Good question--is Genesis merely a rip-off of other ANE lit?

[Series Index: gilgymess.html // Last update: to this piece May 28, 2005]

Part7: Akkadian Anthropological Cosmogonies: Enuma elish (gilgy05.html)

Here's the background on Ee (Enuma elish):

The text itself doesn't have a lot of cosmogonic material in it, though:

"In sharp contrast to the single-scene Akkadian cosmogonies discussed above are two lengthy narratives--Atrahasis (1,245 lines according to the third tablet of the Nur-Ava edition) and Enuma elish (ca. 1,100 lines in seven tables). In each the actual fashioning of the world is one part of a lengthy story. In Atrahasis the formation of humans occupies only lines +189-260+ of tablet I. In Enuma elish the opening theogony takes up only the first twenty lines of tablet I, and Marduk's formation of the cosmos fills the latter part of tablet IV to the middle of tablet VI." [OT:CAANEB, 73]

Now, strictly speaking, Ee is probably not a document to be rightly considered a possible source, for a couple of reasons:

First, its actually probably a bit too late in time--it's dated most likely to Nebuchadnezzar I, which ruled around the time of the Judges/David:

"Thanks to new advances in dating and identifying its sources, it is possible to interpret Enuma elish and its cosmogonies with more precision than before. The Old Babylonian date once generally assigned to Enuma elish is now recognized to be too early; most scholars today prefer either a late Kassite (fourteenth to twelfth centuries B.C.) or Isin II (Nebuchadnezzar I, 1125-1104 B.C. ) date. Scholars point out that the supremacy of Marduk over all the gods attested in Enuma elish is not attested in Old Babylonian times; in the late eighteenth-century B.C. Code of Hammurabi, Marduk is supreme over the earth but not over the gods. Only in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon(1125-1104B.C.) did the old triad of Anu, Enlil, and Ea yield completely to Marduk." [OT:CAANEB, 83]

"Thus the context of Enuma Elish is the rise of Marduk in history, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I..." [ABD, s.v. "Enuma Elish"]

Secondly, the document was not even normative [nor even representative] for its own time/place:

"However, Enuma Elish remains important as a major Babylonian cosmological text, though it was not normative for its own world..." [ABD, s.v. "Enuma Elish"]

"The first major conclusion is that the Epic of Creation is not a norm of Babylonian or Sumerian cosmology. It is a sectarian and aberrant combination of mythological threads woven into an unparalleled composition. In my opinion it is not any earlier than 1100 B.C. It happens to be the best preserved Babylonian document of its genre simply because it was at its height of popularity when the libraries were formed from which our knowledge of Babylonian mythology is mostly derived. The various traditions it draws upon are often perverted to such an extent that conclusions based on this text alone are suspect." [ISI:100f, W.G. Lambert]

Thirdly, there is actually very little 'creation' material here--it is mostly 'organization' of pre-existing stuff:

"Much of what comes under the heading of creation in the literature of Mesopotamia is more properly organization within the cosmos rather than creation of the matter that makes up the cosmos. So in Enuma Elish, the cosmogonic/theogonic material is exhausted after only the first twenty lines of the first tablet, while a large part of tablets IV-VI describe Marduk's acts of organizing the cosmos... So, Thorkild Jacobsen notes in his analysis of Enuma Elish: 'World origins, it holds, are essentially accidental: gods were born out of a mingling of the primeval waters and they engendered other gods'" [AILCC, p. 25]

Here are some/most of the relevant cosmogonic lines from the first part of Enuma elish:



(1) When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu, their begetter,
(And) Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
(5) Their waters commingling as a single body;
No reed hut' had been matted, no marsh land had appeared,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined-
Then it was that the gods were formed within them
(10) Lahmu and Lahamu. were brought forth, by name they were called
Before they had grown in age and stature.
Anshar and Kishar were formed, surpassing the others.
They prolonged the days, added on the years.
Anu was their heir, of his fathers the rival;
(15) Yea, Anshar's first-born, Anu, was his equal.
Anu begot in his image Nudimmud.
This Nudimmud was of his fathers the master;
Of broad wisdom, understanding, mighty in strength,
Mightier by far than his grandfather, Anshar.
(2) He had no rival among the gods,

(1) When skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name,
Apsu, the first one, their begetter
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,
(5) Had mixed their waters together,
But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds;
When yet no gods were manifest,
Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed,
Then gods were born within them.
(10) Lahmu and Lahamu emerged, their names pronounced.
As soon as they matured, were fully formed,
Anshar (and) Kishar were born, surpassing them.
They passed the days at length, they added to the years.
Anu, their first-born son, rivaled his forefathers:
(15) Anshar made his son Anu like himself,
And Anu begot Nudimmud in his likeness.
He, Nudimmud, was superior to his forefathers:
Profound of understanding, he was wise, was very strong at arms.
Mightier by far than Anshar, his father's begetter,
(20) He had no rival among the gods his peers.

