Did Genesis Copy Sunmerian, Babylonian, and Egyption Creation Accounts?

An honest assessment of Genesis shows a stark similarity to other Ancient Near East cosmologies. Furthermore, Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian accounts predate Genesis by many hundreds of years. Because of this, many are quick to discount Genesis as being nothing more than a copy of the other accounts, thus discounting it as Yahweh’s truth. Such conclusion is poor scholarship indeed. More digging is required.

Until the events recorded in Genesis 11, specifically the Tower of Babel, before the subsequent dispersal of people, there was basically one culture and one worldview. At that time there was a common culture among all people. It is from that one culture that all other cultures developed as they were scattered abroad.

It was from this common culture that all other cultures, Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, etc, drew from in order to form their worldview. Apparently, Yahweh saw no reason to depart from these common cultures in His dealings with Israel, thus the similarities between all other cultures. In short, nobody “copied” anybody. They all drew from the same source.

Of course, Yahweh “tweaked” the Genesis cosmology in such a way to show His superiority, His sovereignty over all other gods. Playing on the same field as all the other accounts, He dominated them in a most spectacular way, chasing the others out of the stadium. He even chased them away from the parking lot!

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Copy? No. As you stated it was seemingly just a cultural wisdom of people there.

I’m curious about the predating of near eastern culture by 2,000 years though.

Thanks for the heads up. Not sure what I was thinking. Probably not thinking at all! Faster fingers than brain. :grinning:

Anyway, I made an edit that is more in line with history.

It was not a “ gotcha “ on my part. I don’t know very much about ancient cultures. I’ve always been mostly bored with human history. So I had no idea if there was some strong evidence or not for similar stories 2,000 years prior to whenever it’s generally agreed upon that Mesopotamian culture begin. I’ve never been big into history outside of natural history. Can’t even tell you what year america was founded , when the civil war was let alone ancient history. Unless we are talking about key history events as geological ages in rough time frames it’s something I probably don’t know much about. Always been more into science or something like historical events in horror lol. I recently looked at a few books recommended by a podcast on this subject but it will be a year, or years before i actually , if ever, grab it. It’s something I don’t care about that I want to learn for the sake of better understanding other subjects I already struggle with staying interested with xd.

Most I know is that biblical scholars I like state that historians agree that ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian places other than Israel was heavily influenced by their culture and that the epic of Gilgamesh predated genesis and was a possibly a source material for it, or either the legends of it was a source material for both.

Yes, there is evidence that Genesis was influenced by the beliefs/mythologies of its neighbors. And some of the laws in Exodus were lifted from the famous code of Hammurabi, which is much older than Exodus.

But your post isn’t about science.


I’m wondering about your dating for the Tower. If you’re using traditional dating around 2200 B.C., I can think of five ancient cities definitely older than that --Eridu, Akkad, Shurupak, Memphis, and Lagash, spread across Egypt and Mesopotamia, with differing cultures. Eridu is most significant in this context since it has ruins and a situation around them that show most of the features of the Tower story but much, much earlier.

Thanks for the info. You are absolutely correct. SkovandOfMitaze pointed out the same thing. I since edited the post.

I think the main point I tried to make is that all the Ancient Near East cultures, including Israel, drew from a common culture that existed some time before the tower of Babel. That is opposed to saying Genesis copied other ANE epics. They all shared a common worldview, which was radically different than our own. Their main concerns lay with the gods and how to live with them, something which our culture gives little to no thought.

Thanks again. I don’t know that much about Genesis, so I welcome any insights that you might have.


I’m new here, so I didn’t know that.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think the Bible has anything to do with science. I take it to be a religious book. I understand that all our modern science is completely in accord with how God made the world. I believe all true science and mathematics were ordered by God. But I don’t believe His audience would have understood quarks and leptons, so God didn’t tell them about that. The people of the Ancient Near East were more concerned with how to please the gods, and that’s what Yahweh told them in Genesis. He further communicated His preeminence over all other gods. He got the message through without having to bring up science.

