Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction Part 3 -- By: David T. Tsumura

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 09:3 (Summer 1996)
Article: Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction Part 3
Author: David T. Tsumura


Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction
Part 3

David T. Tsumura

This is the third in a series of articles on the relationship between the early chapters of Genesis and the creation and flood stories from ancient Mesopotamia.—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.

Flood

Creation and Flood

Until recently, the Creation and the Flood have often been treated as separate units. One of the reasons for this may be that initially discovered ancient Mesopotamian documents provided either a Creation myth without the Flood story (“Enuma elish” and others) or the Flood story without a Creation motif (“Gilgamesh Epic,” tablet XI), all in seventh-century neo-Assyrian copies from the Nineveh of Ashurbanipal’s time.1 Therefore, scholars were busy comparing Genesis 1 with “Enuma elish,” and Genesis 6–8 with “Gilgamesh” XI, without integrating these two sections of Genesis.

However, we now have some evidence that the “continuous narrative of the first era of human existence” in the ancient Near East covered both the Creation and the Flood, as Millard (1994: 116) and others have noted. For example, the “Atra-Hãasis Epic” from the Old Babylonian Period (ca. 1630 BC), which Lambert and Millard presented in 1969 in a thorough study, with the text and its translation,2 covers the history of man from his creation to the Flood. This history was widely known in ancient Mesopotamia, and a similar tradition with the same overall structure was known in the early second millennium BC.

Recently Jacobsen suggested the existence of a Sumerian version of such a tradition. According to him, the Sumerian Deluge Tablet from Nippur,

which gives not only an account of the Flood but also a list of five cities before the Flood like those in the Sumerian King List,3 may be combined with another Sumerian fragment from Ur and a later bilingual fragment from Nineveh. This combined text, which he names the “Eridu Genesis” (1994: 129–30),You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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