THE PRIESTLY FLOOD IN GENESIS:
COSMOS AND CHAOS
Cosmic thinking finds order in the inchoate.
The distinction between order and choas defines the Evangelical Christian battle to define the world. They pit a young earth against science, perceiving the question to be: 'Is this universe God's cosmos or the inchoate result of the Big Bang?' With a young earth, God guarantees order in the universe as recounted in Genesis. Without it, the Big Bang yields only chance. However, I think the distinction between cosmos and chaos actually thrives like a zeitgeist today.
Visual presentations of the universe illustrate the point. On the left, National Geographic's Universe Map displays "Our Sun's Neighborhood,""Our Galactic Realm," and in increasingly abstract language, "Our Supercluster." Although somewhat cold and impersonal, an order is perceived and displayed, perhaps to fight against the quite human fear of dislocation, like we tumbled from a cracked egg and spilled on the floor of some god's kitchen. Meanwhile on the right, "fractal order" and the Science of Chaos delights in the unpredictable beauty of the universe. Organized by the thrill of detecting patterns, without imposing a total ordered landscape, the fractal universe appeals to a different human longing. As a California surfer might say, 'lookin' to catch a wave.'
Like we tumbled from a cracked egg and spilled on the floor of some god's kitchen.
The cosmic and inchoate tug at two different strings of human desire for meaning. The cosmic at the desire to belong, the inchoate at longing itself in all its fluidity and openness to surprise.
According to Liddell and Scott, the great lexicographers of ancient Greek, κοσμος (cosmos) can mean any number of things: order such as good behavior or orderly governments, decoration such as jewelry, ruler/regulator, and order of the world. The Greek cosmos is more than just an ordered universe like the National Geographic map of neighborhoods and Superclusters. It implies beauty, it implicates behavior, it requires oversight. Turns out, cosmos is a good word for Genesis 1. The God who creates and decorates an orderly world will go on to be the God of the covenant who establishes torah-instruction (like a ruler) for a well-ordered society.
But the order of in Genesis 1 is present on more than one level. Its poetics underscore the cosmic ethos of organization, division, and arrangement that characterizes its subject matter. We might call this cosmic poetry, that is, orderly, beautiful, instructive poetry. The account of the seven days is punctuated by repeated phrases: "and it was good," "and God said," "and there was evening and there was morning," "and it was so." Tuesday furnished two proclamations of goodness, breaking the pattern and giving rise to a common Israeli mid-week greeting: "paammayim ki tov" (two times becuase it is good). Otherwise, a perfect symmetry characterizes the poetics of each day.
As it so happens, the order assumed for the Genesis creation account is not as clean and complete as the young-earth banner, (and Newtonian heritage of Protestant Christianity) would proclaim.
According to the Priestly account of creation in Genesis 1, the cosmos is not done by v. 31, (or even 2:4). It's merely the prelude to "the generations of the heavens and the earth" (Gen 2:4).