Login
Password

Forgot your password?

Understanding Pre-Biblical Mythical Structure Part2

By Edited Jul 7, 2016 0 0

UNDERSTANDING PRE-BIBLICAL MYTHICAL STRUCTURE. PART 2

The classic Mesopotamia myth of creation is contained in the epic Enuma Elis. The poem opens with the words:

e-nu-ma e-lis la na-bu sa-ma-mu, [1]

When the sky above was not named,

And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,

And the primeval Apsu, who begot them,

And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,

Their waters were mingled together,

And no field was formed; no marsh was to be seen;

When the gods none had been called into being.

Apsu (abzu) and Tiamat emerge from primordial chaos and create four gods: Anu, the god of the sky, (heavens) Enlil, the god of air, wind and raging storms, Nin-khursag, the earth goddess, and Enki, also known as Ea, the god of the abyss, the sea beneath the earth. [2]

In precedence of creation, the primordial matter in existence is chaos. This chaos exists as water, the primordial element. Water exists in four dimensions. Water pouring as rain from the heavens, water springing from the ground, water in rivers, water in the seas and oceans. The people of the Ancient Near East considered water to be of the essence of life. Water is the one personified and deified primordial element of nature.

Chaos is a primeval of utter emptiness, formlessness and abyss. Chaos depicts a cosmological view that symbolizes the unorganized and formless primordial matter that is supposed to have preceded creation and the existence of the universe as it is today. In the minds of the primeval man non- being, non- existent, precedes being and existence.

The primeval chaos is defied and personified as two deities the male deity Apsu, and the female deity Tiamat. The two deities are the primordial couple, husband and wife, and the parents of other deities. Apsu is the personification of the freshwater ocean and the father of the gods. Tiamat, the great mother goddess, is the personification of the saltwater sea. These two deities filled the cosmic abyss with primeval waters.

The vast body of Tiamat is the residence of the younger gods, her own offsprings. The babel or the noise they make while inside the womb of the mother-goddess becomes a menance to the parents, and more particularly to the father. The intolerant Apsu opts to kill the young deities. The mother goddess disagrees and stands strongly opposed to the plot. Tiamat, in order to prevent this from occurring, warns Ea (Enki), the most powerful of the gods.

But, the vizier, Mummu, supports the wicked plot and agrees with Apsu's plan to destroy the noisy younger deities. Ea uses magic spell to put Apsu into a comma, then kills him. After the death of Apsu, Ea becomes the chief god. He begets a son, Marduk with his sexual partner named Damkina.

Marduk is given wind to play with and he uses the wind to make dust storms and tornadoes. The disturbance, thus caused by Marduk makes the younger gods residing inside the womb of Tiamat unable to sleep. The life of the gods is depicted to be chaotic in that they can hardly coexist in peace and harmony.

Mackenzie remarks that after the death of Apsu, Tiamat remains, "The dragon of chaos and monster." [3] In addition, she remains a defiant rival, antagonist and adversary of Ea and Marduk, father and son. The former is the murderer of Apsu, Tiamat's husband, while the latter made it impossible for the offsprings of Tiamat to enjoy their sleep.

Hostility erupts, and one camp of the younger gods up rises in support of Tiamat. They persuades her to retaliate and take revenge not only for the death of her husband but also for the loss of sleep caused by Marduk.

Tiamat spawns from her womb a horde of eleven monsters. These are in the form of giant sea serpents, storm demons, fish men and scorpion men and many others.[4] The intent is to quantify the reinforcement in her combat against Marduk.

Another group of terrified younger gods are in fear of their lives. They acknowledge their incompetence and cowardice to confront the warfare threat posed by Tiamat and her horde of monsters. They seek for a champion among themselves but none is willing to accept the challenge. The forlorn state is characterized with hopelessness and desperation.

The courageous and daring Marduk voluntarily offers himself to save the terrified gods, but under one condition, that, "He is appointed as their leader and allowed to remain so even after the threat passes. [5] The horrified young gods yield submissively to the demands of Marduk. In their great delight and excitement, they choose and confirm Marduk as their champion and leader in the visualized combat against Tiamat.

The two irreconcilable camps of gods are now set for a battle confrontation. Kingu, the deity and the son of Tiamat becomes her mother's new husband. Tiamat promotes Kingu to a "supreme dominion" and gives him the tablets of destiny for safekeeping. The mother goddess appoints her son-cum-husband to be the leader of the host in her combat against Marduk.

In the battle that ensures, Marduk confronts Tiamat armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club and an invisible spear. [6] Marduk inflates her with the wind and pieces her to death with an arrow. The dragon-cum-monster of chaos is dead. Kingu too, the dragon deity is killed by Anu, the deity of the sky. Marduk takes from Kingu the tablets of destiny. Good triumphs over evil.

Marduk in combat with Tiamat  the dragon of chaos

Marduk in combat with Tiamat the dragon of chaos

Marduk, the uniquely victorious hero splits the gigantic corpse of Tiamat into two halves. The remains of the great mother goddess become the raw material that Marduk uses to create the earth and the sky. Man is created next. The creative deity mixes the blood of the slain Kingu with the clay of the earth and thus fashions man.

