If you had the opportunity, what question would you ask God? After tragedy in his life, Job had many questions for God. But when they finally met the tables were turned and God asked Job “Where were you when I created the world”? Job was silenced because the answer was “Nowhere”.
Question and answer
The context is that God says that Job needs to be educated on mysteries that surpass his understanding (38:2). He should have realized that many things known to God are hidden from humanity.
The first question that God asked was:
4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7NIV)
God used a metaphor of building a house to describe His work of creation. Verse 7 is a poetic description of the angel’s joy in God’s creation. The implication is that Job didn’t exist when God created the world, so how could he understand it? And who was Job (finite and created) to question the God (infinite Creator) of the Universe?
Job’s answer was:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5).
Job didn’t answer the question in 38:4 because the answer was “Nowhere” – Job hadn’t been born when God created the world. He had no other answer to give. God’s questions were unanswerable. Job was reminded that there were many things that he didn’t know. He didn’t have the wisdom and knowledge to run the world and was ignorant of most of its processes. So he shouldn’t tell the Creator and Sustainer how to run the world.
In Job 38 God asked a series of questions about the earth (v. 4-7, 18); the sea (v.8-11, 16); the sun (v.12-15); death (v.17); light and darkness (v.19-20); the weather (v.22-30, 34-38); astronomy (v.31-33); and animals and birds (38:39 – 39:30). It was like a science examination! These questions show that God’s sovereignty, power and wisdom is evident in the created (natural) world. God is saying, “Before you criticize me, you should ask yourself if you could manage the creation as well as I do”.
Job couldn’t answer any of the questions because he felt powerless, ignorant, insignificant and unwise compared to God (Job 40:3-5). He was humbled. Job felt the immense difference between divinity and humanity. And if Job didn’t understand the natural world, how could he understand God’s dealings with humanity?
What about today?
Does this lesson still apply today as science can answer some of the questions in Job 38-39? Yes, scientists know more today than Job knew. But there’s also a lot that they don’t know. They know many secondary causes, but they are ignorant of primary causes (God’s role). And like Job, we should be overwhelmed with our ignorance, and not impressed with science.
Do we tell God how to run the world? Some say that the existence of suffering negates the existence of God. But like Job they are judging how God rules the world. Instead, they need to learn from Job’s humility.
When scientists study a subject it would be good for them to be mindful of God’s role. This could moderate their claims and introduce an element of humility as they consider the assumptions being made, the degree of extrapolation and the limits/uncertainty of the findings.
In particular, we have seen recently that scientists need miracles in their naturalistic explanations of the creation of the universe and the creation of life. They sound confident when they should be embarrassed. But one day God will ask them, “Were you there?” and the answer will be “No” (it’s not observational science). They didn’t observe God’s acts of creation. “Do you know anyone who was there?” “No”. The next question will be “Did you listen to my account of what happened (in the Bible)?” and the answer will be “No”. God was there – and He has given us an eyewitness account. How can they expect to understand creation if they only use the human mind and ignore the best information available on these historical events?
Written, May 2019
The theory of biological evolution is the current scientific explanation of life on earth. This assumes that life has developed from simple to complex over time. So if we extrapolate backwards in time, we eventually reach the first living cell. As this theory relies on natural selection, it only operates on populations of species, and not on the original members of the species (like the first living cell). So where did the original living cell (which is assumed to be the ancestor of all life on earth) come from? It’s assumed that life originated from non-living chemicals via chemical evolution. Did you know that this theory includes a miracle that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.
Complexity of life
In the 19th century many people believed the theory of spontaneous generation; that life arose from non-living matter. This is understandable because they knew little about the cell’s structure.
But today we know that even the simplest living single-cell organism is extremely complex, including numerous, complex machines and instructions to build them, all stored in a way that can be both decoded for use by the organism and passed on to offspring. In fact, a single cell is vastly more complicated than anything human minds have ever engineered.
Scientists agree that the first living cell possessed DNA, RNA and proteins, a universal genetic code, ribosomes (the protein-building factories), ATP and a proton-powered enzyme for making ATP. The detailed mechanisms for reading off DNA and converting genes into proteins were also in place. So it must have been like a modern cell. This is called “irreducible complexity” – all these components are required for a cell to function and reproduce. Because this complexity could never arise by chance, it was either designed or it was a miracle. Life can’t evolve from chemicals by chance.
Living cells are comprised of hardware and software. The software is information stored in the DNA molecule. Enormous amounts of coded information are stored in DNA. Each of the thousands of genes on a DNA molecule contains instructions necessary to make a specific protein that, in turn, is needed for a specific biological function. All the detailed chemical and structural complexity associated with the metabolism, repair, specialized function, and reproduction of each living cell is a realization of the coded messages stored in its DNA. This information is read by a RNA molecule and used to make proteins. But the RNA is also encoded in the DNA, which is a “chicken and egg” problem! And the energy to do this is produced by the nano-motor ATP synthase which is also encoded on the DNA and is decoded by machines needing ATP! So there are multiple “chicken and egg” problems.
ATP synthase is one of many enzymes which are biological catalysts that speed up vital chemical reactions. Without them many reactions essential for life would be far too slow for life to exist. These enzymes, as well as other processes, must exist in the first replicating cell in order for that cell to survive and pass on the DNA, and the DNA must code for the proteins required for those processes!
The naturalistic explanation of the origin of life from non-living matter has a problem because there is no known natural process which can cause information to originate by itself in matter. Information cannot arise by naturalistic processes. The DNA code within all plant and animal cells is vastly more compact than any computer chip ever made. Therefore, the originator of the information must be supremely intelligent.
The theory of the chemical evolution of life assumes that this information is produced by physical processes. But the chemical workings of the cell are controlled by information which does not reside in the atoms and molecules of that cell. For example, the order of the DNA base pairs (like letters in a message) cannot be predicted from the chemical characteristics of the individual base pairs (letters). And as there is no law of physics about creating information from nothing, this assumption is equivalent to a miracle.
Because of the impossibility of chemical evolution on earth, some have suggested that life began in outer space. In order to be able to start the evolution of life on earth, it has been proposed that life was seeded on earth by meteorites, comets or extra-terrestrials. Of course, there is no evidence of this and it doesn’t answer the question of the origin of life. It just transfers it to another place in the universe.
Besides the above, the theory of chemical evolution goes against the law of biogenesis (Appendix A).
And the Milller-Urey experiment, which is often quoted to support the theory of chemical evolution didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life (Appendix B).
The theory of chemical evolution of life on earth involves a miracle that can’t be explained by operational science. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the theory of biological evolution can’t start without this miracle.
I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.
But the Bible is consistent when it attributes the creation of plant, animal and human life to the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:11-12; 20-27).
Appendix A: The law of Biogenesis
The law of biogenesis says that all life comes from life. Lois Pasteur disproved the idea of spontaneous generation (that life could come from non-living material). He demonstrated that life does not arise from matter that has not been contaminated by existing life. This means that life has never come from non-life.
Appendix B: The Miller-Urey experiment
This was a chemical experiment that simulated the conditions thought at the time to be present on the early Earth. In this experiment a mixture of water, methane, ammonia and hydrogen was exposed to an electrical current. It resulted in the production of amino acids that were claimed to be the precursors of life. But this experiment relied on the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, whereas more recent studies indicate that oxygen was present in the earth’s atmosphere earlier than had been believed. And if there was no oxygen, there would be no ozone and the amino acids would be destroyed by ultraviolet solar radiation. Also, they had to isolate the amino acids from the mixture to stop them being destroyed (by hydrolysis, for example). And the amino acids produced were a mixture of left-handed and right-handed, which would be detrimental to life because all the proteins in animals and plants are only made up of left-handed amino acids. So this experiment didn’t produce the amino acids necessary for life.
Sarfati J. (2014), “The origin of life”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.79-111.
Written, May 2019
Also see: Two Big-bang miracles
The big-bang model is the current scientific explanation of the universe (Appendix A). Did you know that this mathematical theory includes two miracles that can’t be explained by modern science? According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”.
A model is a mathematical explanation of something. Models that describe a current process can be tested experimentally against the real thing. Their predictions can be compared with observations. This is operational science which is reliable. But models about the distant past can’t be tested in that way because we can’t directly observe the past (and human records are fragmentary). This is historical (or forensic) science which is more speculative and unreliable than operational science. It involves the construction of tentative historical narratives to explain past events. And models about the distant future can’t be tested in that way because the future hasn’t occurred yet. This is futuristic science which is also more speculative and unreliable. Historical and futuristic science often rely on unreliable assumptions and extrapolations. But just because operational science is reliable, doesn’t mean that the others are also reliable. In fact, because they can’t be tested by experimentation, historical and futuristic science will always be less accurate than operational science. So operational science is more robust than historical and futuristic science.
Modern science is naturalistic and rejects the possibility of miracles because miracles defy explanations within the realm of nature. According to science, miracles don’t occur (they are supernatural) because it is assumed that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything. But we will see below that modern science isn’t consistent because it includes miracles in the area of historical science.
Something from nothing
The big-bang model assumes that the universe started in a hot, dense state and has been expanding over time since then. This is the beginning of space, time, and matter, which means that the universe had a cause. If something had a beginning, then it had a cause. But the cause of the universe could not have been spatial, temporal, or material because something cannot cause itself to come into existence. It’s absurd if something existed before it brought itself into being! This rules out naturalistic causes for the existence of the universe. Therefore, the universe had a supernatural cause.
According to operational science, we can’t get something from nothing (not anything). A vacuum remains a vacuum for eternity. But according to the historical science of the big-bang model, something (like a “quantum fluctuation”) came from nothing at the beginning of time. And that sounds like a miracle to me, because quantum mechanics never produces something out of nothing. Theories that the universe is a quantum fluctuation must presuppose that there was something to fluctuate. So this aspect of the big-bang model is inconsistent with naturalistic operational science.
The big-bang theory had a horizon problem (the universe is isotropic, it appears to be the same in all directions), a flatness problem (the density of energy/matter in the universe is fine-tuned) and a magnetic monopole problem (none have been observed). To fix these problems, a cosmic inflation theory was developed where there was a brief (less than one-billionth of a second) rapid expansion of space in the early universe (to say about 50% of its size today).
This hypothetical cosmic inflation defies all known laws of physics – it’s a miracle invoked to help the big-bang model. And what caused this rapid expansion to start and stop? No one knows.
The big-bang theory also includes hypothetic “dark (unseen) matter” and “dark (unseen) energy”. Like hypothetical inflation, scientists have added these to the theory to make it work, but they have never been observed! To explain the accelerating expansion of the universe, they proposed “dark energy”, that was a seeming anti-gravity force pulling the cosmos apart. Dark matter and dark energy are said to compromise about about 96% of the mass-energy content of the universe! Because of the need of such large fudge factors, the big-bang model is a poor theory for the structure and origin of the universe. There are at least six major assumptions that are accepted by faith in the Big-bang model (Appendix B).
These aspects of the big-bang model of creation defy all known laws of physics and involve speculative ideas. And the model has other unverifiable assumptions like that the universe has no center or edge. So, it takes a lot of faith to believe the big-bang model!
The inflationary big-bang model includes at least two miracles that can’t be explained by operational science. The first is how something came from nothing in the beginning. And the second is how there was a minute burst of supernatural cosmic inflation soon after the beginning. This is a fatal flaw for a model that doesn’t accept miracles! But the big-bang can’t start without these two miracles.
I’m skeptical of a model that claims to be based on naturalism, yet requires miracles! It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat! This kind of historical science isn’t consistent.
But the Bible is consistent when it provides the cause of the universe as the all-powerful spiritual God (Gen. 1:1). He isn’t spatial, temporal, or material. But at the beginning of time at the creation of the universe, He created space, time and energy/matter as we experience it today.
Appendix A: Summary of the Big-bang theory (from John Harnett)
A “quantum fluctuation” produces the matter and energy of the future universe, which then goes through a brief period of “inflation”. This inflation produces “flatness” in the energy distribution and prevents the universe from collapsing in on itself. After stars form, “dark matter” is required to explain the shape of galaxies and “dark energy” is required to explain the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. The cosmic microwave background radiation is the afterglow of the post-inflation fireball, but the light is extremely red-shifted due to the stretching of space.
This theory assumes that the distribution of matter throughout the universe is homogeneous (uniform) and isotropic (the same in all directions).
Appendix B: Six assumptions accepted by faith in the Big-bang model
These are assumptions that can’t be verified by scientific experiments. None of the proposed entities can be measured directly (using operational science) because of the limitations of time and space.
- A “quantum fluctuation” produced the matter and energy of the future universe.
- Galaxy redshifts are explained by “expansion of space”.
- Cosmic microwave background radiation is explained as the “afterglow of the big-bang”.
- Rotation curves of spiral galaxies are explained by “dark matter”.
- As distant supernovae are dimmer than expected, the universe is assumed to be accelerating, which is explained by “dark energy”.
- Flatness and isotropy are explained by “inflation”.
Harnett J. (2014), “Exposing the Big Bangs fatal flaws”, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, Creation Book Publishers, p.215-231.
Written, May 2019
Also see: An evolutionary miracle
Was the universe small at the beginning and then grow to be huge or was it huge at the beginning? A common view is that because the universe is very large, it needed a long time to form.
What does the Bible say about this topic? We will look at the creation of vegetation, living creatures and people before looking at the creation of stars and galaxies.
Plants grow when a seed germinates. The seed grows to be a seedling, which grows to be a budding plant, which grows to be a flowering plant, which grows to be a ripened mature plant with seeds/fruit.
On the third day of creation, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:12NIV). So the plants had seeds and the trees had fruit, indicating that they were mature.
On the sixth day of creation God told Adam and Eve, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Gen. 1:29). So the trees had fruit that could be eaten, indicating that they were mature.
Genesis 2:5-25 focuses on the creation of man and woman on the sixth day of creation. On the sixth day of creation, “the Lord God commanded the man [Adam], “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17). So the trees had fruit that could be eaten, indicating that they were mature.
So the vegetation that was created on the third day of creation was unique because it didn’t come from seeds and had no seedling stage. Instead of developing from a seed, it began life as mature plants so that it could be eaten by the animals and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:16-17).
