Did a Water Canopy Surround the Earth and Contribute to the Flood?

Isaac Vail (1840-1912) first proposed the canopy theory in 1874.1 He believed that a canopy formed millions of years ago as the earth evolved from a molten state. Vail supported his case primarily by ancient mythology. In his opinion, this included Genesis l:6-8a, which states: 

Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate waters from waters. And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. And God called the expanse heaven." 

Notice that these verses do not explicitly say that a canopy surrounded the earth.

Vails canopy was a vapor cylinder surrounding the earth but open at the poles. Since then, many people have recognized problems with Vails canopy and proposed variations. These usually involved a thin, spherical shell of water—as either a liquid, gas (a vapor), or solid (ice particles or an ice shell). As we will see, each variation has serious biblical and scientific problems. In fact, canopy theories "do not hold water." Consequently, canopy theories have delayed our understanding of Genesis 1:6-8a, the structure of the preflood earth, the flood, and earths geological features. But first, what are the standard arguments for a canopy?

Arguments for a Canopy—and Brief Responses

The Source of the Flood Water. 

"If all the water in the earth's atmosphere were to condense, only an average of one inch of rain would fall. Therefore, the Genesis flood raises two common questions: Where did so much flood water come from, and where did it go? A canopy partially answers the first question."


No canopy theory claims to provide all the water for a global flood. Nor does any canopy theory explain where the water went after the flood. Somehow transporting this water back into outer space or suddenly forming deep ocean basins after the flood is hard to imagine or explain. However, the phrase "the fountains of the great deep" (Genesis 7:11) implies that the flood water came from subterranean sources. 

Many have rejected the Genesis flood account because they could not imagine where the flood water, which covered all mountains, went. Canopy theories have contributed to this rejection of the flood account.

Drop in Longevity. 

"Radiation from outer space may cause people to age. If so, a preflood canopy might have shielded people from this aging process. Perhaps this is why life spans before the flood were about 900 years" 


If radiation from space reduced life spans, we would expect an immediate drop in longevities after the flood. Life spans did drop, but for 12 generations after the flood, human longevity remained much higher than today. Even Noah lived 349 years after the flood. Some argue that perhaps radiation damage accumulated genetically over many generations. Few, if any, canopy proponents have proposed specifically what type of harmful radiation it was, how it reduced longevity so much without causing massive deformities and genetic diseases, why longevity levelled off at about 70 years rather than continuing to deteriorate, or how to test the proposed mechanism.

Most proposals for this drop in longevity are testable, but seldom tested. One test, which might have shown that cosmic or solar radiation reduce longevity, failed. Mice were raised in deep caves, shielded from both types of radiation. Neither those mice nor their offspring lived longer than other mice.2 Furthermore, if radiation from outer space accelerated aging, then living at a lower elevation, where one is protected by a thicker blanket of atmosphere, should increase longevity. No such effect is known.3

Joseph Dillow's book, The Waters Above, is probably the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date defense of any canopy theory. After explaining other problems with the "longevity claim," Dillow concludes, "So it appears that canopy theorists have been in error when they appealed to the shielding effect of the canopy as a direct explanation for antediluvian longevity."4 Dillow also states, "We readily admit that Genesis does not teach the existence of a pre-Flood vapor canopy."5 

A Uniformly Warm Climate.

"A canopy may have given the earth a uniformly warm climate. This might explain why fossils of temperate animals and plants (such as dinosaurs and large trees) are found in Antarctica and on islands inside the Arctic Circle."


After the flood, mountains were suddenly pushed up. This shifted the poles and brought temperate regions to todays polar regions. Also, during the global flood, some plants and animals may have floated to today's polar latitudes where they were later fossilized.


Even if a canopy produced a warm polar climate, it would not satisfy another requirement for lush vegetation— sunlight in the winter. Polar nights are six months long, and when the Sun does shine, it is always low in the sky. How could large trees and dinosaurs (requiring long food chains) survive, let alone thrive, during the long polar night?

