Rivals to creation

The contemporary discussion about origins is usually polarised between Atheistic Evolution and some form of Creation or Intelligent Design approach. Later on, we are going to have a look at the Creation v Evolution debate; however, it is worth noting that, for most of history, atheistic evolution has not been the primary rival to the Biblical account of Creation.

Rather, when the Bible accounts were first written, each ancient culture had its own Creation myth or story. Indeed, some scholars have suggested that the Genesis account of Creation, Fall and Flood is an Israelite copy or adaption of either the Babylonian or the Canaanite origins myth.[1] Such a view is a little simplistic and not without its problems, however, and we will come back to that later.

Ancient stories

Most ancient stories about where the world came from have a common thread. They start with a watery chaos from which the world emerges and is formed and shaped by the gods, often in the context of bloody conflict between rival dynasties.[2]

For example, Tremper Longman III describes the dominant Egyptian mythology as follows.

“The primeval waters are called Nun and it is out of the waters that creation emerged. One prominent idea was that the creator god, sometimes Atun and other times Amon-Re, emerged from the waters through an act of self-creation and through him developed the other gods and goddesses who represent the various parts and forces of nature. The form of the emergence from Nun was the primeval mound, perhaps mythically reflecting the fertile soil that was the source of life after the annual Nile floodwaters receded.”[3]

Perhaps the best-known ancient Near Eastern Myth is the Babylonian story of how the god Marduk rose to power. The story starts with Tiamat, a great mother goddess representing the Ocean salt waters and other gods who live within her. [4]  There is conflict among the gods and goddesses after Ea, one of the gods, kills her first husband, Apsu, the fresh water god. Tiamat creates a series of monsters to attack the other gods in revenge. However, Marduk, Ea’s son, rises to the position of chief god. The other gods submit to him in return for his promise to bring peace.[5]

Marduk goes into battle with Tiamat, a mother goddess. Tiamat is defeated and her body cut in half to form the heavens and the earth.[6] Her second husband is also killed and with his blood drops, Marduk creates humans to work for him.

The Babylonian myth goes on to tell how later, the noise and nuisance from human beings becomes too much for the gods and so they have them wiped out in a flood. In the Gilgamesh and Atrahasis epics, one man is warned to build a boat in order to save his family. As Blenkinsopp explains

“For ancient Mesopotamia the basic mythic-historiographical pattern is set out in the Atrahasis text… The sequence of events is as follows. After the begetting of the gods, those of the lower order, the Igigi, go on strike and refuse to continue their onerous service to the high gods. The solution to the problem is found in the creation of humans, initially seven male and seven female by Belet Ili, mistress of the gods, assisted by Enku. Their task is to take over cultic work, thus solving the problem that had arisen in the divine sphere. In due course however the noise and tumult of humanity on the overcrowded earth led to the decision by the gods to reduce the population by a series of disasters at intervals of 1200 years. When these Malthusian measures failed in their effect, the decision was taken to destroy the human race by a deluge.”[7]

Similarly, the classical Greek origins myth also describes the ascent to power of the senior god. This time it is Zeus who attains authority in much the same way as Marduk won power for himself in the Mesopotamian story.

In this story, “Night” and her brother Erebus (depth) give birth to Eros followed by Gaia, the earth mother.[8] The earth comes from her and then Uranus the Sky-father also comes into existence.[9]

“Then subtle Eros brought the Earth Mother and Sky Father together in love and from them in the course of time were born a series of strange and monstrous creatures.”[10]

One of the gods, Zeus, rises to power as the chief god through war. He then apportions the world out by lot to his fellow gods.[11]

Man was made by a god called Epimetheus who made all the creatures. However, Epimetheus lacked wisdom and foresight so that:

“He began with the creation of the animals and he was so lavish with the gifts he gave them – gifts of strength and speed and cunning, strong claws and sharp teeth, warm coverings of feathers and fur – that there was nothing left over for man, his poor shivering last creation so Epimetheus called upon his wise brother to repair his mistake. Prometheus not only made man upright and beautiful but he decided to use his craft to win other advantages for man from Zeus, the king of the gods.”[12]

It is, therefore, Prometheus who steps in to rescue the situation. Blessed with foresight, he is the one who rescues humankind and takes their side against Zeus. He uses trickery to gain fire for them from Zeus.[13]

Woman is formed from the earth by Zeus to punish Prometheus and humanity for their trickery – she is called Pandora.[14] She is sent among the men to cause trouble.  Pandora comes as a little girl with a jar or box containing all the worst the gods could give. Curiosity leads to her opening it and letting out evil into the world.[15]

Now, these ancient myths may well be closely related due to contact through trade and conquest between civilisations. However, fascinatingly, a similar story also turns up from much further afield.

