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.

The early tribes of Israel were nomadic, "taking with them the early

traditions, and in varying latitudes have modified it"6 according to

external influences. The message remained constant, but the context would

subtly change. In addition to the Benjamites in Mesopotamia, there were

tribes of Israel in Egypt during the Egyptian Middle Kingdom period7, which

certainly exposed these people to Egyptian culture as well as Babylonian

culture as a result of trade between the two kingdoms. Having placed

Abraham and certain early Semites in this time, we can now examine the

culture they would have known.

The Babylonian