Lately, the majority of my research has been in Mesopotamian (Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian), Egyptian, and Hebrew creation mythologies. In the research, I have learned an essential key to understanding the goal of the creation myths from these ancient civilizations. That is, the goal is a return to creation from the moment that it was brought from Chaos into Order.
In Genesis 1:2, the primeval condition of the world has often been connected to Tiamat, the Babylonian primeval Chaos. Thus, there is a striking similarity between the Hebrew creation and Babylonian creation. One common standard of ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian creation mythologies is that, after the god(s) take the heavens and earth from Chaos to Order, it is that Order which becomes the standard for the rest of mankind. How can this idea, found in the majority of the Hebrew bible’s contemporaries, help us understand the theological outlook of the bible?
In the bible, there is large focus on the idea of t’shuvah, a term used to denote return or repentance. An important aspect of t’shuvah is that a proper return goes back to creation, to how life was ordered by God. So, in light of the ancient near east, within Judaism, the idea of t’shuvah extends beyond repentance. In a manner like the New Testament suggests, t’shuvah is a return to the creator so that God may be king. More importantly, it is a sort of “new creation”. Perhaps this is why Paul writes that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone and the new is here”.
This is more than a linear accomplishment of re-creation under the rule of God. It is a return of creation to the way that it was intended to be. It is a return to the rule of God in an unblemished world. For Paul, it is more than a new world. It can be understood as a return from Chaos to Order.