Veronica Ions tells us that:

“Aztec myth also speaks of a female or bisexual earth monster with countless mouths swimming in the primordial waters where she devoured all its creatures. Quetzalcoat and Tezatilipoca tore her apart, thus releasing the bounty of nature.”[16]

Something in common?

As we’ve noted above, there are some common themes in these stories including a watery, chaotic origin, a chief god that rises to power and a great battle leading to the creation of the heavens and earth.

Scholars also want to draw our attention to common themes with the Biblical account. In particular, note the way that Creation appears portrayed as a watery and formless entity.[17] Some scholars have even speculated that the Hebrew word “Tehom” (formless) has its roots in the goddess Tiamat’s name.[18] Additionally, the story of a great flood with a single man warned and rescued has its obvious parallels in the story of Noah (Genesis 6-9).

So, for example, Blenkinsopp concludes that

“Even a fairly casual reading of the first eleven chapters will confirm that the Atrahasis pattern is reproduced with modifications to a remarkable degree.”[19]

The Babylonian story is dated to between 1800 and 1200 BC

“The version found in Ashurbanipal’s library consists of seven tablets and dates to the seventh century BC, but it is recognized by scholars that the story itself is much older. Determining the precise age of the story is based on a combination of linguistic and historical factors, but a date sometime in the second millennium BC is the consensus position. Specifically, the earliest likely date is the eighteenth-century BC, for it is around this time that the god Marduk (mentioned prominently in Enuma Elish) seemed to be raised to a prominent status. Some scholars suggest a slightly later date (i.e. fourteenth to twelfth centuries).”[20]

It is then assumed that the Hebrew account is younger and in some way dependent upon the older myths of Egypt and Mesopotamia. As Peter Enns comments:

“We must begin our thinking by acknowledging that the ancient Near Eastern myths are almost certainly older than the versions recorded for us in the Bible.”[21]

Why does he believe this? Well, he offers three reasons. 

  1. “Israelite culture is somewhat of a latecomer in the Ancient Near Eastern world.”[22]
  2. An oral culture and the written language comes later.[23]
  3. The oral stories would be influenced by the culture around them.[24]

He goes on to argue that:

“If pressed, one could attempt to mount the argument that the Israelite stories were actually older than all the ancient Near Eastern stories but were only recorded later in Hebrew. Such a theory -for that is what it is, a theory – would need to assume that the biblical stories are the pristine originals and that all the other stories are parodies and perversions of the Israelite original, even though the available evidence would be very difficult to square with such a conclusion. But could it have happened this way? Yes, I suppose one could insist on such a thing, but it would be very difficult for someone holding to such a view to have a meaningful conversation with linguists and historians of the ancient world.”[25]

This suggested dependency upon other Ancient Near Eastern myths should not be seen as a mere copying.  First of all, because as well as commonality between the accounts, there are also significant differences.[26] As Gunkel observes:

“The difference between the Babylonian creation account and that of Genesis 1 is quite great. It could hardly be conceptually greater! In the former there is totally wild and grotesquely titanic, barbaric poetry. In the latter there is the solemn elevated tranquillity of a specious and at times rather temperate prose. In the former, the gods arise in the course of things. In the latter, God is the same from the very beginning. In the Babylonian myth, it is the god, who in the heat of battle, slays the monster and from the body forms the world. In the Hebrew account, it is a God ‘who spoke and it was so.’ The poetry of the myth is certainly a bit attenuated in the Hebrew account. We don’t regret it though, since in return it is filled with the thinking of a higher religion.”[27]  

Enns also comments that:

