I realize there is a similar question

In Psalm 148:4 are the waters above the highest heaven?

But I’d like to revisit this verse and ask a different question or pose the question differently hopefully the answers will be consistent with Biblical Cosmology and without (too much) cognitive dissonance

Clearly David didn’t attend modern schools because according to David there are waters above the heavens.

“Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭148:4‬ ‭ESV

Word here is מים mayim which is part of the Hebrew word שׁמים shamayim heavens. In Hebrew the sky is part water as its derived name implies.

David did not lack in his vocabulary the word for vapor הבל hebel. Or vapor קיטר qiytor used in the same psalm v8. Or vapor אד ‘ed.

Instead he opted for waters as I believe the Spirit inspired David to write.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” ‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭

If we trust David was inspired to prophetically compose psalm 22 writing details about the crucifixion that he had no humanly possible way of knowing hundreds of years prior, why do we doubt inspiration when he describes the heavens and its contents above? It’s still a psalm, it’s still poetry.

Question, why do modern readers chalk this off as metaphor or poetic writing. Doesn’t poetry describe real phenomena or does it always describe hyperbolic, fictional and/or exaggerated phenomena?

The bigger question, should this be a metaphor, why would God who claims inspiration and claims He doesn’t lie, mislead by claiming waters above heaven if in fact there is no firmament and no waters above?


Autodidact ( and more or less Mac's and ethos),

This is a very old question. This issue has been debated as much as creation vs evolution since the 1960s in scholarship. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed papers, rejoinders, commentaries and MA Theses and PhD theses on this stuff--not to mention YouTube debates and interviews. It's not new.

Therefore, if you (i.e. Autodidact specifically) seem to spend so much time on biblical cosmology as we have already exchanged via email, read the relevant expert literature on this matter and become an expert yourself. I myself spent several years on this stuff and I think Im satisfied with my view of it now. But, this whole issue of biblical cosmology and Inspiration is a big can of worms and no answer in this forum will ever really answer your question(s) because it's far more complicated than just one verse here or one verse there. The entire Bible is filled with non-scientific language--it's not simply cosmology. The Bible reflects ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman concepts and worldviews. It's normal that if you take Inspiration and Innerancy out of one passage (2 Tim. 3.16) and you then mix it up with all sorts of issues that the authors were not concerned with, you then run into these problems, and we've all been there in scholarship. The points you guys made in the comments do not answer the question at hand.

My answer (which is based on scholarly research) is that the OT reflects the ancient Near Eastern worldview in cosmology, numerology (3, 7, 12, 24, 70), physiology, zoology, sexual reproduction (seed / bosom), etc, and the NT reflects the OT and Greco-Roman worldviews. It's normal. Remember that Abraham came out of Ur in Mesopotamia and Moses out of Egypt. The Hebrew text is filled with Babylonian, Assyrian, and Canaanite concepts and linguistic cognates. It's normal, they lived there at that time! They were surrounded by them. God spoke to them so they could understand and the authors described and spoke in the language they knew with the concepts they knew ( look at the Tabernacle and the Temple--filled with Edenic and ANE concepts). It's inspired at the Message/messages level, not at the scientific level. Therefore, yes, the biblical authors believed there is water (a heavenly ocean, NOT vapor) above the solid (raqia) sky/dome. But, in real reality, it is not like that. The earth and the sky and space is how we see it in Google Earth, NASA. Therefore, in real reality there is no ocean and the sky is NOT solid. I already know you disagree with my previous sentence, since you are a flat-earther primarily because of the Bible and Inspiration (secondarily because of some scientific understanding that you became convinced of--Im not going to challenge you here since Im no scientist, Im an exegete).

The biblical text does not need to be scientifically accurate for Inspiration and Innerancy to work. It's a false cause and a false assumption. If you think that resolving this cosmological matter solves the Inspiration issue, please reconsider. There are a whole bunch of other similar issues throughout the entire Bible--it's not just cosmology. For instance, off the top of my head, Luke CORRECTS Mark's Greek. Mark's Greek is not as smooth as MAtthew's or Luke's and they both change Mark's Greek when it's off. It's not God nor the Holy Spirit that made a mistake in Mark at the language level, it's Mark! But Inspiration has nothing to do with this! It's a common false cause.

Please start reading this famous paper that all scholars who specialize in this quote and cite in their academic papers. Then, google and read all of Paul H. Seely's papers. Then, compare that with other rejoinders and refutations online that are peer-reviewed. Then, you will start to understand little by little how it works. It takes months and years. You will not be convinced nor satisfied by just googling here and there once in a while.

2 resources for you to start academically on this matter:

Paul H. Seely

THE FIRMAMENT AND THE WATER ABOVE Part I: The Meaning of raqia in Gen 1:6-8


Start with this paper from Seely and then google other papers from him. You dont have to agree with everything he concludes, but he makes some really good points that lots of Hebrew scholars have cited many times over (I've seen in the literature, I've been in it).