Notice that there really isn't any cosmo-gony here; only theo-gony. It's all about the creation/birthing of gods. There is some allusion to a watery pre-god-making state (i.e., the mixing of waters by/from Tiamat and Apsu)--which we have already discussed in but nothing else.

Some may suggest that the 'watery beginning' is a parallel (and, perhaps a borrowing), but Lambert points out the weakness of this:

"So far as the concept is concerned, the idea of a watery beginning was by no means the only Mesopotamian notion. There were three basic doctrines. According to the most commonly attested, earth came first and all else emerged in some way from this. Less commonly attested is the conception of primaeval water, and thirdly time was considered the source and origin of all this. Earth in this cosmological sense is first attested about 2600 B.C. Water is not known before 2000, and time makes its first appearance about 1700 B.C. Since the evidence for all three is scanty, these dates have no absolute value. In contrast with these different Mesopotamian ideas, the ancient Egyptians quite generally acknowledged the god of the primaeval waters Nu (Nun) as the source of all things. In early Greece there were different opinions, as in Mesopotamia, but Ocean is described as the father (genesis) of the gods in Homer, and water is the prime element in the cosmologies of Thales and Anaximander. Thus the watery beginning of Genesis in itself is no evidence of Mesopotamian influence." [ISI, p.102f]

And, before someone wants to jump to the "Good Point, Glenn--Genesis must have borrowed from the Egyptians!" conclusion, let me point out that watery beginnings is one of the more prevalent themes in Native/Meso American creation stories, also [our 'control element', remember?]. The Earth Diver theme (i.e., first beings floating on a raft, diving below the ocean surface to bring up the world, and items to populate the world) is very, very common among very, very wide cultures.

So much for the first section of Ee...

Now, although many, many parallels (with borrowing implications, according to some) have been adduced, there is really only main one that people adduce, and it is from the second piece of creation-like material in Ea: the dividing of the 'deep' of Genesis and Tiamat:

"Similarities between Genesis and Enuma Elish have been frequently cited in great detail. While superficial parallels may be noted and do exist, the only substantial similarity occurs in the dividing of the body of Tiamat by Marduk to create the two separated spheres of water. This is comparable to God's dividing the waters of the firmament on the second day of creation. The similarity between Tiamat's name and the Hebrew word for the deep, tehom, invites linguistic comparison as well." [AILCC, p26]

But modern scholars generally consider this parallel to be real, but not a case of borrowing (and the linguistic argument is generally dismissed nowadays):

Just to show you the truly 'visceral differences' (in the literal sense of the word... smile!) between this and Genesis' simple account, here are some/most of the relevant cosmogonic lines from the second relevant part of Enuma elish:


(IV. 135) He calmed down. Then the Lord was inspecting her [the slain goddess Tiamat] carcass,
That he might divide(?) the monstrous lump and fashion artful things.
He split her in two, like a fish for drying,
Half of her he set up and made as a cover, heaven.
He stretched out the hide
and assigned watchmen,
(140) And ordered them not to let her waters escape.;
He crossed heaven and inspected (its) firmament,
He made a counterpart to Apsu, the dwelling of Nudimmud.
The Lord measured the construction of Apsu,
He founded the Great Sanctuary, the likeness of Esharra.
(In) the Great Sanctuary, (in) Esharra, which he built, (and in) heaven,
He made Ea, Enlil, and Anu dwell in their holy places.

Tablet V

(1) He made the position(s) for the great gods,"
He established (in) constellations the stars, their likenesses.
He marked the year, described its boundaries,
He set up twelve months of three stars each.
(5) After he had patterned the days of the year,
He fixed the position of Neberu to mark the (stars’) relationships.
Lest any make an error or go astray,
He established the position(s) of Enlil and Ea in relation to it.
He opened up gates on both (sides of her) ribs,
(10) He made strong bolts to left and right.
In her liver he established the zenith.
He made the moon appear, entrusted (to him) the night.
He assigned to him the crown jewel of nighttime to mark the day (of the month):
Every month, without ceasing, he exalted him with a crown.
(15) “At the beginning of the month, waxing over the land,
You shine with horns to mark six days,
At the seventh day, the disk as [ha]lf.
At the fifteenth day, you shall be in opposition, at the midpoint of each [month].
When the sun f[ac]es you from the horizon of heaven,
(20) Wane at the same pace and form in reverse.
At the day of di[sappeara]nce, approach the sun’s course,
On the [ ] of the thirtieth day, you shall be in conjunction with the sun a second time.
I d[efined]? the celestial signs, proceed on their path,
[ ] approach each other and render (oracular) judgment.
(50) To raise the wind, to cause rainfall,
To make mists steam, to pile up her spittle (as snow?),
He assigned to himself, put under his control.
He set down her head and piled [ ] upon it,
He opened underground springs, a flood was let flow(?).
(55) From her eyes he undammed the Euph[rates] and Tigris,
He stopped up her nostrils,
he left …
He heaped up high–peaked mo[unt]ains from(?) her dugs [CAANEB: "udder"].
He drilled through her waterholes to carry off the catchwater.
He coiled up her tail and tied it as(?) “The Great Bond.”
(60) [ ] Apsu beneath, at his feet.
He set her crotch as the brace of heaven,
Spreading [half of] her as a cover, he established the netherworld.
[After he had completed his task inside Tiamat,
[He spre]ad his net, let all (within) escape.