“I should be quick to point out, however, that Genesis did not simply copy from Enusma Elish, as if the Hebrew author of Genesis had a copy of this Akkadian text in front of him and borrowed from it. Furthermore, at each of the points mentioned above, the Babylonian and biblical stories are both similar and dissimilar. Hence the consensus scholarly position is to not draw a direct line of dependence from Genesis to Enuma Elish.”[28]

So, Enns doesn’t want us to imagine a Jewish exile walking into the library in Babylon, picking up a manuscript and beginning to copy and adapt it. Rather,

“Whether or not the author of Genesis was familiar with the text known as Enuma Elish, he was certainly working within a similar conceptual world. So as unwise as it is to equate the two, it is also ill advised to make a sharp distinction between them that the clear similarities are brushed aside.”[29]

Or, in other words, ancient stories are similar because ancient minds thought alike. “The Genesis story is firmly rooted in the worldview of its time.”

Ancient peoples had their own questions that they tried to answer from their worldview.

“Where does the sun go at night – or how did it get up there to begin with, and what keeps it from falling down like everything else does that gets tossed up in the air? Why are there seasons? Why does the moon move across the sky? Where does rain come from and why does it seem not to be there when we need it most?”[30]

As you looked out on a wild and violent world and tried to make sense of it with your limited cosmology and a sense of enchantment, you were likely to construct similar stories about where things came from. Not only that, there would have been some shared oral traditions along with shared ancestral roots.

“Ancient peoples composed lengthy stories to address those types of questions, and on some level the cause was attributed to unknown powerful figures.”[31]

Then over time, as cultures came into contact with each other, there would have been shared access to written accounts leading to convergence.

At the same time, Enns remains convinced that if there is a dependent relationship between the Bible and the other stories, then it is the Bible that depends upon the Babylonian story and not vice-versa.

Where does this leave us?

At this stage, we have a bit of a conundrum to deal with. If the Genesis account is simply a variant Ancient Near Eastern myth, then where does that leave the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture?[32] We may be further confused to discover that a number of those who have come to this conclusion are self-professing Evangelicals including Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns.[33]

So, is it possible to treat Genesis 1-11 as an Ancient Near Eastern origins myth, drawing on the stories of the cultures around it and still treat it as inspired Scripture? Those who believe that we can give two main reasons for doing so:

  1. Our understanding of what myths and mythology are all about

We tend to draw a distinction between myth and history.  To our modern minds, this is the same distinction as between fact and fiction.  Not so for the original writers and readers of Genesis 1-11 argues Enns. 

“Taking the extrabiblical evidence into account, I question how much value there is in posing the choice of Genesis as either myth or history. This distinction seems to be a modern invention. It presupposes – without stating explicitly – that what is historical, in a modern sense of the word is more real, of more value, more like something God would do, than myth.” So, the argument goes, if Genesis is myth, then it is not ‘of God.’ Conversely, if Genesis is history, only then is it something worthy of the name ‘Bible.’ Again, it is interesting to me that both sides of the liberal/conservative debate share to a certain extent these kinds of assumptions.”[34]

Enns defines Myth as “an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories. Who are we? Where do we come from?”[35] He argues that if myth was an acceptable literary category, a means of asking questions, telling shared stories and finding answers to big questions, then:

“One might ask why it is that God can’t use the category we call ‘myth’ to speak to ancient Israelites.”[36]

  • The function that a Hebrew Creation myth would have fulfilled at the time

At this point, we are asked to pay attention to the great differences as well as the similarities between the different texts. Yes, on the one level there is a common story of chaos leading to order followed by rebellion and a return to chaos again. However, there are undeniable differences.

For example, in the Biblical account, “There is no Theogony.”[37] There is only one creator God and he creates effortlessly by the word of his mouth, not in conflict with other gods.[38] This also means that “The creation of the World is therefore followed by human instead of divine rebellion.”[39]

In the Biblical account, whilst humans are given work to do in God’s creation, they are not mere slaves, but are created to rule and to have a relationship with the God who walks and talks in the Garden with them.  As Longman observes:

“The Genesis Creation texts treat humanity with considerably more respect than their Mesopotamian counterparts. To be sure, Adam and Eve are created for manual labor to tend the garden, but they are also created in the image of God, and the relationship with their God seems to be more personal.”[40]

The differences, suggests Longman, create a polemic that enables the people of Israel to challenge the dominant theological worldview of their day.

