The Banquet vs. Hamlet

Topics: Universe, Creation myth, Tiamat Pages: 2 (471 words) Published: June 12, 2011
A NOTE ON THE ENUMA ELISH
CREATION STORY

The Genesis creation stories are best read as ancient
Israel’s response to other creation stories circulating in the Ancient Near East. For example, the Babylonian creation
myth, known as the Enuma Elish (http://www.sacred-
texts.com/ane/enuma.htm), was filled with violence. The
god Apsu (= fresh water) and the goddess Tiamat (= salt
water) commingled resulting in the birth of gods Lahmu
and Lahamu, followed by the the gods Anshar, Kishar,
Ea/Nidimmud (the earth/ water god), and others. The
children proved to be too noisy for Apsu, so he planned to
kill them (Tablet I, lines 38-52) to resore quiet in the
heavens. But before the father could destroy the kids, Ea
killed Apsu his father. The victorious Ea then fathered
Marduk, and Marduk in time killed Grandmother Tiamat
(Tablet IV, lines 31-145) who had been inspired by a new
husband to turn against her murderous children. Marduk
cut up her corpse to become the sky and the firmament
with their constellations. This creation story asserts that
creation was born out of violence. Violence was normative,
therefore violence is normative—it is the way of the
gods/God and it the way of heaven and earth. This
“theology of violence” perpetuates itself down to modern times in a number of religions and, in my opinion,
contributed to the violence of September 11.
The Biblical creation stories in Genesis 1-2 offered an
alternative to the Babylonian perception of ultimate reality. For the Israelite theologians who crafted the Genesis story, God’s creation transformed chaos into cosmos, simply by
the power of the word: “and God said, ‘Let there be . . . ’” It was radically non-violent. The pre-existent Power (in
Hebrew the noun for “God” means “power”), through a

word created Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22). And then, with
Wisdom, “the Power” made it all. It was all good! Non-
violence was normative in the act of creation and within the creation, itself.
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