The Creation of Heaven and Earth: Re-Interpretation of Genesis I in the Context of Judaism, Ancient Philosophy, Christianity, and Modern Physics

By George H. Van Kooten | Go to book overview

CANONICAL AND ALTERNATIVE
CREATION MYTHS IN ANCIENT GREECE

JAN N. BREMMER


Introduction

Near Eastern peoples normally heard about the creation on ritual occasions:1Illuyankaš was the cult legend of the Hittite Purulli festival;2 Enuma elish was recited during the Babylonian New Year festival (ANET 331–334), and Egyptian cosmogonic myths were alluded to every day in the hymns sung during the temple rituals, which themselves were reenactments of the creation.3 In Greece, on the other hand, poems with (fragmentary) accounts of the creation could be performed at festivals but also at the courts of kings and aristocrats. In my contribution I will first present a brief analysis of what I call the canonical versions of the creation, since they occur in Homer and Hesiod, the traditional teachers of ancient Greek religion (§1). Secondly, I will discuss two accounts influenced by Orphism, a somewhat later, alternative current within Greek culture (§2). I will conclude with a discussion of the possibly Persian origin of the epigrammatic formulation of Genesis I:1 (Appendix).


1. Canonical versions

1.1. Homer

Whereas Near Eastern cosmogonic myths reach back at least into the second millennium, ancient Greece came rather late to its cosmogonies, just as Israel must originally have lacked a full cosmogony, given its virtual absence from Ugarit (below). Local Greek histories show that

1 For good surveys of creation accounts see H. Schwabl, 'Weltschopfung', in: Reat-
Encyclopadie der dassischen Altertumswissenschaft
, Suppl. IX (1962) 1433–1589; A. Merkt et ai,
Weltschopfung', in: DerNeue Pauly XII.2 (2002) 463–474.

2 See the beginning of the myth of Illuyanka in: H. Hoffner,Jr, Hittite Myths, Atlanta
1990, II;J.V Garcia Trabazo, Textos religiosos hititas, Madrid 2002, 82–83.

3 See S. Sauneron and J. Yoyotte, 'La naissance du monde selon I'Egypte ancienne',

-73-

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