The Day God Made Spacetime
This week I had to take a quick trip to Hawaii. While cruising at about 50,000 feet in the troposphere, I looked out the window at the expanse and was reminded of what God made on Day 2 of the creation week.
Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. Genesis 1:6-8
This is a verse that has given some Biblical scholars a difficult time in translating and interpreting. The word "firmament" used by the New King James Version is something that we would traditionally not equate to our modern idea of the sky and outer space. For that reason, different Bible translations have chosen different English words for it. The New International Version uses the word "vault", the New Living Translation use two words "space" and "heavens", and the New English Translation uses the word "expanse". The original Hebrew word is רָקִיעַ (rāqîaʿ) which has the idea of something solid and stretched out. Therefore, firmament which is defined as "the heavens or the sky, especially when regarded as a tangible thing" is the best translation choice for the Hebrew word raqia. Scripture seems to teach that the heavens or this firmament is something substantial and physical. It is not just emptiness. But, first let's look at what scripture considers to be the firmament.
On Day 2 of the creation week, God divided the waters and created the "firmament" between them so that there was water below (on earth) and water above this new expanse. He called this expanse heaven, which is another Hebrew word שָׁמַיִם (shâmayim). This word is translated in scripture to mean sky, the place where the stars reside, or the place where God resides. But, the Genesis narrative of what God did on Day 4 gives us a better idea of what is the firmament or raqia.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. Genesis 1:14-16
The sun, moon, and stars were placed in the firmament. Therefore, the firmament is more than just the atmosphere of planet earth. In fact, the Day 5 Genesis narrative could imply that the firmament does not include our lower atmosphere. On that day when God made birds, He said, "Let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens." The wording seems to imply they were flying across the face of the raqia and not actually in it. Why is this an important distinction? For the past few decades, many creationists have interpreted the separating of the water above from the waters below to mean the water vapor in the atmosphere (clouds in the sky) from the waters on the earth (oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and streams). In fact, in attempt to answer why humans lived so long before the Genesis flood (chapters 6-8) those who advocated this position claimed there could have been a substantial water vapor canopy that produced the rains necessary for the flood and blocked harmful radiation allowing longer lifespans. Meteorologist Dr. Larry Vardiman and others have shown through computer modeling that a water vapor canopy would have produced too little water content for the global flood and would have resulted in uninhabitable earth surface temperatures while it existed. (Yes, Adam and Even didn't have any clothes, but this would have been the ultimate greenhouse warming effect - way too hot to sustain life!) Therefore, as attractive as a water canopy may seem, it is not consistent with the Biblical narrative nor science. Not only in Genesis 1, but elsewhere in scripture there is indication that the waters are above the firmament (where the sun, moon, and stars reside).
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, And you waters above the heavens! Psalm 148:1-4
Is this poetry? Or is this an accurate description of our universe? Some Biblical cosmologists, such as Dr. Russel Humphreys, believe that on Day 2 of the creation week, that is exactly what God did. In dividing the waters, God placed a certain amount above the firmament. Astronomers are finding more and more evidence of water in the outer universe. A report from NASA states, "Enormous amounts of water, in gaseous form, exist in the vast stellar nurseries of our galaxy. The Hubble Space Telescope peered into the Helix Nebula and found water molecules. Hydrogen and oxygen, formed by different processes, combine to make water molecules in the ejected atmosphere of this dying star." In our solar system, the surface of planet Mars has scarring resultant from significant water erosion on the scale of the Grand Canyon. According to NASA, stars are fueled by hydrogen fusion. Where did all the hydrogen come from? Secular scientists would say it is from water which was the biproduct of the Big Bang. Scripture provides another source - the action of God separating the waters below from the waters above. If we believe what Genesis says that God did on Day 2, it would account for more than enough hydrogen to fuel the stars He created on Day 4, to erode planets like Mars as the emerged from this massive separation, and to leave frozen and gaseous water vapor remnants throughout the universe. If we hold to this Biblical claim, then it would also mean the universe is bounded or finite. Somewhere out there is a layer of water, above the heavens, which we have not yet discovered - possibly because it is still moving away from us.
For centuries until fairly recently (1915) it was widely held that the universe was just a vacuum of emptiness where the galaxies, stars, and planets reside. Isaac Newton stated, "Space and time exist absolutely and independently. They are unaffected by the presence of massive bodies such as Earth." And for a couple of centuries, that was the position held by the scientific community.
But that is not what the Bible teaches about the heavens or the raqia. There are numerous references in scripture that compare the raqia to a curtain or fabric that is being stretched out.
For example ...
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment,
Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. Psalm 104:2
I have made the earth, And created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded. Isaiah 45:12
Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it. Isaiah 42:5
He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding. Jeremiah 51:15
He stretches out the north over empty space;
He hangs the earth on nothing. Job 26:7
This is just a few of the references, there are at least another dozen verses that mention the same phenomenon of stretching out the heavens. Poetry? Ignorant Hebrew beliefs? That is what many thought until science finally caught up to scripture with the help of the brilliant scientist - Albert Einstein.
Einstein held that space and time exist absolutely, but are not independent. He said that space and time are interwoven into a single fabric that he called "spacetime". His Theory of Relativity further explains the inseparable nature of space and time, which makes the scripture verses from Job, Psalms, and Isaiah all the more interesting.
Today, both secular and Biblical cosmologists believe the universe is expanding. There is good evidence that points to this fact such as measuring a red Doppler shift of stars and galaxies, the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the abundance of different elements in the universe. Big Bang proponents claim these as evidences of their their origins theory. But, if God did exactly what Genesis 1 said He did on Day 2 of the creation week and their is a large amount of water at the edge of the universe, that would more than sufficiently explain an expanding universe. As He separated the waters with His almighty hands, can't you picture water and elements the water was carrying being sprayed all over the universe. I don't know how God made the sun, moon, planets, stars, and galaxies on Day 4, but it is possible that Day 2 placed some of the building blocks in place. Regardless, God did not make nothing on Day 2, He created spacetime - a very real thing. As Einstein said, "Spacetime tells matter how to move, and matter tells spacetime how to curve and twist."