CREATION AND COSMOGONY IN THE BIBLE


The Hebrew Bible commences with a majestic cosmological account of the genesis of the universe. According to Genesis 1:1–2:4a (the P account according to the documentary hypothesis), God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. The verb brʾ used in the very first sentence of the creation story does not imply, as most traditional commentators believed, creatio ex nihilo, a concept that first appears in II Maccabees 7:28, but denotes, as it does throughout the Bible, a divine activity that is effortlessly effected. The opening sentence in the story – many commentators think (but see Cassuto, Genesis, 1, pp. 19–20) – begins with a temporal clause, "When God began to create the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1:1), continues with a circumstantial clause telling of the existence of the darkness and void (1:2), and then in two main clauses (1:3) relates the first act by which God, by divine fiat, created cosmic order out of primeval chaos: "God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." The six days of creation fall into a symmetrical pattern of three days each, in which the creation of light and of day and night on the first day, of the sky on the second, and of dry land, seas, and vegetation on the third are complemented by the creation of the luminaries on the fourth day, living creatures in the sea and sky on the fifth, and land animals and man on the sixth. The refrain "And God saw that it was good; and there was evening and there was morning" usually follows the completion of each day's activity. The final act of creation, man, is preceded by a solemn declaration of purpose announced in the heavenly council, "Let us make a man in our image, after our likeness" (1:26). Man is then blessed by God, "Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it," and entrusted with sovereignty over the "fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth" (1:28). God, having found that all He had made was very good, ceased from further acts of creation and blessed and sanctified the seventh day (2:2). Another story of creation, Genesis 2:4b–24 (the J account according to the documentary hypothesis), describes a much more anthropocentric version of the origin of life on earth: with the ground watered at first only by a subterranean flow; the first man formed from the earth of the ground and animated by a breath blown into his nose, the first woman created from a rib of the man; and the two placed in the *Garden of Eden.

The main differences between the two accounts, whose sources reflect different epic traditions, are (1) the names of the deity: Genesis 1, ʾElohim; Genesis 2, YHWH; (2) in the first account the creation of plants (1:11ff., third day) precedes the creation of man (1:26, sixth day), but in the second before man there was no shrub in the field and the grains had not yet sprouted (2:5–7), trees being created only after the creation of man (2:8–9); (3) in Genesis 1:20–21, 24–25 animals were created before man, but in Genesis 2:19, after man; (4) the creation of man is repeated in the second account, but whereas in Genesis 1:27 male and female were created together, the woman was fashioned from a rib of the man in 2:21ff. The second account does not mention the creation of day and night, seas, luminaries, marine life, but commences immediately with the forming of man from the dust of the earth.

Conception of God

Though the style of the first account is much more hymnlike and sublime than the second, it does not reflect, as is usually assumed, a completely abstract, transcendental conception of God. First of all, though creation by divine fiat is found in connection with light (1:3), firmament (1:6), gathering together of the waters into one place and the appearance of dry land (1:9), vegetation (1:11), luminaries (1:14), marine life and fowl (1:20), animal life (1:24), there are also references to the actual making or creating of the firmament (1:7, wa-yʿaas), luminaries (1:16, wa-yʿaas), sea monsters, fish, and fowl (1:21, wa-yivraʾ), land animals (1:25, wa-yʿaas), and most important, the pinnacle of creation, man (1:26ff. nʿaaseh, wa-yivraʾ). Moreover, creation by divine fiat is not an abstraction first conceived by the author of the P account, but is found in earlier Egyptian (Pritchard, Texts, 5) and Babylonian cosmogonies. Second, that man was created in the image and likeness of the divine beings (Gen. 1:26) is interpreted by many modern exegetes in a physical sense, although the expressions must have lost their original corporeal sense in the biblical context (see Cassuto, Genesis, 1, p. 56). (For the image of the deity, cf. Ex. 24:10; 33:20–23; Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26.) The terminology employed here has Near Eastern prototypes: In Egyptian literature, specifically in a cosmogonic context, man is described as being the image of his creator god (Wildberger; Pritchard, Texts, 417); in Mesopotamian literature the king is sometimes called the "image" (Akk. ṣalmu, Heb. ẓelem) or "likeness" (Akk. muššulu, Heb. demut) of his deity (for the views of Horst, Loewenstamm, and Wildberger, see bibliography). In Israel a "democratization" (Horst) took place in that not only the king but all of mankind is conceived as being created in the divine image. If this idea originally goes back to royal ideology, it would further explain man's unique task on earth. Just as the divine likeness of the king in Mesopotamia empowers him to be the sovereign of his people, so mankind is entrusted "to rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth" (Gen. 1:28). Finally, the plural verb naʿaseh ("let us make") and plural nouns be-ẓalmenu ("in our image") and ki-demutenu ("after our likeness"; Gen. 1:26) may refer to the divine council with which God consults before the important step of creating man; though other feasible explanations have been advanced (see commentaries). (For other references to the divine council, see Gen. 3:22; 11:7; I Kings 22:19ff.; Isa. 6:2 ff.; Job 1–2; Dan. 7:10; for the deity's taking counsel before creating man, see Enuma Elish 6:4, in Pritchard, Texts, 68.)

