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Creation

Creation


Creation refers to the idea that the whole universe is brought into being and sustained by a personal agent, God, who is beyond the universe. Since creation is an intentional act, God is usually said to envisage what will be created, and to intend that it will come into existence. Knowledge and will are thus attributes of a creator God.


Creation in various religions

Many religions have the concept of a creator God. In the late nineteenth century, the anthropologists Edward Tylor and James Frazer thought that the idea of God was in effect an early scientific hypothesis to explain why things happen as they do. They thought the hypothesis was false or superfluous, an instance of primitive science. Contemporaries, like Max Müller or the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, pointed to a more affective or experiential source of the idea of a creator in something like an intuition or apprehension of the infinite, or in a sense of absolute dependence (Schleiermacher's later term). It would not then be a scientific theory, but a primal sense of an unchanging, self-existent reality beyond the changes of the natural world.

Primal religious traditions usually contain some idea of a creator god, but often one who is remote and not particularly concerned with human affairs, delegating that to lesser gods. In the Chinese or East Asian religious stream, as represented in Daoism and Confucianism, the idea of creation is not denied, but it is not especially important. What is important is the Way of Heaven, the balance and harmony of nature itself, as reflecting in human life and society the order that obtains in the universe. The ultimate source of being, perhaps the Dao (or Way), is not seen as a personal agency. For that reason, these religious views do not have a doctrine of creation. They stress the interrelatedness and sacredness of nature, and they connect the best way of human life with insight into the natural order the universe should have. Chinese and East Asian religions tend to say, however, that questions of how the universe began or what a God might be like are both insoluble and spiritually irrelevant.

Buddhism shares with the East Asian traditions a lack of interest in, or even a rejection of, a doctrine of creation. For many Buddhists, the suffering involved in the natural world is too great to permit any thought of a good creator, and again the idea is seen as too theoretical to be of any practical use. The Buddhist way is one of disciplining the mind to overcome attachment, so that one might realize that state of wisdom, compassion, and bliss that is nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism, there develops the idea of bodhisattvas, compassionate beings who help suffering beings, and who may even generate from themselves worlds in which sentient beings exist. This can come near to a doctrine of creation, but the emphasis is on a plurality of liberated beings, who may be of great compassion, knowledge, and power, but who are not creators of all reality.

In general, these religious traditions find the existence of suffering too great a problem to allow for a good creator. They find belief in a creator spiritually superfluous; their spiritual quest is for compassionate mindfulness and wisdom, and devotion to a personal god is seen as a lesser vehicle or lower path. They also find such belief too theoretical, regarding it as unprofitable speculation.

Most orthodox Indian traditions, however, have developed the idea of one supreme spiritual realityBrahmanfrom which everything in the universe derives its existence. This reality can be described as sat-cit-ananda, or being, consciousness, and bliss. Sometimes, as in Ramanuja, the twelfth-century Indian philosopher, the one supreme reality is characterized as a supreme person. Sometimes, as in Sankara (perhaps the best-known Indian philosopher of the eighth century c.e.) it is said to be beyond personhood, though it appears as a person, and to be one undifferentiated reality of which all finite things are illusory appearances. It is a common doctrine that "all is Brahman," so that the Lord is the material cause of the universe, which is the Lord's appearance or (in Ramanuja) his "body." For Hindus in these traditions, all the gods are aspects or diverse forms of the one all-inclusive Brahman. The universe comes into being in order to work out the karma, the accumulated merit or demerit, of finite souls. Each universe has a finite, though vastly long, life. Then it dies, and after a period when all the potentialities of being exist in unevolved form in Brahman, they are realized again in a new universe, perhaps a repetition of the one before it. Universes come into being and pass away without beginning or end, and only Brahman remains unchanging, the one source of all.

This is a doctrine of creation, since every universe comes into being as the result of an act of knowledge, will, and desire of the Supreme Lord, who says, in the holy scriptures, the Upanishads, "May I become many" (Chandogya Upanishad, VI, ii, 3). It is usually held that each universe is necessarily what it is, and that everything in each universe is part of, or one with, Brahman. For that reason, some might prefer to call this a doctrine of emanation, or necessary self-manifestation of the supreme Lord. However, it is an act of will, not a sort of unconscious seepage of being. And in that self-manifestation, there are infinite souls working out their own karma, so that there is an "otherness" between each finite soul and the Supreme, even though they are ontologically one. It may be that the most obvious difference from the Abrahamic traditionswhere creation is said to be a free act of the creator, and where creatures are ontologically quite distinct from the creator is largely verbal. For in the Abrahamic faiths, freedom and necessity are often said to be compatible, so that even though the act of creation is "free," it is nonetheless an unforced yet necessary expression of the divine nature. Moreover, no creature can exist without the upholding presence of God, from which creatures can never be separated, even in hell. This doctrine of divine omnipresence is not far removed from the Indian doctrine that all things are, in a sophisticated sense, "one" with Brahman. There are divergences of doctrine, to be sure, but the conceptual differences are neither absolute nor unchangeable.

Hindu traditions deal with the problem of suffering by attributing it to the free actions of finite souls, in the sequence of rebirths, without beginning or end, which each soul experiences until it achieves release or liberation into a realm beyond suffering. So creation by a good God is ontologically necessary. God, whose essential nature is perfect intelligence and bliss, is not to blame. Moreover, Hindu traditions permit creaturely freedom and promise final bliss for all souls that choose it. And God enters into nature in many forms to help suffering beings, so that God can truly be called good.

Hindus would say that God is not spiritually superfluous, since the perfect state of intelligence and bliss is realized in one supreme being, and to know the supreme being is the greatest happiness for finite souls. Nor is God a speculative concept, since the doctrine of creation is not primarily a doctrine about the beginning of the universe (there have always been universes). It is a doctrine about the present union of all finite beings with and their dependence on the one Supreme Lord, conscious realization of which is the supreme spiritual goal.


Abrahamic faiths

In the Abrahamic faiths, mainly Judaism, Islam and Christianity, there is a shared doctrine that the universe is the creation of one supreme and perfect God. This is usually said to be a free, nonnecessitated act of bringing into being things other than God. In Christianity, creation is through the Logos, the eternal Son, who is construed as the archetype of all creation and the uncreated image of the divine Wisdom. So the universe is seen to be contingentit did not have to be as it isand yet supremely rational. Some have argued that such a belief made modern science possible because it encouraged the view that nature can be understood by reason, that it is ordered and unitary, having one rational creator, yet because it is contingent, observation is necessary to discern its laws. Moreover, since nature is not divine, but it is a created object, humans can investigate it without offending the spirits. It may even be held that such investigation, at first encouraged but also impeded by the excessive authority given by the Church to Aristotle in the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, really began to flourish only when, after 1500, that Church authority was challenged by the Reformation. So the scene was set for the rise of the natural sciences in a European culture in which reliance on close observation, insistence on critical freedom, and belief in the rational structure of nature all coalesced in one dynamic matrix.

The word creation has usually been used to refer to the origin of the universe, but theologically it has always been clear that it more properly refers to the relationship of every time and place to God. In this sense, when and how the universe originated is not of primary importance. Some theologians and scientists have held that if the universe can be shown to have a beginning in time, this would raise the probability that it was created. For many years it was argued that if the universe had no beginning in time, the universe would not be created, since it would necessarily always be there. Medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas argued in Summa Theologica (1a; qq. 46, art. 2) that this view is a misunderstanding. If creation means that nothing can exist unless it is part of a world-system that God wills, it does not matter whether that system has existed forever or if it had a beginning. What the believer needs to know is not that God was needed to start the universe, but that the universe, whatever its age or size, could not exist at any moment without a self-existent creator. The doctrine of creation depends on the truth of the assertion that the material universe is not self-existent, and that it can reasonably be seen as the effect of a free act of a conscious being that is of supreme valueGod.

Creation and science

All the great religious traditions formulated their views of the universe long before the rise of modern science, and they incorporate theoretical beliefs that need to be reconstructed if the findings of science are to be fully accepted. East Asian traditions in practice embody many quasi-magical practicesFeng Shui and astrology, for examplethat would be regarded by most scientists as superstitious, and based on misunderstanding of or simple errors about how the laws of nature work. In the Indian traditions, the ideas of rebirth and of the soul as distinct from matter create tensions with evolutionary biology, neurophysiology, and genetics in particular. The Abrahamic faiths have traditionally believed in six-day creation, in a primal paradisal state without suffering or death, and in a very short history for the universe, with earth at its center, all of which is rendered obsolete by evolutionary cosmology, with its fifteen billion year history for the universe, and belief in the principle of natural selection as at least a major driving force of biological evolution.

If religious belief in creation is not primarily a speculative hypothesis, but an existential apprehension of dependence on a transcendent reality, these traditional beliefs can be revised without much difficulty. They can simply be said to express spiritual insights into the limited terms of their understanding of the universe. Their creation stories can be seen as myths, as primarily symbolic attempts to depict the human situation of alienation from a supreme transcendent reality, and the way to overcome that alienation.

It will remain important, and it is part of the drive to understanding that motivates science, to have some view, however provisional, of how the universe relates to the transcendent spiritual goal of religion. The scientific investigation of nature is important to religion because it reveals the sort of universe there is, and therefore by implication the way in which the universe could be related to a transcendent reality. If this is an evolutionary universe, in which consciousness and freedom evolve from a simple primal singularity as emergent properties of matter itself, and if this happens through the interplay of mathematically ordered laws and processes of random variation and natural selection, a number of questions need to be asked before a doctrine of creation could seem plausible. One will need to ask whether the system is well-designed, whether it shows signs of rational order or of creative freedom, whether it can be seen as purposive or directional, and whether it could be willed by a being who can be termed good.

Since humans will in all likelihood continue to give different answers to these questions, the "religious transcendent" will not always be interpreted in terms of a creator god. Many in the renouncing traditions will continue to focus on an "impersonal" state of wisdom, compassion, and bliss which has no causal role in the universe, but which can be attained by humans. In the Western Christian tradition, the element of design has been so strongly emphasized that sometimes the universe has been seen as a quasi-machine, with the creator as a cosmic clockmaker. However, some contemporary theologians, like Arthur Peacocke, have preferred to picture God as an artist, expressing the divine being in creation. Process theologians have adopted an even more organic view of the relation between the universe and its creator. In this respect they have drawn nearer to the dominant Indian traditions, which speak of the creation as "one" with the creatormeaning that the universe realizes elements of the divine nature that are in some way essential to its being what it is.

