Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Biblical Conception of the Universe

This is pretty cool. I remember it blew my mind in high school when I started thinking about how the Torah describes rain as coming from above the firmament, where the stars are.

(This one's for you, Tigerboy!)

23 comments:

jewish philosopher said...

Coincidentally, I just wrote a post about this.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2010/07/firmament-is-it-problem-for-judaism.html

Anonymous said...

http://modernorthoprax.blogspot.com/2009/10/six-days-of-creation.html

M-n said...

That picture is actually not correct. The Torah's authors (or at least the ones behind the P sections) conceived of the sun, moon and stars stars as *in* the firmament, not in front of it. The firmament rotated, which is why the sun, moon and stars move. It's right there in the text:

14 And God said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years;

15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth.' And it was so.

16 And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good.


Furthermore, there are numerous references, too many to count, in rabbinic text that make abundantly clear that that is how Chazal understood the text (and the world). There's a Rashi that calculates the thickness of the firmaments based on an understanding of the stars being inside it. My favorite is where a rabbi says that he put an item in the firmament where it was carried away with the rotation, and he picked up up from the same spot the next day. Uh huh.

sos said...

Furthermore, there are numerous references, too many to count, in rabbinic text that make abundantly clear that that is how Chazal understood the text (and the world).

But "M-n" (hmmm why does that handle sound so familiar :D ), surely Chazal's position doesn't tell us much about what the authors of P held? Paul H. Seely wrote a few articles on how the Biblical conception of the firmament was actually a universal one at the time. Given that there must have been many conceptions of the cosmology, is it not possible that בִּרְקִיעַ can be translated as "on" or "by" "the firmament"? I apologize if this question only arises from my weak grasp of Hebrew.

M-n said...

"surely Chazal's position doesn't tell us much about what the authors of P held?"

That's of course true. I didn't mean to imply that Chazal's view had bearing on the Torah's authors' view. I brought it up because it's relevant to an Orthodox conception of what the Torah is supposed to mean.

As to what the Hebrew itself means, the universal conception you speak of has bearing, as do other Biblical texts. Both sources are quite clear about the stars being in the firmament.

Jewish Atheist said...

M-n:

That picture is actually not correct. The Torah's authors (or at least the ones behind the P sections) conceived of the sun, moon and stars stars as *in* the firmament, not in front of it.

Yeah, I meant to mention that. :-)

Baruch Spinoza said...

I know what today anyone who believes in the Bible will use the excuse that firmament refers to the atmosphere. But in the past, the way the Bible was really interepreted, the whole description in Genesis was the following:

The earth is flat. It is round, but not like a sphere, but like a circle. Above the flat earth there was a dome. The dome had in it stars. And the dome had holes from which rain would fall.

Anonymous said...

It's the Babylonian world model.

Anonymous said...

The Genesis creation story is just a rehashed Enuma Elish sans god battles.

Ari said...

I was an atheist, then after thinking about it changed into agnostic after more soul searching I assert that Moshe Emes VeToroso Emes! Look deep into your soul and you will discover Him! There are reasons to be a religious Jew. You just have to search for them and give Judaism a fair chance.

alex said...

@Ari

There are SUBJECTIVE reasons to be a religious Jew. If you find meaning it, then great, more power to you. Modern-day Judaism isn't half as harmful as ancient Judaism was anyway. If you find truth in it, cool.

The problem comes when religious adherents claim that their belief is logical and/or based on valid PROOF.

This is where everything starts falling apart.

And incidentally, I have given religious Judaism more chances than most. I realized I was an atheist as a young girl- probably around 13- and since then I have continuously discussed/debated/argued with the most prominent rabanim. None have brought anything new to the table- same rehash of old, chewed out arguments. I understand why many are convinced by this type of pseudo-rationality, but the fact remains that that is all it is.

Basically my point is that you should probably ditch the over-confident, proselytizing attitude. But other than that, good luck with your life. Hope you find much happiness :)

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in my in-depth post about the Talmudic concept of the flat Earth:

http://jewamongyou.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/the-flat-earth-of-the-ancients/

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