Welcome to Misconceptions Clarified Episode VII; “Biblical Creation and Noah’s Flood Plagiarized???"
It is with great joy that Christian Way Ministries has this wonderful opportunity and platform (glory be to God) to briefly investigate this claim of plagiarism on creation and Noah’s flood in the book of Genesis from ancient Near Eastern texts such as the Enuma Elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh. Often times critics of the Bible assert that the accounts of creation and Noah’s flood are not only mythological, but also nothing short of fabricated, borrowed, and plagiarized stories. Many critics say that the biblical writers picked certain ancient Near Eastern accounts and advanced them to formulate their own version of creation and the flood. In addition, some critics believe that since the ancient Near Eastern texts predate the biblical texts of the Bible, that any similarities contained in the accounts of the Bible to these ancient stories must have been copied. Hence, the purpose of this episode is to see if there is any truth to this claim of plagiarism.
Now, before this episode goes forth in its brief investigation, the first order of business that needs to be considered is the actual dates of these ancient accounts in view. First, it's true that the ancient Near Eastern texts are in fact older than the surviving biblical texts. For example, the Enuma Elish tablets date to approximately 1100 BCE and part of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates to approximately 1800 BCE. In contrast, the oldest surviving text from the Hebrew Bible, the Ketef Hinnom also known as The Silver Scrolls, which contains a fragment of the Priestly Blessing from the book of Numbers dates to approximately 650 BCE. Moreover, there are many other older archaeological findings that confirm places, people, and events in the Bible, but the Ketef Hinnom is the oldest biblical scroll found thus far. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight one of the possible reasons why archaeologists have yet to find any other scrolls that predate the Ketef Hinnom. The material utilized by the ancient Israelites to record their history were written on scrolls, which is a less durable material than the clay tablets the ancient Near East used to record their stories. In Exodus 17:14, “The Lord said to Moses, write this on a scroll (cepher) as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it.” Therefore, the means by which these ancient cultures used to record their traditions is one explanation as to why archaeologists could uncover older ancient Near Eastern texts than the Old Testament.
On the other hand, even though the ancient Near Eastern texts predate the biblical texts, only a small portion of the Epic of Gilgamesh was dated around 1800 BCE, while the most preserved version of the seven tablets was dated way later around the 10th century BCE. Scholars also suggest that these ancient accounts are older than the actual dates given to the artifacts. Which means, that before writing came into existence, the only other method the ancients used to pass down their tradition was orally. The argument that the ancient Near Eastern accounts are earlier sources than the biblical accounts is very difficult to confirm with any kind of certainty when considering the oral tradition. Nevertheless, the question that remains to be answered is, "Are the biblical accounts of creation and the flood plagiarized from ancient Near Eastern texts?"
Again, it is important to note that just because the ancient Near Eastern texts predate the ancient biblical texts does not automatically render a guilty verdict of plagiarism for any similarities that exist between these accounts. Furthermore, the term plagiarism is indeed a modern concept that is defined as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.” Meaning, that in order to charge someone of plagiarism, (like how a teacher may charge a student for plagiarizing another student’s work without referencing it) there must be some kind of evidence for plagiarism beyond highlighting mere similarities. Like word for word sentences or paragraphs, like strong exact details of a particular account when examined side by side, or like someone witnessing another person copying someone else’s work. As a former seminary student, when the teacher gave the whole class an assignment to write about, there were bound to be resemblances between the students papers. However, in order for a student to be accused of plagiarism the teacher had to find the above criteria of exactness.
So, when there is an accusation of plagiarism, there must be specifics and real evidence, not mere similarities. Additionally, I’m certain that Christian Way Ministries isn’t the only organization who tackled this controversy of biblical plagiarism before, and even though there may exist some comparable features between this article and other articles, this by itself does not automatically render a guilty verdict of plagiarism. If this was the case, then whenever a particular event occurs, or whenever a particular topic is spoken on, there should only be “one” agency to report on it in order to avoid any hint of plagiarism, which is ridiculous to say the least. Some kind of higher authority (like a teacher to student scenario) has to point the finger on specific ways Christian Way Ministries plagiarized information as its own, and likewise archaeology has yet to unearth a single ancient source that points the finger at the biblical authors for any kind of plagiarism. Only modern day critics who are at minimum 25 to 30 centuries removed from when these ancient accounts were penned down are making such outlandish assertions!
With that being said, let’s briefly examine the creation/flood accounts of the ancient Near East and the Bible to see if any sort of plagiarism exists between the accounts themselves… First up is the Enuma Elish which contains the Seven Tablets of Creation, and for the sake of this episode, it will only quote the first 21 lines of the First Tablet, the first 25 lines of The Fifth Tablet, and first 16 lines of The Sixth Tablet. If you desire to read the whole Enuma Elish, please just click on this link; http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/enuma.htm.
The First Tablet:
“When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being...
Then Ansar and Kisar were created, and over them....
Long were the days, then there came forth.....
Anu, their son,...
Ansar and Anu...
And the god Anu...
Nudimmud, whom his fathers, his begetters.....
Abounding in all wisdom,...'
