The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics

By George H. Van Kooten | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

This volume is about the macro-creation of heaven and earth, as narrated in Genesis I. It deals both with Genesis I itself, and with the interpretations of this narrative in the successive contexts of Judaism, ancient philosophy, Christianity, and modern physics. The articles are the revised versions of papers presented at the Themes in Biblical Narrative (TBN) conference held at Groningen on June I3th-14th, 2003. As such, this theme is the follow-up of the 1999 TBN conference, which was concerned with the micro-creation, the creation of man and woman (Leiden: Brill, 2000; TBN 3).

It was perhaps particularly appropriate to deal with macro-creation (or the lack of it) at a conference in Groningen, in light of Pliny's description of the Northern region, which extends from Frisia to Groningen and Northern-Germany. Pliny, taking the vantage point of the tribes of the Chauci, described what he regarded as the desolation of the Northern people in this region, who had to live on self-constructed earthen mounds which protected them from the tides and flooding of the 'Northern Ocean': 'There twice in each period of a day and a night the Ocean with its vast tide sweeps in a flood over a measureless expanse, covering up Nature's age-long controversy and the region disputed as belonging whether to the land or to the sea' (Pliny, Natural History 16.2; Loeb transl. H. Rackham). It was in this former wasteland between sea and earth, in the congenial atmosphere of the new housing of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in the Old Court House, that this conference took place.

By focusing on the macrocosmic aspects of creation, both in the original text of Genesis I and its later interpretations, the authors dealt with such diverse issues as the creation of heaven, earth, and light, the Spirit of God hovering over the surface of the water, the role of the separation of the waters in the creation process, and the purposefulness of creation. The papers can be grouped together in four chronological and cultural clusters.

The first cluster, devoted to Genesis I and its interpretations in the contexts of the Old Testament, the Ancient Near East and Early Judaism, opens with Ed Noort's analysis of macro-creation in the text of Genesis I itself. Noort (Groningen) focuses on the creation of light in

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