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?
I received a comment on my blog claiming that the Hebrew language didn’t exist until the Jewish exile in Babylon. So, what does the evidence say?
According to the Bible, all people spoke the same language until around 2200 BC when God caused different languages to develop at Babel and people scattered to form different nations across the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). This was the source of the diversity of human languages.
The Hebrew nation settled in Canaan in the 14th century BC. They occupied Canaan until the first Jewish captives were deported to Babylon in 605 BC and the second wave were exiled in 586 BC when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed (Dan. 1; 2 Ki. 25).
According to Wikipedia, the Siloam inscription records the construction of Hezekiah’s tunnel. The NIV Study Bible states that Hezekiah was king of Judah between 715 BC and 686 BC (2 Ki. 18:1-2). The tunnel, leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, was designed as an aqueduct to provide Jerusalem with water during an impending siege by the Assyrians, led by Sennacherib (2 Ki. 20:20; 2 Chr. 32:30). The inscription, which was discovered in the tunnel in 1880 and has been dated at 701 BC, is written in the “Biblical Hebrew” language, which uses the ancient Hebrew alphabet. So here we have a written example of the Hebrew language that dates at least 100 years before the Jewish exile.
Hebrew belongs to the Semantic family of languages which were used in the middle east. Geographically it was a Canaanite language like Phoenician, Ugaritic and Moabite. The Bible notes that Jacob’s language was different to Aramaic (Gen. 31:47). Scholars believe that Hebrew was spoken in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the 10th to 7th centuries BC.
Therefore, the reader’s comment seems to be inconsistent with the evidence available. It can be shown that the Hebrew language originated well before the Babylonian exile. In fact, Wikipedia claims that there is evidence of “Biblical Hebrew” as far back as the 10th century BC, which extends to the days of king David (2 Sam. 5:4). The Gezer calendar is dated in this time period. Likewise, the earliest known example of the Hebrew alphabet discovered at Tel Zayit is dated in the 10th century B.C.
Written, March 2013
According to the Bible, Abraham left polytheism to follow the God who made the universe. Abraham lived about 2,000 BC and he and his descendants were known as Hebrews (Gen. 14:13). In fact the Pentateuch was written by Moses in the Hebrew language. Isaac was Abraham’s son and Jacob his grandson. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28; 46:1). Since this time Israel’s descendants were known as the children of Israel or Israel or Israelites. Israel’s family moved to Egypt where his son Joseph was second in command to the Pharaoh. In Egypt the Israelites grew to 2 million people when they subsequently migrated to Canaan in the Middle East under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.
After the Israelites invaded Canaan, they were ruled by the kings Saul, David and Solomon. King David lived about 1,000 BC. After this, the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10). Samaria was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem the capital of Judah.
The Hebrew noun “Yehudi” (“Jew” in English; Strongs #3064) is derived from the name Judah, who was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. See Appendix A for a summary of how this word was spoken in various languages. Judah was the ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel, which was named after him. “Yehudi” occurs 76 times in the following books of the Old Testament:
– 11 times in Jeremiah (written about 600BC), where it describes Judeans,
– Twice in 2 Kings (written about 550BC), where it describes Judeans who lived about 750BC and 590BC,
– Once in Zechariah (written about 520BC), where it may describe both Judeans and Israelites,
– 52 times in Esther (written about 460BC), where it describes those dispersed after the Babylonian invasions and living in the Persian kingdom, including Mordecai a Benjaminite (Est. 2:5; 5:13), and
– 10 times in Nehemiah (written about 430BC), where it describes exiles who returned to Jerusalem.
A related word “Yehudain” (Strongs #3062) only occurs in the books of Daniel and Ezra (written about 530BC and 440BC respectively). So the most robust answer to our question, “When did the Hebrews or Israelites become known as Jews?” is from about 600BC.
