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

[Series Begin: Feb 2005 // Last update: Dec 9/2005]

Okay... We are the end of the series, and I would like to step back and reflect of what we have found. [Not an 'organized reflection', mind you—smile].

One. My first reflection is one of surprise: I really, really thought there would be more concrete detail to support the claim of borrowing than what we saw here. I have heard SO MANY allegations of this in Internet correspondence, from students being 'pelted by professors', by just 'cultural osmosis'. So many of the scholars I read and referenced 'saw something' here in the texts, but upon close examination, I couldn't find anything of real substance. Instead of detailed correspondences of the type looked for by major scholars (gilgy00.html), what instead I found were general references to 'themes', 'patterns', 'motifs', 'frameworks'. Now, this would not be a problem in itself, except that such terms must be identified from the text—and THAT requires details. I begin to see that all the 'complaints' Assyriologists now make about 'biblical scholars' have a major point of validity. Compare just a few of the landscape-overviews I cited at the beginning of the series, and notice how this disapproval of fast-and-lose parallels is frequent:

"Arguably, over the past 70 years there has been more written concerning the relationship of Ugarit and the Bible than any other single Syro-Mesopotamian site. The first generation saw a flurry of activity to show numerous parallels with Ugarit and the Bible, both real and imagined...By the 1960's new developments arose. New mythical and liturgical texts from Ugarit were discovered that initially raised excitement among comparative scholars. However, some argued that the connections between the two were ambiguous at best, and problematic." [OT:MAB, 38]

"This sort of maximalist position would see the biblical authors as working directly from Mesopotamian exemplars as they carried out theological transformations. Though this sort of conclusion is common, the summary of comparative literary studies of Genesis 1-11 offered by R. S. Hess in the introduction to 'I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood' demonstrates that [the maximalist's] conclusions are far from universally held. D. Tsumura's introduction in the same volume details the rejection of dependence on the Babylonian materials by such well-known Assyriologists as W. G. Lambert and A. Sjoberg....Nevertheless, given the complexity of the transmission of tradition and culture in the ancient world literary dependence is extremely difficult to prove." [OT:DictOT5, s.v. Creation”]

"The similarities between Genesis and Enuma Elish are too few to think that the author of Genesis was in any way addressing the piece of literature we know as Enuma Elish." [AILCC, p.34]

"The second possibility, that the Israelite account was borrowed from the Babylonians, has enjoyed an overabundance of popularity. In reality, there is nothing that would lend substantiating credence to this belief. The fact that Israel on occasion exhibits cultural characteristics assimilated from Babylon, as did most of the Ancient Near East, can in no way serve as independent proof that any given item was borrowed. Each potential case of borrowing must be studied on its own merits, for it is clear that there are several cultural elements from Mesopotamia that Israel rejected... The only evidence that can be produced to support the case for Israelite borrowing is the similarities we have already identified. These are hardly convincing, in that most of the similarities occur in situations where cosmological choices are limited. For example, the belief in a primeval watery mass is perfectly logical and one of only a few possibilities... Since there is little to suggest direct borrowing on the part of the Israelites, we would be inclined to accept a more cautious position..." [AILCC, p. 37]

"Reconstruction of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and 'purged' of pagan elements remains imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way...However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and the Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative (form of the Ark; duration of the Flood, the identity of the birds and their dispatch) and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of the whole of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revision, alteration, and reinterpretation in a fashion that cannot be substantiated for any other composition from the ancient Near East or in any other Hebrew writing. If there was borrowing then it can have extended only as far as the "historical" framework, and not included intention or interpretation. The fact that the closest similarities lie in the Flood stories is instructive. For both Babylonians and Hebrews the Flood marked the end of an age. Mankind could trace itself back to that time; what happened before it was largely unknown. The Hebrews explicitly traced their origins back to Noah, and, we may suppose, assumed that the account of the Flood and all that went before derived from him. Late Babylonian sages supposed that tablets containing information about the ante-diluvian world were buried at Sippar before the Flood and disinterred afterwards. The two accounts undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgment is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meteorology, geophysics, and timing alone. In creation its account is admired for its simplicity and grandeur, its concept of man accords well with observable facts. In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us. Granted that the Flood took place, knowledge of it must have survived to form the available accounts; while the Babylonians could only conceive of the event in their own polytheistic language, the Hebrews, or their ancestors, understood the action of God in it. Who can say it was not so?" [[ISI, "A New Babylonian 'Genesis' Story", p.126f]

