Cosmogonias Mesopotâmicas no Codex

Atualizado em 21.07.2019 - 17h32

Como noticiado aqui, Tyler Williams, em Codex, está apresentando e discutindo as cosmogonias mesopotâmicas.

Isto é particularmente importante para a compreensão de Gn 1-2.

São quatro partes: começou com o post Ideas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Part 1, que discutiu as questões metodológicas e os recursos disponíveis para o estudo dos textos mesopotâmicos; na parte 2, tratou dos textos babilônicos antigos e na parte 3 dos textos neobabilônicos.

Finalmente, na quarta parte, Tyler Williams fará uma síntese das ideias mais importantes que surgiram ao longo do estudo e sua relação com nossa compreensão dos textos bíblicos sobre a criação.

Ideas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Part 1

Posted on Monday 29 January 2007 by Tyler F. Williams

Next to a close reading of the biblical text, one of the most important steps in its interpretation is knowledge of the ancient cultural and literary context of the Bible. For proper interpretation, we need to know a text’s genre. Genre functions to mediate between speakers and hearers by establishing common guidelines that control both the production of a certain texts and their interpretation. We work with and recognize different genres all the time in day to day life. But when we come to the Bible “ an ancient document that is linguistically, culturally, and historically remote from us — our ability to identify certain genres is attenuated due to our unfamiliarity. Misreading a text’s genre leads to incorrect interpretation. Thus, when approaching the biblical creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, it is essential to have some knowledge of other ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. This isn’t necessarily easy to do, since many of the ancient texts are difficult to understand conceptually. In connection with ancient cosmologies, Richard Clifford notes “ancient oriental literature is alien and difficult to understand, though the many biblical phrases and ideas in our discourse may trick us into thinking otherwise… Particularly difficult are ancient cosmogonies. Major differences separate them from modern conceptions” (Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible, p. 198).

This is the first of four posts on ideas of creation in ancient Mesopotamia. This post will discuss some methodological issues surrounding the study of Mesopotamian texts and highlight some of the resources available for studying this literature. The second and third posts will survey Old Babylonian texts and Neo-Babylonian texts, respectively. The fourth post will synthesize some of the findings and relate them to our understanding of the biblical creation texts. I should note that I am by no means an expert in ancient Mesopotamian literature. A lot of this work originally derived from a graduate course I did with Dr. Ronald F. G. Sweet at the University of Toronto a number of years back.

Approaching the Diversity of Materials

There a number of methodological issues surrounding the interpretation of ancient Mesopotamian creation texts. First, in relation to the nature of the textual evidence, the problem is not that there is a paucity of material, but that the available material is of such a wide scope historically and culturally that it would be erroneous to speak of a uniform view of œcreation in Mesopotamia.? The ancient culture of Mesopotamia covers a period of more than five thousand years and at least two groups of entirely different peoples and languages. Therefore, it is necessary to recognise that the myths and stories relevant to this topic are by no means homogeneous, and should not be described as an absolute unity. The tendency to create uniform views where none exist needs to be guarded against, and the generalisations that result from this study must be recognised to be just that”generalisations. A related dilemma is the composite nature of many of the extant texts. Many later works borrow”or even copy directly”motifs and themes from earlier texts. The supreme example of this is the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic. Tigay™s reconstruction of the evolution of the epic identities a number of separate Sumerian stories that underlie the final form of the Gilgamesh Epic (see his The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic).

Second, uncertainty of our ability to understand across the borders of conceptual conditioning (to echo Oppenheim) highlights the important hermeneutical issue of imposing modern questions on ancient texts. While questions about origins were certainly not avoided in ancient Mesopotamia, they were almost always subsidiary issues. The primary purpose of much of the ancient mythological and epic literature was to exalt one deity over another or to explain the organization of human society, rather than provide a systematic teaching concerning creation. For instance, Jacobsen notes, in relation to Enuma elish, that œworld origins . . . are essentially accidental: gods were born out of mingling of the primeval waters and they engendered other gods? (The Treasures of Darkness, p. 191). Similarly, only the first twenty lines of the first tablet of Enuma elish actually deal with the creation of the universe, while the bulk of tablets four through six covers its organisation. Furthermore, it is impossible to speak of the Mesopotamian view of the creation of the cosmos without speaking of the creation of the gods: in Mesopotamia theogony and cosmogony were inextricably intertwined.

