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The firmament theory (to the best of my knowledge) maintains (based on a specific interpretation of the Genesis account of creation) that the original earth possessed a water canopy consisting of vapor (the most common interpretation) or ice that surrounded the earth above the troposphere and potentially up through the stratosphere. The canopy is used to explain the long lifespans of pre-flood humanity, along with the source of all the water required to produce or explain a global flood. The theory seems to hinge on a specific translation of various words used in the original Hebrew text. I have not studied Hebrew, but my understanding is that the usage of the same words in other contexts in the Old Testament does not support the contention of those words having the specific and exclusive meaning that proponents of the firmament theory assign to them. The firmament theory also has implications (again, according to my understanding) that are contradicted by other specific statements in the Bible that could not be (or have been) true if the firmament theory were valid, such as the visibility of the stars (discussed in Genesis 1:14-18).
Sometimes the question is also worded, “What is the canopy theory?” The question is based on the wording of Genesis 1:6, from which has come an interpretation known as the firmament/canopy theory. The usual explanation is that there was some kind of water or ice layer above the earth called the canopy which is pictured as follows: – Space – – Water canopy – – Sky/firmament – – Water and land – This theory supposes that the canopy was a shield protecting life allowing for longevity of life. It also proposes that some mechanism triggered the water layer, ‘the windows of heaven,’ Genesis 7:11, to break open, causing the flood. But there is a growing number of scientists who say that such a shield could not necessarily prolong life, nor for that matter, have existed at all. ‘Firmament’ in Hebrew is ‘raqia.’ It is used for hammering metal into sheets to make threads, Exodus 39:3, or into plates, Jeremiah 10:9, as used to cover the altar, Numbers 16:38, 39. Sometimes in Genesis 1, the ‘firmament’ speaks of the skies and space. In these cases, it is worded as “firmament of the heavens,” Genesis 1:14, 15, 17, and 20. This could be the concept of a dome, as it seems to look like, as perhaps in Psalm 19:1, 150:1, Ezekiel 1:22, 10:1, and Daniel 12:3. But, in Genesis 1:6-8, the situation is different. This ‘firmament’ is between the waters, Genesis 1:7, above and below. The waters above the firmament were separated into continents and oceans, 1:9. The firmament was likely a solid foundation of land mass under the surface as pictured here: – Sky, space, ‘firmament of the heavens’ – – Waters separated into continents and oceans – – Firmament/foundation of earth – – Waters below the firmament – The ‘foundations’ in Job 38:4-6, and ‘pillars’ in Psalm 75:3, seem to portray this concept of a subterranean chamber. In Genesis 1:8, the first phrase is unclear as given. ‘Heaven’ is ‘shamayim,’ but in this verse, it may mean something else. Solomon Yitzchaki (1040-1105), a rabbi in France, proposed in his ‘Rashi Commentary’ that a change in the vowels allowed for a compound of the words, ‘fire’ (‘esh’) and ‘water’ (‘mayim’). It could then be translated “fire in waters” which makes better sense of the subterranean nature of the earth. The firmament or glowing pillars in the chambers of the earth would generate heat, which would water the earth by a mist, Genesis 2:5, 6. Only at the time of the flood did the first rain come. Genesis 7:1 then describes how the subterranean waters erupted when “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up” at the time of the flood. This catastrophic event could cause radioactive elements to emerge and affect the health and longevity of people after the flood. It has been observed by some that the decline of ages at death after the flood is the same as the process of decay of radioactive elements. Because it better fits the details in the Bible, this might be the real firmament theory to consider.
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