Often a contrast is drawn between Indian cyclic view of time and Semitic linear views. It is true that the Indian tradition speaks of vast repetitive cycles of creation, and the Semitic tradition speaks of this universe as having a definite beginning, end, and purpose. But it needs to be remembered that even the early Christian theologian Augustine acknowledged in Book 11 of City of God that God could create many universes, and for Indian thinkers each universe can be said to have the purpose of expressing the creative play of Brahman, of working out the destiny of souls, and of making liberation possible. Both these traditions agree that, however finite or infinite time may be, however repetitive or creatively new, it is wholly dependent on the intentional act of a being of supreme value that is supra-temporal. That is the heart of the idea of creation. It is widely shared between Semitic and Indian religious traditions. And while some revision of the original creation myths of these traditions is required by science, the new understanding of the cosmos that science brings may well be felt not to challenge a basic belief in creation, but to increase a sense of the wisdom, power, and infinity of the creator.


See also Creatio Continua; Creatio Ex Nihilo; Design; Genesis; Life, Origins of


Bibliography

frazer, james. the golden bough (1922), abridged edition. london: penguin, 1996.

harvey, peter. an introduction to buddhism: teachings, history and practices. cambridge, uk, and new york: cambridge university press, 1990.

lott, eric. vedantic approaches to god. new york: harper, 1980.

müller, f. max. introduction to the science of religion (1873). varanasi, india: bharata manisha, 1972.

paley, william. natural theology (1802). new york: harper & brothers, 1847.

peacocke, arthur. creation and the world of science. new york: oxford university press, 1979.

polkinghorne, john. science and creation: the search for understanding. boston: new science library, 1989.

richardson, w. mark, and wildman, wesley j., eds. religion and science: history, method, and dialogue. new york: routledge, 1996.

schleiermacher, friedrich. the christian faith. (1830-1831), trans. hugh r. mackintosh and james s. stewart (1928). edinburgh, uk: t&t clark, 1989.

tylor, edward b. primitive culture (1929). gloucester, mass.: peter smith, 1970.

ward, keith. religion and creation. london: oxford university press, 1996.

yao, xinzhong. an introduction to confucianism. new york: cambridge university press, 2000.

keith ward

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Creation

138. Creation

  1. Adam and Eve first man and woman. [O.T.: Genesis 1:26, 2:2125]
  2. Allah made man from flowing blood. [Islam: Koran, 96:2]
  3. Apsu primeval waters, origin of all things. [Babyl. Myth.: Leach, 68]
  4. Aruru goddess pinched man, Enkidu out of clay. [Assyrian Myth.: Gaster, 9, Babyl. Myth.: Gilgamesh ]
  5. Askr first man; created from ash tree. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 58]
  6. Ea made man from primordial ocean clay. [Babyl. Myth.: Gaster, 9]
  7. Embla first woman on earth. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 58]
  8. Frankensteins monster living man created by a physiology student from body parts. [Br. Lit.: Mary Shelley Frankenstein ]
  9. Genesis Old Testament book dealing with worlds creation. [O.T.: Genesis]
  10. God created the world in six days. [O.T.: Genesis 1]
  11. the Hatchery mass produces everything, including human beings. [Br. Lit.: Brave New World ]
  12. Khnum ram god, created man from clay on potters wheel. [Egypt. Rel.: Parrinder, 155]
  13. Prometheus molded man of clay, animated him with fire. [Gk. Myth.: Wheeler, 304]
  14. Shiva Lord of creation; danced to begin life. [Hinduism: Binder, 23]
  15. Star Maker, the the creator and destroyer of the universe, depicted primarily as an artist detached from it. [Sci. FL: Stapledon Star Maker in Weiss, 248]
  16. Tocupacha molded man from clay. [Aztec Myth.: Gaster, 18]

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Creation Stories

Creation Stories

People have long wondered how the world came into being. They have answered the question with stories that describe the origin of the universe or the world and usually of human life as well. Creation myths, known as cosmogonies, express people's understanding of the world and their place in it.

The world's mythologies and religions offer an immense variety of creation stories. Yet scholars have discovered that the cosmogonies of different cultures fall into broad categories and contain many shared themes.




epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style

Forms and Themes of Creation

Some creation stories, such as those of Africa and Polynesia, existed for years in spoken form but were not written down until recently. Other cultures preserved their cosmogonies in written texts, and some of these have survived from ancient times. The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, written thousands of years ago, tells how people in Mesopotamia* explained the beginning of the world. A Mayan text called the Popol Vuh describes the creation of the ancestors of the Maya.


Types of Creation. Some methods of creation appear again and again in cosmogonies from different parts of the world. One of the most common images is a description of the beginning of the world as a birth, a kind of creation familiar to everyone. The birth may result from the mating of a pair of cosmic parents. The Maori of New Zealand, for example, say that the union of Rangi and Papa (Father Sky and Mother Earth) produced all things.

The hatching of an egg is another familiar kind of birth. Some creation myths tell of a cosmic egg containing the seeds or possibilities of everything. The hatching of the egg lets the possibilities take form. The Hindu texts known as the Upanishads describe the creation of the world as the breaking of a cosmic egg.

Another type of cosmogony says that the actions, thoughts, or desires of a supreme being or creator god brought the world into existence. The book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible tells how God created the world and everything in it. Other accounts of creation by a supreme being can be found in many regions, from the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan to the island of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America.

Sometimes the created order simply emerges from a primal chaosa state of disorder. In Norse* mythology, the scene of creation is an emptiness of wind and mist until clouds form and harden into the frost giant Ymir, from whose body the world is made. Many Native American myths tell how animals and people appeared on earth by climbing out of a chaotic or primitive underworld.

The primal chaos is often a flood or a vast expanse of water. The people of ancient Egyptwho relied on the yearly floods of the Nile River to support their agriculturesaid that before creation there existed only Nun, a watery abyss. In some flood myths, creation takes place as the waters recede or as land rises. In others, an earth diver, a bird or an animal, plunges to the bottom of the water and brings up mud that becomes the earth. Such myths, which are common among Native Americans, seldom explain where the mud or the earth-diving creature came from. Many cosmogonies concern the shaping or ordering of the world rather than its creation from nothingness. They often begin with some substance, being, or active force already in existence.

In some mythologies, the creation of people occurs through emergence from the earth. Native American groups such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo say that the first people traveled though a series of lower worlds to reach their permanent home. In some stories, a flood forces the occupants of the lower worlds to climb upward until they arrive on the surface.

cosmic large or universal in scale; having to do with the universe

primal earliest; existing before other things

underworld fand of the dead

abyss very deep gulf or hole

Themes in Creation Myths. In explaining how creation led to the world as it now exists, cosmogonies explore several basic themes. Most creation myths illustrate one or more of these themes.


The theme of separation or differentiation deals with the forming of distinct things out of what was once a formless unity. Separation may be a physical act. In Polynesian myth, for example, the children of Mother Earth and Father Sky force their parents apart so that the world can exist between them. Cosmogonies may describe creation as taking place in stages that mark the process of differentiation. The Old Testament says that God took six days to create light and darkness, the heavens, the earth and plants, the sun and moon, the sea creatures and animals, and the first people.

A second theme is imperfection. According to many cosmogonies, the creator planned to make a perfect world, but something went wrong. As a result, flaws such as evil, illness, and death entered the creation. The Dogon of West Africa say that the world is imperfect because one of a pair of twins broke out early from the cosmic egg. The Hawaiians relate that the earth goddess Papa cursed humans with death after she discovered an incestuous affair between her husband and daughter.

Dualism, or tension between opposing forces, is an underlying theme of many creation stories, especially those that revolve around conflict. Greek myths about the war between the Titans* and the gods are just one example of conflict between cosmic parents and their offspring. Sometimes the conflict involves twins or brothers. Some Native Americans of the northeast woodlands explain that the world is the way it is because two gods played a role in its creation. Gluskap, good and wise, created plants, animals, and people. His evil, selfish brother Malsum made poisonous snakes and plants.

The theme of sacrifice reflects the idea that life is born out of death. Someone must die, or at least shed blood, before the world and life can begin. The Enuma Elish tells how the god Marduk killed the primeval goddess Tiamat and cut her body into two parts that became the heavens and the earth. Sometimes the first people are made from a god's blood, perhaps mixed with dust or clay. Creation may also involve the slaying of a primal beast or monster.

A few cosmogonies describe cycles in which the world is created and destroyed a number of times. Hindu scriptures say that Brahma* has remade the world many times. Four ages, or yugas, make a kalpa, or eon. When a kalpa ends, creation dissolves into chaos.

The Omaha Big Bang

Modern scientists think that the universe began billions of years ago with an explosion of matter and energy called the Big Bang. The Native American Omaha people have their own "big bang" account of creation. At first all living things were spirits floating through space, looking for a place to exist in bodily form. The sun was too hot. The moon was too cold. The earth was covered with water. Then a huge boulder rose out of the water and exploded with a roar and a burst of flame that dried the water. Land appeared. The spirits of plants settled on earth. Animal spirits followed. Finally the spirits of people took bodily form on earth.

differentiation process of becoming different and separate from another thing

The Aztecs of Mexico believed that the present world was the fifth that the gods had created. It was fated to end in universal destruction by earthquakes. The four previous worlds had been destroyed by a great flood, the falling of the sky, a fire storm, and a wind storm. The Maya believed that the gods made three unsuccessful attempts to create human beings before achieving a satisfactory result. Their first creationsanimals, people made of mud, and wooden peopledisappointed them in various ways, and they abandoned or destroyed them. Finally, the gods made people of maize (corn) who were perfect, so perfect that their creators clouded their vision to prevent them from seeing too far.

Stories of the Great Beginning

Every region of the world has produced numerous creation stories, and some cultures and religions have more than one. A sampling of myths from various sources shows both the endless variety of cosmogonies and the similarities in their structures and themes.


Africa. Some African creation myths feature a huge snake, often identified with the rainbow, whose coils make up the universe. In West and Central Africa the idea of creation from a cosmic egg is common.

Twins or paired, dualistic powers appear in many African creation stories. The Fon of West Africa tell of the first mother, Nana Buluku, who gave birth to the twins Mawu (moon) and Lisa (sun), the parents of all the other gods, who were also born in sets of twins. Some African cosmogonies, however, are less concerned with the creation of the physical universe and the gods than with the appearance of the first man and first woman and the ordering of human society.

The notion of a supreme creator god appears throughout Africa. The Bushongo people of the Congo region called the creator Bumba. He was the sole inhabitant of a watery universe until he vomited up the sun, which dried the water. Then he vomited up the first animals and people.


