Part7: Akkadian Anthropological Cosmogonies: Enuma elish (gilgy05.html)
Here's the background on Ee (Enuma elish):
"A Babylonian narrative myth of about 1100 poetic lines, often misleadingly called “The (Babylonian) Epic of Creation.” Its purpose was to explain and justify the rise of the god Marduk to headship of the pantheon, and creation is incidental to that...In this narrative, because of a primeval contretemps, a group of young gods was threatened with destruction by Tiamat (“Sea”), who had her own group of followers. To prosecute her plan, she created a number of monsters which she put under the command of her spouse Kingu. Of the younger gods, Anshar, their king, first sent Ea and then Anu to do battle with Tiamat and her host, but both withdrew at the first glance. Marduk, Ea’s son, was persuaded to take up the cause. He, however, imposed a condition that, were he to return victorious, the existing divine government would abdicate in his favor, and this was agreed. Duly armed he set out, and after falling back at the first sight of the enemy, he recovered his nerve and advanced to victory. Immediately after victory he rearranged the universe according to the Babylonian concept of the author’s day and made Babylon the first city. In his newly built temple there he was celebrated by the gods as their king." [ABD, s.v. "Enuma Elish"]
"Enuma elish, a work in seven tablets, is sometimes called the standard Mesopotamian creation text. Its story begins before there were any gods -when the primordial waters Apsu and Tiamat were an undifferentiated mass and neither land nor gods existed. Then gods were born: the pairs Lahmu and Lahamu, Anshar and Kishar, Anu and then Ea. The gods' activity provokes Apsu's hostility, but before he takes any action Ea slays the sleeping Apsu with a spell and builds a palace on the corpse. Settled in the palace, Ea and Damkina give birth to Marduk, who turns out to be greater than any predecessor. His noisy play wakens Tiamat to vengeful rage; she commissions Kingu to destroy the gods, arming him with the Tablet of Destinies. Anshar in response invites first Anu and then Ea to lead the army, but both turn back in fear. Ea proposes Marduk as leader. He accepts on the condition that the assembly transfer to him its power of fixing destinies (simatu). So assured, Marduk marches forth and in single combat kills Tiamat, making from her split body the upper and lower halves of the universe. The grateful gods give Marduk "Anuship." He announces that Babylon will henceforth be their residence, and commands Ea to form from the blood of the slain Kingu a new creature, man, to manage the universe. The gods build Marduk a city and a temple and glorify him with fifty names. [OT:CAANEB, 82f]
The text itself doesn't have a lot of cosmogonic material in it, though:
"In sharp contrast to the single-scene Akkadian cosmogonies discussed above are two lengthy narratives--Atrahasis (1,245 lines according to the third tablet of the Nur-Ava edition) and Enuma elish (ca. 1,100 lines in seven tables). In each the actual fashioning of the world is one part of a lengthy story. In Atrahasis the formation of humans occupies only lines +189-260+ of tablet I. In Enuma elish the opening theogony takes up only the first twenty lines of tablet I, and Marduk's formation of the cosmos fills the latter part of tablet IV to the middle of tablet VI." [OT:CAANEB, 73]
Now, strictly speaking, Ee is probably not a document to be rightly considered a possible source, for a couple of reasons:
First, its actually probably a bit too late in time--it's dated most likely to Nebuchadnezzar I, which ruled around the time of the Judges/David:
"Thanks to new advances in dating and identifying its sources, it is possible to interpret Enuma elish and its cosmogonies with more precision than before. The Old Babylonian date once generally assigned to Enuma elish is now recognized to be too early; most scholars today prefer either a late Kassite (fourteenth to twelfth centuries B.C.) or Isin II (Nebuchadnezzar I, 1125-1104 B.C. ) date. Scholars point out that the supremacy of Marduk over all the gods attested in Enuma elish is not attested in Old Babylonian times; in the late eighteenth-century B.C. Code of Hammurabi, Marduk is supreme over the earth but not over the gods. Only in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon(1125-1104B.C.) did the old triad of Anu, Enlil, and Ea yield completely to Marduk." [OT:CAANEB, 83]
