Posted by Pastoral Musings on September 22nd, 2012
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” (Genesis 1:1–5)
Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) texts speak of battles that raged between the gods in the chaos. Much of what was being done in these mythical writings is due to nature being personified and deified. In fact, there is a sense in which you could say that ANE religion was pantheistic polytheism, because their gods were often the deification of things in nature. Many like to compare Genesis to the ANE accounts and declare that there is a parallel between the deep of Genesis and the chaos of the myths. The idea is that the deep in the Genesis account of the creation is the same battle-filled chaos that we find in the myths. To state it plainly, it is not.
We have already seen that the deep in Genesis was the creation of God – YHWH, the God of Israel. There were no battles there. It was a calm, quiet, and peaceful deep. There were no battles there.
Some ANE texts speak of a battle between the darkness and the light. The idea was that the sun god sank low over the horizon and then entered into battle with other gods which desired to conquer the sun god and put out the light. It is easy to see that darkness and light were deified in these myths. Genesis tells us something quite different about the darkness and the light.
God, who created all things, created the darkness. Darkness is not a god, but was created. So, too, with light. Light was spoken into existence by YHWH. Light was created and is no god.
When we read Genesis we do not find a battle between the light and the darkness as it is found in the ANE texts. There was no primordial battle in which light conquered darkness, and there is no daily battle in which the sun god battles the god/goddess of the night. In fact, we simply find God speaking light into existence and then making a difference between the light and the darkness so that there would be night and day.
Perhaps there were some primitive people who feared the darkness with amazing intensity. No doubt there were ancients who deified that light and the darkness and believed that there were battles. The Genesis creation account does not present us with this worldview, however. In fact, when it comes to a battle between the day and night and light and darkness, the Genesis creation account presents us with the battle that was not.