“From the time of the Patriarchs down through the rest of the period of the Old Testament, the children of Abraham lived in the midst of a pagan world. Only Israel worshipped Yahweh, while the rest of the nations had their own gods and goddesses -and they also had their own creation accounts.  Since God’s people were constantly tempted to worship the deities of other nations, we shouldn’t be surprised that the biblical accounts of creation were shaped in such a way as to provide a clear distinction from those of other nations.”[41]

Or as Enns puts it

“The reason the biblical account is different from its ancient Near Eastern counterparts is not that it is history in the modern sense of the word and therefore divorced from any similarity into ancient Near Eastern myth. What makes Genesis different from its ancient Near Eastern counterparts is that it begins to make the point to Abraham and his seed that they God they are bound to, the God who called them into existence is different from the other gods around them.”[42]

Evaluating and responding to the hypothesis

I want to take some time now to think through the implications of what we’ve just observed in a little more detail. This will include some appreciation of helpful analysis along with some challenges to the conclusions drawn by Enns, Longman and others. I will go on from there to argue for an alternative explanation for both the commonality and the dividing lines between the Genesis Creation account and other stories of origin.

Appreciation – vital dividing lines

By setting the Genesis account alongside other ancient stories about where the Universe and humanity came from, we can see how different Israelite beliefs were from the World around them. We would miss those vital and illuminating insights if we rushed straight to defending Genesis 1-11 as factual, scientific history over and against Atheistic Evolution.

Remember that we constantly think in terms of how what we believe about God, Creation, Humanity and New Creation affects how we live. By setting the Biblical account alongside the other stories, we see sharp differences in theology. Whilst scholars talk about a “shared worldview” between Israel and other ancient cultures, it becomes clear that at most this is a mere shared cosmology (an attempt to understand the shape and structure of the Universe based from the observational tools available to them at that time). The Israelite-Jewish Worldview was, in fact, sharply different to the worldview of ancient civilisations. Let’s demonstrate that now by taking a closer look at ancient theology.

God: The gods of the ancient world were numerous, finite in their powers, liable to error and of questionable morals. Their primary concern was their own individual pleasure. This put them in conflict with one another. These gods are mortal.

Creation: The ancient world saw Creation as essentially the accidental by-product of the gods’ schemes and conflicts. Furthermore, the word was created from pre-existent matter. Indeed, we see a world shaped from the dead carcass of a failed goddess, though strictly speaking, the goddess Tiamet had already acted as a world, a place where the gods lived. Creation then is not so much about life coming from nothing as it is about a new mode of existence. Instead of gods inhabiting a living, powerful cosmos, mere mortals, the slaves of the gods, exist on a corpse.

Humanity: Humans exist to serve the gods.  In the Mesopotamian account, they become too noisy, too troublesome and have to be destroyed. In the Greek account, they are pawns in one god’s attempts to make mischief with the other gods. It is no surprise that in a Universe where the gods are constantly at war, constantly unreliable, that rather than humans being made for one another, they too are the cause of rivalry and trouble for each other from the off. In the Greek Creation account, rather than being a helper, the woman is made and sent to men to cause trouble.

New Creation: As I alluded to above, the world we live in is already a “new creation,” perhaps part of a cycle of creations. This creation is less than the former creation. The original creation was a living goddess inhabited by gods; the new creation is a dead goddess inhabited by men. 

Such narratives contrast sharply with the Bible’s account. There, we discover that there is one eternal and immortal God. Creation exists by his powerful word. God makes man to rule over his creation.  As God’s image bearers, humans are sent to fill and to subdue the earth giving a sense of ongoing creative work in which humans share. Yes, humans are made to work, but work is not a negative, lesser thing. God himself is a worker who plans, forms and evaluates. Human work is an act of partnership with the God who does not stand remote from his creation and his creatures but

“… exchanges the royal decree for a garden spade. The God from on high becomes the God on the ground, a down and dirty deity.”[43]

“God is found grubbing about in the soil, planting trees and fingering clay.”[44] Humans follow a pattern of work and rest that God himself has modelled. In the New Testament, we discover that work is something that marks you out as a loved son:

“So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”[45]

It is no surprise then to see Adam described in the New Testament as “the son of God.”[46] As we saw in our study of Genesis 2, human work cultivating the land is portrayed as a priestly duty, an act of worship.

