Study of Genesis/Genesis as a Myth

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Here is a bit from EJ that might be useful (Creation and Cosmogony in the Bible):

The two versions of the creation story have often been compared to Mesopotamian prototypes. The translation given above in Genesis 1:1ff. and 2:4bff., "when … then," is analogous to the introductory style of Mesopotamian epics. Tracing a theme to the creation of the universe is a feature also found in as trivial a work as the "Incantation to a Toothache" (Pritchard, Texts, 100–1), and in as major a composition as the Sumerian King List (ibid., 265–6), "history" commences with the dynasties before the Flood.

ENUMA ELISH For specific cosmogonic details the most important piece of Mesopotamian literature is the Babylonian epic story of creation, Enuma Elish (ibid., 60–72). Here, as in Genesis, the priority of water is taken for granted, i.e., the primeval chaos consisted of a watery abyss. The name for this watery abyss, part of which is personified by the goddess Tiamat, is the etymological equivalent of the Hebrew tehom (Gen. 1:2), a proper name that always appears in the Bible without the definite article. (It should be noted, however, that whereas "Tiamat" is the name of a primal generative force, tehom is merely a poetic term for a lifeless mass of water.) In both Genesis (1:6–7) and Enuma Elish (4:137–40) the creation of heaven and earth resulted from the separation of the waters by a firmament. The existence of day and night precedes the creation of the luminous bodies (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, and 14ff.; Enuma Elish 1:38). The function of the luminaries is to yield light and regulate time (Gen. 1:14; Enuma Elish 5:12–13). Man is the final act of creation – in Enuma Elish, too, before his creation the gods are said to take counsel (Enuma Elish 6:4) – and following the creation of man there ensues divine rest. There is, furthermore, an identical sequence of events: creation of firmament, dry land, luminaries, man, and divine rest. Thus, it appears that at least the so-called P account echoes this earlier Mesopotamian story of creation.

Another reflection of very ancient traditions is found in Genesis 1:21. Since the entire story of creation refers onlyPage 275 | Top of Article to general categories of plant and animal life, not to any individual species, the specific mention of "the great sea monsters" alongside, and even before, "all the living creatures of every kind that move about, which the waters brought forth in swarms" is striking. It is most likely part of the biblical polemic against the polytheistic version of a primeval struggle between the creator god and a marine monster which was the personification of chaos (see below). In Genesis this story has been submerged and only appears in the demythologized reference to the sea monsters as being themselves created by God, not as rival gods.

The second creation story, too, has Near Eastern prototypes: The creation of man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) is analogous to the creation of man from clay, a motif often found in Mesopotamian literature, e.g., the Gilgamesh Epic; the Hebrew name of the underground flow, ’ed, that watered the Garden of Eden, is related to either a cognate Akkadian word edu or to the Sumerian word ÍD, "river"; and the creation of woman from a rib may reflect a Sumerian motif (see Kramer).

Nevertheless, the differences between the biblical and the Mesopotamian accounts are much more striking than their similarities; each of them embodies the world outlook of their respective civilizations. In Genesis there is a total rejection of all mythology. The overriding conception of a single, omnipotent, creator predominates. Cosmogony is not linked to theogony. The preexistence of God is assumed – it is not linked to the genesis of the universe. There is no suggestion of any primordial battle or internecine war which eventually led to the creation of the universe. The one God is above the whole of nature, which He Himself created by His own absolute will. The primeval water, earth, sky, and luminaries are not pictured as deities or as parts of disembodied deities, but are all parts of the manifold works of the Creator. Man, in turn, is not conceived of as an afterthought, as in Enuma Elish, but rather as the pinnacle of creation. Man is appointed ruler of the animal and vegetable kingdoms; he is not merely the menial of the gods (Enuma Elish). The story in Genesis, moreover, is nonpolitical: Unlike Enuma Elish, which is a monument to Marduk and to Babylon and its temple, Genesis makes no allusion to Israel, Jerusalem, or the Temple. Furthermore, the biblical story is non-cultic: unlike Enuma Elish, which was read on the fourth day of the Babylonian New Year festival, it plays no ritual role whatsoever in the religion of Israel.

(above content found at PiCo's Talk Page