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Evolution vs. creationism. Bible topics & stories.

Comparing two creation stories: from
Genesis and Babylonian pagan sources

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Creation stories from the ancient Middle East:

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre writes that one of his articles:

"... is an attempt to briefly identify some of the Ancient Near Eastern Motifs and Myths from which the Hebrews apparently borrowed, adapted, and reworked in the Book of Genesis (more specifically Genesis 1-11).

It is my understanding that Genesis' motifs and characters, God, Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and Noah, are adaptations and transformations of characters and events occurring in earlier Near Eastern Myths. In some cases several characters and motifs from different myths have been brought together and amalgamated into Genesis' stories. 2

He quotes W.G. Lambert:

"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas."

I believe Lambert's observation can be applied to the Hebrews who were combining old themes and putting "new twists" to old ideas. My research indicates that, at times, "reversals" are occurring in the Hebrew transformation and re-interpretation of the Mesopotamian myths. These "reversals," as I call them, can take the form of different characters, different locations for the settings of the stories, and different morals being drawn about the nature of God and Man's relationship.

De la Torre concludes that Genesis 1-11:

"... appears to be a reformatting of motifs and characters from four Mesopotamian myths:

bulletAdapa and the South Wind,

bulletAtrahasis,

bulletthe Epic of Gilgamesh and

bulletthe Enuma Elish."

Of these four sources, Enuma Elish has the closest parallels with the first creation story in Genesis.

Wikipedia comments that the ancient Hebrews did not simply adopt the Babylonian myths; they sometimes inverted them in order to fit into their worldview. Two examples are: 3

bulletIn the Babylonian myth, the serpent, Ningishzida, is a friend to Adapa who helps him in his search for immortality.

bulletIn Genesis, the serpent is the enemy of Adam, trying to trick him out of the chance to understand good and evil by developing a moral sense and thus becoming fully human.

bulletThe gods of the Babylonians became the ancient Israelites' god.

Also:

bulletThe Mesopotamians had adopted a worldview in which the Earth had gradually improved since creation.

bulletThe ancient Hebrews adopted a worldview in which the universe was created perfect but degenerated to the point where God had to initiate the largest genocide in history -- killing every person from newborn to the elderly in the flood of Noah.

Comparison of Genesis' first Creation Story with Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation story

The Babylonian creation story is called by its first two words "Enuma Elish." According to archaeologists, it was originally written circa 1120 BCE. It was discovered in 1875 CE. It bears many points of similarity to the first creation story in the Bible: 1

Item Ancient Israelite Creation Story Babylonian Creation Story
Source Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 Enuma Elish
Date of writing (liberal belief) 8th or 9th century BCE Late 12th century BCE
Date of writing (conservative belief) 13th century BCE, the time of Moses Late 12th century BCE.
Author (liberal belief) "P," authors of the Priestly tradition. Unknown.
Author (conservative belief) Moses. Unknown.
Creator(s) of the universe A single God, YHVH. A God battling a Goddess.
Initial state of the earth Desolate waste; covered in darkness. Chaos; enveloped in darkness.
First development Light created. Light created.
Next development Firmament created - a rigid dome over the earth separating the earth and heaven. Firmament created; also perceived as a rigid dome.
Next development Dry land created. Dry land created.
Next development Sun, moon, stars created. Sun, moon, stars created.
Next development Creation of men and women. Creation of men and women.
Final development God rests and sanctify the Sabbath. Gods rest and celebrate.

The many points of similarity between the two traditions is conclusive proof that one story was derived from the other (or that both were derived from a still older original).

According to liberal theologians, the Babylonian account of creation was written in the 12th century BCE, centuries earlier than the Biblical account. According to conservative Christian theologians, the opposite happened: the Babylonian account was written after the Biblical account.

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. H.C. Kee, et al, "The Cambridge Companion to the Bible", Cambridge University Press, New York, NY, (1997), Page 45 to 46.
  2. Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, "Genesis' Genesis, The Hebrew Transformation of the Ancient Near Eastern Myths and Their Motifs," (2002), Welcome to Bible Origins, at: http://prophetess.lstc.edu/
  3. W.G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis," [1965], in Richard S. Hess & David T. Tsumra, Eds., "I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood," Eisenbrauns, (1994), Page 107.

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Copyright © 1996 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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