Whilst we might not initially look to Genesis for a portrayal of New Creation, we do see something of the promise hinted at in these early chapters. Genesis 1-11 recognises that the Fall brings death and decay into God’s good Creation, but at the same time offers hope that

  • The enemy of God’s Creation will one day be defeated.[47]
  • That God will renew his Creation and a time will come when judgement will end.[48]
  • That God will call a people to himself, give them a place to live, bless them and bring blessing through them.[49]

This high view of Creation and confidence in a good and loving sovereign God is helpful not just because of the contrast it draws with the ancients and their beliefs, but also because it begins to show us a way in which the Genesis narrative offers a biting critique against modern stories about origins. We will return to this point later.

Challenging assumptions – just another myth?

I am not convinced by Enns’ argument that Genesis 1-11 is a derivative myth. I appreciate that in saying this I am going against what appears to be the dominant scholarly position. However, I am not convinced by the arguments made.

Enns begrudgingly concedes that it is possible that the Hebrew account is in fact the older story but quickly crushes the possibility.

“If pressed, one could attempt to mount the argument that the Israelite stories were actually older than all the ancient Near Eastern stories but were only recorded later in Hebrew. Such a theory -for that is what it is, a theory – would need to assume that the biblical stories are the pristine originals and that all the other stories are parodies and perversions of the Israelite original, even though the available evidence would be very difficult to square with such a conclusion. But could it have happened this way? Yes, I suppose one could insist on such a thing, but it would be very difficult for someone holding to such a view to have a meaningful conversation with linguists and historians of the ancient world.”[50]

Yet, here is the problem.  He hasn’t really argued sufficiently or convincingly for the primacy of the Mesopotamian stories. The whole basis of his argument is that the story of Marduk belongs to a culture that is older than the Hebrew culture and a language that is older, but that does not mean that the story itself is older.

Consider the following points:

  1. As we hinted at above, Babylonian mythology and theology was something that evolved.  The particular version of the myth which has Marduk as its central protagonist dates to somewhere between 1800 and 1200BC because that is when Marduk worship rose to prominence. However, presumably before that point, a version of the story would have existed with other deities or another deity taking centre stage as the hero of the story.
  2. The Hebrew Bible introduces Abraham, the father of the Israelites, as coming from Mesopotamia. Surely, he would have brought with him some form of origins story.  Given that Abraham’s departure from Ur would have predated the ascendency of Marduk, we should at least entertain the possibility that he would have brought with him an older form of the Creation story. It makes sense to suggest then that rather than the Israelite Creation account being dependent upon the story of Marduk that both accounts are rooted in a common source. At this point, we have to consider the possibility that Genesis 1-11 may well be as close or even closer to the original Mesopotamian origins story than the version that the Babylonians passed on.
  3. The presence of other Creation and Flood narratives from around the world such as the Aztec story that bear similarities to Ancient Near Eastern myths, but without the obvious cultural or literary dependency that comes with geographical proximity.

I would add to this three final points. First of all, by confusing a possible shared cosmology with shared worldview, Enns has skewed the evidence. The story of Yahweh as creator God belongs to a different worldview entirely. Enns is asking us to assume that to understand the Bible, we must leave our modern worldview and enter the shared world-view of the ancient world. However, whilst our cosmology may have changed and matured, the Worldview we inhabit as moderns is not that different to the ancient world. In our modern worldview, this is a world that has emerged out of chaos, a Universe built on re-used matter. This is a Universe in which humans exist not because of a purposeful loving plan, but by accident. In other words, our world view has more in common with that of those ancient civilisations. Babylonians, Egyptians, Canaanites and Greeks would have had to travel just as great an intellectual distance to cross from their worldview to that of the Old Testament as we do today.

Secondly, I want to suggest that Enns is too quick to try and incorporate myth into our list of acceptable literary genres for Scripture. His assumption is that God can and maybe even should accommodate himself to human communication by using mythology as an appropriate literary vehicle for revelation.

