CLAIM: The Enuma Elish was written before Genesis, and it has some similarities with the biblical account (e.g. watery chaos, separated into heaven and earth, light exists before creation, succession of events, etc.). For instance, in the Babylonian account of creation Marduk killed the goddess Tiamat (the salty sea) and used her carcass to create heaven and earth (see NET note). Critics (like Gunkel and Otzen) argue that Moses copied his creation story from the Babylonians? Is this the case?
RESPONSE: Moses was familiar with Pagan writing (Acts 7:22), and he was most likely familiar with alternate creation accounts. However, conservative scholars believe that Moses was writing an apologetic against these accounts, because of the stark differences in the Genesis account. Hoffmeier writes,
The similarities demonstrate that the biblical writers were aware of the creation myths of their neighbors and were intentionally refuting them. Thus when Genesis 1:2 reports that ‘darkness was over the surface of the deep (tehom), and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’, there is apparently a polemic against the Babylonian goddess of the primeval sea, Tiamat. Genesis lacks the chaotic element and the sense of struggle between Marduk and the sea. Furthermore, Genesis challenges the Egyptian view that Ptah spoke creation into existence, claiming rather that the God of Israel uttered commands and creation followed.
Gordon Wenham explains several ways in which Genesis forms an apologetic against ancient Near Eastern creation myths:
First, in some Near Eastern cosmogonies, dragons tnn are rivals whom the Canaanite gods conquer, whereas in Gen 1:21 the great sea monsters are just one kind of the aquatic animals created by God.
Second, these cosmogonies describe the struggle of the gods to separate the upper waters from the lower waters; but Gen 1:6-10 describes the acts of separation by simply divine fiat.
Third, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars was current throughout the ancient orient. Genesis pointedly avoids using the normal Hebrew words for sun and moon, lest they be taken as divine, and says instead God created the greater and the lesser light.
Fourth, Babylonian tradition sees the creation of man as an afterthought, a device to relieve the gods of work and provide them with food. For Genesis, the creation of man is the goal of creation and God provides man with food.
Finally, Genesis shows God creating simply through his spoken word, not through magical utterance as is attested in Egypt. There thus runs through the whole Genesis cosmology ‘a conscious and deliberate anti-mythical polemic’ (Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, 91). The author of Gen 1 therefore shows that he was aware of other cosmologies, and that he wrote not in dependence on them so much as in deliberate rejection of them.
Given the dissimilarities with the Enuma Elish, this view is likely. Moreover, there are several differences between the Genesis account and the Pagan myths:
First, the surrounding religions focused on how the gods themselves emerged. In the surrounding myths, the emphasis of the narrative was about how the gods themselves came into existence, rather than the universe. After the gods emerged, the universe sprang from the war or sex (or in some cases, warlike sex!) of the gods. Put another way, the Genesis account explains cosmogony (the birth of the universe), but the Babylonian account deals with theogony (the birth of the gods).
Second, the surrounding religions mention humans only as an afterthought. This is a stark difference with the Genesis account. The Jews believed that God had created the universe to house humanity, because we were his special and final creation.
Third, the surrounding religions held that the gods created the universe from pre-existing materials. Assyriologist Alexander Heidel writes, “It is apparent that for the Babylonians matter was eternal.” Archer writes, “[The] Enuma Elish assumes the eternity of pre-existent matter out of which arose a pair of creator gods by forces that are not explained, which somehow began the creative process. This really doesn’t deal with the question of how creation did take place.” The Jews believed that God simply spoke matter and energy into existence. For example, the psalmist wrote, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made… For He spoke, and it was done” (Ps. 33:6, 9). The neighbors of Israel did not believe that the gods had power like this. Heidel writes, “The word of the Babylonian deities was not almighty.”
Fourth, the surrounding religions held that the sun, moon, and stars were gods. The Jews didn’t believe that the sun, moon, and stars were gods. Instead, these were mere creations—part of the furniture of the universe. Later, Moses tells the people, “Beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deut. 4:19).
Fifth, the surrounding religions held that the deep, the waters, and the darkness contained monsters. And yet, Isaiah wrote that God was “the One forming light and creating darkness” (Is. 45:7). However, the Hebrews believed that these things were mere creations of God—beneath the power and under the control of Yahweh. Regarding the similarity of the Babylon goddess Tiamut and the Hebrew word for “deep,” Wenham notes, “Heidel (Babylonian Genesis, 98-101) showed that a direct borrowing is impossible. Both Hebrew and Babylonian Ti’amat are independently derived from a common Semitic root. Westermann justly states that the OT usage of תהום “does not allow us to speak of a demythologizing of a mythical idea or name as do many commentaries. When [the Pesher source] inherited the word תהום it had long been used to describe a flood of waters without any mythical echo” (1:105). That is not to say that this verse shows no connection with other oriental concepts of creation. In ancient cosmogonies a reference to a primeval flood is commonplace (Westermann, 1:105-6). But the word תהום is not an allusion to the conquest of Tiamat as in the Babylonian myth.”