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is an old riddle. All chickens hatch from eggs, and all chicken eggs are laid by hens, which are adult chickens. That’s a rule of nature that applies since the time of creation, but not on the sixth day of creation when God created chickens (and other living creatures) that didn’t hatch from eggs. God told the living creatures that He created to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:22). It’s stated specifically for marine creatures and birds (on the fifth day of creation) and by inference for land creatures (on the sixth day of creation). This implies that the creatures were mature so they could reproduce.
So the creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation were unique because they didn’t come from eggs and had no juvenile stage. Instead of developing from an egg, they began life as mature creatures so that they could be named and enjoyed by Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation.
As God created mature plants and mature animals during the days of creation, this implies that He also created mature ecosystems. All the cycles of nature were established and in equilibrium by the end of the sixth day of creation. They didn’t have to develop from simple to complex as imagined by the uniformitarian hypothesis.
Adam and Eve
Human beings begin as a single cell called a zygote. A zygote grows into a blastocyst. A blastocyst grows into an embryo. An embryo grows into a fetus. And a fetus grows until the baby is ready to be born. These stages of human development occur within the mother’s uterus.
After birth the newborn grows to be an infant, which grows to be a toddler, which grows to be a preschooler, which grows to be preadolescent, which grows to be an adolescent, which grows to be a nature adult.
Today people are created as a zygote. At what stage of human development were Adam and Eve when they were created? On the day they were created:
– Adam was strong enough to work, because he was placed “in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).
– Adam was old enough to understand and choose to obey or disobey a verbal instruction (Gen. 2:16-17).
– Adam understood language well enough to name the livestock, birds and wild animals (Gen. 2:19-20).
– Adam and Eve were mature enough to be married (Gen. 2:18, 20-25).
– Adam and Eve were mature enough to have children (Gen. 1:28).
But a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, a newborn , an infant, and a toddler can’t do these tasks. A pre-schooler can understand and choose to obey or disobey a simple instruction, but they couldn’t take care of the Garden of Eden. An adolescent may be able to name the livestock, birds and wild animals, but they wouldn’t be mature enough to be married and care for children.
So Adam and Eve, who were created on the sixth day of creation, were unique because they had no mothers and no childhood. Instead of developing from a zygote, they began life as mature adults.
Sun, moon and stars
According to the Big Bang model, about 14 billion years ago there was a “big bang” and stars like the sun formed from the exploding gases. Then about 5 billion years ago, planets like earth formed around the stars. It is assumed that the complexity of the universe increased with time. It began with quarks and then to protons and neutrons, and then to hydrogen and helium atoms, and then stars were formed, and in the last stage of a star (supernova) it explodes and new chemical elements are formed, and eventually the solar system and earth were formed.
On the fourth day of creation, “God made two great lights—the greater light [sun] to govern the day and the lesser light [moon] to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness” (Gen. 1:16-18). This is a description of the creation of the sun, moon and stars. As is the case today, the sun provided direct and diffuse light during the day-time and the moon could provide reflected light during the night-time. So the sun and stars were already shining and visible on earth when they were created.
Like vegetation, animals and humanity were created in a mature state; the rest of the universe (sun, moon and stars) was also created in a functionally mature state. This means that the universe didn’t have to start out small in size and then grow to be very large. That didn’t happen with the vegetation. That didn’t happen with the animals. And that didn’t happen with people (Adam and Eve).
You may say, that’s impossible! Yes, under the laws of nature, divine creation is impossible. But God created the laws of nature and since the creation of the world and the universe, everything has operated according to these laws. But the creation itself is an exceptional case (like a singularity) because God used His miraculous powers during the six days of creation. Every part of the six-day creation was miraculous in some way because God creates in a supernatural way. When God creates, He doesn’t need a long time. In fact Jesus created wine and food instantaneously (see Appendix).
How did God do it? How did God create the stars and galaxies? The Bible says,
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of His mouth …
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6, 9).
This is a poetic way of saying that by God’s command all creation came into being.
So the galaxies, stars and planets that were created on the fourth day of creation were unique because they didn’t come from a big bang (a massive expansion from a dense particle) and they didn’t go through the supposed stages of the development of stars and planets. Instead of developing from a big bang, they began life as mature galaxies, stars and planets to provide light and energy for the new vegetation, new creatures and Adam and Eve. The galaxies, stars and planets could also be used by Adam and Eve to track time with dates and seasons (Gen. 1:14). So the original galaxies, stars and planets, which were created about 6,000 years ago, were much like what we see them today.
According to the Big Bang model, the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. This calculation is based on the assumption that the universe was small at the beginning and then grew to be huge. It’s also based on hypothetical inflation, hypothetical dark matter and hypothetical dark energy. But calculating the age of the universe using this model is accurate only if the assumptions built into the model are also accurate. All dates outside recorded history are inferred. So their accuracy depends on the accuracy of the assumptions used to determine them.
According to the Bible, which was inspired by the God who created the universe, the universe was enormous at the beginning and didn’t need a long time to form. The Bible says that God created the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago. This is the plain meaning of the Bible as it was intended by the authors and as it would have been understood by the Israelites. This written historical evidence trumps and invalidates the assumptions made in the Big Bang model.
This shows that a belief in uniformitarianism can lead to severe overestimates of age. The difference in this case is a factor of 230,000 which is over 5 orders of magnitude!
This also has implications in our understanding of the universe. When uniformity is used to say that we are seeing the universe as it was millions and billions of years ago we are crossing a boundary condition (the beginning of the universe) where the laws of the universe (such as General Relativity and cause and effect ) are no longer applicable. If the universe began 6,000 years ago, then calculations that give larger ages are due to the use of false assumptions in a uniformitarian model.
I know that this view isn’t generally accepted today because people usually assume that the universe was formed in accordance with known laws of physics (although there is no evidence of this). This is the assumption of uniformity (of physical laws) over long periods of time, with no allowance for a supernatural creation. Because of this assumption a straw man argument is often made, such as claiming that fossils are older than 6,000 years in age or that God created fossils in sedimentary rocks (false evidence).
The Big Bang model is non-falsifiable. It cannot be subjected to the experimental method. It thus fails to satisfy the criteria of a scientific theory. The same can be said of creation. We do not see God creating anything today, and as a theory, creation is non-falsifiable. It cannot be subjected to the experimental method. Instead both the Big Bang (and evolution) and creation are worldviews used to understand the world and the universe. So the Big Bang model and evolution model are just as “religious” as the creation model. They are creation stories for those who rule out the possibility of a divine Creator.
Because God created a functionally mature universe, the universe was huge at the beginning and didn’t need a long time to form. The universe and the earth were complete right from the start. From the beginning, all the components of the universe and the earth were able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created.
This brief look at Genesis shows that the Big Bang model is radically wrong. And based on the Biblical age of the universe, there is not enough time available for the supposed evolution of species. So the theory of the evolution of species is also radically wrong.
Appendix: Jesus’ miracles
Most of Jesus’ miracles while was upon earth were instantaneous. They didn’t take a long period of time. For example:
– Creation of wine from water (Jn. 2:1-10).
– Creation of bread and fish (Jn. 6:1-13).
– Curing diseases (Mt. 9:6-8).
Written, March 2019
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is an old riddle. All chickens hatch from eggs, and all chicken eggs are laid by hens, which are adult chickens. It’s a way of describing situations where It’s not clear which of two events should be considered the cause and which should be considered the effect. In the case of literature, which came first? And did the earlier influence the later?
Some scholars claim that Biblical writers drew upon the cultural and religious legacy of the ancient Near East, its stories and its imagery. For example, could the Biblical account of creation be based on ancient mythology like Enuma Elish?
Hebrew account of creation
The first two chapters of Genesis describe the creation of the universe, earth and humanity. This book was edited by Moses in about 1450BC and the earliest copies available today are from the 2nd century BC found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Genesis 1-2 is summarized below:
In the beginning of time God created the universe over a period of six days. On day one light, water and the earth were created. On day two, the atmosphere. On day three, land with vegetation. On day four, the solar system and stars. On day five, animals and birds. On day six, the first people (Adam and Eve). And God rested on the seventh day. Before this, God was all that existed. God created a universe that was good and free from sin. And God created humanity to have a personal relationship with Him.
More detail about the creation of Adam (“from the dust of the ground”) and Eve (from Adam’s rib) is given in Genesis 2. This includes establishing the relationship of heterosexual marriage. They lived in the garden of Eden and were to “work it and take care of it”.
Babylonian account of creation
The “Enuma Elish (EE)” is a Babylonian poem that tells the story of how the universe came into being, a great struggle among the gods, and the creation of the earth and humanity. The main purpose of this epic was to explain the elevation of the chief Babylonian god Marduk to the top of the Mesopotamian pantheon and the legitimization of his superiority over the other gods. It says that Babylon is the pre-eminent city in the world. And it puts more emphasis on explaining the origin of gods than the origin of the universe. The oldest copies of this poem are written on seven tablets from the 7th century BC found in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq). The text on each tablet is between about 138 and 166 lines long and is comprised of two-line verses (sentence units).
The translation of these texts is not exact. In some cases, badly damaged tablets make reading the text difficult. Some translators leave the gaps, while others attempt to reconstruct the text based on what remains. In other cases, there are differing interpretations of the meaning of words or the reading of the cuneiform itself. Many translations of the tablets try to capture the sense of the text rather than a literal translation.
Enuma Elish (EE) has been summarized as follows. “The two original gods Apsu, the male, and Tiamat, the female, are created from water. They then beget all other gods, but these “children” make so much noise that Apsu is unable to sleep and decides to kill them. However, before he can, one of the offspring puts a spell on him and kills him. Tiamat, to avenge his death, takes up the cudgels, but Marduk (another offspring) eliminates her, splitting her in two, and the two parts of her corpse become the heavens and the Earth. Marduk relieves the other gods of all manual work by creating man (from the blood vessels of a defeated giant god), and Marduk then becomes the chief god” (Masters, 2004). A longer summary is given in Appendix C.
The text of Genesis 1-2 is given in Appendix A and the text of EE is given in Appendix B. Can we tell if one was influenced by the other? There are similarities and differences between these accounts.
There are some similarities between Genesis 1-2 and EE. In both, darkness precedes the creative acts; light exists before the creation of the sun, moon, and stars; there is a division of the waters above and below; and the sequence of creation is similar, including the division of waters, dry land, luminaries, and humanity, all followed by rest. There are also some similarities in the structure and terminology in their original languages because they came from similar cultural backgrounds.
There are also significant differences between Genesis1-2 and EE. All the text (100%) of Genesis is about creation, but only 9% of EE is about creation – the rest is about the Babylonian gods. This 9% is: Tablet 4:138-146; Tablet 5:1-77; and Tablet 6:32-38, 90-91. So creation is only a minor aspect of EE. EE is mainly a hymn of praise to Marduk, whereas Genesis is an account of creation. And EE is clearly mythological, but Genesis is not mythological.
The God in Genesis is monotheistic, while EE has many gods – it’s polytheistic. The God in Genesis is eternal, and not the result of sexual union like Marduk. The God in Genesis is distinct from nature (His creation), whereas the gods of EE are part of nature. The God in Genesis is organized and peaceful, while the gods in EE are warlike and violent. The God in Genesis creates by His spoken word without conflict, melodrama or a lengthy plot. And in Genesis the earth and sky aren’t deities.
In Genesis, humanity was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). Whereas, in EE humans were created to relieve the gods of their labors – they are given the work once assigned to the gods. In Genesis, Adam is created from the soil of the ground to rule over the creation. In EE, man is created from a god’s blood to be slaves of the gods.
These differences illustrate the differences between the Hebrew and Babylonian worldviews.
In the Ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions may give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborate legends, but not vice versa. A shorter text can lead to a more verbose text, but not vice-versa. So, the simple Hebrew account of creation can lead to the embellished Babylonian creation legend, but not vice-versa.
EE is usually compared to Genesis 1. EE (1097 lines) is much longer than Genesis 1 (33 verses, including Gen. 2:1-2). This means that if one borrowed from the other, it was the Babylonian account that was influenced by the older Genesis account. And it’s highly unlikely that Moses would have borrowed creation history from a foreign polytheistic civilization.
Genesis 1 is not a Hebrew version of EE. But EE could be a Babylonian version of Genesis 1. According to this evidence, the Biblical account of creation isn’t based on ancient mythology like Enuma Elish.
Lambert W G (2007) “Mesopotamian Creation Stories”, in M.J. Geller and M. Schipper (eds), Imagining Creation (IJS Studies in Judaica 5; Brill Academic Publisher
Masters P (2004) “Heritage of evidence: In the British Museum”, Walkman Trust, p.85-86.
Appendix A: Genesis 1-2 (NIV)
Jewish account of creation
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.
14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day [the sun] and the lesser light to govern the night [the moon]. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10 A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush 14 The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Appendix B: Enuma Elish
Babylonian epic of creation
Translation by W G Lambert (2007)
1 When the heavens above did not exist,
2 And earth beneath had not come into being —
3 There was Apsû, the first in order, their begetter,
4 And demiurge Tia-mat, who gave birth to them all;
5 They had mingled their waters together
6 Before meadow-land had coalesced and reed-bed was to he found —
7 When not one of the gods had been formed
8 Or had come into being, when no destinies had been decreed,
9 The gods were created within them:
10 Lah(mu and Lah(amu were formed and came into being.
11 While they grew and increased in stature
12 Anšar and Kišar, who excelled them, were created.
13 They prolonged their days, they multiplied their years.
14 Anu, their son, could rival his fathers.
15 Anu, the son, equalled Anšar,
16 And Anu begat Nudimmud, his own equal.
17 Nudimmud was the champion among his fathers:
18 Profoundly discerning, wise, of robust strength;
19 Very much stronger than his father’s begetter, Anšar
20 He had no rival among the gods, his brothers.
21 The divine brothers came together,
22 Their clamour got loud, throwing Tia-mat into a turmoil.
23 They jarred the nerves of Tia-mat,
24 And by their dancing they spread alarm in Anduruna.
25 Apsû did not diminish their clamour,
26 And Tia-mat was silent when confronted with them.
27 Their conduct was displeasing to her,
28 Yet though their behaviour was not good, she wished to spare them.
29 Thereupon Apsû, the begetter of the great gods,
30 Called Mummu, his vizier, and addressed him,
31 “Vizier Mummu, who gratifies my pleasure,
32 Come, let us go to Tia-mat!”
33 They went and sat, facing Tia-mat,
34 As they conferred about the gods, their sons.
35 Apsû opened his mouth
36 And addressed Tia-mat
37 “Their behaviour has become displeasing to me
38 And I cannot rest in the day-time or sleep at night.
39 I will destroy and break up their way of life
40 That silence may reign and we may sleep.”
41 When Tia-mat heard this
42 She raged and cried out to her spouse,
43 She cried in distress, fuming within herself,
44 She grieved over the (plotted) evil,
45 “How can we destroy what we have given birth to?