The Americas. The Incas of South America claimed that darkness covered the earth until the god Con Tiqui Viracocha rose out of a lake, bringing with him the first people. He made more people out of rocks, then sent them out to populate the whole world. When these inhabitants rebelled against Con Tiqui Viracocha, he punished them by stopping the rainfall. A god named Pachachamac overthrew Con Tiqui Viracocha and created a new race of people, the ancestors of humans.

Creation myths of Native Americans generally explain how the world took its present form, including the origins of human culture. Some tales feature a creator god or pair of gods, such as the Sun Father and Moonlight-giving Mother of the Zuni people. Many groups, including the Cheyenne, have stories of an earth diver.

Indians of the Southwest may have developed myths of emergence because their agricultural way of life led them to think of growth as a movement upward from below the earth's surface. The Hopi of Arizona say that creation brought four worlds into existence. Life began in the bottom level or cave, which eventually grew dirty and crowded. A pair of twin brothers carried plants from heaven, and the people climbed up the cane plant into the second cave. When that place became too crowded, they climbed up again into the third cave. Finally, the brother gods led the people out into this world, the fourth level of creation.

dualistic consisting of two equal and opposing forces

Near East. The ancient Egyptians believed that before the world existed there was only Nun, the watery nothingness. Then a mound of land rose, giving the first deity a place to live. In some accounts, the first deity took the form of a bird. Others said that a lotus flower containing a god rose from the water. Cults developed around several Egyptian creator gods: Amun and Atum, the sun gods; Khnum, who made men and women from clay and breathed life into them; and Ptah, who created the other gods by saying their names.

Among the Semitic* creation myths of western Asia is the story of how God formed the world, the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve, the first parents. It is the cosmogony of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.

In the dualistic Persian or Iranian cosmogony, the good and wise lord Ahura Mazda began creation by sending beams of light into an abyss where Ahriman, lord of evil and sin, lived. Ahura Mazda cast Ahriman into hell for 3,000 years. This gave Ahura Mazda time to create spirits of virtue, angels, and the creatures of earth, including Gayomart, the first man. When Ahriman's time in hell ended, he created flies, germs, pests, and other evils. One of his wicked followers brought disease and death to Gayomart, but a plant that grew from Gayomart's remains bore fruit that became the human race.

Asia. Japanese tradition, preserved in a volume of mythological history called the Kojiki, says that before creation there was an oily sea. Gods came into being in the High Plains of Heaven. After seven generations of deities came the first human ancestors, whose task was to make solid land. They stirred the sea with a jeweled spear. Drops that fell from the spear formed the islands of Japan.

A Chinese creation myth tells how Pan Gu hatched from a cosmic egg. One part of the eggshell formed the heavens; the other part became the earth. For 18,000 years, Pan Gu stood between them, keeping them apart by growing ever taller. Finally he became weary, lay down, and died. From his eyes came the sun and moon, from his hair the stars, from his breath the wind, and from his body the earth.

deity god or goddess

cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god

Indian mythology, linked to both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions, contains many creation stories. Hindus often speak of Brahma as the creator god who brought the universe into being through his thoughts. Sometimes creation involves the sacrifice of a primal being such as Purusha, from whose body all the gods were made. Other myths describe the breaking of a cosmic egg or the union of heaven and earth as cosmic parents.

Australia and the Pacific. In the mythology of Australia's native peoples, the period of creation was called Dreamtime, or The Dreaming. During this time, ancestral beings created the landscape, made the first people, and taught them how to survive. Some Aboriginal myths tell of a great flood that destroyed the previous landscape and the former society. According to many accounts, a great serpent caused the flood when he became angry with the ancestral people.

The vast Pacific Ocean contains the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian island groups, which produced a variety of cosmogonies. Not surprisingly, many of these myths involve water.

According to some Polynesians, a creator god named Tangaloa sent a bird messenger over an endless primal sea. At last Tangaloa threw a rock into the sea so the tired bird would have a place to land. Then the god created all the islands in the same way. The bird made the first people by giving arms, legs, hearts, and souls to maggots. Other Polynesian stories describe creation as the union of two opposing qualities: Po (darkness) and Ao (light). Polynesian and Micronesian cosmogonies often include the act of separating the earth from the sky. Melanesian creation myths generally involve ancestral heroes who wander from place to place, forming the landscape and creating the rules of society.

Related Entries

Other entries related to creation stones are listed at the end of this article.

Europe. Norse creation myths tell how the giant Ymir took shape in the huge icy emptiness called Ginnungagap. Ymir's great cow licked the ice, creating the first gods, including Odin* . The gods killed Ymir and divided his body into a series of worlds on three levels: Asgard, the realm of gods; Midgard, the realm of people, giants, dwarfs, and elves; and Niflheim, the realm of the dead. The gods created the first man and woman from an ash tree and an elm tree. (The creation of people from trees has a parallel in Native American stories about Gluskap making man from an ash trunk.)

Greek cosmogonies, echoed by the Romans, begin with birth and end with struggle. Gaia, the earth mother, emerged from chaos and gave birth to Uranus, the sky. The union of Uranus and Gaia produced plants, animals, and children, the Titans. Imprisoned by their father, the Titans overthrew Uranus, only to be overthrown by their own children, the gods. Another Greek creation myth, possibly borrowed from the ancient Near East, combines many images and themes. It tells how a primal goddess emerged from the waters of chaos. Her union with a serpent produced a cosmic egg that split to become the heaven and the earth.

See also African Mythology; Australian Mythology; Aztec Mythology; Buddhism and Mythology; Celtic Mythology; Chinese Mythology; Dreamtime; Egyptian Mythology; Enuma Elish; Finnish Mythology; Floods; Gluskap; Greek Mythology; Hinduism and Mythology; Inca Mythology; Japanese Mythology; Mayan Mythology; Melanesian Mythology; Micronesian Mythology; Native American Mythology; Norse Mythology; Persian Mythology; Polynesian Mythology; Roman Mythology; Semitic Mythology; Upanishads.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

[See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

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Creation, The

Creation, The (Die Schöpfung). Oratorio for sop., ten., bass, ch., and orch. by Haydn, comp. 1796–8, at suggestion of Salomon to text by unknown Eng. author trans. into Ger. by Baron Gottfried van Swieten who also provided a re-trans. into Eng. (later modified). F.p. Vienna 1798, London 1800, Boston, Mass. (complete) 1819. Contains famous sop. aria ‘With verdure clad’ and ch. ‘The heavens are telling the glory of God’. A trans. by Haydn's London friend Mrs. Anne Hunter has recently been discovered and used in perf.

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creation

cre·a·tion / krēˈāshən/ • n. 1. the action or process of bringing something into existence. ∎  a thing that has been made or invented, esp. something showing artistic talent: she treats fictional creations as if they were real people. 2. (the Creation) the bringing into of existence of the universe, esp. when regarded as an act of God. ∎  everything so created; the universe. 3. the action or process of investing someone with a new rank or title.

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Creation, the

Creation, the the bringing into existence of the universe, especially when regarded as an act of God. Creationism is the term given to the belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural processes such as evolution.
creation science the reinterpretation of scientific knowledge in accord with belief in the literal truth of the Bible, especially regarding the origin of matter, life, and humankind.

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Creation

Creation: see COSMOLOGY.

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creation

creationashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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Creation

CREATION

The scriptural presentation of creation is treated first in this article, prefaced, however, by some attention to the Near Eastern literary context. There follows a dogmaticotheological consideration of creation.

1. IN THE BIBLE

Israel's concept of creation as it is found in the Bible must be studied in its ancient Near Eastern setting; for it

borrowed, purified, elevated and added to the creation concepts of the ancient East. Therefore, this section describes the concept of creation outside Israel and the concept of creation in Israel in the preexilic, the exilic, and the postexilic writings of the Old Testament, followed by a brief treatment of the development of the creation concept in the New Testament and a discussion of the iconography of creation.

In the Ancient Near East. The Old Babylonian creation concept as it is found in the enuma elish (J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 6072) begins with Apsu and Tiamat, male and female deities, begetting other gods. Apsu is slain by his offspring Ea. Tiamat, after an epic battle, is slain by marduk, Ea's son, after he has been proclaimed chief god. From her remains Marduk fashions the world. Kingu, Tiamat's counselor, is slain; and from his blood mankind is fashioned.

According to the Egyptian theology of Heliopolis, Atum-Re, after being produced from Nun (waters of chaos), fertilized himself through masturbation and then sputtered out Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture), putting his vital force, or ka, in them. They in turn produced Geb (earth), Nut (sky), and the other gods (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 34, 67). The same account says that men came into being from the tears that came forth from the eye of ra (re). At nearby Memphis the god Ptah was the creator, and all the living beings came into existence from what his heart thought and his tongue commanded (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 5). At Elephantine, near Aswan, it was said that all living beings were fashioned on a potter's wheel by the god Khnum.

In Canaan the god El bore the title of "creator of creatures" and also "father (i.e., creator) of men," and his consort, Asherah, "progenitress of the gods" (Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 131132). In some cases these gods fashioned things from matter; in others they produced them from their own being; but they themselves came from primordial matter. The Israelites were familiar with these and many other stories. J. L. McKenzie (77) says, after discussing the Mesopotamian myth: "Against this background, the Hebrew account of origins can scarcely be anything else but a counterstatement to the myth of creation." But it is a counterstatement clothed in familiar imagery.

In Genesis 1. "Creation account" is the name given to Gn 1.12.4a, which literary critics ascribe to the Pentateuchal

priestly writers. By this story the salvation history of Israel is introduced in solemn and majestic tones, a veritable liturgy of the primordial manifestation of God's saving activity. An examination of its literary structure and an attempt to determine its literary genre in the light of modern discoveries of the ancient past will help one to see how modern exegesis has developed the traditional interpretation of the passage.

Structure. The account is characterized by a very schematic arrangement in which the same formulas, or their general equivalents, are successively repeated. This is particularly true of the hexaemeron, or six-day work of creation (Gn 1.331), although the seventh-day rest (Gn 2.2b3) is an equally essential element of the story. The first verse seems to be a kind of title verse. It may have superseded, or even have been originally combined with, Gn 2.4a, a formula type introduction used ten times in Genesis. The introduction to the account (Gn 1.2) is a description of an emptiness that breathes a certain air of expectancy; God's spirit is poised for action. The words of 2.12a form a conclusion to the six-day work, but the grand climax is the seventh-day rest.

