REL 340: "Creation in Genesis and the Ancient
This course examines the accounts of creation in Genesis and in other ancient Near Eastern literature. Primary texts and iconography will provide the basis for studying the role of creation in the religious life and political systems of Israel and other Near Eastern societies. This study of creation will provide a window through which to better understand Genesis as a whole as well as large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Students will pursue independent interests related to these topics and this research will culminate in a final paper. Prerequisite: An Area B course or permission of instructor. Fall semester, even years. Writing Credit.
[ Goals and Objectives | Textbooks
| Books on Reserve | Evaluation
| September | October
| November | December
| Dr. Andy Vaughn
|Office: OM 105C
|Office telephone: x7475
|Home telephone: 625-2797 (before
- Office hours: MWF 10:30-11:30; W 1:30-2:30; AND by
Clifford, Richard J., Creation Accounts in the Ancient
Near East and in the Bible. CBQ Monograph Series 26. Washington,
DC: Catholic Biblical Association, 1994.
Hess, Richard A. and David T. Tsumura, I Studied Inscriptions
From Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic
Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns,
von Rad, Gerhard. Genesis, A Commentary. Philadelphia:
Highly Recommended Book
Meeks, Wayne, ed. The Harper Collins Study Bible (if
you already own another NRSV translation, you may use this version;
however, you are required to use the NRSV translation in order
that we will all have the same text).
Books on Reserve
- Brueggemann, Walter, Genesis
- Driver, S. R. The
Book of Genesis
- Gunkel, Hermann, Genesis
- Hamilton, Victor, The
Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17
- Luther, Martin, Luther's
commentary on Genesis
- Sarna, Nahum M., The
JPS Torah Commentary: The Traditional Hebrew Text With the New
- Skinner, John, A
critical and exegetical commentary on Genesis
- Speiser, E. A., Genesis.
Introd., translation, and notes
- Westermann, Claus, Genesis
1-11 : A Commentary
- Westermann, Claus, Genesis
12-36: A Commentary
- General Studies, Monographs, and Collection of Essays
- Anderson, Bernhard W., From
Creation to New Creation: Old Testament Perspectives
- Barr, James, The
Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality
- Batto, Bernard Frank, Slaying
the Dragon : Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition
- Bonhoeffer, Deitrich, Creation
and fall; a theological interpretation of Genesis 1-3.
- Clifford, Richard J., Creation
Accounts in the Ancient Near East and In The Bible
- Coote, Robert B. and David Robert Ord, In
The beginning : Creation and the Priestly History
- Sarna, Nahum M., Understanding
- Westermann, Claus, The
Genesis Account of Creation
- Texts and Translations
- Bible Dictionaries in the
Reference Section of the Library
- A Dictionary of the Bible, by W. R. F. Browing (REFERENCE
BS 440.B73 1996)
- Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, ed. by J. H.
Hayes (REFERENCE BS 500.D5 1999)
- Dictionary of the Bible, by J. Hastings (REFERENCE
BS 440.H5 1963)
- Mercher Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by W. E. Mills
(REFERENCE BS 440.M429 1990)
- The Harper-Collins Bible Dicionary, ed. by P. J. Achtemeier
(REFERENCE BS 440.H235 1996)
- Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. by
Botterweck and Ringgren (REFERENCE BS 440.B5713)
- The Westminter Dictionary of the Bible, by J. D. Davis
(REFERENCE BS 440.D3 1944)
- Articles (photocopies on reserve or in collections in
the reference section):
- Clifford Geertz, "Religion as a Cultural System,"
Chapter 4 in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays
by Clifford Geertz (New York: Basic Books, 1973), pp. 88-125
- Robert Oden, "Myth and Mythology: Mythology," in
The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, pp. 946-956 (REFERENCE
BS440 .A54 1992)
- Robert Oden, "Myth and Mythology: Myth in the OT,"
in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, pp. 956-960 (REFERENCE
BS440 .A54 1992)
Method of Evaluation:
- class participation: 20%
- short, descriptive essays: 25%
- brief essay exams and exegesis papers (take-home): 25%
- final paper (14-20pp.): 30%
- Short, descriptive essays
(25% of the course grade):
- Many of the writing assignments during the beginning of the semester will be very short (1-3 pages). Most of these assignments will serve the goals of 1) helping all of us identify and reflect on the critical issues that are being presented in the assigned readings, and 2) help the student hone his or her writing skills (especially the ability to provide support for a coherent and focused thesis statement from primary resources. In this process, the student will summarize the arguments that are being made, but the written response will also move beyond summary into a critical analysis of what the author is saying. The grades will be more heavily weighted on the essays turned in later in the course, and the student may "drop" the 2 lowest grades. The first few short essays will use the following format:
- what is the author saying (what is the main point[s] of the
- Why does the author make this argument? (What is the evidence
given in the assigned reading for this argument?). This is the
stage where the student must incorporate reasons from the assigned
readings with primary resources. For example, if the author is
making argument that there are two literary sources in the first
3 chapters of Genesis because there is a difference in the style
of the various chapter, the student must both identify the stated
reason from the assigned reading and also give some examples
from the primary sources (in this case, examples from the biblical
text of Genesis 1-3). One key here is to give representative
examples so that the essay is brief and not overly wordy. The
other key is to identify what the important parts of the argument
are and show that you understand them through the examples given.
