The key to understanding the account of Day Two in Genesis is the word in verse 6 that has been translated as “the firmament.”
Again, for ease of reference, here is the full account of Day Two. References are to the King James Version.
- And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
- And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
- And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
In Day One we started with “the heaven and the earth”, which were described as being “without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Then “the heaven and the earth” are re-described collectively as “the waters”. The “waters” were then ‘converted’ into “light” when matter and antimatter interacted to create photons of light. But because there was a slight excess of matter over antimatter, some matter was not converted into light. That excess matter was described as “the darkness”, which was separated from the “light”. This excess matter would form the building blocks of the physical universe.
But we now find no mention of “light” and “darkness.” Instead we have reference to “the waters” again.
“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
Following the methodology, it is clear that “the waters” refer to what existed at the end of Day One – “light” and “darkness”. In other words, photons of light, and those excess particles that could not find an anti-particle to enable them to convert into photons.
But there is a further aspect of “the darkness”. Physicists now know that there is also dark matter. They have no idea what it is yet, but it is evident because of the amount of gravity that would be required to create stars and galaxies. There is simply insufficient ordinary matter to create the necessary gravity.
Furthermore, the heat of the Big Bang had caused the fundamental particles to form into the lighter elements. As Brian Greene says, physicists calculate that “by the time the universe was a couple of minutes old, it was filled with a nearly uniform hot gas composed of roughly 75 percent hydrogen, 23 percent helium, and small amounts of deuterium and lithium.”
So “the waters” can only refer to both ordinary and dark matter, as well as the photons of light. And as we saw in Day One, water has always been associated with life. Without it, life as we know it could not exist.
By the time we get to Day Two, all this matter and light would have been spread out across the huge but embryonic universe. Martin Rees describes this initial state of the universe as follows: “when the universe was a million years old, everything was still expanding almost uniformly.” It is into this “almost uniformly” expanding universe that God is said to have inserted “a firmament.”
We now come to one of the many remarkable aspects of the origins of the universe according to Genesis. The original Hebrew for the word that is translated as “firmament” is actually “expansion.” The Hebrew is raqiya`, which loosely means to hammer out something small into something large.
It is not surprising that translators of the Bible would have sought to use other words instead of the original. So we find all sorts of alternative descriptions of the word “expansion” – a “vault”, an “expanse”, a “space”, a “canopy”, and even a “horizon.”
However, in the late 1970’s, the scientific concept of expansion was proposed by Alan Guth and Henry Tye. After that, Biblical scholars began to debate whether the word “expansion” in verse 6 could possibly relate to the scientific concept of expansion. And not surprisingly, the answers vary depending on the position being taken.
In law, however, we have what is known as the Best Evidence Rule. It requires that the best evidence should be adduced in support of a case. So if the dispute relates, for example, to the construction of a word in a contract, the best evidence would be contemporaneous evidence of what the parties understood the word to mean, not what subsequent parties may claim it means in hindsight.
Applying that rule to the meaning of “expansion”, the best evidence would be what early Jewish scholars thought it meant.
Some seven hundred years before Guth and Tye came up with the expansion theory, the great Jewish Scholar, Nahmanides (1194 – 1270 AD), said this in his commentary on Genesis Chapter One: “… At the briefest instant following creation all the matter of the universe was concentrated in a very small place, no larger than a grain of mustard. … From the initial concentration of this intangible substance in its minute location, the substance expanded, expanding the universe as it did so. As the expansion progressed, a change in the substance occurred. This initially thin noncorporeal substance took on the tangible aspects of matter as we know it. From this initial act of creation, from this etherieally thin pseudosubstance, everything that has existed, or will ever exist, was, is, and will be formed.”
Now that is quite unambiguous.
Genesis 1: 6 should thus read, “And God said, Let there be an expansion in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”
Consequently we now have a very different reading of this verse. The “expansion” was to “divide the waters from the waters”. In other words, the “expansion” was to separate “the waters”, and concentrate the separated “waters” into different places.
And that is precisely what then happens.
“And God made the firmament (expansion), and divided the waters which were under the firmament (expansion) from the waters which were above the firmament (expansion): and it was so.”
This verse clearly suggests a pre-existing state in which certain parts of “the waters” were already in different places – “under” or “above”. That would have been a consequence of what happened in Day One. And Day One was about inflationary cosmology.
Greene identifies one specific consequence of inflationary cosmology which was crucial to the formation of the universe as we now see it.
According to Greene, “the initial nonuniformity that ultimately resulted in the formation of stars and galaxies came from quantum mechanics.” As we saw in the previous article, fields, like particles, are also subject to quantum phenomena, so the “rate of change” of a field is not uniform but “will undulate up or down” at various speeds, or “assume a strange mixture of many different rates of change, and hence its value will undergo a frenzied, fuzzy, random jitter.” This means that the “amount of energy in one location would have been a bit different to what it was in another.”
These small differences in the quantum world of the pre-inflationary universe were then amplified by inflationary expansion, causing certain areas of the expanding universe to be more ‘dense’ in particles and energy than others. This has been confirmed by measurements of the temperature differences of microwave photons arriving from space. Greene says that “observations have shown that … tiny temperature differences fill out a particular pattern on the sky ..,” which confirms that there were slight differences in the density of matter and energy in different locations in the universe. And these variations were “set down nearly 14 billion years ago … [and arose] from quantum uncertainty.”
