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

[Series Index: gilgymess.html // Last update: to this piece April 22, 2005]

Part5: Akkadian Minor Cosmogonies (gilgy03.html)

Scholars divide the ANE (Mesopotamian) literature into Sumerian (earlier) and Akkadian (subsequent) bodies of literature. We have already looked at the Sumerian works, and now turn to the Akkadian. Fortunately for our study, Akkadian is both much better understand and provides more extensive (and interesting) material for us to study.

Clifford organizes the Akkadian material into three groups:

This article will survey the minor cosmogonies for relevant material.

Clifford divides the minor cosmogonies into 9 categories:

  1. Incantations

  2. Rituals for the protection against evil

  3. Dedication texts for a temple

  4. Prayer for reconstruction of a temple

  5. Prayer at dedication of a temple

  6. Preamble to a prayer for a temple (Chaldean Cosmogony, The Foundation of Eridu)

  7. Introductions to Disputations (like the Sumerian genre)

  8. Prologues to the Great Astrological Treatise (dealing with planetary motion)

  9. Text dealing with creation of humans and king (perhaps a coronation hymn)


One: Incantations.

Here are the relevant sections of the three texts given by Clifford [OT:CAANEB, 55-57]:




After Anu [had created heaven]
Heaven had created (banu) [the earth]
The earth had created the rivers,
The rivers had created the canals,
The canals had created the marsh,
(And) the marsh had created the worm--
The worm went, weeping, before Shamash [the sun god]

Incantation: In the beginning, before creation (basamu), the work-song came down to the land;
the seeder plough bore (aladu) the seed furrow, the furrow (bore) the germ...

The earth--they tell--was. The earth
bore (aladu) the dirt,
the dirt
bore the stalk,
the stalk bore
the ear,
the ear bore
the ergot.

Anything here? Apparently not:

Obviously nothing here--

Two: Rituals for the protection against evil

Clifford calls these the Namburi texts and describes the cosmogonic material thus: "Many of these extremely repetitious texts refer to the river as a creator." (p.58). He gives one sample:

"Incantation: you [River, are the creator of everything (banu)]
When [the great gods dug you]
on your bank [they placed prosperity].
In your midst [Ea, king of the apsu built his residence]

Again, only disconnects here (e.g., nothing about a river creating everything in Genesis, land had to exist BEFORE the River was dug).

Three: Dedication texts for a temple

Clifford mentions four of these (p.59) , but only gives us one (relevant section below):

"After Anu had engendered (rehu) heaven,
(and) Ea had founded (kunna) earth,"

This is, again, not cosmogonic in the sense we are looking for: (a) the normal creation words (e.g., banu) are not present; (b) these are merely statements and not narratives; and (c) rehu is a sexual/fertility term ["to pour out seed"]. None of this is remotely close to Genesis...

Four: Prayer for reconstruction of a temple

This piece is embedded in a ritual--the relevant text is:

When the god Anu created heaven,
When the god Nudimmud (Ea) created the apsu-ocean, his dwelling,
The god Ea pinched off a piece of clay in the apsu ocean,
Created (the brick god) Kull
for the restoration of [temples]
Created the reed marsh and the forest for the work of their construction,
Created the gods Ninildu, Ninsimug and Arazu to be the completers of their constructions,
Created mountains and oceans for everything
Created the deities…
Created men to be the makers...[OT:CAANEB, p.59f]

Nothing specific in parallel here, and a couple of significant variants from Genesis: (a) a god is created from clay; (b) forests/marshes seem to be created before oceans and mountains; (c) no mention of forests/marshes in Genesis at all; and (d) men were created to be 'makers' and not 'orchard keepers' or 'earth-rulers'. Nothing actually in parallel here.

Five: A Prayer to dedicate a foundation brick of a temple.

Clifford gives this text:

(71) When Anu, Enlil, and Ea had a (first) idea
Of heaven and earth,
They found a wise means of providing support of the gods.
They prepared, in the land, a pleasant dwelling,
(75) And the gods were installed (?) in this dwelling: Their principle temple.
Then they entrusted (?) to the king the responsibility (?) of assuring them regular choice offerings.
And for the feast of the gods, They established the required food offering!
The gods loved this dwelling!" [OT:CAANEB, p.61f]

Apart from the obvious disconnect between 'hungry hordes of deities" (carefully planning on how they would be fed and feasted) and the biblical YAHWEH (smile), the discontinuities are manifest: (a) somehow the land already exists; (b) there is already a king [of what people?]; (c) emphasis on food offerings to gods; (d) a physical temple.

