems to indicate there was one sea and one continent. In the ancient world the sea was thought to surround the one continent earth. Both the sea and the earth were considered circular.

The phrase dja <wqm translated "one place" yet called "seas", (plural) has puzzled commentators. It seems that the singular <y and plural <ymy can be used interchangeably in the OT (Judges 5:17; Ezekiel 27:4, 28:2). All rivers, springs, and wells were thought to come from and return to the sea (Ecc. 1:7).

The LXX has sunagwghn which Wevers believes "was probably chosen to avoid the notion that the earth waters were actually to be collected into one spot" since there are many lakes and streams.

Circle of the Sea

Job 26:10 states, ivj-<u rwa tylkt-du <ym-ynp-lu gh qj, which I translate, "He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters as the boundary between light and darkness." Here gh represents the horizon separating light from darkness. The Hebrew word gh means "circle," and it seems very remote that it means "sphere" because of the context, and there is a better Hebrew word for "sphere," rwd. In Isaiah 22:18 the word rwd is translated "ball." If the LXX translators understood gh as "sphere," they would have used the Greek word sfairoeides. Plugging the meaning of "sphere" into every passage that gh occurs will result in awkward interpretations.

The LXX in Job 26:10 says, "By decree He encompassed the surface of the waters until the end of light and darkness" (Septuagint, 1970, 684). The LXX changes the literal into a verbal response. The physical circle becomes a decree.

The Vulgate says, terminum circumdedit aquis usque dum finiamtur lux and tenebrae, which I translate, "He encompasses the end of the water all the way until light and darkness come to an end" (Biblia Sacra: Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem 1969, 752). This is a slightly different view of the verse as well.

Another occurrence of gh is in Proverbs 8:27 which says, <wht ynp-lu gwh wqjb, which I translate, "when he inscribed a circle upon the surface of the deep." The parallelism of these verses helps us to better understand the meaning. Proverbs 8:27-29 says:

When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth (NIV).

The LXX says, kai ote afwrize tov eautou qronon epí avemwn, which I translate, "and when He prepared his throne on the winds" (Septuagint 1970, 795). This wide divergence might suggest an underlying different text type.

The Vulgate says, "quando certa lege et gyro vallabat abyssos", which I translate, "when with a certain law and circle He enclosed the abyss" (Biblia Sacra: Iuxta Vulgatam Versionem 1969, 964). The words "decree" and "circle" seem to be parallel terms which maybe a result of conflation.

There is another passage that seems to indicate that the sea is circular. I Kings 7:23 says, "He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high" (NIV). This bronze basin represents the sea and is called the sea. This parallels a laver in Babylonian temples called apsu (Seely 1997, 248).

The phrase "from sea to sea" (Psalm 72:8, Zech. 9:10) seems to assume a sea surrounding the earth. The earth is in the middle with an ocean on each side. Zechariah 14:8 names them the "eastern sea" and "western sea." The Babylonians described the earth encircling sea as "from the lower sea to the upper sea" (Seely 1997, 249).

The Red Sea [ws-<y can mean "Sea of the End" referring to the sea at the end of the world (Ibid).

Heaven is opposite the deep, and they meet at the horizon which is circular. The horizon was not only the boundary between heaven and earth, light and darkness; but also a link between the dome of heaven, and the surface of the earth and sea. The phrases, "circle of the seas" and "circle of the deep" seem to be parallel in meaning. "Sea" and "Deep" are sometimes used synonymously in OT poetry. These phrases refer to the circular horizon which forms the boundary line between heaven and earth.

The sea is said to have doors and bars to keep the waters from overflowing in Job 38:8-11 which says:

Who shut the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt (NIV)?

Dead Sea Scrolls

In the Dead Sea Scrolls in The War of the Sons of Light with the Sons of Darkness it uses the word gwh for the circle (or bounds) of the sea (Sulenik 1955, 25:10,13). Gaster translates, "the bounds of the seas also and the reservoirs of the rivers; the cleavage of the deeps" (Gaster 1976, 412). If the writer clearly wanted to indicate the river encircling the earth, he would use this phrase "the circle of the seas." The context of the phrase is most important. Here the context is the sea. In Isaiah 40:22 the context is clearly the heavens.

Akkadian Literature

As seen earlier, There is an important Babylonian world map that depicts the earth as circular surrounded by a circular sea (Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum 1906, part xxii, pl. 48). This circular sea is named "Bitter River" no doubt because of its ocean salt water as opposed to the fresh water streams.

In the Gilgamesh Epic there is a river at the ends of the earth described as the "waters of death that are impassable," but Gilgamesh persuades the ferryman, Urshanabi, to take him across to Utnapishtim (Noah) who has obtained eternal life (Heidel 1946, 74). There seems to be another river in the underworld where the dead were ferried across the river called Hubur by the boatman Humuttabel who has four hands with a face like Zu, the divine storm-bird (Heidel 1946, 172). The river that surrounds the earth is said to be very deep.

In the Etana Legend Etana (a king of Kish after the flood) was carried by an eagle up to heaven. It says:

When he had borne [him] aloft one league, The eagle says to [him], to Etana: "See, my friend, how the land appears! Peer at the sea at the sides of E[kur]!" "The land has indeed become a hill; The sea has turned into the water [of a stream]!" .When he had borne him aloft a third league, The eagle [says] to him, to Etana; "See, my friend, how the land appe[ars]! "The land has turned into a gardenerís ditch!" (ANET, 118).

This passage seems to indicate that the earth is like a hill surrounded by a river. King translates, "The sea is girdled around the earth" (Seely, 1997).

There is a limestone kudurru that was found at Susa that pictures the sea as a coiled serpent (Keel 1978, 46). There are several pillars that rest on the serpent, and support the ground above. These pillars were thought to hold up the earth. The base of the pillars rested a the bottom of the sea.

It seems that the Hebrew concept of the heavens was very similar to the Babylonian concept which compared the universe to a mollusk or clam in Enuma Elish. The upper curved shell represents heaven, and the lower half represents the deep with the earth stretched out in the middle. Under the earth was the waters of the deep. Surrounding the earth were also the waters of the deep. Beyond the waters were the islands which were the remotest parts of the earth. The islands were the pillars that held up the dome of heaven, and were the foundations that supported the deep. The firmament was a solid substance that held up the waters of the heavenly ocean. When it rained, gates or windows were opened to allow water from the heavenly ocean to fall to earth. Other gates controlled the winds and snow.

Egyptian Literature

Utterance 366 of the Pyramid Texts reveals that the earthly ocean is circular in shape surrounding the earth. The text says:

You are hale and great in your name of Sea; behold, you are great and round as in the name Ocean; behold, you are circular and round as the circle which surrounds the Hzw-nbwt (swimming islands); behold, you are round and great as the Sn-Žz-sk (Faulkner 1969, 120).

In Utterance 366 the word for "Ocean" is from two Egyptian words sn and wr. Sn comes from sni meaning "to encircle," and wr is an adjective meaning "great or important" (Gardiner 1957, 561, 595). Gardiner (1957, 595) says that the meaning of sn-wr is "the ocean supposed to surround the earth." Mercer (1952, 2:307) comments:

Together with oft-recurring phrase all which the sn-wr encircles, Wb. IV 494, which phw.w tz.w the ends of the lands, and with the phrase all on which the sun shines, the phrase sn-wr, the Great Round would seem to parallel the Greek idea of Okeanos, On a stela in the temple of Karnak there is a hymn of victory commemorating Thutmose III which says:

I have come, that I may cause thee to tramble down the ends of the lands;
That which the Ocean encircles is enclosed within thy grasp.
I cause them to see thy majesty as a lord of the wing (ANET, 1969, 374).

There is another phrase concerning the word "ocean" from an inscription of Amenophis II on the pillars of the wall containing the obelisks of Hatshepsut. It says, "the eye of his uraeus encircles, all lowlands, all hill countries, all that the ocean encircles" (Cumming 1982, 39).

Ugaritic Literature

The sea, ocean, and rivers were all thought to be connected to a single body of water which completely surrounds the universe (Pope 1955, 63). In Ugaritic there are two divisions of water, the earthly and heavenly oceans (Gibson 1978, 60). The phrase mbk. Nhrm, qrb.íapq. thmtm which I translate as "the source of the two rivers, amidst the springs of the two oceans," may indicate this because the words nhrm and thmtm are dual forms (KTU 1.3 V:6, 1.4 IV:21-22; Herdner 1963, CTA 3:v,14-15; 4:iv 21-22). Notice that rivers and oceans are used in parallelism. This is also true in the OT. Notice the parallelism of "river" and "sea" in Psalm 24:2, which says, "Because He founded (the earth) upon the seas and established it upon the rivers." By observing a spring of water coming up from nowhere by a mountain, then going into the rivers, and the rivers going into the ocean, they probably concluded that all water was from the same source.

By observing the sky as blue just like the color of the ocean, and that rain came from the sky, it was very easy to surmise that there is a heavenly ocean. Since Ugarit is right by the Mediterranean Sea, they sky and ocean form a beautiful pair. This awesome duality leads naturally to an equal dichotomy of waters, below and above. There must be some source for all this water. Elís abode is said to be the source of these two oceans which maybe located at the Eastern Horizon or on a high mountain that reaches to heaven.

A Spring of water seems to magically come forth from rocks near mountains. So water must magically come from Elís mountain to feed or give birth to Yam, the sea, the son of El. This also suggests a personification of nature. They used anthropomorphic terms of birth, and father-son relationships to explain physical forces.

To explain the heavenly ocean, the Canaanites used the same terms as the earthly ocean. There must be a spring of water from a mountain to feed the heavenly ocean. Therefore, the two oceans must have sprung from Elís abode.

Aramaic Literature

The targum of Ecclesiastes gives a concise view of the world in the first chapter which says:

And the sun rises in the day from the east, and the sun goes down in the

west by night, and hastens to its place, and goes through the path under the

sea, and rises the following day from the place where it rested yesterday; it goes all the side of the south in the day, and goes round to the side of the north by night, through the path under the sea; it turns round and round to the wind of the south corner in the revolution of Nisan and Tamuz, and returns on its circuits to the wind of the north corner in the revolution of Tishri and Tebeth; it comes through the windows of the east in the morning, and goes into the windows of the west in the evening, All the rivers and streams of water go and flow into the waters of the ocean which surround the world like a ring, and the ocean in not full, and to the place where the streams go and flow there they go again through the channels of the sea (Grossfeld 1973, 503).

The sun is said to travel through a path under the sea to get back to the east. The ocean is said to surround the earth like a ring.

Jewish Literature

Josephus in Jewish Antiquities writes, "On the third day he established the earth, pouring around it the sea" (Book I:32; LCL 242, 15). Because "sea" is singular some think that Josephus is referring to the earth encircling ocean. According to Franxman, "The picture we are given, therefore, includes nothing of a separation of a previously existing admixture of earth and water. Earth is merely manipulated into the sort of raised position so that there is something to pour the sea around. The dry land alone was what lay beneath the moist vault of the heavens at the end of the Second Day" (1979, 42).

Philo in On the Creation writes:

At this stage, then, water in all its volume had been poured forth over all the earth, and had found its way through all its parts, as through sponge saturated with moisture. It had produced swamps and deep mud, earth and water being mingled together and kneaded, like a mass of dough, into a single element without shape or distinction of its parts. So God next bids all the briny water, which would have been the cause of barrenness to crops and trees, to be gathered together by flowing to the same point from the pores of the whole earth, and the dry land to appear (38; LCL 226, 29).

Derek Erez Zuta (9:13) says, "This world is likened to a personís eyeball; the white of the eye corresponds to the ocean which surrounds the whole world; the iris to the inhabited world" (Franxman, 1979, 42 n.13).

In the first book of Adam and Eve it says, "On the third day, God planted the garden in the east of the earth, on the border of the world eastward, beyond which, towards the sun-rising, one finds nothing but water, that encompasses the whole world, and reaches unto the borders of heaven" (Ibid; Platt 1927, 3).

The Apocalypse of Abraham states, "I saw there the rivers and their upper (reaches) and their circles" (Charlesworth 1983, 699).

The 4th Book of Ezra (6:42) states, "On the third day you commanded the waters to be gathered together in the seventh part of the earth; six parts you dried up" (Charlesworth 1983, 536).This was written around 100 AD. The writer believed the world was divided into six parts land and one part sea. This is opposite of what is true.

Christopher Columbus believed this verse and quoted it to the rulers of Spain which helped convince them to finance his trip (Ibid., 523). Columbus complied a book called Libro de las Profecias meaning "The Book of Prophecies" (Lollis 1894, 75-160; in Latin; Brigham 1991 in English). He complied scripture passages concerning distant lands at the end of the earth, and the commission to reach them with the gospel. He thought he was fulfilling scripture when he sailed to the islands in the West (Brigham 1990). He quotes Psalm 71:8 as supporting his view that the earth is round (Lollis,104; Brigham, 215).

There are some interesting Hellenistic Synagogal Prayers written sometime between 150 to 300 AD that tell about Godís creation. These are contained in the Apostolic Constitutions, Book 7 and 8. Prayer 12 says, "the one who framed an abyss, and surrounded it with a great hollow, seas of salt waters having been heaped up; the one who encircled with rivers the world" (Charlesworth 1985, 691).

Greek Literature

Homer believed that the earth was a flat circular disc surrounded by an Ocean. On Achilles shield was a picture of a circular earth surrounded by a circular sea (Iliad 18:483-607). Edwards comments, "The usual Homeric round shield is made of a number of layers of oxhide, presumably stretched over a light wooden frame, with a bronze facing on the outside. There are indications that the layers of hide were laid in concentric circles, diminishing in size towards the outer face of the shield" (201).

The outer rim of Achilles shield is described as "Therein he set also the great might of the river Oceanus, around the uttermost rim of the strongly-wrought shield" (Iliad 18:607-8). Oceanus is said to be located at the ends of the earth. Odyssey 11:21 says, " And now he reached earthís limits, the deep stream of the Ocean."

Similar to Ecclesiastes 1:7 is Iliad 21:195-6 which states, "the great might of deep-flowing Ocean, from whom all rivers flow and every sea, and all the springs and deep wells" (LCL, 171, 423).

All the stars are said to bathe in Oceanus except Arctus (Iliad 5:5-6, 18:489; Odyssey 5:275). The sun also rises (Odyssey 22:197-8) reaches mid-heaven (Iliad 16:777; Odyssey 4:400) and then sets in Oceanus (Iliad 8:485; 18:239-40).

In Hesiodís Theogony the Ocean with nine silver streams "coils around the earth and the seaís broad back and falls into the watery waste" (Brown 1953, 75). The Styx is "the eldest daughter of the circular Ocean-stream" (Ibid).

Far below the earth is Tartarus where the Titans are imprisoned. Hesiod describes it as follows:

They then conducted them (the Titans) under the highways of the earth as far below the ground as the ground is below the sky, and tied them with cruel chains. So far down below the ground is gloomy Tartarus: a bronze anvil falling from the sky would fall nine days and nights, and reach earth on the tenth; a bronze anvil falling from the earth would fall nine day and nights and reach Tartarus on the tenth. Tartarus is surrounded by a bronze moat; three thicknesses of night are spread round its bottleneck, above which the roots of earth and barren sea are planted. In that gloomy underground region the Titans were imprisoned by the decree of Zeus, the master of the clouds. The dismal place lies at the end of the monstrous earth. There dark earth and gloomy Tartarus, barren sea and starry sky, all have their roots and farthest edges, side by side in order. It is a dismal gloomy region which even gods abhor, a yawning gulf such that not even after the completion of a full year would a man entering the gates reach the floor (Brown 1953, 73-4).

Brown compares Hesiodís Theogony with Enuma Elish by saying that both of them begin with the powers or nature, and end in the organization of the world into a monarchical state. They show the violent conflicts between the old and new forces resulting in order. Zeus who overthrows Chronus, and battles the Titans, is like Marduk overcoming Ea, and destroying Tiamat (41). Both stories reflect the major structural principles of their society. For the Greeks power was diffused while in the east it was concentrated in one person, the king (46).

Herodotus (ca 400 BC) writes, "I cannot help laughing at the absurdity of all the map-makers—there are plenty of them—who show Ocean running like a river round a perfectly circular earth, with Asia and Europe of the same size" (Book 4:36).

