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The Babylonian Legends of the Creation

Page: 10

Now among the texts which have been found on the tablets at Ḳal'at Sharḳât is an account of the creation of man which differs from the version given in the Seven Tablets of Creation, but has two features in common with it. These two features are: (1) the council of the gods to discuss the creation of man; (2) the sacrifice which the gods had to make for the creation of man. In the variant version two (or more) gods are sacrificed, [Cuneiform], Ilu Nagar Ilu Nagar, i.e., "the workmen gods," about whom nothing is known. The place of sacrifice is specified with some care, and it is said to be "Uzu-mu-a, or the bond of heaven and earth." Uzu-mu-a may be the bolt with which Marduk locked the two halves of Tiâmat into place.

The Anunnaki, wishing to give an expression of their admiration for Marduk's heroism, decided to build him a shrine or temple. To this Marduk agreed, and chose Babylon, i.e., the "Gate of God," for its site. The Anunnaki themselves made the bricks, and they built the great temple of E-Sagila at Babylon. When the temple was finished, Marduk re-enacted the scene of creation; for, as he had formerly assigned to each god his place in the heavens, so now he assigned to each god his place in E-Sagila. The tablet ends with a long hymn of praise which the Anunnaki sang to Marduk, and describes the summoning of an assembly of the gods to proclaim ceremonially the great Fifty Names of this god. Thus the gods accepted the absolute supremacy of Marduk.

From the above it is clear that a dispute broke out between Marduk and the gods after he had created them, and the tradition of it has made its way into the religious literatures of the Hebrews, Syrians, Arabs, Copts and Abyssinians. The cuneiform texts tell us nothing about the cause of the dispute, but tradition generally ascribes it to the creation of man by the supreme God; and it is probable that all the apocryphal stories which describe the expulsion from heaven of the angels who contended against God under the leadership of Satan, or Satnael, or Iblîs, are derived from a Babylonian original which has not yet been found. The "Fifty Names," or laudatory epithets mentioned above, find parallels in "Seventy-five Praises of Rā," sung by the Egyptians under the XIXth dynasty,15 and in the "Ninety-nine Beautiful Names of Allâh," which are held in such great esteem by the Muḥammadans.16 The respect in which the Fifty Names were held by the Babylonians is well shown by the work of the Epilogue on the Seventh Tablet, where it is said, "Let them be held in remembrance, let the first-comer (i.e., any and every man) proclaim them; let the wise and the understanding consider them together. Let the father repeat them and teach them to his son. Let them be in the ears of the herdsman and the shepherd."

The object of the writer of the Fifty Names was to show that Marduk was the "Lord of the gods," that the power, qualities and attributes of every god were enshrined in him, and that they all were merely forms of him. This fact is proved by the tablet (No. 47,406),17 which contains a long list of gods who are equated with Marduk in his various forms.18 The tendency in the later Babylonian religion to make Marduk the god above all gods has led many to think that monotheistic conceptions were already in existence among the Babylonians as early as the period of the First Dynasty, about 2000 B.C. It is indisputable that Marduk obtained his pre-eminence in the Babylonian Pantheon at this early period. But some authorities deny the existence of monotheistic conceptions among the Babylonians at that time, and attribute Marduk's kingship of the gods to the influence of the political situation of the time, when Babylon first became the capital of the country, and mistress of the greater part of the known world. Material for deciding this question is wanting, but it may be safely said that whatever monotheistic conceptions existed at that time, their acceptance was confined entirely to the priests and scribes. They certainly find no expression in the popular religious texts.


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