Introduction to the Text:
Jubilees is presented as a historical account of past events; however, unlike older historiographical texts like Kings and Joshua, Jubilees filters the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) through the priestly author’s lens. At this point, it is one of the most helpful literary texts in reconstructing the priestly community from the 2nd century BCE in the midst of Maccabean battles. While Jubilees is a treasure trove of theological and historical data, I will focus primarily on the re-written creation account.
Creation, Tohu, Bohu, and Tehom:
Ancient Near Eastern myth making took place within a cognitive environment that generally used “Order” and “Chaos” to represent alternative power structures, Order being the positive, encouraged structure and Chaos being the negative, discouraged structure. In the past scholars have noted that the tohu and bohu, and tehom, of Genesis 1:2 too a certain extent reflect the ancient Near Eastern concern with Chaos and Order.
Now the earth was formless (tohu) and empty (bohu), darkness was over the surface of the deep (tehom), and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:2, NIV)
Interestingly, though, this is seemingly absent in Jubilees’ re-writing of Genesis. Although initially insignificant, it does shed light on the cognitive environment in which the author of Jubilees wrote, or perhaps offer a guiding tool to interpreting Genesis 1:2 from the MT or LXX. I’ll briefly explore these two interpretive options.
First, we can understand the absence of the ideas as exemplifying that they were of no cultural significance to the priestly author in the 2nd century BCE. Perhaps by that time the notion of tehom as the alternative power structure of Chaos was foreign to the author. Although the divine combat motif is surely present throughout the Greek world, the absence of conflict in Genesis 1:2 may explain why the author did not notice the Chaoskampf motif within Genesis 1:2.
Second, we can read the absence of tohu, bohu, and tehom as a guiding tool for our own interpretive endeavors. Perhaps the author did not include them because we apply too much focus on those terms as subtle echoes of Chaoskampf and the text is not actually meant to be read as echoes of the Chaoskampf motif.
Of course, both options are possible, perhaps even at the same time. Even more so, there is a plethora of scholarship which I did not address, scholarship which offers other solutions and perhaps even these two solutions. Perhaps I’ll have the chance to explore this topic more fully at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
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