Six. Preamble to a prayer for a temple (Chaldean Cosmogony, The Foundation of Eridu)

Here's the text given in Clifford:

(1) A holy house, a house of the gods, had not been built in (its) holy place;
A reed had not come forth, a tree had not been produced;
A brick had not been laid, a brick mold had not been built;
A house had not been made, a city had not been built;
(5) A city had not been made, a living creature had not been placed (in it);
Nippur had not been made, Ekur [main temple of Nippur] had not been built;
Uruk had not been made, Eanna [main temple of Uruk] had not been built;
The apsu had not been made, Eridu had not been built;
A holy house, a house of the gods (and) its foundation, had not been made.
(10) All the lands were sea,
The spring in the midst of the sea was only a channel.
Then Eridu was made, Esagil was built,
Esagil that Lugaldukuga erected in the heart of apsu Babylon was made, Esagil was completed.
(15) The gods, the Anunnaki, he divided into (two) equal parts,
They called (it) the preeminent city of the gods, the dwelling pleasing to them.
Marduk constructed a raft on the waters;
He created dirt and piled it on the raft.

In order to settle the gods in the dwelling pleasing to them
(20) He created humankind.
Aruru created the seed of humankind with him.
He created the wild animals and all the animals of the steppe.
He created the Tigris and the Euphrates and set (them) in place,
Giving them a favorable name.
(25) He created the grass, the rush of the marsh, the reed, and the woods;
He created the green herb of the field,
The lands, marshes, and canebrakes,
The cow (and) her young, the calf; the ewe (and) her lamb, the sheep of the fold;
The orchards and forests,
(30) The wild sheep, the ibex ... to them.
He made an embankment along the sea.
... dried up (?) the swamp.
He caused to appear ...
He creat[ed the reed], he created the tree;
(35) [. . . ] in the place he built,
[Bricks he laid, the br]ick mold he built;
[Houses he built,] cities he built;
[Cities he made,] living creatures he placed (therein);
[Nippur he built], Ekur he built;
(40) [Uruk he built, Eann]a he built.

Two of the more radical discontinuities are noted by Clifford [OT:CAANEB, p. 65]:

"After the human builders of the temples have been created, creatures necessary for the temples and their maintenance are formed. The world is created not for human beings but for the 'cult,' the housing and feeding of the gods."

We might also add: (a) the whole 'raft' motif; (b) the reverse order of creation--a city, humankind, animals, vegetation; and (c) humans are necessary for the gods to be able to settle in the land of Eridu. Again, nothing much here...

Seven. Introductions to Disputations (like the Sumerian genre)

Clifford describes these: "Of the six extant Babylonian examples of this genre, only three preserve cosmogonic introductions: Two Insects, Tamarisk and Palm, Ox and Horse." [OT:CAANEB:65]. However, he only discusses and gives the texts for the first two of these, for some reason.

Two Insects. Here is the fragmentary text:

(1) When the gods, met in their assembly, had created [heaven and earth],
formed heaven, consolidated [the sun (?)...],
they brought into being the animals [ ]:
large wild animals, wild animals, small wi[ld] animals [ ]:
(5) and once they had [... ] (to) these animals,
they allot[ted (?) their respective domains (?)]
to the cattle and to the small domestic animals...

Even though the text is so fragmentary (and therefore, filled with bra[ckets]!), it should be obvious that we don't have anything interesting or compelling here. Gods creating heaven and earth is a generic commonplace of any/all cosmogonies (and not a sign of borrowing, obviously), and the gods creating animals is similarly a no-brainer. The divisions of the animals into groups by size, and then by domestication is something we don't find in Genesis, of course, and there is no mention of humans here (except implied in domestication--if said domestication was by humans instead of by deities).

