Table of Contents
Chapter 6 - The Bible and Babylonian Creation Tablets
Chapter 8 - The Evidences of Antiquity
This does not necessarily mean that no gleam of light or truth remained in these accounts as transmitted by the Babylonians, because some of them seem to give indications of a widespread knowledge of an ancient revelation on this subject of creation. The Babylonians asserted that original knowledge had been received from 'on high', but such similarities as exist are so overlaid with crude polytheistic ideas that it is difficult to discover any reasonable references to creation on their tablets. Besides the Babylonian accounts already referred to, other fragments have been preserved which tell us of the ancient beliefs of the Sumerians and Babylonians regarding the creation of the world and man.
Berossus, a priest of Bel at Babylon, who lived at the time of Alexander the Great, translated into Greek some of the ancient history of the Babylonians, including the story of creation. Only fragments of this history remain, and what has survived is known to us only through second-hand sources; it is from the works of Eusebius and Josephus that we learn what he wrote. Since excavation has made us familiar with the story of Babylonia, we know-what was previously doubted -that he accurately reproduced the ancient Babylonian stories current in his day. The account of the primitive revelation which he copied from some ancient source reads in the version which has come down to us as follows: "In the first year (after creation) there appeared from the Erythrean sea which borders on Babylonia, a Being gifted with reason whose name was Oannes . . . his voice and language were human and his picture is still preserved. This Being, they say, abode during the day with mankind, eating nothing, he taught them the knowledge of writing and numbers and arts of every kind. He taught them to construct houses, to found temples, how laws should be made and the land cultivated. He explained seeds and harvesting of crops, things necessary to civilised life he taught men. Since that time nothing has surpassed this instruction. At sunset this being Cannes, went again into the sea. Oannes wrote a book (logos) concerning creation and citizenship" (see Cory, A; Ancient Fragments, and Rogers, Cuneiform Parallels to the Old Testament).
How much of this reflects the original story and how much later legend? Oannes is stated to have been the original instructor of mankind; an old Babylonian account said that "for six days he instructed Alorus (according to the story, Alorus was the first man who reigned) and when the sun went down he withdrew till next morning ". The Babylonians knew nothing whatever of a creation in six days; the reference is quite clearly to an occasion when six days' instruction was given and according to Berossus this instruction represents the original book of revelation.
These stories are very persistent in Babylonia and took various forms. They claimed very much the same for the god Ea as was claimed for Oannes, and there are sufficiently good reasons for saying that precisely the same functions are ascribed to both. When these Sumerian creation stories got into the hands of the Babylonian priests, they introduced their favourite gods into them and let their mythological ideas run riot. Ea is the personification of water, he is lord of Apsu, the celestial ocean as well as the terrestrial ocean. The Babylonians persistently represented their gods as having originated in the sea. Apsu is 'the house of wisdom' for out of it arises the wisdom of Ea. The temple at Eridu, situated at that time on the edge of the Persian Gulf, was called E-apsu, 'the house of the deep'. Ea was regarded by the Babylonians as the teacher of mankind. His name appears repeatedly on the Babylonian tablets of creation and in the version which comes from Eridu (one of the oldest habitations of man), Ea is the creator of mankind. The Babylonians had, at one time, Anu as god for the heavens, Enlil for the earth, and Ea as god of the water, hence the insistence of water as the abode of that god. Ea is regarded as the " creator of the race of men ", the " god of wisdom, the lord of knowledge. He knows all things". He is referred to as the divine man.
The Babylonian priests said that Nabu was the "god of writing" and that the art of writing was transmitted to man kind through him. Under the name of Nebo he is mentioned in the Old Testament (Isa. x1vi. I). On Babylonian tablets he is described as "the bearer of the tablets of destiny", thus identifying him with Ea. We are told that "when Ea created first man he gave him 'divine power, a broad mind . . . and lent him wisdom"' (jeremias, The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, Vol. I, P. 47). These tablets are referred to as the tablets upon which "the commandments of the gods and the life of man are written ". This mode of thought is constant in ancient Babylonian literature, though inextricably mixed up with crude ideas about their gods. In his Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion of the Ancient Babylonia (P. 373) Professor Sayce wrote, "A curious point in connection with the legend (of Cutha) is the description of chaos at a time when writing was as yet unknown and records unkept. Perhaps we may see in this an allusion to the fact that the Babylonian histories of the pre-human period were supposed to have been composed by the gods. "
That the Babylonians regarded these tablets of destiny as a revelation there can be little question, for we are told that "Enmeduranki, one of the seven primeval kings, received the secrets of Anu (Ea), the tablet of the gods, the tablet of . . . the mystery of the heaven, and taught them to his son " (Vol. I, p. 83). The title given on the colophon of this Babylonian tablet is "tablet of the secrets of the heaven and earth"; according to Berossus it is the celestial book of revelation. The similarity of this title and that in the Genesis colophon will be noted.
