Enuma Elish vs. Genesis

By far the best supplementary readings I can recommend in the wake of my most recent entry in our History of Christianity series are the Enuma Elish and (at a minimum) the first three chapters of Genesis. The Enuma Elish is a text, only (re)discovered in the late nineteenth century, which contains the Babylonian myth of creation. Almost from the point of its recent discovery it was recognized that this story was clearly in the same vein as and probably a source for the creation story in Genesis. The similarities are notable, to say the least. Even more notable, however, are the ways in which Genesis departs from the Enuma Elish in its vision of God, man, and world. Genesis, in a sense, de-mythologizes the story of the Enuma Elish, for example eliminating the idea of a cosmic battle between the gods. Perhaps the most remarkable way in which Genesis deviates from the Enuma Elish is in its vision of God’s relationship to man. In the Enuma Elish (Table VI) man is created to serve the gods by completing their labor for them; in other words, man is, in the vision of the Enuma Elish, created from the very first as a slave. The vision of man, his creation, and his purpose offered in Genesis is strikingly different. I’ll let you make the rest of the comparisons and contrasts for yourself.

The Enuma Elish is not especially lengthy and you can read the whole thing online at the Ancient Encyclopedia of History. They also offer a concise introduction and summary of the work.

The text of Genesis is, of course, widely available online and off. I recommend reading it at Blue Letter Bible as they offer several English translations and their language and interpretation tools are a great resource for further inquiry.

Those who want to go even deeper might enjoy taking a look at the Septuagint (Greek/Christian) text of Genesis in side-by-side comparison with the Masoretic (Hebrew/Jewish) version which is used in most English translations of the Bible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts of how these texts compare and contrast with each other in their ideas.

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