Originally, the word referred to members of the tribe of Judah, but later it described anyone from the kingdom of Judah. This would include those from the northern kingdom of Israel who moved to Judah, including Mordecai’s ancestors. Also, as those who returned after the exile settled in Judea, they were called Jews regardless of their ancestoral tribe. In the New Testament, the words, “Hebrews”, “Israelites”, and “Jews” are used interchangeably to describe the descendants of Jacob (Jn. 4:9; 2 Cor. 11:22). And this is the case today – the words “Hebrews”, “Israelites”, and “Jews” are used as synonyms (see Appendix B).
In 722 BC, Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians and the Israelites were dispersed into surrounding nations (2 Ki. 17). As they assimilated and now have no national identity, they are known as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel”. However, they weren’t all lost because some remained in Israel and some moved to Judah (2 Chron. 15:9; 35:18).
In 605 BC and 598 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judah and in 586 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed. Many of the Jews were taken to exile in Babylon. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC, the Persian King Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to their homelands and many returned to Judah. After the Babylonian exile, “Jew” replaced “Israelite” as the most widely-used term for these survivers. This was because, by that time, virtually all Israelites were descendants of the kingdom of Judah. Also, the Jewish religion was known as Judaism.
After Jerusalem was rebuilt, Judea was ruled by the Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians and Romans. Although the terms “Hebrew” and “Israelite” continued in use into the New Testament period (Rom. 9:4; 2 Cor. 11:22; Phil. 3:5), by then the term “Jew” was more commonly used. At His death, the Romans referred to Jesus as the “king of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37).
In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem (this didn’t destroy all the Jews as many were living in other countries) and in 134 AD the Romans attacked again and the Jews were killed, enslaved and dispersed to surrounding countries including Europe and North Africa. Since this time, Judea has been ruled by the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic Empire, the Crusaders, the Mamluk Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. The Jews were persecuted and driven out of many regions culminating in the holocaust. Despite these difficulties, the Jews maintained their identity, even in foreign lands. The need to find a homeland for Jewish refugees led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.
How amazing – the Jews survived 1,900 years of exile! No other people has ever gone into exile and survived this long and returned to re-establish a national homeland. And the Jews went into exile twice! They also survived the persecutions of the the Hamans and Hitlers of this world (Est. 3:1-15). Surely this is evidence of the Bible’s inspiration, and of the existence of the God who promised to preserve the Jews, return them to their homeland, and bring them to a time of great national blessing in the last days.
In common speech, the word “Jew” is now used to refer to all of the descendants of Jacob and those who adhere to Judaism.
Appendix A: Historical summary of usage of the word “Jew”.
The Hebew word translated “Jew” in the Bible originally meant the tribe of Judah and the kingdom of Judah. Judah’s father Israel died in about 1680BC. So the name “Judah” originated in the 17th century BC. With the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, the kingdom of Judah became the sole Jewish state and the term word was applied to all Israelites. The Hebrew name for “Judean” (or “Jew”) appears in the Bible from about 600BC. This name was also applied to those who were dispersed in 586 BC. After the Israelite exiles returned to Palestine, the region began to be known as “Judea”. And the dispersed Israelites began to be known as “Judean”. Here’s the word in various languages:
– Yehudi – Hebrew
– Yehudai – Aramaic
– Ioudaios – Greek
– Iūdaeus – Latin
– Judeu, then Juiu, then Juif – French
– Gyv, then Ive, Iewe, Iew – Old English
– Jew – English (1775)
These are the same word as it is spoken in various languages.
So, the Hebrew word translated “Jew” in the Bible is used for all the descendants of Jacob (or Israel). Today, depending on context, it can also mean one who follows the Jewish religion.
Appendix B: Biblical description of the descendants of Abraham/Jacob
Hebrews: Abraham is called a Hebrew (Gen. 14:1). This is the first use of the term. Joseph is also called a Hebrew (Gen. 39:14, 17; 41:12). The people whom God (through Moses) rescued from Egypt were called ‘Hebrews’. The word ‘Hebrew’ may be derived from the name of one of Abraham’s ancestors, the patriarch Eber (Gen. 10:21–25, 11:14–17).
Israelites: means a descendant of Jacob, who in later life was given the name ‘Israel’ by God (Gen. 32:28).