Mackenzie makes the assertion that man is created, in order to carry on the cult of the gods. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, man is created, to do the work of the gods. [In other words, man is created to give service to the gods.

The ancient Mesopotamian cosmology consists of the earth and the sky or the heavens. The earth is a flat circular disk floating above the fresh water, sea, the personification of Apsu, and surrounded by the saltwater, the personification of Tiamat. The earth consists of three parts, the habitable land of mortals, the netherworld (the underground world of the dead) and the waters of Apsu - the oceans.

In his article, cosmology and cosmogony, Brent Meeker gives an imaginary view of the Babylonian complex of the world [7] in this diagram.

Babylonian complex view of the world

Babylonian complex view of the world

The sky or the heavens is fancied to be a solid metal disk, a vault or firmament with the shape of invented bowl curved to touch the earth at the horizons. The heavens consist of three parts, the realm of the wind, the chambers of rain and clouds, then the heavenly bodies, sun, moon and stars.

Mackenzie remarks that the heavenly bodies are the seats of the Mesopotamian deities. In the Epich of Gilgamesh, Marduk emerges as a triumphant creative deity. He is accorded the highest promotion and seniority. Manduk reigns supreme over the following triad deities, Anu, Enhil and Ea. The gods proclaim and confirm him the king of the gods and the head of the pantheon. He is honoured with fifty names.

The supremacy and transcendence of Marduk is accentuated by Mackenzie. [8] He writes, "Marduk builds himself his heavenly palace, whose earthly counterpart is Esagil, the temple of Babylon."The temple of Babylon is known as the temple of Marduk, whose tower is the ziggurat. The deity is the genius patron of Babylon, the capital and the heart of the Mesopotamia Empire.

Mackenzie has one more crucial point to bring to light. He states that Babylonian myth of creation exhibits the belief of creating the universe from pre-existing chaos. This chaos originates from nothing. Chaos is divine in character, for it is the parent of gods and man. However, he forgets to state that demons too have a divine nature.

In his definitions of "nothing,"Paul Tillick says that it is that which does not yet have a being. Other synonyms used by Tillick are, "non-being" and "non-existent."

The one idea of "nothing" as understood by Mackenzie and Tillick can thus be expressed in this syllogism. [9]

Chaos pre- exists as a potential non-being. The universe and man are created from the chaos in pre- existence. Therefore, the being of the universe and man existed as potential non-beings.

Plato holds that universal ideas in the human mind pre- exist in a supramundane world. It has however, to be borne in mind that ideas originate from man's presence to a present reality. Man's present reality is his own existence.

The writers of Enumat Elis and the Epic of Gilgamesh were so to say inspired with pre- existing ideas, and these ideas come as a means of giving explanation and meaning to human existence. The following ideas are prevalent in the Mesopotamian mythical structure.

The first three consist of the spiritual beings, gods, angels and demons. The eschatological ideas are immortality, eternal life and the Netherworld of the dead. The many more ideas are related to intersubjective relationship. These are disharmony, hostility, hatred, revenge. Warfare and murder. Incest, seduction and erotic love characterize the life of the gods. The institution of marriage pre –exists with the primeval deities. Mackenzie remarks that sex and marriage are divinely instituted.The institution of marriage is pre-ordained for the mortals to carry on the work of the gods.

The mythical structure in existence is the origin of religion, faith, rituals and worship. Religion has co-existed with man since the primeval phase of the 'primitive societies'. Man is created to carry on the cult of the gods, or to do the work of the gods. This is tantamount to giving service to the gods. The service is rendered through prescribed rituals that are meticulously observed in worship. Mackenzie remarks, [11], "The myth had an important place in Mesopotamian cult. The cycle of nature, in which life is born a new each year to perish at the end of the year, was conceived as recurring cycle of creation and chaos. In the spring life must be born a new, hence the new year was celebrated by the recitation of the myth of creation and by its ritual reenactment."

Religion, the construction of temples, rituals and worship have their origin in mythology. The modern man has also to live with the contentment that the belief in God, gods, angels and demons is a personification of myths. The personification comes as an absolute necessity to give meaning to human existence.

FOOTNOTES

1. Enuma Elis, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia dated 12th July 2010 P. 1of 3

2. The Sumerian and the Babylonian versions differ slightly

3. John L. Mackenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, university of Chicago,1965 p. 157

4. Babylonian religion, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia dated 12th July 2010 p 1of 2

5. Mackenzie, op. cit, p.157

6. Mackenzie, op.cit, p157

7. Brent Meeker, cosmology and cosmogony dated 1st April 2010, p. 4 of 6

8. Mackenzie, op.cit p. 157

9. My own syllogism

10. Mackenzie, op.cit, p 158..

Advertisement

Comments

Add a new comment - No HTML
You must be logged in and verified to post a comment. Please log in or sign up to comment.

Explore InfoBarrel

Auto Business & Money Entertainment Environment Health History Home & Garden InfoBarrel University Lifestyle Sports Technology Travel & Places
© Copyright 2008 - 2016 by Hinzie Media Inc. Terms of Service Privacy Policy XML Sitemap

Follow IB Lifestyle