in the beginning…

May 16, 2009

hebrew-cosmosI’m reading Genesis 1:1-2:4a. The first creation narrative. Written later than much of the Old Testament, in Babilon (remember that most Jews in later times lived not in Israel, but in Babilon). And it’s the most brilliant story! Imagine with me, how a Jewish father would explain faith to his little son, who have to listen to his Babilonian friends speculate about the universe and about the different gods in existence. Keep the picture to the right in mind, this is how they pictured creation.

What was there in the beginning? Nothing? No, in the beginning there was darkness and water. Darkness and water: In the beginning there was only chaos! Nothing good can come from darkness and water my son. We know that the see is the host of choas, the way to the underworld. It would have been hopeless my son, but God was there. In the beginning, all that was, was chaos and God!

The heaven of heavens did not exist, the firament of the stars did not exist, the underworld, pillars of the earth, nothing existed. That was, except for the darkness, the water and God. God and the chaos.

But then, God said, this wouldn’t do. Let us create light to take away the darkness. Let us get rid of the chaos, so that we can create a space where life can exist. God spoke, and the chaos started receding, because now the possibility of hope was there, the possibility of light, op hope! Where was the light? Well, we don’t know yet, but light was now possible.

But the water was still everywhere, everything was still water. So God said: This wouldn’t do. Let us create space for life to exist. God moved the water around. Some he sent to the underworld, some he sent up to the heavens. Suddenly, a space started to appear where it was visible that God was at work, because the chaos was moved out of the way.

But there was still no place for life to exist. There was space, but the sea was still everywhere. So God said: Let us move this sea out of the way, so that we can have some ground for life to exist on.

Finally, to really nail the chaos, God created two lights. One for the day, and one for the night. Now the chaos was really moved to the underworld, between the pillars that God created for the earth to stand on.

Then God bursted out! “Let’s make life! Earth”, God commanded, “spawn living beings”. Plants, birds and animals, big and small, let us even make fish to swin in the sea, to populate the remaining chaos. And then, my son, God made people, and God made us to look after everything that he created.

So my son. It is true, in the beginning there was only chaos, water and darkness, but in the chaos, there was God. And God got rid of the chaos, to make some space for life. And we are too look after this life. And on the Sabbath, the seventh day, we stop to remember the God who created, we stop and lister to the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that was there when all that existed was chaos.

Oh, and by the way, my son. All those gods your Babilonian friends talk about, that’s just things that God created, not gods.