Now, on the one hand, we want to recognise that Scriptural infallibility already allows for poetic language and for language that accommodates to human understanding. We are not expecting a Scientific textbook in Genesis 1-11. This may include the possibility that the historical story is told in a figurative manner (for example by using days and lifespans to represent years and epochs).  We may not expect the same level of precision in a Biblical summary of events that we would see in a modern textbook. However, that is quite different from treating a genre as myth. Remember that under this analysis, myths are stories that humans create to answer the questions that they have. In other words, mythology is a “Revelation of the Gaps.” It fills in what we cannot know for certain. Why would God provide us with modified human stories when he is able to tell us for himself what happened? Whilst some authors may claim to allow for mythology within Scripture and still identify as Evangelicals, this is a deeply un-evangelical view of Scripture, God and his relationship to us. Scripture becomes a human attempt to understand God, us and the Universe. It is no longer God’s revelation to us.

Thirdly, the position taken by scholars like Enns incorporates a particular theory about the history and development of religion. The assumption is that religion has evolved from many competing gods to a belief in one single God (you can see where atheists will take the next step to at this point). Religion therefore involves evolution from complex to simple.

I am now going to argue that this is not the case and that better understanding of the history of religion starts with original monotheism.

An alternative proposal

What if the view that Enns so quickly dismisses is right? What if the original story is the one that we find in Genesis 1-11? This was the viewpoint taken by key Christian thinkers in history including spiritual and intellectual giants such as Jonathan Edwards. This approach assumes two things.

  1. Original Monotheism

Rather than humans starting out worshipping multiple gods and then evolving a more rationalistic religion with a single transcendent deity, this view argues that humans started out by worshipping one God. This God provided the explanation for everything. However, over time, our view of God fragmented. Humans began to look to different deities to account for different aspects of life. As human life became more tribal and fragmented, different tribes began to look to their own individual gods for security and protection.

Dan Strange in his magisterial Theology of Religion “For Their Rock Is Not Our Rock” argues for this position citing Wilhelm Schmidt (1868-1954), a key figure in the science of religion who also argued strongly for original monotheism:[51]

“Schmidt put an original monotheism on sound footing by being able to demonstrate that those societies that manifested a solid monotheism along with a solid moral code, with relatively little ritual, magic, or reference to the spirit world, were in fact those societies that reflect the earliest stages of human development.”[52]

Strange goes on to note that “it is difficult to find an African traditional religion that does not include some conception of a Supreme God, at least in memory.”[53] It is worth adding at this point that often seemingly polytheistic religions including Hinduism may offer many gods for worship but when you trace back, you discover that underpinning the many gods is a single, all powerful but distant deity.  The many immanent gods are needed because the transcendent deity is too remote to know.

As well as being supported by anthropological evidence as highlighted above, such an account makes the most logical sense. In our experience, rather than simplifying, knowledge, ideas and systems tend to move towards greater complexity and greater fragmentation over time, especially in the context of an increasing population.

Such a history of religion fits with a world where humans have turned their back on the one true God and so have been banished from his loving presence. Such humans still need to make sense of the World around them. Even within their history there will be memories, traditions and stories that speak of a Creator, but those memories become fragmented and distant as time goes by. This leads us to our second assumption.

  • Original Revelation

This narrative assumes that there was an original story about who God is and what he does. That story told the account of Creation, Fall and Redemption. This is sometimes referred to as the Priscae Theologia,[54] “a remnantal revelation of God disseminated and preserved universally in humanity but distorted and degenerated over time.”[55]

Now note two things. First of all, such an understanding of religion and revelation fits with the Old Testament narrative of humanity, not least the events at Babel where humans are scattered and their language confused. Strange notes that where Genesis 11 talks about their language or “lips” being confused that the idea here may be as much ideological as linguistic. It is not just that their language diversified, but also that their worship fragmented.

Secondly, this is exactly what Paul tells us in Romans 1. People exchanged the glory and worship of the living God for idols made in the image of created things. They exchanged truth for a lie. They suppressed God’s Revelation.

Now, if we can give an account for the origin of Genesis 1-11, and the divergent origin myths which fit with anthropological observations is the most logically coherent explanation and even more importantly reflects Scripture’s own testimony, then don’t we as Evangelicals have a strong responsibility to follow that line? Doesn’t this make the assumption that Genesis offers the original account worthy of more consideration than Enns et al are willing to give?

