Did God Create Chaos? Unresolved Tension In Genesis 1:1-2 -- By: Robin Routledge

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 61:1 (NA 2010)
Article: Did God Create Chaos? Unresolved Tension In Genesis 1:1-2
Author: Robin Routledge


Did God Create Chaos?
Unresolved Tension In Genesis 1:1-2

Robin Routledge

Summary

OT writers appear to use imagery found in other Ancient Near Eastern texts and portray creation as God’s victory over, and transformation of, ‘chaos’. This is sometimes associated with the expression תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu wabohu), translated ‘formless and empty’, in Genesis 1:2 (NIV). Recent interpretations of Genesis 1:1-2 imply that this chaos existed before God began his creative work. A more traditional view is that Genesis 1:1 implies that the cosmos was created out of nothing. This paper argues that Genesis 1 does point to God as the originator of all things, and also to creation as an ordering of chaos, with little attempt to resolve that tension. More important is the theological significance of holding these ideas side by side. One points to the transcendence, power and pre-existence of God. The other understands creation as a process, in which chaos, not unbeing, is the opposite of creation. This allows the possibility that chaos may return as a result of human sin (e.g. in the flood), and that new life and hope may be brought to desperate situations such as the exile (also portrayed as a return to chaos—e.g. in Jeremiah 4:23).

1. Creation Out Of Chaos

The Chaoskampf motif, which depicts creation as a battle between the Creator god and the forces of chaos, represented by the primaeval waters (and the monsters associated with them), is seen, particularly, in the Babylonian creation myth, Enuma Elish. This describes how Marduk, the storm god, defeated Tiamat, the primaeval salt water ocean, and divided her body to ‘create’ the earth and the heavens. The Ugaritic myth, Baal and the Sea, contains a similar motif: with the god

Baal defeating Yam who, again, represents the (chaotic) sea. This does not include a detailed account of creation and many scholars do not regard it as a creation myth.1 However, there is a suggestion that Baal’s victories over Yam and later over Mot (Death) result in order being brought to the cosmos, including pouring ‘well-being out into the earth, calmness into the fields’,2 and sending rain in its season.3 This, together with the acknowledgement of Baal’s kingship and the buildin...

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