Recovered in 1849 by Austen Henry Layard in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal, a collection of thousands of clay tablets containing texts from the 7th century BC, the Epic of Creation details the story behind the human existence up to its creation.
The Enuma Elish, also referred to as Enûma Eliš, is about a thousand lines long and has been found, recorded in the Old Babylonian language, on seven separate clay tablets that, together, tell a story. Each of the tablets hold between 115 and 170 lines of Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform script, one of the earliest forms of the written world. Unfortunately, most of Tablet V has never been recovered but, aside from this, the text is almost complete.
The Epic of Creation is one of the most important sources for understanding the worldview of the ancient Babylonians, as it’s strongly focused on the Marduk, the late-generation god from ancient times, and his creation of humankind for its service of the gods.
In the Epic of Creation, a civil war between the gods was growing to a climactic battle against Tiamat, the goddess of the ocean, after she takes revenge for the death of her husband, Apsu. During this war, she creates 11 different monsters, her powers grow, and other gods join in her quest. She appoints Kingu, her new husband, to “supreme ominion”, allowing him to control her army. In a style similar to the Bible‘s tale of David and Goliath, Tiamat attempts to seek out a single god who could defeat her. Marduk answered this call-to-arms and, if victorious, was promised the position of “head god” by the other gods.
The battle is described in text that eerily similar to what could be perceived as modern day technology. An example of this can be seen as Marduk mounts a “storm-chariot drawn by four horses with poison in their mouths”, which may be an ancient reference to an aircraft with weaponry.
Eventually, Tiamat is defeated, and Marduk rips her corpse into two halves, which were fashioned into the earth and the skies. After this, Marduk creates the calendar, organises the planets and stars, and regulates the moon, the sun, and weather. The previous gods that had sided with Tiamat were initially forced into labour in the service of the Gods who sided with Marduk, until Marduk fought with Kingu.
After defeating the leader of the Anunnaki gods (Tiamat), he proceeds to defeat her new husband, Kingu, who holds the Tablet of Destinies. After his defeat, Marduk then takes the Tablet of Destinies, an item that allowed its possessor rule the universe, from Kingu, and assumed his position as most powerful being in the universe. After securing his position and reclaiming the Tablet of Destinies, Marduk uses the blood of Kingu to create humankind to bear the burdens of life, so that the previously slaved gods could be at leisure.
The religious and spiritual history surrounding Martuk does not stop there. A prophecy, rightfully called The Marduk Prophecy, describes the travels of Marduk from Babylon, but, most importantly, his prophesied return to Babylon as a messianic new king, after the empire is abandoned to famine and pestilence by the gods. Marduk also mentions bringing salvation to the city, and a terrible revenge on the Elamites for what they’ve done.
A copy of this recorded text was found in the House of the Exorcist at Assur, dating between 713 – 612 BC, and is closely related to another text called the Shulgi prophecy. After speaking on revenge, the text lists various sacrifices.
It is with information that many theorists have seen parallels between the Epic of Creation and that which you would read from the world’s most popular book, The Bible. One example of this being the blood of Jesus Christ (“King of the Jews”) being able to wipe the sins of mankind and allow acceptance into Heaven in relation to the epic’s tale of Kingu’s blood being used to allow previous gods acceptance into the land of leisure.
An additional comparison between introductions of The Bible and the Epic of Creation is below.
- In one interpretation of Genesis 1:1-3 bears a similar state of chaos before the act of creation
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
- Interpreted line-by-line is the introduction of the Epic of Creation
When the sky above was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamat, 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.