The Enuma Elish

01 Feb
from Google Images

from Google Images

According to Chris or, as I mentioned in my previous blogpost, according to his analyses of Karen Armstrong’s book A History of God, the story of creation is found first, not in the Biblical text, but in the Enuma Elish, seven clay tablets found in the ruins of the palace of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh (see his next video HERE). They date to the 12th century BC and contain interesting allusions to the Genesis account of creation. In fact, in 1876 they were published by George Smith as the Chaldean Genesis!

The problem with this analysis is that it is imperialistic, demanding that the worldview of the ANE cultures and traditions (including that of the Bible) be analyzed by the ‘post-enlightenment’ cultural tradition of the past few centuries. Such an analysis of ANE culture would be comparable to Chris’ first impression of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull (HERE), namely that it was a children’s book and continuing with that analysis throughout his reading. It misses the point of the purpose of the book in the same way a scientific analysis of the ANE cultures does. It makes no sense to say that the Bible borrowed from the Enuma Elish tradition or, as one scholar prefers, of the ancient Canaanite myths. The fact is that it makes better Biblical sense if those other traditions were already in place when Moses wrote the Torah—especially for the first few chapters of Genesis.

Notice what is happening in the first few lines of the Enuma Elish:

Before the Heavens had been named; before the Earth below had been named, none but APSU, the All-Father, oldest of beings and MUMMU-TIAMAT, Mother who bore them, existed. Their Waters merged into one. There were no fields or marshes before any GODS came into being. The Powers had no names; their destinies had not been fixed. [underline emphasis mine]

This is a picture of chaos or Chaoskampf (see HERE), before the laws of nature (gods) were brought into existence (or created). Naming distinguishes and separates one thing from another, but before this was done all was chaoskampf. In other words, in the ANE cultures giving something an identity or specificity gave it existence, not scientific existence but existence according to human cultural order. Things weren’t viewed scientifically but according to human appreciation of society and culture. Naming something gave that thing sense, so, according to the Enuma Elish, once heaven and earth were named, it gave them existence and determined their identities and function. In Egypt mythology once Ptah named a thing, it was brought into existence. In the first chapter of Genesis God (Yahweh) identifies things and pronounces them good, i.e. they have a place in orderly existence. The difference is these things are not portrayed as gods.

In the mythology of the nations—whether in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt or Canaan—each of the things named were personified, just as the Chaoskampf was identified a mixture of Apsu and Mummu-Tiamat. Their children, once named, were the gods of the nations, each having a function according to their place within that orderly system as understood in human traditions. The point in Genesis is that God (Yahweh) stood apart from the ordered system. He created it all, but none of what he created, light, darkness, the seasons, water, land plants and fruit trees etc. had life of their own. That is, they were identified within an ordered system, but the Genesis account does not personify them as gods. Yahweh alone was God, and nothing within the ordered system of things was god—Yahweh is the One and Only!

Chris points out in this video that Genesis 2-11 have nothing in common with the cultures of the time in which they were supposed to have been written, and therefore must have been written much later when the nations of Judah and Israel tried to find meaning in the “cultural climate of the nations around them.” This analysis, however, misses the point of Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1 is very meaningful in the cultural climate of the surrounding nations at the time of Moses. What Chris and others do is, they miss the point by discounting the differences between Genesis and the traditions of the other nations. Separating Genesis 1 from Genesis 2 does violence to the context. The Enuma Elish brings the gods into being by destroying and dividing Tiamat (chaos). Separation is a main theme of the myth. Genesis 1 has God separating light from darkness, water from land, the firmament below from the firmament above, but leaves mankind male and female in one body. Mankind wasn’t divided until Genesis 2, but JEDP does violence to this cultural tradition by trying to say Genesis 1 has a different author than does Genesis 2. The only reason for saying so is, the text has different names for God (Elohim in Genesis 1 and Jehovah in Genesis 2). Yet, there is a greater reason for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to remain together in order to contrast the Biblical tradition with that of the surrounding nations.

This understanding blows the JEDP hypothesis out of the water, because, if Genesis 1 is combined with “J”, it is already known that Yahweh is the only God and there would be no need for “P” at all; moreover, there is no need for a distinction between “J” and “E”, if monotheism is already a reality. The names of God in J & E must be for one Being, if Genesis 1 is combined with Genesis 2, as demanded by context. Moreover, Deuteronomy would not be a forgery of a priest trying to help Josiah to establish his political goals! The reality of it all is that the scholars of the enlightenment and on into modern times simply have misunderstood the ANE traditions, in so far as they looked at them through the glasses of empirical scientific tradition.

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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in atheism, naturalism


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