There’s something to object to on nearly every page of Peter Enns’s Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, but let me limit myself to this one. After a comparison highlighting the similarities between Genesis 1 and the creation myth of Enuma Elish, he asks what bearing this has on the evolution issue, and answers: “It means that any thought of Genesis 1 providing a scientifically or historically accurate account of cosmic origins, and therefore being wholly distinct from the ‘fanciful’ story in Enuma Elish, cannot be seriously entertained.” Why? Well there are “scientific problems with such an idea,” but more than that we cannot ignore the “conceptual similarities” between the two texts.
This seems to me a complete non sequitur. After all, even if one accepts Pete’s relative dating of the two texts (Genesis much later), it is possible that the historical truth is something like this: God created the world as described in Genesis; this was widely known in the ancient world; Babylonians wrote down a version of the story; so did Hebrews and, under divine inspiration, got it right. This fits the textual evidence as well as Pete’s theory. I cannot see how similarities between two texts, or their conceptual worlds, can prove that the texts are not “scientifically or historically accurate.” Darwin and Dawkins give similar accounts of origins, and share a conceptual world; therefore. . . . ? Similarities might in fact be taken as evidence of the historical validity of an account, rather than the opposite. I suspect it’s not the similarities of the texts that lead Pete to his conclusions, but the scientific evidence.
About that “therefore being wholly distinct….” clause: I’m not sure who Pete is aiming at, since nearly everyone with the thinnest exposure to ANE literature knows that there are lots of overlaps with the OT. But how different does a conceptual world have to be to be a different conceptual world? Pete rightly notes that the Babylonian epic is creation-by-combat, and that Genesis account isn’t. The fact that both Babylonians and Hebrews look up and see a blue dome above them (which is what I see too!) pales in comparison with the radical difference between a cosmogony of violence and a cosmogony of peace.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 4:56 pm
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