Can the text of Genesis be dated before Enuma Elish?

Are there any evidences for or against

I know a common idea is that the Genesis narrative, at the least, takes elements from other Near Eastern mythologies and puts them into its own monotheistic context.

Can it be shown Enum Elish took elements from Genesis?

What evidence is there that the Enuma Elish came before Genesis Chapters 1-3?

  • You might also be interested in the Eridu Genesis and Epic of Atra-hasis - all earlier and (potentially) similar creation accounts Jan 17 '16 at 8:55
  • I have nominated this question for re-opening because per the help center, "Historical context (with regards to a particular text)" is on topic. The text in question is Genesis and this is attempting to place the historical context of that text within Near Eastern Mythologies. We also have plenty of other questions that similarly situated which have been deemed on-topic. Feb 3 '16 at 8:06
  • Thanks @JamesShewey - the question has been closed because it does not cite a particular text. I would also argue that it seems like a largely opinion-based question, too - once we're talking beyond the earliest texts we have from any given culture, we get into the murky realm of oral tradition. It's nigh-impossible to say which cultures' oral traditions precede one another, so I seriously doubt it can "be shown that the converse isn't true". Three possible options for you: 1) Edit the question to include a text, 2) Start a Meta question wrt 'can it be answered', 3) start a discussion in chat.
    – Steve Taylor
    May 23 '16 at 7:48
  • @SteveTaylor - I believe that it was implicit that the Enuma Elish corresponds to not more than Genesis 1-3, but I have edited the question to make that explicit. As noted on the "primarily opinion based" closure texts, "Many good questions generate some degree of opinion" and states that we should not be seeking to close all questions that might have answers based on opinion, but instead if an opinion based question is purely subjective - "answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise." May 23 '16 at 15:54
  • For this question, it can be answered exactly four ways: Genesis came first, Enuma Elishe came first, it is impossible to tell, or JEPD means that some parts came before and some after. On the area 51 stats, it notes "On a healthy site, questions receive multiple answers and the best answer is voted to the top." in other words, we should have variety in answers, but, not too much variety as would be caused by purely opinion based questions. There is a great deal of facts, references and specific expertise on this topic. I have an answer I would like to add, but can't until it is re-opened. May 23 '16 at 16:01

We can not do this by comparing the dates of the oldest extant manuscripts/tablets of Genesis and Enuma Elish, because all we have in both cases are copies of copies. However, we can examine the Enuma Elish story to establish what period is referred to.

Leonard W. King (Enuma Elish, pages LXXII-LXXX) says of the actual tablets inscribed with portions of the creation series, we posses none that dates before the seventh century BCE. The tablets of this date were made for the library of Ashur-bani-pal in Nineveh, but it is obvious that the poem was not composed in Assyria at this time. The legends in the form that we have them were not intended to glorify Ashur, the national god of Assyria, but Marduk the god of Babylon, and it is clear that the scribes of Ashur-bani-pal merely made copies for their master of older tablets of Babylonian origin. He says evidence of the Creation legends at least as early as the ninth century BCE may be deduced from representations of the fight between Marduk and the dragon Tiamat, which was sculptured on two limestone slabs in the temple of Ninib in Nimrud. Further evidence that appears to take us back at least to the seventeenth century BCE is found in a text of the Babylonian king Agum. King then describes some much earlier texts similar to the Enuma Elish legends, and believes the legends behind Enuma Elish may date back to the first half of the third millennium or even earlier, although this takes us into the realm of speculation.

The question presupposes that parallels exist between the Enuma Elish and Genesis, so I do not propose to go over that ground. Biblical tradition says that Moses wrote Genesis around 1400 BCE, which date is after the time of the legends on which the Enuma Elish is based. Scholars date the actual authorship of Genesis to the first millennium BCE, with the first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) attributed to the Priestly Source, writing during or shortly after the Babylonian Exile. The evidence that the Enuma Elish already existed before the Genesis creation stories is quite strong.

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