Palm and Tamarisk. Here is the Emar version [OT:CAANEB:66]:

(1-5) In light-filled days, in dark n[ights], in [far-off] years, when the gods had founded (kunnu) the land, had built cities for far-off humans, when they had heaped up the mountains and dug the canals that give life to the land, the gods of the land met in assembly. Anu, Enlil, (and) Ea deliberated together; among them sat Shamash, and in their midst sat the great Mistress of the gods.
(6-11) Formerly kingship did not exist in the land, and rule was given to the gods. But the gods grew fond of the black-headed people and g[ave? them a king. The people] of the land of Kish assembled around him so that he might protect (? them). The king planted a date palm in his palace, the space around it he filled with tamarisk(s). In the shadow of the tamarisks, meals were served; in the shadow of the date palm, the crafts were grouped, the drum was beaten -the people rejoiced, the palace exulted.

This is another case of a genre mismatch with Genesis. The Disputations (as we noted in the Sumerian discussions) are not mythic, religious, serious pieces--and these are no exception:

"The cosmogony culminates in the king's planting the date palm and tamarisk on his palace grounds. The king is prominent because the genre was, after all, royal entertainment... Like other disputations, this is a witty exercise of erudite scribes designed for entertainment." [OT:CAANEB:66f]

Also, we should note that the details of the cosmogonic section (1-5) don't match up very well with Genesis 1-2 here either: (a) gods built cities; (b) gods dug irrigation canals; and (c) gods heap up mountains--none of these elements are present in Genesis 1-2.

Eight. Prologues to the Great Astrological Treatise (dealing with planetary motion)

"The next two cosmogonies function as prologues to the Great Astrological Treatise, a work that describes in twenty-two tablets the movements of the moon, and in its later tablets, the movements of the sun, planets, stars, and meteors. No. 8a, a bilingual, attributes the genesis of the astral movements to the designs of the gods. The Sumerian version, given first, differs from the Akkadian." [OT:CAANEB, 67]

Here are the texts 8a (Bilingual) and 8b (Akkadian):

8a. Bilingual (Sumerian, followed by Akkadian)

8b. Akkadian

(1) When An, Enlil, and Enki, the great gods, in their infallible counsel, among the great laws of heaven and earth,
had established the crescent of the moon,
which brought forth day, established the months and furnished the omens drawn from heaven and earth,
This crescent shone in heaven, and one saw the stars shining in highest heaven!
(5) In other words [=the Akkadian version]: When Anu, Enlil, and Ea, the great gods,
Had in their counsel established the plans of heaven and earth, and when they had charged the great astral gods
to produce day, and to assure the regular sequence of months, for the (astrological) observation of humans,
one saw then the sun rising and the stars shone forever in highest heaven!

(l) When Anu, Enlil, and Ea, the great gods,
Had created heaven and earth, had made manifest the token,
Had established the "stand," had fixed the "station,"
Had appointed the gods of the night, had distributed the courses,
(5) Had [installed] stars as (astral) counterparts, had designed the "images'
Had [measured] the length of day and night, had created month and year,
Had [ordered] the path for Sin and Samas (and) had made the decrees concerning heaven and earth...

These are not really cosmogonic narratives as Clifford points out: "These cosmogonies are concerned exclusively with sun, moon, and stars. No. 8a does not mention creation explicitly but only the assigning of functions to the heavenly bodies. No. 8b, though mentioning creation of heaven and earth, is chiefly concerned with the functions of the heavenly bodies." [OT:CAANEB, 68]

The connection of moon, sun, and stars with time-keeping (function) is universal among cultures--nothing relative to 'borrowing' there. Nothing here in either of these text, apparently.

Nine. A Neo-Babylonian tablet on the creation of Humans (VAT 17019).

Neo-Babylonian texts are sorta "too late to the party" for our discussion (and some of the other texts we discussed earlier fell into this time frame, too). Neo-B is in the 750-500 BC-ish timeframe, and Genesis 1 is certainly well-formed by this period (cf. Jeremiah's reverse creation prophecy in Jeremiah 4.23--using exact language; and similar usage in many Psalms). This tablet is 45 lines long, and we have only 3/4ths of it.