Thales of Miletus (ca 640-550 BC) was the earliest Ionian philosopher. He taught the "unity of difference" that all things were from one primary element, water. The universe was not created by gods, but evolved through natural processes. For example, he observed the silting of the Nile delta naturally produced land. Thales viewed the earth as a flat disc floating in water. Water surrounds everything. The sun, moon, and stars are vapors that glow, that sail over our heads on the watery firmament above, and then sail around the sea back to the East in the morning (Farrington 1961, 37). Eusebius says that Thales and his followers believed the earth was one, spherical in shape, at rest, and at the center of the universe (Eusebius, 1981, 2:850).

Anaximander (ca 611-547 BC) rejected Thales idea that water was the primary element of the world. Anaximander said that there are four primary elements; earth at the center because it is the heaviest, next water, mist, and then fire surrounding all. The fire evaporated the water, and made dry land appear. The extra mist caused the sky to explode forming wheels of fire enclosed in tubes of mist circling around the earth. The stars are holes in these tubes through which the fire glows (Farrington 1961, 38).

In summary, most Greeks from Homer to Plato believed the earth was round and flat surrounded by the ocean. Plato seems to be the first with a clear description of the earth as a sphere.

Strabo (late 1st century BC to early 1st century AD) in his book called Geography speculated that "the earth together with the sea was sphere-shaped and that the surface of the earth was one and the same with that of the high seas" (Strabo 1924, 3:431). He also believed water surrounded the earth.

NT Apocrypha

The Revelation of Paul describes Paulís journey into the heavens. It says, "And he set me upon the river whose source springs up in the circle of heaven; and it is this river which encircleth the whole earth. And he says to me: This river is Ocean" (Roberts and Donaldson Vol.8, 577).

Hebrew Text

hvbyh hartw - Let the dry land appear

There are two possibilities here. The land could be mixed together with the water to form muddy water which might be like the dirt that is left after a flood like the Nile, or the water could be just covering the land and runs off so land appears because the land rose up like a hill. Psalm 104 seems to describe it this last way. It also implies that there is just one continent.

Circle of the Earth

Hebrew Text

The phrase of Isaiah 40:22, "the circle of the earth" is very controversial. There are five main views of this phrase. The first interpretation says that the word "circle" means "sphere" indicating that the earth is a sphere. This view seems most unlikely since we have all ready seen that the Hebrew word gh means "circle," and it seems very remote that it means "sphere" because of the context, and there is a better Hebrew word for "sphere," rwd. In Isaiah 22:18 the word rwd is translated "ball." If the LXX translators understood gh as "sphere," they would have used the Greek word sfairoeides. Plugging the meaning of "sphere" into every passage that gh occurs will result in awkward interpretations.

The second interpretation is that the earth is a round flat disk. Although the ancient world thought the earth was round and flat, this phrase seems to refer to the shape the vaulted heavens above the earth from which the inhabitants look like grasshoppers.

The third view, which is set forth by Seybold, is that "circle" refers to the ring of the ocean that surrounds the earth. This is mainly based on the supposed meaning of the word guros used in the LXX for gwj.

The fourth interpretation is that "circle" refers to the vault like sky over the earth. This seems to be partly right as well as the next view where "circle" refers to the horizon. It may be best to combine theses two views so that "circle" refers to the circle of the horizon that arches up over the earth. From the top of this dome God looks down to see the inhabitants on earth as small as grasshoppers. In the later part of this same verse (Isa.40:22) the heavens are described like a curtain and a tent. There seems to be a descriptive parallelism of the heavens in this poetic verse.

Stadelmann (1970, 42) states that gwj refers to the horizon which was the boundary between earth and heaven, and indicates how the heavenly dome was linked with the earth. In Job 26:10 gwj is the boundary between light and darkness. It is the circular line that separates the light of heaven from the darkness under the ocean and earth. In the ancient world the horizon prevented the earth from being flooded by primeval waters by holding the sky and the earth firmly together (Ibid, 43). In Job 22:14 it seems that the gwj is more than the horizon, and includes the vault of heaven as well. This seems to be the case in Isaiah 40:22 as well. Therefore, gwj is the part for the whole of heaven in certain passages in Job and Isaiah. This would be called "Synecdoche of the Part" by Bullinger (1968, 640, see also 892).

In Isaiah 66:1 it says, "Thus saith the LORD, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool." The imagery of Isaiah 66 and 40 shows clearly that gwj means the vaulted heavens.

Delitzsch translates Isaiah 40:22 as follows: "He who is enthroned above the vault of the earth, and its inhabitants resemble grasshoppers; who has spread out the heavens like gauze, and stretched them out like a tent-roof to dwell in" (Keil and Delitzch 1976, 7:152).

In Isaiah 40:22 the verb b?y means, "to sit or dwell." This same verb and preposition lu is used in other OT passages. In Exodus 11:5 it says, "Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne" (also Ex. 12:29). Second Chronicles 18:18 says, "I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne" Psalm 2:4 says, He that sitteth in the heavens" Psalm 123:1 says, "O thou that dwellest in the heavens." Isaiah 6:1 says, "I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne." It seems clear that the Lord sits, or dwells on his throne in Heaven, and not on the circular earth or river encircling the earth. The verb b?y "to sit" plus the preposition lu means, "to sit on" not "to sit over or above."

It seems that the "circle of the sea" is where the sky and sea meet at the horizon; the "circle of the earth" is where the sky and earth meet at the horizon and arching above; and the "circle of heaven" begins where the horizon is and arching above. The "foundations of heaven" are where the sky meets the earth at the horizon.

Akkadian Literature

There is an important Babylonian world map that depicts their view of the universe (Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum 1906, part xxii, pl. 48; BM 92687). Unger describes this world map in his book Babylon (1931; in German). A good English translation of this map is by Wayne Horowitz (1989, 147-165). The earth is seen as a circle within a circle with Babylon at the center. It seems clear that the Babylonians viewed the earth as flat and circular in shape.

Sargon of Akkad is a third millennium king who was said to conquer the whole world in the work The Sargon Geography which states," Anaku and Kaptara, the lands across the upper Sea, Dilmun and Magan, the lands across the Lower Sea, and the lands from sunrise to sunset, the sum total of all the land, which Sargon, the king of the Univer[se] conquered three times" (Horowitz, 1989, 161; Garyson AFO 25, 62:A 41-44).

The Samas Hymn which is written to the Sun-god says, "You climb to the mountains surveying the earth, You suspend from the heavens the circle of the lands" (kip-pat matati (kur.kur) ina qi-rib sameísaq-la-a-ta; Lambert 1960, 126-7).

In the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions (Grayson 1972, 105-109) there are many references to the "four quarters" (of the earth). The Royal inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta says:

Tukulti-Ninurta, king of the universe, king of Assyria, strong king, king of the four quarters, chosen of Ashur, vice-regent of Ashur, the king whose deeds are pleasing to the gods of heaven (and) underworld and to whom they allotted the four corners of the earth, (the king whom) they allowed to always exercise rule in the (four) quarters and who conquered all those who did not submit to him (Grayson 1972, 1:105).

The phrase "king of the four quarters" according to Grayson (1972, 1:4) is "the Sumero-Akkadian expression for 'king of the world'." Grayson goes on to say, "The four 'quarters' or 'coasts' are approximately identical with the cardinal points of the compass and are the extremities of the world (which was believed to be a disc) projecting out into the primeval sea (which was believed to surround the world disc)."

The phrase "four corners of the earth" which in Akkadian is kap-pat tu-bu-qa-at erbitti, can literally be translated "the circle of the four corners" (Grayson 1972, 105; CAD K, 397-400). This is a clear reference to the earth being circular. It seems strange that a circle would also have corners, but they meant the extremities in the four cardinal directions.

In Atra-Hasis the third tablet says:

22 Destroy your house, build a boat,
23 Spurn property and save life.
25 The boat which you build
29 Roof it over like the Apsu.
30 So that the sun shall not see inside it
31 Let it be roofed over above and below (Lambert and Millard 1969, 89).

Atra-Hasis is told to build a boat because a flood is coming. The boat is to be built like the world. He is to build a roof above and below to keep the waters of the deep and the waters from heaven out. Atra-Hasisí world was completely surrounded by water. The firmament held up the heavenly waters, and the earth kept out the waters from the deep. The earth floated in a watery universe.

In Enuma Elish the world is like a shellfish or clam surrounded by an ocean of water. The world is shaped like a round clam with two halves. The upper half or vault is the firmament, and the lower half is the earth (Heidel 1942, 42-43; ANET, 67).

Egyptian Literature

Egyptian literature in the New Kingdom period has some interesting statements about the shape of the world. The Hymn to Ramses II is found on various stela inside the temple of Abu Simbel, Nubia. It proclaims:

The subjugator of the adversary, rich in years, great in victories, who reacheth the ends of the earth when seeking for battle, who maketh narrow the wide mouth of foreign princes.

The good god, the strong one, whom men praise, the lord, in whom men make their boast; who protecteth his soldiers, who maketh his boundaries on earth as he will, like Re when he shineth over the circle of the world, he, the king of Upper and Lower Egypt (Erman 1927, 258-9).

The phrase "circle of the world" indicates that the Egyptians viewed the earth as a disk which the sun-god shines over on its daily journey. There is another similar phrase in The War Against the Peoples of the Sea which comes from Ramses IIIí temple of Medinet Habu at Thebes which says, "They laid their hands upon the lands as far as the circuit of the earth" (ANET 1969, 262).

A relief on a sarcophagus cover from the fourth century BC pictures the earth as a circular disc surrounded by a circular sea (Keel 1978, 38). At the ends of the earth are the nations that surround Egypt. In the middle of the earth is the underworld which is reached through the gates of necropolis. So there are three rings in this picture; the circle of the sea, the circle of the earth, and then the circle of the underworld.

There is another much older picture of the circular earth surrounded by a circular sea which dates back around 700 BC (Keel 1978, 40). Surrounding the sea were the mountains of the horizon and beyond this circle the heavenly ocean begins. The heavenly ocean is called kbhw-hr which means "upper waters of Horus" (Ibid, 37). The outermost circle may represent the firmament which like a wall or dam that contained the heavenly ocean.

From the treasuries of Tutankhamun (1358-1349 BC) there is a drawing that represents the celestial and terrestrial oceans by two circular snakes (Ibid, 45). The earth is also drawn as a mountain in several places (Ibid, 42). In the book of Psalms the earth and mountains are used as parallel terms (Psa. 97:4-5, 98:7-8).

LXX Text

The LXX translation of gwj is with guros. Seybold states, "the image conveyed by this word (guros) appears to express the classical Babylonian idea of the ring of water surrounding the earthís surface" (TDOT 1980, 4:246). He declares that this rare word is especially used for a circular trench around a tree, but this is just one of the meanings of guros in the context of farming. Liddel and Scott (1940, 364) say, "plant in a guros" (a round hole). In the Letters to Alciphron Callicrates writes to Aegon saying, "As the right season had come, I dug gurous (round holes) in the earth and made boqria (pits), and was ready to plant my young olive trees and to bring them running water, which comes to me from the neighboring ravine" ( Letters of Alciphron, Aelian and Philostratus 1949, 101). A round hole in the earth is just an inverted vault, but this seems an unlikely way to describe the heavens. Guros may also just mean bent or curved and could be used to describe the vaulted heavens in Job 22:14, but Seybold is probably right in assuming that guros is referring to the idea of a circular trench of water surrounding the earth in Isaiah 40:22 which was the common belief of their day. The LXX translators probably understood gwh to refer to the sea around the earth. They could have clearly wrote "the circle of the deep" as was done in Proverbs 8:27 by Aquila, and Theodotion (Field 1964, 327), but stuck to a more literal rendering.

The LXX uses the ths ghs kuklw twice in 2 Chronicles 17:10 and Numbers 32:33. It means, "the land round about," and not "the circle of the earth."

In classical Greek guros is used primarily for farming, and never used to described the sky a s the LXX does. Another Greek word was usually used to describe the sky, and that was kuklos meaning "circle" (L&S 1940, 1007). Plato used the word sfairoeides to describe the heavens as a sphere (Archer-Hind 1973, 100). Strabo used sfairoeidhs meaning "a ball, sphere, or globe," to describe the earth (Strabo 1924, 431; L&S 1940, 1452). If the Hebrews thought the earth or heavens were a sphere, they would have used the Hebrew word rwd which is used in Isaiah 22:18 for "ball." I think the translators of the LXX were trying to avoid using a Greek word that would imply the controversial idea that the earth or heavens were spherical.

Aramaic Literature

The targum of Isaiah translates Isaiah 40:22 as follows:

Who caused the Shekinah of his glory to dwell in the mighty height, and all the inhabitants of the earth are counted as grasshoppers before him; who stretched out the heavens as a small thing, and spread them out like a glorious tent for the house of his Shekinah (Stenning 1949,132-5, see also Chilton, 79).

Here the "circle of the earth" is interpreted as "in the might height" or the zenith of heaven which would make the inhabitants on earth look like grasshoppers. This shows that the vault of the heavens is understood, and not a river encircling the earth as in the LXX.

Jewish Literature

There is a legend that Alexander the Great once ascended high above the earth until "the world appeared like a ball and the sea like a dish" (in which it was set; Cohen 1975, 36).

In Ber.R.iv.5 the thickness of the firmament is said to equal the thickness of the earth because gwj is used for both the earth (Isa 40:22) and of heaven (Job 22:14; Bowker 1969, 104).

In Ezekielís Exodus quoted by Eusebius says, "upon Mount Sinaiís brow I saw A mighty throne that reached to heavenís high vault. Thence I looked forth Upon the earthís wide circle" (1981, 470).

Latin Literature

In the Apocalypse of Esdras 6:1, Charlesworth (1983, 1:534) translates the Latin text as, "At the beginning of the circle of the earth." The Latin text says, Initium terrena orbis (Klijin 1983, 38). The Syriac and the Ethopic do not have the word "circle" (Charlesworth 1983, 534). There is a very simple explanation for this. The Latin words, terrena orbis have been mistranslated. This common Latin phrase is used frequently in the Vulgate and means "world." It is sometimes shortened to just orbis. This does not mean that Jerome thought the earth was round, because Cicero and other Latin writers used orbis terrarum to mean "world." What they meant was the land that encircled the Mediterranean Sea. Mediterranean means "the sea in the middle of the land." The known world at that time surrounded the Mediterranean Sea. The Vulgate uses orbis terrarum six times in the NT (Matt 24:14; Luke 2:1, 21:26; Acts 11:28, 24:5; Rev. 3:10, 12:9), and orbis two times (Acts 17:31, 19:27). The references mainly refer to the world or mankind and not the physical world, just like the Greek word kosmos.

Church Fathers

St. Clement of Rome

St. Clement of Rome in his epistle to the Corinthians (about 95 AD), briefly describes his view of the world as under the control of the creator which results in peace and enjoyment. He says the following in chapter twenty:

The heavens are moved by His direction and obey Him in peace. Day and night accomplish the course assigned to them by Him, without hindrance one to another. The sun and the moon and the dancing stars according to His appointment circle in harmony within the bounds assigned to them, without any swerving aside. The earth, bearing fruit in fulfillment of His will at her proper seasons, putteth forth the food that supplieth abundantly both men and beasts and all living things which are thereupon, making no dissension, neither altering anything which He hath decreed. Moreover, the inscrutable depths of the abysses and the unutterable statutes of the nether regions are constrained by the same ordinances. The basin of the boundless sea, gathered together by His workmanship into its reservoirs, passeth not the barriers wherewith it is surrounded; but even as He ordereth it, so it doeth. For he said. 'So far shalt thou come, and thy waves shall be broken within thee.' The ocean which is impassable for men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Master (Lightfoot and Harmer 1984, 66).

In this chapter there is the common three layer view of the world, heaven, earth, and underworld. Surrounding the earth is the ocean which man can not pass. Beyond the ocean are kosmoi, "worlds." It is not certain what is meant by kosmoi. It may refer to the underworld and upperworlds.

St. Basil

St. Basil in his Hexaemeron states:

Those who have written about the nature of the universe have discussed at length the shape of the earth. If it be spherical or cylindrical, if it resemble a disc and is equally rounded in all parts, or if it has the forth of a winnowing basket and is hollow in the middle; all these conjectures have been suggested by cosmographers, each one upsetting that of his predecessor. It will not lead me to give less importance to the creation of the universe, that the servant of God, Moses, is silent as to shapes. Shall I not rather exalt Him who, not wishing to fill our minds with these vanities, has regulated all the economy of Scripture in view of the edification and the making perfect of our souls (Homily 9)?