Jews: this word derives from Judah (Hebrew Yehudah), one of Jacob’s 12 sons, and the one who was the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Mt. 1:3, Lk. 3:33). Thus Jesus is Jewish, and the Hebrew version of His name is Yeshua Hamashiach = Jesus the Messiah. However the term ‘Jew’ became used for all descendants of Israel. So the term ‘Jew’ was used interchangeably with ‘Hebrew’ and ‘Israelite’. Thus a Jew is biblically defined as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Also note that in the Bible, Jewishness was determined through the father’s line, as is clear from the genealogies.
Appendix B was sourced from Sarfati “A brief history of the Jews”.
Written January 2013; Revised January 2019
How the Bible came to us
I recently read about five alleged myths and shortcomings of the Bible: the creation story, the morality of the Jews destroying the Canaanites, Noah’s flood, the virgin birth and inconsistencies between different parts of the Bible. So can we trust our Bibles or are they the unreliable product of a more primitive era? To answer this question we will look at how the Bible came to us.
The word Bible comes from biblion, the Greek word for book and the word Scripture comes from scriptura, the Latin word for something written. The Bible is a collection of 66 books from more than 40 authors. It has two main parts, the Old Testament (OT), written before Christ and the New Testament (NT), written after Christ. They were both written in the everyday language of their time. The OT was written in Hebrew, except for portions in Aramaic after the Jewish exile in Babylon, while the New Testament was written in Greek.
Paul said that the OT was “the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2). This also applies to the NT as Peter equates Paul’s letters with Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). So how did the words of God get to be written on earth? Well, the apostle John reported, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: …’” (Rev. 1:10-11NIV). In this case John was given a vision and he was to write down what he saw. In Jeremiah’s case, he dictated God-given words to his secretary Baruch (Jer. 36:1-4).
In Hebrews we learn, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). This means that in the OT God communicated to people via the prophets and in the NT He communicated via Jesus and the apostles, who recorded the life of Jesus and the early church.
Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable … Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (own mind). For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Clearly the Bible message came from God via the prophets and apostles. The Holy Spirit influenced them like a wind moves a sailing boat: see Acts 27:15 where the same word is used. So the Holy Spirit helped the authors write the words. But it wasn’t just dictated mechanically, because each author used their own style.
So God created the books of the Bible via human authors. It’s God’s words (in the original text). That’s why it is also referred to as God’s Word. Each word of the entire Bible was “God-breathed” as originally written. This means it was recorded accurately without error. So it’s trustworthy and reliable in all the matters it addresses.
Paul communicated “things God has revealed to us by His Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10), “not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:13). So the words used by the apostles were especially chosen by the Holy Spirit. Paul and the other writers “had the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). This passage is about new truths revealed in the NT, not about heaven.
What about the Apocrypha which is comprised of 13 Jewish writings from the period between the OT and the NT (430 BC to 50 AD) that are included in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles? The word Apocrypha comes from a Greek word meaning hidden. However:
- They were never accepted by the Jews as part of their God-given Scriptures
- None are quoted or referred to in the NT or accepted by Jesus and the apostles as God-given Scripture
- None were written by the OT prophets
- They were only recognised by Roman Catholics as part of their Scriptures in the 1540s (1,500 years after they were written)
So the Apocrypha are Jewish religious books written between the times of the OT and the NT, but they are not God-breathed Scripture.
By 400 BC the OT was complete and written on scrolls and by 100 AD the NT was complete and written on scrolls. However, because scrolls don’t last for thousands of years, we don’t have any of the original Biblical texts today. Does this mean our Bibles are unreliable? No! Many copies have been made and early manuscripts have been preserved.
Photocopiers have been used since 1959 and the printing press since the 1450s. Gutenberg printed the first Bible in 1456. Copies of the books of the Bible were handwritten before the printing press. A handwritten copy is called a manuscript, which comes from the Latin words manu (hand) and scriptum (written). An amazing number of Bible manuscripts have been preserved for us to examine today. These comprise ancient fragments, scrolls and books.
