Comparison of Babylonian
Comparison of Babylonian and Hebrew Creation Stories
It would be difficult to find people who had never questioned themselves about the world’s creation or our mission in it. This curiosity has accompanied humanity since its first stages up to this moment. Even nowadays, there are a lot of theories concerning the question of the world’s creation. Recently, the approach to the matter has divided people into two camps, the ones who follow the scientific point of view, and those who believe in the supernatural character of the world’s creation. Still, one can admit the fact that the world has duplicitous nature. It is a universal experience that the world has two states, the one that can be touched, visualized or felt and the abstract one or supernatural. “In modern times we have come to recognize in the two worlds two modes of knowing and relating to the world, which is identified as two different schemas of symbolic thought, the “discursive” and the “representational.”(Austin, 11) This dualism generates a question of ambivalent character of the world, its creation and functioning. It creates a conflict in people’s minds of questioning the roots of the world and its existence. Our ancient ancestors did not have the ability to divide the world into two parts. They have seen the world in one subspace that triggered the formation of various creation myths and eposes. Almost every nationality has its own story about the formation of the world. What is more significant, the myths are different, but at the same time, they have a lot in common. The narratives resonate with each other even if they were written on different continents and by different nations. It can prove that through time and distance, yet the people’s consciousness are similar producing resembling conclusions about the origins of the world.
To show more specific evidence for this statement, it is crucial to present a review of two creation stories, Babylonian called Enuma Elish and Hebrew. Both narratives were written in different time segments. The Babylonian tale was found on clay tablets which can be dated around 1200 B.C. Hebrew creation myth was supposedly composed in the 6th century B.C. Enuma Elish was found in Assyrian territory, where recent UAE is situated. The Hebrew tale of creation is the part of the Old Testament, which was found in the present territory of Palestine.
The concepts of both stories are different, though they have a great amount of similar features. Babylonian and Hebrew creation stories have the same beginning. Both myths state that the formation of the world has begun out of void. Neither Hebrew, nor Babylonian versions explain the nature of this vacuum. The chaos had existed before the creators came. The stories also admit the celestial origin of humanity. The Babylonian myth states that first humans were originated from the god Kingu’s blood; while the Hebrew story contains the explanation that the god has created people in his own image. It can be concluded that both writers of the myth personified the creators, connected the gods with themselves. The Hebrew story has the different nature of personification, but both explanations touch the fact of celestial character of the universe and humanity.
While reading and comparing the stories one can notice a huge difference in concepts of both versions. The first distinction that strikes the eye is the number of characters in the myths. The Babylonian story contains a great amount of gods representing different nature’s phenomena and elements. For example, there are gods like Anshar and Kishar incarnating sky and earth respectively. In contrast, the Hebrew myth has only one god that has no name. The approaches to creation are also different. The Babylonian concept of every other god representing each nature’s phenomenon diverges from the Hebrew idea that god has formed everything, including the earth, the sky, animals, etc. At this point, it is important to admit the polytheistic nature of Babylonian myth and the monotheistic character of the Hebrew version of creation. “Monotheism is a general term for religions that confess to and worship only one god... although polytheistic religions include a concept of divine unity, these religions undoubtedly do worship a plethora of gods, which justifies applying a word built on the element poly (many) to them.”(Johnston, 17) Despite the vast differences in this concept, Babylonian epos concentrates primarily on one entity by making at the end of the story only one supreme god, Marduk. The embodiment of a feminine is also a distinctive feature of Babylonian epos. The Hebrew story has a patriarchal nature by making a god “him”. There is no admittance of a woman in this story, while Babylonian version tells about two begetters Apsu (a male god) and Tiamat (female goddess). In the process of the story one can observe that Tiamat became the central figure of the tale. Though, at the end of Babylonian narrative Marduk fights Tiamat defeating the female goddess. In its own turn, Marduk became the supreme god for the Babylonians. “A Babylonian accounts that exalts Marduk over the other gods. The text was very important to the city of Babylon, as it was recited during the New Year’s festival in the city.”(McCants, 94)
Anthropopathy is also an issue when discussing the tales of creation. While the Hebrew god is the absolute do not express any emotions, Babylonian gods have all specters of human feelings like anger, revenge, love, etc. In Enuma Elish gods fight over the domination of the world, the Hebrew god is concentrated on the creation of the world. One can also admit simplicity of Hebrew narrative, while Babylonian myth is full of gods, their relationships, and the comprehensive description of details.
Concluding the evidence of similarity and distinction of the creation narratives it is important to notice the parallels between the stories. There is a significant difference of time and space between Hebrew and Babylonian narratives, yet one can observe their similar core. Distinctions represent the peculiarities of logic and the way of thinking of the ancestors in its own peculiar time. As an inference one can observe the evidences of people’s common consciousness and logical conclusions that existed through time and space. Despite different paths of both civilizations had chosen their stories of creation shows the similarity of their roots and grounds.
There were no light or darkness, no earth, sky or soil. Chaos was dwelling around the emptiness until a mighty god Helios waved its hand and the earth appeared. The earth was roaring of tightness exuding tears that formed the goddess Luna. She ran throughout the earth begetting water that yielded in streams, rivers, seas and oceans. Looking at their creation, the gods felt the need to inhabit their world with various creatures. The gods cannot decide how to create the first inhabitants. Helios ate the soil and spitted out the terrestrial creatures that soon gave birth to different plants and animals. In her own turn, Luna drank the water and populated the waters. The gods were floating over the earth and looking for the creature to look after all inhabitants, as they were weak. When they have not found any creatures of that kind, Helios and Luna decided to create the new type of inhabitants to their own image. Connecting together Helios and Luna gave birth to human beings creating harmony and love between them. After the creation the gods wanted to rule by their own way, and no one wanted to cede in this conflict. The big fight repulsed the gods from each other creating a huge distance. Helios and Luna remained unseen to each other as it was their choice. From that time the day and the night exist. The human beings also divided as the harmony was destroyed. Since that time they try to reach the balance and looking for harmony between each other. As Helios and Luna do not see each other, the same is with men and women, as they cannot apprehend their true nature. While fighting they generate chaos, while loving they produce the future.
Austin, Norman. Meaning and Being in Myth. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990. Print.
Johnston, Sarah I. Ancient Religions. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2004. Print.
McCants, William F. Founding Gods, Inventing Nations: Conquest and Culture Myths from Antiquity to Islam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012. Print.
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