Cosmas Indicopleustes

An Egyptian monk named Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote a book called Christian Topography around 547 AD (McCrindle 1897, iv-x). Cosmas was probably a native of Alexandria. Because he was a merchant, he traveled to seas and countries that were far from home. There were many ecclesiastical controversies in his day. Cosmas probably belonged to the Nestorian sect.

The basic purpose of his book was to refute from scripture and common sense, the impious pagan beliefs that the earth was a sphere, and the center around which the heavens which were also a sphere, revolved. He also wrote against antipodes which means that people would be standing on their heads on the other side of the spherical earth.

Cosmas shaped the world through his literal interpretation of Hebrews 9:23-24 which says:

It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices that these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

The tabernacle was a pattern of the universe.

The tabernacle is divided into two parts by means of a veil. This symbolizes the division of the universe into two worlds, an upper and lower, by means of the firmament. The table of shew-bread with its waved border represented the earth surrounded by the ocean. Since the table was twice as long as it was wide, and was place lengthwise from East to West, the earth also is a rectangular shape extending in length from East to West twice as long as it is wide. The surrounding ocean is unnavigatable, and is surrounded by another earth which is the seat of paradise, and the abode of man until the flood when Noah was carried over to this earth. McCrindle summarizes Cosmasí shape of the world by saying:

The heavens come down to us in four walls, which, at their lower sides, are welded to the four sides of the earth beyond the ocean, each to each. The upper side of the northern wall, at the summit of heaven, curves round and over, till it unites with the upper side of the southern wall, and thus forms, in the shape of an oblong vault, the canopy of heaven, which Cosmas likens to the vaulted roof of a bathroom. This vast rectangular hall is divided at the middle into two stories by the firmament, which this serves as a ceiling for the lower story and a floor for the upper. The lower story is this world, where men and angels have their abode until the resurrection, and the story above is heaven-the place of the future state (McCrindle 1897, xvi).

From Isaiah which says that the heaven is His throne, and the earth is His footstool, he deduced that the earth must be at the bottom of the universe, founded on its own stability (Ibid, 28). Therefore in Job 26:7 it says, "He hangeth the earth upon nothing." It is the Lord who holds up the earth (Heb 1:3, Job 38:4-6, Psa 102:5).

Cosmas believed that heaven was light, and tended upward while the earth was heavy, and tended downward. By binding heaven and earth together they would both naturally support each other. He then describes the heavens like "an oblong vaulted vapor-bath. For it says in Isaiah 40:22, He who established heaven as a vault." Cosmas always quotes from the Septuagint. He seems to ignore the phrase "the circle of the earth," since he views the earth as a rectangle. The LXX mistranslates the Hebrew word for "veil" as "vault." At that time the LXX was considered inspired. Cosmas based his argument on the Greek word kamaran which means "vault." Cosmas writes:

The divine scripture speaks thus in Moses concerning the second heaven: And God called the firmament heaven; and in the inspired David we find these words: Stretching out the heavens as a covering; and he adds: who covereth his upper chambers with waters; saying this evidently with respect to the firmament. But scripture, when coupling the two heavens together, frequently speaks of them in the singular, as but one, saying through Isaiah: He that established the heaven as a vaulted chamber, and stretched it out as a tent to dwell in; meaning here by the vaulted chamber the highest heaven, and by what is stretched out as a tent the firmament, and thus declaring them in the singular number to be bound together and to be of similar appearance (McCrindle 1897, 31-2).

The LXX reads kamaran which Cosmas translates as meaning "vaulted chamber" and not just "chamber," in Isaiah 40:22b. Kamaran means "arch, vault, vaulted room" in the Greek (A&G 1957, 401). The Vulgate has qui extendit velut nihilum caelos which means, "who stretches out the sky as nothing." The Hebrew word is qd, meaning "curtain" (BDB 1980, 201). Cosmas quotes David in Psalm 104:2-3 saying:

Stretching out the heaven as a curtain, and indicating still more clearly he says, Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters. Now, when scripture speaks of the extremities of heaven and earth, this cannot be understood as applicable to a sphere (McCrindle 1897, 313).

Isaiah again says, "Thus saith the Lord, he that made the heaven and pitched it" (Isa 42:5). The curtain refers to the firmament. Cosmas quotes Isaiah 45:18 which says, "The Lord God who made the heaven and fixed it" means the heavens are not revolving as the Greeks thought (Ibid, 313).

Cosmas states that the Babylonians were the first ones to say that the heavens were a sphere, and "they were the first to be taught, through Isaiah the prophet, that it is not a sphere, but a vault" (Ibid, 315).

About the second day of creation Cosmas quotes Severianus, the Bishop of Gabula, who explains:

He made this heaven, not the one above, but the visible heaven which he crystallized from the waters like ice. Thereupon a solid ice-like substance was produced in the midst of the waters, which made lighter the upper half of the water, and left the other half underneath. Isaiah testifies where he says: The heaven was made firm and solid as smoke (Isa 51:6). The heaven was crystalline, having been consolidated from the waters; but since it was to receive the flame of the sun and of the moon and the countless hosts of the stars, and was entirely filled with fire, then in order that it might not be dissolved, nor burned with the heat, He spread over the upper surfaces of heaven those sea-like expanses of water, with a view to soften, and as it were to anoint the upper surface and thus render it capable of resisting the scorching heat of the flames (Ibid, 336-8).

Cosmas takes everything in the Bible very literally.

Cosmas in book twelve claims that many old pagan writers testify to the accuracy of the OT. The Chaldaean books of Berosus tells of King Xisuthrus who was warned by God built a ship and escaped the great flood (Ibid, 375). Noah is King Xisuthrus. The genealogies with long life spans are explained by counting days not years, and are carefully correlated to the genealogies in Genesis. The Tower of Babel is also mentioned in Chaldeaen history.

Cosmas also appeals to the philosopher Timaeus in Platoís boo where he describes the earth as surrounded by the ocean, and then the ocean is surrounded by the more remote earth called Atlantis which Cosmas calls Paradise(Ibid, 376). It may be more accurate to say that Atlantis and Paradise are big islands. In Timaeus it says that the island is bigger than Africa (Archer-Hind 1973, 79; 24E). It seems that Cosmas in order to add support to his views, quotes secular writers that agree with him, and criticizes those writers who do not agree with him.

Eusebius of Caesarea

Eusebius of Caesarea wrote a book called Preparation of the Gospel around 314 AD (Eusebius 1981, v; Mras 1954). He discusses different Greek philosophies showing how some are similar to the Bible, and how some are contrary. The following is a compilation of Greek views of the shape of the earth:

Thales and the Stoics: the earth is spherical.

Anaximander: it is like a stone pillar supporting the surfaces.

Anaximenes: like a table.

Leucippus: like a kettle-drum.

Democritus: like a disk in its extension, but hollow in the middle.

But Moses and the oracles of the Hebrews trouble themselves about none of these things; and with good reason, because it was thought that those who busied themselves about these matters gained no benefit in regard to the right conduct of life (Eusebius 1981, 913, 869).

Eusebius quotes briefly from scripture to demonstrate how God created the universe. God spoke and it came into being. He quoted Isaiah 450:22b, Žo sthsas ws kamarav ton ouranon kai diateinas Ws skhnhn katoikein, which means, "who set the heaven for a canopy, and spread it out as a tent to dwell in" (Mras 1954, 384; 7:11,7). This is a direct quote from the LXX. He does not speculate on what the verse might mean.

St. Chrysostom

St. Chrysostom in Concerning the Statues quotes the following scriptures, "who hath placed the sky as a vault, and spread it out as a tent over the earth. And again, Who holdeth the circle of heaven" (Schaff 1979, 9:409). St. Chrysostom is following the LXX, but instead of writing "circle of the earth" he writes "circle of heaven" He may be interpreting the phrase to refer to heaven or thinking about the circle in Ecclesiasticus 43:12-12.

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa in book two of Against Eunomius writes, "Who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and hath meted out heaven with the span" (Schaff and Wace 1979, 5:125). Here Gregory is not quoting the LXX which says, "It is he that comprehends the circle of the earth," but from the Vulgate.


Theophilus writing to Autolycus following the LXX says:

The heaven, therefore, being dome-shaped covering, comprehended matter which was like a clod. And so another prophet, Isaiah by name, spoke in these words: It is God who made the heavens as a vault, and stretched them as a tent to dwell in.This heaven which we see has been called firmament, and to which half the water was taken up that it might serve for rains, and showers, and dews to mankind. And half the water was left on earth for rivers, and fountains, and seas (Schaff and Wace 1979, 2:100).

Theophilus interprets the "circle of the earth" as referring to the vault of heaven.


Novatian in his Treatise Concerning the Trinity, following the LXX writes:

Who, according to Isaiah, 'hath meted out the heaven with a span, the earth with the hollow of His hand;' 'who looketh on the earth, and maketh it tremble; who boundeth the circle of the earth, and those that dwell in it like locusts; who hath weighed the mountains in a balance, and the groves in scales' (Ibid, 5:613).


Severianus, bishop of Gabula wrote Six Orations on the Creation of the World. He saw the world as flat in the shape of the tabernacle which was a common early Christian view (Durham and Purrington 1983, 76). Cosmas quotes extensively from these orations.

Pillars of the Earth

The Bible also talks about the pillars of the earth. In Job 9:6 it says, "Who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars (ydwmu) tremble." The LXX says, "Who shakes the earth under heaven from its foundations and its pillars (stuloi) totter." In Psalm 75:3 it says, "The earth and all its inhabitants are melting away; I set firm its pillars (ydwmu)." The LXX says, "I have strengthened its pillars (stuloi)." In I Samuel 2:8 it says, "For the pillars of the earth are the Lordís and he had set the world upon them." The Hebrew word for pillar is yqxm. The root is qx meaning "to melt" (BDB 1980, 848). Therefore, yqxm means, "a molten like pillar." The only other place it occurs is in I Samuel 14:5 referring to a mountain. Probably the pillars of the earth are the same thing as the foundations of the earth which were mountains.

In Ugaritic we have seen that there are two mountains, trgzz and trmg that bind the earth. Gibson says that these twin mountains were founded in the earth-encircling ocean, and held up the firmament, and also marked the entrance to the underworld (1978, 66). The mountains are said to bind the earth. This may indicate that the mountains surrounded, and supported the earth as well as confine the netherworld. The mountains were seen as the foundations of the earth, and the support pillars for the heavens. The Hebrews probably held a very similar view as the verses above indicate, as well as later Hebrew writings. So the phrase "pillars of heaven" and "pillars of earth" are referring to the same mountains. One emphasizes the height of the mountains holding up heaven, the other emphasizes the depth of the mountains that hold the earth firm.

Dead Sea Scrolls

In an Aramaic text of the Testament of Levi from Qumran it says, "And I saw the heavens opened and I saw below me a high mountains which touched the heavens and I was upon it. And the gates of heaven were opened to me" (Clifford 1972, 188). So even those at Qumran believed certain mountains reached heaven.

Ends of the Earth

Hebrew Texts

The Bible uses the phrase "the ends of the earth" some 28 times, and "end" three times. There are several different Hebrew words for "end," [nk, [ws, spa and hxq. The Hebrew word [nk which BDB lexicon translates as "the extremities of the earth," is used twice in the book of Job (37:3, 38:13; BDB 1980, 489). The root of the word means "winged" from which the word "pinnacle" comes. The LXX translates "ends" as pterugwn which is used in the NT in Matthew 4:5, "the pinnacle of the temple." The Vulgate renders it by terminos, extrema, and quatturo. The KJV translates it by "ends," "quarters," and "corners" of the earth. Isaiah 11:12 mentions the four corners of the earth, and Ezekiel 7:2 says, "the four corners of the land (of Israel). These are two other places where the Hebrew word [nk is used. This does not mean they thought Israel was a square, but referred to the four extreme points North, South, East, and West in Israel.

The Hebrew word [ws also means "end." It is used five times in the book of Daniel. Only twice is it used to refer to the earth. Another Hebrew word hxq is used more often than any of the other words for "end." There are two forms of this root word. One is feminine in form, and the other is masculine.

There is another Hebrew word spa that means "extremities." This is similar to the Ugaritic word aps which also means "top" or "extremities" (Gordon 1965, 364, #309). This probably comes from the Akkadian apsu (Pope 1955, 72). This is the place where Ea dwelt, a subterranean sweet-water ocean (Heidel 1942, 81). Tiamat was killed, and half of her body formed the firmament; the other half he put over the Apsu, the waters of the deep, the subterranean sea (Heidel 1942, 155). So the ends of the earth go the ocean that encircles the earth, and where heaven and earth meet. In Psalm 65:5 the ends of the earth are parallel to the farthest sea.

Another interesting parallel is in Isaiah 41:5 which says, "The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came." Here islands are considered to be synonymous with, or near the ends of the earth. The earth was surrounded by water, but there were islands at the edge of the world where the sky met the sea.

New Testament

In the New Testament in Revelations 7:1 and 20:8 it mentions the four corners of the earth. Thayerís Lexicon says this means "the four extreme limits of the earth" (Thayer 1962, 123). The Greek word gwnia can also mean an angle, corner, cornerstone, and a secret place (A&G 1957, 168). The Vulgate translates this word with angulos. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) says, "The four corners of the earth or land are therefore simply the extremities of land in the four cardinal directions" (Orr 1939, 887). When gwnia refers to a building it means corner, but when it refers to land it means the extremity. For example, in the Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library (11 130, 9) it says, "in the area of Euhemeria in the division of Themistes at the corner" (Moulton and Milligan 1976, 134).

In Greek literature Herodotus in Book 3:25,1 writes, which means "the ends of the earth" (Hude 1979, 3:25,1). Cambyses was to take his men to the ends of the earth.

Akkadian Literature

In the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions (Grayson 1972, 105-109) there are many references to the "four quarters" (of the earth). The Royal inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta says:

Tukulti-Ninurta, king of the universe, king of Assyria, strong king, king of the four quarters, chosen of Ashur, vice-regent of Ashur, the king whose deeds are pleasing to the gods of heaven (and) underworld and to whom they allotted the four corners of the earth, (the king whom) they allowed to always exercise rule in the (four) quarters and who conquered all those who did not submit to him (Grayson 1972, 1:105).

The phrase "king of the four quarters" according to Grayson (1972, 1:4) is "the Sumero-Akkadian expression for 'king of the world'." Grayson goes on to say, "The four 'quarters' or 'coasts' are approximately identical with the cardinal points of the compass and are the extremities of the world (which was believed to be a disc) projecting out into the primeval sea (which was believed to surround the world disc)."

The phrase "four corners of the earth" which in Akkadian is kap-pat tu-bu-qa-at erbitti, can literally be translated "the circle of the four corners" (Grayson 1972, 105; CAD K, 397-400). This is a clear reference to the earth being circular. It seems strange that a circle would also have corners, but they meant the extremities in the four cardinal directions.

Egyptian Literature

The "ends" of the earth are the extremities of the land where ultimately sky and earth meet, but some of the time it is used in hyperbole to refer to lands and people who are very far away. For example, in the Asiatic Campaigns of Thut-mose III it says, "But it happened in later times that the garrison which was there was in the town of Sharuhen, while from Iursa to the outer ends of the earth had become rebellious against his majesty" (ANET, 235). In another of Thut-mose IIIís campaign it says, "His southern frontier is to the horns of the earth, to the southern limit of this land" (ANET, 240). In this passage the "horn" of the earth are equal to the "ends" of the earth.

In the Asiatic Campaigning of Amen-hotep II the boasting and hyperbole are clearly seen. It says:

Then the other foe was taken upstream to the land of Nubia and hanged to the wall of Napata, to show his majestyís victories forever and ever in all lands and all countries of the Negro land; inasmuch as he had carried off the southerners and bowed down the northerners, the (very) ends of the entire earth upon which Re shines, (so that) he might set his frontier where he wishes without being opposed, according to the decree of his father Re (ANET, 248).

In Egyptian drawings the "ends" of the earth are represented by lions which symbolize mountains that are at the edge of the world. Several drawings have twin lions with the sun in the middle (Keel 1978, 25-26). These twin mountains represent the horizon and have all ready been discussed earlier.

