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... ve spent the first half of this semester studying the historical fiction of ancient cultures, more specifically, the book Genesis, the epic of Gilgamesh, and the Enuma Elish creation story. It was interesting to discover the uniqueness and at the same time, the similarities of the stories. Many of the details in the stories were similar, yet some aspects were different. For the purpose of this paper it is important to note the significance of what changes the author (s) of Genesis made and ask what the authors motives might have been in changing some parts and keeping others the same. First, I will examine the Creation of the Universe, comparing the versions given in Genesis to the version given in the story of the Enuma Elish.
In both Genesis and in the Enuma Elish the Universe was created by a higher power that had the ability to make order out of chaos. Both stories attempt to answer the very difficult question of how life began. Perhaps this was an attempt by the authors to give their audience some comfort and stability. This question is after all, one that everyone would like to know the answer to, right? The method by which the universe was created does differ quite a bit in each story. The Bible assures us that God has the uncanny ability to make something out of nothing and then make it into something else.
Marduk, creator of the universe in the Enuma Elish, cannot accomplish this as he must first have the materials, those being to be the body of Tiamat. In the Enuma Elish, creation of the universe is violently portrayed as Marduk must capture, then kill Tiamat and salvage the corpse in order to build the universe according to the will of the gods. According to the Bible God alone created the universe out of love. This is a major difference because it changes the nature of the universe.
In a universe created out of violence, violence could be tolerated or accepted because it would seem natural. In a universe created out of love violence will not be accepted as something that occurs naturally, since violence was not a factor in its creation. The author of Genesis probably did not like violent acts therefore he eliminated them from his version of how the universe came to be. Another major difference that I notice in the two stories is the theism's. Genesis gives us a Universe with one God, Monotheism. The Enuma Elish paints a polytheistic portrait of the Universe.
The God of Genesis is fully in control of everything that occurs in the Universe. This simplifies things so humans have only one God to thank, blame, fear, etc. Believers of the Enuma Elish creation story have to learn about all kinds of gods and goddesses who have limited responsibilities. For example, Ea is the god of wisdom and that is his sole responsibility.
I think this is the most important difference between the Ancient Israelite theology and the theologies of the surrounding cultures. While examining the stories of creation presented in Genesis and in the epic of Gilgamesh, I drew the conclusion that the stories are very similar because they express the same opinions of truths about everyday facets of human life. Sexuality is the topic covered in these parts of the story. An example of this would be the comparison of the sexual acts of Adam and Eve to those of Gilgamesh.
Both stories are of male and female companionship and sexual behavior. Genesis author is implying that sexual behavior strips us of an innocence and replaces it with knowledge. This knowledge is not necessarily a bad thing because along with it comes freedom to chose. Gilgamesh's story implies that sexual behavior is a violent act that results in the gods losing favor of Gilgamesh (This occurs in Genesis when Adam and Eve disobey God). Enkidu is then born in hopes that he might defeat Gilgamesh. Enkidus first sexual experience causes him to lose touch with the animals in the forest, but gain knowledge of himself.
This resembles the story of Genesis when Adam and Eve realize their nudity. The biggest similarity that I found in comparing the flood stories of Gilgamesh and Genesis was that the motive behind both floods was the desire of the God or gods to destroy what had been created because of their disappointment in what it had become. The flood story of Gilgamesh also shares many similarities with the story of Adam and Eve that is found in Genesis. In both cases the creatures (Gilgamesh, Adam, and Eve) want to become like the gods that they know.
Greed kills. This is the message in both of the stories, although the minor details of the story are different the moral is the same. What makes the beliefs given in Genesis so unique when compared to the beliefs found in the Enuma Elish and the epic of Gilgamesh? The simple fact that most people find it more comforting does not answer the question but it explains the extreme popularity of the theology. Monotheism is a characteristic that was unique to Israelite theology, this makes it easier to worship and since there is only one God to worry about, it is easier to keep in Gods favor.
The humanistic aspect of the literature is something that could not be found in either of the other stories. The stories in Genesis are more about humans behaving like humans. Cain kills his brother out of jealousy, which is a basic human emotion. There is also no mention of unnatural creatures one-third human, two third beast like that found in Gilgamesh.
To me at least, Genesis seems like it would appeal to people who wanted to understand the world in which they live. I think that Ancient Israelite theology offers a view of the world that is more organized and simplified than the views given in the other texts. One God as opposed to many, with control over everything that can possibly affect humanity. The absolute power of Genesis God is a the most important difference to note because it is something that cannot be found inside the other two narratives. The gods found in all previous theologies had to share power. One God of Ancient Israel has no challenge to his authority, no opposition to his rule.
The author (s) of Genesis made it possible for humans to view God as their king, and the universe as the kingdom, and themselves as the servants. Bibliography:
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