Yesterday I discussed John H. Walton’s first proposition regarding Genesis 1: it is ancient cosmology. Today I want to examine the second: ancient cosmology is functionally oriented. In other words, Walton suggests that the creation of the cosmos in Genesis 1 is not about the beginning of matter, per se. Rather, creation has to do with the designation of function. (p. 23)

Walton examines the creation narratives of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, and the ancient near east in general. He finds that they share concepts void of a description of time when there was a purposeless singularity, primeval waters, a separation of the elements creation, a naming of these elements, the role of creatures, and the role of humans. (pp. 26-33).  All discussions of creation are concerned with purposes and functions. Walton writes, “In conclusion, analysts of the ancient Near East creation literature often observe that nothing material is actually made in these accounts.” (p. 33) Also, “…we find that people in the ancient Near East did not think of creation in terms of making materials things–instead, everything is function oriented.” (Ibid.)

I agree with the gist of this proposition, but I wrestle with whether the ancients made the same hard-and-fast distinction. Would they have had categories of “ontology” and “function” like Walton proposes? If not, and they are conflated, can we claim that the emphasis on function automatically excludes the possibility that they thought of ontological beginnings as well?