Genesis and ANE Accounts of Creation

by Bill Muehlenberg

Atheists, sceptics and other critics of Christianity like to make the claim that the biblical account of creation is simply stolen from earlier pagan myths found in the Ancient Near East. For example, they claim that the Babylonian creation account Enuma Elish serves as a basis for the Genesis account.

They claim there are plenty of similarities between the ANE accounts and that found in Genesis, so there is nothing unique about the Bible and it certainly is not God’s inerrant word. How might we respond to such charges? While the discussion can be rather complex, let me try to offer a brief, introductory discussion on all this.

Genesis 1-2 and its polemical intent

The opening chapters of Genesis give us an account of how God created the world out of nothing. It sets the stage for the rest of the biblical story line. Part of its purpose is to serve as a polemic against the rival gods and creation accounts. Let me define three crucial terms here.

A polemic is a refutation or attack on the opinions or ideas of another. The biblical writers would likely have been aware of some of these other creation accounts, so what we find in Genesis is, in part, an assault on some of these myths that were around at the time.

All this is about conflicting cosmologies and cosmogonies. A cosmology is the way we look at the universe; our understanding of the universe. A cosmogeny is the theory of the origin or creation of the universe or cosmos.

Standing against the cosmology and creation accounts of the ANE is the Genesis account. The biblical account of creation challenges the rival cosmologies, such as that of the Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Canaanites and the Egyptians.

The polytheism of the surrounding cultures is especially targeted in the biblical narratives. What we find in the opening chapters of Genesis is a real put down of other gods and other worldviews. It directly challenges the prevailing accounts of the gods and creation.

There are both similarities and differences in the biblical account of creation as compared to other ANE accounts. The critics like to emphasize possible similarities and play down any differences. But in truth the differences are very greater and much more significant…

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Genesis and ANE Accounts of Creation – CultureWatch