“…beyond any apparent beginning, there is always a secret origin – so secret and so fundamental that it can never be quite grasped in itself. Thus one is led inevitably, through the naïvety of chronologies, towards an ever-receding point that is never itself present in any history; this point is merely its own void; and from that point all beginnings can never be more than recommencements or occultation (in one and the same gesture, this and that).”
-The Archaeology of Knowledge
What can we take from this philosophy and apply it to the creation story? This statement: “…beyond any apparent beginning, there is always a secret origin – so secret and so fundamental that it can never be quite grasped in itself” personally reminds me of the Midrash: Bereshit Rabbah, which states,
…And there was evening [the Hebrew can be read to suggest ‘evening’ was a reality before now]: hence we know a time order existed before this. R. Abbahu said: This proves the Blessed Holy One went on creating worlds and destroying them until He created this one….This is Abbahu’s reason: And God saw everything that He made and behold, it was very good [comparatively] This pleases me, but those [worlds] did not please me. (3:7. Also see 9:2, where the same verse is used as a slightly different way – other sources also use Gen. 2:4: Now these are the generations of the heaven and earth when they [rather than “it”] were created, and Isa. 65:17).
In other words, though we can read the creation story over and over again, and understand Genesis as we would like (as a literal historical account, a metaphor, or something in between), we should be aware of what was not written, not said in the Genesis account. The secret origin behind the origin.
There is another Midrash which speaks of the letter Bet (in Bereshit) chosen specifically as the second letter in the Hebrew alphabet, revealing that before it is the hidden “alef” (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet). This hidden “alef” is what we cannot see, the origin behind the origin, the planning behind the creation event itself.
And thus, we move forward with chronology basing it only on what we can see, only one what we can read, and cannot comment upon the secrets behind it, or base our understandings on those secret origins except with speculation. How does this, then, influence our understanding of creation, of the Torah’s picture of it?