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Course on the Pentateuch – Exegesis of Gen 1:6-8 – (The Second Day of Creation)

skyAnd God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day

In many cultures and religions, the heavens and the earth were joined together in a tight embrace, like Ouranos and Gaia in Greek mythology. For example, among the Maori, the sky is called Rangi and the earth is called Papa. At the beginning they were one. Then the children born from this union wanted to see the light and to not remain forever trapped in the tight embrace of their parents. They decided to separate from their parents. So one day they cut the ropes that bound heaven and earth. Rangi then pushed Rangi upwards and in the world there was light.

As I had occasion to say in my La Bibbia riscritta e commentata, it is important to imagine more than to explain or to describe what happened in the second day of creation. Maori myth helps us in this. We can imagine that God created in the midst of the primordial waters like a glass dome that that divided the waters above, from the waters below. The difference between the Maori myth and the Bible, is that light was created before the sky and it was not the result of the separation between heaven and earth.

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi said Rashi (1040-1105)

Anyway, the most important thing in these verses is the absence of the refrain present in all the other days of creation: And God saw that it was good. The Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible – provides this sentence. But probably the original text had none. Why? Some scholars believe that if all eight works of creation had been accompanied by this sentence, it would not reach the number seven. It is a numerical symbol which indicates the perfection of a certain reality. In this case, saying seven times that something was good meant to say that creation was the peak of perfection and beauty. Rashi – the Jewish author of a major commentary on Genesis – says that the phrase is absent from the second day of creation, because the work begun here will end in the third day, where in fact the formula is present.

Pinturicchio (1454-1513) – Saint Jerome in the Wilderness

St. Jerome translated the hebrew raqi’a with firmamentum (i.e. the vault). This is a perfect translation from the Hebrew, because for the ancient jews the sky was a rigid vault were the stars and the planets were mounted. That’s why in the Bible passages that belong to the literary genre of the apocalyptic, the stars fall to earth like figs as if the plant had been shaken by the wind (cfr. The book of Revelation).

Simone Venturini


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