To assess the theory, we’ll look at 3 ANE myths: Atrahasis Enuma Elish Gilgamesh
Summary of the Epic of Atrahasis: Before the creation of humans, the lesser gods were forced to do the physical labor. Eventually they grew tired of the work and rebelled against the other gods. To bring peace, the higher gods created mankind to take on the work. But humanCredit: Cuneiform tablet containing Atrahasis epic in BritishMuseum [PD-user-w|en|wikipedia|Jack1956*] via beings proved to be too noisy, and theWikimedia Commons. gods decided to destroy them all in a flood. Atrahasis was tipped off, though, by the god Enki and rode out the flood in a large boat he built.
Similarities between Atrahasis and Genesis1:Atrahasis Genesis Humanity is molded from clay mixed Adam is formed out of dust and with blood and saliva of the gods. God breathes life into him. Humanity is created to work. Adam is created to work the The gods send a flood to destroy garden. humanity, but Enki saves Atrahasis. God sends a flood to destroy Atrahasis, his wife, and animals humanity, but He saves Noah. survive in a large boat. Noah, his family, and animals survive in an ark.1. Taken in part from Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Sayabout Human Origins (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2012), 46-50, 53-56.
Summary of Enuma Elish: The goddess Tiamat, who represents the primevil sea, rebels against the other gods. She is ultimately defeated in battle by Marduk. Marduk then cuts Tiamat in two, using her to create the sky and the earth. Having defeatedCredit: Chaos Monster and Sun God by Georgelazenby (Own work)[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Tiamat, Marduk becomes the chiefWikimedia Commons. god. Humanity is then created out of clay mixed with the blood of one of Tiamats companions and the spittle of the other gods.
Similarities between Enuma Elish and Genesis2:Enuma Elish Genesis By defeating Tiamat, Marduk God brings order to the tames the primeval sea. formless waters of the deep. Marduk uses Tiamat’s body God creates the sky and uses to create the sky, which it to separate the waters keeps the waters in place. above and below. Humanity is created for work. Adam is created to work the garden.2. Ibid., 38-43.
Summary of Gilgamesh: This epic features Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, and his friend Enkidu. When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh sets out on a quest for eternal life. On his journey, he meets a man named Utnapishtim who describes a time when the gods tried to destroy humanity in aCredit : Gilgamesh Statue University of Sydney by D. flood. The god Ea, however, warnedGordon E. Robertson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) orGFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Utnapishtim allowing him to survive in aWikimedia Commons. large boat. Because he survived, the gods made Utnapishtim immortal. Gilgamesh later has an opportunity to become immortal if he eats a plant at the bottom of the sea, but a serpent beats him to it.
Similarities between Gilgamesh and Genesis3:Gilgamesh Genesis In anger the gods decide to In anger God decides to destroy destroy humanity in a flood, but all humanity in a flood, except for Utnapishtim survives in a large Noah and his family who survive boat. in an ark. Utnapishtim’s boat lands on Mt. Noah’s ark lands on the Nisir after the flood. mountains of Ararat after the After the flood, Utnapishtim flood. sends out a dove, a swallow, and After the flood, Noah sends out a a raven. raven and a dove. Gilgamesh has a chance to gain Adam has a chance to gain immortality by eating a plant, but immortality by eating from the fails because of a serpent. Tree of Life, but fails because of the serpent.3. Ibid., 46-50.
Where does that leave us? Not everyone agrees the similarities put Genesis in the same category as the ANE myths. Some believe the differences far outweigh the similarities. Others accept the comparisons, but believe they don’t rule out Genesis having a historical core. There’s evidence, for example, that Gilgamesh was a real king. We’ll look at those views next time.