(This perhaps is not so different from the biblical worldview considering that the two major biblical creation accounts are incorporated into the book of Genesis, the first book of the primary history.” Because of our modern preoccupation with creation (and especially as it relates to science) we tend to isolate discussions of ancient Israelite ideas of creation from their narrative context in the much larger biblical picture.)

Arrangement and Dating of the Sources

Another major difficulty in doing a study such as this is the question of how best to arrange and present the data. Should the compositions be grouped according to language, subject matter, cultural origin (i.e., are they Sumerian, Assyrian, or Babylonian), or date? Each of these options has its own pitfalls, but for the purposes of this study the texts will be presented according to their date.

This does not solve all problems though, as dating Mesopotamian literature also has its associated uncertainties. Dating can be based on two variables: (1) the date of the extant text; and (2) the date of its original composition. This study will use the first criteria. While this is not ideal, it is the most reliable, as in many cases there is no scholarly consensus concerning the original date of composition of many texts. This is due primarily to historical circumstances and the type of literature we have. Historically, the Babylonians, Assyrians, and the various other political groups that had their turn at ruling in ancient Mesopotamia almost without exception accepted and built upon the older religious traditions of the Sumerians. It is therefore almost impossible to draw a clear distinction between, for example, the specifically Sumerian and the Assyrian and Babylonian elements in the religious texts.

Most of the texts containing materials that are useful for this study tend to come from two periods of Mesopotamian history. First, most of the earlier Sumerian myths, epics and hymns date from the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000“1600 BCE). Ringgren notes that œit is precisely in these last centuries [of the Sumerian ˜empire™] that most of the works of Sumerian literature seem to have been written down. It is probable that they existed earlier . . . but were transmitted in oral form? (Helmer Ringgren, Religions of the Ancient Near East [London: S.P.C.K., 1973], 3). The tablets themselves principally come from archaeological excavations in places such as Nippur and Ur. Second, a lot of the materials representing the views of the Babylonians and Assyrians have been found at Ashurbanipal™s (668“626 BCE) library at Nineveh (Kouyunjik, in modern Iraq). The date of most of these texts fall into the Neo-Babylonian Period (ca. 1000“500 BCE).

It should be noted that there is some correlation between the date of the text and its language. For example, most of the compositions coming from the Old Babylonian period are written in Sumerian, while those from the Neo-Babylonian era are typically composed in Akkadian. This approach will also allow ” albeit in a limited fashion ” both a diachronic and a synchronic analysis of the information. Synchronically, all the texts can be probed for similarities and differences that might be significant. Diachronically, any change in thought between the two major historical periods can also be noted.
Annotated Bibliography of Texts and Discussions

The resources for the study of these ancient stories may be broken up into three categories: guides to the literature, primary texts in translation, and discussions of the ideas of origins and creation in the texts themselves as well as in connection with the biblical creation stories.

Guides to ANE Literature

Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible. A Guide to the Background Literature. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 2005). This is one of the best and most recent guides to all of the background literature. It includes an introduction to comparative study of ANE texts and ANE archives and libraries, as well as a discussion of all of the relevant texts organized by genre. Original publication data and other useful bibliography is included for each ancient text.

John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990). Similar to Sparks, though a bit dated and written for a more conservative audience.

John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006). While not a guide to the literature, this work is an excellent introduction to the worldviews and value systems of the ancient Near East and how the worldviews expressed in the Bible are similar, yet at times distinct, from them.

Primary Texts in Translation

Bill T. Arnold and Bryan Beyer, Readings from the Ancient Near East: Primary Sources for Old Testament Study (Encountering Biblical Studies; Baker, 2002). A college-level collection of excerpts (with introductions) of the most relevant ancient texts; written by a couple evangelical scholars.

Stephanie Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989). A highly readable, yet critical, translation of the major Mesopotamian mythological texts (e.g., she represents the various lacunae and reconstructions in her translation). Highly recommended.

A. R. George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2 vols.; Oxford: Ocford University Press, 2003). The definitive critical edition with translation, including apparatus, photographs, and line drawings for all of the tablets in existance.

