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The Creation

Deptiction of a Babylonian creation myth

The following is a summary, you can read the full discussion here.

In this first session we discussed the spirituality (rather than the plausibility) of three creation myths, two from the book of Genesis and one from ancient Babylon. For each of the accounts we thought about four things: What is the author trying to say about the world, humanity, and God? What sort of person would have written this?

1) Genesis 1:1-2:4 (P source)

The world: God is the basis for form, structure and order (note the repetition of ‘separated’).

Humanity: God gives us a place within this order; we can trust that has a purpose. Yet at the same time mankind (note here God creates mankind before he does male and female) is the pinnacle of this order and has the role of taking care of it.

God: God does not carry on creating more and more forever, but comes to an end. God’s example demonstrates that rest is something extremely important in life.

The author: A philosopher/scientist?

2) Genesis 2:4-25 (J Source)

The world: God creates in one day, presumably immediately. This is a much more direct and powerful form of creation.

Humanity: Creation is distinctly hierarchical, we are reminded that we are made from dust and that God commands man.

God: God desires to enter into a personal relationship with humanity. This reassures us of our fundamental dignity as was expressed by our bearing the ‘image’ of God in the P account.

The author: Storyteller/dramatist?

3) Babylonian Enuma Elish Myth

[Apsu and Tiamat beget all the gods but their noise disturbs them, so Apsu arranges for their murder. However they hear of it and one of them, Ea, kills Apsu and takes over. Tiamat makes an army of monsters to revenge her husband, and puts her lover, Qingu, in command. Ea’s son Marduk takes up the challenge to fight Tiamat’s army. Marduk is made king and is given the winds as weapons, a net to trap Tiamat, and a bow and a club. Marduk beats Tiamat in battle.]

“…The lord [Marduk] trod on the legs of Tiamat, with his unsparing mace he crushed her skull. When he had severed the arteries of her blood… the lord paused to view her dead body, that he might divide the form and do artful works. He split her like a shellfish into two parts: half of her he set up as a covering for heaven, pulled down the bar and posted guards. He bade them not to allow her waters to escape.

In her belly he established the heights. The Moon he caused to shine, entrusting the night to him. He appointed him a creature of the night to signify the days, and marked off every month, without cease, by means of his crown… Taking the spittle of Tiamat, Marduk created the clouds and filled them with water. Putting her head into position he formed the mountains. Opening the deep which was in flood, he caused to flow from her eyes the Euphrates and Tigris…”

[Marduk then builds Babylon as a throne for himself ]

“Below I have hardened the ground for a building site, I will build a house, it will be my luxurious abode. I will found there its temple, I will call its name Babylon which means the houses of the great gods…”

[Marduk decides to create humans using the body of Tiamet’s lover, Qingu]

“I will take blood and fashion bone. I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name. Truly, savage-man I will create. He shall be charged with the service of the gods that they might be at ease!” They bound Qingu, holding him before Ea. They imposed on him his punishment and severed his blood vessels. Out of his blood they fashioned mankind. Marduk imposed on him the service and let free the gods.”

[Marduk is enthroned in Babylon and the other gods praise him]

“This is Babylon, the place that is your home, Marduk! Make merry in its precincts, occupy its broad places.”

[The Enuma Elish ends with words from the author]

“Let these words be kept in mind and let the leader explain them. Let the wise and the knowing discuss them together. Let the father recite them and impart them to his son… Let him rejoice in Marduk… that his land may be fertile and that he may prosper”

The world: ‘Creation’ is accidental; there isn’t a definitive beginning.

Humanity: God has no desire to enter into a personal relationship with humanity; our only purpose is to serve God.

God: Gods are plural, and can have children. They are not only anthropomorphic in the sense that J is, but exemplify the worse aspects of humanity. Violence is not condemned and is perhaps glorified; might is right.

The author: A warlord?

Questions for discussion

1. Which of these do you prefer and why?

2. If the bible had used the Babylonian story-

A) How might Christian history have been different?

B) How might Christianity have been different?

3. Can you find elements of the two types of myth in these passages?

4.Suppose that P and J really were written at different times by different people and have been spliced together. What impact would that have upon of theories of revelation?

5. Can you discern a trinitarian view of God in the Genesis stories?


View the Next Part of Bible For Bluffers.

Comments on: "The Creation" (4)

  1. “we discussed the spirituality (rather than the plausibility)”

    Is sprituality slanted discussion likely to make them more plausible? Or is there another purpose here. A myth is a myth is a myth.? My definition of spirit and spiritualty is the essence on ‘the unknown’ so this seems about as reasonable as getting the devil to talk about Hell. If this seems reasonable to you, then fair enough. Discuss.


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