The characteristics of these documents changed over the centuries between when they were first composed and the advent of the printing press. The media they were written on changed from stones (like the Ten Commandments), to clay tablets (Moses), to papyrus (paper made from a reed plant that grew along the Nile River – that’s where our word paper comes from), to parchment (also called vellum; made from animal skins), and to paper. Paper as we know it was invented in China, but wasn’t used in Europe until the 1200s. Books replaced scrolls in about the second century AD. In about the eleventh century AD, the Greek text changed from modified capitals to lower case. In about the fifth century AD, the quill replaced the reed as the “pen” used by copyists. Scholars examine these characteristics when dating manuscripts.
Old Testament manuscripts
The OT was written between 1500 BC and 400 BC. The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) were the most important archaeological discovery in the last century. They were found in clay jays in caves near the north-western shore of the Dead Sea. Scholars believe that the DSS were hidden about 70 AD when Roman legions invaded Israel.
Before this time, the oldest Hebrew manuscript of the whole OT was Codex Leningradensis (1008 AD). Codex means book. In the DSS there was a copy of Isaiah dated 150 BC, which was about 550 years after the original text was written. The Hebrew text of this copy was virtually the same as the copy made over 1,000 years later. So the Jewish scribes did a good job! They were diligent and developed many practices to protect copies of their scriptures from error. For example, the Masoretes numbered the letters, words, and paragraphs of each book and the middle paragraph, middle word and middle letter had to correspond to those of the original document. Earlier Jewish scribes were just as meticulous in their transcription. After all, they were instructed not to add to or take away from the word of God (Dt. 4:2; Prov. 30:6).
Most of the DSS predate the time of Christ (they were written 150 BC to 70 AD). Parts of all the books of the Old Testament were found except Esther. They closely follow the Masoretic Text, the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (the tanakh), copied by a group of Jews about the 10th century AD, but there are a few exceptions. For example, Psalm 145 is an alphabetical psalm. Each verse begins with the next letter in the alphabet, but “N” verse is missing in the Masoretic Text and King James Bible.
Between the third century BC and 130 BC, the OT was translated into Greek and this version of the OT is known as the Septuagint. Fragments of Septuagint manuscripts date from the first and second centuries BC. Relatively complete manuscripts of the Septuagint include the Codex Vaticanus from the 4th century AD and the Codex Alexandrinus of the 5th century. These are the oldest surviving nearly complete manuscripts of the Old Testament in any language; the oldest existing complete Hebrew texts date some 600 years later, from the 10th century.
New Testament manuscripts
The NT was written between 50 AD and 100 AD. The oldest NT manuscript is a papyrus fragment of the Gospel of John, which is dated about 125 AD about 30 years after the book was first written! The earliest manuscripts of each book in the NT are usually papyrus fragments which are dated from 125 AD (for John) to 350 AD for 1&2 Timothy and 3 John, with a median date of 200 AD.
Codex Sinaiticus, a manuscript of the Bible written about 350 AD, contains the earliest complete copy of the New Testament. It was discovered at a monastery on Mount Sinai in the 1850s. The hand-written text is in Greek. On the other hand, the earliest manuscripts of the works of the Jewish historian Josephus in their original language are dated 900-1000 AD, at least 800 years after they were written.
As there are earlier, better and more manuscripts of Scripture, the manuscript evidence of the Bible is superior to that for any other ancient book. However, none of these Biblical manuscripts is perfectly accurate, they all contain copy errors. Does this mean our Bibles are unreliable? No! Scholars have reconstructed the original text.
The study of biblical manuscripts is important because handwritten copies of books usually contain errors. Textural scholars reconstruct the original text from the manuscripts available. Generally earlier versions are closer to the original as they have fewer copy errors.
