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21 Chaos and New Creation

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Chapter Summary

This chapter alludes to Hermann Gunkel's pioneering work Schöpfung und Chaos. Gunkel argues that in the biblical account, beginning and end, Urzeit and Endzeit, correspond exactly, and can be understood when they are seen as developing out of Babylonian mythology. Thus in Genesis 1, the pre-creation state of chaos is overcome by God, on the pattern of Marduk's conflict with and victory over Tiamat, just as in Revelation 12, the same Babylonian combat myth allows us to understand the battle that the dragon wages against the pregnant woman, and the way he is overcome. The underlying mythology is now more plausibly derived from Canaanite traditions, especially relating to Baal's victory over Yam but the basic thrust of Gunkel's argument is still retained. In fact Genesis 1 can more plausibly be understood as creation out of a dark, empty waste than as creation out of chaos.

Keywords: Babylonian mythology; Canaanite traditions; Genesis 1; Hermann Gunkel; Schöpfung und Chaos

10.1163/9789004272040_023
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