Enuma Elish

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When in the height heaven was not named, and the earth beneath did not yet bear a name, and the primeval Apsu, who begat them... Full text of the Enuma Elish.

The Enuma Elish
A ancient tablet containing some of the Enuma Elish

The Enûma Eliš is the Mesopotamian creation epic. It was first discovered by modern scholars (in fragmentary form) in the ruined library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq).

The Enûma Elish has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Akkadian on seven clay tablets. The majority of Tablet V has never been recovered, but aside from this lacuna the text is almost complete.

This epic is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview, centered on the supremacy of Marduk and the existence of mankind for the service of the gods. Its primary original purpose is to elevate Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods.

The Enûma Elish has existed in various versions and copies from Babylonia as well as from Assyria. The version from Ashurbanipal's library dates to the 7th century BC. The story itself probably dates to the eighteenth century BC on account of the fact that this is the time when the god Marduk seemed to have a prominent status. Some scholars date it later (14th to 12th centuries BC).

Summary of the myth

Comparing Genesis 1 with the Enuma Elish

Genesis 1 gives the Biblical account of creation. Some major points of difference between the Enuma Elish and Genesis 1 are

  • There were many gods in the Enuma Elish; there is only one God in Genesis
    • Apsu the primordial god begat with Mummi-Tiamat all the gods in the Enuma Elish
    • Marduk created the sky and earth with body parts of another god that he had vanquished
  • Humans were created to do the work of gods in the Enuma Elish; humans are given great importance in Genesis
    • Marduk creates man to serve the gods: "a savage man I will create; he will be charged with the service of the gods"
    • There is a high view of humans in Genesis, with God giving authority to man
  • Creation is good in Genesis; some of creation was evil in the Enuma Elish
    • Genesis 2:2 reveals that all that God created was good
    • In the Enuma Elish, some things created are evil, for example monster-serpents are borne by Mother Hubur
  • Genesis shows structure and order to creation; the Enuma Elish does not
    • In Genesis we are shown a picture of a purposeful creation
    • In comparison, there is a very chaotic picture of creation in the Enuma Elish, where creation is often due to begetting - for example, wind was begot by another god

These points of difference may be significant, in that many Christian scholars feel that they reveal that God was trying to reveal specific points to the Israelites about creations. For example, that he wanted to reveal that he was the only creator.



Return to Genesis 1


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