He was exceeding strong...
He had no rival -
Thus were established and were... the great gods.”
The Fifth Tablet:
“He (Marduk) made the stations for the great gods;
The stars, their images, as the stars of the Zodiac, he fixed.
He ordained the year and into sections he divided it;
For the twelve months he fixed three stars.
After he had ... the days of the year ... images,
He founded the station of Nibir [the planet Jupiter] to determine their bounds;
That none might err or go astray,
He set the station of Bel and Ea along with him.
He opened great gates on both sides,
He made strong the bolt on the left and on the right.
In the midst thereof he fixed the zenith;
The Moon-god he caused to shine forth, the night he entrusted to him.
He appointed him, a being of the night, to determine the days;
Every month without ceasing with the crown he covered him, saying:
"At the beginning of the month, when thou shinest upon the land,
Thou commandest the horns to determine six days,
And on the seventh day to divide the crown.
On the fourteenth day thou shalt stand opposite, the half....
When the Sun-god on the foundation of heaven...thee,
The ... thou shalt cause to ..., and thou shalt make his...
... unto the path of the Sun-god shalt thou cause to draw nigh,
And on the ... day thou shalt stand opposite, and the Sun-god shall...
... to traverse her way.
... thou shalt cause to draw nigh, and thou shalt judge the right.
... to destroy..."
The Sixth Tablet:
“When Marduk heard the word of the gods,
His heart prompted him and he devised a cunning plan.
He opened his mouth and unto Ea he spake
That which he had conceived in his heart he imparted unto him:
"My blood will I take and bone will I fashion
I will make man, that man may
I will create man who shall inhabit the earth,
That the service of the gods may be established, and that their shrines may be built.
But I will alter the ways of the gods, and I will change their paths;
Together shall they be oppressed and unto evil shall they....
And Ea answered him and spake the word:
"... the ... of the gods I have changed
... and one...
... shall be destroyed and men will I...
... and the gods .
... and they...”
Now compare for yourself the account of Genesis 1:1-31 side by side which you can click on the link to read for yourself.
Now, after examining the Enuma Elish and the Genesis account of creation side by side, where is the proof of plagiarism? Where are the word for word sentences or paragraphs? And, where are the verbatim exact details between these accounts? First, before Marduk and the details of creation enter the story in the Third Tablet, there was confusion and many wars between the many gods in the Enuma Elish. In contrast, Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and before the beginning there was nothing else recorded. No war, no other gods begetting other gods, no clashing of gods, no confusion, no chaos, or nothing else recorded or existed before God (Elohim) brought it into existence. Another major difference between the two accounts is Tiamut the mother of heaven and earth who is defeated later in the Fourth Tablet; “And unto Tiamat, whom he had conquered.” So, here we have the so-called “creator” god Tiamat in the Enuma Elish who is defeated by a “created” god Marduk and becomes the chief god. The major difference is that the one who beget the unnamed heaven and the unnamed earth (Tiamat) in the beginning is later defeated in the Enuma Elish, whereas the creator God (Elohim) of the Bible is the only God of the whole Bible who can never be defeated and who has absolutely no rival. Isaiah 45:5 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides me there is no God.”
Additionally, this episode can go on and on between the differences contained in both creation accounts like the names of the gods in the Enuma Elish is obviously different from the name of God (Yahweh Exodus 3:14) in the Bible.
-The creator god of the Enuma Elish is a mother god whereas the creator God (Elohim) in the Bible has masculine connotations in the Hebrew etymology.
-The Enuma Elish speaks of multiple gods involved in creation whereas Genesis speaks of only one God (Elohim) who is responsible for all creation.
-Marduk “ordained the year and into sections he divided it; for twelve months he fixed three stars,” whereas Genesis 1:14 says, “let the lights serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.” There’s nothing in Genesis 1-2 where God ordains a divided year into twelve months.
-Marduk caused the “Moon-god to shine forth,” whereas God (Elohim) created the moon as a lesser light to govern the night.
-Marduk spoke, “My blood will I take and bone will I fashion, I will make man,” whereas Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make mankind in our image and after our likeness,” and Genesis 2:7 says, “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground (not from my blood and bone) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
-Marduk says, “I will alter the ways of the gods, and I will change their paths; together shall they be oppressed and unto evil shall they…,” whereas Genesis 1:31 says, “God (Elohim) saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
-In the Genesis account, evil comes unto the scene from human disobedience to God after He saw everything He created was very good, not the other way around like the Enuma Elish.
Again, after considering the above references the charge for plagiarism is just not present when comparing the two creation accounts side by side. Yes, there are some minor similarities such as a created world, seven days, mankind, a moon, sun, and stars, but in the gritty details and even on the surface, they are vastly different. Furthermore, the Enuma Elish contains no hint of actual history in its account, whereas Genesis 2:13-14 contains examples of two major historical rivers known as the Tigris and the Euphrates along with two geographical locations in the land of Cush and Ashur. The Enuma Elish contains no genealogies of mankind from the very first man onward, whereas the Genesis account provides multiple detailed genealogies of the very first man and how long each of them lived. Lastly, the Enuma Elish doesn’t even provide a name for the very first created man. So, this charge of plagiarism by critics has no solid evidence to support their claim outside of the mere similarities, which by itself does not warrant a guilty conviction of plagiarism.