Ugaritic Literature

In the Keret legend it says, (3) sb lqsm `ars (4) lksm m`iykt, meaning, "they did go around to the edges of the earth, to the limits of the watery region" (Gibson 1978, 98; Herdner 1963, 16:iii,3-4). This may indicate that the earth is surrounded by a river, or is the place where the heavenly ocean meets the earth. This watery region may be the rain of Baal in the next line, which supports the idea that it is the heavenly ocean referred to.

The ends of the earth seems to be the place where the heaven and earth meet. The Hebrew xra yspa means "the extremities of the earth" (BDB 1980, 67). This is similar to Ugaritic aps meaning "top" or "extremity." In CTA 6.1.60-61 it says, rish lymgy apsh which means, "his head did not reach its top" (Gordon 1965, 364, #309). It is used in Ezekiel 47:3 referring to a manís feet. This word probably comes from the Akkadian apsu which is the place where Ea dwells, a subterranean sweet-water ocean (Pope, 1955, 72). Tiamat was killed, and half her body formed the firmament; the other half Marduk put over the Apsu, the waters of the deep, the subterranean sea (Heidel 1942, 155). So the ends of the earth extend beyond the ocean that encircles the earth to where heaven and earth meet at the horizon. In Psalm 65:5 the ends of the earth are parallel to the farthest sea.

Earth Stretched Out

The Hebrew word uqr, which means "to stamp or spread out," is used to describe the creation of the earth, in Isaiah 42:5 and 44:24. It is parallel to the phrase, "the stretching out of the heavens" (BDB 1980, 956). In Psalm 136:6 it says, "to him who spreads the earth upon the waters." The earth is spread out over the watery deep like in Enuma Elish (Heidel 1942, 43). Psalm 24:2 says, "for he founded it (the earth) upon the seas and established it upon the waters." In Job 26:7 it says that God hung the earth upon nothing or the deep. I think that this is just another way of describing the earth being spread out over the deep. The phrase parallels the stretching out the heavens just before it. The word "nothing" parallels the word "void" in the proceeding phrase. In Job 38:6 it asks, "On what were its foundations sunk? Only God knows." The verb uqr is used in Isaiah 40:19 to describe a goldsmith overlaying something with gold. In Job 37:18 the Hebrew word uqr describes the beating out of the sky like a mirror.

In Psalm 104:5-9 there is a more detailed description of the creation of the earth on day three. In verse 5 there is the summary statement that the earth is founded upon its pillars so that it will not move. Verses 6-9 describe how this happened. Verse 6 describes the beginning condition. The waters of the deep covered over the earth like a blanket. The mountains were submerged under water. In verses 7-8 God rebukes the water and the mountains rise up, and the valleys sink to proper place that God has founded for them. In verse 9 the sea is bound to a certain place so that it will not cover the earth again. Therefore, the heavens and the earth are both described as being spread out at creation.

Modern Theologians

One must not read modern science back into this verse. This has nothing to do with plate tectonics. Other verses state that the earth is immovable (Psalm 18:6-7, 103:5), therefore some scientists and theologians believe that the earth is not being stretched out by plate tectonic (Henry Morris, Ken Ham), or spinning around its axis or spinning around the sun (Flat Earth Society, Tychonian Society).

In the 17th century there was much debate in the church over Copernicusí new heliocentric theory, and Galileoís support of it. There were also problems with the earthís immobility, centrality, and spherical shape. John of Sacrogosco wrote a treatise called On the Sphere (Grant 1984, 23). He tries to explain Aristotleís series of concentric spheres of earth, water, air, and fire with Genesis. Although most people believed the earth was a sphere, they saw the ocean as a separate sphere in which the bottom part of the earth was submerged. Sacrogosco said that at creation God raised the sphere of the earth half way above the sphere of the waters. It was not until the 14th century that certain men proclaimed that the earth and the ocean formed one sphere. Copernicus in his book On the Revolutions, explains how the earth forms a single sphere with water (Grant, 22).

Although Christopher Clavius in his book Commentary on the Sphere of Sacrogosco saw the earth and ocean as one sphere, he still believed in the centrality, and the immobility of the earth (Grant, 22). Scriptures like Psalm 103:5, !8:6-7, and Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 showed that the earth did not rotate, but the heavens did. Other passages like Job 26:7 where god hangs the earth upon nothing and Isaiah 40:12 where God weighs the mountains and hills in a balance, were used by Raphael Aversa to support a geocentric world (Grant, 62). He also cited I Chronicles 16:30 where God made the orb immobile to show that the earth does not move. The arguments by Galileo that the Bible deliberately concealed physical truths in order to facilitate the understanding of the common man was "abominable" according to Aversa (Grant, 63) who believed that scriptures were meant to be taken literally. Even Today there is the Flat Earth Society that holds to geocentric view of the universe because of their strict literal view of the Bible.

Let the Earth Sprout Vegetation

Hebrew Text

avd /yrah avdt - Let the earth sprout vegetation

The earth is commanded to sprout forth young plants, or vegetation. This is not an ex nihilo creation. The herbage comes from the earth. Some read evolution of plants from this, but the ancient Near Eastern culture would understand something different. Other ANE creation stories have not only plants sprouting from the earth, but animals, and humans as well. It is like magic, or supernatural powers of the earth-god or other gods that plants grow from the earth. This will be looked at in more detail below.

There seems to be just two types of plants mentioned here, not three as older translations suggest (Wenham 1987, 20). There are plants and trees which both start out as young plants. The Hebrew word avd refers to the whole, both the plants and trees (Westermann, 124). Generally avd describes budding plants (Ibid) of which there are two kinds, plants that are small, and trees which are large.

The plants and trees are said to produce after their kind. This should not be equated with "species" in the Linnean system of classification used in science. "Species" would be too narrow a term for the Hebrew /ym, "kind." It would also include "genus." The Hebrew /ym is used ten times in Genesis one. It is used again in the flood narrative and then again in Leviticus to distinguish between clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11:14,22,29 and parallel passage in Deut. 14:13-15,18).

Sumerian Literature

In Tree and Reed heaven impregnates earth probably with rain to produce plant life. There also seems to be two kinds of plants, tree and reed. The Text says:

An, high heaven, consummated marriage with vast Earth,
He implanted the seed of the heroes Tree and Reed in (her womb).
Earth, the good cow, received the good seed of An.
Earth gave herself to the happy birth of the plants of life.
Earth joyously produced abundance; she exuded wine and honey.
Having given birth to Tree and Reed (Clifford 1994, 26).

In the Hymn to Eíengura men sprout from the earth like plants. It says, "when An had engendered the year of abundance, when humans broke through earthís surface like plants, then built the Lord of Abzu, King Enki" (Ibid, 29-30). In KAR 4,54 it says, "they (mankind) sprout from the ground like barley" (Ibid).

In a prayer to the moon-god Sin it says, "When you have spoken your word on earth, the vegetation flourishes luxuriantly" (Beyerlin 1978, 105).

Akkadian Texts

The Chaldean Cosmogony was the preamble to a now lost prayer that was recited during the procession of the Akitu Festival at Uruk. It describes the precreation condition. It says, "A reed had not come forth, a tree had not been produced" (Clifford 1994, 62-63). Then later in the text it says, "He creat[ed (banu) the reed], he created (banu) the tree" (Ibid.).

Egyptian Texts

In the great Hymn to Aten it says, "All beasts browse on their herbs; Trees, herbs are sprouting" (COS, 45). There seems to be two kinds of vegetation mentioned here. In the Hymn to Osiris it says, "Plants sprout by his wish, earth grows its food for him—Tree of life, all plants" (COs, 41-42). In the Hymn to Amon-Re it says, "(Amon-Re) who created the tree of life, who made the herbage—Who made the herbage [for] the herds, The tree of life for the sunfolk" (COs, 38-9).

Jewish Literature

According to Josephus the "plants and seeds sprang forthwith from the soil" (LCL 242, 15). There is no mention of God divinely ordering this, but Franxman sees a downplay of the MTís idea that the earth used its own power to produce life (1979, 43). The word "forthwith or immediately" may imply that the plants grew to maturity fast.

Philo also agrees with Josephus that the plants grew fast and the trees bore fruit almost immediately. Philo says, "And, after a fashion quite contrary to the present order of Nature, all were laden with fruit as soon as ever they came into existence" (LCL 226, 31).

Creation of Sun, Moon, and Stars

Hebrew Text

uyqrb tram yhy - Let there be lights in the firmament

Day four is described in more length than any other except man, yet there is much repetition which is in chiastic form (Wenham 1987, 21-22). The fulfillment of Godís command is written in reverse order.

The sun and moon are not named probably because they were gods in the ancient world. In Genesis one they are created by God. This seems to be a polemic against the ANE view that the sun, moon, and stars were gods (Hasel 1974, 81-102). In Genesis they are mere creations under Godís control.

There are three functions of these heavenly bodies; to divide, to rule, and to give light which are repeated twice. There is debate over whether there are two or three purposes for these lights namely; for signs, for seasons, for days and years. Most agree that days and years go together because they are governed by one l. Westerman argues that "signs" covers the two kinds of seasons, and days and years. Others take "signs" as another kind namely celestial omens. We can not be sure which is the best view.

The Hebrew word rwam "light or lamp" is always used for the lamp in the tabernacle in the Pentateuch except for Genesis one.

We want to look now at some important passages about the sun, moon, and stars in the Bible.

The Sun Stood Still

In Joshua chapter ten is the famous story of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still. Does this mean that the earth stopped revolving? Scientists say that this would tear the earth apart.

The more important question is how the people at Joshuaís time understood this. In Acts 2:20 the moon is turned "into blood." Does this mean the moon turned into real blood? No! It is used figuratively of a lunar eclipse when the moon turns a dull red color, sometimes when the moon is close to the horizon the atmosphere causes the mood to look orange-red in color, or clouds or smoke can darken the moon.

Akkadian Literature

A look at ancient records show that heavenly bodies standing still was common terminology used back then. Letís look at a few examples in the book The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon in the British Museum by R. Campbell Thompson.

Report 1

Report one says, "When the day is long according to its calculation, there will be a long reign. The day is calculated to last as long as the Sun remains above the horizon." When a month has 30 days, its days are said to have their full or proper length.

Report 33

Report 33 says, "Mars which has stood in Scorpio to go forth turns". This is probably a reference to the retrograde motion of Mars.

Report 37

Reports 37 says, "When the Moon stands in a fixed position, there will be want of rain."

Report 90

Report 90 says, "When the Sun stands within the halo of the Moon, in all lands they will speak truth."

Report 153

Report 153 says, "When the Moon stops in its course, the market will be low."

Report 176

Report 176 says, "When the Sun stands in the place of the Moon, the king of the land will be secure on his throne."

Report 183

Report 183 says, "Jupiter has stood for a month over its reckoned time."

Report 261

Report 261 says, "When it thunders in Sebat, heaven will rain with stones."

In the State Archives of Assyria volume X, report 145 says, "The 30th day became 'long.' In Volume VIII report 310 says, "IF in Adar (XII) the sun stands still in the middle of noontime: the land will experience siege (and) misery." These reports show us that terms like "the sun or moon stood still" were commonly used to describe certain conditions of heavenly bodies that they observed. It does not mean the earth stopped rotating.

Another important point is that one of the most important calculations in ancient times was the full moon in the middle of the month. The first day of a full moon was when the moon set minutes after sunrise, so that the sun and moon were both visible on opposite horizons. If this was on the 14th, it was a good omen; if on the 15th, it was a bad omen? Report 48 says, "on the fourteenth day the Moon was seen with the Sun. There will be an overthrowing of fortresses and downfall of garrisons."

Greek Literature

There is a similar passage to Joshua 10 in the Iliad which says, "Zeus, most glorious, most great, the one of the dark clouds, that dwellest in the heaven, grant that the sun set not, neither darkness come upon us, until I have cast down in headlong ruin the hall of Priam, blacked with smoke, and have burned with consuming fire the portals thereof" (Younger, 215; Book II:412-15).

Joshua 10

Lawson Younger in his book Ancient Conquest Accounts has some very interesting comparisons of Joshua 10 with other ancient Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian conquest accounts. Being able to conquer the enemy in a single day is a great victory in ancient times. One implored his god to maintain daylight long enough for their enemies to be defeated. The supernatural aid of the god in battle with hailstones is also told. Compare the Hittite account in Mursiliís Comprehensive Annals, Sargonís Letter to the God(207-11), and the Gebal Barkal Stela of Thutmose III (217) with Joshua (see below).

Dr. John Walton who teaches at Moody Bible Institute gives two important observation. First, the description in Joshua 10 "places the sun in the east and the moon in the west, thus indicating that the prayer was made in the morning" (1994, 182). Secondly, this day is unique not because of astronomical phenomenon, but because God listened to the voice of man.

In Joshua 10:13 the moon is said to "stand" or "wait." In ancient times the moon is said "to not wait" for the sun when it sets below the horizon before the sun rises. When the moon and sun are seen together then the moon is said "to wait" or "stand" for the sun. When the moon is said "to stand" it means the moon is not on the horizon but further up in the sky (Ibid, 185). Joshua 10 seems to indicate that it was the 15th day of the month which was a bad omen of destruction for Joshuaís enemies.


Another important point needs to be cleared up. The story that NASA computers have found Joshua’s missing day is totally false. A story similar to this is told by Harry Rimmer about C.A. Totten. Totten wrote Joshua’s Long Day and the Dial of Ahaz in 1890. He assumed the date of creation was September 22, 4000 BC. Which can not be proven. Dr. Newman has an excellent article about this entitled Joshua’s Long Day and NASA Computers. What does NASA say about this story? See Can Science Confirm the Missing Day Referred to in the Bible?

Genesis 1:14-19 DAY 4

The Sun's Shadow Moved Back

Hezekiah became ill probably sometime between 705 to 701 BC (See 2 Kings 20:12, NIV note; Isaiah 38). A miraculous sign of the shadow of the sun going backward 10 steps would show Hezekiah that he would indeed recover from his illness. I posit that the shadow of the sun going backward is the result of a solar eclipse. Let us look at what a solar eclipse is.

A solar eclipse is when the moon crosses in front of the sun. The Greek word ekleipsis which means "failure." There are three kinds of solar eclipses. First, there is a "partial solar eclipse" when the moon covers only part of the sun. Second, when the moon is closest to the earth, called "perigee," it covers the sun completely for up to 7.5 minutes. This is called a "total solar eclipse." Third, when the moon is farthest away from the earth in its orbit, called "apogee," it can not cover the sun completely because it is too small, its shadow falls short of the earth, This is called an "annular solar eclipse" because a bright ring or annulus in Latin is seen. A solar eclipse is only seen at new moon.

Astronomers refer to four stages of an eclipse. First contact is when the moon first touches the sun. Second contact is when the moonís eastern edge touches the sunís eastern edge for the start of the total or annular eclipse. Third contact is when the moonís western edge leaves the western edge of the sun. The last contact is when the moonís last contact with the sun ends.

The Greeks noticed a relationship between the moonís monthly cycle and the eclipse year. 223 synodic months equal 19 eclipse years, or 18 years, 11 days called Saros. Any two solar eclipses separated by 18 years, 11 days will be very similar in duration, type length, and shape of its path. There are 42 Saros series going on concurrently (Harrington 1997, 17-18).

A minute before second contact shadow bands will form on the ground. They are like faint ripples similar to ripples seen at the bottom of a swimming pool. The last few rays of the sun are twisted by the earthís atmosphere to produce shadow bands. The bands are about 4 to 5 inches wide and a foot apart. And moving at 20 to 30 feet per second from southwest to northeast (Ibid, 44).

Right before second contact there is the onrushing shadow of the moon. The sky above turns deep blue while the horizon looks like a 360 degree amber sunset (Ibid). Just after third contact look to the east to see the receding lunar shadow race on to another area.

As the moon completely covers the sun, the mountains and valleys on the moon break up the sunlight into what looks like a necklace of sparkling jewels called "Baileyís Beads." They are named after Francis Bailey who described this phenomena "like a string of bright beads" from seeing the annular eclipse of 1836. When the beads fade there will be one last flare or jewel of light called the "diamond ring."

When the sun is totally eclipsed the corona of the sun can be seen. Corona is Latin for "crown." The corona is the outer atmosphere of the sun. In ancient times they were depicted as the wings of the sun. Malachi 4:2 says, "the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings" (NIV). This verse may refer to this, but more likely to the rays of the sun that burst forth at dawn, because the imagery of the next phrase describes this "like calves released form the stall." Psalm 139:9 mentions the "wings of the dawn." When there is a total eclipse bright stars and planets can be briefly seen, and there is a big drop in temperatures.