William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, eds., The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions, Monumental Inscriptions and Archival Documents from the Biblical World (3 volume set; Brill, 2004). A detailed reference work for the study of the OT/HB and the ancient Near East, this book provides reliable access to ancient Near Eastern texts that have some bearing on the interpretation of the Bible. Translation of recently discovered texts is included, alongside new translations of better-known texts. The recognized replacement of Pritchard’s ANET.

Thorkild Jacobsen, The Harps that Once… Sumerian Poetry in Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987). A classic collection of Sumerian texts by the noted scholar.

Samuel Noah Kramer, Sumerian Mythology: A Study of Spiritual and Literary Achievement in the Third Millennium B.C. (Rev. ed.; New York: Harper, 1961). A somewhat dated translation and discussion of Sumerian texts by the renowned Sumerian scholar; needs to be read in light of Jacobsen’s and other more up to date work.
W. G. Lambert, and Alan R. Millard, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (New ed.; Winnona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999). The standard critical translation of this important Mesopotamian epic.

Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin, Old Testament Parallels (Fully Expanded and Revised; Paulist Press, 1997). An accessible college-level collection of brief excerpts from ancient Near Eastern texts relating to the OT.

James Bennett Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament with Supplement (3rd edition; Princeton University Press, 1969). This is the classic collection of ancient texts that shed light on the OT/HB. Dated, though still highly recommended.

Discussions of ANE Texts and Biblical Ideas of Creation

Richard J. Clifford, Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and the Bible (CBQMS 26; Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1994). An excellent introduction and discussion of the ANE creation accounts and their relevance to the Bible.

Richard J. Clifford and John J. Collins, eds., Creation in the Biblical Traditions (CBQMS 24; Washington, D.C.: Catholic Biblical Association, 1992). A good collection of essays dealing with different ideas of creation found in the Bible.

David Damrosch, The Narrative Covenant. Transformations of Genre in the Growth of Biblical Literature (Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987).

Ronald A. Simkins, Creator & Creation: Nature in the Worldview of Ancient Israel (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1994). An intriguing examination of the cultural world of the Bible and the ancient Near East, especially as it related to conceptions of creation.

Jeffrey H. Tigay, The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).

The next instalment will survey Old Babylonian texts relating to creation.

Old Babylonian Creation Texts (Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Part 2)

Posted on Tuesday 20 February 2007 by Tyler F. Williams

This is the second post in the series “Ideas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia.” The first post in the series, which detailed some methodological issues highlighted some bibliographical resources, may be found here. The third post will survey Neo-Bablylonian creation texts, while the fourth post will synthesize the findings and relate them to our understanding of the biblical creation texts.

My first post was discussed by a couple other bloggers. Duane over at Abnormal Interests agreed with my plan to present the texts in roughly chronological order using the date of the tablets rather than the various proposed dates of composition. Charles Halton at Awilum, however, noted (correctly) that the fact that the current extant texts of Sumerian mythology date to the Old Babylonian period does not mean that they were not written until this time. I just took the easiest way to present the material.

Old Babylonian Texts (ca. 2000 – 1600 BCE)

There are a number of creation texts from the Old Babylonian period. Most of these are Sumerian texts. The compositions are presented in random order. It should be noted that this section is by no means exhaustive. For quotations, the most recent scholarly translation of the texts is customarily utilised.

1. Creation of the Hoe
[Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.157; Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 40, 51-53; Jacobsen, Treasures, 103.]

This brief Sumerian text (109 lines) is a didactic poem about how the hoe (i.e., pickaxe), which was important in both making bricks and agriculture, came into being through a divine act. It includes a long introduction that œis of prime significance for the Sumerian conception of the creation and organisation of the universe? (Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 51). Unfortunately, nothing of any consequence is known about its background or authorship, which somewhat obscures the meaning of the text at a few points. More recently this composition has been interpreted as a satirical school text.

The story goes as follows: After Enlil had separated the heaven and the earth, he œbound up? the slash in the earth™s crust which resulted from the separation. Then Enlil fashions the hoe and uses it to break the hard top crust of the earth. The hard topsoil had thus far prevented the first humans, made below, from œbreaking up through the ground? ” much in the same way that hard topsoil will prevent germinating plants from sprouting. The passage concludes with a glowing eulogy in honour of the newly created hoe.