Sixth, the surrounding religions had a conflict amidst the gods. Again, the Jews were forced to disagree with this. While they believed that the Serpent was in opposition to Yahweh, he was still called a created being (Gen. 3:1), who passively accepted God’s curse and judgment (Gen. 3:14-15). The Jews believed that Yahweh had no rivals; he was the ultimate Creator of the universe.
Seventh, in other ancient Near Eastern accounts, the gods created because of cosmic loneliness. Hoffmeier writes, “Humans, in the Pyramid text tradition, were formed from the tears of the sun-god Re who wept out of loneliness.” Of course, we get no such indication in the Genesis account.
Eighth, the Hebrews believed that men fell from moral perfection, but the other accounts held that the gods themselves fell. Heidel writes, “If it is at all permissible to speak of a fall, it was a fall of the gods, not of man. It was the gods who first disturbed the peace.” Of course, this is in severe contrast with the biblical account in which Yahweh created the universe in a “very good” state (Gen. 1:31).
Ninth, the simplicity of the Hebrew account is significant. K.A. Kitchen writes, “The common view that the Hebrew account is simply a purged and simplified version of the Babylonian legend (applied also to the flood stories) is fallacious on methodological grounds. In the Ancient Near East the rule is that simple accounts or traditions may give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborate legends, but not vice versa.” In other words, borrowing could be going on both ways. It’s quite possible that the Babylonians could have lifted their ideas from the Hebrew account, as well.
Finally, some critical scholars do not see how Genesis could have historically borrowed from the Enuma Elish. For instance, Soden writes, “Direct influence of the Babylonian creation epic on the Biblical account of creation cannot be discerned.”
 James Hoffmeier writes, “This Babylonian epic probably originated in the early second millennium BC, although the copy from Nineveh dates to the seventh century BC.” Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 33.
 Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 34.
 Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), p.6.
 Heidel wrote, “The earliest stages of creation are thus ascribed to sexual congress. Then after war had broken out among the gods, Ea killed Apsu, and with his carcass he formed the subterranean sea, on which the earth rests.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 96.
 Heidel wrote, “According to Enuma elish, the universe was created for the benefit of the gods… Even Babylon was built for the gods. In full agreement with these divine aims, man’s creation was conceived and executed not as an end in itself or as a natural sequel to the formation of the rest of the universe but rather as an expedient to satisfy a group of discontented gods. Man’s purpose in life was to be the service of the gods.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 120.
 Heidel noted, “Apsu and Ti’amat were not simply the ancestors of the gods. They represented at the same time the living, uncreated world-matter… They were matter and divine spirit united and coexistent, like body and soul… In sharp contrast to this, the Book of Genesis speaks of only one divine principle, existing apart from and, independently of all cosmic matter.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 88-89.
 Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 89.
 Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Third Edition. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1998), p.195.
 Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 126.
 Heidel wrote, “While the Babylonian narrative speaks of the luminary bodies and their purposes in astronomical terms interwoven with mythology, the Hebrew account uses the language of the layman and is free from all mythological references.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 117.
 Commenting on the similarity between Ti’amat and the Hebrew tehom (or the “deep”), Heidel noted that there was no literary mythology in the Hebrew word, as there was in the Babylonian. The Babylonians mythologically personify Ti’amat, but the Jews viewed “the deep” as a natural function of the Earth with no mythological significance. Heidel wrote, “Though coming from the same root, the two words do not denote the same thing… In the Old Testament, tehom is nothing but a designation for the deep, the sea, the ocean, or any large body of water.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 88-89.
 Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), p.16.
 Heidel observed, “In Enuma Elish the first four tablets deal almost exclusively with the contest between Marduk and Ti’amat and the events leading up to it, while the creation story proper occupies less than two tablets. The Hebrew account, on the contrary, deals almost exclusively with the creation, and not a trace is found anywhere in the first two chapters of Genesis of a conflict between God and some mythical figure. No one will deny that.” Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 102.
 Hoffmeier, James Karl. The Archaeology of the Bible. Oxford: Lion, 2008. 34.
 Heidel, Alexander. The Babylonian Genesis: the Story of Creation. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963. 125.
 Kitchen, Kenneth Anderson. Ancient Orient and Old Testament. London: Tyndale, 1966. 89.
 W. von Soden, The Ancient Orient: An Introduction to the Study of the Ancient Near East, trans. D. G. Schley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 213. Cited in Eugene Merrill, Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti, The World and the Word: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2011), p.178.