Mesopotamian Prototypes

The two versions of the creation story have often been compared to Mesopotamian prototypes. The translation given above in Genesis 1:1ff. and 2:4bff., "when … then," is analogous to the introductory style of Mesopotamian epics. Tracing a theme to the creation of the universe is a feature also found in as trivial a work as the "Incantation to a Toothache" (Pritchard, Texts, 100–1), and in as major a composition as the Sumerian King List (ibid., 265–6), "history" commences with the dynasties before the Flood.

ENUMA ELISH

For specific cosmogonic details the most important piece of Mesopotamian literature is the Babylonian epic story of creation, Enuma Elish (ibid., 60–72). Here, as in Genesis, the priority of water is taken for granted, i.e., the primeval chaos consisted of a watery abyss. The name for this watery abyss, part of which is personified by the goddess Tiamat, is the etymological equivalent of the Hebrew tehom (Gen. 1:2), a proper name that always appears in the Bible without the definite article. (It should be noted, however, that whereas "Tiamat" is the name of a primal generative force, tehom is merely a poetic term for a lifeless mass of water.) In both Genesis (1:6–7) and Enuma Elish (4:137–40) the creation of heaven and earth resulted from the separation of the waters by a firmament. The existence of day and night precedes the creation of the luminous bodies (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, and 14ff.; Enuma Elish 1:38). The function of the luminaries is to yield light and regulate time (Gen. 1:14; Enuma Elish 5:12–13). Man is the final act of creation – in Enuma Elish, too, before his creation the gods are said to take counsel (Enuma Elish 6:4) – and following the creation of man there ensues divine rest. There is, furthermore, an identical sequence of events: creation of firmament, dry land, luminaries, man, and divine rest. Thus, it appears that at least the so-called P account echoes this earlier Mesopotamian story of creation.

Another reflection of very ancient traditions is found in Genesis 1:21. Since the entire story of creation refers only to general categories of plant and animal life, not to any individual species, the specific mention of "the great sea monsters" alongside, and even before, "all the living creatures of every kind that move about, which the waters brought forth in swarms" is striking. It is most likely part of the biblical polemic against the polytheistic version of a primeval struggle between the creator god and a marine monster which was the personification of chaos (see below). In Genesis this story has been submerged and only appears in the demythologized reference to the sea monsters as being themselves created by God, not as rival gods.

The second creation story, too, has Near Eastern prototypes: The creation of man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) is analogous to the creation of man from clay, a motif often found in Mesopotamian literature, e.g., the Gilgamesh Epic; the Hebrew name of the underground flow, ʾed, that watered the Garden of Eden, is related to either a cognate Akkadian word edu or to the Sumerian word ÍD, "river"; and the creation of woman from a rib may reflect a Sumerian motif (see Kramer).

Differences between Genesis and Enuma Elish

Nevertheless, the differences between the biblical and the Mesopotamian accounts are much more striking than their similarities; each of them embodies the world outlook of their respective civilizations. In Genesis there is a total rejection of all mythology. The overriding conception of a single, omnipotent, creator predominates. Cosmogony is not linked to theogony. The preexistence of God is assumed – it is not linked to the genesis of the universe. There is no suggestion of any primordial battle or internecine war which eventually led to the creation of the universe. The one God is above the whole of nature, which He Himself created by His own absolute will. The primeval water, earth, sky, and luminaries are not pictured as deities or as parts of disembodied deities, but are all parts of the manifold works of the Creator. Man, in turn, is not conceived of as an afterthought, as in Enuma Elish, but rather as the pinnacle of creation. Man is appointed ruler of the animal and vegetable kingdoms; he is not merely the menial of the gods (Enuma Elish). The story in Genesis, moreover, is nonpolitical: Unlike Enuma Elish, which is a monument to Marduk and to Babylon and its temple, Genesis makes no allusion to Israel, Jerusalem, or the Temple. Furthermore, the biblical story is non-cultic: unlike Enuma Elish, which was read on the fourth day of the Babylonian New Year festival, it plays no ritual role whatsoever in the religion of Israel.

EGYPTIAN ANALOGUES

In addition to Mesopotamian substrata, there are several Egyptian analogues to the biblical stories of creation, e.g., the existence of primeval water and its division; the breathing of life into the nostrils of man; man's being formed in the image of the creator god; the creation of plants, animals, fowl, and fish; and the light of day (see "Instruction for Meri-Ka-Re," Pritchard, Texts, 417; Junker, Hermann in bibl.).

