Faith and Mythology: Which came first, Hebrews or Babylonians?

What questions do myths try to answer? They’re not so different from those we answer in our Bible.
  • Creation myths—how did we get here? Everyone wants an answer to that one.
  • Flood myths—natural disasters, earth-shattering changes: we want them not to be pointless.
  • Hero myths—give us hope in the face of feeling powerless.
  • God as man myths—answer our need to feel we matter… And we have the ultimate God-as-man story in Jesus.
People who study these things look for similarities between myths then track how tribes and peoples traveled through the stories they left behind. If they find similar stories in different places, they’ll deduce that one culture “borrowed” the story from another and built on it. They’ll often say, for example, that the Bible builds on Babylonian myths, and claim it must have been written during the exile in Babylon. Jews and Christians say the first books were written by Moses, but it’s certainly true that we have older records of Babylonian versions of the stories. Does that mean they wrote them first, or just that they learned to write earlier?

Going back to my school library books, I fell in love with everyone else’s myths, and pretty soon I was wondering why the Bible was so boring. Why didn’t God hire better writers? Of course, what I was missing was that most of these stories were retellings, not translations of the original. As language gets richer, the retelling becomes more colorful. If I “retell” a Bible story I’ll give you details that aren’t really there. I try to make readers relate and ask questions and make the story their own--it's the way I write. But what if people don't write--if they're keeping oral traditions alive with stories round the camp fire? There are basically two ways they might use:
  • My way, with lots of imagination and extra details, or
  • The religious way, with lots of recitation and nobody dares to change a thing.
Which way do you think the ancient Hebrews would have passed on their stories? And the Babylonians? Hence the rather boring Bible, and the exciting chronicles of Gilgamesh.

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