Genesis And Ancient Near Eastern Stories Of Creation And Flood: An Introduction Part 4 -- By: David Toshio Tsumura
BSP 9:4 (Autumn 1996) p. 103
Genesis And Ancient Near Eastern Stories Of Creation And Flood:
This is the last 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.
Literary Theme. Many suggestions for a unifying theme of Genesis 1–11 as a whole [rather than of P or J, as proposed by von Rad (1962: 1.163),1 Brueggemann (1972: 397–414; 1968: 156–81), etc.], which Clines rightly distinguishes from “a recurrent motif in the primeval history” (1994: 291), have been made, such as the “spread of sin,” “creation-uncreation-recreation,” and so on. Clines suggests the following two possible themes for Genesis 1–11, one negative or pessimistic, and the other positive or optimistic:
1. Mankind tends to destroy what God has made good.
2. God’s grace never fails to deliver man from the consequences of his sin.
But he prefers the latter theme to the former, “if the patriarchal history. unfolds the fulfillment of the blessing promise” (Gn 12:2–3) (1994: 304–5). On the other hand, Oden explains the theme differently:
Rather than an ascending cacophony of wickedness, Genesis 1–11 is a collection of several instances of the human propensity to trespass upon the divine sphere (1981: 211).
The Flood Story
As Heidel commented,
The most remarkable parallels between the Old Testament and the entire corpus of cuneiform inscriptions from Mesopotamia. .. are
BSP 9:4 (Autumn 1996) p. 104
found in the deluge accounts of the Babylonians and Assyrians, on the one hand, and the Hebrews, on the other (1949: 244).
After 40 years the situation remains the same, with even more information about the story of the Flood being available from ancient Mesopotamia, though in recent years literatures from ancient Syria, especially from Ugarit and Ebla,2 have been providing enormou...
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