OTHER BIBLICAL TRADITIONS

Outside Genesis there are a number of allusions to the vanquishing by YHWH of a great sea monster and his minions, with some traces of a belief that this was connected to the creation of the world. In the biblical version of this combat, known from Mesopotamia (Marduk-Tiamat) and Ugarit (Baal-Yamm), the forces of the watery chaos, called Yam, Nahar, Leviathan, Rahab, or Tannin, are either destroyed or put under restraint by God (cf. Isa. 27:1; 51:9–10; Jer. 5:22; Hab. 3:8; Ps. 74:13–14; 89:10–11; 104:6–9; Prov. 8:27–29; Job 7:12; 9:13; 26:10–13; 38:8–11). Recently it has been suggested (see Jacobsen) that this epic account, whose source was thought to be in Mesopotamia, may actually have originated in the West (though where in particular is not clear), and subsequently influenced both biblical and Mesopotamian literature. It is noteworthy, however, that the stories of Genesis meticulously avoid the use of such legendary material, even eschewing metaphorical figures of speech based on this mythological conflict.

Another poetic version of creation is reflected in Proverbs 8:1–31, where Wisdom relates that she attended God during the creation.

Weinfeld has drawn attention to the fact that four mythological motifs of Genesis 1 – the existence of primordial material (1:2); God's working and His rest; the council of God (1:26); and the creation of man in God's image (1:26–27) – are repudiated in the cosmogonic doxologies of Second Isaiah.

[Shalom M. Paul]

RABBINIC VIEW OF CREATION

"Ma'aseh Bereshit," "Act of Creation," was regarded in the Talmudic period, particularly the tannaitic, as belonging to esoteric lore, and the Mishnah (Ḥag. 2:1) states that it was "not to be expounded before two people." The Jerusalem Talmud, however (Ḥag. 2:1, 77c), explains that this was the view of R. Akiva, whereas R. Ishmael permitted it to be expounded. In point of fact, the interpretation of the first verse of Genesis, which is the basis of talmudic cosmogony, is the subject of a discussion between those two rabbis (Gen. R. 1:14), from which it is clear that R. Akiva was concerned with refuting gnostic views that God alone did not create the world, and the discussion of cosmogony during the tannaitic period seems to be concentrated on refuting gnostic and other heretical views which maintained either the eternity of matter or that God was not the sole creator. This emerges clearly from another passage: "A philosopher said to Rabban Gamaliel that God found good materials which He used in the creation of the world, 'Tohu, Bohu, darkness, water, wind, and the deep' to which Gamaliel vigorously replied 'Woe to that man! The term creation is explicitly used of them'" (ibid. 1:9). This reply refutes both the existence of primordial matter and the view that God was not the sole creator.

There is a difference of opinion between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel on two aspects of creation. The former maintained that the heavens were created first, and then the earth, while Bet Hillel maintained the opposite (ibid. 1:15). The former maintained that the intention ("thought") of creation was at night and the act by day, while Bet Hillel maintained that "both intention and act took place by day" (ibid. 12:14). On both of these statements, however, R. Simeon b. Yoḥai uses the identical words: "I am astonished! How could the fathers of the world differ" on this point. In the first case "both were created together like a pot and its cover," and in the other, "the intention was both by day and by night while the fulfillment was with the waning of the sun." It seems from this statement that by the time of Simeon b. Yoḥai, a disciple of R. Akiva, the need, so to speak, to disregard the prohibition against cosmogonical speculations was limited to the acceptance of one standard doctrine, the simultaneous and sole creation of heaven and earth, the "intention" being more important than the act, to which the Mishnah adds the avoidance of all metaphysical speculation: "What is above, what is below, what was before and what was after." The preeminence of the intention over the act is affirmed by the many passages, based on such verses as "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made" (Ps. 33:6), which emphasize that creation needed no action but merely the will of God ("not by labor, but merely by word," Gen. R. 3:2). The best-known expression of this belief is: "With ten words was the world created" (Avot 5:1). Especially vigorous was the rabbis' refutation of the gnostic idea that the world was created by angels. The angels were created by God (Gen. R. 1:3, 3:8) and it is specifically stated that "all agree that nothing was created on the first day, that no one should say that Michael stretched out [the firmament] in the south and Gabriel in the north, and the Holy One, blessed be He, made its measurements in the center" (the reading in Tanh. B., Gen. 1:12 is "that the sectarians should not say"). The angels were variously created on the second, or fifth days (Gen. R. 1:4). To this should be added the theory, which Philo attributes to the Stoics, that the present world was created after a number of previous experimental worlds were created, only to be destroyed (ibid. 3:7). R. Abbahu, for example, maintained that there were successive creations (Gen. R. 3:9; Eccles. R. 3:11, Mid. Ps. 34).