46 Though their behaviour causes distress, let us tighten discipline graciously.”
47 Mummu spoke up with counsel for Apsû—
48 (As from) a rebellious vizier was the counsel of his Mummu—
49 “Destroy, my father, that lawless way of life,
50 That you may rest in the day-time and sleep by night!”
51 Apsû was pleased with him, his face beamed
52 Because he had plotted evil against the gods, his sons.
53 Mummu put his arms around Apsû’s neck,
54 He sat on his knees kissing him.
55 What they plotted in their gathering
56 Was reported to the gods, their sons.
57 The gods heard it and were frantic.
58 They were overcome with silence and sat quietly.
59 Ea, who excels in knowledge, the skilled and learned,
60 Ea, who knows everything, perceived their tricks.
61 He fashioned it and made it to be all-embracing,
62 He executed it skilfully as supreme—his pure incantation.
63 He recited it and set it on the waters,
64 He poured sleep upon him as he was slumbering deeply.
65 He put Apsû to slumber as he poured out sleep,
66 And Mummu, the counsellor, was breathless with agitation.
67 He split (Apsû’s) sinews, ripped off his crown,
68 Carried away his aura and put it on himself.
69 He bound Apsû and killed him;
70 Mummu he confined and handled roughly.
71 He set his dwelling upon Apsû,
72 And laid hold on Mummu, keeping the nose-rope in his hand.
73 After Ea had bound and slain his enemies,
74 Had achieved victory over his foes,
75 He rested quietly in his chamber,
76 He called it Apsû, whose shrines he appointed.
77 Then he founded his living-quarters within it,
78 And Ea and Damkina, his wife, sat in splendour.
79 In the chamber of the destinies, the room of the archetypes,
80 The wisest of the wise, the sage of the gods, Be-l was conceived.
81 In Apsû was Marduk born,
82 In pure Apsû was Marduk born.
83 Ea his father begat him,
84 Damkina his mother bore him.
85 He sucked the breasts of goddesses,
86 A nurse reared him and filled him with terror.
87 His figure was well developed, the glance of his eyes was dazzling,
88 His growth was manly, he was mighty from the beginning.
89 Anu, his father’s begetter, saw him,
90 He exulted and smiled; his heart filled with joy.
91 Anu rendered him perfect: his divinity was remarkable,
92 And he became very lofty, excelling them in his attributes.
93 His members were incomprehensibly wonderful,
94 Incapable of being grasped with the mind, hard even to look on.
95 Four were his eyes, four his ears,
96 Flame shot forth as he moved his lips.
97 His four ears grew large,
93 And his eyes likewise took in everything.
99 His figure was lofty and superior in comparison with the gods,
100 His limbs were surpassing, his nature was superior.
101 ‘Mari-utu, Mari-utu,
102 The Son, the Sun-god, the Sun-god of the gods.’
103 He was clothed with the aura of the Ten Gods, so exalted was his strength,
104 The Fifty Dreads were loaded upon him.
105 Anu formed and gave birth to the four winds,
106 He delivered them to him, “My son, let them whirl!”
107 He formed dust and set a hurricane to drive it,
108 He made a wave to bring consternation on Tia-mat.
109 Tia-mat was confounded; day and night she was frantic.
110 The gods took no rest, they . . . . . . .
111 In their minds they plotted evil,
112 And addressed their mother Tia-mat,
113 “When Apsû, your spouse, was killed,
114 You did not go at his side, but sat quietly.
115 The four dreadful winds have been fashioned
116 To throw you into confusion, and we cannot sleep.
117 You gave no thought to Apsû, your spouse,
113 Nor to Mummu, who is a prisoner. Now you sit alone.
119 Henceforth you will be in frantic consternation!
120 And as for us, who cannot rest, you do not love us!
121 Consider our burden, our eyes are hollow.
122 Break the immovable yoke that we may sleep.
123 Make battle, avenge them!
124 [ . . ] . . . . reduce to nothingness!
125 Tia-mat heard, the speech pleased her,
126 (She said,) “Let us make demons, [as you] have advised.”
127 The gods assembled within her.
128 They conceived [evil] against the gods their begetters.
129 They . . . . . and took the side of Tia-mat,
130 Fiercely plotting, unresting by night and day,
131 Lusting for battle, raging, storming,
132 They set up a host to bring about conflict.
133 Mother H(ubur, who forms everything,
134 Supplied irresistible weapons, and gave birth to giant serpents.
135 They had sharp teeth, they were merciless . . . .
136 With poison instead of blood she filled their bodies.
137 She clothed the fearful monsters with dread,
138 She loaded them with an aura and made them godlike.
139 (She said,) “Let their onlooker feebly perish,
140 May they constantly leap forward and never retire.”
141 She created the Hydra, the Dragon, the Hairy Hero
142 The Great Demon, the Savage Dog, and the Scorpion-man,
143 Fierce demons, the Fish-man, and the Bull-man,
144 Carriers of merciless weapons, fearless in the face of battle.
145 Her commands were tremendous, not to be resisted.
146 Altogether she made eleven of that kind.
147 Among the gods, her sons, whom she constituted her host,
148 She exalted Qingu, and magnified him among them.
149 The leadership of the army, the direction of the host,
150 The bearing of weapons, campaigning, the mobilization of conflict,
151 The chief executive power of battle, supreme command,
152 She entrusted to him and set him on a throne,
153 “I have cast the spell for you and exalted you in the host of the gods,
154 I have delivered to you the rule of all the gods.
155 You are indeed exalted, my spouse, you are renowned,
156 Let your commands prevail over all the Anunnaki.”
157 She gave him the Tablet of Destinies and fastened it to his breast,
158 (Saying) “Your order may not be changed; let the utterance of your mouth be firm.”
159 After Qingu was elevated and had acquired the power of Anuship,
160 He decreed the destinies for the gods, her sons:
161 “May the utterance of your mouths subdue the fire-god,
162 May your poison by its accumulation put down aggression.”
1 Tia-mat gathered together her creation
2 And organised battle against the gods, her offspring.
3 Henceforth Tia-mat plotted evil because of Apsû
4 It became known to Ea that she had arranged the conflict.
5 Ea heard this matter,
6 He lapsed into silence in his chamber and sat motionless.
7 After he had reflected and his anger had subsided
8 He directed his steps to Anšar his father.
9 He entered the presence of the father of his begetter, Anšar,
10 And related to him all of Tia-mat’s plotting.
11 “My father, Tia-mat our mother has conceived a hatred for us,
12 She has established a host in her savage fury.
13 All the gods have turned to her,
14 Even those you (pl.) begat also take her side
15 They . . . . . and took the side of Tia-mat,
16 Fiercely plotting, unresting by night and day,
17 Lusting for battle, raging, storming,
18 They set up a host to bring about conflict.
19 Mother H(ubur, who forms everything,
20 Supplied irresistible weapons, and gave birth to giant serpents.
21 They had sharp teeth, they were merciless.
22 With poison instead of blood she filled their bodies.
23 She clothed the fearful monsters with dread,
24 She loaded them with an aura and made them godlike.
25 (She said,) “Let their onlooker feebly perish,
26 May they constantly leap forward and never retire.”
27 She created the Hydra, the Dragon, the Hairy Hero,
28 The Great Demon, the Savage Dog, and the Scorpion-man,
29 Fierce demons, the Fish-man, and the Bull-man,
30 Carriers of merciless weapons, fearless in the face of battle.
31 Her commands were tremendous, not to be resisted.
32 Altogether she made eleven of that kind.
33 Among the gods, her sons, whom she constituted her host,
34 She exalted Qingu and magnified him among them.
35 The leadership of the army, the direction of the host,
36 The bearing of weapons, campaigning, the mobilization of conflict,
37 The chief executive power of battle supreme command,
38 She entrusted to him and set him on a throne.
39 “I have cast the spell for you and exalted you in the host of the gods,
40 I have delivered to you the rule of all the gods.
41 You are indeed exalted, my spouse, you are renowned,
42 Let your commands prevail over all the Anunnaki.”
43 She gave him the tablet of Destinies and fastened it to his breast,
44 (Saying) “Your order may not he changed; let the utterance of your mouth be firm.”
45 After Qingu was elevated and had acquired the power of Anuship
46 He decreed the destinies for the gods. her sons:
47 “May the utterance of your mouths subdue the fire-god,
48 May your poison by its accumulation put down aggression.”
49 Anšar heard; the matter was profoundly disturbing.
50 He cried “Woe!” and bit his lip.
51 His heart was in fury, his mind could not be calmed.
52 Over Ea his son his cry was faltering.
53 “My son, you who provoked the war,
54 Take responsibility for whatever you alone have done!
55 You set out and killed Apsû,
56 And as for Tia-mat, whom you made furious, where is her equal?”
57 The gatherer of counsel, the learned prince,
58 The creator of wisdom, the god Nudimmud
59 With soothing words and calming utterance
60 Gently answered [his] father Anšar
61 “My father, deep mind, who decrees destiny,
62 Who has the power to bring into being and destroy,
63 Anšar, deep mind, who decrees destiny,
64 Who has the power to bring into being and to destroy,
65 I want to say something to you, calm down for me for a moment
66 And consider that I performed a helpful deed.
67 Before I killed Apsû
68 Who could have seen the present situation?
69 Before I quickly made an end of him
70 What were the circumstances were I to destroy him?”
71 Anšar heard, the words pleased him.
72 His heart relaxed to speak to Ea,
73 “My son, your deeds are fitting for a god,
74 You are capable of a fierce, unequalled blow . . [ . . . ]
75 Ea, your deeds are fitting for a god,
76 You are capable of a fierce, unequalled blow . . [ . . . ]
77 Go before Tia-mat and appease her attack,
78 . . [ . . . ] . . . her fury with [your] incantation.”
79 He heard the speech of Anšar his father,
80 He took the road to her, proceeded on the route to her.
81 He went, he perceived the tricks of Tia-mat,
82 [He stopped], fell silent, and turned back.
83 [He] entered the presence of august Anšar
84 Penitently addressing him,
85 “[My father], Tia-mat’s deeds are too much for me.
86 I perceived her planning, and [my] incantation was not equal (to it).
87 Her strength is mighty, she is full of dread,
88 She is altogether very strong, none can go against her.
89 Her very loud cry did not diminish,
90 [I became afraid] of her cry and turned back.
91 [My father], do not lose hope, send a second person against her.
92 Though a woman’s strength is very great, it is not equal to a man’s.
93 Disband her cohorts, break up her plans
94 Before she lays her hands on us.”
95 Anšar cried out in intense fury,
96 Addressing Anu his son,
97 “Honoured son, hero, warrior,
98 Whose strength is mighty, whose attack is irresistible
99 Hasten and stand before Tia-mat,
100 Appease her rage that her heart may relax
101 If she does not harken to your words,
102 Address to her words of petition that she may be appeased.”
103 He heard the speech of Anšar his father,
104 He took the road to her, proceeded on the route to her.
105 Anu went, he perceived the tricks of Tia-mat,
106 He stopped, fell silent, and turned back.
107 He entered the presence of Anšar the father who begat him,
108 Penitently addressing him.
109 “My father, Tia-mat’s [deeds] are too much for me.
110 I perceived her planning, but my [incantation] was not [equal] (to it).
111 Her strength is mighty, she is [full] of dread,
112 She is altogether very strong, no one [can go against her].
113 Her very loud noise does not diminish,
114 I became afraid of her cry and turned back.
115 My father, do not lose hope, send another person against her.
116 Though a woman’s strength is very great, it is not equal to a man’s.
117 Disband her cohorts, break up her plans,
118 Before she lays her hands on us.”
119 Anšar lapsed into silence, staring at the ground,
120 He nodded to Ea, shaking his head.
121 The Igigi and all the Anunnaki had assembled,
122 They sat in tight-lipped silence.
123 No god would go to face . . [ . . ]
124 Would go out against Tia-mat . . . . [ . . ]
125 Yet the lord Anšar, the father of the great gods,
126 Was angry in his heart, and did not summon any one.
127 A mighty son, the avenger of his father,
128 He who hastens to war, the warrior Marduk
129 Ea summoned (him) to his private chamber
130 To explain to him his plans.
131 “Marduk, give counsel, listen to your father.
132 You are my son, who gives me pleasure,
133 Go reverently before Anšar,
134 Speak, take your stand, appease him with your glance.”
135 Be-l rejoiced at his father’s words,
136 He drew near and stood in the presence of Anšar.
137 Anšar saw him, his heart filled with satisfaction,
138 He kissed his lips and removed his fear.
139 “My [father] do not hold your peace, but speak forth,
140 I will go and fulfil your desires!
141 [Anšar,] do not hold your peace, but speak forth,
142 I will go and fulfil your desires!
143 Which man has drawn up his battle array against you?
144 And will Tia-mat, who is a woman, attack you with (her) weapons?
145 [“My father], begetter, rejoice and be glad,
146 Soon you will tread on the neck of Tia-mat!
147 [Anšar], begetter, rejoice and be glad,
148 Soon you will tread on the neck of Tia-mat!
149 [“Go,] my son, conversant with all knowledge,
150 Appease Tia-mat with your pure spell.
151 Drive the storm chariot without delay,
152 And with a [ . . ] which cannot be repelled turn her back.”
153 Be-l rejoiced at his father’s words,
154 With glad heart he addressed his father,
155 “Lord of the gods, Destiny of the great gods,
156 If I should become your avenger,
157 If I should bind Tia-mat and preserve you,
158 Convene an assembly and proclaim for me an exalted destiny.
159 Sit, all of you, in Upšukkinakku with gladness,
160 And let me, with my utterance, decree destinies instead of you.
161 Whatever I instigate must not be changed,
162 Nor may my command be nullified or altered.”
1 Anšar opened his mouth
2 And addressed Kaka, his vizier,
3 “Vizier Kaka, who gratifies my pleasure,
4 I will send you to Lah(mu and Lah(amu.
5 You are skilled in making inquiry, learned in address.
6 Have the gods, my fathers, brought to my presence.
7 Let all the gods be brought,
8 Let them confer as they sit at table.
9 Let them eat grain, let them drink ale,
10 Let them decree the destiny for Marduk their avenger.
11 Go, be gone, Kaka, stand before them,
12 And repeat to them all that I tell you:
13 “Anšar, your son, has sent me,
14 And I am to explain his plans.
15-52 = Tablet 2, 11*-48 (* instead of ‘My father,’ put ‘ ‘Thus,’ )
53 I sent Anu, but he could not face her.
54 Nudimmud took fright and retired.
55 Marduk, the sage of the gods, your son, has come forward,
56 He has determined to meet Tia-mat.
57 He has spoken to me and said,
58-64 = Tablet 2, 156*-162 (* begin with quotation marks: “If )
65 Quickly, now, decree your destiny for him without delay,
66 That he may go and face your powerful enemy.”
67 Kaka went. He directed his steps
68 To Lah(mu and Lah(amu, the gods his fathers.
69 He prostrated himself, he kissed the ground before them,
70 He got up, saying to them he stood,
71-124 = Tablet 2, 13-66
125 When Lah(h(a and Lah(amu heard, they cried aloud.
126 All the Igigi moaned in distress,
127 “What has gone wrong that she took this decision about us?
