The Pagan Origins of the Book of Genesis - Part 2: The Creation of the Firmament (Dome) and the Waters Above

The pagan cosmology of Genesis
Click here to read the first part of this series of articles. They need to be read in the correct numbered sequence to be best understood.

Genesis Chapter 1 - New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

"6 And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7 So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky............................


........14 And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. 16 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 God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.....................and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky."

Genesis 1:6 introduces an immense problem for Christadelphians. What is the "Dome" referred to as created by God in the New Revised Standard Version; or "Vault" in the New International Version; or "Canopy" in the International Standard Version; or "Firmament" in the King James version?

How could it separate and suspend an entire ocean of water above the Earth from the oceans below? How many trillions of tons of weight of water would it have to support to prevent it crashing down on the planet?

How could it be possible to set the Sun, Moon and all of the stars and hundreds of thousands of billions of galaxies in the entire universe "in" the dome that supports the ocean that is suspended in outer space?   

Finally; how was it possible for the birds to fly "across the dome?" That would mean that the dome was set so low above the Earth that birds could fly up to it. The Hebrew reads "across the face of the dome."   

Needless to say, this section of Genesis contradicts all that modern science teaches us about cosmology. We know that what we are being told here in the Bible is impossible. There never was an ocean in space, held up by a dome that contained all of the stars that birds could fly up to and visit!


But it would have all made perfect sense to the pagan Sumerian priests who invented the story of a sky dome holding up an ocean of water floating in outer space, over a thousand years before Genesis was written. They would have recognised the story as their own. They would not be fooled into thinking that the Hebrew God inspired the narrative; because they would have known that they inspired and invented the story themselves.

Ancient Sumerian hymns and myths provide a picture of the universe's (anki) creation. The Sumerians believed that a primeval sea (abzu) existed before anything else and that the heaven (an) and the earth (ki) were formed within it. The boundary between the primeval sea and the earth (a flat disk) was a solid vault, within which was the gas-like atmosphere (Lil). The stars, planets, sun, and moon were embedded in this solid vault. (1) Each of the four major Sumerian deities was associated with one of these regions; An (god of heaven), Ki (goddess of earth, also known as Ninhursag, Ninmah, or Nintu), Enlil (god of the air, son of An and Ki), and Enki (god of the primeval sea). According to their myths, An and Ki were the progenitors of most of the gods. (1)


In the first part of this series we noted that the Sumerian God Enlil separated the Earth from the Heaven, which were originally united.

For example in the Sumerian myth "The Creation of the Pickaxe"


Enlil, who brings up the seed of the land from the earth,

Took care to move away heaven from earth,


Took care to move away earth from heaven.


This is what was happening in Genesis 1:6. The dome or firmament was lifted up to separate Heaven from the Earth.

The Sumerians believed that the sky was a solid object, probably made of tin. Their word for tin was "Metal of Heaven." All of the ancient peoples believed that the sky was solid and that it was a dome that arched over the Earth, which they thought was flat and reached down at the sides.

It was not until approximately the year 200 AD in China and 1550 AD in Europe that civilised peoples began to realise that the sky was not a solid object. They believed that the Sun Moon and stars were set in the solid dome or moved underneath it. 

Click here for an excellent essay on this subject if you are interested in further study on the subject of the solid sky dome in ancient cosmology.. 

The Hebrew word for "Dome" or "Firmament" in Genesis is "Raqia." It's verb means "to beat out" or "to spread out" as one might beat out a piece of tin to form a bowl.


The word "firmament" ("Firm" - ament) implies a "firm", solid material, coming from the Latin word "firmamentum," from Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. The Latin word firmamentum has the meaning of a "support," or "prop."

Ezekiel chapter one conveys a vision of cherubim under the firmament which is described for us:


 
"And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal." - Ezekiel 1:22.

But Heaven was above this firmament for he continues:


"And above the firmament that was over their heads was ......................the likeness of the glory of the LORD." - Ezekiel 1:26-28.

The Universe of the ancient pagans
Genesis claims that it was created by the Biblical God!

The Jews also endorsed solid dome cosmology, For example, Josephus, the Jewish first century Jewish historian, believed that the earth was surrounded by a crystalline firmament:

"After this, on the second day, he placed the heaven over the whole world, and separated it from the other parts, and he determined it should stand by itself. He also placed a crystalline [firmament] round it, and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews."  (2)
 
The Jewish Talmud indicates that the Sun travelled under the firmament by day and above the firmament by night:

"The learned of Israel say, "The sphere stands firm, and the planets revolve"; the learned of the nations say, "The sphere moves, and the planets stand firm." The learned of Israel say, "The sun moves by day beneath the firmament, and by night above the firmament"; the learned of the nations say, "The sun moves by day beneath the firmament, and by night beneath the earth." (3)
 
In Job 37:18 we read:

"Can you join him (God) in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?" (NRSV)


In those days mirrors were not made of glass but of metal. Job is telling is that God spread out the sky like a hard, solid, metal sheet; which is the dome or firmament conceived of by the Sumerians and a concept copied by all ancient peoples; including the writers of Genesis.