Despite much speculation, no one knows what temperatures would exist under a canopy. Today, even experts disagree on the extent to which carbon dioxide warms the earth. Think how much more difficult it is to determine warming, thousands of years ago, under a canopy of unknown  thickness,  reflectivity,   content,   and  height above the earth.


"We see canopies on other planets, such as Venus."


Some planets have atmospheres, but none has a canopy. An atmosphere has contact with its planet, but a canopy is a distinct shell above the planet's atmosphere. Venus is shrouded by a thick, opaque atmosphere, [consisting primarily of carbon dioxide (96.5%), nitrogen |(3-5%), and traces of other gases. Venus does not have a layer of water, or any other relatively heavy substance, above its atmosphere.

Genesis 7:11-12. 

"Genesis l:6-8a seems to speak of a water canopy that contributed to the flood. After all, Genesis 7:11-12 states that 'the floodgates of the sky were opened. And the rain fell...' A lot of rain fell from somewhere."


If this were true, similar biblical interpretations should predate Vail's in 1874. Where are they? Quite often it is hard to see alternatives once we have learned "the accepted explanation."

Actually, Genesis 7:11-12 says that "all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. And the rain fell ..."Later, Genesis 8:2 states "the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained." These events were probably in cause-and-effect order. That is, the fountains of the great deep caused extreme, torrential lain. Once the fountains stopped, this violent rain ended. Then milder, more normal, rain fell. In other words, "the rain from the sky was restrained"

A cause and effect sequence is also given in Proverbs 3:19-20: "The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up, and the skies dripped with dew." The same Hebrew word, baqa is used for "broken up" and "burst open" in Proverbs 3:20 and Genesis 7:11. Baqa describes a violent and complete splitting, sometimes of the earths crust (Numbers 16:31, Micah 1:4, Zechariah 14:4). Isaiah 34:15 and 59:5 use baqa to describe the breaking of an egg shell by internal pressure as a baby bird exits. This aptly describes events of the hydroplate theory—the globe encircling rupture (splitting) of the earth's crust by internal pressure just before water erupted.

The Hebrew word, matar, means normal rain. Violent rain is geshem (used in Genesis 7:11 and 8:2). It is sometimes accompanied by high winds and huge hailstones that can destroy mortared walls (Ezekiel 13:11-13). The hydroplate theory explains this sequence in more detailed, physical terms. We have failed to appreciate the explosiveness, magnitude, and power of "the fountains of the great deep"


Scientific Arguments Opposing a Canopy

The Pressure Problem. 

A canopy holding only 40 feet of liquid water, or its equivalent weight of vapor (steam) or ice, would double the earth's atmospheric pressure— making oxygen and nitrogen toxic to many animals, including humans.6 This is why most vapor canopy theories limit the thickness of water in their canopy to less than 40 feet.

For a vapor canopy holding this amount of water, the high pressure at the canopy's base would require that the temperature at the base exceed a scorching 220°F. Otherwise, the vapor would condense into a liquid. A vapor canopy whose base had that temperature would radiate large amounts of heat to the earth's solid surface. People, plants, and animals would absorb so much heat from all directions above that life might not survive.7 Those who believe that a canopy would produce a globally mild climate have overlooked this detail.

Maintaining a canopy's 220°F temperature at night, or worse yet, at the poles during the coolest season, adds a further difficulty. Yes, there were seasons before the flood. [See Genesis 1:14.]8

The Heat Problem. 

All canopy theories9 have another major heat problem. The larger the canopy, the greater the heat problem.

A Vapor Canopy. 

Each gram of water vapor (steam) that condenses to a liquid releases about 539 calories of heat. If 6.22 x 1021 grams of water fell from a vapor canopy (enough to form a layer of water only 40 feet thick around the world), the temperature of the water and atmosphere would, as a first approximation, rise 810°F (or 450°C)……

where 5.1 x 1021 grams is the mass of the atmosphere, and 0.242 and 1.0 are the calories needed to raise one gram of air and one gram of liquid water (respectively) 1°C. Unbearable temperatures remain even after we expand this analysis to include every scientifically conceivable way to remove this heat.10 Also, 40 feet of rain would not produce a global flood.