(2) [tur]ned away was [their (=the laboring gods)] coun[tenance ... ]
Belet-ili [their] mistress, was fri[ghtened at] their (oppressed) silence;
to Ea, her twin brother, she sp[eaks] a word:
(5) "Labor has [become burden]some to them:
brought near is . . [ . . . ] . . the belt [ . ]
Turned away is [their countenance, and] hostility has [broken] out.
Let us create (banu) a clay figure on which to impose [the labor];
from weariness let us give them (=the gods) rest fo[rever]."
(10) Ea rose to speak, [directing a word to Belet-ill:
"[Belet]-ili, you are the mistress of the great gods.
[.......] .. later;
[. .] .... ... [...] . his hands."
Then Belet-ili snipped off the clay for him (=the man);
(15) [ ] . . she acted skillfully.
[.... she pur]ified and mixed the clay for him.
[..... ] adorned his body,
[........ ] his entire form.
[.......]...he/she placed,
(20) [ . . . . . . . ] ... he/she placed,
[ ...]... he/she placed,
[ . . . . . .] . . . . placed [his] body.
[ . . . . . . .] Ellil, the hero of the great gods,
[when . . . . . . ]. . he saw him, [his] fa[ce] shone,
(25) [ in the ass]embly of the gods he looked at [...] from all sides,
[ ] . . he com[pleted] his bodily form.
[ El]lil, the hero of the great gods,
[lullu-man(?)] he made its name;
[the lab]or of the gods he ordered to be imposed on him.
(30) Ea rose to speak, directing a word to Belet-ili
"Belet-ili, you are the mistress of the great gods.
You have created (banu) lullu-man:
form (patiqu) now the king, the thinking-deciding man!
With excellence cover his whole form,
(35) form (banu) his features in harmony, make his whole body beautiful!"
Then Belet-ili formed the king, the thinking-deciding man.
The great gods gave the king the battle.
Anu gave him the crown, Ellil ga[ve him the throne],
Nergal gave him the weapons, Ninurta ga[ve him shining splendor],
(40) Belet-ili gave [him a handsome appea]rance.
Nusku gave instruction, imparted counsel and sto[od by him in service].
Whoever speaks [falsehood and deception] to the king,
if it is an . . . . , [he will .... [OT:CAANEB, 69f]

We have already seen this theme, of course, but there are new elements and new emphases:

"The text presupposes that the lower class of gods have rebelled against their servitude. Human beings are being created as substitute workers. The same story is told in the Sumerian tale of Enki and Ninmah and the Akkadian Atrahasis... New in this text is the detailed readying of the man in lines 17-22 (presuming Enlil is the subject in lines 23 and 27), Enlil's prominence in naming and defining human tasks, and the sharp distinction between (ordinary) human beings and the king... The text is especially concerned with the creation of the king and his endowment with every virtue needed to rule. He is distinguished from lullu, presumably man in the primitive state before culture..." [OT:CAANEB:70]

We have noticed elsewhere the alien-to-Genesis character of this whole motif of whining, weary, vandalistic, rebellious gods, in need of a substitute worker-class. The made-from-clay motif we have discussed elsewhere (remembering that this also was how some gods were created), and the absence of biblical motifs (e.g., breathing into the dust, image of God, woman and man) is also apparent. New to this text are the differences-from-Genesis of : (a) creation of a king and (b) differences of king from humans. Again, no 'specific, complex, compelling' parallels to Genesis, and many anti-parallels.


Some Observations on the material thus far:

One. These first Akkadian pieces show almost zero uniformity--it's like they were either (a) unaware of each other; (b) 'unimpressed' by each other [smile], or (b) under no compulsion to borrow from one another... Each of these scenarios counts as data against the theory that all/most cosmogonic authors were merely 'compilers' and wholesale borrowers. Compare Clifford's comments about this diversity:

"The minor Akkadian cosmogonies thus reveal no one invariable mode of creation, though Anu, Enlil, and Ea, or heaven and earth, invariably initiate it (that's ALL?!). Despite a uniform belief that the world was created by the gods for their own benefit, the articulations of that belief differed greatly. Composers worked with great freedom." [OT:CAANEB:73]

Two. Even the few thematic similarities that do exist between some of the Akkadian texts are totally missing from the Genesis accounts!

Three. Even the creating-from-clay motif (a) doesn't closely match the Genesis narrative; and is (b) a commonplace in non-ANE myth. For just a couple of examples (we will explore this in a separate piece later), and a summary:


Okay, where does this leave us?

I quote from the previous piece (again):

"This is an easy summary: there are no parallels of any substance, and there are TONS of anti-parallels, contradictions, and gross variances. This literature (unlike some other literature we will look at later) just is either too distant from the biblical document in tone, intent, themes, particulars, and sequences; or it is subject to the 'if they could read it, they would probably not use it' response.


On to the next--a much more interesting one (smile)...(gilgy04.html),


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