Here is an excerpt that refers to the creation of the world:

Not only did the lord who never changes his promises for the future make the world appear in its correct form,
” Enlil who will make the seed of mankind rise from the earth ”
not only did he hasten to separate heaven from earth,
( …. ) and earth from heaven,
but, in order to make it possible for humans to grow œwhere the flesh sprouts,?
he first affixed the axis of the world in Duranki (Context of Scripture, 1.511).

2. Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld
[Translations: Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 30-41; Dalley, Myths, 120-25]

A partial translation of this Sumerian tale, also known as œGilgamesh and the Halub-tree,? is found appended to the end of the Gilgamesh Epic (Tablet 12). The original Sumerian composition describes primordial times when a single halub-tree grew beside the Euphrates. Inanna uprooted the tree and planted it in her garden. Later, when she wants to remove the tree, she could not because a snake had taken up residence in its trunk. The Sumerian hero, Gilgamesh, came and cut it down and made a chair and bed for Inanna, and in return she made a pukku and mekku for him. The pukku and the mekku eventually end up in the Underworld, and the story follows Gilgamesh™s attempts to regain them.

As with the last text, for the purposes of this study the prologue is especially important. It reads:

After heaven had been moved away from earth,
After earth had been separated from heaven,
After the name of man had been fixed;
After An had carried off heaven,
After Enlil had carried off earth, . . .

Again, as with the passage above, heaven and earth are first separated, humankind is created, and then An is given heaven while Enlil is given earth.

3. Emesh and Enten / Dispute Between Summer and Winter
[Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.183; Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 49-51; Jacobsen, Treasures, 103.]

This piece of literature, fully entitled œEmesh and Enten: Enlil Chooses the Farmer-god,? has been reconstructed from fourteen separate tablets (only seven of which have been published), and is about 308 lines long. The text itself deals more with the organisation of the heaven and the earth, rather than cosmology. Gordon actually classifies it as an œUnilingual Sumerian Wisdom Disputation? (E. I. Gordon, œA New Look at the Wisdom of Sumer and Akkad,? Bibliotheca Orientalis 42 [1960]: 145). The composition begins with Enlil cohabiting with the hursag, the mountain range, and subsequently engendering Emesh, the god of summer, and Enten, the god of winter. The two gods get into a dispute concerning their relative value and roles, after which Enlil puts the animal world under the authority of Enten and vegetation under the authority of Emesh.

4. Enki and Sumer / Enki and the World Order
[Translations: Kramer, Journal of the American Oriental Society 54 (1934): 413; Jacobsen, Treasures, 85.]

This myth, pieced together from various tablets and fragments, deals exclusively with the ordering of the world and the establishment of œlaw? (me) on it by Enki. After an introductory hymn in praise of Enki and various temple rites are described, the composition goes on to tell of how Enki orders all things in Sumer, after which he orders things in other lands and assigns each of them their natural resources and characteristics. He then fills the Tigris and Euphrates with fish and water, institutes œrules? or œdecrees? (mes) for the sea, appoints the winds to Ishkur™s command, and then causes the fields and animal life to flourish, as well as other acts of organisation. A god is made responsible for each phenomenon. Underlying this myth ” and others ” is the belief that each object of nature and feature of culture has its own me, œlaw,? intrinsic to it, as well as its own specific purpose in the working of the universe ” both of which is a result of divine assignments.

5. Cattle and Grain
[Translations: Chiera, Sumerian Epics, 26; Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 53, 72-73.]

The beginning of this poem tells the purpose for which humanity was created: to provide food for the gods. The actual myth concerns Lahar, the cattle-god, and his sister Ashnan, the grain-goddess. This brother and sister pair were created by the gods to provide food for the œAnunnaki,? the followers of An. This arrangement did not work out though, as the followers of An were not sated. In order to remedy this situation and provide food for the gods humankind œwas given breath.?