Yahweh used the existing cosmology of the cultures to frame Genesis. They were all similar, thus it may be more logical to say all of them, Israel included, had a worldview that was common to all cultures of that time and place. God “tweaked” it just a bit to show His aforementioned preeminence. That He could use that common worldview and yet show His radical difference from the other gods highlights His wisdom.

They were just as sure that the earth was supported by pillars in a chaotic sea of water and that the sky was a rigid dome plastered with stars as we are that the earth is hung is space, rotates, and revolves around the sun. God apparently saw no need to explain their cosmology any differently than they already knew.

Maybe I shouldn’t be here? I’d understand.


No problem

You should stay

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You thoughts are in line with what a lot of us think possible. The more I study, the more I am certain Genesis was written in the Exile period or shortly after primarily as a polemic to provide a backstory and refute the culture of the captors and support their own. No doubt they did have some oral traditions and stories that were incorporated in them when finally put to quill and papyrus, or tablet and stylus.

While not about science directly, your post does involve lots of scientific fields, like archaeology and linguistics and their impact on faith related matters, so is perfectly fine.


I’ll stay then. Thanks.


Thanks for the reply.

While I don’t see Genesis explaining quantum mechanics, I do see all of nature, the purview of science, declaring the handiwork of God. As more scientific discoveries were made through the ages, I see the truth of Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:20, et. al. being made more impactful. The deeper science probes, the more God’s genius comes to bear. Science takes “blind” faith out of the equation.

The thing I liked about this forum when I first saw it is the respect shown for everyone. All the other forums I tried quickly degenerated into personal insults, hardly in line with one’s speech being seasoned with salt and filled with grace.


You got me thinking about the dating of cultures. What I realized is that the age of cultures and which came from which is not really the issue. The issue is when were the various ANE cosmologies written. As far as I know the earliest was the Gilgamesh Epic. It appears that it was written about 100 to 200 years after the Tower of Babel incident and the subsequent dispersal of people.

The bottom line: all the ANE cosmologies were written after the Tower of Babel, after the scattering of the people, and thus it is not much of a stretch to say that all ANE cosmologies came from a common culture that existed before the scattering of people. That of course means that it is not a historical fact that Genesis copied any of the other accounts. It, like all the others, was influenced by a more ancient and common culture.

I’m still thinking about it though.

In grad school I wrote a paper arguing against any direct connection between the Genesis Flood account and the Gilgamesh Epic primarily on literary grounds. My professor didn’t like my conclusions, but I got an A- on the cogency of my argument. It’s been fun over the years seeing some of my points supported by various scholars, including the idea that the two accounts may come not from a common literary source but an actual event remembered and passed down orally for generations by the descendants of survivors.

It’s worth noting that the similarities actually point to a shared culture sometime in the past as well,

As for the Tower, the place is Eridu, considered the oldest city in the world, founded in ~5500 B.C., abandoned a couple of times but resettled, and finally abandoned in ~600 B.C. In some ancient histories Eridu is referred to as “Babylon”, which indicates that its famous (but never completed) ziggurat might well have been called the “tower of Babel”.

Interestingly, about ~2800 B.C. the Euphrates had a flood bad enough that it left ~2.5 meters of mud/silt across the entire city of Eridu; excavations elsewhere show that this flood almost certainly wiped out all civilization along the river. One reason this is interesting is that there is evidence of a Deluge story from before that flood! – which suggests that the two accounts may have been conflated, and also makes the Genesis promise to never again destroy the world by water again more poignant: if people were still passing down a Flood story from the distant past and then a new one wiped out the (known) world just the thought of any flood at all would have seemed terrifying to any survivors.
Before that flood, if I’m recalling my ANE history right, Eridu and a substantial number of cities were located among the multiple channels and even marshes of the Euphrates but afterwards many were ‘re-founded’ farther away.

