OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
“And God said “let there be light;” and there was light. Couldn’t Genesis 1 be a report of the first naming of things? Before elohim arrived on the scene all was formless and void because it hadn’t been categorized and named. Elohim embedded everything inside of language and thereby made it real.”
John, I think this is very possible. Although it is a very big statement to make about so small a text. The first few verses of Genesis speak to me not of creation ex nihilo but but of separation out of chaos. Light from dark, heavens from earth, land from sea. Creation is not an act of pure unmitigated power as the ex nihilo interpreters would have us believe. I went through a stage of intense disappointment about that a few years ago. After I studied the use of the word for myself instead of reading second-hand opinions, I concluded that the ex ninilo interpretation put on it was rank and irresponsible eisegesis. It is rather an act of thoughtful artistry, separating chaos into its various strands. It is the thoughtful distinction that gives meaning to the world. That meaning is then encapsulated in the various environments that are created by the separation:
sun and moon to inhabit the regions of light, birds to inhabit the air, man and animals to inhabit the land, fish to inhabit the sea. Thus distinction brings about purpose. That, to my mind, is an aspect of language, which I regard as a fundamental aspect of the universe. It could not work without language and I could well imagine Genesis in this way. Although, to be fair to the narrative, I also feel that there is an element of physical control also being exercised there. But the physical control is surely not at the centre of the narrative. The focal point is the thought behind the creation, not the power behind it. Likewise, we too, when we have decided on names for all the different types of flower, don’t stop there and we will cultivate them and adorn our houses with them and we will physically manipulate our world in highly advanced ways. But there is, as I say, a big difference between manipulation based on thought and manipulation based on power. One enhances, one destroys.
In this primal case of creation, though, I would suggest that physical creation (from chaos) and mental distinction creating meaning are one and the same thing. This is typically what the work of an artist is and I think that God the artist is much nearer the flavour of these early chapters than is God the unkowable omnipotent.