128 We did not know what Tia-mat was doing.”
129 All the great gods who decree destinies
130 Gathered as they went,
131 They entered the presence of Anšar and became filled with [joy],
132 They kissed one another as they . [ . . ] in the assembly.
133 They conferred as they sat at table,
134 They ate grain, they drank ale.
135 They strained the sweet liquor through their straws,
136 As they drank beer and felt good,
137 They became quite carefree, their mood was merry,
138 And they decreed the fate for Marduk, their avenger.
1 They set a lordly dais for him
2 And he took his seat before his fathers to receive kingship.
3 (They said,) “You are the most honoured among the great gods,
4 Your destiny is unequalled, your command is like Anu’s.
5 Marduk, you are the most honoured among the great gods,
6 Your destiny is unequalled, your command is like Anu’s.
7 Henceforth your order will not be annulled,
8 It is in your power to exalt and abase.
9 Your utterance is sure, your command cannot be rebelled against,
10 None of the gods will transgress the line you draw.
11 Shrines for all the gods needs provisioning,
12 That you may be established where their sanctuaries are.
13 You are Marduk, our avenger,
14 We have given you kingship over the sum of the whole universe.
15 Take your seat in the assembly, let your word be exalted,
16 Let your weapons not miss the mark, but may they slay your enemies.
17 Be-l, spare him who trusts in you,
18 But destroy the god who set his mind on evil.”
19 They set a constellation in the middle
20 And addressed Marduk, their son,
21 “Your destiny, Be-l, is superior to that of all the gods,
22 Command and bring about annihilation and re-creation.
23 Let the constellation disappear at your utterance,
24 With a second command let the constellation reappear.”
25 He gave the command and the constellation disappeared,
26 With a second command the constellation came into being again.
27 When the gods, his fathers, saw (the effect of) his utterance,
28 They rejoiced and offered congratulation: “Marduk is the king!”
29 They added to him a mace, a throne, and a rod,
30 They gave him an irresistible weapon that overwhelms the foe:
31 (They said,) “Go, cut Tia-mat’s throat,
32 And let the winds bear up her blood to give the news.”
33 The gods, his fathers, decreed the destiny of Be-l,
34 And set him on the road, the way of prosperity and success.
35 He fashioned a bow and made it his weapon,
36 He set an arrow in place, put the bow string on.
37 He took up his club and held it in his right hand,
38 His bow and quiver he hung at his side.
39 He placed lightning before him,
40 And filled his body with tongues of flame.
41 He made a net to enmesh the entrails of Tia-mat,
42 And stationed the four winds that no part of her escape.
43 The South Wind, the North Wind, the East Wind, the West Wind,
44 He put beside his net, winds given by his father, Anu.
45 He fashioned the Evil Wind, the Dust Storm, Tempest,
46 The Four-fold Wind, the Seven-fold Wind, the Chaos-spreading Wind, the . . . . .Wind.
47 He sent out the seven winds that he had fashioned,
48 And they took their stand behind him to harass Tia-mat’s entrails.
49 Be-l took up the Storm-flood, his great weapon,
50 He rode the fearful chariot of the irresistible storm.
51 Four steeds he yoked to it and harnessed them to it,
52 The Destroyer, The Merciless, The Trampler, The Fleet.
53 Their lips were parted, their teeth bore venom,
54 They were strangers to weariness, trained to sweep forward.
55 At his right hand he stationed raging battle and strife,
56 On the left, conflict that overwhelms a united battle array.
57 He was clad in a tunic, a fearful coat of mail,
58 And on has head he wore an aura of terror.
59 Be-l proceeded and set out on his way,
60 He set his face toward the raging Tia-mat.
61 In his lips he held a spell,
62 He grasped a plant to counter poison in his hand,
63 Thereupon they milled around him, the gods milled around him,
64 The gods, his fathers, milled around him, the gods milled around him.
65 Be-l drew near, surveying the maw of Tia-mat,
66 He observed the tricks of Qingu, her spouse.
67 As he looked, he lost his nerve,
68 His determination went and he faltered.
69 His divine aides, who were marching at his side,
70 Saw the warrior, the foremost, and their vision became dim.
71 Tia-mat cast her spell without turning her neck,
72 In her lips she held untruth and lies,
73 “[ . ] . . . . . . . . . . . . .
74 In their [ . ] . they have assembled by you.”
75 Be-l [lifted up] the Storm-flood, his great weapon,
76 And with these words threw it at the raging Tia-mat,
77 “Why are you aggressive and arrogant,
78 And strive to provoke battle?
79 The younger generation have shouted, outraging their elders,
80 But you, their mother, hold pity in contempt.
81 Qingu you have named to be your spouse,
82 And you have improperly appointed him to the rank of Anuship.
83 Against Anšar, king of the gods, you have stirred up trouble,
84 And against the gods, my fathers, your trouble is established.
85 Deploy your troops, gird on your weapons,
86 You and I will take our stand and do battle.”
87 When Tia-mat heard this
88 She went insane and lost her reason.
89 Tia-mat cried aloud and fiercely,
90 All her lower members trembled beneath her.
91 She was reciting an incantation, kept reciting her spell,
92 While the (battle-)gods were sharpening their weapons of war.
93 Tia-mat and Marduk, the sage of the gods, came together,
94 Joining in strife, drawing near to battle.
95 Be-l spread out his net and enmeshed her;
96 He let loose the Evil Wind, the rear guard, in her face.
97 Tia-mat opened her mouth to swallow it,
98 She let the Evil Wind in so that she could not close her lips.
99 The fierce winds weighed down her belly,
100 Her inwards were distended and she opened her mouth wide.
101 He let fly an arrow and pierced her belly,
102 He tore open her entrails and slit her inwards,
103 He bound her and extinguished her life,
104 He threw down her corpse and stood on it.
105 After he had killed Tia-mat, the leader,
106 Her assembly dispersed, her host scattered.
107 Her divine aides, who went beside her,
108 In trembling and fear beat a retreat.
109 . . . . to save their lives,
110 But they were completely surrounded, unable to escape.
111 He bound them and broke their weapons,
112 And they lay enmeshed, sitting in a snare,
113 Hiding in corners, filled with grief,
114 Bearing his punishment, held in a prison.
115 The eleven creatures who were laden with fearfulness,
116 The throng of devils who went as grooms at her right hand,
117 He put ropes upon them and bound their arms,
118 Together with their warfare he trampled them beneath him.
119 Now Qingu, who had risen to power among them,
120 He bound and reckoned with the Dead Gods.
121 He took from him the Tablet of Destinies, which was not properly his,
122 Sealed it with a seal and fastened it to his own breast.
123 After the warrior Marduk had bound and slain his enemies,
124 Had . . . . the arrogant enemy . . . ,
125 Had established victory for Anšar over all his foes,
126 Had fulfilled the desire of Nudimmud,
127 He strengthened his hold on the Bound Gods,
128 And returned to Tia-mat, whom he had bound.
129 Be-l placed his feet on the lower parts of Tia-mat
130 And with his merciless club smashed her skull.
131 He severed her arteries
132 And let the North wind bear up (her blood) to give the news.
133 His fathers saw it and were glad and exulted;
134 They brought gifts and presents to him.
135 Be-l rested, surveying the corpse,
136 In order to divide the lump by a clever scheme.
137 He split her into two like a dried fish:
138 One half of her he set up and stretched out as the heavens.
139 He stretched the skin and appointed a watch
140 With the instruction not to let her waters escape.
141 He crossed over the heavens, surveyed the celestial parts,
142 And adjusted them to match the Apsû, Nudimmud’s abode.
143 Be-l measured the shape of the Apsû
144 And set up Ešarra, a replica of Ešgalla.
145 In Ešgalla, Ešarra which he had built, and the heavens,
146 He settled in their shrines Anu, Enlil, and Ea.
1 He fashioned heavenly stations for the great gods,
2 And set up constellations, the patterns of the stars.
3 He appointed the year, marked off divisions,
4 And set up three stars each for the twelve months.
5 After he had organized the year,
6 He established the heavenly station of Ne-beru to fix the stars’ intervals.
7 That none should transgress or be slothful
8 He fixed the heavenly stations of Enlil and Ea with it.
9 Gates he opened on both sides,
10 And put strong bolts at the left and the right.
11 He placed the heights (of heaven) in her (Tia-mat’s) belly,
12 He created Nannar, entrusting to him the night.
13 He appointed him as the jewel of the night to fix the days,
14 And month by month without ceasing he elevated him with a crown,
15 (Saying,) “Shine over the land at the beginning of the month,
16 Resplendent with horns to fix six days.
17 On the seventh day the crown will be half size,
18 On the fifteenth day, halfway through each month, stand in opposition.
19 When Šamaš [sees] you on the horizon,
20 Diminish in the proper stages and shine backwards.
21 On the 29th day, draw near to the path of Šamaš,
22 . [ . . ] the 30th day, stand in conjunction and rival Šamaš.
23 I have ( . . . . ] . the sign, follow its track,
24 Draw near . . ( . . . . . ) give judgment.
25 . [ . . . . ] . Šamaš, constrain [murder] and violence,
26 . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] . me.
* * * * * *
35 At the end [ . . .
36 Let there [be] the 29th day [ . . . ”
37 After [he had . . . . ] the decrees [ . . .
38 The organization of front and . [ . . .
39 He made the day [ . . .
40 Let the year be equally [ . . .
41 At the new year [ . . .
42 The year . . . . . [ . . .
43 Let there be regularly [ . . .
44 The projecting bolt [ . . .
45 After he had [ . . .
46 The watches of night and day [ . . .
47 The foam which Tia-mat [ . . .
48 Marduk fashioned [ . . .
49 He gathered it together and made it into clouds.
50 The raging of the winds, violent rainstorms,
51 The billowing of mist—the accumulation of her spittle—
52 He appointed for himself and took them in his hand.
53 He put her head in position and poured out . . [ . . ] .
54 He opened the abyss and it was sated with water.
55 From her two eyes he let the Euphrates and Tigris flow,
56 He blocked her nostrils, but left . .
57 He heaped up the distant [mountains] on her breasts,
58 He bored wells to channel the springs.
59 He twisted her tail and wove it into the Durmah(u,
60 [ . . . ] . . the Apsû beneath his feet.
61 [He set up] her crotch—it wedged up the heavens—
62 [(Thus) the half of her] he stretched out and made it firm as the earth.
63 [After] he had finished his work inside Tia-mat,
64 [He spread] his net and let it right out.
65 He surveyed the heavens and the earth . . [ . ] .
66 [ . . ] their bonds . . . . . . .
67 After he had formulated his regulations and composed [his] decrees,
68 He attached guide-ropes and put them in Ea’s hands.
69 [The Tablet] of Destinies which Qingu had taken and carried,
70 He took charge of it as a trophy (?) and presented it to Anu.
71 [The . ] . of battle, which he had tied on or had put on his head,
72 [ . ] . he brought before his fathers.
73 [Now] the eleven creatures to which Tia-mat had given birth and . . . ,
74 He broke their weapons and bound them (the creatures) to his feet.
75 He made images of them and stationed them at the [Gate] of the Apsû,
76 To be a sign never to be forgotten.
77 [The gods] saw it and were jubilantly happy,
78 (That is,) Lah(mu, Lah(amu and all his fathers.
79 Anšar [embraced] him and published abroad his title, “Victorious King,”
80 Anu, Enlil and Ea gave him gifts.
81 Mother Damkina, who bore him, hailed him,
82 With a clean festal robe she made his face shine.
83 To Usmû, who held her present to give the news,
84 [He entrusted] the vizierate of the Apsû and the care of the holy places.
85 The Igigi assembled and all did obeisance to him,
86 Every one of the Anunnaki was kissing his feet.
87 They all [gathered] to show their submission,
88 [ . . . ] . they stood, they bowed down, “Behold the king!”
89 His fathers [ . . . ] . and took their fill of his beauty,
90 Be-l listened to their utterance, being girded with the dust of battle.
91 . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . ] . . . . . . .
92 Anointing his body with . [ . . . ] cedar perfume.
93 He clothed himself in [his] lordly robe,
94 With a crown of terror as a royal aura.
95 He took up his club and held it in his right hand,
96 . . . ] . he grasped in his left.
97 [ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
98 . . . ] . he set his feet.
99 He put upon . [ . . .
100 The sceptre of prosperity and success [he hung] at his side.
101 After [he had . . . ] the aura [
102 He adorned(?) his sack, the Apsû, with a fearful [ . . ]
103 Was settled like . [ . . .
104 In [his] throne room [ . . .
105 In his cella [ . . .
106 Every one of the gods [ . . .
107 Lah(mu and Lah(amu . [ . . . . . . . ] .
108 Opened their mouths and [addressed] the Igigi gods,
109 “Previously Marduk was our beloved son,
110 Now he is your king, heed his command!”
111 Next, they all spoke up together,
112 “His name is Lugaldimmerankia, trust in him!”