A Liquid or Ice Canopy. 

For liquid or ice particles to remain in space above the earth's atmosphere, they must be in orbit. Anything in a near-earth orbit must travel about 17,000 miles per hour (760,000 cm/sec). (As stated earlier, a layer of water only 40 feet thick contains 6.22 x 101/21 grams of water.) Just as a spacecraft generates great heat as it reenters the atmosphere, orbiting liquid or ice particles would release all their kinetic energy as heat. That amount is

1/2 x 6.22 X 10/21 (760,000)2 x 2.39xl0-8 = 4.29xl0/25 cal

where 2.39 x 10-8 converts the units to calories. This heat would raise the atmosphere's temperature

= 5,700°C = 10,000°F

Even if a canopy began with the coldest ice possible (absolute zero) or if some heat were transferred elsewhere, insufferable heat would remain.11

A similar problem exists if this ice were part of a spinning shell surrounding the earth. A rapidly-spinning shell, providing enough centrifugal force to balance the gravitational force as much as possible, would still have too much kinetic energy. Once the shell collapsed, that energy would become scalding heat, enough to "roast" all life on earth.

The Light Problem. 

A canopy having only 40 feet of water—in any form—would reflect, refract, absorb, or scatter most light trying to pass through it.


People living under a 40-foot-thick canopy could see stars only if they were directly overhead, so their light would have the shortest path through a canopy. Before the flood, people presumably could see stars, because stars were created for a purpose: "for signs, and for seasons, for days and years" (Genesis 1:14). Stars would achieve their purpose only if enough stars could be seen to identify seasonal variations. Therefore, one needs to see large star patterns, such as constellations—not just a few stars directly overhead. By looking through a "keyhole" into the night sky, it is questionable whether one could have seen, recalled, and distinguished seasonally shifting star patterns through the filter of a 40-foot-thick canopy, even on a moonless night.


A canopy would also reflect and absorb considerable sunlight. How then could many tropical plants that require much sunlight today, have survived for centuries under a preflood canopy?

The Nucleation Problem. 

To form raindrops, microscopic particles, called "condensation nuclei," must be present to begin condensation. However, falling rain sweeps away these nuclei and cleans the atmosphere. This reduces further condensation. Rain from a vapor canopy would actually "choke off " rain production.

Some claim that volcanic eruptions, beginning suddenly at the time of the flood, continuously ejected condensation nuclei into the upper atmosphere. Never explained is why volcanic eruptions suddenly began globally, then quickly and continuously distributed nuclei through the atmosphere for up to 40 days. Volcanic eruptions, rather than contributing to the flood, require special conditions that seem to be a consequence of the flood. 

The nucleation and heat problems limit the rain formed by condensation to that of a local flood. It seems more likely that "geshem rain" was produced by the powerful jetting of the "fountains of the great deep," which caused torrential rain for "40 days and 40 nights."12

The Greenhouse Problem. 

While sunlight can pass through glass into a greenhouse, heat in a greenhouse has more difficulty radiating back out through the glass. This greenhouse effect traps heat inside the greenhouse, raising its temperature. All canopy theories have a greenhouse problem.

Also, as temperatures under a canopy rose, more water would evaporate from the earth's surface, especially its oceans. More water vapor in the air means a greater greenhouse effect, a warmer atmosphere, and even more evaporation. This cycle would feed on itself, producing what is called "a runaway greenhouse effect." For example, Venus' atmosphere has experienced a runaway greenhouse effect. Venus is about 700°F hotter than one would expect based on its distance from the Sun. The greenhouse effect increases earth's temperature by about 60°F.

During the last 36 years, the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) has been the best-known advocate of a vapor canopy. In 1998, ICR wrote that a strong greenhouse effect would exist under a vapor canopy, raising "surface temperatures as high as 400°F." However, if many variables were chosen in the most favorable way for a vapor canopy, "the water content of a canopy could be as much as [no more than] three feet of liquid water without the surface temperature reaching temperatures which would destroy life on the earth."13 So, if many variables are favorably selected, the greenhouse effect, alone, limits a canopy to a thickness of only 3 feet.

