The uniqueness of Genesis — short version

The following is a handy distillation of yesterday’s post, which refuted the claim that Genesis is just borrowed mythology from earlier traditions. I know some of you don’t have the time to read through articles like that in all their glorious wordage, so this is for you. It’s also intended for those of you who did read the article and need help remembering the key points.

The Claim

  • Atheists claim that Genesis is not unique, but merely borrowed pagan mythology.
  • This is based on the opinions of theological liberals who find parallels between the Genesis creation story and pagan creation myths like the Babylonian Enuma Elish.
  • The Enuma Elish was discovered in the 19th century as part of an archeological dig in the ancient city of Nineveh, where it was found recorded on clay tablets.
  • This written account of the Enuma Elish predates the earliest written account of Genesis*.
  • Together, the timing and the parallels lead some theologically liberal scholars to conclude that Genesis is not unique, but a plagiarism of pagan myth.

The Parallels

  • Themes of darkness and chaos preceding order
  • Appearance of light before the Sun, the Moon, and the stars
  • Development of the world progressing in stages that culminates in the appearance of humankind
  • God/gods resting once the work is complete.

The Differences

Genesis claims:

  • The universe was created from absolute nothing
  • Only God existed prior to the creation of the universe
  • There is only one God
  • God is greater than and transcends the universe
  • Humans are deliberate creations made in the image of their Creator.

Babylonian claims:

  • The universe is eternal; the world was made from pre-existing matter
  • Personified natural forces (gods) existed prior to the making of the world
  • There are many gods
  • The gods inhabit the universe; the main god (Marduk) is located in the city of Babylon
  • Humans are incidental creations, made from the blood of the slain monster Kingu.

Genesis narrative style:

  • God-centered
  • Not interested in human personalities
  • Generally flat in tone
  • Austere in prose
  • Thirty-one verses in length.

Babylonian narrative style:

  • Decidedly not God-centered
  • Focused on the passions of the warring gods
  • Animated in tone
  • Extravagant in prose
  • Nine hundred lines in length.

The Conclusion

There are parallels between Genesis and pagan creation myths such as the Babylonian Enuma Elish, but the differences are far greater. The key difference, which cannot be overstated, is the Genesis claim that God is the sovereign creator of the universe, from which all other things are made. No pagan myth makes this claim. Furthermore, the Genesis claim of a universe created from nothing is alone among all creation stories as being consistent with modern science. Genesis is therefore unique.

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