Enuma Elish

ENUMA ELISH ə nū’ mă ĕ’ lĭsh, the opening phrase and title of the most important Mesopotamian cosmological text. The text was written on seven tablets in the Babylonian dialect of Akkad. and used as the ceremonial epic in the New Year’s ritual at the great temple of Esagila. The standard VS of the text dates from the 1st millennium b.c. but the true provenience of the epic is controversial. The text has been recovered by the excavations at Nineveh, Ashur and Kish, and several edd. and many trs. have been published. The contents of the tablets are as follows: Tablet I, the initial coming into being of the most primitive forces and gods, the rage of the sea goddess Tiamat. Tablet II, Tiamat and her monsters gird for battle against the gods who take Marduk (in some VSS Aššur) as their champion. Tablet III, the assembly of the gods decrees the outcome of the impending battle and the glory of Marduk. Tablet IV, Marduk prevails over Tiamat in a gruesome struggle and dissects the cadaver. Tablet V, Marduk constructs the cosmos and the cosmological order from the remains of Tiamat. Tablet VI, Tiamat’s captive henchman, Kingu, is slain and dissected and his blood used to make mankind. Tablet VII, a list of the magical names of Marduk to which is attached a short epilogue. The text has been proposed by the followers of the pan-Babylonian school of critics as the true source of the Biblical story of creation. A brief survey of the two texts will show that they are only superficially related and that the Biblical account is of a considerably higher order of thought. The epic of Enuma Elish is of low literary quality in consideration of some of the marvelously eloquent texts such as Gilgamesh, Ludlul Bel Nemeqi and the like.

Bibliography

ANET (1955); tr. by E. A. Speiser; A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (1942); W. White, “Enūma Eliš and the OT,” (thesis) Westminster Theological Seminary (1963); A. L. Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (1964), 177-203, 232, 264ff.