Perhaps one other thing should be mentioned, but not pressed. jeremias says (Vol. 1, p. 51), " Berossus, who knows of a multiple revelation of the Divine Wisdom in different ages of the Universe, relates in his Babylonian history of the Deluge that Kronos commanded Xisuthros (the Babylonian Noah) to inscribe everything, the beginning, middle., and end, in written signs and to deposit it in Sippar (the Babylonian priest Berossus could only mean tablets, perhaps the book of legends of Oannes is meant)." And Professor Langdon states, "The numerous Neo-Babylonian tablets published in Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian tablets in the British Museum probably come from Sippar or Agade. " There I leave a highly interesting Babylonian tradition about the transmission of early records through their Noah.
The place occupied by Cannes and Ea in Babylonian stories is, in Egyptian traditions, taken by Thoth. This god, whom the Egyptians represent as having a human body with the head of an Ibis, was regarded as the source of all wisdom. Sir E. A. Wallis Budge says that Thoth "was thought to be a form of the mind and intellect and wisdom of God who created the heavens and the earth, the picture characters, or hieroglyphs as they are called, were held to be holy, or divine, or sacred"; "He was lord of wisdom and possessor of all knowledge, both heavenly and earthly, divine and human" (The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, p. i). To him is ascribed the origination of speech, writing and civilisation. In the early days the Egyptians invented gods by the hundred, yet, amongst the most ancient of these, Thoth is represented as holding a writing pallette and a reed pen.
As far back as it is possible to go in Egyptian history, to the First Dynasty, they bad a perfected system of writing. At first this picture writing was probably not difficult to understand, but when it became semi-alphabetic, the signs lost much if not all their meaning and became far from easy to decipher. It was called picture writing because every sign is a picture of some creature or thing. It must be understood however that the Egyptians did not express their ideas merely by drawings or pictures, they wrote down words even in the earliest times, words which can be spelt and grammar which can be studied, just as one can Greek or Latin. The Egyptians maintained that it was Thoth who taught mankind to write, that he was also 'lord of the voice', master of speech. In Genesis i. 14 we read, "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs." The word used for 'signs' is 'thot' and means 'to mark', or 'describe with a mark'.
Eusebius in his Praebaratio Evangelica says in regard to the ancient Phoenician ideas of the origin of the world that 'Tauthe' (the Thoth of the Egyptians) "invented writing and recorded the history of the first cause ".
Another ancient document is "The Asatir ", the Samaritan Book of the Secrets of Moses. It was first translated from the Samaritan script and became known by Dr. Gaster's publication of it in 1927. He says, "I claim for the Secrets of Moses that it is the oldest book in existence of this kind of literature. " It was compiled, he says, " about the middle or end of the third century B.C.". The Samaritans hold the book in high esteem and ascribe it to Moses, and say that the old tradition "has been preserved unaltered down to our very days". In chapter iii. 9 of this book it states that Adam possessed three books and that " In seven years he (Noah) learned the three books of creation: the Book of Signs, the Book of Astronomy and the Book of the wars which is the Book of the generations of Adam". Dr. Gaster says (P. 36) that the Samaritans "declared the calculation of the Calendar to be a Divine revelation made to Adam, Genesis i. 14, where the luminaries are set into the heavens to be for 'signs, and for seasons, and for days, and for years', has been taken by the Samaritans to prove that from the very beginning . . . this knowledge had been imparted to Adam ". Much is written about the Book of Signs which was given to Adam (ii. 7), and Enoch is said to have " learned from the Book of Signs" which was given to Adam. In ii. 12 it is said that "Adam started reading the Book of Signs before his sons". Noah obtained possession of it (iii. 9) and in iv. 15 it is said that Noah gave it to Arpachshad, from Arpachshad the knowledge was handed down to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses (p. 36). This Book of Asatir shows that there were glimmerings of truth which had become overlaid by tradition. It contains absurd corruptions and in this respect is a manifest contrast to the first page of the Bible. If the Book of Signs was, as the Samaritans teach, that referred to in Genesis i. 14 then it is possible that "the Book of the Wars which is the Book of the generations of Adam" is our Genesis ii. 5 to v. i, which in our English translation is called 'the book of the generations of Adam'. It is significant that not a little of this section has to do with warfare, first against the tempter in Eden, next with the expulsion from Paradise, then the murder of Abet by Cain, resulting in the sentence against Cain a " fugitive and vagabond shalt thou be in the earth" (iv. 12) and Cain's, lament that "it shall come to pass that everyone that findeth me shall slay me". It is clear that as early as the third century B.C. the Samaritans held that the contents of the first chapter of Genesis had been communicated to Adam.
