Chaos

CHAOS. Chaos in classical Gr. thought was the (sometimes personified) misty darkness before all existing things came into being (cf. Hesiod, Theog. 116). In later Rom. times it became the primeval matter out of which the universe was constructed. In Genesis 1:2 the primal state of the universe is described in Heb. as tōhū wābōhū, tr. as “without form and void.” This is the nearest expression in Scripture to the Gr. idea of chaos. Unlike modern Eng. usage, this expression is not a complete synonym for confusion. Rather it refers to a solitude, a vast and empty desolation, unformed and uninhabited. In Jeremiah 4:23 the same Heb. expression is used to describe the land as it was laid waste and made unfit for human habitation by a divine judgment. The reference is to the havoc wrought by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. Appealing to this sameness of expression, some have inferred that a similar judgment is implied in the Genesis account. That is, a sort of primeval catastrophe is thought to have preceded the six days of creation. The more common understanding is that in Genesis there is a description of the earth in its initial state as the Creator began the work described in the sequel of the creation narrative.