Genesis 1, the Enuma Elish and Panbabylonism

It is common amongst New Atheists to suggest that (incuding Michael Sherlock of course) Genesis 1 was heavily plagiarised from the Babylonian Enuma Elish creation narrative. They often do this by citing highly outdated sources such as the 19th century German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitszch (who nonetheless kept to the New Testament, whilst rejecting the Old, claiming that Jesus was not even a Semite, his father was a renowned biblical scholar), whilst ignoring (or quote-mining) more recent scholarship such as Wilfred Lambert, who held that the parallels were truly few (one of the few parallels he stated was the separation of the waters, and I’m not even sure if this is truly one). In any case, the scholarly consensus now rejects Pan-Babylonism, and sees the parallels as overblown. For example, it is now known that Tehom does not derive from the Babylonian Tiamat (which is etymologically impossible). The word Thm is known from earlier 2nd millenium Ugaritic texts.

But the main issue which I have with Panbabylonism (alongside the soft Anti-Semitism contained in it’s central theses), is that whilst parallels may exist between Genesis 1, and the Enuma Elish, they also exist with Egyptian Creation narratives (see here and here), where I would argue that the parallels are much greater. Even the Non-cosmogonic Ugaritic Baal cycle shares a common narrative structure with both Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish, where Baal vanquishes the watery forces of chaos and builds his cosmic dwelling upon Mount Zaphon, just as the Genesis creation narrative ends with God taking rest, (which referred to God taking up residence in his cosmic temple) and Eden is referred to as the mountain of God in Ezekiel 28.

The point being is that there is no reason to assume that the writer of Genesis pilfered their ideas from elsewhere, given as these ideas were most likely already ingrained in their minds, just as they were ingrained in the minds of ‘all’ ANE people.

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It sounds like you’ve met some folks with parallelomania.

Thanks Reggie. But the knife cuts the other way too. The whole YEC bent is refusing to acknowledge that Genesis has any literary relationship with the surrounding cultures. I take all the ANE cosmogonic stories stem from the actual events passed down by verbal narrative, and corrupted in the process. Genesis being “inspired” is inspired in its use of the same literary/religious formulas with changes to bring it into line with Elohim’s purposes.

So the YEC and the New Atheists are at least brother in arms over the Genesis account. what does that say about the YEC hermeneutic?

Ray :sunglasses:


Another thing, whilst Genesis 1 may resemble other Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies in ‘substance’, ‘metaphysically’ it is completely different, unique you might say. As Jordan Peterson explains in this lecture, Genesis 1 stands out in marked contrast to the mythologies of other nations, where humans are made as slaves or playthings for the gods, whilst Genesis ascribes value to mankind by describing them as created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth. Of course a lot of New Atheists don’t want to hear this, for it point blank shows where our western ideas of dignity and justice come from.


Doesn’t “Mike” Sherlock get tired of promoting “crank/crackpot theories” (as Richard Carrier would say)?

They both promote “crank/crackpot theories”, so I agree with you.

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[quote=“Reggie_O_Donoghue, post:4, topic:37841”]
Of course a lot of New Atheists don’t want to hear this, for it point blank shows where our western ideas of dignity and justice come from.

And Thanks too

Yes, That is precisely what I was aiming at. The metaphysics always where the rubber hits the road. Regardless of what fringe groups may think, even the mainstream Christian community misses the point in interpreting the Bible. I feel Paul’s letters are often misapplied because the “cultural” interpretation we apply is misread (western eyes) which then causes us to misstate the metaphysical aims of the passage.
It’s not just Genesis that get all the bad rap, though that is what we spent our time here focusing on.

I am in the midst of preparing an in-depth Bible Study and the opening chapters are focusing on this subject in particular.

Alas, the source critics place the authorship of Gen. 1 by the Priestly §source during the Exile or shortly thereafter. One could thus argue it was written as a counterpoint to the oft-heard (by the exiles) Enuma Elish creation story of the Babylonians. As such, it would have structural and thematic similarities but distinct theological differences. For instance, the Enuma Elish has creation occurring over a series of generations. Gen.1, written to show the much greater power of monotheistic Elohim, reduces this to a series of days - the shortest easily observable time unit in antiquity. The Enuma Elish appears as a chaotic series of battles and conflicts, while the orderly 3 day/3 day symmetric creation sequence clearly shows omnipotence and control of Elohim. With this view, the days are indeed of 24 hour duration since they are used to provide a literal contrast with the much longer generations of the Babylonian gods. It should be noted that P enjoys using numbers to show the intentional control of Elohim, as demonstrated in his version of the Flood narrative.

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Appreciate and agree with the thoughts, Saw 15 min of the Peterson lecture — he speaks in a stream-of-consciousness manner, does he not??? And for over 2 hrs…dunno when he gets to the point but maybe when I have more time I will try him again…

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