In regards to the Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah’s Flood in Genesis 6-7, below is a snippet of both accounts side by side. If you want to read the Epic of Gilgamesh in full, please feel free to click on the link. http://www.aina.org/books/eog/eog.pdf
“The ground-space was one acre, each side of the deck measured one hundred and twenty cubits, making a square. I built six decks below, seven in all, I divided them into nine sections with bulkheads between.”
Genesis 6:15-16 says, “This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.”
-Noah’s ark was more than doubled the size and half the decks of Gilgamesh’s boat. Big difference!!
“On the seventh day the boat was complete”
-Genesis doesn’t specifically say how long it took Noah to build the ark, however, from Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 7:6 when Noah entered the ark, it was approximately less than 100 years, not seven days. Even with modern technology and the latest equipment, it took Ken Ham and his crew approximately 2 years to build the Ark Encounter located in Kentucky per the specifications outlined in the Bible. For the Epic of Gilgamesh to state that an acre-sized boat measuring 120 cubits with six decks was built in only 7 days is as unrealistic as it gets no matter the manpower and technology. Big difference!!
“I loaded into her all that I had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the beast of the field both wild and tame, and all the craftsmen.”
-In Genesis 7:7 only Noah, his wife, his sons, and pairs of clean and unclean animals entered the ark, not Noah’s craftsmen too. Big difference!!
“Then Ishtar the sweet-voiced Queen of Heaven cried out like a woman in travail: "Alas the days -of old are turned to dust because I commanded evil; why did I command thus evil in the council of all the gods? I commanded wars to destroy the people, but are they not my people, for I brought them forth?”
In Genesis 6:5-7 says, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.”
-Unlike the Epic of Gilgamesh where Ishtar commanded evil, the reason for the flood in Genesis was because of mankind who was only evil “all-the-time.” Big, big difference!!
“I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge. One day she held, and a second day on the mountain of Nisir she held fast and did not budge. A third day, and a fourth day she held fast on the mountain and did not budge; a fifth day and a sixth day she held fast on the mountain. When the seventh day dawned I loosed a dove and let her go. She flew away, but finding no resting-place she returned. Then I loosed a swallow, and she flew away but finding no resting-place she returned. I loosed a raven, she saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, she flew around, she cawed, and she did not come back.”
In Genesis 8:4 it says, “and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat,” not on the mountain of Nisir.
-According to the Epic Gilgamesh it took 6 days for the flood to reside, whereas as in Genesis 8:3-4 it took Noah's flood 150 days to recede, which is more realistic for a "global" flood. Furthermore, in Genesis 8:6-12 Noah sent out a raven first, and then sent out a dove three times before the dove did not return, whereas Gilgamesh sends out in order a dove, a swallow, and a raven. Again, big difference!!
In conclusion, the exaggerated claim that the Bible plagiarized its accounts of creation and the flood from ancient Near Eastern texts contains not one solid piece of corroboration. After examining each account side by side, there are way too many differences than there are similarities. Mainstream scholarship is practically in agreement that the ancient Near Eastern texts are mythological in nature because they hardly contain any historical data that can be validated. On the other hand, even though some do consider the Bible to be mythological, there is a far greater consensus in academic circles that the genre in the book of Genesis is largely historical narrative, which again is, a big difference. The creation of the universe, the creation of mankind, along with the flood in the book of Genesis are very descriptive and differ from the mythological Near Eastern accounts on several major fronts as mentioned above.
Lastly, in order to prove that any kind of plagiarism took place, there has to be some type of evidence to support such a claim, which would be extremely difficult if not impossible to prove simply because we are so far removed from when these accounts were written. To say that the Bible plagiarized from the ancient Near Eastern texts is just a general unsubstantiated claim with no specifics. If ancient history itself didn't provide any external charges of plagiarism, then for anyone to make an assumption of plagiarism after 30 centuries is practically in vain. That's like trying to convict somebody for a crime 3 thousand years later... To say that the mere existence of minor similarities between these accounts is all that's needed lacks the ample support to convict either one of plagiarism. That’s also like saying, a person looks like this other person who committed a crime, and therefore because that person looks like the other person, it’s solid proof that the look-alike person committed the crime. That’s not how it works in a courtroom setting! Yet, this is exactly what critics do with the accounts contained in the Bible. If the Bible even has a small scent of similarity to any other document in antiquity, the critics gavel is immediately hammered down for plagiarism. This is not true objective research, but just an outright attempt to reject God and the Bible. I mean, for all we know the ancient Near East could have plagiarized from the oral tradition of the ancient Israelites, but there is just no way to prove such a claim unless archaeology discovers something to confirm it. Therefore, the verdict according to the available evidence examined is simply a unanimous, "not guilty!"
For more information on where we received some of our information, please click on the links below. Thank you for tuning in, and hopefully you are more informed on this matter of controversy. God bless all the Lord’s people!
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