Enma Elish

The Babylonian Creation Epic

 

When on high, Heaven had not yet been named,

 and below, the earth was not mentioned by name ...

 

  1 So begins the Babylonian Poem of Creation, known as Enma Elish because of its first words. The text has been almost entirely rebuilt through some sixty fragments of clay tablets written in Akkadian language and cuneiform characters. Many copies of this poem were in the archives of the major cities of the ancient kingdoms of Assyria and Babylon, particularly in the famous library of Ashurbanipal (668-627 BC), the largest and most ancient of early times, found in the city of Nineveh, today Kuyunjik, a city near Mosul in Kurdistan. There, were recovered about 30,000 tablets and fragments, corresponding to about 10,000 documents, mainly related with the traditional literary texts of the Babylonian wisdom, such as those now known by the names of Enma Elish, Atra-hasis, The Epic of Gilgamesh and many others.

  The period of the composition of the Enma Elish has been credibly established by scholars at the time of the first dynasty of Babel, but there are no safe references, and some date it in the eighth century BC, in the time of the Assyrian king Tiglatpilsiter III who also reigned over Babylon, and say that the author is not Babylonian, but Assyrian.

  The poem was written for the ritual of the fourth day of New Years celebration (Akitu), held in the spring.

 

  2 The biblical description of the beginning has with the mythological cosmogony, similarities that must be recognized. This raises the question of whether the Bible depends on mythology or if mythology depends on the Bible; however, the logical thesis is that the mythological stories come from a distortion of the original narrative, and that the book of Genesis preserves the oldest and most genuine account of that event, written down in the period of the exodus from Egypt.

 

  3 The major Mesopotamian cosmogony stories are two:

 The first, the Enma Elish, is usually compared to the narrative on the first chapter of Genesis.

 The second is the Atra-hasis, with passages that correspond to some from the second chapter of Genesis.

  But despite the similarities and sometimes remarkable correspondences between biblical narrative and Mesopotamian myth, there are between them sharp contrasts on the background values and in the approach of the Creator. The evolutionary thesis in this field, says that from confusing and messy stories emerged an orderly account, the biblical report. However, the fact that the spreading of the original revelation among the peoples, may have caused its distortion to satisfy their perspectives and imagination is more logical and consistent to human condition, as the apostle Paul says when he writes: What may be known about God is evident; he himself reveals it, because his invisible qualities, his eternal power and his divinity are clearly seen from the creation of the world and understood by the things he made. But having realized that God exists, they have not given him glory nor have shown him gratitude, raving in their reasoning, they have obscured their clumsy understanding and considering themselves wise, they have strayed and have replaced the glory of the immortal God by images resembling mortal men, birds, quadruped animals and creeping creatures. (Romains 1:19 ... 23)

  These are two examples of some similarities between the Genesis and the Enma Elish poem.

 

Tablet No. 1; lines 1 to 9.

 It refers to the creation of the Earth

 

 

Transliteration and translation of the text:


1 E-nu-ma e-li la na-bu- a-ma-mu

2 ap-li-i am-ma-tum u-ma la zak-rat

3 Apsma ri-tu- za-ru-u-un

4 mu-um-mu Ti-amat mu-al-li-da-at gim-ri-u-un

6 gi-pa-ra la ki-is̟-s̟u-ra s̟u-s̟a-a la s-̕

7 e-nu-ma ilni la u-pu-u ma-na-ma

8 u-ma la zuk-ku-ru i-ma-t la i-ma

9 b-ba-nu--ma ilni ki-rib a-ma-mi

 

1      When on high, Heaven had not yet been named,

2      and below, the earth was not mentioned by name,

3      Nothing existed except Aps the ancient, its creator

4      and the chaos Tiamat from which everything was created.

5      The waters were stirred in a single whole

6      and the pastures were not yet formed nor were the cane fields.

7      When no star could still be seen

8      none had a name; when targets were not yet established,

9      then, the stars were made visible in the midst of heaven.

 


Tablet No. 5; lines 14-22.

 Makes reference to the creation of Nannar, the moon, and of the commission entrusted to it by God, which is to measure and monitor time and adorn the day and the night

 

 

14  ar-ḫ̮i-šam la na-pat-ka-a ina a.gi-e u-s̮ir

15  i-na rš arḫi-ma na-pa-ḫi i-na ma-a-ti

16  k̟ar-ni na-ba-a-ta ana ud-du-u 6 u-mi

17  i-na mi 7-kan a-ga-a šum-šu-la

18  umu 14-tu lu-u šu-tam-ḫu-rat meš-li-u

19  e-nu Šamaš i-na i-šid šame .-ka

20  .-ti šu-tak̟-s̟i-ba-am-ma i-ni ar-.-us

21  . A-na ḫar-ra-an Šamaš šu-tak̟-rib-ma

22  ina umi.kan lu šu-tam-ḫu-rat-ilu Šamaš lu ša-na-.

 

14      Every month without rest, you will give signals with your disk

15      at the beginning of the month, when you start to illuminate the earth,

16      with the brightness of your horns you will indicate the first six days.

17      The seventh day you will show half of your disk;

18      the fourteenth day you will oppose the sun; it will be half of the month.

19      When in the east you join the sun,

20      your disk diminishes and begins to decrease,

21      in the day of darkness you will approach the path of the sun.

22      In the twenty-ninth day you will come back at sunset.