"In the study of material on Genesis 1-3, consideration should be given to G. F. Hasel's essays on the methodology and problems of applying the comparative approach to the first chapter of Genesis. In few other passages of the Bible have so many facile comparisons been made with ancient Near Eastern myths and so many far-reaching conclusions posited. Hasel provides observations on fundamental distinctions in the creation accounts, with a strong focus on an antimythological apologetic for Genesis." [ISI, "One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative Studies on Genesis 1-11", p.19f]

"So, Genesis 1 and 'Enuma Elish,' which was composed primarily to exalt Marduk in the pantheon of Babylon, have no direct relation to each other...It is not correct to say that 'Enuma Elish' was adopted and adapted by the Israelites to produce the Genesis stories. As Lambert holds, there is 'no evidence of Hebrew borrowing from Babylon'. Sjoberg accepts Lambert's opinion that 'there was hardly any influence from the Babylonian text on the Old Testament creation accounts.' ...Along the same line, Sjoberg as an Assyriologist warns Old Testament scholars that 'it is no longer scientifically sound to assume that all ideas originated in Mesopotamia and moved westward.' ...It is difficult to assume that an earlier Canaanite dragon myth existed in the background of Gen. 1:2...Shea suggests that 'it is possible to view these two separate sources [Adapa and Genesis 2-3] as independent witnesses to a common event'...Niels-Erik Andreasen also thinks that 'parallels do indeed exist between Adam and Adapa, but they are seriously blunted by the entirely different contexts in which they occur.'..."[ISI, "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood, p.31ff]

"The similarities between the Genesis account and the 'Atra-Hasis Epic' do not support the idea that Genesis is a direct borrowing form the Mesopotamian but do indicate that Mesopotamian materials could have served as models for Genesis 1-11, as Jacobsen holds. P.D. Miller also admits that 'there were Mesopotamian models that anticipate the structure of Genesis 1-11 as a whole.' K. A. Kitchen notes a similar outline, namely 'creation-flood-later times,' and a common theme, namely 'creation, crisis, continuance of man,' of the 'primeval proto-history' in the 'Atra-Hasis Epic,' the Sumerian Flood story, and the Sumerian King List, as well as in the Genesis account. He recognizes here 'a common literary heritage, formulated in each case in Mesopotamia in the early 2nd millennium BC..'...However, there are also many differences between the Mesopotamian traditions and the Genesis account, in addition to the basic concepts of divine-human relationship." [ISI, "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood, p.47]

"As Lambert and Millard note [in Atra Hasis: Babylonian Story of the Flood], 'It is obvious that the differences [between the Genesis Flood account and the Babylonian Flood Account in Atra-Hasis] are too great to encourage belief in direct connection between 'Atra-Hasis' and Genesis, but just as obviously there is some kind of involvement in the historical traditions generally of the two peoples.'" [ISI, "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood, p.31ff; Note: if both peoples experienced a common flood, I think that might count as 'some kind of involvement'!]