Kramer also attempts to derive from the first line of this composition an idea of what the Sumerians pictured as the actual shape of heaven and earth. The first line reads: œAfter on the mountain of heaven and earth.? From this line Kramer concludes that œit is not unreasonable to assume . . . that heaven and earth united were conceived as a mountain whose base was the bottom of the earth and whose peak was the top of heaven.? Against this interpretation Jacobsen cogently argues that in the phrase œon the mountain of heaven and earth? (hur-sag an-ki-bi-da-ke4) the genitive cannot be taken as an appositive genitive (with mountain = heaven and earth). It should rather be taken as a possessive genitive, expressing the notion that from a phenomenological perspective the mountain appears to touch both heaven and the earth (Jacobsen, “Sumerian Mythology: A Review Article,? in Toward the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays on Mesopotamian History and Culture [Harvard Semitic Series 21; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970], 117-118).

6. Eridu Genesis
[Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.158; ANET 42-44; Jacobsen, œThe Eridu Genesis,? JBL 100 (1981): 513-29; The Harps that Once, 145-50.]

This myth of beginnings is pieced together from three sources: two Sumerian texts dated ca. 1600 BCE, and a bilingual document (Sumerian with Akkadian translation) from the Neo-Babylonian era. The story-line of the reconstructed text includes the creation of humankind and animals, the founding of kingship, the building of the first great cities, and the Deluge. Unfortunately, due to lacuna the earlier fragments do not contain the account of creation of humankind. Nevertheless, in the older texts the creation of humankind is assumed, and as the creators An, Enlil, Enki, and Ninhursaga are mentioned:

When An, Enlil, Enki, and Ninḫursaga
fashioned the dark“headed (people),
they had made the small animals (that come up) from (out of) the earth
come from the earth in abundance
and had let there be, as befits (it), gazelles,
(wild) donkeys, and four“footed beasts in the desert (Context of Scripture, 514).

From numerous parallels in other myths, though, it seems very likely that only Enki and Ninhursaga actually took part in the creative process (Jacobsen, œEridu Genesis,? 516).

7. Enki and Ninmah / The Creation of Humankind
[Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.159; Kramer, Sumerian Mythology, 69-72; Jacobsen, Treasures, 113-114; Harps, 151-66.]

This Sumerian tale is a prime anthropological text. It narrates the creation of humankind as well as including the motivation and the methods for doing so. It is not clear, however, whether the text as we have it was originally one or two separate and independent stories. Jacobsen thinks the latter because of what he considers major differences in setting and outlook between the two stories. The major differences that he mentions are: (1) Ninmah plays significantly different roles in the two sections. In the first she is a secondary figure, while in the second she has a much more prominent role; (2) in the first text humankind is engendered without the help of male semen, while in the second male semen is part of the process (Jacobsen, Harps, 151-153). Another way of looking at the text is offered by Kikawada. He construes the two parts of the myth as representing an archetypal ancient Near Eastern literary convention in which the creation of humankind is told in two parts. From his perspective any differences would be attributed to the typical movement from the general to the particular that is characteristic of the convention. The two explanations do not need to be considered mutually exclusive, in that even if the two parts of the myth were at one time totally distinct, an editor/redactor evidently put them together according to the convention (Isaac M. Kikawada, œThe Double Creation of Mankind in Enki and Ninmah, Atrahasis I 1“351, and Genesis 1“2,? Iraq 45 [1983]: 43).

The first part of the story begins with how at the beginning of time the lower gods had to toil for their livelihood. The work proved to be too much for them and they actively rebelled and blamed Enki for their toil. Enki™s mother, Namma, informed her son about the turmoil and suggested that he create a substitute for them. Enki then remembered œApsu™s [œthe deeps?] fathering clay? and had his mother get a couple of womb-goddesses pinch off this clay for her, and then Namma gave birth to humankind”œ[without] the sperm of a ma[le]? (Jacobsen, Harps, 156-157). The poem goes on to describe how Ninmah, œthe exalted lady? (= Ninhursaga), and Enki got into a contest during a celebration in honour of the newly created humanity. The contest entailed Ninmah trying to create deformed humans that Enki could not find a place for in society. Enki prevails and the composition ends with a hymn praising Enki.