The Support Problem. 

What supported the canopy?

A Vapor or Liquid Canopy. 

A vapor canopy would rapidly mix with the atmosphere, just as steam above a kitchen stove quickly mixes with air. Once the vapor contacted the earth's surface, it would condense. A liquid canopy would quickly evaporate and then diffuse through the atmosphere. Neither type of canopy could have survived for the many centuries before the flood.

An Ice Canopy. 

A pure ice canopy would vaporize into the vacuum of space, just as dry ice vaporizes at atmospheric temperature and pressure. Furthermore, ice is structurally weak. An ice shell could not withstand tidal stresses or meteoritic, cometary, or asteroidal impacts. A spinning ice shell could not withstand the powerful centrifugal forces at its equator and the crushing gravitational forces along its spin axis.

The Ulti-aviolet Problem. 

Ozone in the earth's upper atmosphere blocks the Sun's destructive ultraviolet light, but a canopy surrounding the atmosphere would be exposed to ultraviolet right. Therefore, water in the canopy would dissociate into hydrogen and oxygen, effectively destroying that canopy.

Final  Thoughts.    

Could  there   have  been   a   canopy? Perhaps, in one of two ways. First, one could minimize most of these scientific problems by assuming that the canopy was thin, maybe inches thick. The thinner the canopy, the less severe most problems become. (Notice, the support and ultraviolet problems remain.) But what function would the  canopy perform,  and what hard, scientific evidence—not speculation—is there for claiming that a thin canopy could perform that function? Certainly, a thin canopy would not contribute to a global flood—the season most people accepted the canopy in the first place.

Second, one could also dismiss each of these scientific problems by saying that God performed a miracle. That maybe true. Certainly, He can; He has; and He sometimes does. However, miracles should not be proposed to "prop up" a scientific theory. (Some evolutionists mistakenly believe that this is how creation science works.) As one sees more and more "miracles" required by canopy theories, their plausibility decreases, and the need for an alternate explanation increases.

An Alternate Interpretation

Let us now consider another interpretation of Genesis l:6-8a and related verses:

The word expanse (raqia) is used nine times in Genesis, all in the creation account, chapter 1. The first four uses are distinguished from the last four, to minimize confusion. Following each of the last four uses (in Genesis 1:14-20) is the phrase "of the heavens." Clearly, from the context, "expanse of the heavens" means sky, atmosphere, outer space, or heaven. However, the first four uses of "expanse," in Genesis 1:6-7, do not use the phrase "of the heavens!' That expanse was the earth's crust. Surface waters (oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers) were above this crust, and subterranean waters were below. The subterranean waters burst forth, producing the "fountains of the great deep" and the global flood.

Repetition of the phrase, "of the heavens" further helps us distinguish between the last four uses and the first four uses.  The middle,  or fifth,  usage of the word "expanse" will be discussed on page 366.

Pages 355-357 and 371-376 contain other support for this interpretation of raqia. Psalm 136:5-9, a song of thanks to God, deserves a special comment as well. It describes three sequential events: (1) the heavens are made, (2) the earth is spread out above the waters, and (3) the Sun, Moon, and stars were made. This sequence is similar to the creation events of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 4. If the proposed interpretation is correct, then Psalm 136:5-9 precisely parallels the creation events of Days 1,2, and 4.


Several ancient extra-biblical writings also state that the earth's crust, when first created, divided liquid waters above from liquid waters below.14

If this picture of the newly created earth is correct, then it seems worthy of inclusion in the brief creation chapter of Genesis 1. However, if "the waters above" refers to a canopy containing less than one-half of 1% of the earth's water, then why would one creation day and almost 10% of the creation chapter be devoted to it?

A Study of Some Key Hebrew Words

To understand Genesis 1:6-8a better, we will study the key words in bold below.

Then God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate waters from waters" And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. And God called the expanse heaven.