Here's the biblical passage which was supposed to have been 'borrowed' from this: "Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so." (Gen 1:6-7). Wow... (smile)

Besides the obvious repugnancy (and perhaps even incomprehensibility) for the Hebrews of the notion of the universe being formed out of the internal organs taken from the dead, dismembered carcass of a female god (made out of salt water)--slain by yet another polytheistic (yet politically ambitious and upperwardly mobile... smile) Babylonian god, we might also note that Tiamat is apparently animal-like (e.g., sea dragon, with a tail and an udder, 'sleeping around' with Qingu?)--quick anathema to the author of the Pentateuch.

In short: nothing here, with even the simple possible parallel too non-specific and too contra-indicated by MASSIVE anti-parallels to suggest (let alone, warrant) borrowing. [As noted by the scholar dudes above].


There is one third section which deals with the creation of humanity, but it is similar to what we have seen before: created from the slain rebellious god's blood, to do the work of the gods, etc (although unlike Atrahasis there is no clay or spit mentioned here, interestingly).

Here's the text (VI.5-36):



(5)“I shall compact blood, I shall cause bones to be,
I shall make stand a human being, let ‘Man’ be its name.
I shall create humankind,
They shall bear the gods’ burden that those may rest.
I shall artfully double the ways of the gods:
(10) Let them be honored as one but divided in twain.”
Ea answered him, saying these words,
He told him a plan to let the gods rest,
Let one, their brother, be given to me,
Let him be destroyed so that people can be fashioned.

(15) Let the great gods convene in assembly,
Let the guilty one be given up that they may abide.”
Marduk convened the great gods in assembly,
He spoke to them magnanimously as he gave the command,
The gods heeded his utterance,
(20) As the king spoke to the Anunna–gods (these) words,
“Let your first reply be the truth!

Do you speak with me truthful words!
Who was it that made war,
Suborned Tiamat and drew up for battle?
(25) Let him be given over to me, the one who made war,
I shall make him bear his punishment, you shall be released.”
The Igigi, the great gods answered him,
To Lugaldimmerankia, sovereign of all the gods, their lord,
It was Qingu who made war,
(30) Suborned Tiamat and drew up for battle.”
They bound and held him before Ea,
They imposed the punishment on him and shed his blood.

From his blood he made mankind,
He imposed the burden of the gods and exempted the gods.
(35) After Ea the wise had made mankind,
They imposed the burden of the gods on them

(5) Let me put blood together, and make bones too
Let me set up primeval man (lullu): Man shall be his name.
Let me create a primeval man.
The work of the Gods shall be imposed (on him), and so they shall be at leisure.
Let me change the ways of the gods miraculously,
So they are gathered as one yet divided in two.
Ea answered him and spoke a word to him,
Told him his plan for the leisure of the gods.
'Let one who is hostile to them be surrendered (up),
Let him be destroyed, and let people be created (from him).
Let the great gods assemble,
Let the culprit be given up, and let them convict him. I
Marduk assembled the great gods,
Gave (them) instructions pleasantly, gave orders.
The gods paid attention to what he said.
The king addressed his words to the Anunnaki,
'Your election of me shall be firm and foremost
I shall declare the laws, the edicts within my power.
Whosoever started the war,
And incited Tiamat, and gathered an army,

Let the one who started the war be given up to me,
And he shall bear the penalty for his crime, that you may dwell in peace.'
The Igigi, the great gods, answered him,
Their lord Lugal-dimmer-ankia, counsellor of gods,
'It was Qingu who started the war,
He who incited Tiamat and gathered an army!'
They bound him and held him in front of Ea,
Imposed the penalty on him and cut off his blood.
He created mankind from his blood,"

Imposed the toil of the gods (on man) and released the gods from it.
When Ea the wise had created mankind,
Had imposed the toil of the gods on them-

This is basically the Atrahasis anthropo-geny (without the clay, spit, etc), and I have already discussed that in gilgy04 (Atrahasis). We noted the absence of parallels there, and without even the 'clay' element here, the distance from Genesis is even further.

Enuma elish may be more important to us when we look later at how later authors used traditions (a la Tigay), but as for a probable source for Genesis, its contribution is negligible.

Okay, where does this leave us?

This is an easy summary: there is ONLY ONE parallel of any substance--but not strong/specific enough to suggest/warrant borrowing, and there are TONS of anti-parallels, contradictions, and gross variances. This literature (unlike some other literature we will look at later) just is too distant from the biblical document in tone, intent, themes, particulars, and sequences...


On to the next...(gilgy06.html),




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