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Hebrews Steal Creation Story from Babylon

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As virtually all religious historians agree, the elite people from Judah (the Southern Kingdom and the only one remaining after the Northern Kingdom fell in 722 BCE) were carted off to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, the capital, at the beginning of the 6th century BCE. Their sojourn lasted decades and many believe they were treated well. Of this group the scribes and “keepers of the book” were prominent. Karen Armstrong, a noted biblical scholar, states that when these scribes were free to return to Judah, they had completed the writing of the first few books of the Bible, including Genesis.[1] This “final”edition is often referred to as P for Priestly.

It is impossible not to conclude that the Hebrews living in Babylon were not influenced by Babylon’s key myth, entitled Enuma Elish.[2] This story of creation with the supremacy of Marduk, a male god, over Tiamet, the female god, likely dates from the second millennium BCE. The concepts of the creation stories in the Bible and Enuma Elish match so closely that it is impossible to deny part of the provenance of the Biblical account to the much older Enuma Elish. What follows is a layout of the match between the two stories.

Conception of the earth as shapeless and formless

Genesis 1:2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Enuma Elish

When in the height heaven was not named,

And the Earth beneath did not yet bear a name,

And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,

And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both

Their waters were mingled together,

And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen.

(Apsu represents the sweet-water ocean, Tiamut the salt-water and Mummu the mist.[3]

The firmament, the dome above the earth is then fixed.

Genesis 1:6-8

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Enuma Elish

In the midst thereof he fixed the zenith;

The Moon-god he caused to shine forth, the night he entrusted to him.

He appointed him, a being of the night, to determine the days.

Creation of dry land.

Genesis 1:9-10

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Enuma Elish

He split her up like a flat fish into two halves;

One half of her he established as a covering for heaven.

He fixed a bolt, he stationed a watchman,

And bade them not to let her waters come forth.

(Here Marduk splits Tiamet – the goddess who represents the sea – and creates heaven and earth.)

Stars are created in the heavens

Genesis 1:14-18

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Enuma Elish

He (Marduk) made the stations for the great gods;

The stars, their images, as the stars of the Zodiac, he fixed.

He ordained the year and into sections he divided it;

For the twelve months he fixed three stars.

After he had … the days of the year … images,

Creation of man

Genesis 1:26-27

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Enuma Elish

My blood will I take and bone will I fashion

I will make man, that man may

I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,

That the service of the gods may be established,

and that their shrines may be built.

Man should multiply

Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Enuma Elish

Let a man rejoice in Marduk, the Lord of the gods,

That be may cause his land to be fruitful, and that he himself may have prosperity!

Early civilizations all had their creation myths. In the Near East, there were many of these civilizations and their paths crossed often. With decades in Babylon, the Hebrews had more than enough time to learn about Enuma Elish and craft a similar mythology. No, the Bible is not the inspired word of God, it is the creation of ordinary man.

Karen L. Garst

The Faithless Feminist

 

 

[1] Karen Armstrong, In the Beginning (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996)

[2] http://www.crystalinks.com/enumaelish.html

[3] https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/misc_genesis.pdf

About the Author Karen Garst