"Thus the context of Enuma Elish is the rise of Marduk in history, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I..." [ABD, s.v. "Enuma Elish"]
Secondly, the document was not even normative [nor even representative] for its own time/place:
"However, Enuma Elish remains important as a major Babylonian cosmological text, though it was not normative for its own world..." [ABD, s.v. "Enuma Elish"]
"The first major conclusion is that the Epic of Creation is not a norm of Babylonian or Sumerian cosmology. It is a sectarian and aberrant combination of mythological threads woven into an unparalleled composition. In my opinion it is not any earlier than 1100 B.C. It happens to be the best preserved Babylonian document of its genre simply because it was at its height of popularity when the libraries were formed from which our knowledge of Babylonian mythology is mostly derived. The various traditions it draws upon are often perverted to such an extent that conclusions based on this text alone are suspect." [ISI:100f, W.G. Lambert]
Thirdly, there is actually very little 'creation' material here--it is mostly 'organization' of pre-existing stuff:
"Much of what comes under the heading of creation in the literature of Mesopotamia is more properly organization within the cosmos rather than creation of the matter that makes up the cosmos. So in Enuma Elish, the cosmogonic/theogonic material is exhausted after only the first twenty lines of the first tablet, while a large part of tablets IV-VI describe Marduk's acts of organizing the cosmos... So, Thorkild Jacobsen notes in his analysis of Enuma Elish: 'World origins, it holds, are essentially accidental: gods were born out of a mingling of the primeval waters and they engendered other gods'" [AILCC, p. 25]
Here are some/most of the relevant
cosmogonic lines from the first part of Enuma elish:
(1) When on high the heaven had not
(1) When skies above were not yet named
Notice that there really isn't any cosmo-gony here; only theo-gony. It's all about the creation/birthing of gods. There is some allusion to a watery pre-god-making state (i.e., the mixing of waters by/from Tiamat and Apsu)--which we have already discussed in but nothing else.
Some may suggest that the 'watery beginning' is a parallel (and, perhaps a borrowing), but Lambert points out the weakness of this:
"So far as the concept is concerned, the idea of a watery beginning was by no means the only Mesopotamian notion. There were three basic doctrines. According to the most commonly attested, earth came first and all else emerged in some way from this. Less commonly attested is the conception of primaeval water, and thirdly time was considered the source and origin of all this. Earth in this cosmological sense is first attested about 2600 B.C. Water is not known before 2000, and time makes its first appearance about 1700 B.C. Since the evidence for all three is scanty, these dates have no absolute value. In contrast with these different Mesopotamian ideas, the ancient Egyptians quite generally acknowledged the god of the primaeval waters Nu (Nun) as the source of all things. In early Greece there were different opinions, as in Mesopotamia, but Ocean is described as the father (genesis) of the gods in Homer, and water is the prime element in the cosmologies of Thales and Anaximander. Thus the watery beginning of Genesis in itself is no evidence of Mesopotamian influence." [ISI, p.102f]
And, before someone wants to jump to the "Good Point, Glenn--Genesis must have borrowed from the Egyptians!" conclusion, let me point out that watery beginnings is one of the more prevalent themes in Native/Meso American creation stories, also [our 'control element', remember?]. The Earth Diver theme (i.e., first beings floating on a raft, diving below the ocean surface to bring up the world, and items to populate the world) is very, very common among very, very wide cultures.
So much for the first section of Ee...
