Someone recently sent us a great question that seems to be on the minds of many - especially those who insist on believing that the earth is flat, or some other shape:
Dear Refiner's Fire..first of all just let me say that I LOVE this site. It has been an invaluable resource in my new walk. I am starting on my second cycle of the weekly lessons. But let me get to the point. In the first lesson we read in Genesis where it is saying that YWWH created a "dome that separates the waters from the waters". The explanation of Refiner's Fire was that it was not meant to be a scientific account of creation..
With all due respect I think we have to ask ourselves some questions. Are we to take the Torah literally for what it says or explain away the meaning. Do we believe YHWH or do we believe the Jesuit and Masonic scientists. Thank you again for this incredible study and website... I anticipate your reply,
You asked a perfect reasonable question: "Are we to take the Torah literally for what it says or explain away the meaning." The short answer is "both" - but it takes much more to fully understand what we mean by "both".
First, "do we take the Torah literally?" Yes, except we must realize that some is literal and some of the narrative in the Torah ... and indeed, in all parts we find some allegory. This includes the Prophets, Writings, and New Testament. For example: Take the animal sacrifices in Leviticus. The narrative literally speaks of slaughtering animals, and that the sins of the person offering the animal are "taken away."
Indeed, there is a literal, formal ritual of a substitutionary death described in the narrative of animal sacrifice. But there is also allegory. The slaughter only represents human's sins and ties the condition that our sins deserve death. Thus, for us to live, an animal, (sinless by the way), had to die. If the people had not sinned, they would not have had to kill an animal. So, the Torah was actually trying to teach people to choose NOT to sin.
Today, people get caught up in the literal description of the slaughter process. and see only the "commandment" that it "must be followed"; they don't see the greater picture in the allegory: that it was intended to represent a spiritual truth in terms a human can come to understand. Don't sin, you live; sin, and you must be redeemed from that sin.
You asked: "...or explain away the meaning?" Yes, except we are not really explaining it "away"; rather, we are trying to understand it from the original Hebrew perspective. In your example of Genesis 1:6, you are seeing the literal verse: "God said, "Let there be a dome in the middle of the water; let it divide the water from the water."
In English, that certainly paints a picture in our minds of a "dome" and becomes our literal understanding. But that's not what the Hebrew says. The Hebrew word, incorrectly translated as "dome" is "ra'kita", which means "expanse". So, the verse actually reads, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters and let it divide the waters from the waters."
You see, the English translators inadvertently changed the meaning of the scripture. Some English translations use "firmament" instead of "dome" which is a bit better. However, without understanding the deeper meaning in the Hebrew, "firmament" still does not convey the meaning of "ra'kita".
Similarly, Genesis 1:8 in English usually reads "and God called the dome Sky." But the Hebrew, properly reads, "And Elohim called the expanse, Heavens." Here, "Heavens" is from the Hebrews "ha'mayim" - it is plural and means "the lofty". So "sky" is close to correct, but in the Hebrew context the word implies not only the sky, but beyond, including the air where the clouds move, along with celestial bodies.
So, you see that we must take care in our literal reading to see beyond both what we are able to comprehend (due to the inadequacy the English); and to consider and look for the deeper meaning which the English does not convey.