The world was created either in Nisan or Tishri (RH 11a). Special attention was paid to the problem of the creation of light, in view of the fact that the sun was not created until the fourth day. The anonymous sages opine that the luminaries were created on the first day, but they were not "suspended" until the fourth, while R. Jacob as well as R. Eleazar are of the opinion that the light created on the first day was a special light with which "one could see from one end of the world to the other," but it was hidden away and reserved for the righteous in the time to come because of the future corruption of the world in the days of the flood and the Tower of Babel (Ḥag. 12a). Only in the amoraic period does one find a distinct and strongly mythological element enter into rabbinic cosmology. Such statements as that of Judah in the name of Rav, "When the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to create the world, He said to the angel of the sea 'open thy mouth and swallow all the waters of the world,' to which he replied, 'Lord of the Universe, it is enough that I remain with my own.' Whereupon he struck him with his foot and killed him" (BB 74b), to which there are different variants in amoraic times (cf. PR 20:95), have no parallel in the tannaitic periods.

E.E. Urbach (see bibl.) sums up his comprehensive study of rabbinic cosmogony as follows:

"During the amoraic period the area of discussion was extended, and ideas which were previously regarded as esoteric penetrated into public discourses and into the teachings of the schools. There was a direct controversy against sectarian and other non-acceptable cosmogonies, but this polemic was not without influence and results. Ideas which prevailed in the hellenistic world found their place in the world of the rabbis. It seems that not a little of rabbinic exegesis on this subject are fragments of these cosmogonical and cosmological speculations. There are also notices of famous Babylonian amoraim of the fourth century who combined their cosmogonical speculations with theurgic and magic activity, but we do not know whether these esoteric doctrines attained a literary form."

He points out that it was only in the later kabbalistic literature such as the Sefer *Yeẓirah and the baraita of Ma'aseh Bereshit that a system was evolved (see *Kabbalah).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

Bible Commentators

Various attempts were made to explain the difficulties in the story of creation. Two general statements may be made: (1) the narrative was not generally taken literally as an act of creation in six days, and (2) the rabbis were fully aware of the difficulties which modern biblical criticism attempts to solve with the documentary theory, such as the different names of God and the double or treble parallel accounts, but they answered them on the basis of the unity of the account of Creation.

Although the fact of creation remains a prime article of faith, there is no uniform or binding belief as to how the world was created. Rashi interprets the first verse of the Bible as meaning that "when in the beginning the Lord created Heaven and Earth" and is not a chronology of creation. Similarly the differences in the names of God were fully recognized but it was explained that Elohim means God in His attribute of justice, the Tetragrammaton God in His attribute of mercy (Philo says the reverse), and the different nomenclatures and their combination teach that God first attempted to base the world on justice, but found that impossible; He then attempted to base it on mercy alone, but with similar results; and thereupon created it on the principle of justice tempered by mercy. Cassuto accepted the theory that the different names depict different attributes of God. Another explanation of the different accounts of Creation is the principle that at times the Bible states a generalization and later gives its details. Accordingly, the story of the creation of Adam in Genesis 1:27 relating that Adam and Eve were created together is a general description whose details are listed in 2:21ff., where it is related that the woman was formed from Adam's rib (Yal., Gen. 16). Similarly, the brief description of the creation of animals in Genesis 1:24–26 is expanded in 2:19–20, and chapter 2 commences immediately with the creation of man from the dust of the earth in order to expand the narrative of the Garden of Eden. The contradiction between the statement in Genesis 1 that the plants were created on the third day and that of Genesis 2:5 that there were no shrubs in the field when Adam was created is answered in various ways. Rashi, in accordance with R. Assi (Yal., Gen. 8), explains that their creation took place on the third day but their growth began on the sixth. Naḥmanides makes the first apply to "plants of the earth," i.e., wild plants, while the second reference is to "plants of the field," i.e., cultivated plants which depended on man's activity. Malbim is the first of the modern traditional commentators to accept the view, later adopted by Cassuto and other scholars, that the biblical narrative is a conscious attempt to refute known mythological accounts of creation (see his commentary on Gen. 6:4).

CREATION IN PHILOSOPHY

Ever since the initial confrontation of the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, Jewish philosophers have attempted to harmonize the biblical account of creation with philosophical theories that lend themselves to harmonization, and defend it against those theories that are incompatible with it.

Philo Judaeus

*Philo, for example, based his theory of creation on Plato's doctrine of creation in the Timaeus, but removed certain ambiguities, thus making Plato's theory compatible with the scriptural doctrine of creation (see H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 1 (1948), 180–380, passim.). Philo accepted Plato's conception of an eternal God who brought the world into existence, but he could not accept the Platonic theory that God created the world out of eternal preexistent matter. He solved the difficulty by stating that God created both the preexistent matter out of nothing, and the world out of the preexistent matter. The link between God and the created world is, according to Philo, the *logos. Beginning its existence as part of the essence of God, the logos was given by God an existence of its own. As this separate, incorporeal existence the logos contains within itself, and is the mind of, the intelligible world and the ideas which constitute the intelligible world. While both Plato and Philo described the creation of the world as an act which God "willed," they had differing notions of what is meant by the "will" of God. To Plato, God's "will" meant the necessary expression of God's nature, which led him to assume that God created the world by force of necessity, and that the world thus created could not have been any different. Philo, however, following the scriptural conception of God as an all-powerful free agent, interpreted God's "will" in creating the world to mean that the very act of creation was by God's free choice, as was the type of world created. This meant, according to Philo, that had God so willed, He could have either not created the world or created another kind of world.