Eight distinct works are involved in the six-day period, two on the third and two on the sixth day. This may be a sign that a more ancient form of the account has been adapted to the six-day framework in order to express a new idea. There is also a parallelism between the first three days and the last three days. Various sections of the cosmos are first created, then they are adorned with moving objects. The literary elements of the "first day"(1.35) can be designated by letters: AGod's word (3a); BThe word creates (3b); CGod's complacency (3c); DThe work described (4); ENaming, or blessing, E2 (5a); FDay concluded (5b). The following pattern for the six-day narration then emerges: The text followed here is the Confraternity (CCD) translation, which is from the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT) with some corrections from the septuagint (LXX). The LXX has a tendency to fill out the pattern where elements seem to be lacking in the MT. However, one cannot say a priori that the original pattern must have been perfectly symmetrical (A B D E C F) throughout. Intentional variation of pattern, as well as expansion or alteration of literary formula, for the sake of literary effect or theological emphasis is part of the composer's artistry. The creation of the astral bodies (1.14) has a theological significance. The creation of man is a definite climax that is expressed by means of the deliberative form of command (1.26), by the repetition in poetic meter (1.27), and by the twofold blessing (1.2830). The final note of divine complacency also is emphasized (1.31a).

Doctrine. The first chapter of Genesis presents certain teachings about God, about man, about the sabbath, and about salvation history.

God. Genesis ch. 1 presents a somewhat developed idea of God's activity. It was written at a period when the original revelation granted to Israel had developed far beyond the primitive stage, after Israel had had experience of its God for many centuries. Because of the steady stream of prophetic clarification, the development of priestly zeal for the worship, and the deeper understanding of the ways of God through the reliving of the religious heritage of the past, the account conceives God no longer simply as the saving God of Israel, but as the God of all things and all men. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to understand it as expressing concepts that derive from the perfection of Christian revelation or subsequent theological development. The foundations for such a development may be in the Genesis account, but one must distinguish what is expressly taught from what has been elaborated by later theological thinking. The polemic origins, as well as the main development of the story itself, point unmistakably to the central idea: instead of being the haphazard act of many gods, creation is the purposeful act of one God, the God of Israel. The gods of other peoples have no power over Israel, have no power over the world, because the world does not owe its origin to any act or conflict of theirs. The God of Israel is alone and completely independent in the formation of the world. True, it is but one step further to conclude that He is the only God, but this point is not developed. "In the beginning" implies God's preexistence, but the theological concept of eternity is still lacking.

The process of creation is pictured as drawing order and individual existence out of chaos, but this is not intended to mean that God formed the world out of some preexisting material. Chaos, an indistinguishable watery mass without order, form, or identity, completely undefinable, was an imaginative way of trying to describe nothingness, an abstract concept not yet developed in the

Hebrew mind. To personalize and deify nothingness was the pagan's error. It is the creation of the visible world that is being considered. Nothing is said about the spirit world, although its existence may be implied in 1.26. In spite of the anthropomorphic descriptions, God completely transcends this world. It is in no way a part of Him or any emanation from Him. It exists only because He wills it. Even light, often associated with the "glory" of God, is a distinct creation.

Man. The closest thing to God is man, "made in the image and likeness of God," the climax of His creative activity. Some exegetes interpret 1.26 as a picture of God addressing His heavenly court, implying the meaning: "Let us make man to the image of heavenly being." Whether this be correct or not, the divine likeness seems to consist in the fact of man's dominion over God's visible creation. This dominion, of course, requires something in man that is God-like, his powers of mind and will. Thus, as a theological conclusion, it may be correct to say that it is man's soul that is the image of God, but the Hebrew mind did not conceive man as a dichotomy of body and soul. It saw man only as a unified living being. The life that he has and can pass on to others and the dominion that he has over the rest of creation are special

blessings that make him more like God than anything God has made.

Sabbath. The arrangement, evidently artificial, of the picture of creation as six days of work (for eight works) with a seventh-day rest is simply an imaginative way of expressing the fact that the sabbath observance also is willed by God. The origin of the Sabbath is not known, but it is vindicated in Genesis as the will of God, who has led His chosen people, through their hereditary customs and reasonable practices, to adopt this method of consecrating their lives to Him by regular worship. This is, in fact, the real climax of the story. All things must return to God, who made them. This is done by the Sabbath observance, which sets man apart for God alone. Sanctified by the will of God, it sanctifies man; and through him, all creation. Eschatological inference is not lacking. Man will enter into the joyous rest of the Lord when his work in this world is done. The author gives no conclusion to the 7th day. Finally, the whole of the account is permeated by the idea of goodness, which is of God. Evil has not yet appeared; but when it does, it will come from man.

Salvation History. The primordial activity of God is presented in the first pages of the Bible as the beginning of God's activity on behalf of His chosen ones. Because of man's sin, chaos threatens to return and destroy God's creation, but the Creator always remains active. His activity is then manifest as a saving activity, and this is recorded in the history of His chosen people, a salvation history that is the whole story of the Bible.

Elsewhere in the Old Testament. Israelite thought on creation naturally owed something to the cultures with which the Israelites were in daily contact, especially in its literary formulation. Their beliefs and teachings on creation, however, far transcended anything found in these other cultures because of the transcendent concept of God and His relation to the cosmos held by the Israelites.

Terminology. It is instructive to study the Hebrew verbs that describe the creative work of God. It is said that God founds (yāsad ) the world, establishes (kônēn -polel of kûn ) it, builds (bānâ ), forms (yāar ), and makes (āšâ) His creatures. These verbs are not used exclusively of the activity of God. The verb qānâ however, when it means to make rather than to acquire, always has Yahweh as its subject. And the verb bārā ', used as a technical term by Deutero-Isaiah, always has as an object a product that is new, wonderful, astonishing; is reserved exclusively for God's works; and never has an accusative of material. Although seldom found in early writings, it is used frequently in exilic and postexilic writings.

Preexilic Writings. The creation story of the yahw ist (Gn 2.4b25) does not describe the production of the earth but speaks of the garden (see paradise) planted by God and then describes the formation of man. G. von Rad points out that here creation is expressly intended to be understood as a prologue and as a start of the divine saving work in Israel. Elsewhere in the preexilic writings Jeremia clearly speaks of Yahweh creating the world: "It was I who made the earth, and man and beast on the face of the earth, by my great power, with my outstretched arm" (Jer 27.5; see also 31.35). And Isaiah further pictures God as the one who fashions history, by bringing to pass His saving plan in history (Is 37.26; 22.11). The "Most High God" of Melchizedek (Gn 14.19; Heb. 'ēl 'elyôn ), who is "creator of heaven and earth," is reminiscent of the Canaanite god El mentioned above; Abraham identifies Him with the God he worships (v. 22). The preexilic statements on creation are relatively few, but they are clear.

There is no reference to creation in the "cultic credo" of Jos 24.215; Dt 6.2025; 26.59; 1 Sm 12.711. Von Rad suggests that Israel's first view of sal vation history (heilsgeschichte) centered on the Exodus, and that it was not until much later that Israel recognized that saving history began with creation, the first saving event, the beginning of their history. Ps 18 (19) and the passages mentioned above show that this connection was made quite early. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) speaks of the revelation of creation and the revelation of the covenant as inseparable: "Creation is revealed as the first step toward this covenant, the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love" (CCC 288).

Exilic and Postexilic Writings. In the Psalms and in Job, creation is often depicted as a struggle or battle in which God vanquishes chaos, a primordial monster. For instance, in Ps 73 (74).1215 it is said, "Yet, O God, my king from of old, you doer of saving deeds on earth, you stirred up the sea by your might, you smashed the heads of the dragons in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan, and made him food for the dolphins. You released the springs and torrents; you brought dry land out of the primeval waters." Here may be seen an echo of the battle of Marduk against the monster Tiamat in the Enuma elish. The monster is also called leviathan in Jb3.8, but elsewhere its name is Rahab [Jb 9.13; Is 51.10; Ps 88 (89).11]. Because these passages are late, there was no danger of a polytheistic interpretation; the monsters have no more substance than a desert mirage.

In the sapiential books God is sometimes presented as an architect and the builder of the heavens and the earth. He does this through personified Wisdom, as in Prv8.2731: "When he established the heavens , then was I beside him as his craftsman ." In Prv 3.19 itis said that "the Lord by wisdom founded the earth, established the heavens by understanding." This is reminiscent of the story of Ptah at Memphis. In Wis 7.22 the author refers to Wisdom as "the artificer of all."

It was Deutero-Isaiah (i.e., the author of Is ch. 4055), however, who, toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, more fully developed the concept of Yahweh as creator and prepared the way for the profound theology of the Priestly account in Gn 1.12.4a. C. Stuhlmueller points out several major contributions to the concept of creation made by this anonymous author. For him, the Hebrew verb bārā ' becomes a technical term referring only and always to the creative work of Yahweh. With him also the "word of God" is God's instrument of creation: it goes forth with irresistible power to create and to renew. It is personal, responsible, and effective: " so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it" (Is 55.11). It is also Deutero-Isaiah who so clearly marks off the "beginning" from the everlasting existence of God: "Who has performed these deeds? He who has called forth the generations since the beginning. I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last I will also be" (41.4). And finally Deutero-Isaiah presents creation as a saving event, an act of salvation, to be consummated by the second creation on the eschatological day of the Lord. Some other striking features of Deutero-Isaiah are the creation of darkness by Yahweh (45.7) and the creation of history effortlessly and irresistibly by Yahweh (41.20). And the power of Yahweh is eloquently contrasted with the powerlessness of idols made by men (40.1828).

Few modern scholars hold that creation "out of nothing" is taught in the Old Testament. The abstract notion of nothing does not seem to have been reached by the Israelite mind at that time. The somewhat late statement of Wis 11.17 that God "had fashioned the universe from formless matter" (ξ μόρφου λ ης) does not contradict this. It seems better to conclude that their silence on the subject of material used in creation made possible the later conclusion. Only in 2 Mc 7.28 is creation ex nihilo possibly stated, but the expression οκ ξ υχτων ποίησεν may envision formless matter rather than nothingness as the starting point.

Summary. No generation of gods is found in the Old Testament. Yahweh has always existed and is utterly outside the cosmic process. The complete absence of sexuality in the God of Israel is in striking contrast to the crude creation stories of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Canaan. Sources for the imagery used by the sacred writer may be found in these literatures, but not sources for his concepts. For Israel the polarity of the sexes belongs to creation alone, not to the Deity; this teaching acts as a strong counter-statement to the Canaanite fertility cult of Baal. There is no real struggle with monsters for Israel's God; they are vanquished or continually kept in subjection without effort. Finally, "first creation" is being continued through history and points to the great renewal of "second creation," i.e., cosmic regeneration and re demption.

