The ancient Mesopotamian story, the Enuma Elish (the most ancient known written creation myth), describes a battle between Marduk and Tiamut for ultimate control of the world. As the story goes, Marduk triumphs and then splits Tiamut in two. He fashions one half into the heavens and the other into the earth.
The Egyptians had many creation myths, but generally had one thing in common: the notion that the creator god and the world emerged from primeval waters called Nun. The creator god is said to have come out of the waters and then shape the rest of the Egyptian gods and goddesses, who represent the various parts of nature.
For thousands of years, however, the Bible’s creation story has stood in stark contrast to all creation myths. Moses, the likely author of Genesis, wrote it as a rebuttal against the myths of Israel’s neighboring civilizations. Given its historical and cultural context, it is no surprise that the biblical creation account shares a few literary features with these myths.
One of the most striking similarities between the Genesis account and ancient creation myths is the presence of a primeval, often watery, chaos from which an ordered creation emerges.
The Bible and the myths of Israel’s neighbors also share some other broad themes, such as the origin of humans and the origin of evil. These similarities enrich our appreciation and understanding of the biblical account.
The Genesis account contains no an explanation for the “birth” of God because Israel’s God is eternal. Instead of describing the origin of the gods as other myths do, Genesis assumes God’s existence. It says, “In the beginning, God…” and goes on from there.
In Genesis, there are no rival gods vying for control of the universe. The God of Israel exists and operates alone. By His own word He brought the entire physical universe into existence.
Another key difference involves the dignity of humanity. The Enuma Elish describes humans as the result of a union between clay and the blood of a demon god. The Bible describes Adam’s creation as a union of God-formed dust with the breath of God Himself. Instead of serving as the deity’s slave, as in the Mesopotamian myth, Adam was given charge over a beautiful garden and the task of ruling creation.
Although genuine thematic parallels exist between Genesis 1 and neighboring societies’ creation myths, Moses’ concept of God radically differed. The gods of Sumeria, Babylon, and Egypt bear no resemblance to YHWH.
Genesis 1 presents a direct assault on the alternative pagan creation stories of the ancient world, with their fantasy and superstition. The God of the Bible stands in stark contrast to the gods of myth. The message and purpose of Genesis 1 is the revelation of the one true God who created all things out of nothing and who forever keeps the universe under His sovereign control.