113 When they had given kingship to Marduk,
114 They addressed to him a benediction for prosperity and success,
115 “Henceforth you are the caretaker of our shrine,
116 Whatever you command, we will do!”
117 Marduk opened his mouth to speak
118 And addressed the gods his fathers,
119 “Above the Apsû, the emerald (?) abode,
120 Opposite Ešarra, which I built for you,
121 Beneath the celestial parts, whose floor I made firm,
122 I will build a house to be my luxurious abode.
123 Within it I will establish its shrine,
124 I will found my chamber and establish my kingship.
125 When you come up from the Apsû to make a decision
126 This will be your resting place before the assembly.
127 When you descend from heaven to make a decision
128 This will be your resting place before the assembly.
129 I shall call its name ‘Babylon’, “The Homes of the Great Gods”,
130 Within it we will hold a festival: that will be the evening festival.
131 [The gods], his fathers, [heard] this speech of his,
132 . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . ] . they said,
133 “With regard to all that your hands have made,
134 Who has your [ . . . ]?
135 With regard to the earth that your hands have made,
136 Who has your [ . . . ]?
137 In Babylon, as you have named it,
138 Put our [resting place] for ever.
139 . [ . . . . . . . . . ] let them our bring regular offerings
140 . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ] . .
141 Whoever [ . . . ] our tasks which we . [ . . .
142 Therein [ . . . . . ] its toil . [ . . .
143 [ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
144 They rejoiced [ . . . . . . . . . . . ] . . [ . . .
145 The gods . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . . ]
146 He who knows [ . . . . . . . . . ] . them
147 He opened [his mouth showing] them light,
148 . . [ . . . . . . . . . ] his speech . [ . ]
149 He made wide [ . . . . . . . . ] . them [ . . .
150 And . [ . . . . . . . . . . . . ] . . . . .
151 The gods bowed down, speaking to him,
152 They addressed Lugaldimmerankia, their lord,
153 “Formerly, lord, [you were our beloved] son,
154 Now you are our king, . . [ . . . ]
155 He who . [ . ] . [ . ] preserved [us]
156 . . [. . . ] the aura of club and sceptre.
157 Let him conceive plans [ . . . . ] . . [ . . . ]
158 [ . ] . . [ . . . . . . that] we . [ . . .”
1 When Marduk heard the gods’ speech
2 He conceived a desire to accomplish clever things.
3 He opened his mouth addressing Ea,
4 He counsels that which he had pondered in his heart,
5 “I will bring together blood to form bone,
6 I will bring into being Lullû, whose name shall be ‘man’.
7 I will create Lullû—man
8 On whom the toil of the gods will be laid that they may rest.
9 I will skilfully alter the organization of the gods:
10 Though they are honoured as one, they shall be divided into two.”
11 Ea answered, as he addressed a word to him,
12 Expressing his comments on the resting of the gods,
13 “Let one brother of theirs be given up.
14 Let him perish that people may be fashioned.
15 Let the great gods assemble
16 And let the guilty one be given up that they may be confirmed.”
17 Marduk assembled the great gods,
18 Using gracious direction as he gave his order,
19 As he spoke the gods heeded him:
20 The king addressed a word to the Anunnaki,
21 “Your former oath was true indeed,
22 (Now also) tell me the solemn truth:
23 Who is the one who instigated warfare,
24 Who made Tia-mat rebel, and set battle in motion?
25 Let him who instigated warfare be given up
26 That I may lay his punishment on him; but you sit and rest.
27 The Igigi, the great gods, answered him,
28 That is, Lugaldimmerankia, the counsellor of the gods, the lord,
29 “Qingu is the one who instigated warfare,
30 Who made Tia-mat rebel and set battle in motion.”
31 They bound him, holding him before Ea,
32 They inflicted the penalty on him and severed his blood-vessels.
33 From his blood he (Ea) created mankind,
34 On whom he imposed the service of the gods, and set the gods free.
35 After the wise Ea had created mankind
36 And had imposed the service of the gods upon them—
37 That task is beyond comprehension
38 For Nudimmud performed the creation with the skill of Marduk—
39 King Marduk divided the gods,
40 All the Anunnaki into upper and lower groups.
41 He assigned 300 in the heavens to guard the decrees of Anu
42 And appointed them as a guard.
43 Next he arranged the organization of the netherworld.
44 In heaven and netherworld he stationed 600 gods.
45 After he had arranged all the decrees,
46 And had distributed incomes among the Anunnaki of heaven and netherworld,
47 The Anunnaki opened their mouths
48 And addressed their lord Marduk,
49 “Now, lord, seeing you have established our freedom
50 What favour can we do for you?
51 Let us make a shrine of great renown:
52 Your chamber will be our resting place wherein we may repose.
53 Let us erect a shrine to house a pedestal
54 Wherein we may repose when we finish (the work).”
55 When Marduk heard this,
56 He beamed as brightly as the light of day,
57 “Build Babylon, the task you have sought.
58 Let bricks for it be moulded, and raise the shrine!”
59 The Anunnaki wielded the pick.
60 For one year they made the needed bricks.
61 When the second year arrived,
62 They raised the peak of Esagil, a replica of the Apsû.
63 They built the lofty temple tower of the Apsû
64 And for Anu, Enlil, and Ea they established its . . as a dwelling.
65 He sat in splendour before them,
66 Suveying its horns, which were level with the base of Ešarra.
67 After they had completed the work on Esagil
68 All the Anunnaki constructed their own shrines.
69 300 Igigi of heaven and 600 of the Apsû, all of them, had assembled.
70 Be-l seated the gods, his fathers, at the banquet
71 In the lofty shrine which they had built for his dwelling,
72 (Saying,) “This is Babylon, your fixed dwelling,
73 Take your pleasure here! Sit down in joy!
74 The great gods sat down,
75 Beer-mugs were set out and they sat at the banquet.
76 After they had enjoyed themselves inside
77 They held a service in awesome Esagil.
78 The regulations and all the rules were confirmed:
79 All the gods divided the stations of heaven and netherwor1d.
80 The college of the Fifty great gods took their seats,
81 The Seven gods of destinies were appointed to give decisions.
82 Be-l received his weapon, the bow, and laid it before them:
83 His divine fathers saw the net which he had made.
84 His fathers saw how skilfully wrought was the structure of the bow
85 As they praised what he had made.
86 Anu lifted it up in the divine assembly,
87 He kissed the bow, saying, “It is my daughter!”
88 Thus he called the names of the bow:
89 “Long Stick” was the first; the second was, “May it hit the mark.”
90 With the third name, “Bow Star”, he made it to shine in the sky,
91 He fixed its heavenly position along with its divine brothers.
92 After Anu had decreed the destiny of the bow,
93 He set down a royal throne, a lofty one even for a god,
94 Anu set it there in the assembly of the gods.
95 The great gods assembled,
96 They exalted the destiny of Marduk and did obeisance.
97 They invoked a curse on themselves
98 And took an oath with water and oil, and put their hands to their throats.
99 They granted him the right to exercise kingship over the gods,
100 They confirmed him as lord of the gods of heaven and netherworld.
101 Anšar gave him his exalted name, Asalluh(i
102 “At the mention of his name, let us show submission!
103 When he speaks, let the gods heed him,
104 Let his command be superior in upper and lower regions.
105 May the son, our avenger, be exalted,
106 Let his lordship be superior and himself without rival.
107 Let him shepherd the black-heads, his creatures,
108 Let them tell of his character to future days without forgetting.
109 Let him establish lavish food offerings for his fathers,
110 Let him provide for their maintenance and be caretaker of their sanctuaries,
111 Let him burn incense to rejoice their sanctums.
112 Let him do on earth the same as he has done in heaven:
113 Let him appoint the black-heads to worship him.
114 The subject humans should take note and call on their gods,
115 Since he commands they should heed their goddesses,
116 Let food offerings be brought [for] (?) their gods and goddesses,
117 May they (?) not be forgotten, may they remember their gods,
118 May they . . . their . . , may they . . their shrines.
119 Though the black-heads worship some one, some another god,
120 He is the god of each and every one of us!
121 Come, let us call the fifty names
122 Of him whose character is resplendent, whose achievement is the same.
123 (1) MARDUK
As he was named by his father Anu from his birth,
124 Who supplies pasturage and watering, making the stables flourish.
125 Who bound the boastful with his weapon, the storm flood,
126 And saved the gods, his fathers, from distress.
127 He is the son, the sun-god of the gods, he is dazzling,
128 Let them ever walk in his bright light.
129 On the peoples that he created, the living beings,
130 He imposed the service of the gods and they took rest.
131 Creation and annihilation, forgiveness and exacting the penalty
132 Occur at his command, so let them fix their eyes on him.
133 (2) Marukka: he is the god who created them
134 Who put the Anunnaki at ease, the Igigi at rest.
135 (3) Marutukku: he is the support of land, city, and its peoples,
136 Henceforth let the peoples ever heed him.
137 (4) Meršakušu: fierce yet deliberating, angry yet relenting,
138 His mind is wide, his heart is all-embracing.
139 (5) Lugaldimmerankia is the name by which we all called him,
140 Whose command we have exalted above that of the gods his fathers.
141 He is the lord of all the gods of heaven and netherworld,
142 The king at whose injunctions the gods in upper and lower regions shudder.
143 (6) Narilugaldimmerankia is the name we gave him, the mentor of every god,
144 Who established our dwellings in heaven and netherworld in time of trouble,
145 Who distributed the heavenly stations between Igigi and Anunnaki,
146 Let the gods tremble at his name and quake on their seats.
147 (7) Asalluh(i is the name by which his father Anu called him,
148 He is the light of the gods, a mighty hero,
149 Who, as his name says, is a protecting angel for god and land,
150 Who by a terrible combat saved our dwelling in time of trouble.
151 (8) Asalluh(i-Namtilla they called him secondly, the life-giving god,
152 Who, in accordance with the form (of) his (name), restored all the ruined gods,
153 The lord, who brought to life the dead gods by his pure incantation,
154 Let us praise him as the destroyer of the crooked enemies.
155 (9) Asalluh(i-Namru, as his name is called thirdly,
156 The pure god, who cleanses our character.”
157 Anšar, Lah(mu, and Lah(amu (each) called him by three of his names,
158 Then they addressed the gods, their sons,
159 “We have each called him by three of his names,
160 Now you call his names, like us.”
161 The gods rejoiced as they heard their speech,
162 In Upšuukkinaki they held a conference,
163 “Of the warrior son, our avenger,
164 Of the provisioner, let us extol the name.”
165 They sat down in their assembly, summoning the destinies,
166 And with all due rites they called his name:
1 (10)Asarre, the giver of arable land who established plough-land,
2 The creator of barley and flax, who made plant life grow.
3 (11)Asaralim, who is revered in the counsel chamber, whose counsel excels,
4 The gods heed it and grasp fear of him.
5 (12)Asaralimnunna, the noble, the light of the father, his begetter,
6 Who directs the decrees of Anu, Enlil, and Ea, that is Ninšiku.
7 He is their provisioner, who assigns their incomes,
8 Whose turban multiplies abundance for the land.
9 (13) Tutu is he, who accomplishes their renovation,
10 Let him purify their sanctuaries that they may repose.
11 Let him fashion an incantation that the gods may rest,
12 Though they rise up in fury, let them withdraw.
13 He is indeed exalted in the assembly of the gods, his [fathers],
14 No one among the gods can [equal] him.
15 (14) Tutu-Ziukkinna, the life of [his] host,
16 Who established, the pure heavens for the gods,
17 Who took charge of their courses, who appointed [their stations],
16 May he not be forgotten among mortals, but [let them remember] his deeds.
19 (15) Tutu-Ziku they called him thirdly, the establisher of purification,
20 The god of the pleasant breeze, lord of success and obedience,
21 Who produces bounty and wealth, who establishes abundance,
22 Who turns everything scant that we have into profusion,
23 Whose pleasant breeze we sniffed in time of terrible trouble,
24 Let men command that his praises be constantly uttered, let them offer worship to
25 As (16) Tutu-Agaku, fourthly, let humans extol him,
26 Lord of the pure incantation, who brought the dead back to life,
27 Who showed mercy on the Bound Gods,
28 Who threw the imposed yoke on the gods, his enemies,
29 And to spare them created mankind.
30 The merciful, in whose power it is to restore to life,
31 Let his words be sure and not forgotten
32 From the mouths of the black-heads, his creatures.
33 As (17) Tutu-Tuku, fifthly, let their mouth give expression to his pure spell,
34 Who extirpated all the wicked by his pure incantation.
35 (18) Šazu, who knew the heart of the gods, who saw the reins,
36 Who did not let an evil-doer escape from him,
37 Who established the assembly of the gods, who rejoiced their hearts,
38 Who subjugated the disobedient, he is the gods’ encompassing protection.
39 He made truth to prosper, he uprooted perverse speech,
40 He separated falsehood from truth.
41 As (19) Šazu-Zisi, secondly, let them continually praise him, the subduer of aggressors,
42 Who ousted consternation of from the bodies of the gods, his fathers.
43 (20) Šazu-Suh(rim, thirdly, who extirpated every foe with his weapons,
44 Who confounded their plans and turned them into wind.
45 He snuffed out all the wicked who came against him,
46 Let the gods ever shout acclamations in the assembly.
47 (21) Šazu-Suh(gurim, fourthly, who established success for the gods, his fathers,
48 Who extirpated foes and destroyed their offspring,
49 Who scattered their achievements, leaving no part of them,
50 Let his name be spoken and proclaimed in the land.
51 As (22) Šazu-Zah(rim, fifthly, let future gererations discuss him,
52 The destroyer of every rebel, of all the disobedient,
53 Who brought all the fugitive gods into the shrines,
54 Let this name of his be established.
55 As (23) Šazu-Zah(gurim, sixthly, let them altogether and everywhere worship him,
56 Who himself destroyed all the foes in battle.
57 (24) Enbilulu is he, the lord who supplies them abundantly,
58 Their great chosen one, who provides cereal offerings,
59 Who keeps pasturage and watering in good condition and established it for the land,
60 Who opened watercourses and distributed plentiful water.
61 (25) Enbilulu-Epadun, lord of common land and . . ., let them [call him] secondly,
62 Canal supervisor of heaven and netherworld, who sets the furrow,
Who establishes clean arable land in the open country,
63 Who directs irrigation ditch and canal, and marks out the furrow.
64 As (26) Enbilulu-Gugal, canal supervisor of the water courses of the gods, let them praise him thirdly,
65 Lord of abundance, profusion, and huge stores (of grain),
66 Who provides bounty, who enriches human habitations,
67 Who gives wheat, and brings grain into being.
68 (27) Enbilulu-H(egal, who accumulates abundance for the peoples . . . .
