In The Evolution of Adam Peter Enns moves from a juxtaposition of the biblical creation narrative with the Enuma Elish (Pt. 16) to a reminder that the biblical version is concerned with differentiating Israel’s God from the gods (Pt. 17) to a juxtaposition of the biblical flood story with other ancient near east versions like Gilgamesh and Atrahasis. The point he is trying to make is a simple one: Israel’s creation and flood stories aren’t history for the sake of history or science for the sake of science. These stories are meant to differentiate Israel’s theology from their neighbors.
(1) This story has been deeply impacted by nineteenth-century discoveries.
(2) It is conceptual tied to the creation narrative. (Kindle Location 1229-1250)
Since geology seems to have closed the door on a global flood (along with other problematic aspects of the story like the ship’s size, the amount of animals on board, etc.) Enns ponders the function of this story. In order to understand it he juxtaposes it with the aforementioned Gilgamesh and Atrahasis. Some similarities include a large boat, a “Noah” figure, the boat resting on a mountain, and the use of birds after the flood. The similarities are too much to ignore. Enns argues that the Genesis story is dependent upon these older stories. Therefore, “We must remember too that the flood story, like Genesis 1, has a polemical dimension vis-a-vis its Mesopotamian antecedents.” (Kindle Locations 1275-1296)
Enns argues that there are important differences between the Hebrew story and these others. God is not tired and grumpy when he brings the flood. Rather, Genesis 6 shows humanity had become very corrupt through the “sons of God” intermingling with human women. Genesis 6.5 indicates that humanity was utterly corrupt, save Noah’s family. If humans are corrupt they threaten the order of creation that God established when he conquered the chaos in Genesis 1. In summary Enns exalts the biblical narrative over its counterparts by writing, “The flood is not a divine fit of rage but, theologically speaking, the proper response.” (Kindle Location 1296-1316)
Creation stories, flood stories, and other stories that sound like the narrative of Israel’s neighbors indicate that Israel took those stories and reworked the theology. Enns thinks there may have been some catastrophic flood in Mesopotamia around 3000 BC that evolved into the stories we find today. The people wanted to know what the gods had to do with it, hence these stories. Israel wanted to make their unique point so they adopted the stories.
In my next post I will finished reviewing Enns’ third chapter by looking at the two creation stories of Genesis 1-2.