New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story -- By: Alan R. Millard

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 18:1 (NA 1967)
Article: New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story
Author: Alan R. Millard

New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story

A. R. Millard

The Tyndale Biblical Archaeology Lecture, 1966

Association of the Hebrew accounts of Creation and the Flood with the Babylonian is a commonplace of Old Testament studies. It is now some ninety years since George Smith’s discoveries of a Flood story in Akkadian very similar to the story of Noah, and of tales of the creation of the earth.1 During that time many studies have been made of the interrelationship of the various accounts. The following expression by G. von Rad represents a widespread current view with regard to the Flood of Genesis. ‘Today . . . the dossier on the relation of the Biblical tradition to the Babylonian story of the Flood as it is in the Gilgamesh Epic is more or less closed. A material relationship between both versions exists, of course, but one no longer assumes a direct dependence of the Biblical tradition on the Babylonian. Both versions are independent arrangements of a still, older tradition, which itself stemmed perhaps from the Sumerian. Israel met with a Flood tradition in Canaan at the time of her immigration and assimilated it into her religious ideas.’2 The situation is similar, though less certain, with regard to Creation. Most commentators suggest that the Israelites adopted and adapted the Babylonian, story Enuma elish as transmitted through Canaanite sources.3 The few dissentient voices are largely ignored.4

Old Testament scholars have generally concentrated upon

the famous Enuma elish in considering the Creation stories, neglecting the other Babylonian accounts entirely. In fact, the relevance of Enuma elish is considerably less than has normally been thought, as an important paper by W. G. Lambert has recently demonstrated.5 This conclusion, in part, follows from the dating of the composition of Enuma elish at the very end of the second millennium BC, in part, from a study of Babylonian Creation accounts as a whole. Although Enuma elish embodies earlier material, this is clearly turned to the poem’s main purpose, the exaltation of Marduk, patron of Babylon. Scrutiny of all Babylonian Creation stories is essential before theories can be erected upon apparent similarities with the Hebrew. The significance of such similarities will only appear when each has been evaluated in its own context.

Fewer complications attend comparison of the ...

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