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What similarities are there between the Enuma Elish and the Genesis creation account?

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The Enuma Elish, or the “Seven Tablets of Creation,” is a Babylonian creation myth that has a number of literary and cultural connections to the creation account in Genesis 1. The Enuma Elish is one of the oldest creation records ever discovered, likely dating to 1100 BC (Genesis, which is older, was written around 1400 BC). The title, Enuma Elish, is taken from the account’s first two words, which translate to “when in the heights.” Studying this mythology helps Bible scholars understand the non-empirical, poetic literature so common in ancient Near Eastern writings. However, the Enuma Elish has also been used by skeptics as a supposed proof that the Genesis 1 account is merely mythology or a parallel of contemporary mythologies.

The story presented in the Enuma Elish (which you can read here) is of a great clash between various gods of the Babylonian pantheon. The two most important characters are the god Marduk and the goddess Tiamat. After Tiamat prepares many monsters and lesser gods to destroy the remainder of the pantheon, and a few younger gods have already failed at challenging her, Marduk offers to destroy Tiamat in return for being made highest among the gods. The other gods readily accept this offer, and Marduk becomes locked in mortal combat with Tiamat. After killing Tiamat, Marduk splits her body in two, making one half the sky and one half the earth. He makes humans from his own flesh and bone and brings order to the universe.

On the surface this does not sound anything like the Genesis creation account, but the poetic structure and terminology in their original languages do bear some similarities. Some liberal Bible scholars have used this resemblance to imply that the creation account in Genesis 1 is merely a poetic interpretation of creation rather than a factual account. While there is no denying the similar poetic structures of the Genesis 1 and Enuma Elish creation accounts, this does not mean both are equally mythological, only that they came from similar cultural backgrounds. Writing form does not affect the veracity of content. A novel can be written in a biographical style, but that doesn’t mean the novel and the biography are equally true (or false).

The Enuma Elish is indeed an important ancient text and is invaluable to scholars of ancient Near Eastern culture and language and, by extension, to biblical scholars. As such, it is an interesting piece of mythology, but it should not be mistaken as the original creation account or a parallel of Genesis 1.

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What similarities are there between the Enuma Elish and the Genesis creation account?
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This page last updated: March 29, 2024