Creation, Flood, and Covenant — in the Bible and Before

Creation, Flood, and Covenant — in the Bible and Before

By R. Herbert, Ph.D

“Beginning in the 19th century, archaeologists excavating the ancient Mesopotamian civilizations of the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians, in what is modern day Iraq, and in other areas of the Near East, began to find libraries of clay tablets inscribed with the Mesopotamians’ cuneiform writing. When some of these texts were later translated, they were found to be stories that were similar to biblical narratives such as those of the creation and flood, sometimes matching those stories in even their small details.(1) Many Victorian era churchmen hailed these discoveries as independent proof of the Bible stories, but atheists and agnostics soon began to stress that many of the Mesopotamian stories were far older than the oldest biblical books and that they were more likely the original stories on which the later biblical narratives were based. So what is the believer to make of these ancient stories, and what is their true relationship with the stories found in the Bible? In this article, examples from three categories of ancient texts will be briefly examined — focusing only on their similarities with biblical stories — before we try to answer these questions.

Creation Stories

There is no single story in Mesopotamian literature that exactly matches the Hebrew creation account, but the similarities that exist between a number of Sumerian and Babylonian stories and that of the Bible cannot be ignored.(2) In one early Sumerian story, “Enki and Ninmah,” for example, the gods become tired with the work of forming the earth’s surface and complain to Namma, the primeval sea, who persuades her son Enki, the god of water, to create a substitute to free the gods from their labor. Enki instructs Namma to take some clay which she apparently places in her womb, eventually giving birth to the first humans.(1) Interestingly, both in this Mesopotamian story and in Atrahasis, as well as in Genesis 1–2, the creation of humans is told in two versions — first a general version, followed by a more specifically detailed retelling of the story.(3) Other Sumerian stories show similar general parallels…”

(this article is an excerpt from the Sept-Oct 2013 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 18, click this link:

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