Babylonian/Mesopotamian creation myth, Enuma
Elish, When on high, was
written no later than the reign of Nebuchadrezzar in the 12th century
BCE. But there is also little doubt that this story was written much
earlier, during the time of the Sumerians (3000 BCE). In Babylon it
was performed as a way to retells the ancient myths of creation, the
flood and the events which let to the supernatural building of Babylon
to be a home for the gods.
The story is Sumerian but it was sung in the yearly festivals to honor
the gods of Babylon.
For many years scholars have been pointing out the numerous
similarities between the Mesopotamian story and the opening section of
Genesis. There is not only a striking correspondence in various
details, but what is even more significant, the order of events is the
same. This makes the likelihood of coincidence very small.
This becomes even more evident when we allow the Genesis text to tell
its own story instead of attempting to project different theological
systems back into it.
|Divine spirit and cosmic
matter are coexistent and coeternal.
||Divine spirit and cosmic
matter are coexistent. *
|Divine spirit exist independent of cosmic
||Divine spirit exist independent of cosmic
|Primeval chaos; Ti'amat
enveloped in darkness.
||Primeval chaos; TeHOM
enveloped in darkness.
|Light emanating from the gods.
||Light created by word of /ELOHIYM.
|The creation of the
||The creation of the
|The creation of dry land.
||The creation of dry land.
|The creation of luminaries.
||The creation of luminaries.
|The creation of man.
||The creation of man.
|The gods rest
||/ELOHIYM rest and separates
the seventh day.
The date of the authorship of Genesis is debated, possible dates
range from 1500 BCE to 200 BCE. Enuma Elish was recorded on
cuneiform tablets about 1200 BCE, but the story comes from a Sumerian
version written before 2500 BCE. Therefore, the Mesopotamian
account predates the Genesis account by at 1,000 years.
Why the Parallels?
Apparently the author of Genesis was addressing an audience that was
very familiar with the Mesopotamian story. They would have quickly
picked up on the parallels between the author's story and the familiar
Babylonian epic. However, much more important to them would have
been the differences between the accounts. The Genesis author's
account presented them with some very important variations in the story.
Read both accounts and compare the who, what, when, where, and
how's. What are the significant differences and how do they affect
the way one views creation?
* Based on BHC
translation which will be at odds with most translations. Other
translations are usually based on the theological considerations of the
translators instead of allowing the text to determine the
translation. Check out Genesis in the
BHC Associates section of this website.