"As Gosta will see, I have in some cases parted from the 'Uppsala School' where, we have to admit, a strong stress was placed upon Mesopotamian influences on Old Testament concepts. I will begin with the Babylonian epic of creation, Enuma Elis, and agree with Professor W.G. Lambert that there was hardly any influence from that Babylonian text on the Old Testament creation accounts." [Sjoberg, "Eve and the Chameleon", in In the Shelter of Elyon (Barrick and Spencer, eds), p217]

Two. In light of this, I can now see why the older 'parallelists' had to pin cosmogonic borrowing claims to the supposedly-stronger flood-tradition borrowing, since the former was entirely gossamer and the latter much more engaging. Our discussion of the flood (gilgy09.html) was the longest piece in the series, and had the most amount of apparent detail to work with. But apart from that, we found next-to-nothing in the purely cosmogonic texts to even 'argue over'.

Three. Although scholarly agreement and/or consensus sometimes seems to be in the same genus/specie as the unicorn, I could not find a single borrowing-supporting detail that was uncontested by one or more OTHER major scholars. Be it the 'deep' in Genesis 1, the creation of humans from dust in Genesis 2, the contents of Chaoskampf, or even the direction of borrowing of the 'birds' detail in the Flood traditions, everything was rebutted somewhere (and often, 'rebutted well'). Now, this phenomenon routinely occurs in the two extremes of data: not enough data (where the 'reconstructive imagination' must do all the hard work) and too much data (where multiple theoretical models can provide adequate explanation, but each for a different 95% of the data. No theory covers 100% of the data, in data-rich fields). We, of course, are working under the former limitation here (sigh).

Four. So, why do scholars still talk about/assume borrowing, dependence, 'influences', even though they have 'softened' their language down to become quite cautious and subdued? Although a perverse part of me would like to see this as some anti-bible, anti-supernatural, persecutive scholarly malignancy (so that I could take the moral high ground and not have to work so hard on these texts...chuckle), I suspect the reasons can be generally (but maybe not always) found in less spectacular rationales (smile). [Although, I should mention that anti-semitic intent WAS present in some of the nascent manifestations of his, as we noted in the beginning of the series.] We will see in the next Reflection how almost none of the serious scholars (as opposed to the occasional Web-only pundit!) adopt a position which would actually 'close off' the possibility of divine revelation, and indeed, even those who see the most-borrowing are looking for the framework in which to isolate the Hebrew 'innovations'. Off the top of my head, I can think of four aspects of this which might 'encourage' such assumptions/thinking:

So there are plenty of non-diabolical reasons (smile) scholars might continue to speak of 'borrowing', but we need to be careful that we don't glorify such assertions with unearned acceptance...

Five. None of the scholarship that I am familiar with dismisses the reality of “Hebrew innovations”, and this is where most of the theological payload is carried anyway. Often you will find in the writers in this field, comments about the 'differences' between the Hebrew worldview and the worldview of the materials they allegedly adopted or adapted. So, Tigay can say:

“This conclusion will be more welcome to 'parallelomaniacs' than to their opponents, and in incautious hands it can be misused. But to ignore it would shackle us in recognizing real parallels that are valuable in illustrating both the rootedness of the Bible in its Near Eastern environment and its own creativity.[TS:255]

“Quite possibly these stories [ANE cosmogonies] became known to the biblical authors in proto-Israelite versions which they molded, with creative editorial skill, into a unique narrative with a wholly new meaning” [“Paradise”, in Ency. of Judaica]

One would have to be particularly unobservant to miss the 'innovations' (or at least, the “polemical ripostes' ) in the Genesis material – compared to the ANE texts. Thus, the 'door is open' for theological revelation, psychological insights, transcendent points-of-view. This is generally not discussed in the literature—but only because it is somewhat oblique to the kinds of questions those scholars are researching (i.e., questions of information-flow and background). Now, frankly, this admission of innovation is no 'virtuous concession' on their part, since ANY change to some alleged precursor is an 'innovation'--only perfect copies of something do not 'innovate', in the sense it is being used in this context. But many of these scholars—even those who see greater-than-trace-amounts of borrowing—do admit the stark contrast between the monotheism of Genesis (mostly) and the polytheism of Meso-X.