69 Who rains down riches on the broad earth, and supplies abundant vegetation.
70 (28) Sirsir, who heaped up a mountain on top of Tia-mat,
71 Who plundered the corpse of Tia-mat with [his] weapons,
72 The guardian of the land, their trustworthy shepherd,
73 Whose hair is a growing crop, whose turban is a furrow,
74 Who kept crossing the broad Sea in his fury,
75 And kept crossing over the place of her battle as though it were a bridge.
76 (29) Sirsir-Malah( they named him secondly—so be it—
77 Tia-mat was his boat, he was her sailor.
78 (30) Gil, who ever heaps up piles of barley, massive mounds,
79 The creator of grain and flocks, who gives seed for the land.
80 (31) Gilima, who made the bond of the gods firm, who created stability,
81 A snare that overwhelmed them, who yet extended favours.
82 (32) Agilima, the lofty, who snatches off the crown, who takes charge of snow,
83 Who created the earth on the water and made firm the height of heaven.
84 (33) Zulum, who assigns meadows for the gods and divides up what he has created,
85 Who gives incomes and food-offerings, who administers shrines.
86 (34) Mummu, creator of heaven end underworld, who protects refugees,
87 The god who purifies heaven and underworld, secondly Zulummu,
88 In respect of whose strength none other among the gods can equal him.
89 (35) Gišnumunab, creator of all the peoples, who made the world regions,
90 Who destroyed Tia-mat’s gods, and made peoples from part of them.
91 (36) Lugalabdubur, the king who scattered the works of Tia-mat, who uprooted her weapons,
92 Whose foundation is secure on the “Fore and Aft”.
93 (37) Pagalguenna, foremost of all lords, whose strength is exalted,
94 Who is the greatest among the gods, his brothers, the most noble of them all.
95 (38) Lugaldurmah(, king of the bond of the gods, lord of Durmah(u,
96 Who is the greatest in the royal abode, infinitely more lofty than the other gods.
97 (39) Aranunna, counsellor of Ea, creator of the gods, his fathers,
98 Whom no god can equal in respect of his lordly walk.
99 (40) Dumuduku, who renews for himself his pure abode in Duku,
100 Dumuduku, without whom Lugalduku does not make a decision.
101 (41) Lugalšuanna, the king whose strength is exalted among the gods,
102 The lord, the strength of Anu, he who is supreme, chosen of Anšar.
103 (42) Irugga, who plundered them all in the Sea,
104 Who grasps all wisdom, is comprehensive in understanding.
105 (43) Irqingu, who plundered Qingu in . . . battle,
106 Who directs all decrees and establishes lordship.
107 (44) Kinma, the director of all the gods, who gives counsel,
108 At whose name the gods bend down in reverence as before a hurricane.
109 (45) Dingir-Esiskur—let him take his lofty seat in the House of Benediction,
110 Let the gods bring their presents before him
111 Until he receives their offerings.
112 No one but he accomplishes clever things
113 The four (regions) of black-heads are his creation,
114 Apart from him no god knows the measure of their days.
115 (46) Girru, who makes weapons hard (?),
116 Who accomplished clever things in the battle with Tia-mat,
117 Comprehensive in wisdom, skilled in understanding,
118 A deep mind, that all the gods combined do not understand.
119 Let (47) Addu be his name, let him cover the whole span of heaven,
120 Let him thunder with his pleasant voice upon the earth,
121 May the rumble fill (?) the clouds
And give sustenance to the peoples below.
122 (48) Aša-ru, who, as his name says, mustered the Divine Fates
123 He indeed is the warden of absolutely all peoples.
124 As (49) Ne-beru let him hold the crossing place of heaven and underworld,
125 They should not cross above or below, but should wait for him.
126 Ne-beru is his star, which he caused to shine in the sky,
127 Let him take his stand on the heavenly staircase that they may look at him.
128 Yes, he who constantly crosses the Sea without resting,
129 Let his name be Ne-beru, who grasps her middle,
130 Let him fix the paths of the stars of heaven,
131 Let him shepherd all the gods like sheep,
132 Let him bind Tia-mat and put her life in mortal danger,
133 To generations yet unborn, to distant future days,
134 May he continue unchecked, may he persist into eternity.
135 Since he created the heavens and fashioned the earth,
136 Enlil, the father, called him by his own name, (50) ‘Lord of the Lands’.
137 Ea heard the names which all the Igigi called
138 And his spirit became radiant.
139 “Why! He whose name was extolled by his fathers
140 Let him, like me, be called (51) ‘Ea’.
141 Let him control the sum of all my rites,
142 Let him administer all my decrees.”
143 With the word “Fifty” the great gods
144 Called his fifty names and assigned him an outstanding position.
145 They should be remembered; a leading figure should expound them,
146 The wise and learned should confer about them,
147 A father should repeat them and teach them to his son,
148 One should explain them to shepherd and herdsman.
149 If one is not negligent to Marduk, the Enlil of the gods,
150 May one’s land flourish, and oneself prosper,
151 (For) his word is reliable, his command unchanged,
152 No god can alter the utterance of his mouth.
153 When he looks in fury, he does not relent,
154 When his anger is ablaze, no god can face him.
155 His mind is deep, his spirit is all-embracing,
156 Before whom sin and transgression are sought out.
157 Instruction which a leading figure repeated before him (Marduk):
158 He wrote it down and stored it so that generations to come might hear it.
159 [ . . ] . Marduk, who created the Igigi gods,
160 Though they diminish . . . let them call on his name.
161 . . . the song of Marduk,
162 Who defeated Tia-mat and took kingship
Appendix C: Summary of Enuma Elish
Enuma Elish is centered on the supremacy of Marduk, a late generation god from ancient Mesopotamia and the patron deity of Babylon city. The main theme is the elevation of the chief god of Babylon ‘Marduk’ above other Mesopotamian gods. It says that humanity was created for the service of the gods.
Here is the summary of the poem according to Wikipedia.
The tale begins before the advent of anything, when only the primordial entities Apsu and Tiamat existed, co-mingled together. No other things or gods are said to exist, nor had any future destinies been foretold .. then from the mixture of Apsu and Tiamat two gods where made – Lahmu and Lahamu; next Anshar and Kishar were created. From Anshar came a firstly the god Anu, and from Anu, came Nudimmud (also known as Ea).
Then these new gods disturbed Tiamat through their motions, and Apsu could not calm them. Further Tiamat found this abhorrent – Apsu called Mummu so that they might speak with Tiamat – he proposed to destroy them, but Tiamat was reticent on destroying what they had made. Mummu advised Apsu to destroy them, and he took it to do so, and embraced Mummu. The new gods heard of this and were worried – Ea however crafted a spell against Apsu’s plan, and put Apsu to sleep with it.
Mummu sought to wake Apsu but could not – Ea took Apsu’s halo and wore it himself, slew Apsu, and chained Mummu. Apsu became the dwelling place of Ea, together with his wife Damkina. Within the heart of Apsu, Ea and Damkina created Marduk. Marduk exceeded Ea and the other gods in his godliness – Ea called him “My son, the Sun!”. Anu creates four winds.
Other gods then say to Tiamat – ‘when your consort (Apsu) was slain you did nothing’, and complain about the wind which disturbs them. Tiamat then proposed to make ‘Monsters’ and do battle with the other gods. She creates eleven chimeric creatures armed with weapons, and makes the god Kingu chief of the war party, and her new consort too. The ‘Tablet of Destinies’ is then given to Kingu, making his command unchallengeable.
Ea heard of Tiamat’s plan to fight and avenge Apsu. He speaks to his grandfather Anshar – he tells that many gods have gone to Tiamat’s cause, and that she has created eleven monstrous creatures fit for war, and made Kingu their leader, given him the ‘Tablet of Destinies’. Anshar is troubled. Eventually Anshar tells Anu so go speak with Tiamat, see if he can calm her, but is too weak to face her and turns back. Anshar becomes more worried, thinking no god can or will stand against Tiamat.
After thinking he proposes Marduk as their champion, Marduk is called and asks what (god) he must fight – Anshar replies it is not a god but a goddess – Tiamat. Anshar confidently assures he will soon beat down Tiamat. Marduk then asks to be proclaimed supreme god if he vanquishes Tiamat, and to have authority even over Anshar.
Anshar speaks to Gaga his advisor, tells him to fetch Lahmu and Lahamu – tell them of Tiamat’s war plans, of the eleven monsters she has created, and so on, telling also of Marduk’s willingness to fight, and his demands for overlordship if he wins. Lahmu and Lahamu and other Igigi (heavenly gods) are distressed by this tale. The gods then drank together, becoming drowsy, whilst agreeing to the contract with Marduk.
Marduk is given a throne, and sits presiding over the other gods – the other gods honor him, agreeing to his overlordship.
Marduk is given both the throne, as well as sceptre and vestments. He is given weapons, and sent to fight Tiamat – bow, quiver, and mace, plus bolts of lightning, together with the four winds – his body was aflame.
Using the four winds Marduk made a trap so that Tiamat could not escape – he added a whirlwind, a cyclone, and Imhullu (“the Evil Wind”) – together the seven winds stirred up Tiamat. In his war chariot drawn by four creatures he advanced. He challenges Tiamat stating she has unrightfully made Kingu her consort, accusing her of being the source of the trouble. Tiamat becomes enraged and single combat begins.
Marduk uses a net, a gift from Anu, to entrap Tiamat; Tiamat attempts to swallow Marduk, but ‘the Evil Wind’ enters her mouth, preventing this. With the winds swirling within her she becomes distended – Marduk then fires his arrow, hitting her heart – she is slain. The other gods attempt to flee but cannot, and Marduk captures them, breaks their weapons, and are trapped in the net. Her eleven monsters are also captured and chained; whilst Kingu is taken to Uggae (the Angel of Death) – the ‘Tablet of Destinies’ is taken from Kingu. Marduk then smashes Tiamat’s head with the mace, whilst her blood is carried off by the North Wind.
Marduk then splits Tiamat’s remains in two – from one half he makes the sky – in it he made places for Anu, Enlil, and Ea.
Marduk makes likenesses of the gods in the sky, creating constellations, and defines the days of the year from them. He creates night and day, and the moon also. He creates clouds, causes them to rain, and their water to make the Tigris and Euphrates. He gives the ‘Tablet of Destinies’ to Anu.
Statues of the eleven monsters of Tiamat are made and installed at the gate of Apsu
Marduk then speaks to Ea – saying he will use his blood to create man – and that man will serve the gods. Ea advises one of the gods be chosen as a sacrifice – the Igigi advice that Kingu be chosen – his blood is then used to create man.
Marduk then divides the gods into “above” and “below” – three hundred are placed in the heavens, and six hundred on earth. The gods then propose that they should build a throne or shrine for him – Marduk tells them to construct Babylon. The gods then spend a year making bricks – they build the Esagila (Temple to Marduk) to a great height, making it a place for Marduk, Ea, and Enlil.
A banquet is then held, with fifty of the great gods taking seats. Anu praises Enlil’s bow, then Marduk is praised.
The first nine names or titles of Marduk are given.
Continuation of praise of Marduk as chief of Babylon and head of the Babylonian pantheon because of his role in creation. The rest of Marduk’s fifty throne names declaring his dominion are recited. Final blessings on Marduk and instructions to the people to remember and recite Marduk’s deeds.
Written, June 2018
Also see: Genesis 1-11: Fact or fiction?
“Run”, “take”, “break”, “turn”, and “set” are said to be the words in the English language which have most meanings. Many of our words have multiple meanings, but we usually aren’t confused by them. That’s because the other important element of language is context. In this post we look at the meanings of the word “day” in Genesis 1.
Days of creation
The Hebrew noun yom (Strongs #3117), occurs 14 times in Genesis 1:1 – 2:3. Six of these are the “days” of creation, which are listed below.
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day” (1:5NIV).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day” (1:8).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day” (1:13).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day” (1:19).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day” (1:23).
“And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (1:31).
The Hebrew word yom has several meanings, with the most appropriate one usually being indicated by the context. In this post we look at what the word yom in these verses meant to the ancient Hebrews. Our method includes a study of the text, the context and how Moses used this word.
Other instances of “day” in the first section of Genesis
We will begin by looking at the other instances of the word yom in the first section of Genesis (Gen. 1:1 – 2:3). As it describes events that occurred before the creation of humanity, this account came from God. But it may have been edited by Moses. The first instance is “God called the light ‘day’, and the darkness He called ‘night’” (1:5). Here yom means the daylight period of a 24-hour day (approximately 12-hours). The remainder of the 24-hour day is called “night”.
The next instances of yom are in this passage, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day (12 hours) from the night (12 hours), and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days (24 hours) and years (12 months), and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. ‘God made two great lights—the greater light (sun) to govern the day (12 hours) and the lesser light (moon) to govern the night (12 hours). He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day (12 hours) and the night (12 hours), and to separate light from darkness” (1:14-18). The first instance of yom in this passage means the daylight period of a 24-hour day. While the second means “24-hours” because it’s associated with the word “years”. The remaining two instances of yom mean the daylight period of a 24-hour day.
The final instance of yom is in this passage, “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done” (2:2-3). In this passage, the word yom is described by the adjective “seventh”. Previously each of the six days of creation was described by a numerical adjective, “one” to “six”. As this is the next “day” in a series of days, it has the same meaning that yom has in the other six days of creation, which is discussed below under the subheading “Interpretation of the days of creation” (See Appendix A).
So in this section of Genesis, the instances of the word yom apart from the days of creation can mean:
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).
Instances of “day” in the second section of Genesis
The instances of yom in the second section of Genesis (Gen. 2:4-4:26) are listed below. This section begins, “This is the account of the heavens and the earth (the universe) when they were created, when (in the day that) the Lord God made the earth and the heavens (the universe)” (2:4).
Adam is warned about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “when (in the day that) you eat from it you will certainly die” (2:17).
The serpent told Eve, “when (in the day that) you eat from it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5).