Medieval Philosophy

In the subsequent development of Jewish philosophy the most pressing challenge came from the defenders of the Aristotelian-neoplatonic doctrine of the eternity of the universe, and most medieval Jewish philosophers had to come to grips with this claim. Since there were various philosophical frameworks within which medieval thinkers operated, it is possible to delineate several different philosophical accounts of biblical cosmogony in medieval Jewish philosophy: (1) Saadiah's version of the Kalām; (2) neoplatonic emanationism; (3) the "agnostic" approach of Maimonides; (4) the "Platonism" of Levi b. Gershom; and (5) the unique theory of Ḥasdai Crescas.

SAADIAH

The first systematic treatment of creation is to be found in *Saadiah Gaon. Employing the arguments of the *Kalām, Saadiah attempted to prove that the universe is created in time, that its Creator is other than it, and that it is created ex nihilo. In behalf of the first thesis Saadiah marshals four arguments in his Book of Beliefs and Opinions. According to the first argument, it is claimed that since Aristotle admits that the universe is finite in size, he cannot then say that it moves for infinite time, i.e., that it is eternal; for a finite body cannot have infinite power. The second proof is a variant of the argument from design: the combination and order of the parts of the universe imply the existence of a creator. The third argument purports to demonstrate creation on the grounds that the existence of accidental, i.e., contingent, properties in the universe implies that the universe itself is also contingent and hence not eternal. Finally, the thesis of eternity implies that past time is infinite. But if this were so, then since an infinite magnitude cannot be completed, past time would never reach the present, which is absurd. Saadiah's arguments for creation ex nihilo are designed to show that the assumption of an eternal primordial matter out of which the universe is allegedly created leads to various absurdities. For example, why should we expect that an eternal matter should be amenable to divine creative activity? (Saadiah, Book of Beliefs and Opinions 1:1–2).

NEOPLATONISM

The next major philosophical influence was *neoplatonism, of which Isaac *Israeli and Solomon Ibn *Gabirol were notable examples. Since neoplatonism exhibits a monistic tendency, it is not surprising that neoplatonists attempt to close the gap between God and the world. This tendency does not, however, easily accommodate itself to the biblical stress upon the hiatus between God and nature. Thus, in Jewish neoplatonism the problem of creation is especially vexing. Whereas the pagan neoplatonists, such as Plotinus, insist upon the eternal and necessary *emanation of the universe from God, Jewish neoplatonists were dogmatically constrained to find some place for creation ex nihilo. In Isaac Israeli there is a fundamental distinction between two primitive stages in the origin of the universe. In the first stage God's free creative power is manifested; whereas in subsequent phases nature and its forms necessarily emanate from the first products of God's power, primary matter and form. In this manner Israeli adjusted the neoplatonic doctrine of emanation to the biblical conception of creation. Ibn Gabirol's version of neoplatonism exhibits this tension in a more exaggerated form. In his religious poem Keter Malkhut (The Kingly Crown, trans. by B. Lewis, 1961), he naturally stresses the doctrine of creation ex nihilo; in his philosophical work Mekor Ḥayyim ("The Fountain of Life"), he wavers between these two views, but tries to give primary emphasis to the voluntary origin of the universe. It would seem that modern scholars are more aware than Ibn Gabirol of this problem, but they have differed in their interpretations. In general, neoplatonic philosophies tend to be static and emphasize the timelessness of the emanation of the world from its ultimate source. Ibn Gabirol's venture into neoplatonic metaphysics is not free from this characteristic.