Waters (mayim).  This word means a liquid water, not a vapor or solid.15 Had the water in Genesis 1:6-8 been a vapor, cloud, mist, or ice, other Hebrew words would have been more appropriate. For example, ancient Hebrew had six words for "cloud."

II Peter 3:5-6 also implies that this is liquid water. Peter used the same Greek word to describe both the liquid water that flooded the earth and the water out of which the earth formed, an obvious reference to Genesis 1:6-7. Liquid water was both above and below the expanse, which contradicts the vapor or ice canopy ideas but is consistent with the "expanse = crust" interpretation.

Separate (badal). This word implies a sharp division. Furthermore, the generally untranslated preposition "ben" associated with "badal" means "between." It suggests an ordering (water, expanse, water) with no overlapping or gaps. Interfaces are also implied on each side of the expanse.16 These meanings oppose a vapor, liquid, or ice particle canopy lying above the atmosphere, because atmospheric gases would mix with the canopy.

In the Midst of (tavek). This word means between, within, among, inside, etc. Sometimes it means "to bisect" or "in the center of." The respected Jewish scholar, Cassuto, in commenting on Genesis 1:6-7, stated, "It is true that in the Pentateuch, too, reference is made to the division of the primeval world-ocean into two halves, situated one above the other, ..."17 [See also Genesis 15:10.] Rabbi Solomon Yitzchaki, in his famous eleventh century Rashi Commentary, stated that the expanse was "in the exact center of the waters."18 As we have seen, canopy theories place less than one-half of 1% of the earth's water above the expanse and the rest below. (This is necessary to reduce the problems associated with heat, light, and pressure mentioned earlier.) Would it not seem strange to say that your scalp is "in the midst of" your body? According to the hydroplate theory, the crust of the preflood earth approximately bisects the earths liquid waters.

Heaven (shamayim). "Heaven" had a variety of meanings in ancient Hebrew, as it does in modern languages. Moses used shamayim to describe outer space (Genesis 26:4), the atmosphere (Genesis 27:28), where God dwells (Deuteronomy 26:15), where angels dwell (Genesis 28:12), and the source of blessings (Genesis 49:25). Other examples could be given. For example. The context in which shamayim is used is important to understanding its specific meaning.

Expanse or Firmament (raqia). The key Hebrew word in Genesis l:6-8a is raqia. It is translated "firmament" in the King James Version and "expanse" in most Hebrew dictionaries and modern translations. While its original meaning is uncertain, its root, raqa, means to spread out, beat out, or hammer as one would a malleable metal. It can also mean "plate" This may explain why the Greek Septuagint translated raqia 16 out of 17 times with the Greek word stereoma (arspscoua), which means "a firm or solid structure." The Latin Vulgate (A.D. 382) used the Latin term "firmamentum," which also denotes solidness and firmness. So, the King James translators in A.D. 1611 coined the word "firmament." Today, "firmament" is usually used poetically to mean sky, atmosphere, or heavens. In modern Hebrew, raqia means sky or heavens. However, originally it probably meant something solid or firm that was spread out.

Finally, if raqia were related to a canopy, it seems strange that other Hebrew words, often translated as "canopy," were not used in Genesis: sukkah (Psalms 18:11 and II Samuel 22:12), chuppah (Isaiah 4:5), and shaphrur (Jeremiah 43:10).

Genesis 1:8a — Two Interpretations

Why then, does Genesis 1:8a state, "And God called the expanse heaven"? Here are two interpretations:

1. "The expanse" meant the atmosphere or outer space.

2. "The expanse" meant "heaven"—where God dwelt— the original paradise. Recall that God "walked" and "talked" with Adam (Genesis 3:8-9), so heaven was originally on the earth—or the earths crust.

If "heaven" meant atmosphere or outer space, then the Septuagint and Vulgate translators incorrectly associated solidness with it. Notice also that the similarities of raqia with baqia and raqa support second interpretation. If raqia (expanse or firmament) always means atmosphere or outer space, five questions, or apparent textual contradictions, arise.

Question 1: Why was the word raqia followed by the phrase "of the heavens" in Genesis 1:14, 15, 17, and 20? That would be redundant.