In the New Testament. The word used regularly in the New Testament to describe God's creative activity is κτίξω. It is equivalent to the Old Testament bārā'. There is a continuity and development of the Old Testament ideas in the New Testament. The world and time, in their totality, were brought into being by God (Rom 1.20; Heb1.10; Rv 4.11). The logos of Jn 1.118 is a profound development of the personified Wisdom of Prv 8.2230 and the word of God of Is 55.1011 especially. The linking of creation and redemption as two aspects of the same divine activity is carried forward from Deutero-Isaiah and the Wisdom literature (e.g., in Heb 1.23). The new creation of Is 65.17; 66.22 is earnestly yearned for in Rom8.1925 and is already here through Christ (cf. 2 Cor5.17; Eph 2.10, 15).

Iconography. Needless to say, the representation of the work of creation in any medium of art is difficult. How can the artist depict in one picture the production of the cosmos from nothing? The difficulty is compounded by the fact that the Biblical account describes this as taking place in six separate acts, on the six days of creation, and not by any gesture of God but by His word. Yet because of the importance of the subject and its dramatic possibilities, the attempt has often been made, sometimes with considerable success. Since the New Testament depicts Christ as the Word of God and speaks of creation having been accomplished through Him, the Creator is sometimes represented with the Christnimbus. The various works of creation are sometimes represented as successive scenes, sometimes in a circle around the Deity. Two of the best-known creation scenes are those of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (150812) and of Raphael in the Loge of the Vatican (151618).

Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 442449. h. junker, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 9:466470. p. heinisch, Theology of the Old Testament, tr. w. g. heidt (Collegeville, Minnesota 1950). j. l. mckenziez, The Two-Edged Sword (Milwaukee 1956) 7289, 90108. h. frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York 1948; Torchbooks 1961). g. von rad, Old Testament Theology, tr. d. m. g. stalker, (New York 1962) 1:136151, 446453. t. mouiren, The Creation, tr. s. j. tester (New York 1962) 3056. c. stuhlmueller, "Theology of Creation in Second Isaias," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 21 (1959) 429467. r. w. gleason, "Creation in the Old Testament," Thought 37 (1962) 527542. l. legrand, "La Création, triomphe cosmique de Yahvé," Nouvelle revue théologie 83 (1961) 449470. Iconography. l. rÉau, Iconographie de l'art chrétien, 6 v. (Paris 195559) 2.1:6576. f. ceuppens, Quaestiones selectae ex historia primaeva (3d ed. Rome 1953). h. renckens, Israel's Concept of the Beginning, tr. c. napier (New York 1964). c. hauret, Beginnings: Genesis and Modern Science, tr. j. f. mcdonnell (2d ed. Dubuque 1964). t. schwegler, Die biblische Urgeschichte (2d ed. Munich 1962).

[e. loveley/

h. j. sorenson]

2. THEOLOGY OF

The understanding of creation has had a long and continuous evolution in the history of Christian dogma. Primitive patristic theology did little more than reflect the scriptural point of view: creation is a fundamental point of faith and of a religious world-picture. In the centuries that followed, Christian philosophers and theologians tried to penetrate more deeply the content of that truth. They gave their syntheses, depending on their concern, an apologetical, a philosophical, or a catechetical emphasis. For the truth of creation, standing as it does at the beginning of religious history, illuminates the very nature of God and the purpose of His interventions in time. It clarifies the fact that God is love and that from beginning to end, from creation through Redemption to the completion of all things in Christ, God continues to love all His creatures and the world freely, with abandon, simply because He is what He is. The Church's teaching on creation comprises the following theological truths [Vatican Council I: cap. 1, De Deo rerum omnium creatore (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum, ed. A. Schönmetzer 300103, 302125)].

Distinct from Creator. It is a fundamental tenet in the Judaeo-Christian tradition that the world is totally distinct from God, its creator. God is not part of the world. He is not just the peak of reality. Between God and the world there is an abyss. What is not God is the work of God. In stating that there is no middle term between "to create" and "to be created" revelation puts God infinitely above his works.

God is the "wholly other." The Church recalls this when it teaches that God is infinite, unique, simple, immutable; when it says that God is distinct from His creatures in a manner that allows each to keep its own complete proper reality, that which it is at its deepest point. Hence, it is necessary to reject all forms of pan theism, of emanationism that would attempt to establish a continuity between God and creatures. One must deny all dualism that seeks to introduce a third being between Creator and creatures (see manichaeism). One must eliminate preexisting matter. God alone is uncreated. He is absolutely apart, totally different from all reality, which exists only by the active presence of the transcendent God.

This distinction between God and His workthat between infinite and finite or pure act and composed beingis seen as singularly striking if one considers that the divine act of creating is absolutely free. The work of the Creator is in no way indispensable to Him.

Sacred Scripture expresses this distinction also by stressing God's sanctity in the face of man's blemishes and sins, His light in the face of man's darkness. Scripture notes especially the impressive stability of Him who had no beginning and remains the same, while man is changing and fragile. The distinction between Creator and creature leads one to the essential mystery of creation: one is dealing not with the activity of a God who, being of one body with the world, expands or degrades Himself in giving Himself, but with a perfect being who, autonomous with relation to His work as only the infinite can be, in the divine act of creating performs an act of pure liberality.

Produced from Nothing. Material realities and spiritual realities have been and are being produced from nothing by God according to the totality of their being. To be created is to be not of itself but from another. It is to be non-self-sufficient. This means that deep within itself it is in a condition of radical need, of total dependence. This is to be before God "as though one were not," i.e., to stand before Him without autonomy. It means to accept the fact that the world has no reality except what the Creator thinks and wills. This becomes even more striking when one recalls that God had no recourse to previous matter nor to any instrument in creating. The world owes all to Him alone. This is what the expression creatio ex nihilo underscores. It is evidently only a way of talking; for "nothing" has no existence and never had. One cannot bring forth reality from the absence of reality. All the expression really does is to exclude any creature from escaping its creatural dependence, and the world from emanating from God in a manner in which some systems of the past have misconstrued God's transcendence.

The created universe owes to God more than its mere existence; it owes to Him all that it is, its nature, its purpose as well as its origin. In God the universe finds its exemplary and final as well as its efficient cause.

The creature, which has its very existence from God, is in a state of total dependence that does not cease. Since it is entirely from Him, it would cease to be if it were in any way withdrawn from His dominion. At every moment God sustains his creature in being, enables it to act, and draws it toward its final end.

Out of Love. The world is the work of an inexpressibly wise and loving Creator, who produced all things by His omnipotence and with an absolutely free will. To believe in creation is to see Someone behind all things. It is to explain things themselves from an inner viewit is to see the world as a gift. One knows the inner life of God from the confidences He made to His chosen people and from the message of the Savior. The doctrine of creation is linked to what revelation tells of the complete spontaneity of the activity of Yahweh. As the election of Israel was completely free, so too is creation.

To create is above all to love. This love in no way depends on its object but rather brings it about completely. To know that God creates man is to know at that point that man does not have to be lovable to be loved. To know man is created is to know that man is loved by a love whose gratuitousness surpasses the most beautiful of human actions. In believing in creation man dares to affirm that all things rest on a "heart."

This absolutely initial spontaneity, which is the source of all reality existing outside it, is also what gives purpose to this reality. The universe receives its entire created reality from the solely efficacious intention of God, who has freely willed to communicate and show forth his glory (CCC 293).

This world is not the result of chance, but of God's love. It is not moving aimlessly, but toward God, to be with God, not for the increase of his beatitude but for the bestowal of his goodness on his creatures (Dei Filius 1). God is the source of being, the source of supernatural life through the Holy Spirit, and the source of bodily life to the dead through the resurrection (CCC 298). The doctrine of creation, therefore, and that of redemption mutually illuminate each other in clarifying all that glorifies God and manifests His all-powerful love.

Creation and Redemption. All things subsist "in the Son," but they depend on the three Divine Persons as one sole creative principle. By linking the work of creation to that of salvation, the Old Testament prepared the way for the New, which introduced Christ and thus the Blessed Trinity into the total picture of the divine action in this world. Scripture compels one to say that it is essential to the Christian doctrine of creation to face the mystery of the Trinity. Christ is presented as mediator already in creation, and not only in the work of Redemption (see god (son)).

The Old Testament tells about the liberality of the Creator of the world; and St. John characterizes Him simply: He is love. From the Old Testament one knows that the author of this world is Someone. But knowing that He is triune, one understands a little better what His personal life is. The Old Testament demonstrates His interest in His work; the incarnation and Redemption help one to see more and more the depth of that love.

The New Testament draws its inspiration from the manifestation of the all-powerful benevolence of God in the Person of Jesus. The Christian community understood that the divine self-giving, which is the principle of the inner life of God, is also the principle of the personal engagement of God in the destiny of His work. Thus when St. Paul and St. John speak of Him "in whom all was made," they are not thinking of an intermediary in the gnostic or Neoplatonic sense, but of Him who gathers both extremes in Himself.

The work of creation is common to all three Persons, and Christ is not mediator in it in the same way as in the Incarnation, where the Person of the word alone assumes the human nature. Between creation and Redemption there is a distinction, but the two are related. Each makes the other more intelligible. One comes to know better who the Creator is by knowing the Redeemer. One better understands the gratuitousness of the Redemption when he realizes that it has for its object all those things that God in His initial benevolence created out of nothing.

Secondary Causality, Providence, Time. God, the master of the universe, guides and governs all things by His providence. Things are not eternal, but had a beginning in time.

The world, brought about by the active presence of God, is not an inactive world. It was not made complete from the beginning. Along with existence each creature receives from God the ability to act, and it is because of Him that it actually does so. Through their activity beings endowed with the power to know and to love become more and more what they are; they become themselves by collaborating with the work of their Creator. Other creatures, endowed only with a transient activity, act upon each other in a common and immediate dependence on the creative action. The divine causality is not simply a point of departure in a series of causes. God is active at the heart of every action because He is not another created agent, but one who gives to each creature the power to act as well as the nature that is the principle of the action.

The universe, then, receives from God a dynamic structure, an intercausality behind which lies the Creator at every turn. The world constitutes a hierachy of beings that collaborate in an active way with the manifestations of the divine liberality revealed to men in a special way in the Lord Jesus.

