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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Leupold Genesis part 20 Cosmogonies

If at this point we append a summary of certain of the better known cosmogonies, or at least of those which have a certain affinity with the Biblical account, anyone can judge for himself whether the Biblical account in any sense seems to be a derivative. The most famous of the non-biblical cosmogonies is the Babylonian or the so-called "Chaldean Genesis," which created such a stir at the time of its publication in 1876 after it had been unearthed as a part of the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh by George Smith in 1873. The several tablets on which the account is written are in a fairly good state of preservation.

The story begins with an account that is a theogony--an account of the origin of the gods--in itself already an indication of a far inferior level. The true God did not come into being by a certain process, nor were there originally several deities. Now of these various deities one stood out as particularly aggressive and ferocious, the unsubdued Tiamat--again a decidedly inferior point of view. For the struggle that impended Tiamat, the old mother of gods, enlists as many of the old gods as she can and a whole crew of horrid monsters. The resulting conflict for supremacy (note the low moral level even among gods) is a truly titanic struggle in which the forces of the opposition are led by the great Babylonian deity Marduk. Marduk proves himself the stronger. He prevails over Tiamat, cleaves her into two montrous halves, the upper of which he fixes in place as the heavens, in which in turn he fixes the heavenly bodies; and the lower of which halves, on the other hand, he sets in place as the earth. Then he compounds material of his own blood for the creation of man, the chief purpose of whose creation is "that the service of the gods may be established." This account of creation is so pronouncedly different from the Biblical account that the points of difference completely overshadow the incidental points of resemblance. To speak of a "striking resemblance between the two cosmogonies" certainly is a partisan overstatement of the case; and to go on to say that "the cosmogony of Genesis I rests on a conception of the process of creation fundamentally identical with that of the Enuma elis (the opening words of the Chaldean Genesis) tablets" is simply a distortion of the truth.

Of the Phoenician cosmogony it is sufficient to remark that it contains the idea of the world-egg, hatched out to produce the world. Analogous to this from this point of view is the Indian conception. The uncreated Lord appeared in chaos. The next step was to render this world visible by means of the five elements, by shining forth in brightest light and dispelling darkness. Into the water, which he creates first, he lays a germ cell. This becomes a gleaming egg in which Brahma is found, the source principle. A protracted period of hatching brings him to light. Aside from fantastic and confused elements it may well be that even this cosmogony carries within it certain echoes of the Genesis account which are all but forgotten.

The Parsee Genesis, appearing in a late book of the Bundehest, has at least this sequence of created things: 1. heaven, 2. water, 3. earth, 4. planets, 5. animals, 6. man. Nothing is said concerning the creation of light. The partial correspondence with the account of the Bible is obvious. But since this is a late book, this correspondence may have resulted from an acquaintance with the Biblical record.

Still more nearly parallel to the Biblical account is the cosmogony attributed to the Etruscans by the writer Suidas, who lived in the tenth century A. D. For the sequence runs thus: 1. heaven and earth, 2. firmament, 3. sea and water, 4. sun and moon, 5. souls of animals, 6. man. To the six items six `periods of a thousand years each are assigned. Yet the influence of the Bible record is so very likely in the case of a writer of the tenth century of the Christian era that there is great likelihood that the writer's Christian ideas will `have led him to find these successive items, which another might not even have noticed in the same material. Or else the ancient Etruscan tradition had absorbed a high percentage of Biblical thought on matters such as these. One would expect the Persian cosmogony to be radically different and in conformity with the principles of dualism.

In the Avesta time and light and darkness are uncreated. These constitute the true spiritual world. They are eternal because Mazda, the god of light, is himself eternal.

Hesiod informs us how the Greeks conceived of the origin of things. First there existed Chaos; there-upon the earth; next Tartarus; then Eros (Love), the most beautiful of the deathless gods. Out of Chaos night is born. The earth begets the heavens; then the ocean comes into being. After these Saturn, father of gods, existed. The rest of the pantheon follow him.

To the Egyptians several views on the origin of the earth are to be attributed. Some regarded the god Ptah as the craftsman who built the world. Others held that it was the goddess Neith who wove its fabric. The fundamental principle from which all things take their origin was thought to be water, for in it were fancied to be the male and the female germs of life. Even the great god Ra was supposed to have sprung from it, though others believed that he had been hatched out of an egg. We may well say that these cosmogonies are the best available outside the Genesis account.

A man does not need any supernatural enlightenment to discern that not one of all these can compare even remotely with the scriptural account for depth of thought, simplicity, propriety and beauty. All the others disappoint us by their incompleteness, or by their confusion, or by their lack of sequence, or as being the embodiment of some deep-seated error. Their conception of God is most unsatisfactory and unworthy. Or if they rise to a higher level, we have reason for believing that the better element is traceable to the Bible as the source.

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