Cosmization of Chaos: New Insights into a Central Figure of Thought of Biblical and Early Jewish Wisdom Traditions

Friedhelm Hartenstein (Munich)


Starting from the book of Job and wisdom Psalms, the talk first gives a theological-historical overview of the cosmology of such texts of the Hebrew Bible and early Judaism that explicitly speak of the “containment” of primeval chaos. The lecture develops a new hypothesis on the religio-historical framework of this symbolism. A second part considers specifically the notion of “horizon” (ḥūg), which is pertinent for the same sapiential cosmology (cf. Job 26, Prov 8). With this metaphor the tension between the recognizable and the permanently hidden in the world order of YHWH is thematized particularly clearly. Naming the horizon has thus essential anthropological implications. Psalm 139, with which the talk ends, shows how the destabilized “self” is helped by the figures of thought of “contained chaos” as well as “horizon” to redefine its own place in the world. The lecture thematizes basic elements of the knowledge culture of early Jewish text producers and recipients.