The world at every moment of its existence is as much dependent on God as at the moment of its creation. It is constantly being created. The mystery of creation is just as rich in actual reality at the present moment as at the first moment of the world's origin. The essential point in the creature's condition is that it owes its whole reality to the goodness of God. The creature, whose reality is subject to duration, receives from the Creator in a continuing manner.

God not only gives duration to creatures. He intervenes actively in the orientation of the universe. He does not limit Himself only to conserving the universe; He also guides it by His providence. Faith in the active presence of Him on whom the universe radically depends leads one to conceive this universe as guided toward its goal by the One who never ceases to love it first. The universe, therefore, has direction; its path leads only one way. To accept the mystery of creation is to profess this optimistic view: the world, far from being absurd or unintelligible in its future, is good because it is moving toward a definite manifestation of Love. The revelation of the fact of Redemption, which unveils the extent of the creative goodness, teaches that the world is marked by the mystery of Jesus and that the eternal kingship of the Lord is in preparation.

Goodness of God. The purpose of the universe is the glory of God, i.e., the communication of His goodness, which is realized and will be ever more marvelously realized until the end of time through Christ Our Lord.

It is as impossible for man to grasp adequately the activity of God the Creator as it is for man to grasp God Himself. For the creative activity is identified with the Creator. The first result of human creativity is the completion of the human creator himself. God does not, however, complete Himself by acting. With a sovereign autonomy, He is, in fullness. He alone acts solely and directly by His existence, without any preexisting matter, without any instrument, without the intermediacy of faculties. His creative activity alone establishes the contact that is so profound and absolutely immediate between the being of Him who acts and the entire reality of that which receives.

The God who is Father, Son, and Spirit creates through the unity of the divine nature, but a nature that would not be what it is were it not the nature of a Triune God; and the same is true of the creative activity. God could not love His creatures from any other motive or design than those that come from Himself. He would not love His creatures as He does were He not Father, Son, and Spirit. He loves in such a way, in fact, that He brings about an encounter between the uncreated and the created in the ultimate realization of the unity of all things in Jesus the Lord. The divine action of creating will progress toward this definitive completion, this ultimate self-communication. From this fulfillment one might well begin His meditation on the Creator. With a better understanding of Jesus the Lord, one better discovers the dimensions of His kingdom, the final stage of God's glory. It is by contemplating the Lord Jesus at the term of creation as well as at its origin that one has a greater understanding of the liberty, might, and wisdom of Him who first loved it.

Creation and Evolution. The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise to prominence of evolutionary world views, both physical (Darwin) and intellectual/spiritual (Hegel). Darwin's theory of evolution was generally regarded as challenging the Christian doctrine of creation on two points. First, it proposed an account of creation incompatible with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis. Second, it opposed the idea that God created fixed species, incapable of mutation into other species. The first challenge prompted the Church to articulate anew its understanding of the proper reading of Scripture. The truth given by God in revelation cannot conflict with the truth of things, known in part to scientific reason. Theologians thus began to emphasize the spiritual or theological meaning of Genesis 1, rather than insist on its historical accuracy. The Catholic response to Darwin's second challenge is enshrined in Pius XII's Humani generis (see also CCC 366). In terms of matter, man may have antecedents in lower forms of animal life. The human soul, however, cannot be explained in terms of such antecedentsor, indeed, in terms of any purely material cause. John Paul II likewise indicated that Catholic teaching does not object to the idea of evolution, but only to those evolutionary theories that attempt to explain man in material terms alone ("Discourse to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences," Oct. 22, 1996). Faced with the facts of physical evolution, the doctrine of creation proclaims that the ultimate origin of all things is God and that God is the immediate cause of all spiritual reality. The question of the relation between material and spiritual creation became prominent in the late twentieth century, in part through the work of Teilhard de Chardin.

A further challenge to the classical doctrine of creation came from various philosophical and historical theories of intellectual or spiritual evolution, inspired by hegel. In such views, evolution is the law not only of the material world but also of all distinctively human aspects of life. Human consciousness, human society, and human knowledge are all evolving. Thus to understand something one asks not what it is or where it came from, but what it is becoming. Catholic theologians did not in general accept such theories; however, they did begin to emphasize the teleological aspect of creation. The doctrine of creation concerns not only the origin of all things that are except God, but also the completion of the creation process. The Christian tradition frequently referred to Christ, the God-man, as the high point of creation. Thus the tradition offered clear warrant for connecting the doctrines of creation and Christology. Some theologians in the late twentieth century postulated a form of the Scotistic doctrine that God would have become man even if man had not sinned, because the Incarnation is necessary for the completion of creation. Others held to the Thomistic approach, and denied the absolute predestination of the Incarnation. But for both groups, the understanding of creation began to center around such Scripture texts as Col. 1:16: "all things were created through him and for him."

See Also: causality; causality, divine; contingency; glory of god (end of creation); temporal values, theology of; trinity, holy; creation, articles on; god, articles on.

Bibliography: j. brinktrine, Die Lehre von der Schöpfung (Paderborn 1956). m. flick and z. alszeghy, Il creatore: L'inizio della salvezza (2d ed. Florence 1961). r. guelluy, La Création (Paris 1963). t. l. handrich, Creation: Facts, Theories, and Faith (Chicago 1953). h. e. hengstenberg, Sein und Ursprünglichkeit: Zur philosophischen Grundlegung der Schöpfungslehre (Munich 1958). a. m. henry, ed., God and His Creation, tr. c. miltner (Chicago 1955). t. mouiren, The Creation, tr. s. j. tester (New York 1962). w. b. murphy et al., God and His Creation (Dubuque 1958). m. schmaus, Gott der Schöpfer (his Katholische Dogmatik 2.1; 6th ed. Munich 1962). p. schoonenberg, God's World in the Making (Pittsburg 1964). a. g. sertillanges, L'Idée de création et ses retentissements en philosophie (Paris 1945). p. boehner, "On the Production of Creatures," Studia Theologica Supplement (New York 1948) 3:317486. c. vollert, "Creation," ibid. 316473. r. a. redlon, "St. Thomas and the Freedom of the Creative Act," Franciscan Studies 20 (1960) 118. l. scheffczyk, Creation and Providence, tr. r. strachan (London 1970). k. l. schmitz, The Gift: Creation (Milwaukee 1982). c. e. gunton, Christ and Creation (Grand Rapids, Michigan 1992).

[d. j. ehr/eds.]

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Creation Stories

Creation Stories

While some scholars point to the positive role of creation stories as the sources of moral values that encourage cohesiveness of the society (Malinowski 1962), feminist thinkers argue that creation myths have carried a negative influence on the life of women. Because most creation stories mirror the patriarchal structures of their culture, they often encourage women's subordination and passivity.

INDO-EUROPEAN MYTH

The Rig-Veda, the Vedic creation hymn, shares much with many other Indo-European myths (Greek, Zoroastrian, Celtic, central and western European, etc.) such as polytheism and its veneration of nature. Chapter 10 of the Rig-Veda (c. 1500–1300 bce) describes a creative process as the sacrifice of the thousand-headed, thousand-footed primal man Parusa. When the gods perform the sacrifice of Parusa, there emerges a clear hierarchy as the upper parts of his body are employed for creation of higher states of existence and the lower for the more common. Out of Parusa's head emerges the sky, while his feet become the earth.

Parusa is a man, which signifies that all reality, even the divine, has its origin from a male body. While recognizing male primacy, the Vedic hymn describes a reciprocal engendering that is taking place between the female and the male energies. The female creative energy arises out of Parusa, but this female energy is also a source of Parusa, an energy that is necessary for the fashioning all of reality. This female energy will appear in future Hindu mythology as Sakit, the creative energy of the principal male Hindu gods.

HINDUISM

In contrast to the oldest, Vedic account of creation, in later tradition (200 bce), creation comes from Brahma (the masculine expression of Brahman), who creates through his thought ("out of nothing"). While in principle Brahman is beyond gender, the expressions of the divine responsible for creation are often portrayed in masculine images. In addition to Brahma, Shiva (the destroyer, god of procreation) is also masculine. During the fifth century ce, Hindu scriptures introduced a single Great Goddess (Devi, Shakta) who is the material cause of creation (tantric and Shakta traditions). Within the tantric tradition, various female incarnations of the Great Goddess provide the masculine Gods with their creative abilities. Thus, the masculine creators (Brahma or Shiva) rely on their female divine cohorts (Lakshmi or Kali) for their creative abilities. While the male gods are still performing their creative acts, they are impotent without the creative energy (shakti) provided by their female consorts.

Kali testifies to the power of the female goddess (one of many incarnations of Devi) because she defines the fierce divine. Carrying a sword, Kali wears a girdle of severed heads and a necklace of skulls. Fitting for a consort of Shiva, she symbolizes the power of destruction, but this mode of operation leads to a creative process of transformation. As Kali destroys the impediments to realizing the truth, she frees the followers to follow the truth. While the tantric followers of Kali see her as a cherishing mother, others see her as a stereotype of female chaotic presence, which is blamed for bringing destruction on others. Still others believe that Kali provides a needed counterbalance to the stereotypical concepts of femininity.

BUDDHISM

From a Buddhist perspective, this universe is not the only one that exists, but rather there is a cycle of "creations" and destructions that follow one another. At the same time, Buddhist teaching rejects the idea of a creator of the universe. Instead, the universe is maintained by the cycle of causal conditioning called dependent origination. This concept centers around a radical interdependence between all aspects of reality. Everything that exists, exists because it depends on the existence of everything else. That is, nothing can exist without specific causes that bring it about; however, these causes, depend on other causes or conditions. As a result, it is impossible to single out one specific cause for the whole matrix.

The concept of God as creator or as savior is rejected in Buddhism. Because human salvation is a matter of self-realization reached through enlightenment, it is this form of human creativity that is stressed by Buddhists. In the Mahayana tradition, Buddhas and bodhisattvas assist human efforts along the path of enlightenment. These are celestial or earthly beings who have reached enlightenment but were once ordinary human beings. Kuan-yin, a female bodhisattva of compassion, postpones her nirvana (state of bliss, release from the cycle of reincarnation) in order to assist others in their efforts toward enlightenment. Another important female Buddha is Tara found in Vajrayana Buddhism. She appears in two forms—Green Tara and Red Tara—the former specializing in compassionate action, and the latter in removing obstacles to enlightenment. Red Tara wears a garland of severed heads and carries a hooked knife and in many ways resembles the Hindu Kali.