[Of course, many of them have become Politically Correct nowadays in not 'judging' the polytheistic system of Meso-x as being 'inferior' to the theology of the Tanaach/Old Testament! They try to eliminate value-laden terminology, such as 'primitive' , 'backward', 'naïve'. This is almost comical, when you consider descriptions of these deities by ANE scholars. Consider Bottero's entertaining summary:

“It logically follows that the gods' behavior must also have been a reflection of human behavior. The mythology is greatly edifying in this regard; and even the cult, as we will see below, was based on the gods' needs, which were similar to our own: eating and drinking, clothing and ornamentation, the desire for an opulent and carefree life in big and luxurious "houses" amid celebrations.

“In Atrahasis, Enlil, the king of the gods, dislikes humans because the rising din of their working multitudes prevents him from sleeping. And the gods, like humans, sometimes drank too much beer and then fell into euphoric inebriation, which led them to emphatic and unfortunate generosity. This is what happened to Enki in Manna and Enki: The Transfer of the Arts of Civilization from Eridu to Erech, in which the god, after having drunk a bit, with great careless beneficence abandons to Inanna the complete treasure of the "powers" and secrets that governed civilized life and, once he comes back to himself, attempts in vain to get them back.

“The gods were sometimes too human and demonstrated not only our weaknesses but also our sins. Atrahasis is hardly sympathetic to the king of the gods, Enlil. Not only does it present him as green with fright and completely disconcerted at the news of the strike of the divine workers, but when, in order to sleep, he tries to stop the din of humans, he is completely unreasonable, since instead of simply reducing their numbers, the harsh decision he makes risks eliminating them completely. This is in fact what he ultimately decides upon in ordering the Flood. He thus forgets, or disregards in his exigent impatience, that humans had been created precisely to provide indispensable services to the gods. Even if this is some bitterly lucid vision of monarchical power, indeed perhaps based on specific incidents, the fact that the authors were able to paint such an unflattering portrait of the lord of the gods and of the world says a lot about the anthropomorphism of the faithful!

“One of the best examples of this sometimes faulty "humanity" attributed to the representatives of the divine world is provided by the figure of Istar, who is often modeled after those women who are "enamored of their bodies" and completely dedicated to "free love," of which she was the patron, and the prerogatives of which she exercised joyfully. One must see her at the beginning of tablet VI of the Epic of Gilgamesh seducing Gilgames and trying shamelessly to attract him into her bed, whereas Gilgames, forewarned and wary, harshly presents her with her fickleness and betrayals. In a Babylonian hymn from the beginning of the second millennium we learn in a verse in praise of the goddess: "Sixty then sixty satisfy themselves in turn upon her nakedness. Young men have tired, Ishtar will not tire."

“Another trait that can also be considered "too human" appears in an old myth written in Sumerian: Enlil and Ninlil. Enlil is presented here as driven by a crazy desire to "penetrate" a young and pretty goddess, who is still a virgin and whom he "violates" and makes pregnant, causing a great scandal among the other gods. His subjects immediately exile him as punishment—which does not prevent him from repeating the deed on two occasions with the same goddess, who, moreover, has evidently acquired a taste for him and asks for more!” [OT:RIAM, 66f]

But the admission of 'innovation' raises the question of 'from whence' and, as an innovation, it could just as easily be from God as from the Muses or as from indigestion. The scholars cannot discount any of these three sources, and so 'inspiration' is a working option for anyone. [Notice, though, that this is strictly a function of literary differences, so the same argument can be applied to changes from OB to SB GE, for example. Some of the ANE literature does make claims of 'divine inspiration' (but this is not common)--such as the Myth of Erra. It is just that in the biblical case, the origin of the differences is explicitly said to be “God” and/or Moses.] So, regardless of the degree of borrowing asserted, the final, shaped, textual product could be 'inspired' in the conservative/evangelical sense. [Remember, this was already the case—we have already cited evangelical scholars who point out that 'inspiration' is an attribute of the final document, and NOT necessarily of any of the processes/precursors which lead up to this final form.]

