Last Sunday, I sat in on a class discussing creation narratives…
In the beginning, the universe was all chaos, from which emerged Abzu and Tiamat, the deities of water. Or maybe they were deities of chaos, symbolized by water. I’m not sure. In any case, one gets the impression that the chaos and the gods were closely related.
Anyway, from these two gods emerged the other gods — god-kids — who were loud and obnoxious and annoying. Eventually, this so enraged their father (Abzu) that he plotted murder in order to do away with them. But they caught wind of this, and killed him first. Nice, eh?
Somewhere about this point, the god Marduk emerged. And as Tiamat plotted to avenge the death of her husband, Marduk summoned the god-kids and promised to defend them, as long as he would get to be their leader thereafter. To this, they acquiesced.
And so the great god battle ensued. Marduk destroyed Tiamat. From the two halves of her body, he fashioned the earth and the skies. And from the blood and guts and dregs of war, Marduk fashioned humans to be slaves of the gods.
At least that’s the way the Babylonians were telling it around 600 BCE. In some sense, it wasn’t just a story about creation, but rather about the creation of empire and about the violence needed to maintain empire. It was about how the Babylonians understood their gods and their world.
And it was what the Jewish people heard during their time in exile… and during the time when the Torah was taking shape.
The waters and chaos…
The formation of the earth and skies…
The creation of humans…
Many of the Christians in North America feel threatened when you start pointing out that the Jews developed their creation narrative from a story the Babylonians were telling. But take note of the differences:
God simply creates – no struggle, no violence – and it is good. In the end, God creates humans in God’s image. They are created for fellowship (not slavery), and they are given power to care for the creation. One might even say that God creates competitors.
This is not a narrative of empire or a god of empire. This narrative is about a God who brings order from chaos, who gives of God’s self, and who desires relationship. It was a radical statement for the exiled Jews to re-write the dominant narrative and assert a different worldview.
I love this story!
And I get really mad when Christians take this beautiful story and exchange it for something that perpetuates empire and bad science and bad theology.
What is your worldview?