Reading the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2:4a against its ancient Near Eastern background

Dyssel, Allan (2007-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Ancient Studies. Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa))--University of Stellenbosch, 2007.

Thesis

Reading the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2, one encounters two totally different renditions. The two creation narratives agree that God created the universe and that God blesses his creation in abundance. But why did the Hebrews need two creation stories so different in style? Gen. 1-2:4a seized my interest and I wanted to explore not only the milieu in which it was written, but also to read it against the creation narratives of the ancient Near East. The research was done religioushistorically. An insight had to be gained in the function and role of mythology within a cultural system and after distinguishing between folk sagas, legends and myths, different types of myths, as well as some perspectives on myths had to be investigated. Creation themes such as creation by birth, by struggle or victory, by action or activity as well as creation through the spoken word were encountered in the various creation narratives studied. Ancient Near East cosmogonies such as the variety of Egyptian cosmogonies, as well as Mesopotamian creation epics have been considered. Hittite myths were also considered, but here the result was the discovery of an extended pantheon with virtually no creation references. Thereafter I have concentrated on the cosmogony of the Hebrew Bible and the position, structure and understanding of Gen. 1-2:4a. Most creation stories revert to bloody violence between the gods. The God of the Hebrews is a God of order – from chaos he creates more than order, he creates beauty. The subsequent survey of the conception of humankind in the near Ancient East, proved to be varied as well as interesting, some with remarkable parallels. My interest was extended to placing the creation narrative of Gen. 1-2:4a in the modern era, by attempting to gain insight into the “Big Bang” theory, as well as Creationism and Evolution movements. Many motives were deducted by the research, but the idea of God creating in a “Godly” manner (bārā') and not merely give order to pre-created creations through struggle was unique. Human beings were created as the pinnacle of creation, and made to live in a relationship with their Creator.

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