Six. I was also quite surprised in this series on how little of this literature was actually 'religious', in the sense we might speak of Genesis or the Qur'an. A large number of these documents were classed as 'court entertainment', possible 'drinking/sailing songs', schoolboy creations (filled with sexual subplots and 'silly heroes'), deeply satirical works, or exhibitions of scholarly finesse (with puns, hidden meanings, archaisms). We have obviously religious literature in (some of) the hymns, and a 'practical religious' literature in the spells/omen literature, but none/few of these have any purportedly cosmogonic content. The occasional piece that seems close (e.g., EE) is also clearly propagandistic, for the royal ideology and/or dynasty. With the possible exception of the propagandistic texts (but note: there are those who claim that Genesis was constructed for similar reasons, to authenticate some priesthood or Davidic dynasty), I cannot even find any comparable texts with which to compare Genesis. The specific genre (broadly defined, to include social function) of 'foundational/charter cosmogonies and genealogies', just does not seem to be present in the ANE. Scholars get 'nervous' (or they should!) when they reason across genre-boundaries, and even more so when going from drinking songs to religious texts! I personally don't get a comfortable feeling about the legitimacy of this method in our case...

Seven. The apparently 'low religious esteem' attributed to this potpourri of texts makes me wonder why a Hebrew author would 'borrow' from it to begin with, for usage in a high-religious, national foundational document? This is like the problem we saw with the Sumerian literature: if they Genesis author understood the Sumerian text, then he would not have used it—if he DIDN'T understand it, he COULDN'T have used it. In the case of Akkadian literature, half of the problem is similar: if the Genesis author understood the genre/usage of those texts, then he would not have used it. But, the other half is not as obvious, since (theoretically) the Genesis author could have understood the language/semantics of these texts, yet WITHOUT knowing their questionable pedigree. But it probably wasn't the pedigree which disqualified these texts—it was the content. The polytheism and questionable ethics and weaknesses of the deities (see Bottero's description above) would have seemed 'inferior' to the author of Genesis, and so this factor alone would have served to eliminate/restrict any borrowing. In the case of Ugaritic (or even Egyptian, although that is not asserted as strongly), the case is even stronger: there are explicit commands in the Pentateuch to 'eschew all things Canaanite or Egyptian'. An author would be taking a great social/cultural risk to use Ugaritic/Egyptian motifs, images, arguments, etc in a document expressly positioned against said culture! These factors tend to eliminate the motive for borrowing, and actually create barriers to it (for an educated author of Genesis). The very prospect of appearing 'tainted' by a pagan source (as anathema as that appears in the biblical documents) would similarly restrict the usage of motifs, themes, and (possibly) frameworks [although 'framework' is more closely a function of 'neutral' genre].

Eight. Some scholars assert that the innovations are 'merely' polemical inversions—that Israel had no native traditions, and simply did the 'adolescent thing' of asserting identity-through-negation. This would (possibly) lower the value of the document, but it is not 'big enough' of a theory to explain our texts. The number of possible polemical inversions in Genesis (e.g., the 'humble' mention of the stars and sea-monsters in Genesis 1; the mandates to 'be fruitful and multiply' over against the Meso-x problem with 'over-population') is very small, so this tactic could only account for a very small faction of the content, at best. [Besides, it is an open question if there could even be a culture without some 'native' traditions--?] We should also note that 'polemical inversions' are often indistinguishable from 'corrections' or 'instructions to the laity'. So, just because a text implicitly repudiates some belief of ANE culture, does not mean that the text was just 'oppositionally and opportunisticallycreated—it could have been a native tradition (or revealed truth) which was just at odds with the world around them, and which was important enough to single out as being 'different'.

