|Q114 : What are the Waters Above?|
On the second day of creation, it is said that God created a “firmament,” which I assume means the sky. It said that He created it to divide the “waters from the waters,” which, in my thinking, means the waters of the Earth and the clouds. However, later on in Genesis it specifically states that there was no rain at that time; vapor came up from the Earth to water the ground, so what could all of this really mean?
|A114 : by Tony Garland |
There are several possibilities here. The most common interpretation is that offered by yourself: the “firmament” is the sky and the waters above would be understood as a heavy cloud covering—some have referred to this as a “vapor canopy.”
It may have been that the cloud covering was of an insulating quality such that it facilitated widespread tropical conditions following creation. Which is one possibility for why Adam and Eve did not need clothing for variations in temperature, whether by night or day. Whatever the conditions were, the Scriptures imply that the hydrological cycle as we know it today—involving rainfall—was not in operation (Gen. 2:6). Some infer these conditions were radically altered at the Flood and that the diminishing or loss of the canopy was a significant contributor, along with the fountains of the deep, to the waters of the Flood. This may be hinted at in Genesis 8:22, but again we can't be dogmatic in this conclusion. This would also possibly put the first rainfall from the canopy being triggered at the beginning of the flood—and the first rainbow (again, an inference) when the sun shone for the first time in conjunction with rain at the end of the Flood (Gen. 9:12-13). Probably the best-known book which explores this idea is The Waters Above: Earth's Pre-Flood Vapor Canopya by Joseph Dillow.
One of the Scriptural problems with the vapor canopy view is that Psalm 148:4 seems to imply that the “waters above the heavens” were still in place at the time the Psalm was written - long after the flood. (Although it is perhaps possible that the psalmist is looking retroactively back in time to the conditions which prevailed at the creation, although subsequent conditions are also mentioned such as kings, princes, and judges.)
There is another idea which takes the “firmament” in the sense of the heavens (which it clearly can include, Gen. 1:14). Thus, the waters above are understood to be in outer space. This model seems to be favored by several scientists within the creation movement:
On Day 2, God separated the waters. I propose this could mean placing a shell of water in the outer regions of the solar system, to protect the earth and later its inhabitants. Because there was much more water in the original sphere than there is today on Earth, much of it may be found in outer solar system objects. On Day 4, some of this was formed into the gas giants (planets) and Trans-Neptunian objects (sometimes called ‘Kuiper Belt Objects’, which is a less objective name). Much remains today as icy comets. A lot of ‘water’ is still out there in a halo around the solar system. Also, a lot of evidence is coming in that the objects (planetoids, comets, etc.) beyond Neptune are largely water ice. This ‘water’ may also serve to rain down in God's judgment on the ungodly in the Day of our Lord.
— John Hartnett, Starlight, Time and the New Physicsb (Australia: Creation Ministries International, 2007), p. 94.
However, by putting the “waters above” at the perimeter of the solar system, they continue to have a possible role in affairs on earth. They could, for example, have supplied impacting objects to precipitate the Flood, and they could have supplied comets to the solar system. They could also have provided objects such as the “stars falling from the sky” and the “something like a great mountain, burning with fire was thrown into the sea” of Revelation 8:8 associated with the end-time judgement. Scripturally, this seems attractive, because the “waters above” are given considerable prominence in the Genesis cosmogony, which suggests they were to have an important role to play.
— Alex Williams and John Hartnett, Dismantling the Big Bangc (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005), pp. 180-181.
. . . my end note . . . suggests the ‘waters which are above the expanse’ (Genesis 1:7) are not a solid shell of ice but rather (by now) a thin shell-like region consisting of a tenuous cloud of ice particles. Their total mass is great simply because they cover such a large area. . . . I chose the ‘shell’ model as an example because Psalm 148:3, 4 (NAS) implies that waters presently exist beyond the highest galaxies: . . .
— Russell Humphreys, “Russell Humphreys replies:”, Journal of Creation, Creation Ministries International, 22(1) 2008, 55-56, p. 55 [http://www.CreationOnTheWeb.com].