8. Enki and Ninsikila/Ninhursaga
[Translations: ANET 37-41; Jacobsen, Harps, 181-83.]

This composition is a good example of a text that deals with theogony ” the engendering of the gods. Jacobsen contends, as with the above myth, that it is made up of two originally separate and independent stories. The first story consists primarily of an eulogy to the pristine land of Dilum. The second story basically narrates Enki™s sexual adventures. Enki™s first target is Nintur, whom he courts and eventually has to marry her to get his way with her and this produces Ninnisiga. Enki then proceeds to have intercourse with his daughter Ninnisiga, and then with his granddaughter, and then great-granddaughter, etc. Finally Enki™s real wife, Ninhursaga, has enough of his fooling around and warns Uttu ” the next in line ” about him. Enki eventually takes Uttu by force, but unbeknownst to Enki, Ninhursaga removes the semen from Uttu™s womb and plants it. Enki comes across the plants and eats then ” making him pregnant. As he cannot give birth, Ninhursaga places him in her vulva and gives birth to eight deities ” four gods and four goddesses.

Neo-Babylonian Creation Texts (Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia, Part 3)

Posted on Saturday 31 March 2007 by Tyler F. Williams

This is the third post in the series œIdeas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia.? The first post in the series detailed some methodological issues and highlighted some bibliographical resources, while the second post surveyed creation texts from the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000 – 1600 BCE). This post will discuss a number of Neo-Bablylonian creation texts, while the fourth post in the series will synthesize the findings and relate them to our understanding of the biblical creation texts.

Neo-Babylonian Sources (ca. 1000“500 BCE)

Some of the more familiar “creation texts” from the ANE are found in the Neo-Babylonian period. The compositions are presented in random order and quotations are taken from the most recent scholarly translation of the text, usually The Context of Scripture. Once again, it should be noted that this section is by no means exhaustive.

1. Enuma elish / The Epic of Creation
[Texts come from three primary sources: (1) excavations at Nineveh by the British, published in CT XIII (1901); L. W. King, The Seven Tablets of Creation (2 vols.; London: 1902); (2) British-American excavations at Kish, found in S. Langdon, Oxford Editions of Cuneiform Texts VI (1923); and (3) German excavations at Ashur, printed in E. Ebeling, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiösen Inhalts (Leipzig, 1919, 1923). A composite cuneiform text was published by W. G. Lambert and Simon B. Parker, Enuma elish: The Babylonian Epic of Creation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966). Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.111; ANET 60-72, 501-503; Jacobsen, Treasures, 167-191; Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation (2nd ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), 1-60; Dalley, Myths, 228-77. Online: Sacred Texts;]

This poem, often called after its opening words Enuma elish (œWhen above¦?), is usually dated around 1100 BCE. Its Akkadian seems to be a bit older than that date, suggesting that it could have been composed earlier. Jacobsen proposes that it could derive from the middle of the latter half of the second millennium BCE (Treasures, 167). Assuming that the Babylonian version is primary, it clearly could not have been written before the reign of Sumula-el (1936“1901 BCE), during whose reign Marduk came to supremacy. Hammurapi, Agum-Kakrime, Nebuchadnezzar I, among others, have all been suggested as possible reigns under which the epic could have been composed. Dalley favours an Amoritic setting for the composition of the tale (Myths, 229-230).

Referring to this work as œThe Epic of Creation? is somewhat of a misnomer. While some of its contents certainly deal with questions of origins, its primary concern is with exalting Marduk and the establishment of permanent kingship. As such, it would be more accurate to consider it a panegyric in honour of the god Marduk (cf. the last line of the epic: œThe song about Marduk, who vanquished Tiamat and assumed kingship.?). The epic also had a cultic function. A ritual text is extant that gives directions that the Epic of Creation was to be read (or enacted) on the fourth day of the New Year Festival in Babylon.

The epic itself consists of seven tablets which trace the advances towards and challenges against attaining the goal of Monarchy. The story can roughly be divided into two sections: a brief one dealing with the foundations of the universe (tablet one), and a much longer section narrating how the present world order was established (tablets two through seven). Only the portions of the epic which especially pertain to this series will be highlighted. The narrative poem begins:

When on high no name was given to heaven,
Nor below was the netherworld called by name,
Primeval Apsu was their progenitor,
And matrix“Tiamat was she who bore them all.

