Creation Stories of the Ancient Near East -- By: David Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 05:3 (Summer 1992)
Article: Creation Stories of the Ancient Near East
Author: David Livingston


Creation Stories
of the Ancient Near East

David Livingston

One Viewpoint

Many professors in colleges, universities and seminaries today agree with the following ideas and so teach their students. This is one reason young people who have had a strong religious faith lose it when they go to college.

For many centuries, Jewish and Christian theologians agreed that the accounts of the world’s origin given in Genesis were not only inspired by God, but owed nothing to any other scriptures. This extreme view has now been abandoned by all but fundamentalists.1

These authors are probably correct that all but Bible believers (fundamentalists) have abandoned this view. The abandonment of the Genesis Creation Story as a factual account has become so prevalent that some denominations now treat it as “myth” in their Sunday School material. However, the fundamentalist view is not “extreme.” It is based on fact.

The Genesis Creation Story does not owe anything to the creation myths of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The latter were written for a completely different purpose. They are not really about the creation of the universe at all. They are related to the “genesis” of a certain king’s reign. Priest-scribes wrote them to establish

the king’s (and his god’s) supremacy. Each myth is different with its local adaptations. The Biblical history has unity, never changing, as the myths do with each succeeding king. Yet...

The first account of Creation (Gen 1:1–2:31) was composed at Jerusalem soon after the return from the Babylonian Exile (500 BC). God is here named ‘Elohim.’ The second account (Gen 2:4–22) is also Judaean, possibly of Edomite origin, and pre-Exilic. (600 BC). Here God was originally named ‘Yahweh,’ but the priestly editor has changed this to ‘Yahweh Elohim’ (usually translated as ‘the Lord God’), thus identifying the God of Genesis 1 with that of Genesis 2, and giving the versions an appearance of uniformity. He did not, however, eliminate certain contradictory details in the order of creation.2

Many scholars agree with this interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. Their opinions are that the Creation stories were made up quite lat...

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