Question 2: If raqia implies a canopy, why wasn't one of the three Hebrew words that clearly means "canopy" used?

Question 3: Genesis 1:1 says that the heavens were created on the first day.19 However, if raqia always means "heaven" (atmosphere or outer space), then Genesis 1:8a says heaven was created on the second day. Also, Genesis 1:8 a defines heaven after the word "heavens" was first used in Genesis 1:1. Normally a word's meaning is understood from the context of its first usage.

Question 4: Genesis 1:9 states, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear" Obviously, these are earths surface waters. If "heaven" meant atmosphere or outer space and "expanse" had the identical meaning (as canopy theorists believe), why did Genesis 1:9 not read, "Let the waters below be gathered into one place"? That would have been sufficient, clear, and consistent with the phrasing of Genesis 1:7, which relates the waters two locations to the expanse. It would also make clear that the expanse (raqia) is above— not below—the surface waters. Instead, the text reads, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place." The words "the heavens" apparently were added to make clear that surface waters were gathered into one place.


What Does "Raqia" Mean?

The Hebrew word raqia is usually translated "expanse" or "firmament." When it is directly followed by "of the heavens" it means atmosphere, sky, outer space, or heaven. However, what does raqia standing alone mean? The Hebrew words most similar to raqia are raqa its root, baqia and baqa. Each describes a deformed solid.

All Biblical Meanings of Words Related to Raqia

raqa (Strong's #7554): beaten (1), hammered out (2), plates (1), spread out (3), spreading out (1), stamp (1), stamped (2)

For usage and context see Ex 39:3; Num 16:39; II Sam 22:43; Job 37:18; Ps 136:6; Is 40:19, 42:5, 44:24; Jer10:9; and Ezek 6:11,25:6.

baba (Strong's #1234): breached (3), break forth (1), break into (1), break open (1), break out (3), breakthrough (1), breaks forth (1), broke through (2), broken into (2), breaks open (1), broken up (1), burst (2), burst open (1), cleave (1), dashed to pieces (1), divide (2), divided (3), hatch (2), hews (1), invaded (1), make a breach (1), rip up (1), ripped open (2), ripped up (1), shook (1),.split (7), split open (1), splits (1), tear (1), tore (2), torn (2)

baqia (Strong's #1233): breaches (1), fragments (1)

For usage and context see Is 22:9 and Amos 6:11.

raqia (when not followed by "of the heavens"): Traditional Interpretation:

atmosphere, outer space, sky, heaven 

Proposed Interpretation:

a pressed-out solid, such as the earth's crust

In 1890, James Strong published a catalogue of all usages of every word in the Old and New Testaments. He counted the frequency of each Hebrew and Greek words specific English translation. For example, the Hebrew word baqa, the 1234th word in Strong's Hebrew dictionary is translated in the New American Standard Bible as "breached" three times, "split" seven times, etc. By studying all usages and contexts of a word and similar words, a difficult-to-translate word can be better understood.

The King James translators translated raqia as firmament, because they thought that it involved something firm. However, its specific meaning when Genesis was written is unknown. Raqia is obviously important, because the second creation day centered around it, just as the third day dealt with plants, and the fourth day with heavenly bodies, What was the raqia?

Certainly, raqia is one of the most mysterious and important words in the Bible.

By carefully studying English meanings of raqa, baqa, and baqia in Table 22, one can see that atmosphere, sky, outer space, and heaven do not relate to what we might guess raqia means. Instead, we get a picture of a breakable pressed-out solid. How can a solid be breakable but malleable or moldable? Answer: extreme compression.

Few realize that all rock 5 miles or more below the earth's surface is "pressed out." Imagine a perfectly vertical column of a typical rock 5 miles high. If the rock were "somewhat confined," as explained in the next paragraph, the pressure at the columns base would be so great that it would slowly flow—like tar. Stacking more rock on top would cause even more flow at the bottom. If the column were 10 miles high, all the rock in the bottom half would try to flow. The rock at the bottom would be squeezed like a tall stick of butter trying to support a 10-ton truck.