As noted above, the first tablet of the epic deals with the origins of the basic powers of the universe. The theogony of the gods begins with the older intransitive gods Apsu and Tiamat (representing sweet water and salt water respectively). Then the tablets go on to describe the discontent between the older gods ” Apsu and Tiamat ” and the younger, more boisterous and dynamic gods. Apsu and Tiamat are disturbed by the noise that the younger gods make to the extent that Apsu decides to respond destructively. The younger gods hear of the plot against them and through their appointed champion Marduk, the older gods are vanquished. After Marduk™s victory, he splits Tiamat™s body and fashions the heaven and the earth from it, and also creates the constellations, sun, and the moon.

The next creative act, which is told of on the sixth tablet, is the creation of humankind. After victory, Marduk spared the lives of the gods who had sided with Apsu and Tiamat, and they in turn pledged their allegiance to Marduk and vowed to build him a royal palace. The work proved to be too burdensome for them, and in order to relieve them from their toil Marduk decides to create humankind. The text reads:

œI shall compact blood, I shall cause bones to be,
I shall make stand a human being, let ˜Man™ be its name.
I shall create humankind,
They shall bear the gods™ burden that those may rest.
I shall artfully double the ways of the gods:
(10) Let them be honored as one but divided in twain.?

Marduk, on the advice of his father Ea, calls for an assembly of the gods during which Kingu (or Qingu), the god who incited Tiamat and started the war, was killed and from his blood Ea fashioned humankind. The tale continues to tell of the building of Babylon and ends with the Igigi gods praising Marduk by his fifty names.

2. Chaldean Cosmogony / Bilingual Creation Story
[Texts published in L. W. King, CT XIII (1901) 35-38. Translations: R. W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (NY and Cincinnati, 1926), 47-50; Heidel, Babylonian, 61-63; S. G. F. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (London, 1963), 70.]

This bilingual text (Sumerian and Akkadian) comes from the sixth century, but most likely originates from earlier sources. Like the above myth, the central theme and objective of its creation story is to provide justification and support for Marduk™s position as supreme monarch among the Babylonian pantheon. It begins when œall the lands were sea,? and then tells how Eridu and its temple arose in Apsu, along with Babylon and Marduk. Marduk, with the help of the goddess Aruru, then created humankind, œin order to settle the gods in the dwelling of (their) heart™s delight? (Heidel, Babylonian, 63, line 19).

3. The Theogony of Dunnu / Babylonian Theogony
[Published by A. R. Millard, CT XLVI 43. Translations: W. G. Lambert and P. Walcot, œA New Babylonian Theogony and Hesiod,? Kadmos 4 (1965) 64-72; Thorkild Jacobsen, œThe Harab Myth,? Studies in the Ancient Near East 2/3 (Malibu; 1984); Context of Scripture, 1.112; ANET 517-518; Dalley, Myths, 278-281.]

This brief story in Akkadian about the begetting of the gods is a Late Babylonian copy of a theogony from the early second millennium when Dunnu was a town of distinction. Unfortunately, a large part of the text is missing, so a proper analysis cannot yet be made. The text depicts the Plough and the Earth as being the source of creation and genitors of the Sea, unlike the stories that have Apsu and Tiamat as the primeval forces in creation. The composition continues to narrate the begetting of other gods, with the motif of incest, patricide and matricide being especially prominent.

4. Atra-hasis
[Full publication data can be found in W. G. Lambert and Alan R. Millard, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (New ed.; Winnona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1999; Buy from | Buy from, 31-41. Translations: Context of Scripture, 1.130; ANET 104-106, {512-514}; Jacobsen, Treasures, 116-121; Dalley, Myths, 1-38; W. L. Moran, œThe Creation of Man in Atrahasis I 192-248,? Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 200 (1970): 48-56; ibid., œSome Considerations of Form and Interpretation in Atrahasis,? in Language, Literature and History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented to Erica Reiner (ed. F. Rochberg-Halton; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 245-256; ibid., œAtrahasis: The Babylonian Story of the Flood,? Biblica 52 (1971): 51-61; A. Kilmer, œThe Mesopotamian Concept of Overpopulation and Its Solution as Reflected in the Mythology,? Orientalia, n.s. 41 (1972): 160-177. Online:]

This Akkadian creation story provides the background for the early history of humankind that leads to the disastrous great flood. The myth is named after its main hero, Atra-hasis (which means œextra-wise?), who built and ark and saved humanity from the destruction of the great flood. The earliest surviving manuscripts come from the seventeenth century BCE, though the composite nature of the work makes any conclusive statements beyond this impossible.