Something I only learned recently is that Eridu had its own version of the Eden story with a forbidden fruit,

one suggestion is when the Mediterranean broke through and flooded the Black Sea which at the time was a freshwater inland sea/lake abundant in life both in its water and around it with [as evidence is accumulating for] a vibrant civilization

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That’s something that confuses a lot of people: there are things in the Scriptures that science can confirm (especially archaeology), but that gets taken to mean that every statement the scriptures make must be scientifically accurate – a fallacious leap I can’t recall the name for, but one that is extremely common, in fact very extremely common among people with a felt need to establish that something really is a truth source.
This is a great comment for me because I’d never quite seen the connection so clearly!

People in the ANE second millennium B.C. might have grasped the idea that everything is made of tiny pieces too small to see if God (or their gods) had made a statement to that effect, and equally might have grasped that white light is made up of (or contains) all the other colors of light for the same reason, but since these ideas would have had no cultural relevance revealing those bits of science there would have been no reason to include them – unless in the second case they had had access to natural prisms that split light, but even then I can only think of a “I make light and color” statement as useful.

And it’s the cosmology and science of the time that would make almost any sort or scientific statement that we could see as meaningful of any relevance to them! The closest thing I can think of would be if God had described the circumference of the “sea” in the Temple as “three and a tenth part of one” cubits, which is a measurement sufficiently closer to the common rule of thumb using three as pi that it would have been a marvel that could have shown God’s greatness right there in the center of the nation’s worship.

For a long time I rejected the idea that God could have taken the Egyptian creation account and just “tweaked” it to show His preeminence, but it finally struck me that this is a maneuver in debate, taking the opponent’s version and modifying it to point to the truth either by reducing it to absurdity or through polemic. It’s sort of like God telling Moses, “Look, use their Creation story but show them where they’re wrong!”, thus resulting in a message that we might today put as “All your gods are belong to YHWH!” – not just preeminence but actual ownership by showing that all the “gods” in the Egyptian story are just tools YHWH made to carry out tasks to serve Him.

And that Aristotle was that mud turned into frogs…

Though it’s interesting that back before Galileo ever heard of a lens there were Hebrew scholars who purely on the basis of the Hebrew of the first Creation story concluded that:

  • the universe began as something smaller than a grain of mustard (an extension of the mustard seed standing in for the tiniest thing, thus meaning “tiny beyond imagination”)
  • the universe expanded more rapidly than can be conceived into vastness beyond comprehension, and was made of fluid (“waters”)
  • that fluid thinned as the universe expanded until it was ready for God to command light into existence
  • the universe is ancient beyond human imagining; the six days of creation being “divine days” and thus of uncountable duration
  • for the same reason the Earth itself is ancient though not as much so

Don’t ask me how they got that from the Hebrew; they grew up speaking the language and studied it all their lives, and compared to them I’m just a piker playing on the fringes of understanding.


Interesting --the more I study the more reasonable I find it that Moses actually penned the original Creation story. I debate with myself on occasion about the “days” format, though; the Egyptian account doesn’t really take place in time as we know it, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Moses wrote it without that framework – though I would place that bit of editing at the time of Solomon or perhaps Hezekiah.

The second Creation story is a different matter and I can’t settle on a time for it. I think the key is the idea of naming the animals, the question being when exactly naming things as giving power over them was a preeminent idea.

I’d say the core of the Noah story was also probably from Moses, with some details such as the birds being sent out as scouts coming from the early kingdom period and finally the poetic elements (numbers of days and other symmetry) polishing it off during the Exile.

The Tower and scattering of the nations, though, I figure is probably Exilic, since the matter of Eridu’s unfinished ziggurat and all the varying languages of the workers isn’t something they would have known about before that, but once known could be easily tweaked to show that God is more powerful than their conquerors.

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The Persian Gulf flooding c. 11000 BP is another candidate (in some ways better, e.g. probably somewhat faster).

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I find the text problematic to have come from Moses, at least in its final form. Perhaps he wrote Leviticus and Deuteronomy or at the least the law portions, but of course you get the part written where Moses died, and then what happened after his death, as well as the various phrases indicating it was written later ( “until this time…”) and the verse about how humble Moses was.
But I am sure there is not definite resolution at hand.

Eridu’s Utnapishtim/Atrahasis/Ziusudra story predates Gilgamesh, though I don’t recall by how much.


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