God versus a Monster (Hint: Not the Flying Spaghetti Kind)

Lately, my reading has consisted of several books on biblical interpretation.  This is, in part, due to my career, but it is also because I am entirely interested in the real world behind the text, by which I don’t mean some sermonization of the biblical text so as to make it sound like it was written in today’s world.  Understanding the religious mindset of ancient peoples is difficult, which is probably why some ignore it entirely.  When that happens, watch out.  Peter Enns is great at getting to these points in a very accessible way, and so I like to highlight his posts at Biologos when I can.  His most recent, “Yahweh, Creation, and the Cosmic Battle,” is a great and brief look into one of my favorite biblical motifs.  In it he writes:

One of the ways the Old Testament describes creation is through a conflict between Yahweh and the sea (or “waters” or one of the sea monsters, Leviathan or Rahab). Sea is a symbol of chaos, and so Yahweh’s victory in the conflict establishes order. He is the creator, the supreme power. Israel’s proper response is awe and praise.

One may argue that there is no single account of biblical creation.  Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis are at least two accounts and the many references to God versus the sea monster are considered other ways of representing creation.  Even the book of Revelation is not without its many allusions to the sea monster, where the sea is the home of all that is evil (for a good narrative critical look at Revelation see this book). Then there is John 1, where allusions to both the Old Testament and Greek philosophy play together, helping to form another lens through which one could describe creation, but this one featuring the logos. Seeing and accepting all of this for what it is helps create informed readers, as I tell my students.  So I’m done pontificating, but I would heartily recommend reading Peter Enns’ post in its entirety.  If you are interested in more, see also my recent review of John H. Walton’s book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

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