If our column were pressed in from all sides by similar columns, the flow in the central column could go nowhere. The central column would have lateral support. Furthermore, if all columns were given lateral support by other columns, we would have the situation that actually exists in the top 10 miles of the earth's crust. At depths of 5 miles or greater, the rock wants to flow but can't, because the forces on all particles are balanced in all directions. So, below 5 miles, the rock is sealed like highly compressed putty. Cracks could not normally open up directly above the subterranean water chamber, which I estimate was almost 10 miles below the earth's surface. 

This 10-mile-thick crust above the subterranean chamber would be a potentially breakable, pressed out solid—a raqia. How could it break? A crack could not begin in the sealed, extremely compressed lower half. However, if a vertical crack formed at the earth's surface, steadily increasing pressure in the subterranean water would cause the crack to grow downward. Once the crack penetrated halfway down, it would then become unstable and, in a few seconds, rip catastrophically to the bottom of the crust. What would follow is the subject of Part II of this book, pages 103-313.


Question 5: If raqia means atmosphere or outer space, was liquid water placed above the atmosphere or above outer space as Genesis 1:7 states? Because the Sun, Moon, and stars were placed in the raqia (of the heavens) and liquid water was placed above the raqia, were all heavenly bodies inside the canopy? 20

After struggling to understand Genesis 1:8a for 30 years, I described several possible interpretations of Genesis 1:8a in the 7th edition of this book, 2001. (One of these is discussed in "Something to Think About: 'Fire in Waters'" on page 374.) In 2005, I received independent letters from two pastors proposing an explanation.21

Before Adam's fall, the earth was a paradise; in a sense, it was "heaven on earth." Therefore, God called the firmament (earth's crust) heaven. Each pastor provided different biblical reasons for his view, but both maintain that our difficulty in understanding Genesis 1:8 a results largely from our inability to imagine the original paradise. If man had not fallen, no one would have difficulty with the fact that God called the earth, "heaven."

Confirmation of this is in Randy Alcorn's outstanding book, Heaven (2004).22 His case is so detailed, voluminous, and strong that any attempt to summarize it here would not do justice to his work. As Alcorn points out, nonbiblical stereotypes of heaven have crept into our Christian culture. I believe that this accounts for much of our confusion over Genesis 1:8a. (Every Christian should study what the Bible actually says.) The earth was created with the intention that it would be heaven. The fall temporarily delayed that plan, and the earth was cursed. Alcorn also discusses the future "new earth."

Those who reject this proposed understanding of expanse and Genesis 1:8a should carefully weigh the two alternatives…..

Understanding earth before the fall

Mythology and Canopies

Vail's case for a canopy rested largely on the mythology of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and other ancient cultures. He argued that a real canopy, millions of years ago, produced these myths. Vail wrote:

I have been told again and again that the canopy idea is weak because it is founded on mythology. I can only protest that it is not founded on mythology. On the contrary mythology is largely founded on the canopy fossilized in human [thought]. The canopy as a watery heaven close to the earth existed for untold millions of years before a myth ever germinated.

We can all agree with Vail that ancient mythology and today's canopy theories are linked. But which came first: myth or canopy? If the best canopy theory cannot overcome the scientific problems mentioned earlier, then a canopy did not produce or precede the ancient myths. Myths probably produced canopy theories.


Arguments for canopy theories do not stand up when examined closely. These theories also contain many biblical and scientific problems, such as those associated with pressure, heat, sunlight, support, condensation nuclei, the greenhouse effect, and ultraviolet light. Even leading canopy advocates privately acknowledge these problems. Also, canopy theories do not even begin to explain the floods global destruction and geological activity. 


Canopy theories have misled many, delaying understanding of the flood, geology, and, therefore, earth's true age. The flood water came from below, not above. Failure to understand this has caused many to doubt the historical accuracy of the flood account, and, therefore, the Bible itself. Without the flood to explain the fossils buried in the earth's sedimentary layers, the theory of organic evolution fills the vacuum—an explanation that also removes or minimizes need for the Creator.