- What do you (the reader) think about the argument being made?
How do you evaluate or respond to the argument?
- Why do you come to this conclusion. Again, this is the place
where you need to give reasons from both the assigned reading
and from the primary sources. In addition, this is also the place
where it is appropriate (and helpful) to include presuppositional
reasons why you respond to a particular argument in a negative
or positive manner. For example, it is important that we all
identify our presuppositions for reading the biblical narratives,
so it may be very appropriate to state in this section that although
you find the arguments for multiple sources in Genesis to be
rational, you are opposed to the idea because your faith to this
point has presupposed that Moses wrote the entire Pentateuch.
Beware that this section should not be a "cop-out,"
but rather an opportunity to explore your own presuppositions
and how they may change.
- Class Participation (20% of the course grade):
- Since this class will be a seminar with only one meeting per week, it is extremely important that students attend every class. The class is also structured to allow students to teach each other and participate actively in the learning process. Thus, if a student has even one unexcused absence, his or her grade will be effected. Please do not take this policy as an admonishment, but rather as a friendly encouragement to come and participate in class. Students will be given an assessment from the professor of their participation close to the mid-term period, and self-assessment by the student will also be taken into account.
ANTICIPATED SCHEDULE OF TOPICS
- Sep. 10: Course description and introductory lectures
- go over syllabus
- Lecture: "What Does it Mean to Study "Creation" in the Old Testament?
- Workshop: What is exegesis and what are some of the tools?
- After class, read "exegesis" in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (REFERENCE BS440 .A54 1992)
- read Gen 1:1-2:4a in class
- after class, read von Rad, Genesis, pp. 45-67,
- in class, develop a list of 8 important words that you found in reading Gen 1:1-2:4a
- look up 3 of these words in the Bible dictionaries listed above and make a photocopy of the entry for the 3 words that you choose; bring the photocopies to class
- Sep. 17: History of Research and the Priestly Account of Creation
- History of Research on the topic of Creation in the Ancient Near East
- Read Richard Hess, "One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative Studies on Genesis 1-11: An Overview," in I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 3-26. This is a long overview article, and it may not be the most engaging essay that you have every read. However, the professor feels that it is important for the student to begin to get a feel for the critical issues that will be discussed in the class, and the article will start to give the student this feel. With this general comment in mind, do not try to master every detail present; rather, concentrate on the large picture and begin to pick up a feel for what it means to study creation in the Bible and the ancient Near East.
- Read Richard Clifford, "The Concept of Creation," in Creation Accounts textbook, pp. 1-10.
- Write a short essay (2-3 pages) that describes one critical issue that you identify in the Clifford reading assigned for today. Use the format described in the syllabus for short, descriptive essays.
- Discussion of the Readings led by James.
- Back-up discussion leader: Alexis.
- The Priestly Account of Creation
- Read Gen 1-3 carefully.
- take notes on the passage
- look at differences between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3
- make a list of 3 words from the passage and look these words in at least two different Bible dictionaries or reference works. After you look them up, make 6 copies of each entry for your 3 words. In other words, you should bring to class 6 copies of the entries that you have found for 3 words. We will distribute the photocopies and discuss the words in class.
- read "Male and Female He Created Them," by Phyllis Bird in I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 329-361. Note: this is a scholarly article that uses Hebrew in transliteration. It will thus be difficult and it's long, but do not get too caught up with trying to understand the Hebrew. You will want to skim some of the more detailed sections as it's a long article. Also, all Hebrew words are presented with translations and in Latin script, so just try to get the overall sense of the argument. This article will give you good experience in reading scholarly works, and we can go over questions in class.
