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FIRMAMENT

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FIRMAMENT

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Dec 01, 2012 11:23 pm

• firmament •


Pronunciation: fêrm-ê-mênt • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Today's Good Word sounds as though it should refer to terra firma, but it does in fact refer to just the opposite: the heavens, the sky.

Notes: Today's is another lexical curve ball, seemingly referring to something firm, like solid earth, but in fact referring to the ethereal heavens (see Word History). The critical point here is to be careful how we use this word. It has an adjective, firmamental, which opens the door for an adverb, firmamentally, though it would seem to be of little use in normal discourse.

In Play: Today's Good Word goes back to a time when we were unaware of outer space and thought the sky was a large vault surrounding a flat Earth. But the sky was still far over our heads, so we can still say things like: "If we could get Jason Rainbow's head out of the firmament and his feet back on terra firma, we could have a serious discussion." Because it originated in the Bible, though, this word is largely used in poetic and religious contexts: "I don't care what scientists say, I still believe that what we call 'stars' are angels flying about in the firmament."

Word History: Middle English took this word from Biblical translations that used Latin firmamentum "support" to refer to the sky, then thought to be a large dome or vault over head. This noun was derived from firmare "to strengthen, support, confirm", itself from firmus, the source of English firm. The Latin word was used to translate Greek stereoma "firm or solid structure". This word had translated Hebrew raqia, which referred to both the vault of the sky and the floor of the earth in the Old Testament. It literally meant "expanse" from raqa "to hammer out, expand", but in Aramaic it meant "to make firm or solid", hence leading to the erroneous translation in Greek and Latin. Latin firmus descended from PIE dher-/dhor- "support, hold firm", which came to Sanskrit as dharma "law, statute". In Buddhism this word today refers to the immutable law of the universe as well as the teachings of Buddha. In Hinduism it refers to the laws respecting caste. But in the US it is the name of the goofy wife of Greg in the TV sitcom Dharma and Greg. (We firmly thank Kathleen McCune for keeping her head in the firmament long enough to come up with today's Good Word.)
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Re: FIRMAMENT

Postby LukeJavan8 » Sun Dec 02, 2012 1:27 pm

In teaching Scripture many years ago, I used to love this
class on the firmament in reading Genesis. Teaching it
was fun and the class was very involved.
-----please, draw me a sheep-----
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Re: FIRMAMENT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:40 pm

The wonderful play Green Pastures pictures heaven as a fish fry and De Lawd as always making more firmament to solve various problems, though no one seemed to know what firmament was. Largely a comic play with serious themes just below the surface and a potent ending. Not exactly politically correct today, but always respectful.
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Re: FIRMAMENT

Postby Slava » Sun Dec 02, 2012 3:56 pm

Let us not forget the lovely Lena Lamont: "I am a shimmering, shining star in the cinema firmament."
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.
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Re: FIRMAMENT

Postby Philip Hudson » Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:58 pm

Somewhere I heard there were seven heavens above the firmament. The Apostle Paul "Knew a man (generally acknowledged to be poetic modesty referring to himself) who visited the third heaven..” (2 Cor. 12:2). It has been suggested that the three heavens are the atmosphere, outer space and the Celestial Heaven. The first two heavens being the parts of the firmament. Cabalists and other mystics have a field day with the firmament and the numbered heavens. I have heard that stars in the firmament are angels of God, or that "Stars are the windows of Heaven, where angles peep through." These two are harmless poetry, but not of substance.

My personal belief is that the Firmament is all of space except for the Earth, viewed from a terrestrial vantage point. This includes dark matter and the more recently discovered dark energy, indeed, everything that is. The Christian heaven, although there are better terms for it, is the third heaven mentioned by St. Paul. Third is probably some vague reference to the atmospheric and universal spheres. God is beyond space and time so his abode is beyond description. In my personal thought I call it Glory, Shekinah, the Shining. It is real but it is not only out of this world, it is out of time and space. I style myself a disciple of the 20th century popular philosopher, C. S. Lewis.
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
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Re: FIRMAMENT

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Dec 02, 2012 7:24 pm

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio and all the rest of us, then are dreamed of in our philosophy. To blow your mind, if heaven "exists" outside of time and space, what does that mean? One of our crew here has the tag line "time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening all at once." So if there be a future life, does it involve another kind of time or no time. Ditto for space. Seems like we should have the equivalent of a skin that both separates us from others and connects us to them. Puzzlement. I have religious opinions I will refrain from posting on a word forum.

Meanwhile, back at the firmament, many Bible scholars feel ancients thought of the world as flat, resting on pillars sunk in the "deep," and covered with a sort of crystalline dome as the Dr said.

Re the seventh heaven, I would relegate that also to a popular worldview of the time, found in extra-biblical sources. Or to be metaphorical as in "It was heavenly! i could have danced all night."
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