Sunday, October 2, 2011

John Walton, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology: Review of Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, Walton presents two charts, one that contains "features" found in ancient Near Eastern creation sources and one that presents "elements" presented in those sources. By "features," I believe, Walton is talking about the motifs that appear in the various creation sources. These include things like references to the cosmic state before things were organized to function as something beneficial, naming as an act of creation (creation via fiat), separating as an act of creation (creation via activitat), separating heaven and earth, anthropogony, the creation of temples, and divine rest, etc.
The elements found in creation sources are just the things mentioned that are created: gods, heaven and earth, sky, animals, celestial bodies, etc.

Walton states that the idea of theomachy is absent from any Sumerian sources and is represented only once in Egyptian sources. He then states that it is only represented once in Akkadian sources, unless one takes later works into account. By "theomachy" here, Walton seems to be including the Chaoskampf motif, where the gods, or a particular god, must fight a demon(s) of chaos in order to achieve sovereignty over creation.

He also states that the creation through an act of separating is absent from Sumerian and Akkadian texts, but present in Egyptian texts. To what he is referring by "separating as an act of creation" I'm not sure. He says he's distinguishing this from the initial separation of heaven and earth (they were originally viewed as one entity), but his rejection that it exists in Akkadian texts, like that of Enuma elish, makes me think that he is viewing separation as something breaking off from something else, rather than splitting something in half (e.g., as Marduk does to Tiamat).

He states that divine rest is only associated with creation in two other accounts: one Egyptian (Leiden I 350) and one Akkadian (Enuma elish).

He then notes that the more common features addressed are the precreation state and theogony. Whereas Egyptian sources are concerned with divine origins, Mesopotamian sources are concerned with human origins. I think Walton here is likely talking about the goal of the accounts, i.e., where they lead, as Mesopotamian accounts address both divine and human origins, but their goal is often to bring us up to speed in regard to humanity, whereas Egyptian accounts do not do this (with the exception of the creation pericope found in the wisdom text, The Instruction of Merikare).
Also, by "precreation" Walton is attempting to move away from chaos language, likely, because scholars use the term "chaos" much like they do the term "myth" (i.e., in a variety of ways). Many confuse chaos with Chaoskampf, or perceive it as a time when the material machine has not yet been made. Obviously, these are ideas from which Walton wants to move away in his study.

As for the elements mentioned, in Egyptian sources, the primary elements are those having to do with the gods and the origins of the cosmos. In Sumerian literature, the prominent elements are heaven and earth, procreation, and various elements of society (cities, temples, etc.). He says that Akkadian literature has a good balance between the two.

Walton notes that only The Instruction of Merikare refers to man as created in a god's image (although VAT 17019 states that the man is a created image, it is not explicitly in respect to a deity, and may just refer to the physical appearance or shape of the man. Walton says he will discuss this in Chapter 3, and I am only guessing that he will distinguish the term as referring to something very different than that in Genesis 1.

My Thoughts


I thought Walton did a good job here of categorizing the evidence. I did this same thing in my M.A. thesis, although I did not divide between element and feature. I think these charts are a good way to see all of the evidence at once, and it provides a good foundation for Walton to begin his main argument in Chapter 3.

CONS: I think some things could have been clarified in this chapter, so that the reader would be able to figure out to what Walton was referring in the use of his terms. I was only able to do this because I'm heavily familiar with the literature, but someone who is not might get the wrong impression of what he is saying (I may still have myself). So a definitions page, or glossary in the back, would have been nice, since a lot of Walton's terminology is not necessarily traditional.

There is a minor point to be made in Walton's definition of theomachy in that I'm not sure if it includes all gods in conflict in terms of the creation of anything or just in terms of conflict in the creation of the cosmos. If the former, then Atra-hasis also contains theomachy in that the rebellious god Aw-ilu is subdued and slaughtered in order to create mankind. Also, if theomachy simply refers to conflict among gods that does not necessarily end in the death of a god, then the tradition found originally in Enki and Ninmah, where the gods are in rebellion due to their hard labor and seek a replacement labor force might also qualify as theomachy. Walton includes these among those texts that contain theomachy, so I'm a bit puzzled by his statement that only late Akkadian texts contain the idea and Sumerian texts are void of the idea altogether. However, if Walton is defining it as the latter, then the subjugation of the chaos serpent cannot be considered a theomachy either, as his subjugation is not one where he is destroyed. In this case, only Enuma elish and the Dunnu Theogony contain a theomachy. It is absent from the rest of the sources. So I'm not sure what criteria is being used to define the term, as there is no clarification of them [UPDATE: Walton does define it on pp. 68-69 as including pretty much any conflict the gods have with each other, demons, humans, etc.].