Nine. When we try to find some type of 'control data' by which to measure or identify alleged cases of borrowing, we have few options. Tigay's suggestion of GE (examined in gilgy10.html) seemed off the mark, and the discussion there indicated that we would need some case of 'charter-foundational, history-styled, sacred literature'--of which there are few ANE examples, and fewer still with a visible transmission/borrowing history. We do, however, have a different type of control data from ANE and biblical texts: inner-corpus allusion or reference. In the cases of ANE-quoting-ANE we noted in this series (mostly in gilgy10.html), the citations/allusions were rather exact and very obvious. When we had a putative source and the quoting document, the quotations/allusion was very obvious. The same thing (although we do not discuss this in this series) is true of inner-biblical allusion. When the author of Exodus opens the book with Israel having 'been fruitful and multiplied', no one who has ever read Genesis 1-2 misses the explicit/verbal reference. A few lines later, the word used to describe the box the little baby Moses was in is the same word used for Noah's ark—and the word is never reused elsewhere. The allusion is obvious. This is the consistent pattern—citations are literal, parallels are very obvious... They have to be to work. The 'so what?' for us should be obvious: since we have ZERO of these 'striking parallels' between Genesis and the extant ANE cosmogonic corpus, we simply cannot assert the borrowing thesis and claim any real data. “Real data” would be obvious, like it is in ANE-to-ANE borrowing and in inner-biblical reference/allusions/quotations (nb: quoted and alluded to texts, however, are not given in 'citation form'--with attribution--except in rare cases, cf. [OT:SQVP] ).

Ten. Practically speaking, this lack of evidence renders completely moot two assumptions often raised in these discussions: (1) the historical priority of non-Biblical texts; and (2) the uni-directional “influence flow” from-Outside-into-Israel. These assumptions are used to determine the 'necessary' direction of borrowing. But it should be obvious to the reader that, without substantiation of the claim of borrowing, neither of these assumptions are relevant to the discussion. Had we seen some 'striking, detailed, systematic, and obvious' cases of borrowing, then we would have had to dive into questions of historical priority and means of tradition transmission. Fortunately, for the sake of the fatigue of the writer and reader here (smile), we don't have to pursue those here... [I should note that the one questionable case we saw of borrowing was from the bible to SB GE XI, and we discussed timing, transmission possibilities there.] International interaction in the ANE was very robust, from the migrant worker to the traveling merchant, from 'exchange student programs' between Syria/Palestine, Emar, and Mesopotamia, to the 'visiting scholars' at Ebla. And historical dating of an extant manuscript has never been used to determine the antiquity of the contents of that document! The vast majority of these ANE documents are described in the literature something like “our earliest manuscripts are dated to the Nth century BC, but the contents are undoubtedly much older.” The traditions within Gen 1-11 thus cannot be dated on the basis of some putative date of the compilation of the Pentateuch! The genealogies, the contra-Mosaic behavior of the Patriarchs, the archaisms in the Table of Nations, the uniqueness/simplicity of the theology and non-ancestor-glorification tenor of the texts suggest great antiquity. For example, in no other cosmogony in the world is there an actual name-by-name 'common-folk' genealogy from the first human. This looks like a simple, kept-in-the-tent family logbook. Nothing religious (but foundational), nothing propagandistic, nothing 'etiological'. Some can claim, of course, that this functions to authenticate Israel's claim to something and therefore it was invented, but this merely accusation, not proof. It could simply be as it is described—stranger things have happened (smile).