MAIMONIDES

Maimonides does not find the proofs of the Kalām convincing, chiefly because they rest upon certain physical and metaphysical assumptions that he rejects (Guide, 1:73–74). Moreover, he rejects the neoplatonic accounts of creation (Guide, 2:21). On the other hand, he argues that neither Aristotle nor his Muslim followers have succeeded in demonstrating the eternity of the universe. Hence, the issue cannot be decided on philosophical grounds alone. For Maimonides, however, it must be decided, since to adopt the eternity hypothesis is to give up belief in miracles; for the eternity hypothesis is tantamount to the claim that the universe and its laws necessarily emanate from God. The belief in miracles implies, however, that God can freely interrupt the course of nature. Thus the question of creation is especially perplexing: it must be decided, but philosophy cannot resolve it (Guide, 2:15, 21, 25). At this point Maimonides appeals to revelation as the ultimate arbitrator. In spite of this "agnostic" argument, Maimonides does present certain philosophical arguments in behalf of the creation thesis. These arguments are not decisive, he admits, but they do tip the balance in favor of the Bible. In general, these arguments attempt to show that Aristotle's theory of eternity cannot explain the existence of anomalous facts about the universe, in particular certain irregular features of the heavenly bodies. Consider, for example, the irregular motion of the planets or the difference in color exhibited by various stars. Given Aristotle's hypothesis that the universe is eternal, and that every natural phenomenon is explicable in terms of necessary law, it is difficult, as Aristotle himself admits, to account for these irregular facts; for why should one star give off bluish illumination and another reddish (Guide, 2:22, 24). However, if it is assumed that the universe has been freely created by God, all these irregular features of the heavens can be attributed to God's free will. Thus, although a decisive proof in behalf of the creation thesis is not available, the latter hypothesis can explain the phenomena more easily than the thesis of eternity, and hence can be accepted on philosophical grounds as well as for religious reasons. With respect to the question whether creation occurred ex nihilo, Maimonides claims that this issue is not crucial for religious faith. From the textual point of view the Bible states unequivocally that the universe is created; it is not so unambiguous on the details of creation. Nor does it matter on purely theological grounds, since even the Platonic theory of creation from primordial matter is compatible with divine freedom and the existence of miracles. Since the Platonic theory has not been proven, and the Jewish tradition has generally interpreted Genesis as implying creation ex nihilo, Maimonides follows tradition. However, it should be noted, he would be prepared to reinterpret Scripture if a proof of Plato's theory were forthcoming (Guide 2:25).

LEVI BEN GERSHOM

Maimonides' doubts about the provability of creation were dispelled by his two great successors, *Levi b. Gershom and Ḥasdai Crescas. Both of these philosophers attempt to prove creation, although they do so in different ways. According to Levi b. Gershom, Aristotelian physics implies creation, even if it is the case that Aristotle did not recognize it. For Aristotle's system is teleological: it ascribes ends and purposes to nature (Aristotle, Physics, 2). A teleological conception of nature, however, implies a creator who fashions the universe according to specified ends (Levi b. Gershom, Milḥamot Adonai, 6:1, 7). Moreover, Aristotle's laws of dynamics are falsified if the eternity hypothesis is accepted. For example, according to Aristotle, the velocity of a planet is a function of the number of rotations it makes around the earth in a given period of time; but if past time is infinite, the number of rotations for every planet in past time is the same – an infinite number of rotations. Consequently, the velocities of each planet would be identical; but this is false (ibid., 6:1, 11). Unlike Maimonides, however, Levi b. Gershom maintains that God created the universe from an eternal formless matter (cf. Plato, Timaeus, 49ff.). Were creation ex nihilo adopted there would be no way to explain how God, who is incorporeal, could create a physical universe. Moreover, the theory of creation ex nihilo implies that prior to creation there was a vacuum, i.e., empty space. According to Levi b. Gershom, however, the notion of a vacuum has been proven to be absurd. He believes that the doctrine of an eternal formless matter is taught by the Torah and is, therefore, compatible with Jewish dogma (ibid., 6:2, 1; Abraham Ibn Ezra also suggests the Platonic theory in his commentary on Genesis).

HASDAI CRESCAS

Crescas' doctrine of creation exhibits a different use of the term "creation" and displays an ambivalence on the issue of the eternity or temporal beginning of the universe. Whereas Maimonides and Levi b. Gershom construe "creation" as implying temporal beginning, Crescas understands this concept as meaning causal dependency. Accordingly, the universe is created insofar as it is causally dependent upon God, a thesis that Aristotle himself accepts. Creation so construed is a temporally neutral concept, such that the question of eternity is not decided by a proof that the universe is created. Indeed, for Crescas, "creation" means creation ex nihilo (cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1, question 44, a. 1–2; question 46, a. 1–2. There might have been some influence of Thomas' ideas upon Crescas). Insofar as the entire universe depends upon God, who is the only absolutely necessary being, everything is created ex nihilo, including matter, regardless of whether it is eternal or not. With respect to the question of eternity Crescas rejects all the arguments of Maimonides and Levi b. Gershom in favor of the temporal beginning of the universe. Indeed, he maintains that the teleological characteristics of the universe, which to the latter philosophers are evidence for temporal beginning, can be explained on the hypothesis of the eternity of the universe so long as we conceive of the universe as manifesting intelligence and perfection. This line of argument, then, would seem to suggest that Crescas believed in the eternity of the universe. Yet he claims that the traditional biblical view is that the universe had a temporal beginning. Perhaps the solution to this apparent inconsistency is to be found in his sympathy for the doctrine of eternal re-creation of many universes, a view that is found in rabbinic literature (see above). This doctrine preserves Crescas' predilection for the eternity thesis insofar as it postulates infinite time and is consistent with the traditional doctrine that our universe had a temporal beginning. Crescas actually relegates this problem to a secondary position: it is not, as it was for Maimonides, a doctrine whose denial undermines Judaism. What is crucial for Crescas is the belief that everything depends upon God, which for him means creation ex nihilo (Crescas, or Adonai 3:1, 4–5).