At the edge of an eclipse many spectacular displays can be seen. Richard Sanderson writes, "With most of the western sky covered by scattered clouds, I was able to get a vivid sense of the umbraís (shadow of the moon) movement as the distant clouds faded out one by one. Because of their varying dimensional appearance; clouds also gave the moonís shadow a three-dimensional appearance; clouds within the shadow appeared as dark silhouettes against those located outside of the path of totality being illuminated by the sun" (Harrington 1997, 55). We now want to look at solar eclipses in history.

Ugaritic Literature

The oldest recorded eclipse is in Ugaritic which probably took place on March 5, 1223 BC. It states, btt ym hdt, hyr `rbt, sps tgrh, rsp (KTU 1.78) which I translate, "In the second month (March) the gates of day were renewed after the setting sun by the gatekeeper Rsp (god of the underworld; which some identify with the planet Mars)." See the journal Nature 338 (1989), March 16, 204 and 238.

Note that the eclipse is described as "the gates of day were renewed after the setting sun." The sun was thought to go through gates at sunrise and sunset. The Chinese described one eclipse as "the day dawned twice" (Stephenson 1997, 219) Today we do not use language like this.

Akkadian Literature

In ancient times Babylonian Astrologers divided the moon into four parts to correspond to countries. It was considered an evil omen for the country where the "moon pulled and drew off its eclipse" (Thompson 1900, lxxxiv). The Akkadian words umu utarra means "the day turns back" (Ibid, xxi). Astrologers used these words when the moon was seen with the sun on the fourteenth day which would indicate the Moon would appear on the thirtieth day of the month resulting in 29 days in the next month (Ibid). These astrologers were part of an important priesthood of high rank which is denounced by Isaiah who says, "Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you" (NIV).

Omen 268

Omen 268 says, "the right of the Moon is Akkad, the left Elam, the top Aharru (Siwan), the bottom Subartu. Jupiter stood in the eclipse" (Thompson, lxxxv). Jupiter is seen during this eclipse which means peace for the king. Akkad refers to Babylon and surrounding area. Elam is to the East of Babylon. Aharru refers to the Levant which includes Palestine and Phoenicia. Subartu refers to Assyria.

Omen 269

Omen 269 says, When the Sun is eclipsed on the 29th of Iyyar, the shadow beginning in the North and remaining on the South, its left horn being pointed and its right horn long, the gods of the four regions will be troubled" (Ibid, lxxxvi). The shadow seems to refer to the moon crossing the Sun from the North to the South. It may not of been a total eclipse for a horn shape is seen. There is a repeated phrase, "when an eclipse happens on, and of the god in his shadow"(Omen 270, 271). This also refers to the dark moon crossing the sun.

Omen 271

Omen 271 says, "When an eclipse happens in the morning watch and it completes the watch, a north wind blowing, the sick in Akkad will recover" (Ibid, lxxxvii). This eclipse indicates the sick will recover which is similar to Hezekiahís sign.

Omen 274

Omen 274 says, "An eclipse has happened but it was not visible in Assur; this eclipse passed the city Assur, wherein the king is dwelling; now there are clouds everywhere so that whether it did or did not happen we do not know. Let the Lord of kings send to Assur, to all cities, to Babylon, Nipper, Erech and Borsippa; whatever has been seen in those cities the king will hear for certain. The great gods in the city wherein the king dwells have obscured the heavens and will not show the eclipse; so let the king know that this eclipse is not directed against the king. Here the king sends out messengers to see what happened in other cities. This seems to be a similar case with Hezekiah. Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:12).

1063 BC Eclipse or 1012 BC Eclipse

Grayson translates, "On the twenty-sixth day of the month Sivan, in the seventh year, day turned to night and (there was) a fire (isatu) in the sky" (1975, 135; Stephenson 1997, 144). The fire may refer to the solar corona. Note the phrase "day turned to night."

763 BC Eclipse

This is one of the most important and best known eclipses. This eclipse is key in establishing historical dates. In the Eponyms of the Assyrian Empire Millard translates, "(eponym of) Bur-Saggile of Guzana. Revolt in the citadel: in (the month) Siwan, the sun had an eclipse (samas attalu)," (1994, 58; SASS Vol.2; Stephensen, 125).

Amos 8:9 may refer to this solar eclipse which says, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight" (NIV; cf. Amos 5:8). Verse 5 mentions the New Moon which is the only time there can be a solar eclipse. This eclipse may be a sign for Amosí ministry and foreshadowed the judgment to come. There was also a great earthquake (1:1).

136 BC Eclipse

There is an interesting solar eclipse in Babylon where even planets are seen during this eclipse. It says, "The 29th, at 24 deg after sunrise, Solar eclipse: when it began on the South and West side, Venus, Mercury and the normal stars were visible, Jupiter and Mars, which were in their period of invisibility, were visible in its eclipse [...] it threw off (the shadow) from West and South to North and East; 35 deg onset, maximal phrase and clearing; in it eclipse, the north wind which was set [to the West? Side blew] (Stephenson 1997, 130).


Merodach-Baladan means "Marduk has given me a son" (NIV note). It seems certain that Hezekiahís sign took place during his life time. Merodach-Baladan ruled Babylon from 721 to 710 BC. He briefly regained control after Sargonsís death from 705-703 BC, and was finally driven away in 701 BC by Sennacherib. He probably wanted Hezekiah to join his alliance against Assyria.

Sennacherib's Prism
Sennacherib's Prism on the left describing the siege of Jerusalem (Oriental Institute, U of Chicago).

Sennacherib (704-681 BC.) writes in his campaigns about Hezekiah and Merodach-Baladan. He says, "In my first campaign (703 BC.) I accomplished the defeat of Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylonia, together with the armies of Elam, his ally, in the plain of Kish. That one fled alone to save his life, and the chariots, wagons, horses and mules which he abandoned, my hands captured. Into his palace in Babylon I entered and I opened his treasure-house, -gold, silver, vessels of gold and silver, precious stones, property and goods of his palace I took as spoil" (Luckenbill, 1927, 140-1).

In Sennacheribís third campaign he states, "As for Hezekiah, the Jew, who had not submitted to my yoke, 46 of his strong, walled cities and the cities of their environs, which were numberless, I besieged, I captured, I plundered, as booty I counted them. Him, like a caged bird, in Jerusalem, his royal city, I shut up" (Ibid, 143; ANET, 288).

In Sennacheribís fourth campaign he says, "The front of my yoke I turned, and took the road to Bit-Iakin. That Merodach-baladan, whom I defeated in my first campaign, became afraid at the tumult of my mighty arms, and fled to Nagitu which is in the midst of the sea (Persian Gulf). His brothers, the seed of his fatherís house, whom he abandoned by the seashore, the rest of the people of his land, I carried off as spoil from Bit-Iakin, out of the swamps and marshes" (Ibid, 143-4).

It seems most likely that between the third and fourth campaigns of Sennacherib that Hezekiah became ill. Certainly the stress and depression of Sennecheribís invasion took its toll making him vulnerable to sickness. Isaiah 36-37 tells of Sennacheribís third campaign which was partly waged against Judah and Hezekiah. What Sennacherib does not mention is the 185,000 men that died in the Assyrian Camp causing him to withdraw back to Nineveh (Isa. 37:36-37). Herodotus attributes these deaths to the bubonic plague.

Greek Literature


Herodotus in Book two paragraph 141 writes, "So presently came king Sennacherib against Egypt, with a great host of Arabians and Assyrians—and one night a multitude of fieldmice swarmed over the Assyrian camp and devoured their quivers and their bows and the handles of their shields likewise, insomuch that they fled the next day unarmed and many fell" (LCL, 117, 447). In the Egyptian version of this story an Egyptian priest has a vision that no harm would come to them, and he rallies men to follow him when fieldmice (rats) which carry the bubonic plague swarm over the Assyrian camp at night. Mice are a Greek symbol of pestilence where in the Iliad (Book 1:39) Apollo is called "Sminthian" the mouse-god who sends and stays plagues (LCL 170, 5).

One of the most famous eclipses in ancient times was in 585 BC. Herodotus writes, "day was on a sudden change into night. This event had been foretold by Thales, the Milesian, who forewarned the Ionians of it, fixing for it the very year in which it actually took place" (Zirker 1995, 6; Book 7:37). Xerxes was deeply troubled and asked his Magi to interpret this sign. They said the sun represented the Greeks whose cities will be eclipsed. "Having heard this Xerxes continued the march in high spirits" (Selincourt 1954, 458). Pythius the Lydian was "in alarm at the sign from heaven" (Ibid).

Hebrew Text

Hezekiah became ill probably sometime between 705 to 701 BC (See 2 Kings 20:12, NIV note; Isaiah 38). A miraculous sign of the shadow of the sun going backward 10 steps would show Hezekiah that he would indeed recover from his illness. I posit that the shadow of the sun going backward is the result of a solar eclipse. Even if clouds covered the sun, the movement of the shadow of the moon going backward and then foreword would be noticed. There are several possible eclipses of the sun during Hezekiahís life. Letís look at some of these.

710 BC Eclipse

There was a total solar eclipse in 710 BC in which 80% of the sun was covered in Israel. This eclipse would be too early. If we add 15 years, it would take us to 695 BC. Hezekiah died about 686 BC.

705 BC Eclipse

There was a solar eclipse on May 5, 705 BC. At about 5pm. About 66% of the sun was covered in Israel. This eclipse was before sunset. It would seem that the sun was setting early than usual bringing death which would parallel Hezekiahís illness signaling that he is near death. His life would be cut short just like the hours in the day are being cut short. Then the sun comes back out after the eclipse and the light of day is restored as is his health and his life. 15 years of life are added corresponding to the 15 hours left in the day assuming the Egyptian way of dividing the day into 24 hours. 5pm would be about the 10th hour and counting the 10th hour there were 15 hours left in the day. This seems like a possibility, but not a perfect fit. This would place Hezekiahís death at 690 BC instead of the standard date of 686 BC. This is also before Sennacherib invades Judah. Isaiah 38:1 states, "In those days" which refers back to Sennacheribís third campaign in chapter 36 and 37.

701 BC Eclipse

There was a total solar eclipse on March 5, 701 (702) BC. About 68% of the sun was covered in Israel about 8 am. It would seem that the day would be cut short like Hezekiahís life, yet the light like his health is restored. If we add 15 years to 686 BC we come up with exactly 701 BC. This seems to be the best date. Jewish Literature also seems to confirm that Hezekiahís sign was an eclipse. 

Jewish Literature


Josephus states, "And when Isaiah had asked him what sign he desired to be exhibited, he desired that he would make the shadow of the sun, which he had already made to go down ten steps in his house, to return again to the same place, and to make it as it was before" (Whiston, 309). Whiston in his notes states, "Josephus seems to have understood the otherwise than we generally do, that the shadow was accelerated as much at first forward as it was made to go backward afterward, and so the day was neither longer nor shorter than usual; which, it must be confessed, agrees best of all to astronomy, whose eclipses, older than that time were observed" (Ibid, 309). This seems similar to when the Chinese said "the day dawned twice."

Babylonian Talmud

The Babylonian Talmud has an interesting story about this. In Sanhedrin 96a R. Johanan says:

The day on which Ahaz died consisted of but two hours; and when Hezekiah sickened and recovered, the Holy One, blessed be He, restored those ten hours, as it is written, Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. Thereupon he [Merodach-Baladan] inquired of them [his courtiers], 'What is this?' They replied, 'Hezekiah has sickened and recovered.' 'there is such a [great] man,' exclaimed he, 'and shall I not send him a greeting!' (Epstein 1935, 649).

The footnote explains, "The return of the ten degrees is assumed to mean a prolongation of the day by ten hours, light having healing powers" (Ibid). When Ahaz died the sun "set ten hours too soon, to allow of no time for the funeral obsequies and eulogies" (Ibid). The day dawning twice would explain this.

The Moon Turned to Blood

Joel 2:10 says, "the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars no longer shine" and in verse 31, "The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (NIV; Isaiah 13:10). This verse is quoted in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24:29 and on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:20. Does this mean the moon actually turned to blood? Lunar rocks brought back from the moon do not show blood. This may refer to a lunar eclipse where the moon turns a blood red color, but a lunar and solar eclipse can not happen at the same time. It seems there is a combination of heavenly signs. Dark clouds covering the whole sky might be another explanation, but clouds dark enough to block the sun would completely block out the moon. There is an interesting passage in Plinyís Natural History (Book II, X. 57) which states, "For the eclipse of both sun and moon within 15 days of each other has occurred even in our time, in the year of the third consulship of the elder Emperor Vespasian" which is the year 71 AD (LCL 330, 207).

When the moon rises just above the horizon, it may appear reddish-orange in color because of the thick atmosphere. In the ancient world the color of the moon when it rises was an important omen as seen from Ugaritic.

Ugaritic Literature

In 1978 a badly damaged text was discovered at Ras Ibn Hani near Ras Shamra. It contains several Lunar omens which say:

If the moon, when it rises, is red,
there will be prosperity [during] (that month).
[If] the moon, when it rises, is yellow-green
[ ], the cattle will perish (COS 1997, 290; KTU 1.91).

Akkadian Literature

Mesopotamian Omen 16 says, "If there is an eclipse of the moon in Nisannu and it is red—prosperity for the people" (COs, 424). It seems that a red moon is good in the ANE but in the Bible it is associated with judgment.

The Stars Also

Sons of God

In the ANE the stars were considered gods, and later in time angels. In Job 38:7 it says, "while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" Here the "morning stars" are parallel with "angels."

The stars were also called "sons of God" as in Ugaritic (see above). There was a great assembly of the gods or a heavenly court as in Psalm 82 and Job 1:6-12. In Job 1:6 the Hebrew has "sons of God" while the LXX has "angels." No doubt an interpretation of the phrase "sons of God." Deuteronomy 32:8 says, "When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel" (NIV). The Dead Sea Scrolls and the LXX have "sons of God" rather than "sons of Israel." Psalm 29:1 literally refers to "sons of the gods."

Genesis 6:2 tells about the "sons of God" marrying the "daughter of men." Jude 6-7 interpret the "sons of God" as angels as does most Jewish literature. Others interpret this as the line of Seth, or referring to royalty like kings and princes. In ancient times the king was considered the son of a god.

Judges 5:4,20-21 says, "the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. From the heavens the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The river Kishon swept them away" (NIV). It seems that the stars of heaven helped by pouring down rain and causing a flood (See also Psalm 68:8). In Ugarit they believed rain and dew came from the heavenly ocean. In the Baal Cycle it says, rbb nskh kbkbm, meaning "showers that the stars did pour upon her" (Herdner 1963, CTA 3:ii,41; see also Craige 1977, 33-49; 1978, 374-81). It seems logical that the stars were seen as gods that pour water down from the heavenly ocean to earth when it rained.

Astrology and the worship of stars were strictly forbidden in the Old Testament (Jer.10:2). In Ugaritic there is an incantation against sorcery (KTU 1.96) which says, "Then (Horon) shall expel the sorcerer-accuser—Horon, the magician, and Galmu, the familiar" (COS, 302). So other nations had some similar restrictions.

Falling Stars

What we would call meteors today, would be called "falling stars" in the ANE. Sometimes a comet is called a falling star. In the Book of Revelation it mentions falling stars. Acts 19:35 image fell from heaven.

Revelation 6:12-14 says:

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (NIV).

Revelation 8:10 says, "The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water- the name of star is Wormwood" (NIV). It continues on in verse 12, "The fourth angel sounded his trumpet, and a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them turned dark. A third of the day was without light, and also a third of the night" (NIV). Pliny describes a type of comet called "Torch-star (which) resembles glowing torches" (Natural History Book II.XXII.90). I posit that this falling star in Revelation 8:10 is Halleyís Comet that appeared in 66 AD. It would look like it fell into the Mediterranean Sea. I think the best interpretation of Revelation is seeing its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Great Tribulation started three and half years before this. Josephus says, "Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and (even) a comet, that continued a whole year" (Jewish Wars Book VI, V.3; Whiston, 824).

In Revelation 9:1 it says, "The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the Abyss. The sun and sky were darkened by the smoke from the Abyss" (NIV). In the gospels Jesus foretells that "stars will be falling from heaven" (Mark 13:25, Matthew 24:29) in his Olivet Discourse.

