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.