Religion Essays - The Bible and its Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

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Differences between the Bible and its Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

The creation story in the Bible begins with God as the creator and is eternal, without a beginning or end, His existence is perpetual, God is the creator of this universe. There are many similar stories of creation presented in the Genesis and in enuma elish that believes that creation involves the then goddess Tiamat. According to the Bible The creation started and was completed in seven days as also depicted by the Genesis. The Bible presents that God created the heaven and earth on day one, the earth was only darkness, God created light and separated light from darkness to name it day and night. This is in parallel to the study of Genesis in which some similarities are shown as the creation story in enuma elish is presented, it states that, there is divine spirit that created the universe, then came the creation of water, The Hebrews called it Deep and the Babylonians called it Tiamat which means deep, then came the creation of dry land, then the creation of man and last the divine spirit rested after creating man both, Genesis version and the Babylonian versions of creation are similar and parallel to that mentioned in the Bible. According to the Bible God is the maker and creator of the universe, as written in the Genesis first God created heaven and earth, day and night (Gen.1:1-5), He caused the universe out of nothing , then He made day and night on the second day, (Gen:1:6-8), on the third day He separated the water and dry land and ordered trees and fruits to grow, (Gen.1:9-13), days, years, and seasons evening and morning were made on the fourth day.(Gen.1:14-19), also sun moon and stars were made, creatures started appearing on the fifth day,(Gen.20-23), along with all kinds of creatures God made male and female, He made man out of dust and breathed life in him through his nostrils and man became a living being.(Gen.2:7)in all the parallels the man is the last creation, this is the sixth day of creation on the seventh day God takes a rest from all the work, He blessed the seventh day the completion of creation.(Gen.2:1-3).this study is a parallel to the Bible as it tells the same story. The Genesis and Bible are monotheistic and Babylonian version is polytheistic this is an important difference.

The main difference between the Bible and its Ancient Near Eastern Parallels, according to stories is that Bible says man was made from clay and is dominant on all living creatures. The Babylonian say that man was made from the blood of gods so man can serve gods and do their work. The Sumerian version says man springs out of the earth and is made of clay, the Mesopotamians believe that human was conceived by a divine father according to Bible and Genesis, it says God created only one human pair and all human beings are descended from the pair, there is a difference in the ancient parallels as to the work of man, they believe man was created to do gods work so they can rest whereas Bible relates differently, it says man was created to dominate all living beings The main focus of the Bible is on the story of Noah and Exodus the book after the Genesis is about the removal of Hebrew people from Egypt. The Bible also says that Moses was the right man in God’s eyes and Moses is chosen to lead the Hebrew people out of oppression in Egypt. The Exodus narrates the stories from the Egyptian, Assyrian, Canaanites and Babylonian cultures.

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One of the most common flood stories is the Biblical flood, the story of Noah’s Ark and in another similar flood story is the Epic of Gilgamesh, in both the stories the reason for creating flood was to punish mankind. Bible and its Ancient Eastern Parallels show similarity the Bible and Koran both have flood stories and these are known by the whole world ,The difference in this parallels is that in Koran, Noah asked God to flood the earth, in the Bible God told Noah about his plan to flood the earth because of man’s corruptions and sins.

In Gilgamesh the flood is seen in a dream by Utnapishtim and he is told that the world will be flooded because of man’s sins. The stories of these cultures are the Near Eastern Parallels to the Bible , in all these the divine power destroys man, the secret is told to a hero and he takes his family and living creatures with him and the boat rests on a mountain, a bird is sent out .

Stories of creation and the floods are stated in the cultural heritage of Ancient Near East, there are similarities and differences in the foundation stories told in the Egyptian, Persian, Greek, and Hebrew Cultures, the physical structure of the universe as outlined in the Genesis parallels to the Near Eastern culture and the Bible reflects many aspects of the Mesopotamian culture. The other area of Near East is Arabia which has a great influence on the Bible, the legend of the Garden of Eden depicts the desert oasis with rivers flowing out of nowhere and emptying in the desert sands.In the Bible the prophets often refer to the nomadic life of their people.The Bible has many characters who are like the Arabs, for instance Jephthal is more an Arab than an Israelite, his sacrifice of his daughter is parallel to the Arabian Custom. This parallel shows that Arabia had a lot of influence on the Bible and it is the back ground of Hebrew religion.

The basic one theme is that God is the Creator and maker of all that is in the Universe, in the Genesis chapter one it is said all flesh is not the same, men have one kind of flesh, animals have another and birds have another and fish have another ,God has given body to all and has given different flesh to all. God is the starter of time, space, life of man and animals, God’s sovereignty is over all things, birds relate to the world in different manner than do the plants, man reacts differently to God than do the animals. This is the Biblical difference that is core of all that is made by the creator.The Bible is the Truth that we all

accept it . The Bible relates all that God does or orders to be done these are the parallels of Near Eastern cultures. The Hebrew Bible has strong parallel to the Ancient Near East cultures. Mesopotamian culture is present in the Bible, evidences show that cultural ideas and customs are present in the Bible and literature of the Bible is dependent on the literatures of the dominant cultures this is evident to Old Testament customs and traditions,Bible has been dependent on revelations and inspirations thus there are many similarities and differences that are seen in the Bible and the Near Eastern parallels. The study of literature

of the Near East is necessary in order to make the cultural values, the Bible is influenced by these cultures. The culture of the Near East is parallel to the Biblical culture .

Mesopotamian culture is depicted in the Bible, as texts were added to the Bible it was full of writings , the ideas were genuine and parallel to the old testament as it were from the Mesopotamian origin.The Bible is also influenced by the Assyriology, and Egyptology as both are the Near East cultures.

Exodus is the book of Pentateuch according to the Hebrew Bible, it is continuation of Genesis, it was written by Mosses, Israel was in Egypt during that period , the book starts with Mosses, his life, his work, Mosses was a great leader, as God chooses him to lead the Hebrew people away from the Egyptian people as they were treated badly and cruelly by them. Moses tries to get his people free from the Egyptians for doing this he has to face many hardships and sacrifices. His faith is tested many times and God was always there to help him and God helped Mosses with miracles, this story is parallel to the Near East stories.The

Pentateuch is written by Mosses, and it is accepted as the ‘truth’, the story of Mosses is a parallel to the Biblical story, God says to Mosses to help the Hebrew people and God asked him to worship him on the mountain he was standing on and God said he was there to help him, these stories are similar to the stories mentioned in different Near Eastern cultures.

Moses lived in Midian, he a was a simple man , shepherd in Midian now he was given a task

By God ,which he had to fulfill, Mosses was called by God and given the task, this is in parallel to Bible as God always calls people. The stories of Jesus in the Gospels are based on the Gilgamesh Epic, and the passion of Christ was based on Marduk, these stories are parallel to the Near Eastern stories. In Babylonian culture a myth ical man named Adapa is found, which is similar to the story of the fallen man Adam of the Biblical literature. Both Adam and Adapa had gained knowledge of power that was divine and this knowledge caused Adapa to break the wings of the wind and , Adam and Eve were tempted by this knowledge, to become like God, knowing about good and evil, by eating from the forbidden fruit, both were punished for disobeying .Adapa fell very sick and suffered from diseases, Adam was to toil and see Eve suffer the pain of child birth. These stories are parallel to the Biblical stories. Thus, the study of the Near Eastern cultures help us to find the differences and similarities to understand Bible.



Durant.Will, The Story of Civilization Our Oriental Heritage (1942)

Published by Simon and Schuster (pg. 294-349).