That's the whole point. Genesis deals with our nature. Because our nature is rooted in mystery, the only way to reveal it is through the myth. By over-literalizing our origins, we over-literalize our nature, which is wrong in principle.
I have read that Christopher Columbus, in order to try to show the possibility of sailing westwards towards India (as he thought), quoted from a book of the Bible, “On the third day thou didst command the waters to be gathered together in the seventh part of the earth; six parts thou didst dry up” (2 Esdras 6:42; also known as 4 Esdras): if only a seventh of the earth is water then it could not be too far to sail. However, that the sea does indeed occupy only a seventh of the surface of the earth can be easily deduced, as follows:
King Solomon in his temple, “made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round … It stood on twelve oxen … It was a handbreadth thick” (1 Kings 7:23,25,26). Now a cubit is about 45cm, and so a handbreadth of about 10cm would then equate to a handbreadth being 1/9th, or about 0.222 cubits. Hence this gives us a radius for the ‘sea’ of 10/2 + 0.222=5.222 cubits. So its surface area is given by 'pi r squared'=85.70 square cubits (using the ancient approximation pi=22/7); so seven times this gives us a total surface area for the earth as being 599.9 square cubits.
However, in the temple the sanctuary in-front of the Holy of Holies was 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits long (see 1 Kings 6:2,3,16,17, and http://en.wikipedia....ki/First_Temple
). Therefore the surface area of the sanctuary is 20*30=600 square cubits, which agrees very well with the 599.9 square cubits deduced above.
As such, the seas described on the third day of creation (see Genesis 1:9,10) refer to the bronze ‘sea’ used for washing, and so the floor containing it in King Solomon’s temple was referred to as the ‘earth’. Therefore the ‘earth’ is very flat indeed, being the floor of the temple!
This makes the seven days of creation symbolic of the temple, itself a symbol of the creation. Leviathan, and Behemoth
Further on Biblical creation, people have come stuck on Leviathan and Behemoth: “this great and wide sea... there go the ships and the Leviathan which you have created to play therein” (Psalm 104:25,26), and "Look now at the behemoth, which I made along with you; he eats grass like an ox. … He is confident, though the Jordan gushes into his mouth” (Job 40:15-24; note Job 41 then talks about Leviathan). Where are these huge creatures?
2 Esdras continues (6:47-52), “On the fifth day thou didst command the seventh part, where the water had been gathered together, to bring forth living creatures, birds, and fishes; and so it was done. … Then thou didst keep in existence two living creatures; the name of one thou didst call Behemoth and the name of the other Leviathan. And thou didst separate one from the other … And thou didst give Behemoth one of the parts which had been dried up on the third day, to live in it, where there are a thousand mountains; but to Leviathan thou didst give the seventh part, the watery part.”
Therefore, I suppose the bronze sea had images of ships and fish on it, and also a big sea monster called Leviathan (perhaps the Leviathan was a bronze tube shaped like a monster used for heating the water for the priests - just being practical! Job 41:19-21).
Note also that the name Behemoth means simply ‘Beasts’; it is the normal plural of ‘beast’, but used as a name (I think the Septuagint in Job 40:15 translates it as ‘beasts’, although the passage is referring to a single creature/monster). He is like an ox. So, it would seem likely that the twelve oxen (i.e. ‘beasts’) on which the ‘sea’ stood was referred to as the Behemoth.
What do you think?
(I could go on about the symbolism used, e.g. mountains, fountains, animals, etc., and especially about the Jordan [Jordan, ritual washing, then wild animals in the desert?!] but this post is already very long!)
(The way of thinking used here was inspired by a local theologian, see www.margaretbarker.com
. She has spoken at Orthodox Conferences: The Orthodox Fellowship of St John the Baptist, and also The Hopton Institute [well, it’s not really an institute, but some local Derby Orthodox Christians arranging talks every so often!].)