I’m going to briefly comment on two things that John Walton said in his latest response to Vern Poythress:
“A solid sky is not a matter of appearance, but of deduction from a series of observations.”
There are basically two problems with this claim:
i) Walton takes for granted that raqia denotes a solid dome. However, a number of standard commentaries and monographs either define the term more broadly or view it as a poetic figure of speech, or phenomenal description. Cf. C. J. Collins, Genesis 1-4 (P&R 2006), 45-46, 264; V. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17 (Eerdmans 1990), 122; B. Waltke, Genesis (Zondervan 2001 62; G. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word 1987), 19-20.
Now Walton is, of course, at liberty to disagree with their interpretation. But if he’s going to make a case for his own position, then he can’t treat his construction of raqia as a given. He has to interact with opposing views.
ii) More to the point, his interpretation strikes me as hermeneutically naïve. For even if the term does, in fact, denote a solid dome, this doesn’t mean that Gen 1 intended to teach its audience that the sky was a solid dome. It doesn’t even mean that Gen 1 took that for granted, as an unquestioned cultural assumption.
For there is still the question of whether that imagery is literal or figurative. And what his puzzling about Walton’s interpretation is that his own “cosmic temple” paradigm raises that very issue.
For if Gen 1 is depicting the world as a cosmic temple, then we’d expect the use of architectural metaphors to cue the reader.
I’d also add that Gregory Beale, in The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Crossway 2008), chaps 6-7, has made a strong case for viewing this picturesque description as figurative imagery which foreshadows the tabernacle.
“If the revelatory focus is the functions, we do not need to validate the description of the material cosmos (in either of his two material categories) any more than we have to validate thinking with our blood pumps (believed by the Israelites and in the ancient Near East and affirmed in the Bible)…Locating cognitive processes in the heart and other organs is not a matter of appearances.”
Walton will need far more argumentation go make that go through.
i) Even with our modern knowledge of neuroscience, we continue to use these anatomical figures of speech. So why should we assume that this was anything other than a literary convention in Biblical usage?
ii) It doesn’t require any advanced knowledge of neuroscience to know that cognitive function is correlated with the brain rather than the heart, liver, intestines, &c. Surely people in the ANE were aware of the fact that head-injuries could result in cognitive impairment.
iii) But I’d also add that when other organs or vital systems malfunction, that can have a mood-altering effect. Try passing a kidney stone and find out whether or not that interferes with your mental concentration.
iv) There is also the quite ironic risk of anachronism. When we use words like “heart” and “liver,” does that mean the same thing to us as it would have meant to an ancient Israelite? Does our terminology really correspond to their knowledge of internal anatomy? Isn’t there a danger that Walton is unconsciously mapping his modern knowledge of human physiology onto Biblical descriptors, then faulting them because they don’t match? But if there is a mismatch, isn’t that due to his anachronistic comparison? Why assume the referents are the same? Did ancient Israelites have much experience dissecting human cadavers?