Greene attributes this to the inflaton (Higgs) field, which scientists now believe was the engine for inflationary expansion in the earliest moments of the universe. According to Greene, the inflaton field “reached the value of lowest energy at different places at slightly different moments. In turn, inflationary expansion shut off at slightly different times at different locations in space, so that the amount of spatial expansion at different locations varied slightly …”
The result was that there were different densities of matter and energy in different regions of space. Rees says that this meant that the “slightly overdense regions, expanding slower than average, were destined to become galaxies and clusters; others, slightly underdense, were destined to become voids.”
So describing some of ‘the waters’ as being in different places – “under” or “above” – in relation to the “expansion,” perfectly corresponds to scientific theory. Without it, the universe as we know it, and life itself, could not exist.
However, in order for the expansion to have the effect of forming the denser areas of matter and energy into concentrations strong enough to create galaxies and stars, the expansion energy had to be finely balanced in relation to the concentrations of matter and radiation, and the gravity that pulled them together. If the expansion energy was too powerful, the matter would not have had the time or strength to form. It would simply have continued to expand outward leaving nothing. If the expansion force had been too weak, all the matter and energy would have condensed together again, collapsing the universe back into its initial state. As Rees says, in the former case, the “universe would be inert and structureless”; and in the latter case, “it would have been a violent place in which no stars or solar systems could survive …”
Greene describes this interaction between matter and energy as follows: “as the universe expands, matter and radiation lose energy to gravity while an inflaton field gains energy from gravity.” This is because the “total energy carried by ordinary particles of matter and radiation drops because it is continually transferred to gravity as the universe expands. … gravity depletes the energy in fast moving particles of matter and radiation as space swells.” On the other hand, “a uniform inflaton field exerts a negative pressure within an expanding universe. … [thus] the total energy embodied in the inflaton field increases as the universe expands because it extracts energy from gravity.”
But all these elements had to be finely balanced for this process to take place. And for that to happen, the timing had to be precise. The initial inflationary burst that caused the Big Bang had to end at the right moment for expansion to take over. As Rees’ says: “The fierce repulsion that drove inflation must have switched off, allowing the universe, having by then enlarged enough to encompass everything that we now see, to embark on its more leisurely expansion.”
It is at that point that Genesis says there was an intervention. It is quite remarkable that Genesis does separate the initial “inflation” we discussed in Day One, from the “expansion” which is said to start in Day Two. And Genesis describes this process quite simply, but entirely accurately, by saying that the expansion “divided the waters which were under the firmament (expansion) from the waters which were above the firmament (expansion): and it was so.”
The account of Day Two could be summed up by this statement from Rees: “after half a million years of expansion, the temperature dropped to around 3,000 degrees … As the universe cooled further, it literally entered a dark age … [which] persisted until the first protogalaxies formed and lit it up again.”
Genesis then brings the account of Day Two to an end, with God naming what He is said to have made.
“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
An important point to note in this verse is that there is a crucial difference in the account of Day Two to that of Day One, and indeed all the other “days”. In Day Two there is no mention of the words “And God saw …”
There is good reason for that. At this stage the “protogalaxies” that had formed contained only the lighter elements of hydrogen, helium, and traces of beryllium and lithium. The Big Bang did not produce sufficient heat to produce the heavier elements. That would require supernovae.
However, since Genesis directly links the origin of life to supernovae, these two phenomena are dealt with together in Day Three. And remarkably, as we shall see in the next article, science is only now beginning to recognize this link.
It was thus important that there should not be an observation at this stage. The process had to continue to the formation of supernovae before the state of the universe was ‘locked-in’ with an observation.
But we do have the naming we had in Day One: “And God called the firmament Heaven.” As we have already noted, this naming (always with a capital letter) signifies a change from the state of the universe as at the start of the ‘day’. At the start of Day Two there were “the waters” into which was inserted an “expansion”. At the end of Day Two the “expansion” had divided “the waters”, resulting in what God is said to call “Heaven”. We should now recall what Rees said about the effect of the density differences in matter and energy in different parts of space: “slightly overdense regions, expanding slower than average, were destined to become galaxies and clusters; others, slightly underdense, were destined to become voids’.
The “voids” are clearly what Genesis calls “Heaven” – those areas of space that were left ‘free’ of matter. And the naming suggests that this state of “protogalaxies” and “voids” constituted the next step in converting the quantum laws into the predictable and deterministic Classical laws. As Greene says, “according to inflation, the more than 100 billion galaxies, sparkling throughout space like heavenly diamonds, are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky.”
The account of Day Two then ends with a measure of the time this process took to play out: “the evening and the morning were the second day.”
According to Rees’ depiction of the time-line of the universe, Day Two would have ended about one billion years after the Big Bang. So the “the evening and the morning” of Day Two were approximately one billion years less the 300,000 years for Day One.
In the next article we will consider science in Day Three, and it may come as a surprise.
This series of articles is based on the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan
Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved
 Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin, London, 2005 (paperback), page 171 (emphasis in bold is Greene’s).
 Rees, Martin. Just Six Numbers, Pheonix, London, 1999 (paperback), page 121.
 Commentary on Torah, Genesis 1, Nahmanides, quoted in Gerald Schroeder Genesis and the Big Bang, Bantam Books, 1992 (paperback), page 65.
 Greene, page 305.
 Greene, page 306.
 Greene, page 306.
 Greene, page 309.
 Greene, page 309 – 310.
 Greene, page 307 – my emphasis in bold.
 Rees, page 119.
 Rees, page 3.
 Greene, page 312.
 Greene, page 311 – bold emphasis is Greene’s.
 Greene, pages 311 to 312 – bold emphasis is Greene’s.
 Rees, page 139 – emphasis in bold is mine.
 Rees, page 119.
 Rees, page 119 – emphasis in bold is mine.
 Greene, page 308.
 Rees, illustration at page 132.