Genesis And Ancient Near Eastern Stories Of Creation And Flood: An Introduction Part I -- By: David T. Tsumura

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 09:1 (Winter 1996)
Article: Genesis And Ancient Near Eastern Stories Of Creation And Flood: An Introduction Part I
Author: David T. Tsumura


Genesis And Ancient Near Eastern Stories Of Creation And Flood: An Introduction
Part I

David T. Tsumura

Much has been written about the relationship between the early chapters of Genesis and creation and flood stories from ancient Mesopotamia. In this series of articles David Tsumura presents an up-to-date overview of this subject. — Ed.

David T. Tsumura is Professor of Old Testament at Japan Bible Seminary, Tokyo. He is author of The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2: A Linguistic Investigation (1989), as well as numerous articles on the Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages.

Creation

Creation has been one of the most interesting and intriguing subjects in the Old Testament. In modern Biblical scholarship a number of new interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis have been suggested, especially in the areas of comparative study and literary analysis.

Genesis 1–2

Double Creation Stories? A theory has long been advocated that the early chapters of Genesis contain a “doublet” of creation stories and that these stories, characterized by the distinctive divine names, Elohim and YHWH, are of different origins with two independent, and even opposing, cosmologies. According to this traditional critical theory, the former is the priestly account (P source) of creation from the postexilic period, while the latter is an earlier Yahwistic account (J source). Hence, it is usually assumed that there exist some discrepancies or contradictions between the two accounts.1

Recently, however, it has been emphasized by scholars like Alter that whatever their origins may be,

the two accounts are complementary rather than overlapping, each giving a different kind of information about how the world came into being.

According to him, “the two different creation stories,” i.e., the P and J stories, constitute a “composite narrative” that encompasses “divergent perspectives” by placing in sequence “two ostensibly contradictory accounts of the same event,” such as two stories of the creation of woman.2

When one takes a closer look at

both stories, it is evident that they are not two “parallel” versions of the same or similar “creation” stories, since the theme and purpose of the two are certainly different. Castellino distinguishes Genesis 1, “un vrai recit...

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