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

THE CREATION OF LIGHT IN GENESIS 1:1–5:
REMARKS ON THE FUNCTION OF
LIGHT AND DARKNESS IN THE OPENING
VERSES OF THE HEBREW BIBLE

ED NOORT


Introduction

The Priestly account of the creation of the world in Gen I:1–2:4a by the word of Elohim is one of the best known and most studied texts of the Hebrew Bible. Nevertheless, there are many things we still do not know. In his commentary, Horst Seebass states concisely:

Am berümtesten ist der gewaltige Schöpfungsentwurf I,1–2,3 für den eine Formbestimmung nicht gelungen ist'.1 This means that a convincing function for the text in relation to its Sitz-im-Leben has not yet been demonstrated.

Was it recited at an Israelite, or rather Judaean, New Year Festival as Enuma elish was?2 The strong, even monotonous, repetition of certain elements, and its sophisticated character as a 'litany', would favour such a rhetorical, liturgical function. Or did it have an exclusively literary function as part of the Priestly narrative, with its subtle references to and connections with the Jerusalem temple symbolized by the tabernacle of Exod 25–40*, and will we have to limit ourselves to its Sitzin-der-Literatur?3 The general Ancient Near Eastern background of the

1 H. Seebass, Genesis I: Urgeschichte (1,1–11,26), Neukirchen-Vluyn 1996, 47 and 62:
'Für die Gesamtanlage hat man bisher nichts Vergleichbares gefunden'.

2Enuma elishi the myth about Marduk's rise to leadership of the gods during which
he gained victory over Tiamat and reorganized the universe, was recited on the fourth
day of Nisan during the New Year Festival in New Babylonian times (ANET, Princeton
19693, 60–72, 501–503; J. Bottéro and S.N. Kramer, Lorsque les dieux faisaient l'homme:
Mylkotogie Mésopotamienne
, Paris 1989, 602–697; TUAT III/4, Gütersloh 1994, 565–602;
COS I, Leiden 1997, 390–402). It is unlikely, however, that it was composed with this
particular aim in mind.

3 J. Blenkinsopp, 'The Structure of P', Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38 (1976) 275–292;
M. Weinfeld, 'Sabbath, Temple and the Enthronement of the Lord—The Problem of
the Sitz im Leben of Genesis I:1–2:3', in: FS H. Gazelles (AOAT 212), Neukirchen-
Vluyn 1981, 501–512; J. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil, San Francisco

-3-

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