ZOROASTRIANISM

The Zoroastrian creation story describes creation out of chaos by Mazda Ahura, an omnipotent and omniscient god creator. If Mazda Ahura represents the beneficent, high deity, the other lesser deity, Angra Mainyu, represents the evil spirit that brings chaos and disorder. Already within this original dualism there is a gender distinction because Mazda Ahura is referred to as the "father or of order" and the wise lord, whereas the source of disorder (embodied in Angra Mainyu) is personified as feminine. Mazda Ahura and Angra Mainyu produce, respectively, beneficent spiritual beings and as well as demonesses. Whereas beneficent beings include both passive feminine and active masculine beings, demonesses are exclusively feminine.

The first human pair, Mashya (male) and Mashayana Mashyana (female), had their common origin from the semen of the first human, an androgyne named Gayo-Maretan. Initially they sinned together and shared mutual responsibility for the sin. This original equality is soon replaced, however, when Mashyana commits an irreligious ritual act of worshipping the demonic spirits. As a result, woman is seen as susceptible to temptation and evil and as the source of spiritual chaos.

ANCIENT GREEK

Only in the late eighth century bce do we find the fully developed The Greek creation myth appears fully developed only in the late eighth century bce in the work of the poet Hesiod. In the beginning there is an absence of form, the absence itself called Chaos. Out of Chaos arises Gaea (the earth), Tartarus (deep pit), and Eros (love). Gaea gives birth by herself to Uranus (the sky) on whom she bestows equal partnership and who becomes her mate. Uranus engages in a continual sexual encounter with Gaea in order to avert keep the offspring from emerging into the world and thus engendering. In order to free herself, Gaea arms her son Kronos, who castrates Uranus of his power over Gaea. The earth and the sky are thus forever separated.

Gaea appears as a powerful goddess, who eliminates the schemes of her cohort by employing her son. Out of Uranus's severed genitals, Gaea creates the female Furies, who are responsible for assuring retributive justice in the world. Gaea is a prototype for other strong female Goddesses goddesses in the Greek pantheon (such as Rhea, Demeter, and Athena) who manipulate their destiny through intricate plotting, enlisting the help of their children, withholding fertility, or giving birth.

Humanity is fashioned by a divine artisan, Hephaestus, or the mediator Prometheus (according to Hesiod). There is a separate account of the origin of a woman. When Prometheus steals fire for the human race, Zeus punishes humanity by creating an evil called woman. The first woman, the mother of all women, is both beautiful and evil and receives the name Pandora. She is the very goddess who, according to the patriarchal rendering of Hesiod, by opening her box releases all woes that afflict humankind.

BABYLONIAN

The Babylonian myth of Enuma Elish (1100 bce) depicts the primal force as water, which that from the beginning takes on male and female characteristics. That is, there is a commingling between the male Apsu, the primordial freshwater ocean, and Tiamat, the female saltwater. Out of this pairing emerge several generations of gods. The Strife ensues, in which newer generations of male gods revolt against the original pair. Younger gods kill Apsu, which, in turn, results in the an all-out battle between Tiamat and the rest of the gods. The gods finally conquer Tiamat and create the world out of her dismembered body. The gruesome detail of the cutting of Tiamat's body communicates the pleasure over the conquest of the goddess. The story suggests that the primordial female goddess not only introduced chaos into the universe but also received a deserved punishment.

The vanquished body of Tiamat gives rise to the new hierarchy, i.e., that of heaven over earth, male power over female power. The female passion (or chaos) is subdued by the male rational order.

JUDAISM AND CHRISTIANITY

Hebrew and Christian tradition derive their creation story from the book of Genesis, where God is described as creating the universe out of nothing by the power of divine words. There are two creation stories describing the creation of the first human couple, Adam and Eve, in Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-3:24. The first account (c. sixth century bce) stresses the equality of both the sexes as it speaks of both as being created in the image of God. In the second narrative (c. tenth century bce), Eve is created out of Adam's rib and is the one who leads Adam to disobey the divine commandment. Traditionally this second story was understood as a sign of women's subordination to men because Eve was created after Adam, from Adam, and for Adam. Furthermore, her disobedience was taken as evidence of her vicious nature, which brings evil into the world. Eve and all women were thus seen as the weaker, inferior sex. Contemporary scholars either reject completely the second story as intrinsically patriarchal or reinterpret the myth. New interpretations point to the fact that creation from Adam symbolizes the mutual need for companionship while the eating of the fruit by Adam and Eve pictures the joint disobedience of the first couple. Eve's initiative to consume the fruit could also be interpreted in a positive light as an expression of her more independent nature.

Jewish apocryphal tradition relates a story about another first woman, Lilith, who according to rabbinic tradition was a night demon who seduced men and killed children. Jewish feminists agree with the tradition that Lilith asserted equality with Adam, but reject the demonic portrayal. Instead, they suggest that such a negative rendition of Lilith reflects a patriarchal fear of a strong female presence.

ISLAM

In Islam, as in Judaism and Christianity, God creates the universe out of nothing in six days. Adam and Eve—the first human beings—appear in the Muslim scenario as well, but there are significant differences between the Muslim and the Hebrew accounts. Overall, the Muslim creation story of the first couple affirms the equality of Adam and Eve. According to the Qur'an, Adam and Eve are created from one genderless source (nafs); they have one point of origin that comes from one living entity. In contrast to Genesis, Eve is not formed out of Adam, but both Eve and Adam are formed from a previously existing, genderless being. After creation out of nafs, Adam and Eve are irrevocably linked to each other in providing comfort, companionship, and support. Satan tempts both Adam and Eve, and both disobey by eating from the tree. The Qur'an leaves no possibility to infer that Eve is a secondary and inferior form of creation, nor that she is more responsible for the Fall fall of humanity. Eve is not singled out as the initiator or temptress of evil, and instead Adam and Eve share the same culpability for their deeds.

see also Adam and Eve.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adams Leeming, David, and Margaret Adams Leeming. 1995. A Dictionary of Creation Myths. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bonnefoy, Yves, and Wendy Doniger, eds. 1991. Mythologies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Choksy, Jamsheed K. 2002. Evil, Good, and Gender: Facets of the Feminine in Zoroastrian Religious History. New York: Peter Lang.

Gross, Rita M. 2000. Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues. New York: Continuum.

Hiltebeitel, Alf, and Kathleen M. Erndl, eds. 2000. Is the Goddess a Feminist? The Politics of South Asian Goddesses. New York: New York University Press.

Holm, Jean, and John Bowker, eds. 1994. Women in Religion. London: Pinter Publishers.

Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1962. Sex, Culture, and Myth. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.

Plaskow, Judith, and Carol P. Christ. 1989. Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality. San Francisco: Harper and Row.

Sharma, Arvind, ed. 1994. Religion and Women. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Wadud, Amina. 1999. Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective. 2nd edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

                                          Wioleta Polinska

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Creation Stories

Creation Stories

Theme Overview

People have long wondered how the world came into being. They have answered the question with stories that describe the origin of the universe or the world and usually of human life as well. Creation myths, known as cosmogonies, express people's understanding of the world and their place in it.

Major Myths

Some methods of creation appear again and again in cosmogonies from different parts of the world. One of the most common images is a description of the beginning of the world as a birth, a kind of creation familiar to everyone. The birth may result from the mating of a pair of gods as parents. The Maori of New Zealand, for example, say that the union of Rangi and Papa (Father Sky and Mother Earth) produced all things.

The hatching of an egg is another familiar kind of birth. Some creation myths tell of a cosmic egg containing the seeds or possibilities of everything. The hatching of the egg lets the possibilities take form. The Hindu texts known as the Upanishads describe the creation of the world as the breaking of a cosmic egg.

Another type of cosmogony says that the actions, thoughts, or desires of a supreme being or creator god brought the world into existence. The book of Genesis in the Bible tells how God created the world and everything in it. Other accounts of creation by a supreme being can be found in many regions, from the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan to the islands of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America.

Sometimes the created order simply emerges from chaos—a state of disorder. In Norse mythology , the scene of creation is an emptiness of wind and mist that forms into clouds and hardens into the frost giant Ymir (pronounced EE-mir), from whose body the world is made. Many Native American myths tell how animals and people appeared on earth by climbing out of a chaotic or primitive underground world.

The primal chaos is often a flood or a vast expanse of water. The people of ancient Egypt—who relied on the yearly floods of the Nile River to support their agriculture—said that before creation there existed only Nun, a watery abyss (bottomless depth). In some flood myths, creation takes place as the waters recede or as land rises. In others, an earth diver, a bird or an animal, plunges to the bottom of the water and brings up mud that becomes the earth. Such myths, which are common among American Indians, seldom explain where the mud or the earth-diving creature came from. Many cosmogonies describe the shaping or ordering of the world rather than its creation from nothingness. They often begin with some substance, being, or active force already in existence.

The Omaha Big Bang

Many modern scientists think that the universe began billions of years ago with an explosion of matter and energy called the Big Bang. The Omaha people of the Great Plains have their own “big bang” account of creation. At first all living things were spirits floating through space, looking for a place to exist in bodily form. The sun was too hot. The moon was too cold. The earth was covered with water. Then a huge boulder rose out of the water and exploded with a roar and a burst of flame that dried the water. Land appeared. The spirits of plants settled on earth. Animal spirits followed. Finally the spirits of people took bodily form on earth.

In some mythologies, the creation of people occurs through emergence from the earth. American Indian groups such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo say that the first people traveled though a series of lower worlds to reach their permanent home. In some stories, a flood forces the occupants of the lower worlds to climb upward until they arrive on the surface.

Themes in Creation Myths In explaining how creation led to the world as it now exists, cosmogonies explore several basic themes. Most creation myths illustrate one or more of these themes.

Separation The theme of separation deals with the forming of distinct things out of what was once a formless unity. Separation may be a physical act. In Polynesian myth, for example, the children of Mother Earth and Father Sky force their parents apart so that the world can exist between them. Cosmogonies may describe creation as taking place in stages that mark the process of differentiation. The Old Testament states that God took six days to create light and darkness, the heavens, the earth and plants, the sun and moon, the sea creatures and animals, and the first people.

Imperfection A second theme is imperfection. According to many cosmogonies, the creator planned to make a perfect world, but something went wrong. As a result, flaws such as evil, illness, and death entered the creation. The Dogon of West Africa say that the world is imperfect because one of a pair of twins broke out early from the cosmic egg. The Hawaiians relate that the earth goddess Papa cursed humans with death after she discovered an incestuous affair between her husband and daughter.