In these three instances, yom is used in the Hebrew idiom “in the day that”, which means “at the time that”, or “when”. It’s a time period of unspecified length. The time periods here are: the six days of creation, which are interpreted in the next section (2:4) and the time it takes to eat some fruit (say a few minutes) (2:17; 3:5).
After they sinned, Adam and Eve heard God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day (yom)” (3:8). This means either the daylight period of a 24-hour day or the whole 24-hour day. I favor the former.
The punishment given to the serpent and to Adam were for “all the days (yom) of your life” (3:14, 17). In this case, the plural version of yom means a 24-hour period, but the context adds “of your life” to give an expression meaning “a lifetime’. In this case yom has a figurative meaning which is a space of time defined by an associated term.
“In the course of time (yom)”, is used to describe the time period before Cain and Able brought offerings to God (4:3). The NET says that “The clause indicates the passing of a set period of time leading up to offering sacrifices”. The literal meaning is, “And it happened at the end of days”. It describes the time period when Cain and Abel grew to be adults. In this case, the plural version of yom means a 24-hour period, but the context adds “in the course of” to give an expression meaning “a portion of a lifetime’.
After being informed of his punishment, Cain told God, “Today (this yom) you are driving me from the land” (4:14). In this context, yom means a 24-hour day.
So in this section of Genesis the instances of the word yom can mean:
– a few minutes, or
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset), or
– six days of creation (which are interpreted in the next section), or
– a portion of a lifetime (when yom is plural and accompanied with “in the course of”), or
– a lifetime (when yom is plural and accompanied with “of your life”).
So, here a phrase that includes the plural of version of yom can indicate a period of time period between 24 hours and a lifetime.
Interpretation of the days of creation
We have seen that the Hebrew noun “yom” can have several different meanings in the early chapters of Genesis. But in each day of creation, the word “yom” is singular. This rules out the meanings shown above that can be associated with the plural version of yom. So in this case that Hebrew text rules out “a lifetime” and “a portion of a lifetime”. This leaves the following possibilities:
– a few minutes, or
– a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or
– a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).
And each of the six days of creation is associated with the statement, “And there was evening, and there was morning”. How does Moses use the words “evening” and “morning” elsewhere in Genesis? From appendices B and C it’s clear that “morning” usually means after sunrise and “evening” means after sunset. The only possible figurative meaning is in Genesis 49:27, which is poetic. But Genesis 1 isn’t poetic because it has no parallelism and isn’t type-set as poetry in most Bibles. It’s a numbered sequence of days like Numbers 7:12-89 and not a poem. So the meaning of these words in Genesis 1 should be “after sunrise” and “after sunset”. This seems to follow the Jewish order of reckoning time: from sunset to next sunset (rather than from midnight to next midnight). As “evening” and “morning” were part of each day of creation, the day seems to mean a 24-hour period rather than “at the time that” or “a 12-hour period”. This is supported by the Hebrew text associated with the first instance of “evening” and “morning”, which seems to indicate that having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day (Appendix D).
It is instructive to see how God and Moses interpret the days of creation. The words of the fourth commandment were spoken by God (Ex. 20:1). These say, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Ex. 20:8-11).
Clearly the “six days” of labor in this passage are the same period of time as the “six days” of creation – they both use the plural yom with the adjective “six”. They both mean six 24-hour days. And the “seventh day” of Sabbath rest is the same period of time as the “seventh day” that God rested after creating the universe – they both use the singular yom. They both mean one 24-hour day.
Similarly, this is repeated when “the Lord said to Moses” (Ex. 31:12), “Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’” (Ex. 31:14-17).
Clearly the “six days” of work in this passage are the same period of time as the “six days” of creation – they both use the plural yom with the adjective “six. They both mean six 24-hour days. And the “seventh day” of Sabbath rest is the same period of time as the “seventh day” that God rested after creating the universe – they both use the singular yom. They both mean one 24-hour day.
Can this “day” mean long periods of time?
Some people suppose that the “days” of creation in Genesis 1 are long eras of time. However, we have seen that the only meanings of yom in this section of Genesis are either a 12-hour period (sunrise to sunset), or a 24-hour period (sunset to next sunset).
We have also seen that in the second section of Genesis a phrase that includes the plural version of yom can indicate a period of time of up to a lifetime. But the occurrences of yom in Genesis 1 are singular, not plural. This is consistent with the NET Study Note that says, “The exegetical evidence suggests the word “day” in this chapter refers to a literal twenty-four hour day” (see Appendix E).
The other meanings of yom in the Old Testament are given in Appendix F.
Another explanation that is given for disregarding this interpretation of yom is to say that Genesis 1 is a symbolic or poetic genre rather than history or prose. This topic is addressed in a coming post on “Genesis 1-11: Fact or fiction”, which shows that Genesis 1 is not Hebrew poetry and it is not symbolic.
Can there be a day before the sun exists?
One objection to this interpretation is that 24-hour days can’t exist without the sun. The sun seems to be created on the fourth day of creation (Gen. 1:14-16). However, all a day requires is a light and a rotating earth. And the light doesn’t have to come from the sun. Was there a light on the first day? Yes (Gen. 5:4). Was there a rotating earth on the first day? We are not told specifically. But there is light and darkness and evening and morning. So we can’t rule out the possibility of a rotating earth on the first day of creation.
Why six days?
Why did God create the universe in six days and not in an instant or six seconds or six minutes or six hours or six weeks or six months or six years or six eras of time? The Israelites were told it was a pattern for the observance of their weekly Sabbath under the law of Moses (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-17). They were to work for six days and then observe the Sabbath on the seventh. As we are under the new covenant and not the law of Moses, we are not required to keep the laws of the Sabbath (they are not included in the New Testament commands to Christians). So God’s six days of creative work and one day of rest gives us the pattern of the seven-day week. There is no astronomical explanation for the week being seven days like there is for the length of a day (a rotation of the earth), a month (a rotation of the moon) or of a year (a rotation of the earth around the sun).
Are the days just a literary device?
It has been suggested that the seven “days” in the first section of Genesis (1:1-2:4a) is just a list of events or categories and not a chronological sequence. In this case the number and ordering of the “days” were chosen for literary or thematic reasons. They are a metaphorical framework that God used to describe the creative process. By looking at three foundations of this interpretation, we will see that it would not have been understood this way by the ancient Hebrews.
First, it is assumed that similarities between day 1 and day 4 (both mention light or lights), mean that these are two different ways of describing the same event. So the events described on day 4 add more detail to those described on day 1. Likewise for days 2 and 5 (both mention water and atmosphere), and days 3 and 6 (both mention land and vegetation). Therefore, Genesis 1 describes three events in no particular sequence. But water was created in day 1, so in this respect day 1 is also similar to day 5. And the heavens in which the sun and moon were placed were made on day 2, so in this respect day 2 is also similar to day 4. And the sea is mentioned in days 3 and 5, so in this respect day 3 is also similar to day 5. So the parallels are selective and other parallels are ignored! Obviously, water, land and the atmosphere needed to be created before creatures could inhabit these. That’s common sense, and not a literary technique!
Second, if the seventh day is still continuing, then the other six days are metaphors and not 24-hour periods. But we have seen that the seventh day isn’t a long period of time (Appendix A).
The third justification for the framework approach is that 24-hour days don’t make sense if is assumed that God used natural processes to create and not miraculous means. This is based on the presupposition that as miracles are not observed today, they have never happened. And so the events attributed to each day couldn’t be achieved in 24-hours. An interpretation of Genesis 2:5-6 is used to claim that God used natural means during the creation period and not supernatural ones. But Genesis 2:5 is in a section that describes what happened on day 6 in more detail, and it refers to cultivated plants, not those created on day 3. And the psalmist says this about creation, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6-9). And this is also what the writers of the New Testament believed, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3). So the process of creation didn’t take a long period of time; God spoke and it was done. His creation was miraculous. And there are other nature miracles in the Bible like the Israelites crossing the Red Sea and the Jordan river on “dry ground” (Ex. 14:21-22; Josh. 3:15-17).
If we apply the framework hypothesis to Genesis 1, what stops this approach being applied to Genesis 3 (with a talking snake), Genesis 6-8 (with a global flood), Christ’s miracles and Christ’s resurrection? Nothing! So, it finishes up saying that most of the Bible is metaphorical; it doesn’t mean what it seems to mean. But the prophets and apostles didn’t devote their lives to metaphors. Their preaching was based on historical facts, not metaphors. Many of them died as martyrs. And they wouldn’t have been willing to give up their life if the Biblical account was mainly metaphors.
Some consider Genesis 1 to be an illustration to teach the theology of six days work plus the Sabbath. But this is back to front – the Sabbath was based on the historical events of Genesis 1, not vice-versa (Ex. 20:8-11).
Our study of the text and context indicates that the ancient Hebrews would have understood each “day” of creation to mean the 24-hours from sunset to next sunset. And they would have understood that the sequence of seven days comprised one week, which was the model for 6 days work and one day Sabbath rest. So the framework hypothesis is extra-biblical.
What about the rest of the Bible?
We have looked at what the word yom in Genesis 1 meant to the ancient Hebrews who took part in the exodus. But the Bible is a progressive revelation. Truth gets added as we move from the beginning to the end. What do the scriptures that were written after the Pentateuch say about this topic?
Did any of the other authors of the Old Testament mention the creation? Yes they did, but none of them specifically mention how long it took. Instead they seem to assume that it’s already known from the Pentateuch.
Did any of the authors of the New Testament mention the creation? Yes they did, but none of them mention specifically how long it took. Instead they seem to assume that it’s already known from the Pentateuch. But one author does refer to it implicitly.
The writer of Hebrews quotes from Genesis 2:2, “For somewhere He (God) has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all His works’” (Heb. 4:4). In this verse the Greek noun hemera (Strongs #2250) is translated “day”. This singular word is also used seven other times in the book of Hebrews. In these instances it means:
– “In the day” (or “during the time”) of testing in the wilderness in 3:8. This was a period of about 38 years.
– “Every day” (or “daily”) in 3:13; 7:27; and 10:11. These are 24-hour days.
– “A certain day” (or a certain “time”) in 4:7.
– “Another day” (or “another time”) in 4:8
– “When” in 8:9.
So the singular noun hemera has several meanings in this book, but none of them means a long period of time. Could “the seventh day” in 4:4 have any of these meanings? Yes, it could be a 24-hour day that is referred to as “the seventh”. That’s the only one that makes sense in conjunction with the adjective “seventh”. Therefore, in Hebrews 4:4 “the seventh day” means a 24-hour day, like the 24-hour days described in Hebrews 3:13; 7:27; and 10:11. The adjective “seventh” implies that “the seventh day” followed six other 24-hour days (which were the six days of creation). By the way, there is no suggestion in this passage that “the seventh day” was a long period of time.
Did Jesus mention the creation? Yes He did, but He didn’t specifically mention how long it took. But Jesus showed that He accepted the Pentateuch as describing historical events. For example, in Matthew 19:4–6 He quotes from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, which are the chapters of the Bible that describe the six days of creation.
Jesus told the Jews that they must accept the words of Moses (Jn. 5:45-47). At that time faithful Jews believed that the Pentateuch was factual because it was the foundation of their faith. And in it Moses wrote that God created the universe in six days (Ex. 20:11). This was a fundamental belief of faithful Jews, including Jesus and the apostles.
What about the fact that Christians are under a different covenant and no longer under the Old Testament law of Moses? Like Genesis 1-11, the six days of creation occurred before God’s promise were given to Abraham and the old covenant was given to Moses. So, the new covenant through Jesus doesn’t affect how God created the universe. But through Jesus we can anticipate God’s new creation (Rev. 21:1-22:5).
What about 2 Peter 3:8?
When writing to Christians in about AD 66, Peter warned them not to forget the promise that Christ would return to judge the world. As they were in danger of forgetting this promise which had been given about 35 years earlier, he wrote, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Pt. 3:8). 1,000 years is 365,000 days, which would be a long period of time for people living in Peter’s time. So the verse says that for God a short period of time is like a long period of time and a long period of time is like a short period of time. It’s two conflicting similes that doesn’t make sense unless time is irrelevant to God. Comparing 1,000 years with one day may have been a Hebrew idiom for comparing long and short periods of time (Ps. 90:4). From God’s eternal perspective, there’s no significant difference between one day (a short period of time) and 1,000 years (a long period of time). Just because there had been a time delay, didn’t mean that God had forgotten to keep His promise.
Some people use this verse to say that in the Bible one day can symbolize 1,000 years or a long period of time. But if this is the case, the verse also says that 1,000 years or a long period of time can symbolize one day or a short period of time. This doesn’t make sense because these have opposite meanings. Instead, the word “day” in this verse is used in two similes which together indicate that God doesn’t experience time like us. This makes sense because God crested time.
What about billions of years?
How do scientists calculate the age of the universe and the time it took to form? Three methods have been used. One is based on assumptions about stellar evolution. Another is based on assumptions of an expanding universe and the Big Bang theory. And a third is based on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. They all seem to use the size and rate of expansion of the universe; parameters whose magnitudes are inferred because they can’t be measured directly. Instead they are measured by remote sensing. And they all use mathematical models that assume what happened in the universe over billions of years because it can’t be measured directly. And they assume the existence of entities like dark energy and dark matter. If the assumptions are wrong, then their estimate is wrong. It’s a circular method because the answer is based on their presuppositions.
The Bible says that God created the universe is six 24-hours days, but scientists claim that it formed naturally over about 14 billion years. The difference between these two periods of time is huge. Orders of magnitude are used to compare very large differences between numbers. It this case the difference is expressed as the power of 10. For example, 1,000 is one order of magnitude greater than 100, two orders of magnitude greater than 10, and three orders of magnitude greater than 1. In this case, 14 billion years is about 12 orders of magnitude greater than 6 days. This is a factor of 1012, which is 10 with 12 zeros after it! Or 10,000,000,000,000 times greater!
The 14 billion years comes from the naturalistic assumption that the present is the key to the past. But history goes forwards, not backwards. And causes go before their consequences (or effects) and not after them. It’s more accurate to say that the past is the key to the present. Scientists can only observe the present. As any statements they make about the past are based on assumptions, their accuracy is based on the accuracy of their assumptions. Because of this, there is a huge uncertainty in their estimation of the age of the universe.
Elsewhere I have shown how history trumps science when dealing with the past. This is because a reliable eyewitness is superior to forensic science in the investigation of crime. Consequently, reliable history is better than ancient forensic science in investigating what happened in ancient times.