The epic begins at a period in time, before the creation of humanity, when the lower deities had to provide the labour necessary to provide sustenance for the higher gods. The first two lines of the composition reads:

When the gods instead of man [or perhaps: “When the gods were man”] Did the work, bore the loads . . .

At that time the responsibility for the universe was divided between the great triad of ruling gods: Anu controlled heaven, Enlil ruled on earth, and Enki in the fresh waters below the earth and the sea. In due time the gods found their labour intolerable and began to grumble and ultimately they revolt and refuse to work anymore. The always diplomatic Enki proposes a solution to the quandary: create humankind to do the menial work. This recommendation is approved by the gods, who then enlist the help of the mother goddess Mami (Nintur). The actual description of the creation of humankind is told in two successive parallel accounts. In the first Mami, with the help of Enki, produces humankind from clay made from the flesh and blood of a god named Geshtu-e (We-e), who was obviously the leader of the rebellion (lines 5-245). The second, and more concrete, account notes how Enki and Mami come to the œroom of fate? and create seven pairs of people by snipping off clay from a mud brick (lines 249-351).

The epic goes on to tell how humanity proliferates and becomes too noisy; and how, at the insistence of Enlil, the population is reduced respectively by plague, then twice by famine and drought. Finally Enlil sends a great flood to wipe out humanity once and for all, but Enki conspires with Atra-hasis, who is saved from the flood.

5. Trilingual Creation Story
[Printed in E. Ebeling, Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiösen Inhalts (Leipzig, 1919, 1923) no. 4. Translations: Ebeling, Zeitschrift der deutschen morganländischen Gesellschaft LXX (1916): 532-38; Heidel, Babylonian, 68-71. Cf. Jacobsen, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 5 (1946): 143, n. 24 ]

This composition discovered at German excavations at Ashur dates from ca. 800 BCE provides another rendition of the creation of humanity. In this text the blood of two craftsman deities is used to make humankind. It reads:

When heaven had been separated from the earth, . . .
(and) the mother goddess had been brought into being; . . .
[Then] the great gods, . . .
Seated themselves in the exalted sanctuary
And recounted among themselves what had been created. . . .
What (else) shall we do? . . .
œLet us slay (two) Lamga gods.
With their blood let us create mankind.
The service of the gods be their portion,
For all times. . . .?

As with many other texts, humankind was created in order that they might serve the gods. Significantly, for the first time in any Babylonian literature the first two humans are given names: Ulligara and Zalgarra, which probably mean œthe establisher of abundance? and œthe establisher of plenty,? respectively.

6. When Anu Had Created the Heavens
[Printed in The text is published and translated by F. H. Weissbach, Babylonische Miscellen (Leipzig, 1903), pl. 12, 32-34. Translations: Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels, 44-46; Heidel, Babylonian, 65-66]

This text is a brief cosmological story found in Babylon. The creation account in it is employed as an incantation ” a magic ritual for the restoration of the temple. The text recites an ancestry of the gods, that begins with Anu, and then recounts the creation of humankind. In this composition Ea pinches off some clay in the Apsu and creates humankind œfor the do[ing of the service of the gods(?)].?

7. The Worm and the Toothache
[Published by Thompson, CT XVII (London, 1903) pl. 50. Translations: Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels, 52-53.; Heidel, Babylonian, 72-73; ANET 100-101. Online:]

This manuscript is one of the best incantations that contains cosmological material. It dates from Neo-Babylon times, though a colophon indicates that it originates from an earlier date. The incantation is to relieve a toothache, which evidently was associated with the worm. The cosmological data starts with the creation of heaven by Anu and then goes on to record how Anu created the Earth (Ki), and the Earth created the rivers, and so on all the way down to the worm.

The final post in this series will synthesize the findings and relate them to our understanding of the biblical creation texts.

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