Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 2nd, 2015 by Joel Watts

The Creation of Human-ity? (CTP Class)

This is a CTP post, explained here.

creation of man

creation of man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week, we are looking at the 6th day of Creation (beginning at Genesis 1.24).

The Ancient Near East (ANE) had several types of stories related to the creation of humankind. For instance, Marduk, the Babylonian god created humans to serve the gods. This idea, that humans were created to serve the gods, is rather ancient, pre-existing Babylon.

The origins of humans are described in another early second-millennium Sumerian poem, “The Song of the Hoe.” In this myth, as in many other Sumerian stories, the god Enlil is described as the deity who separates heavens and earth and creates humankind. Humanity is formed to provide for the gods, a common theme in Mesopotamian literature.

According to the Sumerian story “Enki and Ninmah,” the lesser gods, burdened with the toil of creating the earth, complained to Namma, the primeval mother, about their hard work. She in turn roused her son Enki, the god of wisdom, and urged him to create a substitute to free the gods from their toil. Namma then kneaded some clay, placed it in her womb, and gave birth to the first humans.

“The Creation of Humankind” is a bilingual Sumerian-Akkadian story also referred to in scholarly literature as KAR 4. This account begins after heaven was separated from earth, and features of the earth such as the Tigris, Euphrates, and canals established. At that time, the god Enlil addressed the gods asking what should next be accomplished. The answer was to create humans by killing Alla-gods and creating humans from their blood. Their purpose will be to labor for the gods, maintaining the fields and irrigation works in order to create bountiful harvests, celebrate the gods’ rites, and attain wisdom through study.

Plato had an idea too (Symposium):

They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.

This Platonic view is something that we will come back to in Genesis 2, but it helps us here because several interpreters see an androgynous being in Genesis 1.26–27.

God created humanity, male-n-female he created them.

Early interpreters in the Christian tradition (such as the Gospel of Thomas) understood it this way, as did the author of 2nd Clement. We can discuss this further, later.

A few things to consider:

  • What does it mean for the gods to create humans to serve, but Elohim created humans to  rule/govern/work creation?
  • Babylonian gods saw earth as something like a wastefield, but the picture we see in Genesis 1 is that of a cosmic Temple where God is meant to be worshiped in Creation.
  • Does an androgynous being in Genesis 1.26–27 change our understanding of “Creation Order” and some of our conservations today?
  • Who do you think is speaking to in Genesis 1.26–27 when He says “let us make” ?
  • How does the creation of humankind look different than the creation of other aspects?
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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