Why this matters

Why does all this matter? Well, I want to suggest it matters for 2 important reasons that we have already considered in earlier studies. First of all, we started out by asking “How do we Know?” and we insisted that we can only know truth about God, Creation, Humanity and New Creation through Revelation. It is important that when we start the task of understanding Creation that we don’t depart from that understanding and try to create our own account of origins.

Secondly, we have been learning about who God is. We have seen that God is good, wise, truthful and knowable. A Creation account that is reduced to mythology robs us of the God who speaks truth to us. We are left with a distorted account. We are left with a God at a distance who leaves us to guess what he is like.

A better understanding of what we have in Genesis 1-11 takes us back to the one true God who made us, who loves us and reveals himself and his plan to us.  It is no surprise that when people have rejected God that they have exchanged his Revelation for myths. Those myths may at times echo and reflect fragments of the original account, but they are poor and inadequate copies.

However, God is faithful. He has preserved a true and faithful memory of his original revelation and he constantly uses Scripture and the preaching of his word to call fallen and deceived humanity back to the truth.

[1] Herman Gunkel, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval era and the eschaton. A religious historical study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12. (Trans. K William Witney Jr. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2006), 6-7.

[2] Gunkel, Creation and Chaos, 14.

[3] Tremper Longman III, How to Read Genesis (Downers Grove, IL.: IVP, 2005), 73.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En%C3%BBma_Eli%C5%A1

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/En%C3%BBma_Eli%C5%A1

[6] Veronica Ions, History of Mythology (London: Chancellor Press, 2000), 19.

[7]Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (London: SCM, 1992), 55.

[8] Northrop Frye and Jay MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths: The Mythological Framework of Western Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 279.

[9] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 279.

[10] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 279.

[11] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 282-284.

[12] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 287.

[13] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 288.

[14] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 289-290.

[15] Frye and MacPherson, Biblical and Classical Myths, 290.

[16] Ions, History of Mythology, 19.

[17] Gunkel, Creation and Chao, 6-7.

[18] Gunkel, Creation and Chaos, 78.

[19] Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch, 57.

[20] Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2006),25.

[21] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 50.

[22] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 50.

[23] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 50

[24] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 51.

[25] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 52.

[26] Gunkel, Creation and Chaos, 80.

[27] Gunkel, Creation and Chaos, 80.

[28] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 26.

[29] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 27.

[30] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 40.

[31] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 41.

[32] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 41,

[33] Though Enns appears to have shifted firmly away from a traditional conservative Evangelical position on Scripture and Inspiration. See Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So: Why defending Scripture has made us unable to read it (New York, NY.: Harper One, 2014) He would probably not be recognised as Evangelical by many now. However, at the time he wrote Inspiration and Incarnation, he was still recognised as within the mainstream of Evangelical scholarship.

[34] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation,49.

[35] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 50.

[36] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 50.

[37] Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch, 57.

[38] Gunkel, Creation and Chaos, 80.

[39] Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch, 57.

[40] Longman, How to Read Genesis, 78.

[41] Longman, How to Read Genesis, 72.

[42] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 53.

[43] William P Brown, “Manifest Diversity: The Presence of God in Genesis” 3-25 in Nathan Macdonald, Mark W Elliot & Grant Macaskill (eds), Genesis and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 2012), 23.

[44] Brown, “Manifest Diversity,” 23.

[45] John 5:19.

[46] Luke 3:38.

[47] Genesis 3:15.

[48] Genesis 9:1-17.

[49] Genesis 12:1-3.

[50] Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation, 52.

[51] Strange, ‘For their rock is not as our rock’ , ‘For their rock is not as our rock’ An evangelical Theology of Religions (Nottingham: Apollos, 2014), 110.

[52] Winfried Corduan, cited in Strange, ‘For their rock is not as our rock’, 111.

[53] Corduan, cited in Strange, ‘For their rock is not as our rock’,

[54] C.f.  Strange, ‘For their rock is not as our rock’,108-114.

[55] Strange, ‘For their rock is not as our rock’, 108.

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