Dualism Dualism, or tension between opposing forces, is an underlying theme of many creation stories, especially those that revolve around conflict. Greek myths about the war between the Titans and the gods are just one example of conflict between cosmic parents and their offspring. Sometimes the conflict involves twins or brothers. Some American Indians of the northeast woodlands explain that the world is the way it is because two gods played a role in its creation. Gluskap , good and wise, created plants, animals, and people. His evil, selfish brother Malsum made poisonous snakes and plants.

Sacrifice The theme of sacrifice reflects the idea that life is born out of death. Someone must die, or at least shed blood, before the world and life can begin. The Enuma Elish tells how the god Marduk killed the goddess Tiamat and cut her body into two parts that became the heavens and the earth. Sometimes the first people are made from a god's blood, perhaps mixed with dust or clay. Creation may also involve the slaying of a primal beast or monster.

Cycles of creation and destruction A few cosmogonies describe cycles in which the world is created and destroyed a number of times. Hindu scriptures say that Brahma has remade the world many times. Four ages, or yugas, make a kalpa, or eon. When a kalpa ends, creation dissolves into chaos.

The Aztecs of Mexico believed that the present world was the fifth that the gods had created. It was fated to end in universal destruction by earthquakes. The four previous worlds had been destroyed by a great flood, the falling of the sky, a fire storm, and a wind storm. The Maya believed that the gods made three unsuccessful attempts to create human beings before achieving a satisfactory result. Their first creations— animals, people made of mud, and wooden people—disappointed them in various ways, and they abandoned or destroyed them. Finally, the gods made people of maize (corn) who were perfect—so perfect that their creators clouded their vision to prevent them from seeing too far.

Every region of the world has produced numerous creation stories, and some cultures and religions have more than one. A sampling of myths from various sources shows both the endless variety of cosmogonies and the similarities in their structures and themes.

African Creation Myths Some African creation myths feature a huge snake, often identified with the rainbow, whose coils make up the universe. In West and Central Africa the idea of creation from a cosmic egg is common.

Twins or paired, dualistic powers appear in many African creation stories. The Fon of West Africa tell of the first mother, Nana Buluku, who gave birth to the twins Mawu (moon) and Lisa (sun), the parents of all the other gods, who were also born in sets of twins. Some African cosmogonies, however, are less concerned with the creation of the physical universe and the gods than with the appearance of the first man and first woman and the ordering of human society.

The notion of a supreme creator god appears throughout Africa. The Bushongo people of the Congo region called the creator Bumba. He was the sole inhabitant of a watery universe until he vomited out the sun, which dried the water. Then he vomited out the first animals and people.

Creation Myths of the Americas The Incas of South America claimed that darkness covered the earth until the god Con Tiqui Viracocha rose out of a lake, bringing with him the first people. He made more people out of rocks, then sent them out to populate the whole world. When these inhabitants rebelled against Con Tiqui Viracocha, he punished them by stopping the rainfall. A god named Pachachamac overthrew Con Tiqui Viracocha and created a new race of people, the ancestors of humans.

Creation myths of American Indians generally explain how the world took its present form, including the origins of human culture. Some tales feature a creator god or pair of gods, such as the Sun Father and Moonlight-giving Mother of the Zuni people. Many groups, including the Cheyenne, have stories of an earth diver.

Indians of the Southwest may have developed myths of emergence because their agricultural way of life led them to think of growth as a movement upward from below the earth's surface. The Hopi of Arizona say that creation brought four worlds into existence. Life began in the bottom level or cave, which eventually grew dirty and crowded. A pair of twin brothers carried plants from heaven , and the people climbed up the cane plant into the second cave. When that place became too crowded, they climbed up again into the third cave. Finally, the brother gods led the people out into this world, the fourth level of creation.

Creation Myths of the Near East The ancient Egyptians believed that before the world existed there was only Nun, the watery nothingness. Then a mound of land rose, giving the first deity (god) a place to live. In some accounts, the first deity took the form of a bird. Others said that a lotus flower containing a god rose from the water. Several Egyptian creator gods were worshipped by different people: Amun and Atum, the sun gods; Khnum, who made men and women from clay and breathed life into them; and Ptah, who created the other gods by saying their names.

Among the Semitic creation myths of western Asia is the story of how God formed the world, the Garden of Eden , and Adam and Eve, the first parents. It is the cosmogony of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.

In the dualistic Persian, or Iranian, cosmogony, the good and wise lord Ahura Mazda began creation by sending beams of light into an abyss where Ahriman , lord of evil and sin, lived. Ahura Mazda cast Ahriman into hell for three thousand years. This gave Ahura Mazda time to create spirits of virtue, angels , and the creatures of earth, including Gayomart, the first man. When Ahriman's time in hell ended, he created flies, germs, pests, and other evils. One of his wicked followers brought disease and death to Gayomart, but a plant that grew from Gayomart's remains bore fruit that became the human race.

Asian Creation Myths Japanese tradition, preserved in a volume of mythological history called the Kojiki, states that before creation there was an oily sea. Gods came into being in the High Plains of Heaven. After seven generations of deities, came the first human ancestors, whose task was to make solid land. They stirred the sea with a jeweled spear. Drops that fell from the spear formed the islands of Japan.

A Chinese creation myth tells how Pan Gu hatched from a cosmic egg. One part of the eggshell formed the heavens; the other part became the earth. For eighteen thousand years, Pan Gu stood between them, keeping them apart by growing ever taller. Finally he became weary, lay down, and died. From his eyes came the sun and moon, from his hair the stars, from his breath the wind, and from his body the earth.

Indian mythology, linked to both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions, contains many creation stories. Hindus often speak of Brahma as the creator god who brought the universe into being through his thoughts. Sometimes creation involves the sacrifice of a primal being such as Purusha, from whose body all the gods were made. Other myths describe the breaking of a cosmic egg or the union of heaven and earth as cosmic parents.

Creation Myths of Australia and the Pacific In the mythology of Australia's native peoples, or Aborigines, the period of creation was called Dreamtime , or the Dreaming. During this time, ancestral beings created the landscape, made the first people, and taught them how to survive. Some Aboriginal myths tell of a great flood that destroyed the previous landscape and the former society. According to many accounts, a great serpent caused the flood when he became angry with the ancestral people.

The vast Pacific Ocean contains the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian island groups, which produced a variety of cosmogonies. Not surprisingly, many of these myths involve water.

According to some Polynesians, a creator god named Tangaloa sent a bird messenger over an endless primal sea. At last Tangaloa threw a rock into the sea so the tired bird would have a place to land. Then the god created all the islands in the same way. The bird made the first people by giving arms, legs, hearts, and souls to maggots. Other Polynesian stories describe creation as the union of two opposing qualities: Po (darkness) and Ao (light). Polynesian and Micronesian cosmogonies often include the act of separating the earth from the sky. Melanesian creation myths generally involve ancestral heroes who wander from place to place, forming the landscape and creating the rules of society.

European Creation Myths Norse creation myths tell how the giant Ymir took shape in the huge icy emptiness called Ginnungagap. Ymir's great cow licked the ice, creating the first gods, including Odin . The gods killed Ymir and divided his body into a series of worlds on three levels: Asgard, the realm of gods; Midgard, the realm of people, giants , dwarfs, and elves; and Niflheim, the realm of the dead. The gods created the first man and woman from an ash tree and an elm tree.

Greek cosmogonies, echoed by the Romans, begin with birth and end with struggle. Gaia, the earth mother, emerged from chaos and gave birth to Uranus , the sky. The union of Uranus and Gaia produced plants, animals, and children, the Titans. The Titans overthrew Uranus, only to be overthrown later by their own children, the gods. Another Greek creation myth, possibly borrowed from the ancient Near East, combines many images and themes. It tells how a primal goddess emerged from the waters of chaos. Her union with a serpent produced a cosmic egg that split to become the heaven and the earth.

Creation Stories in Context

Throughout history, humans have pondered the question, “Where did this world I live in come from?” The world's mythologies and religions offer an immense variety of answers to this question. Yet scholars have discovered that the cosmogonies of different cultures fall into broad categories and contain many shared themes, as discussed above. Most creation myths reflect human understanding of how creation of new material takes place on Earth—through birth or through changes in states of matter.

The creation stories of different cultures generally reflect the importance of different elements within each culture. For example, according to Japanese mythology , the world began with an ancient ocean; the gods created the islands of Japan to occupy it. This reflects the importance of the ocean in an island culture. By contrast, the American Plains Indians speak of humans arising from clay, indicating the importance of the earth in their culture and daily life. For Aboriginal Australians, the Rainbow Serpent creates the all-important waterholes that dot the Australian landscape and provide the people with their only reliable source of fresh water. In each example, those things that are considered most important to the people of a culture play a key part in the culture's creation myths.

Creation Stories in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Because of their very nature, creation myths in various cultures have remained fairly stable over the centuries. Once a creation myth becomes a part of a belief system, it will likely remain a part of that belief system. This means that new creation myths tend to arise only with new belief systems or mythologies. In modern times, such new belief systems are usually considered cults.

Some creation stories, such as those of Africa and Polynesia, existed for years in spoken form, but were not written down until recendy. Other cultures preserved their cosmogonies in written texts, and some of these have survived from ancient times. The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, written thousands of years ago, tells how people in Mesopotamia explained the beginning of the world. A Mayan text called the Popol Vuh describes the creation of the ancestors of the Maya.

Depictions of the ancient creation myths by modern artists can be found in many cultures. However, because some of these myths provide settings or details that are hard to visualize, creation myths do not appear in art as often as other, more visually familiar myths. One example of a modern artist depicting a creation myth is Bill Reid's sculpture The Raven and the First Men, which can be found in the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology.

The Christian version of the beginning of the world was the inspiration for both Joseph Haydn's symphony Creation (1798) and Scottish composer William Wallace's piece Creation Symphony.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Virginia Hamilton's In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World (1988) offers an excellent sampling of creation myths from a variety of cultures. The author includes explanatory notes for each myth to help provide context for the reader, and each myth features at least one watercolor illustration by artist Barry Moser. Hamilton has won numerous awards for her books, including the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award.

SEE ALSO African Mythology; Australian Mythology; Aztec Mythology; Buddhism and Mythology; Celtic Mythology; Chinese Mythology; Dreamtime; Egyptian Mythology; Enuma Elish; Finnish Mythology; Floods; Gluskap; Greek Mythology; Hinduism and Mythology; Inca Mythology; Japanese Mythology; Mayan Mythology; Melanesian Mythology; Micronesian Mythology; Native American Mythology; Norse Mythology; Persian Mythology; Polynesian Mythology; Roman Mythology; Semitic Mythology

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