In our study of the origins of the Torah, we have been given the task to formulate a creation story that coincides more with other sources from the Old Testament than with Genesis 1 and 2, (for example: The Psalms, Job and Isaiah.) As we look closely at these passages, we see elements of a narrative that are very different from what we see in Genesis. We see chaos, war, and a violent beginning to the ordered world as opposed to our traditional understanding of a well-planned execution by God (Stanley, p. 212.)
Why would the Bible hold any differences in this story? I was as shocked as any to encounter what seems to be, contrary, statements within the Old Testament. It helps to understand that the Pentateuch (or first five books of the Bible) is actually a compilation narrative with stories from at least 4 different sources:
E – The Elohist;
J – The Yawist;
P – The Priestly Writer; and
D – The Deuteronomist Historian
It is believed that creation stories were recorded during the Babylonian Exile period by the Priestly Writer (Lecture.) This setting gives rise to the theory of why we have contradicting information regarding the story. A couple of proposed reasons for the contradictions are:
- It was a response to a similar story, the Enuma Elish, found in the Babylonian culture. In their story, the pagan god, Marduk was credited with creation. In our Genesis version, we see a similar tale, however, Yahweh is given center-stage and all the credit for the creation. Perhaps this story was the writer’s way of assuring the Jewish exiles that their God was the creator of the universe and still in control of their destiny. (Stanley, p. 213.)
- The Priestly Writer could have also used this narrative to express God’s unending concern and care for His people, even in the midst of great trials. His ability to bring order to chaos might have been a great comfort to a people whose world was turned upside down (Stanley, p. 214.)
As we examine the ideas that multiple sources were used to create the Pentateuch, the most compelling idea I have found was shared by Jean-Louis Ska in his video, “Formation of the Pentateuch”:
“The image I use is the image of a city that was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt after an earthquake. The earthquake is the exile. Some buildings survived the earthquake, some did not survive, so some buildings are very old, some are completely new because they were built after the earthquake, and some buildings are mixed buildings, because they reused old elements that were integrated into newer buildings. I would say, with this image we have, perhaps, a way of entering into the world of the Pentateuch and the world of modern scholarship about the Pentateuch.”
The image of using both the old and the new to create something of order and beauty makes sense to me. I will look at the these writings differently from now on into the future.
My Creation Story
There was unrest among the divine council. The earth was filled with tumult and disorder. Who was to blame? The enemy of all creation, the great dragon Rahab. The One exalted above all others rose up to confront this evil.
God raged throughout heaven, searching for his nemesis, Rahab. This mighty dragon ruled the earth with fear and chaos. God tore apart the mountains, and shook the earth from its foundations, subduing Rahab and her armies (Job 9:4-14.) In His quest, he ripped apart the earth and unleashed the springs and waters of the deep along the surface. (Psalm 74:12-17.)
The Lord chased Rahab across the sky on his chariot, flames blazing from his wings. The dragon fled to the seas of earth, creating much tumult. As God pursued her, the thunder from his presence rebuked the waters, and the seas expelled her. (Psalm 104:1-9.) He crushed her and her forces, thereby restoring order and harmony to the earth. (Psalm 89:8-10)
Our God is strong and mighty. The winds and the waters obey him. Fire and wrath accompany him everywhere he goes. We fear our God, for he holds the power to destroy as well as bring order. Oh praise to Elohim, for He is holy. Who can stand in His presence without being consumed?