[Seymour Feldman]

IN MODERN THOUGHT

Baruch Spinoza's monistic system denies all medieval notions of creation, declaring God and Nature to be one substance (Deus sive Natura). The denial of creation serves as the basis of Spinoza's negations of most of traditional Jewish (and Christian) notions, like free will, providence, commandments, etc, and hence gives creation a significance that had a decisive impact on modern Jewish thought. In many of the 19th and 20th century Jewish philosophies, creation was treated as a theoretical concept, describing the nature of the world and its relationships to God, rather than a cosmogonist concept. According to Salomon Ludwig *Steinheim, the perception of nature as creation ex-nihilo is the substantial teaching of revelation, the decisive difference between true religion and idolatry, and the ground for human free will as well as that of God. In Hermann *Cohen's Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism (Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, 1919, ch. 3) creation is understood as the correlative logical relationship between God, the only Sein (Being), and the world, the eternal Werden (becoming). Using his Ursprungsprinzip (the concept of primary source) on the one hand, and the Maimonidean notion of negative Divine attributes on the other hand, Cohen refers to this concept as pointing not only to the unbridgeable gap between God and the world, but also as establishing the common context that combines them. In a similar way, revelation (see ibid., ch. 4), namely the creation of reason, depicts the basic correlative relationships between the human (Mensch) and God. Franz *Rosenzweig depicted creation as the first of three relational theological events, alongside with revelation and redemption. Creation, like revelation and redemption, is at the heart of faith, namely the mutual context of Judaism and Christianity. Philosophy, as Rosenzweig maintained in the first part of The Star of Redemption (Der Stern der Erloesung, 1921), can perceive God, world, and Mensch only as isolated elements, and as theoretical concepts that have no common context. Nevertheless human experience, based on the very notion of revelation, depicts each of those three as relating to the two others, and as being revealed through the encounter with them. For the world, creation is the present status all the things, all the worldly phenomena, as "existence" and as creatures that are subject to Divine providence; for God creation is an absolute past. The only Divine attribute that Rosenzweig accepts is "Creator." Creation of Mensch in the image of God, the peak of the biblical narrative of Genesis, points to the strong connection between creation and revelation, between the consciousness of God's providence and that of His love (see ibid., part II, 1–2). In Mordecai *Kaplan's reconstruction of Judaism, the value-concept of creation is "revaluated," and means that the "conception of creative urge" and self-revival reveal God within human life and endow life with Divine significance. The myth of creation intends to confront and deny pessimism and fatalism, without ignoring suffering and evil, and endorses human responsibility and progress (see The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion, 1937, ch. 1).

[Yehoyada Amir (2nd ed.)]

IN THE ARTS

The biblical account of Creation formed the basis of episodes in various medieval mystery plays, including the 15th-century French Mistère du Viel Testament and the English Chester and York cycles. In England, too, there were the lesser-known Cornish mysteries, Origo Mundi and Gwreans an bys ("Creation of the World," ms. dated 1611, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford). Of the literary interpretations of the Creation story, the epic Semaine (1578) by the French Protestant *Du Bartas is one of the most celebrated and the most ambitious. In translation it had a great influence on later writers, particularly in England. Du Bartas' fellow Huguenot, the militant Agrippa d'Aubigné (1552–1630), also wrote his epic La Création on this theme, combining a kind of dictionary of Calvinist theology with a handbook of 17th-century scientific knowledge. Anders Arrebo (1587–1637), called the "father of Danish poetry," freely adapted the Du Bartas poem as Hexaemeron (1661).

In art, the Creation story is usually represented as a sequence, not so much following the biblical account as presenting pictorial combinations and condensations of the Six Days. Some early examples of this cyclic treatment are to be found in two manuscripts: the fifth-century Vienna Genesis and the seventh-century Ashburnham Pentateuch (Paris). Throughout the Middle Ages, the theme continued to inspire works of major historical and artistic significance, notably the bronze door of San Zeno at Verona, the mosaics of Monreale in Sicily, and the frescoes of Saint-Savin (12th century); the mosaics of San Marco in Venice, sculpture at Chartres, Laon and Salisbury, and stained glass windows in the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (13th century); sculpture in the cathedral of Orvieto and the Florence Campanile (14th century); Ghiberti's doors in the Florence Baptistery (15th century); and Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Loggia frescoes after designs by Raphael (16th century). An outstanding Jewish treatment of the Creation theme is the 14th-century Spanish Sarajevo *Haggadah, where the six days of creation are depicted with strength and boldness.