Hailstones from Heaven

Closely associated with falling stars, are hailstones from heaven. Revelation 16:21 says, "And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent (about one hundred pounds)" (KJV). Hailstones do not get this big. Josephus in his book Jewish War describes what may have looked like big white hailstones. He wrote:

The engines [catapults], that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived. Now, the stones that were cast, were the weight of a talent (100lbs), and were carried two furlongs and further. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was a white colour" (Book 5.6.3; Gentry 1989, 246).

Joshua 10:11 says, "the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites" (NIV).


In the Ten Year Annals of Mursili it says, "So I marched, and as I arrived at Mt. Lawasa, the storm-god, my lord, showed his godly miracle. He hurled a meteor. My army saw the meteor; (and) the land of Arzawa saw (it). And the meteor went; and struck the land of Arzawa. It struck Apasa, the capital city of Uhhaziti, Uhhaziti fell on (his) knees; and became ill" (Younger 1990, 208).


In Sargonís Letter to God it says, "Adad, the violent, the son of Anu, the valiant, uttered his loud cry against them; and with a flood cloud and hailstones (lit. 'the stone of heaven'í [NA, An-el]), he totally annihilated the remainder" (Younger, 210). Omen 261 states, "When it thunders in Sebat, heaven will rain with stones" (Thompson 1900, lxxxi).


The Gebal Barkal Stele of Thutmose III says, "It was not known that you might learn/witness the miracle of [Amun-Re] before the face of all the Two Lands (Egypt). [It was evening, when the enemy troops came near]. [The guards] were about to come to meet in the night to make the regular (change of) watch. There were two hour-watchers; then a star came from the south of them. The like had never happened. It beamed towards them from its position. Not one remained standing there" (Younger, 217).

Fixed Stars

In the ANE stars that were always seen in the sky were called "fixed stars" or "immutable or imperishable stars." Today we would call them the "circumpolar stars." These are the stars closest to the North pole axis that never set, but are always seen circling around the North star. In Job 22:12 these circumpolar stars are called the "highest stars." This assumes that the sky is dome shaped with the highest stars directly above (TDOT, VII, 81). Evening is when the first stars come out (Nehemiah 4:21).

A star can also symbolize a ruler in the ANE. Balaamís oracle tells of a star coming out of Israel to crush Moab and Edom (Number 24:15-19). This was fulfilled by David, yet the Targum Onkelos interprets the star as the coming Messiah. The "little horn" in Daniel 8:10 most likely refers to Antiochus Epiphanes who is said to cast down some of the stars of heaven which refers to his military victories over other rulers especially the Jews.

In Egyptian the northern circumpolar stars are called "imperishable" (Breasted, 1988, II.318; III.378; IV.852; COS, 41). In Ugaritic wlkbkbm kn(m) means "and for the fixed stars" (Gibson, 126; COs, 281).

Wandering Stars

Planets in the ANE were called "Wandering stars." Jude 13 says, "They (false teachers) are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever" (NIV). The Greek is asteres planhtai meaning "wandering stars." According to modern science planets are not stars. Planets just reflect the light from the sun.


OT-Isaiah 46:1 mentions "Nebo" who is Nabu the son of Marduk (Bel) the scribe god, and identified with the planet Mercury (ISBE, 298; Black & Green 1992, 133). Nabu is the divine scribe of the destinies.

NT-Acts 14:11-12 says, "When the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker" (KJV). Barnabas is thought to be Zeus who is identified with the planet Jupiter, and Paul is thought to be Hermes who is identified with the planet Mercury.


OT-Venus is called the "morning star" or "Daystar" in Isaiah 14:12. I translate it, "O Daystar (Venus) son of Dawn." The Hebrew llth is masculine in form. See below.

NT-2 Peter 1:19 says, "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shinning in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (NIV).

Revelation 2:28 says, "I will also give him the morning star." This is a promise to the victorious Christians. It does not mean Christians will inhabit the planet Venus which is 900 degrees. This planet is more like hell. Aune states, "The gift of the morning star must refer to the fact that the exalted Christ shares his messianic status with the believer who conquers" (1997, 212).

In Revelation 22:16 Jesus is called the "bright and morning star." More will be said below.

ANE- Venus is referred to as the largest star (Pliny, Natural Histories 2.37). Cicero says that Venus is the lowest planet nearest the earth (De nat. deor 2.53, LCL). In the Greek it is referred to as Fwsforos (see 2 Peter 1:19) or Eosphoros the morning star while the evening star is called Hesperos (brother of Atlas). In Job 9:9 the LXX translates lysk (probably Orion) as Hesperos.

The Latin for Venus when it proceeds the sun in the morning is Lucifer, and Vesper when it follows the sun in the evening (Aune, 212; Pliny Natural Histories, 2.36-38).

Lucifer, the day star is mentioned in the great battle of the stars in the Sibylline Oracles (Charlesworth, 1983, 405; book 5:512). All twelve constellations are named.


OT-2 Kings 17:30 mentions "Nergal" who is identified with the planet Mars (ISBE, 299). Nergal is associated with the underworld. His wife was Ereskigal, queen of the underworld. Their love story is told in Nergal and Ereskigal (Black & Green, 136).


NT-In Acts 14:12 Barnabas is thought to be Zeus (Greek; Jupiter is the Latin name for the same god) who is identified with the planet Jupiter.


OT-Amos 5:26 says, "But you have borne the tabernacle of Molech and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made yourselves" (KJV). The NIV takes these two nouns as proper names from Akkadian. The alternate translation is "lifted up Sakkuth your king/ and Kaiwan your idols/ your star gods" (NIV, r). This is probably referring to Saturn, especially the LXX translation.

NT-The star of Rephan mentioned in Acts 7:43 was most likely the planet Saturn. This is a quote from the LXX in Amos 5:25-26. Saturn is also thought to be the planet of the Jews because of these verses (also Damascus Document 7:14-15). Saturn is also "the star of the sun" in Akkadian texts (ISBE, 298).

Names of the Planets in Ancient Times

Language Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
Latin Sun Moon Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
Greek Helios Selana Hermes Aphrodite Ares Zeus Cronus
Hebrew Shamash Yareah Nebo Helil Nergal Baal Kiyyun
Canaanite Shapash Yarah Astarte/ Resheph Baal El Ashtaroth
Akkadian Shamash Sin Nabu Ishtar Nergal Markduk Ea(Bel)
Sumerian Utu Suen/ Nabu Inana Nergal Enki Nanna


Comets were also called "wandering stars." Pliny calls them "stars that suddenly come to birth in the heaven itself" (Book II.xxii.89). Comet in Greek means "hairy." They look like a fuzzy or hairy spot in the sky. Some have a long tail or what looks like a sword. Some have thought that I Chronicles 21:16 describes a comet which says, "David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem" (NIV). This may have been Halleyís comet that would have returned in 988 BC. David reigned from 1010 to 970 BC. Pliny describes a number of different kinds or shapes of comets. Some comets look like a sword. He writes, "Javelin-stars quiver like a dart; these are a very terrible portent. The same stars that are shorter and sloping to a point have been called Daggers; These are the palest of all in colour, and have a gleam like the flash of a sword, and no rays. Once hitherto it has happened that a Mane-shaped comet changed into a spear; this was in the 108th Olympiad, A.U.C. 408" (Natural History, II.XXII.89).

When Caesar Augustus began to rule, a comet appeared for seven days at the games over Rome Pliny writes, "a comet was visible for seven days in the northern part of the sky. It was rising about an hour before sunset, and was a bright star, visible from all lands" (Pliny Natural History II.XXIII.94).

Halleyís Comet appeared in 66 AD during Neroís reign. Pliny describes it as follows:

Sometimes there is a comet in the western sky, usually a terrifying star and not easily expiated—during Neroís principate shining almost continuously and with a terrible glare. People think that it matters in what direction a comet darts, what starís strength it borrows, what shapes it resembles, and in what places it shines (Ibid, 92).

In Egyptian arrows of war are compared to "shooting-stars." Ramses III in his second war against the Libyans said, "He sends arrow upon arrow like shooting-stars" (Breasted, IV.91, 62). In the Hymn of Victory of Thut-mose III it says, "I caused them to see thy majesty as a shooting star, Sowing its fire in a flame, as it gives off its steam" (ANET, 374).

Genesis 1:20-23 - DAY 5

Creation of Fish and Birds

Hebrew Text

[pwuy [wuw hyj vpn xrv <ymh wxrvy - Let the water swarm with living creatures, and birds

On day five fish and birds are created. Why this combination of fish and birds? In the ANE fish and birds where associated together because they are seen together. Large flocks of birds are seen near water, or marshes. Van Dijk states, "Everything that lives in water arises form water" (Clifford 1994, 33). Psalm 8:9 also puts fish and birds together. Dillmann states, "Just as the waters and heaven were there before the dry land, so too the living creatures which fill it were created" (Westermann, 136). They may have thought birds were from the heavenly ocean.

The phrase hyj vpn, "living soul" is used to distinguish between plant life and animal life (Wevers, 10). There seems to be two classes of fish, large and small. This is the second time that arb is used. It is used in the creation of the large sea monsters, /ynt. In the ANE they were considered gods, and had to be defeated.

In the OT /ynt can mean "snake" (Exodus 7:9), crocodile (Ezekiel 29:3), or another large animal (Jeremiah 51:34). It is also used in parallel with Leviathan.

The birds are said to fly across the sky under the firmament. The birds do not fly "in" the firmament because the firmament was considered solid. Wenham notes, "This is one of the indications in the narrative that it is written from the perspective of a human observer" (1987, 24).  

Sumerian Texts

In the Sumerian text Bird and Fish from the Ur III period (2064-1955 BC) it tells of creation by the god Enki. It says:

[Father] Enki tied up the marshes, growing there reeds young and old,
[In—] ponds and large lakes he made birds and fishes teem;
When he had fashioned Bird and Fish,
He filled canebrake and marsh with Fish and Bird,
Selected their stations
And made them acquainted with their rules.
Upon that time Fish laid its eggs in the swamp;
Bird built its nest in an opening of the thicket (COS 1997, 581; Clifford 1994, 38-39).

In the Disputation Between Summer and Winter it says, "The birds of heaven build their nests all over. The fish of the swamp lay their eggs in the reed thickets" (COs, 585).  

Akkadian Texts

In the story of Atra-Hasis birds and fish are grouped together. It says, "I will rain down upon you here An abundance of birds, a profusion of fish" (Lambert & Millard 1969, 89; line 34-5). Today we say it is raining cats and dogs. Back then they said it raining birds and fishes. It may be because they were in the heavenly and earthly oceans.  

Ugaritic Texts

The text Dawn and Dusk (KTU 1.87) says, "(One) lip to the earth, (the other) lip to the heavens, Into their mouths enter the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea." (COS, 282). Here Dawn and Dusk are pictured as a mouth at the horizon that opens up to let the fish and birds enter in. Birds and fish are associated together. Birds from the heavenly ocean and fish from the earthly ocean that meet at the horizon.  

Egyptian Literature

From the Book of Nut the first line says, "The uniform darkness, ocean of the gods, the place from which birds come" (COS, 5). Here birds are said to come from the heavenly ocean.

The Hymn to Amon-Re states, "Who made that (on which) the fish in the river may live, And the birds soaring in the sky" (ANET, 366; vi.5; COs, 39).

In the Instructions of Merikare it groups the fish and fowl together. It says, "Fowl and fish to feed them (mankind)" (COs, 65).

In the Hymn to Amon-Re it says, "Who made that on which the fish live [in] the river, And the birds flying through heaven" (COs, 39).

In the Prophecies of Neferti it says, "Strange birds will breed in the marshes of the Delta—Those fish ponds (where there were) those who clean fish, Overflowing with fish and fowl" (COs, 108). The "strange birds" seems to refer to foreign Asiatic tribes that settle in the Delta in the summer.  

LXX Text

The Greek seems to understand verse 20 as a command for the waters to spawn fish and birds which seems to be the correct way to take it in the ANE (Westermann, 136).


The word "leviathan" seems to be a general term for any large sea animal. The name "Leviathan" occurs 6 times in the Old Testament. Letís look at these passages.

Job 3:8

Job 3:8 says, "May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse leviathan" (NIV). The KJV has "their mourning" but the marginal note says, "Or, Leviathan." The Hebrew is clearly, /tywl, "leviathan." Job wishes that soothsayers would have conjured up leviathan to swallow up the day of his birth (NIV note). When there was an eclipse of the sun or moon the ancients believed leviathan swallowed them so total darkness prevailed until he released his prey (Delitzsch, 1976, 78). Job may be calling on the giants Ohya and Ahya who battled Leviathan before they were destroyed in Noahís flood according to the Book of Giants (TDOT 1995, Vol.7, 506). There is an interesting Aramaic incantation text that says, "I shall deliver you with great magic from Leviathan, the sea monster" (Ibid, 505).

Job 3:8 may be referring to the constellation Draco. In ancient times the sky was seen as a mirror image of the earth below. So the leviathan in the sea or nether world had a counter part in the sky, Draco who would swallow the sun or moon when there is an eclipse.

Job 41:1

Job 41:1 says, "Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook" (NIV). This whole chapter describes this terrible sea creature probably a giant crocodile. It is said to have a tongue (verse 1), a nose and jaw (v.2), limbs (v.12), mouth ringed with fearsome teeth (v.14), and a back tightly fitted with scales (v.15). It describes smoke coming from his nostrils. This is poetic language and is probably like seeing our breathe which looks like smoke in cold weather. There is a similar description of God coming in a thunderstorm in Psalm 18:8. Bartram observed an alligator "that as it comes on the land a thick smoke

issues from its distended nostrils with a thundering sound. This thick, hot steam, according to credible description which is presented here, produces the impression of a fire exiting beneath, and bursting forth" (Delitzsch 1976, 374). The sneezing of fine water particles in the sun spreads light. Eyes of animals at night can shine or glow. The crocodileís eyes and eyelids glow red under water like the red at dawn or dusk. It is not talking about real fire coming out of its mouth. This is poetic language (See Revelation 19:12, and Daniel 10:6). In the Dead Sea Scrolls 11Q10 a targum of Job translates leviathan as "Crocodile" (Martinez 1994, 152).

Psalm 74:14

Psalm 74:14 says, "Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness" (KJV). Here leviathan has more than one head in the Hebrew. In Ugaritic it is clear that leviathan (ltn) had seven heads. In the story of Baal and Mot it says, "for all that you smote Leviathan the slippery serpent (and) made an end of the wriggling serpent, the tyrant with seven heads?" (Gibson 1978, 68; ANET, 137-8; KTU 1.5, I.1-3). In Sumerian poetry there is mus-sag-imin, the seven headed serpent. In Old Akkadian the seven-tongued serpent, hubullu may also have seven heads (TDOT Vol.7, 507). There is even a Sumerian carving of a seven-headed monster (ANEP fig. 671,& 691). The many-headed Greek hydra who was killed by Hercules may come from the ancient Near East stories of Leviathan. Could the idea of a many headed sea monster come from seeing a giant squid or octopus, and assuming the tentacles were heads. It seems that the word "leviathan" is a general term for any large sea animal. In Job 41 it clearly has one head, but in Psalm 74 it has many heads, probably a giant squid. In the Book of Revelation 13:1 the beast arising from the sea has seven heads. This seems to be alluding to the leviathan of seven heads tradition.

Greek Texts

In the Odyssey there is a description of a sea monster called "Scylla." "Her legs 'and there are twelve' are like great tentacles, unjointed, and upon her serpent necks are borne six heads like night-mares of ferocity and triple serried rows of fangs and deep gullets of black death. Half her length, she sways her heads in air" (Fitzgerald 1961, 212; Book 12:88-94; LCL 104, 439). This seems to describe the giant squid, Architeuthis which Ellis says is "probably responsible for more myths, fables, fantasies, and fictions than all other marine monsters combined" (1994, 122). Therefore it seems most likely that the stories of a seven-headed sea serpent arose from seeing the giant squid, Architeuthis.

The Hydra who was killed by Hercules is probably a giant octopus. The hydra is said to have nine heads, and when one was cut off, two more grew in its place (Ibid, 260). Pliny the Elder lumps the squid and octopus together as polyp in his book Naturalis Historia. Letís look at some actual sightings.