- read "The Earth in Genesis 1," by David Toshio Tsumura in I Studied Inscription textbook, pp. 310-328. Similar to the Bird article, this article is difficult. However, skip the transliterations of the Akkadian and Ugartic texts and read the translations. I will go over important words in class, and we can go over other questions after you read the article.
- read The Enuma Elish Stories, OTP, 9-18; and Dalley, Myths, pp. 228-277
- Read the Hymn to Ptah, OTP, 3-5
- Sep. 24: Myth and Creation in the Old Testament; The J Account of Creation in Genesis 2-3
- Myth and Creation in the Old Testament
- read Robert Oden, "Myth and Mythology: Mythology," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, pp. 946-956 (REFERENCE BS440 .A54 1992)
- read Robert Oden, "Myth and Mythology: Myth in the OT," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 4, pp. 956-960 (REFERENCE BS440 .A54 1992)
- read handout from class, B. Batto, "Introduction" in Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition (Louisville: Westminister / John Knox Press, 1992). You are encouraged to purchase this book through a bookcloseouts.com or a similar discount publisher. I did not require the book with the BookMark because you can get it cheaper on the web. It will be useful for your final papers, and it is also on reserve.
- Write a two to three-page essay that defines "myth" using assigned readings for today. Use the format described in the syllabus for short, descriptive essays.
- Discussion on Myth led by Angela.
- Back-up discussion leader: Jeff.
- The J Account of Creation in Genesis 2-3: a focus on the biblical narrative
- read Genesis 2-3
- outline Genesis 2
- read von Rad, pp. 73-102.
- make a list of the important words or themes that you find in the text.
- look up the words or ideas that you identified in the Bible dictionaries listed above and make 6 photocopies of one of the entries that seems particularly helpful. You will distribute the 6 photocopies to your classmates. Bring single copies of other entries that you found helpful and we can refer to them in class, but you do not have to distribute them.
- read "Genesis 2:4b-3:24: A Synchronic Approach," by Jerome T. Walsh in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 362-382. Make notes on his major points, and bring these notes to class.
- read "Genesis 2-3: The Theme of Intimacy and Alienation," by Alan Jon Hauser in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 383-398. Make notes on his major points, and bring these notes to class.
- Oct. 1: Nobel Conference (individual meeting this week instead of class): Topic: Developing an exegesis paper
- develop a focused thesis statement for a brief exegetical paper (preferably about 4 pages but no more than 5 pages). Do not write the paper yet!
- read relevant portions of at least 3 commentaries on reserve for information related to your topic. Use the Westermann commentary plus at least any 2 other commentaries. Make photocopies of information that you find especially helpful and bring the photocopies to your individual meeting with the professor.
- Prepare word studies or look up themes in the dictionaries used above for information that you find helpful for your thesis.
- Type your focused thesis statement. Along with your thesis statement, include a typed list of data listed above that you plan to use as you write a short paper to prove your thesis.
- We will go over how to use web-based search engines in class.
- Oct. 8: Sumerian Creation Texts
- read Clifford, Creation Accounts, pp. 13-53. Make a list of how creation takes place in the different texts-- bring specific examples to class
- short exgetical paper due at the beginning of the class hour. The paper (typed in 12 point with normal one-inch margins) should be about 4 pages but no more than 5 pages.
- read "Eridu, Dunnu, and Babel: A Study in Comparative Mythology," by Patrick D. Miller, in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 143-168. Make notes and bring them to class.
- Read "The Eridu Genesis," by Thorkild Jacobsen in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 383-398. Make notes and bring them to class.
- Discussion on Sumerian Creation Account led by Peter.
- Back-up discussion leader: James.
- Oct. 15: Akkadian (and related) Creation Accounts
- read Gilgamesh in OTP, pp. 19-30; and Dalley, Myths, pp. 39-153.
- Read, T. Jacobsen, "Second Millennium Metaphors. 'And Death the Journey's End': The Gilgamesh Epic." Chapter 7 in Treasures of Darkness (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976), pp. 195-219.
- Make a list of ways that you see Gilgamesh parallel being used in Genesis 2-9
- Discussion leader for Jacobson reading: Alexis.
- Atrahasis and Enuma Elish
- read, "A New Babylonian 'Genesis' Story," by A. R. Millard, in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 114-128.
- Read, Clifford, Creation Accounts, pp. 54-98
- reread Atrahasis and the Enuma Elish in Dalley, Myths
- write a two to three-page essay that examines either the Clifford or the Jacobsen reading. Use the format described in the syllabus for short, descriptive essays.
