Cover image for Reconsidering Creation Ex Nihilo in Genesis 1 By Nathan J. Chambers

Reconsidering Creation Ex Nihilo in Genesis 1

Nathan J. Chambers

BUY

$49.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1-64602-065-2

290 pages
6" × 9"
2020

Journal of Theological Interpretation Supplements

Reconsidering Creation Ex Nihilo in Genesis 1

Nathan J. Chambers

There is a broad consensus among biblical scholars that creation ex nihilo (from nothing) is a late Hellenistic concept with little inherent connection to Genesis 1 and other biblical creation texts. In this book, Nathan J. Chambers forces us to reconsider the question, arguing in favor of reading this chapter of the Bible in terms of ex nihilo creation and demonstrating that there is a sound basis for the early Christian development of the doctrine.

 

  • Description
  • Bio
  • Table of Contents
  • Sample Chapters
There is a broad consensus among biblical scholars that creation ex nihilo (from nothing) is a late Hellenistic concept with little inherent connection to Genesis 1 and other biblical creation texts. In this book, Nathan J. Chambers forces us to reconsider the question, arguing in favor of reading this chapter of the Bible in terms of ex nihilo creation and demonstrating that there is a sound basis for the early Christian development of the doctrine.

Drawing on the theology of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas, Chambers considers what the ex nihilo doctrine means and does in classical Christian dogma. He examines ancient Near Eastern cosmological texts that provide a potential context for reading Genesis 1. Recognizing the distance between the possible historical and theological frameworks for interpreting the text, he illuminates how this doctrine developed within early Christian thought as a consequence of the church’s commitment to reading Genesis 1 as part of Christian Scripture. Through original close readings of the chapter that engage critically with the work of Jon Levenson, Hermann Gunkel, and Brevard Childs, Chambers demonstrates that, far from precluding interpretive possibilities, reading Genesis 1 in terms of creation from nothing opens up a variety of interpretive avenues that have largely been overlooked in contemporary biblical scholarship.

Timely and innovative, this book makes the case for a new (or recovered) framework for reading Genesis 1 that will appeal to biblical studies scholars and seminarians.

Nathan J. Chambers is Pastor at Wiser Lake Chapel.

CHAPTER 1:

INTRODUCTION: RECONSIDERING GENESIS 1 AND CREATION EX NIHILO

1. The Questions

2. A Brief Overview

3. A Note on Sources

CHAPTER 2:

INTERPRETIVE CATEGORIES AND THE ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN CONTEXT

1. Introduction

1.1 Comparative Studies and Creation Ex Nihilo

1.2 Methodological Issues in Comparative Studies

1.3 Comparative Reading of Genesis 1

1.4 ‘Myth’

2. Canaanite Material

2.1 Summary

2.2 Key Text?

3. Egyptian Material

3.1 Summary

3.2 Key Text: The Memphite Theology

4. Mesopotamian Material

4.1 Summary

4.2 Key Text: Enuma Elish

5. Questions

5.1 Is Genesis 1 a ‘recension’ of Enuma elish of any other ANE Text?

5.2 What preceded creation in ANE creation accounts?

5.3 How was creation understood in the ANE?

5.4 Is the act of creation limited or conditioned by the ‘material’?

5.5 How was the world pictured in the ANE?

6. Conclusion: ANE and Post-Biblical Categories

CHAPTER 3:

‘LOVE SOUGHT IS GOOD, BUT GIVEN UNSOUGHT IS BETTER’

1. Introduction

1.1 A Sketch

1.2 What Does a Doctrine Do?

1.3 A Terminological Clarification: Creatio Ex Nihilo

1.4 A Threefold Organization

2. God Creates from Nothing

2.1 Trinity and Creation

2.2 Transcendence and Presence

2.3 The Act of Creation

3. The World is Created from Nothing

3.1 Contingence

3.2 Dependence

3.3 Goodness

3.4 Conclusion

Excursus: Does Creation Ex Nihilo Involve Historical Truth Claims

4. Living as Creatures Created from Nothing

4.1 Dual Agency

4.2 The Self-Involving Force of Creation Ex Nihilo

4.3 The Problem of Sin and Evil

5. Conclusion: On the Possible Failure of Creation Ex Nihilo

CHAPTER 4:

