Ancient Stories of the Primeval World
One must be careful not to make overly much of ancient legends and mythology as the sole basis for historical theories. But if the biblical, creationist worldview is correct, then the earth is not terribly old and ancient civilizations would have access to stories concerning the primeval world that were handed down to them from firsthand observers. It is especially likely that insights can be gleaned when a topic is featured prominently in ancient stories from disparate civilizations. For example, there is a universal flood belief in the traditions and language of every major nationality: India, Sioux Indian, Greek, Norse, Sumerian, Egyptian, and many more (over 270 in all). In many of these same accounts there are also references to an earlier special climactic regime and even a “water heaven.”
In his classic book The Waters Above, Joseph Dillow lists a number of these accounts that have come to us via the science of anthropology (1981, pp. 113-134.). He contends that Noah and his children would have shared the events of the fateful flood year many times. Striking changes to the sky and declining ages could have made for serious discussions about the post-flood changes. After an analysis of numerous mythological accounts of the ancient earth, Kellogg concludes that many of them tell of a visible water heaven scintillating with light. (Kellogg, Howard, The Coming Kingdom and the Re-Canopied Earth, 1936, p. 23.)
Multiple ancient cultures even have legends of a “Golden Age” where people lived to be 1,000 years old. One of the common themes in these ancient stories is that a watery heaven was the original abode of the gods. Then one day, the sun god came riding through this celestial abode as the conqueror of the heavens and giver of wind and rain.
In ancient Sumer, the oldest known civilization, there are accounts of a watery heaven that had been separated from the earth. The Karen people of Burma believe the great flood was caused by water descending from a “celestial vault.” Ancient Indian literature is full of references to a water heaven and of a new sun coming to prominence. The Babylonian histories provide a number of references to a celestial ocean. Ancient Egyptians regarded the heavens as an ocean like the sea on the earth. The sun god traveled through this ocean, which was itself a god named Canopus. The Greek myths featured in the poetry of Hesiod (846 BC) tell of the beginning when there was chaos. From this, the world was created, along with Ouranos (“heaven”). The Magic Papyri equates Ouranos with the firmament, which included the heavenly ocean. There was a golden age when men lived without sorrow and enjoyed longevity. Thereafter a new god (Zeus) came to prominence bringing rain, hail, and snow. A new sun (Helios) shown through during this same time.
The first century Jewish historian Josephus wrote, “After this, on the second day, He [God] placed the heavens over the whole world, and separated it from the other parts: and determined that it should stand by itself. He also placed a crystalline firmament around it, and put it together in a manner agreeable to the earth, and fitted it for giving moisture and rain, and for affording the advantage of dews.” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquity of the Jews: Book 1, 1960, p. 25.)