It has been over a month since I blogged about John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One (see my comments on proposition eight). Since I am done with my thesis defense/oral examination and through the Lent season it seems like an appropriate time to resume a discussion on the Book of Genesis! Walton’s ninth proposition continues his argument that Genesis 1 is about the inauguration of a “cosmic temple” and not about material origins. He claims, “First in line is the curious fact that the number seven appears so pervasively in temple accounts in the ancient world.” (p. 86) He footnotes this statement citing an article by Jon Levenson titled, “The Temple and the World” from the Journal of Religion 64 (1984): 288-289 and a book by Victor Hurowitz titled, I Have Built You an Exalted House. He says Hurowitz provides more than forty examples. This is somewhat helpful, but the reader must chase down these works to verify his claim. I assume his more recent work Genesis One as Ancient Cosmology will provide more depth.
This reframes Genesis 1. It is not about the creation of something ex nihilo but rather the “creation” or building, ordering, function designating of a cosmic temple.
Walton says that the temple is given its identity when the deity comes to dwell. He cites “the dedication of the temple of Ningirsu by Gudea”, the dedication of the Tabernacle in Exodus 35-39, and the dedication of Solomon’s Temple as examples (pp. 87-89).
In the Enuma Elish there is a creation epic that seems to have been used during the Babylonian Akitu festival that marked the reestablishment of the King and the deities at the beginning of the new year. Moshe Weinfeld proposed that Genesis 1 may have had a similar liturgical function honoring Israel’s God’s place in the temple, though the hard evidence for such a theory is weak (p. 90).
Walton provides one final word in this chapter. He discussion the use of the word yom (day) to describe an epic of time. He finds this unlikely since yom usually means “day” simply and when it does not it is idiomatic (e.g. “Day of the Lord”). Of course, for Walton there is no need for such a theory since this text is not about material origins (pp. 90-91).