Musical compositions inspired by the Creation include various 18th-century settings of the "Morning Hymn" from Paradise Lost by John Milton, none of them of lasting importance. Milton was the inspiration behind Klopstock's Morgengesang am Schoepfungsfeste, which was set to music several times, mainly as a cantata. These included one by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1784). An English libretto by an otherwise unknown Mr. Lidley (or Linley), written shortly before Handel's death in 1759, was intended to have been offered to him. The libretto was accepted by Haydn when he visited England in 1797, and his setting of the libretto as translated and revised by Gottfried van Swieten was privately performed in Vienna in April 1798. The worldwide popularity of Haydn's Creation began with its first public performance there in the following year. Some later works on the creation theme are a Norwegian one, J. Haarklou's Skapelsen (1891; first performed 1924); The Creation (1924) by Louis *Gruenberg; a ballet by Darius *Milhaud, La création du monde (1923), scored for 17 solo instruments in a jazz idiom and inspired not by the Bible, but by African creation myths; In the Beginning – The Seven Days of Creation (1947) by Aaron *Copland; and the oratorio Genesis (1958) by Franz *Reizenstein.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

IN THE BIBLE: F. Boehl, Alttestamentliche Studien … Festschrift fuer R. Kittel (1913), 42–60; H. Junker, Die Goetterlehre von Memphis (1940), 63; A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (19512); S.A. Loewenstamm, in: Tarbiz, 27 (1957/58), 1–2; U. Cassuto, Commentary on the Book of Genesis (1961), 7ff.; S. Herrmann, in: Theologische Literaturzeitung, 86 (1961), 413–24; E.A. Speiser, Genesis (1964), 3ff.; H. Wildberger, in: Theologische Zeitschrift, 21 (1965), 245–59, 481–501; N.M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (1967), 1–32; M. Weinfeld, in: Tarbiz, 37 (1967/68), 105–32. THE RABBINIC VIEW: A. Altmann, Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (1969), 128–39; E.E. Urbach, Ḥazal (1969), 161–9. For a general exposition of the traditional view see J.H. Hertz, Pentateuch, Genesis, Appendix A. CREATION IN PHILOSOPHY: Guttmann, Philosophies, index; Husik, Philosophy, index; N.M. Samuelson, Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation (1994); A. Altmann and S.M. Stern, Isaac Israeli (1958), 171–80; Z. Diesendruck, in: Jewish Studies in Memory of G.A. Kohut (1935), 145–58; S. Feldman, in: PAAJR, 35 (1967), 113–37; S. Wilensky, ibid., 22 (1953), 131–50; idem, Yiẓḥak Arama u-Mishnato ha-Pilosofit (1956), 97–120; H.A. Wolfson, in: Saadia Anniversary Volume (1943), 197–245; idem, in: Essays… J.H. Hertz (1942), 427–92; idem, in: JQR, 36 (1945/46), 371–91. IN THE ARTS: L. Réau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 2 pt. 1 (1956), 65–76, (1923), 1–34. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: CREATION IN PHILOSOPHY: H. Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy (1987); idem, "Maimonides' Secret Position on Creation," in: I. Twersky (ed.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (1979), 16–40; W. Dunphy, "Maimonides' Not-So-Secret Position on Creation," in: E. Ormsby (ed.), Maimonides and His Time (1989), 151–72; S. Feldman, "Gersonides' Proofs for Creation of the World," in: PAAJR, 35 (1967), 113–37; idem, "The Theory of Eternal Creation in Hasdai Crescas and Some of His Predecessors," in: Viator, 11 (1980), 289–320; idem, Philosophy in a Time of Crisis: Don Isaac Abravanel, Defender of the Faith (2003), 40–66. A. Hyman, "Maimonides on Creation and Emanation," in: J. Wippel, Studies in Medieval Philosophy (1987), 45–61; A. Ivry, "Maimonides on Creation" (in Hebrew), in: Jubilee Volume for Shlomo Pines, Part II (1990), 115–37; idem, "Neoplatonic Currents in Maimonides' Thought," in: J. Kraemer, Perspectives on Maimonides (1991), 115–40; S. Klein-Braslavy, "The Creation of the World: Maimonides' Interpretation of Genesis I–V," in: S Pines and Y. Yovel (eds.), Maimonides and Philosophy (1986), 65–78; S. Klein-Braslavy, Maimonides' Interpretation of the Story of Creation (1987); T. Rudavsky, Time Matters (2000); N. Samuelson, Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation (1994); C. Touati, La Pensée philosophique et theologique de Gersonide (1973), 161–286; S. Wilensky, "Isaac Arama on the Creation and the Structure of the World," in: PAAJR, 22 (1953), 131–50; H. Wolfson, "The Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic Theories of Creation in Hallevi and Maimonides," in: Essays in Honor of the Very Rev. Dr. J.R. Hertz, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain (1942), 427–42; idem, "The Meaning of Ex Nihilo in the Church Fathers, Arabic and Hebrew Philosophy, and St.Thomas," in: Medieval Studies in Honor of J.D.M. Ford (1948), 355–70; N.M. Samuelson, Judaism and the Doctrine of Creation (1994); J. Turner, "Franz Rosenzweig's Interpretation of the Creation Narrative," in: Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, 4, 1 (1994), 23–37.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.