1555 AD

In 1555 Olaus Magus wrote a book called Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus in which he describes a monstrous fish as follows, "Their forms are horrible, their heads square, all set with prickles, and they have long sharp horns round about like a tree rooted up by the roots: They are ten or twelve cubits long, very black, with huge eyes. The Apple of the Eye is of one cubit, and is red and fiery coloured, which in the dark night appears to Fisher-men afar off under waters, as a burning fire, having hairs like goose feathers" (Ellis 1994, 124). De Montford says its "huge protruding eyes actually seemed to flash fire" (Ibid, 265). The giant squid has the largest eyes of any animal. One observer said it skin was "brilliant carmine red" (Ibid, 129).

1633 AD

In 1632 a sea monster was said to have seven tails with eyes (Ibid, 126).

1673 AD

In 1673 another sea monster is described as having two heads and ten horns.

1845 AD

An 1845 description says there was "boiling of the water on both sides of it" and moved like a snake (Ibid., 366-7).

1879 AD

In 1879 a giant squid washed ashore and was "churning the water into foam by the motion of its immense arms and tail—ejecting large volumes of water" (Ibid., 136). Frederick Aldrich, an expert on giant squid examined a 20 foot long immature specimen that he believed could grow to 150 feet in length (Ibid, 128).

Psalm 104:26

Psalm 104:26 says, "There go the ships: there is leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein" (KJV). Clearly the habitat of leviathan in this context is the sea. The ships sail in deep water so this can not be a crocodile. This may refer to the whales , or more likely dolphins who like to play following ships. Apollonius Rhodius in the third century BC wrote in his book The Argonautica, "and the fishes came darting through the deep sea, great mixed with small, and followed gamboling along the watery paths" (Book 1.574). Apollonius describes the fish playfully following the ship as sheep follow a shepherd.

Aelian writes, "There are Sea-monsters (off the coast of India) half a stade in length (300 feet), and so powerful are they that, when they blow with their nostrils, they often hurl up a wave from the sea to such a height that ignorant and inexperienced people take it for a waterspout (hurricane)" (1959 Book 17:6). This is clearly the description of a whale. The spout of a whale may also have been seen as smoke from its fiery mouth by ancient mariners.

Isaiah 27:1

Isaiah 27:1 says, "In that day of the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea" (KJV). This is very similar to the Ugaritic description of Leviathan that was quoted earlier. The terms "Rahab" and "tannin" are also used in parallel to Leviathan.

In other ancient literature the Book of Enoch says, "On that day, two monsters will be parted 'one monster, a female named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; and (the other), a male called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert whose name is Dundayin, east of Eden" (I Ethiopic Enoch 60:7-8).

In the targums and Rabbinic literature the "great whales" (KJV, but "tannin" in the Hebrew) in Genesis 1:21 are said to be the Leviathan and its mate. Leviathan, the gliding serpent is male, and Leviathan, the winding serpent is female according to Reb. Judah. God castrated the male and killed the female preserving her in the salt water for the righteous to eat in the world to come (Bowker 1979, 104; see 2 Ezra, also called 4 Ezra 6:49,52: 2 Baruch 29:4 in Charlesworth 1983).


The Leviathan may be a composite of several sea monster. Ancient Near Eastern pictures abound with composite monsters. The snake-dragon of Babylon pictured on its walls, has a snakeís body with horns, lions forelegs, and a birds hindlegs (Black and Green 1992, 166). Sometimes dinosaur bones are mistaken as monsters.

One thing for sure is that leviathan is not a dinosaur. In the Hebrew it is clearly a general term for a large sea creature. It may live in the ocean or river. It may be a living animal or a composite mythical creature. The context will usually determine the meaning.


In Isaiah 51:9 "Rahab" is used in parallel to tannin, sea monster. In Isaiah 30:7 and Psalm 87:4 "Rahab" is used as a designation for Egypt which is symbolized by a giant crocodile (Heidel, 104-5). In Isaiah 27:1 the leviathan is also used in parallel to tannin. Some equate these monster to the constellations Draco, Hydra, and Serpens (ISBE, Vol.1, 309). Some ancients saw the clouds as a personification of a dragon (Job 26:12; Heidel, 104-5). Some equate Rahab with the mythical sea monster Tiamat who was split open to make heaven and earth by Marduk (Job 16:12).

Lock Ness Monster?

The most famous picture taken of the Lock Ness monster was in 1934. It has later been revealed that this picture is a fake, staged by a filmmaker named Marmadule Arundel Wetherell (Ellis, 22).

There have been other sightings and carcasses that have been mistaken for sea monsters or dinosaurs. In ancient times even up to the eighteenth century people believed in mermaids, but what they were really seeing were Manatees whose face looks human.


Some think that a plesiosaur was caught in the net of a Japanese fishing boat in 1977. While the pictures look impressive, the scientific data points to a decaying basking shark. The carcass was 32 feet long and weighed about 4,000 pounds. Ellis states, "Before the carcass was discarded, one of the crewmen lopped off a piece of a fin, which contained horny fibers (ceratorichia) that characterized the elasmobranchs, and these were later identified as those of Cetorhinus maximus" which is the scientific name for the basking shark (Ellis, 69).

Alwyne Wheeler of the British Museum of Natural History agrees that this was a basking shark. He states, "Sharks are cartilaginous fish. When they start to decompose after death, the heads and gills are the first to drop from the body—fishermen have been foiled by the similarity of shark remains to a plesiosaur" (Ellis, 68-9).

Dr. Petit showed how the soft tissues of a basking shark decompose into the shape of a plesiosaur and seem to be hairy. "In the selachians the fibers of the surface muscles break up into whiskers when the skin rots" and seems to by hairy like stiff fur (Heuvelmans 1968, 135).  

Genesis 1:24-31 DAY 6

Creation of Animals and Man

Hebrew Text

hyj vpn xrah axwt - Let the earth bring forth living creatures

The earth is commanded to bring forth animals. This is not ex nihilo creation. In the ANE animals and man sprouted from the ground like plants.

There are three kinds of animal; (domestic) cattle, hmhb, creeping things, ?mr, and wild animals, xra-wtyj. This is also in chiastic form. Note that no wild animals are said to be taken on Noahís Ark.

Animals are to reproduce after their kind as the plants do. "Kind" should not be limited to "species."

Sumerian Literature

In Enki and the World Order two gods are assigned to the animals: one for domestic animals, the other for wild animals. This two fold division of animals is seen in the Dilmun Myth. Dilmun is probably modern Bahrain in the Persian Gulf which was an important trade center. Fresh water wells were found just off shore. Some equate it with Biblical paradise. The text says:

no lion kills,
no wolf takes a lamb.
Unknown is the dog herding the goats,
unknown is the pig, eater of grain (Clifford 1994, 36).

This text is describing the precreation state. It is not saying the lion and lamb will lay down together in peace, but the lion and lamb have not been created yet. First the wild animals are mentioned then the domestic animals.

In Eridu Genesis it tells of the creation of animals as follows, "They had made the small animals (that come up) from (out of) the earth come from the earth in abundance and had let there be, as befits (it), gazelles, (wild) donkeys, and four-footed beasts in the desert" (COS, 514). Here too animals are said to come up from the earth.  

Egyptian Literature

The Hymn to Aton says, "Thou didst create the world according to thy desire, Whilst thou wert alone: All men, cattle, and wild beasts, Whatever is on earth, going upon (its) feet, And what is on high, flying with its wings" (ANET, 370, COS, 46; Psalm 8:7-8).


Behemoth in contrast to the leviathan is a giant land animal, not a sea creature. There seems to be a similar animal in a Ugaritic text BH called Žgl il Žtk meaning "the ferocious bullock of El" (Pope 1965, 321; KTU 1.3 III 44). Another text describes an animal as having horns like bulls, humps like buffalo, and the face of Baal (Ibid; KTU 1.12 I 30-33). This beast may be the same as the Sumerian and Akkadian "bull of heaven" who was slain by Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the Gilgamesh Epic (Ibid., 322; ANET, 83-85; Heidel 1946, 53-55).

The description in Job 40:21-23 seems to allude to the area around Lake Huleh which was filled with buffalo. His tail is like a cedar branch that can easily bend or sway (Pope think this refers to sexual arousal). This does not mean his tail was as long as or as big as a huge cedar tree for verses 21-23 say, "Under the lotus plants he lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh. The lotus conceal him in their shadow" (NIV). Reeds and lotus can not hide a huge dinosaur.

Gilgamesh Epic

The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the battle with the Bull of Heaven. Enkidu seized the Bull by the horns. "The Bull of Heaven foamed in his face, it brushed him with the thick of its tail—Gilgamesh followed the bull, he seized the thick of his tail, he thrust the sword between the nape and the horns and slew the bull" (Sandars 1972, 88; ANET, 85, 505). The "thick of his tail" does not mean a dinosaurís big tail, but the tassel at the end of its tail. The Akkadian is ku-bur zib-ba-ti-su, meaning "thickness of his tail" (ANET, 505). "It refers to the tassele at the end of the tail in contrast to the thin middle part" (Ibid., note 29). The horns of the bull are plated with lapis two inches thick, weighing thirty pounds, and holding 105 gallons each (Heidel, 55). This was a huge mythical bull which is associated with the constellation Taurus, the bull (Black and Green, 49).

Gilgamesh also battles another monster called "Huwawa" (Babylonian) or "Humbaba" (Assyrian) who lives in the Cedar Forest. Huwawa is described by "his roaring is the flood-storm, his mouth is fire, his breath is death" (ANET, 79; Jacobsen, 200). This does not mean it breaths fire. This is poetical language describing its snort that looks like smoke on a cool morning.


The KJV uses the term "dragon" which comes from the Greek word drakon which means "serpent." It refers to a monster with a scaly snake like body. The Greek New Testament uses drakon 12 times only in the book of Revelation which the KJV translates as "dragon" (Rev. 12-13, 16:13, 20:2). The dragon in Revelation has seven heads similar to the leviathan in Ugaritic and Psalm 74:14 (Gibson, 50, 68; Walace, 290). Satan is called a "dragon" in Revelation 20:2.

In the Old Testament the KJV uses the term "dragon" for the Hebrew words tannim meaning "jackals" and tannin meaning "serpent, or sea monster" (BDB, 1072; Gesenius, 868-9). It seems the KJV mistranslated these two separate words. Tannim is from the root tan meaning "to howl" and tannin is from the root tanan "to smoke" (Ibid.). Jackels are known for their howling, and are associated with desolate areas. Tannin or "smokers" probably came from seeing the spouts of whales or the snorting of animals which looked like smoke coming from a fire inside. Our warm breathe in winter looks like smoke. This is probably how the idea of fire-breathing dragons started. The Hebrew is not referring to any dinosaurs.

In the LXX the story of Bel and the Dragon is added to the book of Daniel. Daniel exposes the priests who were eating the food offered to the god Bel. Cerise has them killed. Daniel then feeds the living dragon pitch, fat and hair so that it dies. The Babylonians force the king to put Daniel into the lionís den where he is delivered by God. Danielís enemies are cast into the den and immediately eaten.

The Greek word for "dragon" means "serpent" not dinosaur. In Babylon they worshipped the god Nina in the form of a serpent (IBSE, Vol.1, 428-9).


In Homerís book Odyssey (Book 9), Odysseus lands on an island of giant Cyclopes. Later the Greek historian Thucydides stated that the island of Sicily on the slopes of Mount Etna was the home of the Cyclopes. Giant bones and one eye skeletons were found there in the Middle Ages, but these bones were of mastodons, not humans. A mastodon skull looks like it has one giant eye in the center of its head. There is an interesting new book entitled The First Fossil Hunters by Adrienne Mayor who shows how fossil bones were seen as giant men and other strange creatures (Princeton, 2000). See also On the Track of Ice Age Mammals by Antony Sutcliffe (Harvard University Press, 1985).

Large fossil bones were thought to be from giant humans, or an angel that had fallen from heaven. Pliny says that the skeleton of Orion was discovered on the island of Crete which was 35 feet long (Gayard-Valy, 15-18).


The KJV mentions "unicorns" nine times (Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Psalm 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7). It is an unfortunate translation of the Hebrew reem which means "wild ox" (BDB, 910b). It seems that the LXX translation made the error which was carried over into the Latin unicornis.

The idea of a unicorn probably came from seeing a rhinoceros. In the Middle Ages when fossil tusks or horns were found, they were said to come from unicorns (Gayrard-Valy, 22).


Hebrew Text

wnmlxb <da h?un - Let us make man in our image

Let us make

The Hebrew h?un, "let us make" is plural. The early Christian church took this phrase as referring to the trinity. Early Jewish commentators took this phrase as referring to the heavenly court of angels. It used to be taken as a "plural of majesty" but "we" is not used with verbs this way (Wenham 1987, 28). Today some called it a "plural of self-deliberation (Ibid.). The best interpretation seems to be that God is giving a divine announcement to the heavenly court of angels (See Job 38:7; Wenham, 28).  

Jewish Literature


There are three different ways <da "adam" is used in Genesis. "Adam" can just mean the generic term for mankind in general, or male in particular. In Genesis 1:27 the term "adam" includes both male and female referring to all humanity. In Genesis Two "adam" refers to a male in contrast to a female. The second use is a historical person named Adam. Hess states that not until chapter 4:25 is a historical person meant (Hess 1997, 31). The third use of "adam" as a title, is seen in ancient Near Eastern parallels where the lu-sign for ruler means "man" (Hess 1990, 7).

The name "adam" in Genesis seems to be a word play with the name for "ground, adamah" from which man was formed (Hess 1997, 31). The root word for "adam" means "red" (Hess 1993, 15).

The historical Adam may be the same man named "Allum" the first king in the Sumerian King List who lived before the great flood. He was the first king of Eridu which may be the Biblical Eden. Adam is also equated with Adapa, the first sage (Shea 1977, 27; Fischer 1996, 308).

Akkadian Literature

An old Babylonian text tells of the creation of man by the mother goddess. It says,

Thou art the mother-womb,
The one who creates mankind.
Create, then, Lullu (savage, first man) and let him bear the yoke!
The yoke he shall bear,
The work of god man shall bear!
Let one god be slain,
And let the gods be purified by immersion
In his flesh and his blood.
Let Nintu mix clay,
God and Man,
Let them together be smeared with clay (ANET, 99-100).

Several other stories tell about man being made from clay. Sometimes the clay is mixed with the blood of a god.

The earliest known story dealing with manís creation is Enki and Ninhah which says:

And when Enki, the-fashioner-of-the-forms,
pondered by himself their nature,
He said to his mother, Nammu:
My mother, the creature which you named,
will verily exist; impose (on him)
the burden of the gods!
When you have mixed the heart of
the clay on top of the Abzu,
The two birth-goddesses shall nip off
pieces of clay. When you yourself
have given (it) form.
[Thus] she created mankind
ma[le and female...] (COS, 517).


The other key word is the meaning of "image." Is this to be taken physically or spiritually? The preposition b in this phrase means "According to, after the pattern of" (Wenham 1987, 29). A close parallel is in Exodus 25:40 where Moses is told to build the tabernacle "after the pattern" seen on the mountain.

There are five main views of the meaning of "image." (1) The likeness is two aspects of manís nature. This is according to early Christian views like Irenaeus. (2) The image refers to the mental or spiritual side of man. (3) It is the ability to relate to God, to have a relationship with God. (4) The image makes man Godís representative on earth. Man is Godís vice-regent on earth. (5) The image is physical. In the ANE kings were considered to be the "image of God" even the very "son of god." This does not mean the king looked like God but describes the kings divine right and function as ruler. It seems that view 4 can be combined with view 5. The king is ruling in Godís place. Man is to rule over all of creation on earth (verse 26). This same word "image" is used in Genesis 5:3 when Seth is "after his (Adamís) image." Although man had much in common with animals, it was being in the "image of God" that made him different (Wenham, 30). It seems the Hebrews have democratized the "image of God" to refer to all mankind, and not just the king. 

Egyptian Literature

On a stele of Amenophis II from Amada the pharaoh is called "the beloved son in bodily form of Re—image of Horus on the throne of his father" (Westermann, 152). Pharaoh is also called "the glittering image of the Lord of all" and the Pharaoh says, "I am his son (that is of Osiris)" (Ibid., 153). In another text Amon-Re addresses Amenophis III saying, "Thou art my beloved son, come forth from my limbs, my very own image, which I have put upon the earth. I have permitted thee to rule over the earth in peace" (Ibid.). From these texts we see that the Pharaoh was the "image of god," godís representative on earth. This is similar to Psalm 8.  

