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Enuma Elish – Ancient Sumer


The Enuma Elish is a Babylonian or Mesopotamian myth of creation recounting the struggle between cosmic order and chaos. It is basically a myth of the cycle of seasons. It is named after its opening words and was recited on the fourth day of the ancient Babylonian New Year’s festival. The basic story exists in various forms in the area. This version is written in Akkadian, an old Babylonian dialect, and features Marduk, the patron deity of the city of Babylon. A similar earlier version in ancient Sumerian has Anu, Enil and Ninurta as the heroes, suggesting that this version was adapted to justify the religious practices in the cult of Marduk in Babylon.

This version was written sometime in the 12th century BC in cuneiform on seven clay tablets. They were found in the middle 19th century in the ruins of the palace of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh. George Smith first published these texts in 1876 as The Chaldean Genesis. Because of many parallels with the Genesis account, some historians concluded that the Genesis account was simply a rewriting of the Babylonian story. As a reaction, many who wanted to maintain the uniqueness of the Bible argued either that there were no real parallels between the accounts or that the Genesis narratives were written first and the Babylonian myth borrowed from the biblical account.

However, there are simply too many similarities between the accounts to deny any relationship between the accounts. There are significant differences as well that should not be ignored. Yet there is little doubt that the Sumerian versions of the story predate the biblical account by several hundred years. Rather than opting for either extreme of complete dependence or no contact whatever, it is best to see the Genesis narratives as freely using the metaphors and symbolism drawn from a common cultural pool to assert their own theology about God

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