Old Testament Cosmology

(The following is an updated repost from February 27, 2017. The original post received 78 comments.)

My newly published book critiquing Answers in Genesis' Creation Museum contains an illustration of ancient Israelite cosmology that has circulated quite widely on the web. Anyone is now free to use or republish this image however you wish provided you simply cite the book:

Ben Stanhope, (Mis)interpreting Genesis: How the Creation Museum Misunderstands the Ancient Near Eastern Context of the Bible (Scarab Press: Louisville Kentucky, 2018), 88.



The geek stuff:


This illustration draws on the attempts of previous scholars, including Nahum Sarna, Understanding Genesis: the Heritage of Biblical Israel (New York: Schocken Books, 1966), 5. Incorporating the iconography of Leviathan and the seraphim is an idea I owe to Othmar Keel’s illustration in Altorientalische Miniaturkunst (Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1990), 15. Foremost of all, I have benefited from a graphic entitled “Ancient Hebrew Conception of the Universe” produced by Karbel Multimedia for Logos Bible Software (2012), which has been recently published in the excellent NIV Faithlife Study Bible: Intriguing Insights to Inform your Faith, ed. Barry, Mangum, Brown and Heiser (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017). An excellent survey orientation of Israelite cosmology among biblical linguists has been written by John R. Roberts, “Biblical Cosmology: The Implications for Bible Translation” Journal of Translation 9.2 (2013), 1-53. On the heavenly serpents of ancient Israelite religion shown in the upper register of this illustration (the seraphim), see Philippe Provençal, “Regarding the Noun שרף in the Hebrew Bible,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29.3 (2005), 372; Othmar Keel, Jahwe-Visionen und Siegelkunst: Eine neue Deutung der Majestatsschilderungen in Jes, Ez 1 und 10 und Sach 4 (Stuttgart: Verlag Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1984), 102, 104, 109; William A. Ward, "The Four-Winged Serpent on Hebrew Seals." Rivista Degli Studi Orientali 43.2 (1968), 135-43, and the T. N. D. Mettinger entry “Seraph” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, ed. K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter Willem van der Horst (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 743.






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