And God said,
Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Read Chapter 1
Basil the Great
1. We have now recounted the works of the first day, or rather of one day. Far be it from me indeed, to take from it the privilege it enjoys of having been for the Creator a day apart, a day which is not counted in the same order as the others. Our discussion yesterday treated of the works of this day, and divided the narrative so as to give you food for your souls in the morning, and joy in the evening. Today we pass on to the wonders of the second day. And here I do not wish to speak of the narrator's talent, but of the grace of Scripture, for the narrative is so naturally told that it pleases and delights all the friends of truth. It is this charm of truth which the Psalmist expresses so emphatically when he says, How sweet are your words unto my taste, yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Yesterday then, as far as we were able, we delighted our souls by conversing about the oracles of God, and now today we are met together again on the second day to contemplate the wonders of the s...
And surely we need not believe, because [the firmament] seems to have had its origin, according to the general understanding, from water, that it is like either frozen water or some such material that takes its origin from the percolation of moisture, such as is a crystalline rock.
The mass of waters, which from all directions flowed over the earth, and was suspended in the air, was infinite, so that there was no proportion between it and the other elements. Thus, as it has been already said, the abyss covered the earth. We give the reason for this abundance of water. None of you assuredly will attack our opinion; not even those who have the most cultivated minds, and whose piercing eye can penetrate this perishable and fleeting nature; you will not accuse me of advancing impossible or imaginary theories, nor will you ask me upon what foundation the fluid element rests. By the same reason which makes them attract the earth, heavier than water, from the extremities of the world to suspend it in the centre, they will grant us without doubt that it is due both to its natural attraction downwards and its general equilibrium, that this immense quantity of water rests motionless upon the earth. Therefore the prodigious mass of waters was spread around the earth; not in...
For what fault have they to find with the vast creation of God, who out of the fluid nature of the waters formed the stable substance of the heavens? For God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters.” God spoke once for all, and it stands fast, never failing.
The waters that the earth drank on the first day were not salty. Even if they were like the deep on the surface of the earth, they were still not seas. For it was in the seas that these waters, which were not salty before being gathered together, became salty. When they were sent throughout the entire earth for the earth to drink they were sweet, but when they were gathered into seas on the third day, they became salty, lest they become stagnant due to their being gathered together and so that they might receive the rivers that enter into them without increasing. For the quantity that the seas require for nourishment is the measure of the rivers that flow down into them. The rivers flow down into the seas lest the heat of the sun dry them up. The saltiness [ of the seas ] then swallows up [ the rivers ] lest they increase, rise up and cover the earth. Thus the rivers turn into nothing, as it were, because the saltiness of the sea swallows them up.
Even if the seas were created when th...
A firmament. By this name is here understood the whole space between the earth and the highest stars. The lower part of which divideth the waters that are upon the earth, from those that are above in the clouds. (Challoner)
The Hebrew Rokia is translated stereoma, solidity by the Septuagint., and expansion by most of the moderns. The heavens are often represented as a tent spread out, Psalm. ciii. 3. (Calmet)
What of the fact that waters were in some way the regulating powers by which the disposition of the world thenceforward was constituted by God? For the suspension of the celestial firmament in the midst He caused by "dividing the waters;" the suspension of "the dry land" He accomplished by "separating the waters." After the world had been hereupon set in order through its elements, when inhabitants were given it, "the waters" were the first to receive the precept "to bring forth living creatures." Water was the first to produce that which had life, that it might be no wonder in baptism if waters know how to give life. For was not the work of fashioning man himself also achieved with the aid of waters? Suitable material is found in the earth, yet not apt for the purpose unless it be moist and juicy; which (earth) "the waters," separated the fourth day before into their own place, temper with their remaining moisture to a clayey consistency.[On Baptism 3]
A firmament: Strabus and Bede teach that there is an eternal heaven, because the firmament, which they take to mean the sidereal heaven, is said to have been made, not in the beginning, but on the second day: whereas the reason given by Basil is that otherwise God would seem to have made darkness His first work. Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. i, 9) that the heaven of the second day is the corporeal heaven. According to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii) the firmament made on the second day is the starry heaven. Chrysostom understood that the heaven in 1:1 is the same heaven of the second day.
Divide the waters from the waters: Whether, then, we understand by the firmament the starry heaven, or the cloudy region of the air, it is true to say that it divides the waters from the waters, according as we take water to denote formless matter, or any kind of transparent body, as fittingly designated under the name of waters. For the starry heaven divides the lower transparent bodies from the higher,...