June 18, 2011

BCOE: Day 2 of Creation - Making the Firmament (Atmosphere)

Please read these Bible passages before we get into Genesis 1:6-8:
1)   And God said, “Let there come to be [‘hayah,’ היה] an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it come to [‘hayah,’ היה] separate the waters from the waters.”  And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above in the expanse. And it came to be [‘hayah,’ היה] so.  And God called the expanse Heaven. Then there was evening and there was morning, the second day. –Genesis 1:6-8

2)   . . . I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the eye of the deep . . . –Prov. 8:27-28

3)   Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  . . . Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band . . . –Job 38:4a, 8-9

4)   Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! –Psalm 148:4

Genesis 1:6-8: Piecing It Together

According to Prov. 8:27-28, right after God “drew a circle on the face of the deep,” which we have shown correlates with the making of light for earth, God “established the clouds above . . . [and] strengthened the eye of the deep.”  What does that mean?  The young-earth view has no good explanation.  Job 38 talks about how the seas were formed by it bursting out and forming dark clouds over the earth.  With all of these pieces of the puzzle, Prov. 8:27-28 seems to be talking about forming the seas at around the same time that the “clouds above” were “established”.

The picture that is presented by these passages is that water burst out of the earth and formed a thick, watery and cloudy atmosphere and darkness.  Then, God made light shine through this atmosphere by causing some of the water vapor in the atmosphere to condense and form the “deep” or Ocean.  Following that, according to Genesis 1:6-8, God separated the sea waters from waters above/up in the sky.  We could take these waters above in the sky two different ways: (1) there was some kind of water canopy high above the atmosphere, or (2) clouds and the water cycle were established.  The former answer has nothing to do with Prov. 8:27-28 and the “clouds above” being established.  The later answer fits perfectly with Prov. 8:27-28.  Here is the consistent message that is presented by the passages:

  • Job 38:8-9: Water from within the earth bursts out and forms a watery and cloudy atmosphere that is dark.
  • Genesis 1:2-8: The light comes to penetrate the dark atmosphere and strike the surface of the waters. The water vapor, pervasive within the atmosphere, is collected together to form clouds, as more of it condensed down to deepen the seas, and the water cycle gets established.  So, the atmosphere gets changed to its modern form.
  • Prov. 8:27-28: The dark atmosphere shrinks and clears enough for light to penetrate the atmosphere and to light the surface.  Standard clouds get formed within the sky. The seas become deepened (or “strengthened”).

These passages cannot be harmonized with the young-earth view, but end up being references to separate things.  However, this view presented above is perfectly reasonable scientifically.  The most recent model of the early earth suggests that the seas were indeed formed by degassing and water bubbling up and forming a steamy atmosphere that eventually condensed down to form the seas.  After that, the water cycle got formed.  Science appears to be consistent with this order listed in the Bible.

Now, I’ve included Psalm 148:4 above in the passages list because it seems to be good biblical evidence that Genesis 1:6-8 is talking about the clouds when it talks about the “waters” above the firmament or expanse.  Psalm 148:4, which was written after Noah’s Flood, talks about waters being above the heavens.  This is a close parallel with Genesis 1.  However, the young-earth view says that this water above the expanse was a unique water canopy that does not exist any longer.  Psalm 148:4 must be calling the clouds “water” above the heavens; so also, Genesis 1 is likely referring to clouds as the “water” that is above the heavens or expanse.  (The “expanse” was actually called “heaven” in Genesis 1:8.)  As we have seen, this is also consistent with Proverbs 8:28.  Scripture again interprets itself.

Formation of the Oceans
So, there is a history here, the earth beginning with only oceans, . . .

. . . [Geologist Linda Elkins-Tanton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge] conducted a chemical and physical analysis of Earth's library of meteorites—a useful analogue for the building blocks of our planet. She then plugged the data into a computer simulation of early Earth-like planets. Her models show that a large percentage of the water in the molten rock would quickly form a steam atmosphere [sound familiar?] before cooling and condensing into an ocean. The process would take tens of millions of years, meaning that oceans were sloshing around on Earth by as early as 4.4 billion years ago. Even the scant amount of water in the mantle, which is much drier than the sand in the Sahara, should produce oceans hundreds of meters deep, Elkins-Tanton reports . . .
Formation of the Atmosphere

As Earth began to take solid form, it had no free oxygen in its atmosphere. It was so hot that the water droplets in its atmosphere could not settle to form surface water or ice. Its atmosphere was also so poisonous [and dense] that nothing would have been able to survive.

Earth's atmosphere was formed mostly from the outgassing of such volatile compounds as water vapor, carbon monoxide, methane, ammonia, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrochloric acid and sulfur produced by the constant volcanic eruptions that besieged the Earth. It had no free oxygen.

About 4.1 billion years ago, the Earth's surface -- or crust -- began to cool and stabilize, creating the solid surface with its rocky terrain. Clouds formed [and thus the water cycle] as the Earth began to cool, producing enormous volumes of rain water that formed the oceans [or single ocean].

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