Monthly Archives: August 2013

Introduction to the ‘Rāqîaʿ’ Problem

The Second Day of Genesis 1 Describes … What?!?

Then God said: ‘Let there be a rāqîaʿ in the midst of the waters, and let it keep separating the waters from the waters. So God made the rāqîaʿ, and he separated the waters which were under the rāqîaʿ from the waters which were above the rāqîaʿ. And it was so. Then God named the rāqîaʿ: “Sky! (/ Heavens!)” And there was evening, and there was morning, the second day.
Genesis 1:6-8

For thousands of years this passage has been an enigma for interpreters of the Bible.1 What is the meaning of this word ‘rāqîaʿ,’ and what exactly were these waters that it divided? Was this simply describing the creation of the atmosphere? Do these upper waters simply refer to the clouds? Or are there details in this passage that make those interpretations problematic? Looking at this passage within its context, we must also wonder: What is it about this event that an entire day of creation was devoted to it? And what relation does it have to the works God performed on the other five days of creation?

While it may come as a surprise to many, modern scholarship has long argued Continue reading Introduction to the ‘Rāqîaʿ’ Problem


  1. Since this topic only rarely involves New Testament passages, “bible” in this work usually refers only narrowly to the Hebrew Bible / the ‘Old Testament’.