The Old Testament
The Old Testament is a compilation, and like every compilation it has a wide variety of contributors who, in turn, have their individual influence upon the final work. It is no surprise, then, that there exist certain parallels between the Enuma Elish, the cosmogony of the Babylonians, and the Book of Genesis, the first part of the Pentateuch section of the Bible. In fact, arguments may be made that other Near Eastern texts, particularly Sumerian, have had their influences in Biblical texts. The extent of this ‘borrowing’, as it were, is not limited to the Bible; the Enuma Elish has its own roots in Sumerian mythology, predating the Enuma Elish by nearly a thousand years. A superficial examination of this evidence would erroneously lead one to believe that the Bible is somewhat a collection of older mythology re-written specifically for the Semites. In fact, what develops is that the writers have addressed each myth as a separate issue, and what the writers say is that their God surpasses every other. Each myth or text that has a counterpart in the Bible only serves to further an important idea among the Hebrews: there is but one God, and He is omnipotent, omniscient, and other-worldly; He is not of this world, but outside it, apart from it. The idea of a monotheistic religion is first evinced in recorded history with Judaism, and it is vital to see that instead of being an example of plagiarism, the Book of Genesis is a meticulously composed document that will set apart the Hebrew God from the others before, and after. To get a clear picture of the way the Book of Genesis may have been formed (because we can only guess with some degree of certainty), we must place in somewhere in time, and then define the cultures in that time. The influences, possible and probable, must be illustrated, and then we may draw our conclusions. If we trace back to the first appearance of the Bible in written form, in its earliest translation, we arrive at 444 B.C.. Two texts, components of the Pentateuch referred to as ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts, can be traced to around 650 B.C. Note that ‘J’ refers to Yahweh (YHVH) texts, characterized by the use of the word ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Lord’ in accounts; ‘E’ refers to Elohist texts, which use, naturally, ‘Elohim’ in its references to God.1 But 650 B.C. isn’t our oldest reference to the ‘J’ and ‘E’ texts; they can be traced, along with the other three strands of the Pentateuch, to at least 1000 B.C. Our first compilation of these strands existed in 650 B.C.. We must therefore begin our search further back in time. We can begin with the father of the Hebrew people, Abraham. We can deduce when he lived, and find that he lived around 1900 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia2. If we examine his world and its culture, we may find the reasons behind certain references in Genesis, and the mythologies they resemble. The First Babylonian Dynasty had begun around 1950 B.C. and would last well into the late 16th century B.C.. The Babylonians had just conquered a land previously under the control of the Assyrians, and before that, the Summering. Abraham had lived during a time of great prosperity and a remarkably advanced culture. He was initially believed to have come from the city of Ur, as given in the Bible as “…the Ur of Chaldees”. Earlier translations read, however, simply “…Land of the Chaldees”; later, it was deduced that Abraham had come from a city called Haran3. In any case, he lived in a thriving and prosperous world. Homes were comfortable, even luxurious. Copies of hymns were found next to mathematical tablets detailing formulae for extracting square and cube roots.4 The level of sophistication 4000 years ago is remarkable. We can also deduce that it was a relatively stable and peaceful society; its art is characterized by the absence of any warlike activity, paintings or sculptures.5 We also have evidence of an Israelite tribe, the Benjamites, in Babylonian texts. The Benjamites were nomads on the frontier of its boundaries, and certainly came in contact with Babylonian ideas- culture, religion, ethics.