In Job 22:14 we are told that God walks on the dome:

"Thick clouds enwrap him, so that he does not see, and he walks on the dome of heaven.” (NRSV)

Of course it is all nonsense. If there were a solid dome in the sky, our space rockets would crash into it. The writers of Genesis had no more idea what they were talking about than the pagan Sumerian priests who invented the idea. It is further evidence that Genesis is not an anti-pagan polemic, or an account of how God created the world. Genesis is reworked pagan myth, legend and faulty cosmology with the names of the Hebrew God substituted for the pagan gods to fool the Hebrews into thinking that their God was the creator.   
 
Genesis 1:7 claims that God created
an ocean in outer space!
The Ocean in Outer Space

But even more bizarre than the idea of a solid dome in the sky, is the claim in Genesis that God took half of the water on Earth and created an ocean in outer space above the firmament.

"So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome." - Genesis 1:7. (NRSV)

Psalm 148:4 says the same thing:

"Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies." (NRSV)

We know that this is also nonsense and that there is no sea in the sky and no evidence that there ever was. The Genesis writers must have lifted the idea from earlier and original pagan creation myths and worked it into the Hebrew creation story.

The idea of an ocean of water above the dome of the sky was so strange that so far as we know, it was not a common belief in the ancient world. If a primitive human looked up at the sky, either in the day or night, he might well have concluded that it was a solid dome stretching down to the horizon. But there was nothing to be observed that might make him think that there was a sea above the sky.

Nevertheless, the mystery of where the Genesis writers gained their inspiration has been solved. It was not from God; it was from Sumer. In 1849,  the English archaeologist, Sir Austen Henry Layard, while working in  the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh in Iraq, discovered seven clay cuneiform tablets with approximately one thousand lines of text of a pagan Mesopotamian creation story. They were translated and published in 1876 by George Smith.

Two of the seven Enuma Elish tablets
Other fragmentary copies have since been discovered at other locations including one from Turkey. Parts of the story are still missing. 

The version from Ashurbanipal's library dates to the 7th century BCE; which would coincide with the Jewish exile in Babylon which is when Genesis is thought to have been redacted and edited together into its final format. So the Hebrew Biblical scribes could have been familiar with Enûma Eliš.

Layard's version of Enûma Eliš is certainly a copy of copy of a copy going back many hundreds of years. Some scholars believe that the original story must have been composed about the time of Hammurabi (approximately 1,800 BCE) which puts it back into Sumerian times. But whenever it is dated, it is pagan and pre-Genesis. 

Called the Enûma Eliš, the tablets contain numerous parallels with the Genesis account of creation. they are written in a complex form of poetry; rather like the Genesis 1 account.

The first parallel is that their creation story is contained on six tablets with the creating god Marduk resting in the seventh and receiving praise. This may be the source of the six days of creation in Genesis followed by a seventh of rest. - Or it may be coincidence

The second parallel is the start of tablet one where before the beginning of creation the god of fresh water and goddess of salt water are mingled together in a primeval sea; just as Genesis begins with "the deep" and the Earth is "without form and void."

"When in the height heaven was not named,

And the Earth beneath did not yet bear a name,


And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,


And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both


Their waters were mingled together,


And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;" (4)


Marduk battles Tiamut, goddess of the sea;
before dividing her in two and placing half
of her waters in heaven
But it is the third parallel that is of most interest to us. At the end of tablet four, Marduk kills the goddess Tiamut, the goddess of seawater, who was herself a vast body of seawater, divides her waters in two and creates heaven and earth from the two halves. But because she is seawater, he took precautions to ensure that her half that became an ocean in outer space, did not rain down to Earth.

Then the lord rested, gazing upon her dead body,


While he divided the flesh of the ... , and devised a cunning plan.


He split her up like a flat fish into two halves;


One half of her he stablished as a covering for heaven.


He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,


And bade them not to let her waters come forth. (4)

The waters of the pagan sea goddess Tiamut in
heaven became the "waters that were above
the firmament" in Genesis 1:7

In Genesis it is the dome, or firmament, that divided the waters and created a solid dam to prevent the waters in space from falling to Earth. In Enûma Eliš the author used imagery of the god Marduk fixing a "bolt" as if locking a door and stationing a watchman to prevent the heavenly waters escaping. But the idea is the same. Half of the waters from Earth were taken up into heaven and prevented from falling down to the Earth.

These are the pagan origins of the solid sky dome created by God in Genesis 1:6 and the extra terrestrial ocean of Genesis 1:7. If we had more clay tablets we would surely know more about these pagan origins of a book that the Christadelphians think is divinely inspired. Let us hope that the work of archaeologists will continue to uncover the truth and expose the myths contained in the Bible.


(To be continued) - Part 3:  'The creation of humans.'

Notes:

1. Samuel Noah Kramer. 'Sumerian Mythology'
2. Flavius Josephus. Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 - Chapter 1
3. Pesahim 94b
4. See: http://www.crystalinks.com/babyloniancreation.html

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