Then, look for this book on Inspiration and Innerancy (or google something similar, but by scholars, not some amateur with no credentials):

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation Kindle Edition

I will be writing on biblical cosmology and Inspiration and Innerancy on my blog in the coming months : mtl-ct.ca

For now, my latest post is about Peer review, its importance and its flaws...

  • I agree it’s more complicated than one verse at a time, but complicated is not the same as unimportant or irrelevant. If I’m wrong then I’ll accept correction. “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence”. Ovid. Evolution has been demolished, but instead of going away it’s been pushed into aliens seeding the planet with life from a foreign distant galaxy, it’s time fake space is demolished too. And if the Bible is to stand, then let it stand. “The truth is like a lion; you don't have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself”. Augustine. Mar 8 '19 at 23:15
  • Also there is a distinction between Mark relating a historical event with bad grammar and God being quoted word for word in the OT Mar 8 '19 at 23:24
  • Autodidact... I think I understand what you mean by Mark and bad grammar vs God quoted verbatim in the OT. But, you dont seem to have really captured what Im saying. Let me say it another way: We dont have the original manuscripts (mss) of the Bible at all (or any ancient literature). We only have reliable ( it turns out ) copies with textual variants in both Hebrew mss and Greek mss. When NT authors like Paul quote the OT, they are quoting from the Septuagint (LXX) which is an imperfect translation (we have 4 versions of LXX) from copies of the Hebrew textual families.
    – XegesIs
    Mar 9 '19 at 13:30
  • .....THEREFORE, Inspiration and Innerancy has nothing to do with specific words, or Hebrew vs Greek or even modern translations. It has nothing to do with scientific, geographic, historic, physiologic, numerologist (etc..) accuracy. Inspiration has to do with what God said about creation, death, sin, punishment, redemption, Messiah, resurrection, etc.. at the Message / messages level. Otherwise, we are doomed! Paul quotes from LXX and it's still the word of God!
    – XegesIs
    Mar 9 '19 at 13:34
  • 1
    Let's continue by email ok ?
    – XegesIs
    Mar 9 '19 at 14:48

Pardon my simplicity, but I have simply understood the waters above the heavens to be the source of rain and hail, namely the clouds.

This is rather simple - water vapour (steam) is actually invisible. It is only when it becomes condensed in tiny droplets suspended in the atmosphere that water (in liquid droplet form) becomes visible as mist or clouds. These droplets are quite small but water none the less. When these droplets grow (for a variety of atmospheric conditions that need not distract us here) and sometimes even coagulate, they get large enough to fall as either rain or other kinds of precipitation.

Thus, "waters above the heavens" is literally just that - water suspended above the atmosphere that the ancients called heavens. some clouds are very high indeed and some clouds are much lower as can be seen by simple observation on the ground.

The waters above the heavens were EXTEEMELY important to an agricultural society because without that water they could not grow anything. Hence we (unsurprisingly) find references to it in many places in the Bible.

  • It has been put forward that it refers to the Thermosphere, but cannot be dogmatic on it.
    – user26950
    Mar 8 '19 at 20:41
  • I fully understand your perception, does not mean I agree or endorse it. Why are they described as waters and not clouds or vapor like I’ve pointed out in my question. “He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭26:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬ and from your response I’m led to understand the waters of psalm 148 are in the clouds. The psalm says the waters are above the heavens. So are you saying that the clouds are above the heavens? Because even if the clouds are in the heavens the verse says the waters are ABOVE the heavens not in them. Mar 8 '19 at 20:41
  • Obviously the clouds in the in the atmosphere/heavens. But the ancient perception was that the clouds existed above the heavens and the very highest we above the highest heavens. It is not even metaphorical.
    – user25930
    Mar 8 '19 at 21:07
  • If the "birds of the air" (literally, birds of the heavens) was used as a common expression (Gen 1:26, 28, 2:20, Deut 28:26, Ps 104:12, etc), then clearly waters above the heavens are the clouds.
    – user25930
    Mar 8 '19 at 21:18
  • I reserve to agree with ‘clearly’ at this point. >>And God said, Let there be lights IN the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years Genesis 1:14 << that makes the sun and moon (and stars) also inside ‘a’ firmament (which is called heaven Genesis 1:8). If what you just said is correct, that the ancients thought the clouds (and not water) was above the heaven then the clouds are above the sun, moon and stars because they are described as being inside and not above the heaven like water is described in Psalm 148:4. Mar 8 '19 at 21:32

Why can this not refer to plasma which is the 4th state of matter. We see glimpses of it here from earth as we gaze at some of the more amazingly beautiful phenomenon of the heavens. It’s rare to have plasma on earth before nuclear reactors but when it does happen here it appears as rivers of rippling northern light, red sprites and solar winds. I love to see the weekly posts on spaceweather.com to enjoy the photos of these gaseous yet very liquid behaving creatures. In the days before city lights these would have been more visible and wise men would even follow rivers to cribs


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