Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


A response to William F. Tanner, Sept., 1964)

From: JASA 17 (March 1965): 32

One cannot but agree with Tanner's span theory since any other opposing interpretation could not survive the scrutiny of scientific method. The linear magnitude of a Genesis "day" is not as important as the fact that the creative process has had no terminus. To elaborate on only one element of Tanner's paper, that is the probable meaning and character of the "firmament" as used in the Genesis account, it appears that an understanding of the nature of the firmament can be postulated by consideration of both the Biblical references and cosmogonical theories. Thus, comparison of primitive models of Earth with the planet Venus is a valid approach.

My model of the primitive Earth includes an envelop surrounding the Earth very similar to the cloud cover of Venus at the present time. This envelop or transluscent blanket corresponds with and is identical to the firmament. It acted as a barrier to the escape of most of the water vapor being driven out of the cooling Earth, and contributed to the attenuation of ionizing radiation from space. Additionally, the greenhouse effect was uniform over the entire surface of Earth.

The great mists (Genesis 2:6) were perhaps in fact the escaping water from the cooling Earth. The watering effect referred to in the same passage corresponded in all probability to the condensation of some large fraction of this water during the solar night. Some water vapor undoubtedly escaped through the firmament to space; some was retained in the firmament itself. In this model the function of the firmament was to provide an energy balance zone between the daytime and nighttime thermal regimes.

Relating this concept to the Genesis flood, the "windows" referred to in Genesis 7:11 correspond to the disruption of the thermal balance (cooling) in the atmosphere and the release of huge quantities of condensed water vapor; that is, the firmament (or heaven) was opened. Note that the term window has survived to the present day, where it denotes a favorable launch period for interplanetary space flights. In Genesis 8:2 the windows in the firmament were "stopped" (closed) and clouds formed, Prov. 8:28, corresponding to what Tanner refers to as Atmosphere III. Prior to the close of this period during the pre-diluvian era the transition atmosphere (Tanner's No. H) existed.

The significance of the firmament is not diminished by the above analysis or inconsistent with Hebrew translation, since regardless of its gaseous or structural composition the firmament must certaffily have been formed from "out of" the primitive Earth.


1. Mintz, Y., "Planetary Atmospheres." Transactions, American Geophysical Union, Vol. 44, No. 2, June, 1963.

2. Barabashev, N.P., "Venus," A Chapter from Issledovani-ye fixicheskih uslovii na lunye i planetakh (Investigations of the Physical Conditions of the Moon and Planets). Kharkov, 1952. Rand Corp. Memorandum RM-31944M, June, 1962.

3. Johnson, R.W., "The Venus Terrain," General Electric Company, Technical Information Series Report No. R62SDI53, 1962.

4. Kellogg, W.W. and Sagan, C, "The Atmospheres of Mars and Venus," National Academy of Sciences, Publication 944, Washington, 1961.

5. Sonett, C.P., "A Summary Review of the Scientific Findings of the Mariner Venus Mission," Space Science Reviews, Vol. 2, 1963, pp. 751-777.

RODNEY W. JOHNSON, Manned Lunar and Planetary Systems, Valley Forge STC, M4414