- Discussion leader of Clifford reading: Jeff
- Oct. 22: The themes of J in Genesis 2-9
- General Themes of J in Genesis 2-9
- reread J portions of Genesis 2-9 and focus especially on the J portion in Genesis 6-9 (the J portions are as follows: 2:4b-4:26; 6:1-8; 7:1-5, 7, 10, 12, 16b, 17b, 22, 23a, 23c; 8:2b, 3a, 6-12, 13b, 20-22; 9:18-27)
- think about what message the J text is presenting and how the creation parallels that we have studied can be seen in the J narrative (for the time being, try to focus just on the J narrative)
- read von Rad, Genesis, pp. 113-124, paying special attention to the function of the J narrative
- make a list of ways that you see the J narratives in Genesis chapter 2-9 paralleling Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, Adapa, and the other creation texts that we have studied. It would be helpful to note whether you think any of the Sumerian parallels can be found in the J narrative, and if so whether the Eridu tradition or the Nippur tradition is most evident. (Note: you may want to look at Batto, Slaying the Dragon (on reserve), chapter 2, for his treatment of these connections)
- Our discussion in class will focus on the ways in which the J narrative is presenting a creation account (including the flood story) that is similar yet unique from the Mesopotamian traditions. We will want to focus on Batto's understanding of mythopoeism or "myth-making"-- that is, we want to focus on how the J writer is taking old myths or mythical traditions and reworking them into a new narrative. As you think about J's account as unique, think about how it functions within the 10th century as propaganda for the united monarchy under Solomon. That is, how are the adaptations and changes to the Mesopotamian creation myths helpful for the Judean monarchy under Solomon?
- The J and P flood stories
- reread the P portions of Genesis 1-9 (the P portions are as follows: 1-2:4a; 5:1-32; 6:9-22; 7:11, 13-16a, 17a, 18-21, 24; 8:1-2a, 3b-5, 14-19; 9:1-17, 28-29)
- think about what message the P text is presenting and how the creation parallels that we have studied can be seen in the J narrative (for the time being, try to focus just on the P narrative)
- read von Rad, Genesis, pp. 125-130
- make a list of ways that you see tbe P narratives in Genesis chapter 1-9 paralleling Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, Adapa, and the other creation texts that we have studied. It would be helpful to note whether you think any of the Sumerian parallels can be found in the P narrative, and if so whether the Eridu tradition or the Nippur tradition is most evident. (Note: you may want to look at Batto, Slaying the Dragon (on reserve), chapter 3, for his treatment of these connections)
- Our discussion in class will focus on the ways in which the P narrative is presenting a creation account (including the flood story) that is similar yet unique from the Mesopotamian traditions. We will want to focus on Batto's understanding of mythopoeism or "myth-making"-- that is, we want to focus on how the P writer is taking old myths or mythical traditions and reworking them into a new narrative. As you think about P's account as unique, think about how it functions within the exilic period as propaganda. That is, how are the adaptations and changes to the Mesopotamian creation myths helpful for the Judean exiles in Babylon?
- Oct. 29: recap: summary of the course so far and the take-home exam
- take-home essay exam due at the beginning of class. In addition to reviewing what we have done so far, please read the following articles and include references to them in the take-home exam.
- Read "Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern Stories of Creation and Flood: An Introduction," by David Toshio Tsumura in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 27-57.
- Read "The Origins of Civilization According to Biblical and Cuneiform Texts," by G. Castellino in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 75-95.
- Read "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis," by W. G. Lambert in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 96-113.
- Discussion Leader for the day: Jeff
- Back-up discussion leaders: Peter and Alexis
- Lecture on the Tower of Babel Story
- read "'The Babel of Tongues': A Sumerian Version," by Samuel Noah Kramer in the I Studied Inscriptions textbook, pp. 278-282.
- Read Genesis 11:1-9
- Nov. 5: Examination of the J Narratives and Ugaritic and Phonecian Accounts of Creation
- Nov. 12: Examination of the Final Redacted form of Gen 1-24 with a study of P and E features.
- Second exegesis paper due at the beginning of class.
- Nov. 19: The Jacob Cycle
- Nov. 26: Professor at SBL conference (work on papers)
- Dec. 3: The Joseph Cycle
- outline of paper with thesis statement due at beginning of class. Bibliography also due.
- Dec. 10: Putting it all together-- the idea of national myth.
- Final Paper due before due before the end of the exam period. The Professor will appreciate some paper being turned in before the last day of the exam period.