Finally, we should note (perhaps 'speculate' would be a better that the characteristics of ancient Israel as portrayed in the Hebrew bible made it a likely candidate both to have and to preserve some 'original and non-diluted' version of cosmogony/flood stories. This is not critical to this series of course, but I sometimes like to end with something inflammatory (smile). The ancient Hebrews are portrayed as being relatively isolationist from the beginning. Abraham was called 'out', he left his father/household, he was a 'stranger' in the Land of promise. He and his immediate descendants were welcomed by the inhabitants and kingdoms of the land, but they ended up either alienating them (e.g., Abimelech stories, Shechem) or refusing to align with them (“not taking any spoil”, etc). The insistence to not “marry in the land” is further evidence of this intentional distance from the cultures around them. They may have known their stories, but they would have warned their children about them... This isolation from cultural influences intensifies with the migration to Egypt. They become 'a people living alone' in Goshen, and are excluded from 'normal' culture (“O vile Asiatic”... was one term for their ilk). They are shepherds, who later become forced masons/builders. Neither of these occupations lend themselves to scholarly pursuits, international literature, and 'openness to elite culture'! The events of the Exodus further distance themselves from the native population, and perhaps 'isolate their ideology' further, by “military superiority”. 40 years in the wilderness, with only limited trading relations with them many traveling merchants, would not have provided a good setting for 'soaking in the ANE cosmogonies'. And neither would a couple of decades of conquest/battle. When most of any religious stuff they came across they were supposed to burn/destroy, there should not have even been a reasonable source for this information. And, as mentioned above, the explicit ideological repudiation of non-Israelite traditions/ethics/theology so strong in the Mosaic period would have, again, added to the isolationist stance. With the period of the Judges, of course, we have massive influence from the surrounding nations upon Israel. Thus, if any of the cosmogonic materials in Gen 1-11 were in place by the end of the Conquest (but before the period of Judges), then the sources for this material almost must have been pre-Abrahamic and come into Israel's possession before Abraham left Ur. [Alternatively, he could have gotten the material from Melchizedek, as I have noted elsewhere on the Tank. There are rabbinic traditions that Melchy was Shem. One accounting of the Genesis genealogies has him still alive at that time, remember, and he/his descendants would be a PERFECT source of undiluted cosmogonic/flood information.] There is a growing amount of data that argues that Bronze-age traditions can be found in Gen 1-11 [OT:FBA:193-232, contra Van Seters and Thompson] and [OT:BHI:115ff], as well as very early Iron age [OT:ISPEI:23-40] , [OT:MPP]. If this allows us a tentative position of the cosmogonic data being finished by the Conquest, then we also have an interesting corollary: Israel was never exposed to (up to this point) nor had time/interest/skill to develop into 'a literary culture'. This basic absence of a literary-creation 'sub-culture' means that there was no significant process of tradition 'dilution', 'expansion', or 'evolution'. They were busy working, building, traveling, or fighting. There was nothing comparable to the scribal schools of the ANE up to this point. There were no forces to be more 'inclusive' or 'speculative'. They were merely, dispassionately, and routinely passing on their ancestors' documents, records, genealogies, contracts, oracles, and journals. When the oldest sections of these were incorporated into the Magna Carta of Israel, they then became enshrined in a legal/covenant document, guaranteeing their preservation from then on. Thus the forces (and leisure time!) which would have produced dilution and modification were largely absent from pre-Judges Israel. This understanding fits the almost 'stark simplicity' of the Genesis creation and flood accounts. They are bare-bones narratives, with almost no dramatic 'flourishes', no character development, no personal dialog--all of which are earmarks of literary 'modification' and embellishment. Thus, if you had to pick an ancient culture which might be voted “Least likely to borrow from neighbors” or “Least likely to 'improve' upon ancestral tradition”, it would have been pre-Conquest Israel. Just a thought--maybe a research direction for some young pre-scholar...


Thus we come to the end of the series... we dug a lot, we dug deep, but we still came up empty... I can see now why Millard could state three decades ago:

"However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly.” [ISI, "A New Babylonian 'Genesis' Story", p.126f]

And how, twenty years later, Walton could still summarize:

“Except in occasional minor details, there is little similarity within the cosmological materials.” [AILCC:229]

I cannot find, in this recent re-look at all the detailed data, any reason to qualify these statements today.

“Thanks for Reading” (smile),

glenn miller Dec/2005



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