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Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton

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Foreword by Peter Machinist:

Hermann Gunkel's groundbreaking Schöpfung und Chaos, originally published in German in 1895, is here translated in its entirety into English for the first time. Even though available only in German, this work by Gunkel has had a profound influence on modern biblical scholarship.

Discovering a number of parallels between the biblical creation accounts and a Babylonian creation account, the Enuma Elish, Gunkel argues that ancient Babylonian traditions shaped the Hebrew people's perceptions both of God's creative activity at the beginning of time and of God's re-creative activity at the end of time.

Including illuminating introductory pieces by eminent scholar Peter Machinist and by translator K. William Whitney, Gunkel's Creation and Chaos will appeal to serious students and scholars in the area of biblical studies.

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Top Highlights

“Central to this period, as Revelation lays it out, was the revival of the cosmic forces or monsters of chaos/evil, after their defeat in the primeval drama of creation, and then their renewed battle with the God of order/good, who this time brought upon them a final, irrevocable destruction, so allowing his eschatological kingdom to reign in perpetuity in the universe.” (Page xvi)

“ It is in this way that YHWH’s arm has shattered Rahab. Rahab is, thus, the personification of תהום‎ [tĕhôm], of chaos!” (Page 22)

“Rahab is a monster who is killed at creation, or, more precisely, before the creation, since v. 11 stands before v. 12” (Page 23)

“The myth of Genesis 1 would, however, be completely understandable in Babylon” (Page 12)

“echo of an older mythology, probably one which spoke of a divine light” (Page 7)

When Hermann Gunkel's book was first published, Julius Wellhausen said: 'Hier ist mehr Chaos als Schöpfung!' ('Here is more chaos than creation!'). Scholars today will admiringly reverse that phrase: 'Hier ist mehr Schöpfung als Chaos!' ('Here is more creation than chaos!')

—François Bovon, Harvard University

Gunkel's Schöpfung und Chaos was one of the defining works of the 'history of religions' school, which revolutionized biblical scholarship at the end of the nineteenth century. It has been one of the few major works of that era never fully translated. This new translation by K. William Whitney fills the gap, and Whitney's helpful preface explains to a new generation why this book is so important in the history of scholarship. Whitney and Eerdmans have rendered a great service to students of the Bible by making this book available in English.

—John J. Collins, Yale University

Hermann Gunkel's epochal Schöpfung und Chaos marked a major shift in biblical studies when it appeared in 1895, but it has never been translated. K. William Whitney here presents the world of scholarship with a polished and sophisticated English translation that will stimulate readers to rethink basic assumptions. His excellent preface puts Gunkel's work into its context and draws out its importance for the twenty-first century. Whitney has filled out and enriched the original indexes and bibliography, making the book easier to consult. This work is destined to be a cornerstone for students and scholars alike.

—Michael E. Stone, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Welcome and long overdue translation of a seminal work.

Expository Times

  • Title: Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton
  • Author: Hermann Gunkel
  • Series: Eerdmans Biblical Resources Series
  • Publisher: Eerdmans
  • Publication Date: 2006
  • Pages: 484

Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) taught at several German universities and is widely recognized as a father of the form-critical and history-of-religions methods in biblical criticism. His influential works include commentaries on Genesis, Psalms, and 1 Peter.


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    Digital list price: $32.99
    Save $7.00 (21%)