Hebrew Text

wbrw wrp - Be fruitful and multiply

Man is commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Here is a statement on the divine purpose of marriage which is for the procreation of children. This is also a rejection of the ancient fertility cults which marks unbelief (Genesis 16; 30:14-15). 


Hebrew Text

hlkal b?u qry-lk - Every green plant for food 

Every plant and tree is given to man for food. Note there are only two kinds of vegetation mentioned here. The animals are just given plants to eat, and not fruit from trees. There seems to be an ancient tradition that man and animals were herbivorous.  

Sumerian Texts

There is an interesting text that tells about man before he learned how to make clothes, and learned how to harvest gain. The text Ewe and Wheat says:

And there was no cloth to wear
The people of those distant days,
They knew not bread to eat;
They knew not cloth to wear;
They went about with naked limbs in the Land,
And like sheep they ate grass with their mouth,
Drinking water from the ditches (Clifford 1994, 45).

This sounds like the description of cave men before civilization developed. In another text How Grain Came to Sumer it begins, "At that time, humans ate only grass like sheep; It was then, of old, that An made cereals, barley, and flax descended from heaven" (Clifford 1994, 47). Clifford comments that there are two stages of early human development in mythologies; first culture appears, and then instruments of culture. Before this man lived like the animals (Ibid., 46).  

Akkadian Texts

In the ANE man was created by the gods in order to supply the gods with food. In Atra-Hasis the gods were tried of doing all the work so they decided to create man so he could do the work for them and supply the gods with food (Lambert & Millard 1969, 57-67; lines 191, 339). Later man became so noisy the gods sent a great flood. Atra-Hasis (Noah) is commanded to build a boat to save his life and animals. It rained for seven days and seven nights. Atra-Hasis was saved.

In the Gilgamesh Epic Enkidu is described as a primitive man as follows:

Aruru washed her hands,
Pinched off clay and cast it on the steppe.
[On the step]pe she created valiant Enkidu,
Offspring of ..., essence of Ninurta.
[Sha]ggy with hair is his whole body,
He is endowed with head hair like a woman.
The locks of his hair sprout like Nisaba.
He knows neither people nor land;
Garbed is he like Sumuqan.
With the gazelles he feeds on grass,
With the wild beasts he jostles at the watering-place,
With the teeming creatures his heart delights in water.

Clifford states, "Enkidu leaves his animal-like existence when he enters the city and accepts kingship in the person of King Gilgamesh; he becomes fully human.  

Egyptian Literature

In the Hymn to Amon Re it says, "He who made herbage (for) the cattle, And the fruit tree for mankind" (ANET, 366; COS, 39). In the Hymn to Aten it says, "All beasts browse on their herbs" (COs, 45; ANET, 370).

Genesis 1:24-31 DAY 7

The Post-Creation Sabbath

Hebrew Text

wtkalm yuybvh <wyb <yhla lkyw - And God finished his work on day seven

The origin of the Sabbath is probably from the 6&7 day cycle of the phases of the moon each month. Six days of the new moon, and on the seventh day there was the quarter moon which was celebrated. Another six days then on the seventh was the full moon which was celebrated. Probably during the captivity there was no one to watch for the phrases of the moon so it became disconnected from the lunar cycle. The new moon and full moon are only mentioned in scripture.

Later the sun, moon, and five planets were connected to the week which we still have today. Sunday is the day of the sun. Monday is the day of the moon. Saturday is Saturnís day. Tuesday through Friday are Germanic names for the other planets. Tuesday is Tuiís day the god of war, Mars. Wednesday is Wodenís day, Mercury. Thursday is Thorís day, Jupiter. Friday is Friggís day, goddess of love, Venus. The word "friend" comes from the same root word "Fri." Genesis One avoids naming the days of the week after any gods.

Gordon comments that the noun "sabbath" was not used because it may be confused with the meaning of Saturn (1979, 300). Just as sun and moon are not named. It is demythologizing the seventh day. The Jews were known as "Saturnís people" (Tacitus Histories, 5:2). The Roman Saturnís day is similar to the Sabbath. This festival was seven days when all work and business was stopped and slaves were given temporary freedom (Gordon 1979, 300 note 6).

Stolz believes that the Sabbath developed out of major festivals that lasted seven days with the final day being a Sabbath (Wenham 35; THWAT 2:863-9). Robinson analyzed the occurrences of the root word for Sabbath and concluded that the primary meaning is not one of rest. The seventh day was a day of completion. He takes both the Hebrew and Akkadian root back to the biliteral root by which means "making a turn" which implies coming to an end (1980, 41). The moon on the fifteenth day of the month becomes full, it turns from waxing. This may be the different turns or phases of the moon.

Old Testament

The phraseology of Exodus 40:33 where Moses finishes the tabernacle is similar to finishing the creation of the world.

Numbers 28:11-25 tells of offerings on the new moon and the full moon then a festival of seven days.

Psalm 81:4 says, "Sound the ramís horn at the New Moon, and when the moon is full, on the day of our Feast" (NIV). This is similar to other ancient cultures. It may be that the Sabbath just started out as a feast on the 15th of the full moon, and then the new moon and then the four quarters of the moonís phases.

Isaiah 1:13 says, "Stop bring meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations" (NIV).

Hosea 2:11 says, "I will stop all her celebrations: her yearly festivals, her New Moons, her Sabbath days' all her appointed feasts" (NIV). 

Sumerian Texts

The earliest use of a seven day week is connected with seven days of feasting which can be traced back as far as the 23rd century BC to the time of Gudea (Hildegard and Lewy 1943, 3). Hallo writes, "In the celebrated cylinders of Gudea of Lagash, we are introduced to the generalized Sumerian term for lunar festival es-es" (Hallo 1977, 5). There are offerings for the new moon, the first crescent (literally "chariot of the 7th day") and the full moon (crescent of the 15th day). There is no account of the 3rd crescent. The use of the word "chariot" may be because of the moon being compared to a chariotís wheel.

Gudeaís dedication of the great temple at Lagesh which lasted seven days is similar to Solomonís dedication of the temple at Jerusalem (Hallo 1977, 12).

In Summer the moon god Nanna was considered superior to the sun. The moon god was the father of the sun. Their month was based on sighting the lunar crescent. Their year was based on 12 lunar cycles with a 13th sometimes added. One text says, "[Nanna], fixing the month and the new moon, [setting] the year in its place" (Cohen 1993, 3; A. Sjoberg ZA 73 (1983) 32). Annual festivals tied to the seasons were assigned fixed days in an "irrelevant lunar schema" so they intercalated the year (Ibid.). The equinoxes were also very important. In the OT they are called "turn of the year" (Exodus 34:22 and 2 Samuel 11:1). At one time there was a six month year marked by the equinoxes called mu-an-na (Ibid., 7).

There also may be a connection with the counting system of the Sumerians which is based on the number 60 and multiples, 6, and 3,600 which might be tied to the phases of the moon (six days between phases).  

Akkadian Texts

The Hebrew word tbv is probably from the Akkadian word Sapattu, the day of the full moon, the 15th of the month.

In Akkadian the 7th 14th 19th 21st and 28th days of each month were unlucky. The 19th day is exactly 49 days from the last new moon. Neo-Babylonian hitpu offerings were on these same days excluding the 19th.

In the Atra-hasis epic Enki says, "On the first, seventh, and the fifteenth day of the month I will make a purifying bath" (Lambert and Millard 1969, 57, 59).  

Ugaritic Texts

In the Baal Cycle it tells how the palace of Baal was build. First a summary statement is given, then the details. Gibson translates, "[Quickly] his mansion was built, [quickly] his palace was raised" (1978, 62; KTU 1.4 VI 16-17). Choice cedar trees from Lebanon are brought. A fire is set that burns for 6 days, and on the 7th day it ends. The fire turned the silver into ingots and the gold into gold bricks. Some scholars think the building of Baalís palace is the building of the universe (Fisher, 1965, 313-24). Note that it take 6 days then on the 7th day it is finished just like in Genesis.

There is another text that tells about Keretís march to Udum that end climactically on the 7th day and he camped 7 more days around the city (KTU 1.14 III 10-15, V 3-7). This is very similar to Joshua taking Jericho.

In Aqhat Danielís prayers are not answered until the seventh day. The sacred number 7 is used a number of times in Ugaritic.  

Egyptian Texts

At the completion of Ptahís creation of the world the Memphite Theology states, "So has Ptah come to rest after his making everything and every divine speech as well, having given birth to the gods" (COS, 23). This parallels Godís rest on the 7th day.

Westermann comments, "The background to what is said about the rest of God at the end of his creative action is a motif which is widespread in the history of religions, the leisure (otiositas) of the creator God—It means that the creator god will not intervene any more in the work which he has completed" (1994, 167; see also Pettazzoni 1954, 32).

In the Hymn to Amon-Re it says, "Heliopolitan, Lord of the new moon festival, For whom are performed the six-day and quarter month festivals" (COs, 39).


From this study I have learned that Genesis one is a polemic against the surrounding heathen nations, who worshipped many gods. It also seems to be etiological in nature, explaining the Sabbath as a day of rest.

Genesis one is not a scientific treatise on how the world was created. According to II Timothy 3:16 the Bible was meant for instruction in righteousness not science. God choose the simple framework of a week to explain the complex story of creation.

Genesis 1:1 - Summary Statement

Genesis 1:1 can be understood in two ways, either as a independent clause, being the summary statement of the chapter, or as a temporal clause meaning "when." What is for certain is that there is no ex nihilo creation in verse one. Creation starts in verse 3 with the command "Let there be light."

Genesis 1:2 - Pre-Creation State

Genesis 1:2 describes the pre-creation state of the world. The earth is described as a barren wasteland and devoid of life. A wind which is seen as the breath or Spirit of God blows over the watery deep.

Genesis 1:3-5 - Day One - Light

The picture described in Genesis 1:3-5 is the dawning of creation like the dawning of a new day. In the ANE and the Bible there is a difference between daylight and direct sun light. Daylight occurs an hour or two before the sun rises, and continues for an hour after sunset. In this pre-scientific age daylight was not the result of the sun.

Creation in the ancient world was not ex nihilo. It was one of separating and naming things. God commands and it is carried out just like the command of a king.

Genesis 1:6-8 - Day Two - The Firmament

The firmament was conceived as a solid vaulted structure that held up the heavenly ocean (Job 37:18). Gates or windows would open up to let rain out (Genesis 7:11, 8:2). There are pillars (mountains) that hold up heaven (Job 26:11). The heavens are said to be stretched out like a tent over the earth and the watery abyss (Isaiah 40:22, Job 26:7).

Genesis 1:9-13 - Day Three - Sea, land, and plants

All the waters under the firmament are collected together into one place. This seems to indicate there was one sea which surrounded one continent. Both the sea and the earth were considered circular, but not spherical (Job 26:10; Isaiah 40:22). The earth is stretched out over the deep and pillars hold it up (Job 26:7; Isaiah 42:5, 44:24; I Samuel 2:8). The earth is commanded to sprout forth vegetation.

Genesis 1:14-19 - Day Four - Sun, Moon, and Stars

This seems to be a polemic against the ANE view that the sun, moon, and stars were gods. In Genesis they are mere creations under Godís control. Planets were called "wandering stars" (Jude 13). Meteorites and sometimes comets were called "falling stars." The "morning star" was the planet Venus. Jesus is called the "bright and morning star" (Revelation 22:16). For just as Venus is three days and three nights below the horizon in the underworld then rises up, so too does Jesus.

Genesis 1:20-23 - Day Five - Birds, and Fish

On day five the fish and birds are created. In the ANE fish and birds where associated together because they are seen together near water and marshes. They may of thought that everything that lives in or near water, comes from water. Great flocks of birds are seen in and near water and marshes.

Genesis 1:24-31 - Day Six - Animals and Man

The earth is commanded to bring forth animals. This is not ex nihilo creation. The animals are to reproduce after their "kind" as the plants do. "Kind" should not be limited to "species."

There are three different ways "adam" is used in Genesis. "Adam" can just mean the generic term for mankind in general, or male in particular. In Genesis 1:27 the term "adam" includes both male and female referring to all humanity. In Genesis Two "adam" refers to a male in contrast to a female. Finally there is the historical person named "Adam." The historical Adam may be the same man named "Allum" the first king in the Sumerian King List who lived before the great flood. He was the first king of Eridu which may be Biblical Eden. In the ANE kings were considered to be the "image of god" even the very "son of god." It seems the Hebrews have democratized the "image of God" to refer to all mankind, and not just to the king rule over creation. Every plant and tree is given to man for food. There seems to be an ancient tradition that man and animals were herbivorous.

Genesis 2:1-4a - Day Seven - The Sabbath

The origin of the Sabbath is probably from the 6&7 day cycle of the phases of the moon each month. Probably during the captivity there was no one to watch for the phrases on the moon so it became disconnected from the lunar cycle. Later the sun, moon, and the planets were connected to the week which we still have today. Only the new moon and the full moon are mentioned in the OT.

Appendix - Textual Criticism

Textual Criticism

I have not looked much at the Hebrew text critically because there is very little textual variation in Genesis one. Textual Criticism does not mean one hates the text, but it is a technical term. Textual Criticism is the weighing of the evidence for the most likely textual reading. Since the translation of the KJV many ancient manuscripts have been found. The most important has been the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some thought this would prove how different the Bible was, but it showed how accurately it had been preserved. Even in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts there are textual differences that must be looked at.  

Textual Troubles

There are four main groups of common causes of textual corruption. First there are changes that expand the text. Secondly, there are changes the shorten the text. Thirdly, there are changes that do not add or shorten the text. Finally, there are deliberate changes in the text.

Let us look at reasons for the expansion of the text. (1) Simple additions to the text usually to explain it. This may be done for clarity or emphasis. For example in Joshua 9:24 lk, meaning "all" is added to the text. (2) Dittography which means "double writing." This is seen in Jeremiah 51:3 (draw 2x), and Ezekiel 48:16 (five 2x). The KJV omits these doubles, but leaves the one in Leviticus 20:10. (3) Glosses which are like an explanatory note. One example of a gloss is with obscure or ambiguous place-names like "On" in Jeremiah 43:13 in the LXX. The city of Dan mentioned in Genesis 14:14 must be a gloss. Some cities are just updated with their new name. (4) Explicitation is making the implicit explicit which expands the text. In Genesis 29:25 the LXX adds "Jacob" to show who is speaking. (5) Conflation is the combination of two or (rarely)more readings. This is seen in 2 Samuel 22: 38-9 and 43 when the MT is compared to 4QSama and the LXX.

Secondly, let us look at reasons for the shortening of the text. (1) Haplography which means "single writing" when it should be repeated (Judges 20:13). (2) Parablepsis meaning "oversight" is when a scribe skips over part of the text. An example is Judges 16:13-14 when MT is compared to the LXX. (3) Homoioarkton which means "like beginning" is when a similar beginning of words is skipped over (Genesis 31:18). (4) Homeioteleuton which means "like ending" is when a similar ending is skipped over. An example is in Genesis 4:8 and Leviticus 15:3.

Thirdly, let us look at the reasons for changes in the text that do not change the length of the text. (1) Letters are confused. Since some Hebrew words look very similar, it is easy to confuse them like h for j and d for r (Genesis 10:4). (2) Misdivision of the words sometimes occurs Genesis 49:19-20. (3) Metathesis which is the switching of letters occurs (Leviticus 3:7). (4) Modernization of grammar, spelling and pronunciation occurs. In Isaiah 24:23 the LXX understood different spelling for the same Hebrew words moon/brick and sun/wall.. (5) Prosaizing is when the scribe changes the poetry to prose (Psalm 31:22). (6) Interpretative errors occur with misdivision of verses and misvocalization (Isaiah 7:11).

Lastly, let us look at the reasons for deliberate changes. (1) A scribe deliberately changes one or more letters to disguise the text. In I Samuel 3:13 Eliís sons blaspheme "for themselves" rather than the LXX blaspheme "God" which is too dishonorable. (2) Euphemistic insertions to avoid dishonor (2 Samuel 12:9). (3) Euphemistic substitutions (2 Samuel 2:8). (4) Harmonizing the text (Genesis 2:2). (5) Suppressed readings

(I Samuel 13:1). These are some of the things that can happen to a text (for more examples see McCarter 1986).