Using Midrash To Transform Creation Stories Into A Biblical Creation Story
The last post, How Many Biblical Creation Stories Are In Genesis 1-3?, ended with these words. “Rather than see Genesis 1-3 as one complete story, Genesis 1-3 are actually two examples of midrash in Hebrew tradition.”
The Hebrews didn’t invent creation stories. As far as we know, every human society has its own creation stories, answering the most basic questions about the origin of the Earth we inhabit, who we are, and how we got here, and what it all means. The ancient Hebrews had plenty of exposure to the creation stories of other people.
Two Genesis Creation Stories
The first creation story, Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-3, is clearly related in some way to the Babylonian creation story, “The Enuma Elish.” [For an excellent introduction and full translation of the Enuma Elish, see Enuma Elish: "When on High . . ." The Mesopotamian/Babylonian Creation Myth, By Dennis Bratcher.]
The second creation story, Genesis 2:4-25; 3:1-24, is the older story, which evokes some aspects of Greek creation stories and other creation stories of other peoples in the ancient world.
In this post, I’ll mention only the relationships between the Enuma Elish and the first Genesis creation story.
Midrash To Create A Better Story
And so what is the value of thinking of these creation stories as midrash? Rather than get bogged down in technical definitions of midrash, the primary reason there are two Genesis creation stories comes down to a theological conviction: ”We don’t like the creation stories we have. We can do better.”
The “Enuma Elish” Creation Story
In 1879, the “Enuma Elish” was published as the “Chaldean Genesis.” The discovery of this ancient creation story rocked the world in the late nineteenth century.
For some people, the obvious similarities were evidence that the Biblical creation story of Genesis 1 was not unique, but simply a rehashing of an older creation story. This ancient document “proves” that the Bible is a fraud inflicted upon gullible people.
For other people, these claims that the creation story of Genesis was derived from the Babylonian creation story gave one more reason to dig in and defend any such “attacks” on the truth of the unique Word of God by godless scholars.
However, if you look at Genesis 1 as a midrash on the “Enuma Elish,” you gain an entirely different perspective on the relationship between these two creation stories.
Genesis 1 takes the Babylonian story and retells it, with the idea that “we can do better than this.” Here is just one example of the difference.
The Creation Of Human Beings In The “Enuma Elish”
Why were human beings created in the Enuma Elish?
“Marduk decides to create human beings, but needs blood and bone from which to fashion them. Ea advises that only one of the gods should die to provide the materials for creation, the one who was guilty of plotting evil against the gods. Marduk inquires of the assembly of the gods about who incited Tiamat’s rebellion, and was told that it was her husband Kingu. Ea kills Kingu and uses his blood to fashion mankind so they can perform menial tasks for the gods” (Tablet VI, Enuma Elish).
In the “Enuma Elish,” human beings were created from the blood of a rebel god to do menial work for the gods. All in all, this creation story doesn’t give a very high view of the gods’ purposes for creating human beings, and it doesn’t give a very high view of human beings either.
The Creation Of Human Beings In The Genesis Creation Story
The first Genesis creation story is a midrash on the “Enuma Elish,” in which the Hebrew priests said in effect, “We can do much better than this.”
The Genesis creation story says that God created humankind in God’s image, gave them dominion over the Earth, and blessed them (Genesis 1:26-27).
You don’t have to believe that a word of this is “true” to recognize that this is a higher vision of the purpose and nature of humanity than anything you will find in the “Enuma Elish.” This is what midrash does. It seeks the higher purpose, the deeper meaning, the greater blessing, in sacred scripture.
And by the way, “The Story Transformation Process” is also a form of midrash, when you look at the stories of your life and ask yourself, Can I do better than this?
For Your Success,
Dr. Kalinda Rose Stevenson
The Story Transformer
Creator of “The Story Transformation Process”
[Cross-Published on FreedomFromBadBibleBullies.com]
This is the fourth post in a 5-Part series.