Scholars have grouped the NT manuscripts into families: Alexandrian (200s-400s AD), Caesarean (200s AD onwards), Western (300s-500s AD) and Byzantine (500s onwards). There have been three major attempts to reconstruct the original New Testament text from ancient Greek manuscripts:
The Received Text (“Textus Receptus” in Latin) was based on some Byzantine (eastern portion of the Roman Empire) manuscripts (dated from 1000 AD). It was first published in 1516. This text lacks the input of many early Biblical manuscripts which have been discovered since this time.
The Eclectic Text (selected from the best of a variety of sources) was based on an analysis of all the manuscripts, with a preference for the earliest ones (mainly Alexandrian, Caesarean and Western manuscripts). It was first published in the 1880s. This text tends to be shorter than the others.
The Majority Text was based on the majority of existing Greek manuscripts and first published in the 1982. As fewer ancient texts have survived and the Byzantine church was quite wealthy and produced many manuscripts, the Majority Text is largely based on the Byzantine family of manuscripts (dated the 9th to the 13th centuries AD) and has some similarities to the Received Text. However, no major Bible translations are based on the Majority Text.
The differences between the reconstructed New Testament texts mentioned above are mainly technical and not doctrinal. They don’t affect any Christian doctrine because the Bible is a robust document. It has a great deal of redundancy and repetition with multiple accounts of important events. For example, there two accounts of Israel’s history (Samuel & Kings; Chronicles), three genealogies from Adam to Abraham (Genesis 5&11; 1 Chronicles; Luke 3) and four accounts of the life of Jesus (the gospels). All major doctrines are taught in several places in the Bible. They don’t rely on a single verse.
So scholars have reconstructed the original Biblical texts. However, as these reconstructed original texts are in Hebrew and Greek, which most of us can’t read, does that mean that our Bibles, which are not in Hebrew and Greek are unreliable? No! These languages have been translated accurately.
Translators transfer the message from a source language to a receptor language. These Biblical texts have been translated into most of the languages in the world. In fact, the Bible has been translated and retranslated more than any other book in history. New translations are needed from time to time because all languages are constantly changing.
Some ancient translations are:
• The Septuagint – a Greek translation of the OT dated about 200 BC, which was quoted by Christ and the apostles. This shows that God approves of translations. Jesus viewed this translation of the Old Testament as reliable and trustworthy (Mt. 5:17-18; Jn. 10:35).
• The Vulgate – a Latin translation of the Bible dated about 400 AD, which was used for over 1,000 years including the Middle Ages.
If you look at an Interlinear Bible you will realise that a word-for-word translation is impossible. This is because each language has a different vocabulary (we may need more than one word to describe a word in another language or vice-versa) and a different grammar (or sentence structure). Also, languages are flexible and there is often more than one way to correctly translate a text. The same information can be communicated in different ways.
What’s the difference between different translations of the Bible?
Two types of reconstructed source have mainly been used:
- Received Text – This was used by the 1611 KJV and has been maintained by subsequent editions of the KJV and for the NKJV.
- Eclectic Text – This is used by most other translations of the Bible where some verses are omitted because it is believed that they were added by copyists.
Some translations try to follow the pattern of the source language (but are not as readable), others follow the pattern of the receptor language (but are not as close literally). For example:
- Most literal includes: NASB (11), KJV (12), NKJV (9) and ESV (9)
- Most readable includes: CEV (4), NLT (6)
- Intermediate: NIV (8), HCSB (8)
The number is the grade level required to read the text. Note: interlinear Bibles are most literal, but they are not readable at all, and The Message is a paraphrase not a translation. Different translations have different purposes, which are indicated in the front of the Bible. They usually have a particular readership in mind. Most of the translations are trustworthy. Rarely does a doctrinal matter hinge on the translation of the text.
Lessons for us
We can be thankful for the Bible’s preservation over thousands of years.
Our Bibles are very close to the original because early manuscripts have been preserved, scholars have reconstructed the original text and languages have been translated accurately. So we can trust our Bibles.
Paul told Timothy, “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). Each of our Bibles contains all we need to know about salvation, spiritual growth and Christian living, by making us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and thoroughly equipping us for every good work.
Which is the best Bible? The one you read! Read it regularly and memorise key verses.
Written, March 2012