Now, although many, many parallels (with borrowing implications, according to some) have been adduced, there is really only main one that people adduce, and it is from the second piece of creation-like material in Ea: the dividing of the 'deep' of Genesis and Tiamat:
"Similarities between Genesis and Enuma Elish have been frequently cited in great detail. While superficial parallels may be noted and do exist, the only substantial similarity occurs in the dividing of the body of Tiamat by Marduk to create the two separated spheres of water. This is comparable to God's dividing the waters of the firmament on the second day of creation. The similarity between Tiamat's name and the Hebrew word for the deep, tehom, invites linguistic comparison as well." [AILCC, p26]
But modern scholars generally consider this parallel to be real, but not a case of borrowing (and the linguistic argument is generally dismissed nowadays):
"Much has been made of the similarity of the Hebrew tehom ['the deep'] and the Babylonian Tiamat in Enuma Elis. Both are primaeval and watery. The etymological equivalence is of no consequence, since poetic allusions to cosmic battles in the Old Testament use yam and tehom indiscriminately... The activity of the second day is more explicit. God divided the cosmic waters into two parts on the vertical plane. Similarly in Enuma Elis Marduk splits the body of Tiamat. These seem to be the only two examples of the splitting of a body of water from the area and periods under discussion (apart from Berossus), so a parallel must be acknowledged... To sum up the discussion of the second day, there is one close parallel between Genesis and Enuma Elis, but no evidence of Hebrew borrowing from Babylon." [ISI, 102,103, 105]
"Ever since H. Gunkel's famous book Schopfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (1895), scholars have taken it for granted that the Hebrew tehom in Gen 1:2 has its mythological background in the ancient Babylonian goddess Tiamat of the "creation" myth "Enuma elish," in which the storm-god Marduk fights with and wins over the sea dragon Tiamat, establishing the cosmos. I have thoroughly reexamined the problem from a linguistic point of view, and it is now clear that it is phonologically impossible to conclude that tehom 'ocean' was borrowed from Tiamat. The Hebrew tehom 'ocean' together with the Ugaritic thm, the Akkadian tiamtu, the Arabic tihamat, and the Eblaite ti-'a-ma-tum /tiham(a)tum/ is simply a reflection of a common Semitic term *tiham-." [ISI, 21, (David Toshio Tsumura)]
"The relation of “Tiamat” to the biblical tehom has been satisfactorily discounted since the Heb noun is clearly a Northwest Semitic common noun referring to the cosmic waters (Lambert 1965: 293; Day 1985: 7, 50–51; Tsumura 1989: 47–48, 51–52). The possibility of Genesis using the Babylonian text as a primary source has now been generally abandoned (Rapaport 1979: 13; Day 1985: 50–51; Tsumura 1989: 158–59)." [ABD, "Tiamat (Deity)"]
"Another point of contact has been found in the concept according to which the splitting up of Tiamat's body led to the isolation of the cosmic waters inside her, and that a crossbar and guards were established in order to check that the waters did not escape uncontrolled (Enuma elis IV 139-140)...This is similar to Gen 1:6-7, where it is said that a firmament was erected 'in the middle of the waters' in order to separate the waters below the firmament from the waters above it... In this case the parallels are not sufficiently specific to warrant the conclusion that Enuma Elis was the source of the biblical account." [DDD, s.v. "Tiamat"; note--there's our 'specific enough' issue again]
Just to show you the truly 'visceral
differences' (in the literal sense of the word...
smile!) between this and Genesis' simple account, here are
some/most of the relevant cosmogonic lines from the second relevant
part of Enuma elish:
(IV. 135) He
calmed down. Then the Lord was inspecting
her [the slain goddess Tiamat] carcass,
(1) He made the position(s) for the
Here's the biblical passage which was supposed to have been 'borrowed' from this: "Then God said, 'Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse, and it was so." (Gen 1:6-7). Wow... (smile)
Besides the obvious repugnancy (and perhaps even incomprehensibility) for the Hebrews of the notion of the universe being formed out of the internal organs taken from the dead, dismembered carcass of a female god (made out of salt water)--slain by yet another polytheistic (yet politically ambitious and upperwardly mobile... smile) Babylonian god, we might also note that Tiamat is apparently animal-like (e.g., sea dragon, with a tail and an udder, 'sleeping around' with Qingu?)--quick anathema to the author of the Pentateuch.
In short: nothing here, with even the simple possible parallel too non-specific and too contra-indicated by MASSIVE anti-parallels to suggest (let alone, warrant) borrowing. [As noted by the scholar dudes above].
There is one third section which deals with the creation of humanity, but it is similar to what we have seen before: created from the slain rebellious god's blood, to do the work of the gods, etc (although unlike Atrahasis there is no clay or spit mentioned here, interestingly).
Here's the text (VI.5-36):
shall compact blood, I shall cause bones to be,
Do you speak with me truthful
(5) Let me put blood
together, and make bones too
This is basically the Atrahasis anthropo-geny (without the clay, spit, etc), and I have already discussed that in gilgy04 (Atrahasis). We noted the absence of parallels there, and without even the 'clay' element here, the distance from Genesis is even further.
elish may be more important to us when we look later at how later
authors used traditions (a la Tigay), but as for a probable
source for Genesis, its contribution is
Okay, where does this leave us?
This is an easy summary: there is ONLY ONE parallel of any substance--but not strong/specific enough to suggest/warrant borrowing, and there are TONS of anti-parallels, contradictions, and gross variances. This literature (unlike some other literature we will look at later) just is too distant from the biblical document in tone, intent, themes, particulars, and sequences...
On to the next...(gilgy06.html),
The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)