Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

1 / Atrahasis: An Introduction

1982

Stories of human creation are often incorporated into larger mythic traditions. Some, for instance, are used in myths which describe the creation of the entire cosmos; others are used to introduce histories of the human race. Enuma Elish exemplifies the former idea in which human creation helps put order into the cosmos. Marduk creates the human race in order to relieve the defeated gods of their onerous duties. After this creation, all the gods unite to celebrate Marduks accomplishments since he has finally stabilized the divine world. (See Enuma Elish VI: 1–44.) Likewise, the Israelite Creation Hymn uses a variation on this pattern. The human race is the final step in God's well-conceived plan of a complete cosmos. Human beings are the crowning glory of creation and are given dominion over the earth. (See Genesis 1:26–28.)

Both of these myths, then, place the human race in the scheme of cosmic creation. But another mythic tradition uses stories of human creation as a starting point rather than a conclusion and traces the earliest history of the human race. This tradition usually combines a number of previously independent stories into a continuous account although the sequence of stories may vary from one account to another. Such primeval histories begin, of course, with the creation of the human race. And they often continue with a Utopian era in which human beings prosper and a degenerate era which brings divine displeasure. Finally, they end with the gods destroying the human race (frequently by a flood) and renewing it after the destruction.

Like the cosmic tradition, this pattern can be seen in several different cultures throughout the Mediterranean area. The early chapters of Genesis provide the best known example: the human race is created in the story of Adam and Eve (2:4–3:24); the Utopian period is suggested by the genealogy of the early patriarch (5:1–32); the decline is found in various places including the story of Cain and Abel (4:1–26); and finally the

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