Time, Truth and Wisdom
CHAPTER 3 The Creation Tablets--Pagan Version of Creation
The great Assyrian poem, or series of legends, which narrates the story of the Creation of the world and man, was termed by the Assyrians and Babylonians Enuma Elish, which means “when in the height", from the two opening words of the text. The poem consisted of some nine hundred and ninety-four lines and was divided into seven sections, each of which was inscribed upon a separate tablet.
The Assyrian scribes numbered the tablets, and the separate sections of the poem written upon them do not vary very much in length. The shortest tablet contains one hundred and thirty-eight lines, and the longest one hundred and forty-six, the average length of a tablet being about one hundred and forty-two lines.
The poem embodies the beliefs of the Babylonians and Assyrians concerning the origin of the universe; it describes the coming forth of the gods from chaos and tells the story of how the forces of disorder, represented by the primeval water-gods Apsu and Tiamat, were overthrown by Ea and Marduk respectively, and how Marduk, after completing the triumph of the gods over chaos, proceeded to create the world and man.
The poem is known to us from portions of several Assyrian and late Babylonian copies of the work, and from extracts from it written out upon so-called “practice tablets”, or students’ exercises, by pupils of the Babylonian scribes.
The Assyrian copies of the work are from the great library which was founded at Nineveh by Ashur-bani-pal, king of Assyria from 668BC to about 626BC; the Babylonian copies and extracts were inscribed during the period of the kings of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian periods, and one copy of the seventh tablet may probably be assigned to as late a date as the period of the Arsacidae.
All the tablets and fragments, which have hitherto been identified as inscribed with portions of the text of the poem, are preserved in the British Museum.
This epic poem, Enuma Elish, told of the creation, with the god Marduk cutting the monster crocodile god Tiamat in two, then making the heavens from one half and the earth from the other. The river Euphrates flowed from one eye and the Tigris River through the other.
When a copy of this tablet was found in the palace of the Assyrian King Ashur-bani-pal (death in 625BC), it was claimed that this was the original creation tablet, and so the creation could only have come into the Bible after that date. Ezra was given the credit for the Genesis account, instead of Moses, who lived about 1000 years earlier. No other copies of the Babylonian epic, dating from hundreds of years earlier, have been found.
The Epic of Gilgamesh was also found in the same Assyrian palace and the eleventh of the twelve fragmentary tablets had a distorted version of the flood. But again, it was dramatically inferior to the Biblical record, with the gods terrified as the floodwaters rose higher and higher. They believed that they might be washed out of heaven itself.
Then when the flood was over the gods came “like a swarm of flies” to the sacrifice that the Babylonian Noah, Utnapishtim, offered. Poor gods, they were hungry….men had not been around to feed them. In the Babylonian story, man was created to undertake menial work, which was beneath the dignity of the gods. In Genesis, man is created as the friend of God.
In more recent years the fragmentary Epic of Atrahasis has been translated, and now it is seen that creation, the role of man, and the Flood are brought together as one continuous record. Suddenly the world of Biblical archaeology has had to recognize that the comparable records in Genesis must be accepted as an actual historical presentation.
The famed Professor W.F. Albright wrote that the Genesis details of the flood contain elements that predate any other description. The tower of Babel has a parallel Babylonian record, elaborated by another famous archaeologist, Professor Samuel N. Kramer. He likens the Babylonian record to that of the Bible.
The fact of long-living men is endorsed from the Sumerian king list found at Kish, south of modern Baghdad. It has recently been shown that scholars had mistranslated its figures of tens of thousands of years. These Sumerians used a system based on decimals and not on the sixties as previously thought. Now it is seen that the total given in the Sumerian list is remarkably close to the total figures in Genesis, chapter 11.
The table of nations in Genesis, chapter 10 used to be regarded as mere legend. Again quoting Professor W.F. Albright, he wrote that it has been found to be “astonishingly accurate”. Even in so-called secular archaeology, “legends” are taken much more seriously these days. One example is the Assyrian king list which goes back to the days when those kings “lived in tents.”
The first of them was named Tudiya and his actual existence was not taken very seriously. Then his name turned up as an actual king who had entered into a contract with the King of Ebla (in modern Syria) about 2200bc. Another Ebla contract was with the Egyptian Pharaoh Pepi I, already known in Egyptian records.
It’s a wonderful fact that the Bible records have been preserved intact, without needing to be dug up. These are not campfire stories which grew in the telling, not just poetry that is merely symbolic, but factual records of the highest order.
You may be wondering why I included this chapter on the creation tablets. I did it to round out the religious information in your brain. To try to make you appreciate the fact that you are lucky enough to live in a country that allows you to practice a religion any way that you like.
This freedom is guaranteed by our Constitution. I want the readers to understand that there is a counterpoint out there; and that counterpoint is filled with Greek Mythology, epic poems, mindless chanting, and just plain paganism. And many of these things are incorporated into the religion that you practice every Sunday. Can you identify them? Open your mind and let the sunshine in.
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__21 June 2009__