BIBLICAL PRESSURE AND EX NIHILO HERMENEUTICS

1. Introduction: The Sudden Emergence of Creation Ex Nihilo

2. The Emergence of Creation Ex Nihilo in Early Christian Thought

2.1 Background in Jewish, Christian, and Hellenistic

2.1.1 Early Jewish Sources

2.1.2 Early Christian Sources

2.1.3 Hellenistic Philosophy

2.2 Second Century Attempts to Formulate a Doctrine of Creation

2.2.1 Gnostic Approaches to the Doctrine of Creation

2.2.2 The Emergence of the Church Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo

2.3 Evaluation of May’s Argument

3. Biblical Pressure

3.1 Exegesis

3.1.1 Luke 18:27

3.1.2 Romans 4:17

3.2 Implications

3.3 Restating the Question

CHAPTER 5:

THE DEBATED SYNTAX OF GENESIS 1:1-3

1. Introduction

2. ‘When God Set About to Create…’

2.1 Speiser’s Argument

2.1.1 Grammatical Analysis

2.1.2 The Argument from Parallels

2.1.3 Argument from the Logic of Genesis 1

2.2. Testing Speiser’s Proposal

2.2.1 Scrutinizing the Grammatical Analysis

2.2.2 Reexamining the Purported Parallels

2.2.3 Discovering the Logic of Genesis 1

2.2.4 Conclusion

3. ‘In the Beginning When God Created…’

3.1 Holmstedt’s Argument

3.1.1 Possible Options

3.1.2 The ‘Construct-Relative’ Option

3.2 Testing Holmstedt’s Proposal

3.2.1 Homstedt’s Assumptions

3.2.2 Holmstedt’s Evidence

3.2.3 Larger Issues, Mostly Conceptual

3.3 Conclusion

4. ‘In the Beginning, God Created the Heavens and the Earth’

4.1 The Use of the Definite Article with r’šyt

4.2 The Absolute Use of r’šyt

4.3 The Use of the Qatal Form at the Beginning of Narrative Units

4.4 A Structural Argument for Reading Genesis 1:1 as an Independent Clause

4.5 Conclusion

5. Support from the Versions

5.1 Masoretic Text

5.2 Targums

5.3 Septuagint

5.4 Hexapla

5.5 Syriac Versions

5.6 Conclusion and Prospectus

6. Conclusion

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

CHAPTER 6:

THE NARRATIVE FUNCTION OF GENESIS 1:1

1. Jon Levenson and the Persistence of Evil

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Levenson’s Motivations in Writing

1.3 Rejecting Creation Ex Nihilo

1.4 Creation as Mastery

1.5 Levenson’s Reading of Genesis 1

1.6 The Relationship between Genesis 1 and Other Creation Texts

1.7 An Existential Construal of the Doctrine of Creation

1.8 Levenson’s Argument in a Different Key

2. An Evaluation of Jon Levenson’s Theology of Creation

2.1 The Need for Clarification

2.1.1 Clarifying Terms

2.1.2 Clarifying Texts

2.1.3 Explicating Enuma elish

2.2 A Difficult Picture of God

2.2.1 What Kind of Lord is God?

2.2.2 Does God Become Actualized in Creation?

2.2.3 Is it Problematic if Violence is Intrinsic to Creation?

2.3 The Ethics of Reading Genesis 1

2.4 Could Genesis 1:2 Describe Morally Neutral Given Material

2.5 Conclusion

3. Genesis 1:1 as Heading to the Narrative

3.1 An Exposition of Gunkel’s Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2

3.2 An Evaluation of Gunkel’s Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2

3.3 Reformulating Gunkel’s Interpretation within a Canonical Approach

4. Genesis 1:1 as the First Act of Creation

4.1 Two Senses of šmym

4.2 Bipartite and Tripartite Cosmological Formulae

4.3 Genesis 1:1 as the First Step in Creation

5. Further Questions

5.1 How Should We Picture the Cosmology of Genesis 1?

5.2 How Should We Conceive of God’s Transcendence and Presence in Genesis 1?

5.3 Why Does God Initially Create the Earth in an Uninhabitable State?

5.4 Conclusion

CHAPTER 7: IN CONCLUSION: A WAY FORWARD

1. Introduction

2. Creation Ex Nihilo as a Framework for Reading Genesis 1

3. John 1 and the Canonical Context of Genesis 1

4. Conclusion

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Download a PDF sample chapter here: Introduction