In this recent post (which I plan to revisit in the near future) and others, I mentioned the discovery of various ancient Near Eastern texts related to Genesis, such as Enuma Elish. The relationship between these accounts and Genesis has never been definitively settled, though dominant interpretive trends have been clear.
At first, German scholars such as Friedrich Delitzsch, driven largely by Protestant bias against the Hebrew Bible and a good bit of anti-Semitism, seized on them as the original sources of Genesis, assuming the relevant bits had been taken more-or-less whole cloth from the Israelites neighbors. This undermined longstanding assumptions of their originality or uniqueness, easily conflated with claims of religious and/or revelatory value. (See “Babel and Bible” controversy.) Other scholars pushed back, particularly conservative scholars. Others came to recognize that claims of direct borrowing were highly overstated, and ignored important and significant differences. It is a rare scholar today who argues that Genesis has nothing to do with these other accounts. Positions run from (paraphrasing here) the far conservative position asserting the similarities are mostly coincidental or meaningless, and the differences matter most, to the “breathing the same air” or sharing a general worldview to “the editor of Genesis was intimately familiar with these accounts, and they played a direct role in how Genesis was written.” To my knowledge, today no serious scholar thinks Genesis was a slavish copy. What then are we to make of these similarities and differences?
As a prelude to further discussion, watch this video, called Everything is a Remix. It’s entertaining, well done, and hits Star Wars, Zeppelin, and Macs, genre and genre conventions, and other ideas. I’m sure it has some flaws and errors, but it does a good job helping us rethink a few things that apply to Genesis.
And for us, even the ‘original’ genesis was a remix…
Cameron, I don’t quite follow. What are you referring to as the ” ‘original’ genesis”? Genesis 1? Some other text? Or that, Battlestar Galactica style, “all of this has happened before, and will happen again”?
I’m referring to whatever actually happened, since we don’t know exactly. So…both?
The Book of Moses makes it clear that Moses drew from a Book of Adam, a Book of Enoch, and a Book of Noah. The Book of Abraham implies that Moses’ account of the Creation was actually derived from the one Abraham recorded. The Book of Mormon is explicit about drawing on prior sources and records, including first hand accounts, letters, and second hand histories. Additionally, Jesus acts as editor of the Nephite records, telling the record keepers to add something omitted from a prophecy by Samual the Lamanite, and dictating the 3rd and 4th chapters of Malachi, which were written after Lehi departed Jerusalem. God is the editor in chief of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price, but has human editors and authors working for Him as intermediaries between God and the written word. Translation between languages is just part of the obstacles in the transmission process that takes things from God to the ultimate reader and transforms them in the process. It is not the “inerrant” scripture direct from God’s authoritative mouth that some Christians insist on, but ironically it gives God a much more active role in the actual production of scripture. The saga of Joseph Smith being prepared and enabled to create the English language text of the Book of Mormon is an example of an extended intervention into human activities. A significant part of God’s message is how he involves us humans in the process of creating and distributing scripture.
Well said Raymond.