The one disappointment for me is that Walton does not include the Chaldean Cosmogony, otherwise known as The Bilingual Account of the Creation of the World by Marduk, perhaps due to its later origin. I would think this text would be incredibly important since both its features and elements have much in common with Genesis 1 (although if one dates Genesis 1 early rather than late, i.e., 5th Cent., then it may not seem as relevant; but if dated late, it is closer to the text of Genesis 1 than the Sumerian and early Egyptian material would be). I've included it below [UPDATE: He does quote a portion of this text in Chapter 3]:

nap-h}ar ma-ta-a-tu tam-tum-ma
i-na ša ki-rib tam-tim ra-t[u-um-ma
ina û-mi-šu Eridu e-pu-uš e-sag-ila ba-ni . . .
ilâni da-nun-na-ki mit-h}a-riš i-pu-uš
alu el-lum šu-bat t[u-ub lib-bi-šu-nu s[i-riš im-bu-u
dmarduk a-ma-am ina pa-an me-e ir-ku-us
e-pi-ri ib-ni-ma it-ti a-mi iš-pu-uk
ilâni ina šu-bat t[u-ub lib-bi ana šu-šu-bi
a-me-lu-ti ib-ta-ni
da-ru-ru zi-ir a-me-lu-ti it-ti-šu ib-ta-nu
bu-ul s[êri ši-kin na-piš-ti ina s[i-e-ri ib-ta-ni
íddiglat u ídpurattu ib-ni-ma aš-ri iš-ku-un
šum-ši-na t[a-biš im-bi
uš-šu di-it-ta ap-pa-ri k[a-na-a u k[i-šu ib-ta-ni
ur-k[i-it s[i-rim ib-ta-ni
ma-ta-a-tum ap-pa-ri a-pu-um-ma
lit-tu pu-ur-ša me-ru la-ah}-ru pu-h}ad-sa im-mir su-pu-ri
ki-ra-tu u k[i-ša-tu-ma
a-tu-da šap-pa-ri is[-s[a-as[-ru-uš
be-lum dmarduk ina pa-at[ tam-tim tam-la-a u-mal-li
[ . . . ] a-pa na-ma-la iš-kun
[ . . . . . . ] uš-tab-ši
[k[a-na-a ib-t]a-ni i-s[a ib-ta-ni . . .
[ . . . nam-maš-šu-u išt]a-kan.[1]

All the lands were sea,
The spring in the midst of the sea was only a channel.
Then Eridu was made, Esagil was built…
The gods, the Anunnaki, he divided into (two) equal parts,
They called (it) the preeminent city of the gods, the dwelling pleasing to them.
Marduk constructed a raft on the waters;
He created dirt and piled it on the raft.
In order to settle the gods in the dwelling pleasing them he created humankind.
Aruru created the seed of humankind with him.
He created the wild animals and all the animals of the steppe.
He created the Tigris and the Euphrates and set (them) in place,
Giving them a favorable name.
He created the grass, the rush of the marsh, the reed, and the woods;
He created the green herb of the field,
The land, marshes and canebrakes,
The cow and her young calf; the ewe and her lamb, the sheep of the fold;
The orchards and the forests, the wild sheep the ibex…to them.
He made an embankment along the sea.
. . . dried up (?) the swamp.
He caused to appear . . .
He creat[ed the reed], he created the tree . . .
He crea[ted creatures].[2]
Notice the rich amount of material here. If the omission was purposeful, I would be very interested as to why.
In any case, Chapter 2 is a good overview for those who have not studied the evidence before. Walton will now begin to present these features and elements as those things that make up the cognitive environment of the ancient Near East.

[1]Transliteration based upon Robert W. Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament (New York: Abingdon Press, 1926), 48-50.
[2]Clifford, Creation Accounts, 63.

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