Walton's 'The Lost World of Genesis One'.

I’ve reviewed the first three propositions offered by John H.  Walton in his book The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (see here). Today I examine the fourth. Walton argues that “the beginning state of Genesis 1” is “nonfunctional”. In other words, the origins of Genesis 1 are not of material, per se, but purpose. He focuses on the “before” and “after” of a creation account and in Genesis 1 it is not nothing to something but something without purpose to something with purpose (p. 46).

The discussion centers on the phrase  תהו ובהו (tohu vabohu) in 1.2. This phrase is often translated something like “without form and void”, but Walton argues for tohu as unproductive based on recent studies of the word and its use in the Hebrew Bible (pp. 46-47). He states that in Near Eastern texts this word describes “the precosmic condition”, “functionless cosmic waters”, and “deserts and cosmic waters” outside the ordered creation (p. 49). He notes that in 1.2 we find the “primeval cosmic waters” that ancients associated with the world before it became inhabitable (p. 48). This leads Walton to conclude, “”(Functional) creation has not taken place and therefore there is only (functional) nonexistence.” There is material, but God has not ordered it (p. 48).

At the end of the chapter he compares this with the worldview of the Egyptians, Akkadians, and Sumerians. This is the worldview within which Genesis 1 was formed. The concern of the ancients was how creation functioned, and the purpose of parts of creation, not necessarily their materials origins.

Overall this chapter is much more convincing than the last two. His argument regarding תהו ובהו makes a lot of sense. This additional point supports his previous arguments regarding the “beginning” and God’s act of “creating” that he proposed earlier in the book.