With the common Hebrew and Samaritan tradition about these ancient records as having been handed down to Noah, the oldest Babylonian accounts generally agree. Berossus writing also in the third century B.C. gives the Babylonian account of the ten rulers who lived 'before the Flood' and relates that the seventh (comparable with Enoch) was named Edoranchus, the equivalent of Enmeduranki. A fragmentary text which was found has been published by Zimmern (Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Bab: Religion) it describes how this person was given the secret of the gods Anu, Bel and Ea, the written tablets of the gods, "the mystery of the heaven and earth".
These ancient stories make it impossible to resist the oldest convictions of men that they have come down to us from the earliest times of mankind.
The question will be asked to whom was this creation narrative revealed in the six days? The Babylonians said it was to first man and this was known to the Egyptians. More than two thousand years ago the Jews had their own beliefs about it, and in more recent years some additional ancient books containing these beliefs have been discovered. One of these books has been lost to scholars for over one thousand two hundred years, it is known as The Book of the Secrets of Enoch, or as the title of one version renders it, "These are the secret books of God which were shown unto Enoch". It is known as the 'Slavonic' Enoch, and was discovered in 1892: parts of it were originally written in Hebrew and Greek. It is old enough to be quoted in the first century for it was written before the Christian era. Its chief interest to us is the information it gives of the beliefs about the revelation of the account of creation current in the days of our Lord. Amongst much irrational extravagance and senseless fantasy it purports to be a description of Enoch's translation to the seventh heaven and says, "And the Lord spake to me Enoch . . . I will tell thee now, even from the first, what things I created . . . not even to the angels have I told my secrets, nor have I informed them of their origin, nor have they understood my creation which I tell thee of to-day. . . . And I separated between the light and the darkness . . . and it was so and I said to the light 'let it be day' and to the darkness 'let it be night'. And the evening and the morning were the first day' . . . and thus I caused the waters below which It are under the heaven to be gathered in one place and the waves should be dried up and it was so. Then it was evening and again morning the second day." One version states, "On it God showed to Enoch all His wisdom and power: during all I the seven days how He created the powers of the heaven and earth and all moving things and at last man." Again chapter xxxiii, "And now Enoch what things I have told thee and what thou hast understood and what heavenly things thou hast seen upon the earth and what thou hast (one version has 'I have') written in the books by My wisdom all these things I devised so as to create them . . . do thou take the books which thou thyself hath written .- . . and go with them upon the earth and tell thy sons what things I have said to thee. . . . Give them the works written out by thee and they shall read them and know Ale to be the Creator of all and shall understand that there is no other God beside Me." On this Dr. Charles com ments, "This was the ancient belief of the Jews, from being, the scribe of God's works as he is universally in the Ethiopic and Slavonic Enoch." It was the popular belief that Enoch who prophesied of a second coming referred the first coming to the time when God came to Adam. It is stated thus, "Listen, my sons, In those days when the Lord came upon the earth for the sake of Adam and visited all his creation which He Himself had made, the Lord called all the cattle . . . " Again (chapter 1xiv), " For thou art before the face of the Lord for ever, since God hath chosen thee above all men upon the earth, and has appointed thee as the scribe of His creation of visible and invisible things. "
It is clear therefore that in Old Testament times the current belief was of a revelation to First Man and to Enoch and of 'heavenly tablets'. Constant reference is made to God' teaching man to write. This is further illustrated in another book called I Enoch or the Ethiopic Enoch which was written in the second century before Christ. It tells of Enoch the Scribe and much about the 'heavenly tablets' which had been written and passed down to succeeding generations by Enoch. It will be seen that the testimony which archaeology has to give is of considerable importance.
Unexpectedly, our investigation has brought us back to a revelation in the earliest times of man. Both the Hebrew, the Samaritan, the Greek writings current in Palestine during the two centuries before Christ, and the old Babylonian traditions, assert a transmission of writings about creation down from the beginning of time to Enoch and Noah.
Chapter 8 - The Evidences of Antiquity