THE PRIESTLY COSMOGONY
The Priestly cosmogony not only establishes a physical environment. It establishes a paradigm.1
The Bible begins with the account of the Priestly Code of the creation of
the world. In the beginning is chaos; darkness, water, brooding spirit. …
The primal stuff contains in itself all beings, as yet undistinguished: from
it proceeds step by step the ordered world; by a process of unmixing.
… [C]haos being given, all the rest is spun out of it: all that follows is
reflection, systematic construction.2
For Wellhausen, the paradigm is complex. It acknowledges a “ ‘world’ if we may call it that, just before the cosmogony began” 3 (“primal stuff”; “chaos”). It presents an emblematic creative method (“unmixing” which “proceeds step by step”). It also recognizes a creative result that is antithetical to its original state (“the ordered world” originating from “primal stuff… as yet undistinguished”).
The primordial state of the world is graphically described in Gen 1: 24
The earth was unformed and void; darkness was upon
the surface of the deep; and God's wind was fluttering
over the surface of the water. (Gen 1: 2)
1 E.g., Philip Peter Jenson, Graded Holiness: A Key to the Priestly Conception of the World (JSOTS 106; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992) 216–217; and Rainer Albertz, A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period (trans. John Bowden; 2 vols.; OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994 ) 2.490–491. See also Smith, quoted in §9.3.2, below.
2 Julius Wellhausen, Prolegomenon to the History of Ancient Israel (trans. J. Sutherland Black and Allan Menzies; 1885; repr., Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1973) 297– 298.
3 Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (Mythos; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994 ) 121.
4 Hermann Gunkel, Genesis (4th ed.; HKAT I/1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1917 ) 102 (= Genesis [trans. Mark E. Biddle; Mercer Library of Biblical Studies; Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997] 104); and Nahum M. Sarna, Genesis (The JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989) 6.