Can the Hebrew language express long periods of time?
If the creation of the universe took much longer than six days, what Hebrew words are available to communicate this?
“Years” is mentioned in Genesis 1:14 and a “thousand” is mentioned in Genesis 20:16. The Hebrew word eleph (Strongs #505), translated “thousand” occurs 505 times in the Old Testament. And the Hebrew word shanah (Strongs #8141), translated “years” occurs 876 times in the Old Testament. The largest number mentioned specifically in the Old testament is Jeroboam’s 800,000 troops (2 Chron. 13:3). Olam (Strongs #5769) can mean “long duration”, but it usually seems to mean “forever” or everlasting”.
A characteristic of the natural world can also be used in a simile to convey a large number. For example, God told Abraham, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). And He told Jacob “I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted” (Gen. 32:12).
So the Hebrew language can express long periods of time.
A mature creation
One of the reasons why the Hebrew account didn’t need to mention long periods of time, was that God created a mature universe. Adam and Eve began life as adults, not babies. The fruit trees were already producing fruit. All natural processes and cycles were operating in equilibrium, not in their initial phases. Stars and galaxies were positioned in the universe. This happened in six days. There is no mention of matter being concentrated in a dense ball as is assumed by the Big Bang Model. And there is no need for evolutionary development from the simple to the complex. It’s easy for God to create complexity. He can do it instantly.
A study of the text and context indicates that the ancient Hebrews would have understood the noun yom in each “day” of creation to mean the 24 hours from sunset to next sunset. The idea that these could be large periods of time is extra-biblical and is not based on exegesis of the Hebrew text.
All of the authors of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and Jesus Christ, would have also believed that God created the universe in six days, each of which were 24-hours long. This trumps extra-biblical opinions. And God’s six days of creative work followed by one day of rest seems to be the source for the 7-day week in our calendar.
Because of the way it’s calculated, I’m skeptical of the claim that it took about 14 billion years to create the universe. It’s a huge amount of time. But the real uncertainty in this number is also huge.
Appendix A: Length of the seventh day
The entry for “Day” in Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon includes:
“2. Day as a division of time:
d. day as defined by evening and morning Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31 (compare further בֹּקֶר, עֶרֶב); see also Genesis 2:2 (twice in verse); Genesis 2:3, Exodus 20:11 (twice in verse), Exodus 31:17 (twice in verse).”
This lexicon associates the seventh day with the other six days, which is the case for Exodus, 20:11; 31:17. Remembering the Sabbath every week is consistent with the day of rest being 24-hours like the other days of creation and not a month or a year or some other length of time.
Because it was not a day of creation, the seventh day is described differently. It lacks the command (“God said”), fulfilment (“and it was so”), assessment (“God saw that it was good”) and conclusion (“there was evening, and there was morning”) of the other six days. Instead, the conclusion to day seven is “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created” (Gen. 2:4a).
On the other hand Vine thinks that in Genesis 2:3 yom refers to the entire period of God’s resting from creating the universe, at least until the return of Christ. When the Jewish leaders criticized Jesus for healing a man on the Sabbath, “In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working’” (Jn. 5:17). It is clear from the context that Jesus is referring to God’s providential and redemptive work and not to His creative work.
And some use Hebrews 4 to claim that the seventh day is unending. But this is poor exegesis. Hebrews 3:7-4:13 warns against unbelief. That’s the context. The writer uses two illustrations. One is the Israelites who rebelled against God during the exodus and so they never entered God’s rest – “They shall never enter my rest” (Heb. 4:3b, 5), which is quoted from Psalm 95:11. Psalm 95:7-11 is also a warning against unbelief. The other illustration is God’s rest after the six days of creation – “And yet His (God’s) works (of creation) have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere (Gen. 2:2) He (God) has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘On the seventh day God rested from all His works’” (Heb. 4:3c-4). The writer wants unbelievers (who never enter God’s spiritual rest) to become believers (who have entered God’s spiritual rest). He says, “we (believers) who have believed enter that rest” (Heb. 4:3a). So the spiritual “rest” he is addressing is different to the “rest” from creating mentioned in Genesis 2:2-3.
Appendix B: Occurrence of the word “evening” in Genesis 2-49
The Hebrew noun ereb (Strongs #6153) means “evening”. It occurs in the following passages of Genesis 2-49.
“When the dove returned to him in the evening” (8:11).
“The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening” (19:1).
“it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water” (24:11).
“He went out to the field one evening to meditate” (24:63).
“But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her” (29:23).
“So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening” (30:16).
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder” (49:27). This is metaphoric language in a poem.
Appendix C: Occurrence of the word “morning” in Genesis 2-49
The Hebrew noun boqer (Strongs #1242) means morning. It occurs in the following passages of Genesis 2-49.
“Early the next morning Abraham got up” (19:27).
“Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials” (20:8).
“Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water” (21:14).
“Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey” (22:3).
“When they got up the next morning” (24:54).
“Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other” (26:31).
“Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head” (28:18).
“When morning came, there was Leah!” (29:25).
“Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters” (31:55).
“When Joseph came to them the next morning” (40:6).
“In the morning his mind was troubled” (41:8).
“As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys” (44:3).
“Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he devours the prey, in the evening he divides the plunder” (49:27). This is metaphoric language in a poem.
Appendix D: Is the “day” defined in Genesis 1:5?
Numbers can be cardinal or ordinal. A cardinal number indicates a quantity, such as one, two, three, four, five. It’s used for counting things. An ordinal number indicates position, such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th. It’s used for putting things in order. In the first section of Genesis (Gen. 1:1-2:4a), in the Hebrew language the number associated with yom is cardinal for day 1 (ehad, Strongs #259, meaning “one”) and ordinal for the remaining days 2-7 (Steinmann, 2002). Is this defining what a “day” is for the rest of the creation week? Steinmann found that in the Pentateuch ehad is only used as an ordinal number for numbering units of time to designate the day of a month (Gen.8:5, 13; Ex. 40:2, 17; Lev. 23:24; Num. 1:1, 18; 29:1; 33:38; Dt. 1:3). All other units of time are numbered using ordinals. Therefore, in Genesis 1 ehad should be translated as “one” and not “the first” (Gen. 1:5). This is the meaning given in Green (1985). The NASB translates it this way, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. And the NET says that an alternative version of this sentence is “There was night and then there was day, one day”. This statement is equivalent to saying that one rotation of the earth equals one day.
According to Steinmann, “Genesis 1:5 begins the cycle of the day. With the creation of light it is now possible to have a cycle of light and darkness, which God labels “day” and “night.” Evening is the transition from light/day to darkness/night. Morning is the transition from darkness/night to light/day. Having an evening and a morning amounts to having one full day. Hence the following equation is what Genesis 1:5 expresses: Evening + morning = one day.”
Appendix E: NET Study Note on the days of creation in Genesis 1
“The exegetical evidence suggests the word “day” in this chapter refers to a literal twenty-four hour day. It is true that the word can refer to a longer period of time (see Isa. 61:2, or the idiom in Gen. 2:4, “in the day,” that is, “when”). But this chapter uses “day,” “night,” “morning,” “evening,” “years,” and “seasons.” Consistency would require sorting out how all these terms could be used to express ages. Also, when the Hebrew word יוֹם (yom) is used with a numerical adjective, it refers to a literal day. Furthermore, the commandment to keep the Sabbath clearly favors this interpretation. One is to work for six days and then rest on the seventh, just as God did when He worked at creation.”
Appendix F: “Day” in Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon
The Hebrew noun yom is used in the following ways in the Old Testament.
- Day, opposed to night
- Day as division of time
- Day of the Lord (coming in judgment)
- Plural, days of anyone
- Phrases, without preposition and with, are
Green J. P., (1985) “The interlinear Bible, Hebrew-Greek-English”, Hendrickson Publishers.
Steinmann, A., (2002) “Echad as an Ordinal Number and the Meaning of Genesis 1:5”, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 45(4):577–584.
Written, May 2018
Fake news is influencing aspects of our lives as important as our political viewpoints, our relationships with the environment and our life expectancies. But fake news can be extremely hard to identify. Fake news articles often lack sources. People aren’t directly quoted, and source material for statistics may not be provided. Social media and the ease of accessing information has given rise to incidences of news being distributed that is inaccurate, skewed, biased, or completely fabricated. A Google search is often used to source information, but since anyone with access to a computer can publish anything online, it’s crucial that we evaluate the information we find. That means distinguishing fact from fiction. Does the Bible contain fake news?
Some claim that the early chapters of Genesis are more poetic and theological than factual by suggesting they are a creation myth or exalted prose or semi-poetic or a defence of monotheism. And Wikipedia says that Adam and Eve “are symbolic rather than real”. Others say it’s a story that points toward a larger symbolic truth or a metaphor of the relation of God and humanity.
In this post, we will evaluate this claim by looking at what the Bible says about Adam and Eve. Were they actual people or are they symbolic or mythical? Did they live on earth or did they come from someone’s imagination? Are they literal or literary?
The Bible says that Adam was the first man on earth whose wife was Eve and whose oldest sons were Cain, Abel, and Seth (Gen. 2-5). He also had many other sons and daughters (Gen. 5:4). These people differed from animals because they were made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27NIV; Ps. 8:5-8). An Israelite named Moses edited these records about Adam when he compiled Genesis about 1450BC (Lk. 24:27, 44).
Adam is also mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament. In 1 Chronicles 1, the genealogy of Abraham begins, “Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah” (1 Chron. 1:1-3). This means that the Jews who compiled this book in about 450BC (about 1,000 years after Moses) considered Adam to be the earliest ancestor of Abraham. So they confirmed that the account about Adam in Genesis was factual.
Adam is mentioned in six passages in the New Testament – once each by Luke and Jude and four times by Paul. Luke confirms that Adam is the earliest ancestor of Abraham, “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Lk. 3:38). Here Adam is called “the son of God” because he had no human parents. This was written about 1,500 years after Moses.
In Romans 5 Paul gives a comparison between Adam and Jesus Christ. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come (Jesus).
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man (Adam), how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s (Adam’s) sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned through that one man (Adam), how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
Consequently, just as one trespass (Adam’s sin) resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act (Christ’s death) resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man (Adam) the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man (Jesus) the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:12-19). The difference was that Adam’s sin was the reason there is sin and death in the world, whereas the gift of eternal life came through Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul gives a comparison between Adam and Jesus Christ. “For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (Jesus). For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). The difference is that the descendants of Adam all die, whereas those who have faith in Christ will be resurrected from death to life.
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul gives another comparison between Adam and Jesus Christ. “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man (Adam) was of the dust of the earth; the second man (Jesus) is of heaven. As was the earthly man (Adam), so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man (Jesus), so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man (Adam), so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man (Jesus)” (1 Cor. 15:45-49). The difference is that the descendants of Adam all have a natural body, whereas those who have faith in Christ will be resurrected to have a spiritual body.
In 1 Timothy 2 Paul refers to events in Genesis 2-3. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). He recounts that Adam was created before Eve and implies that Eve sinned before Adam.
Jude refers to a prophecy of Enoch against the ungodly, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’” (Jude 14-15). So Jude confirms the genealogy of Genesis 5.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, He replied, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male (Adam) and female (Eve),’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” ‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning (from the time of Adam and Eve). I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Mt. 19:4-9). In this passage Jesus quotes from Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, which in turn describe Adam and Eve as real people.
When Paul preached in Athens, he said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man (Adam) He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:24-26). Paul referred to the creation of the world from Genesis 1, the creation of humanity from Genesis 2 and the nations from Genesis 10. He obviously believed that Adam was the first man and that these were real events.
Paul also mentions Eve in 2 Corinthians 11, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). He was concerned that they would be deceived by false teachers like Eve was deceived in the Garden of Eden. He obviously believed that Eve was the first woman and that these were real events.
The method I have used to investigate whether Adam and Eve were actual people or just a mythical story to convey a message differs from the one used most commonly. I have studied what the Bible says about this topic, whereas others usually rely on scholarship outside the Bible. The problem with scholarship that is based outside the Bible (including literature and non-experimental historic science) is that it can change from year to year. What is claimed to be true now, will probably be discredited by future generations. Such knowledge is transient and changeable. And the interpretation of literary genres is very subjective. I prefer a more objective and robust approach that is based on Scriptural facts (the text of the Bible which is unchanging). The best way to interpret a Biblical passage is to investigate the text, the context, what the author says elsewhere and what other Bible authors say about the topic. This is the approach I have used in this post.
Depending on your worldview, you may not agree with my approach. But I think that a worldview based on revelation by the Creator of the universe is more reliable than one based on naturalistic human scholarship.
We have seen that the Old Testament Jews who complied scripture believed that Adam and Eve were real people (1 Ch. 1:1). As they lived over 2,400 years closer to these events, their interpretation of Genesis will be more accurate than any modern scholar.
And the writers of the New Testament believed that Adam and Eve were real people. In particular, Jesus and Paul believed Adam and Eve were real people, and they based key doctrines on what Genesis tells us about Adam and Eve. As they lived over 1,950 years closer to these events, their interpretation of Genesis will be more accurate than any modern scholar.
The fact that Adam and Eve are historical people helps us understand our world. The Bible says that in the beginning God made a good creation which was spoilt by Adam and Eve’s sin. This resulted in suffering and death, which was followed by God’s offer of redemption and restoration. If we deny the cause of sin, then we deny the explanation of suffering and the need of salvation. Then sin and suffering are God’s fault and there is no prospect of relief.
Because Adam and Eve are historical people we are all their descendants and there is no biological basis for racism. We are all related. Paul said, “From one man (Adam) He (God) made all the nations” (Acts 17:26).
Paul sees Adam and Christ as history’s two most important figures. If Adam wasn’t historic, then there could be a tendency to think that Jesus wasn’t historic.
The Old Testament Jews believed that Adam was a real person and that the account about him in Genesis 1-5 describes real events. Also Jesus, Luke, Paul, and Jude all believed that Adam and Eve were real people and that the account about them in Genesis 1-5 describes real events.
Therefore, we should also believe that Adam and Eve were real people and that the account about them in Genesis 1-5 describes real events. So Adam and Eve were actual people that lived on earth, and they were not symbolic or mythical nor did they come from someone’s imagination. They are literal and not literary.
Written, May 2018