The Genesis of Genesis
The Egyptian Influence on
the Ancient Hebrew
Creation Stories
The Genesis of Genesis
• The Egyptians shared common ideas
about the creation of the world
– In the beginning was a universal flood
(Nun or Nu)
– A single deity acts and a mountain is
raised from the flood, upon which more
creative acts will occur
• The difference among Egyptian myths
centered around who the deity was
and how creation began
Egypt: Four Cult Centers
• Heliopolis
• Memphis
• Hermopolis
• Thebes
Each city had its own local deity that
they associated with the creative acts
Heliopolis
• Atum
– A solar deity
– Was either the mountain or
appeared on the mountain as a
flaming serpent
– Had both male and female traits
– Gave birth to Shu and Tefnut, who
gave birth to Geb and Nut, who
gave birth to Osiris, Isis, Set, and
Nephthys
Heliopolis’s Ennead
Memphis
• Ptah, chief deity
– Spoke to summon Atum from Nun
• Gave birth to Shu and Tefnut, who
gave birth to Geb and Nut, who gave
birth to Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys
Hermopolis
• The Ogdoad, eight deities,
emerges from Nun and gives
birth to Re, the Creator
• Re then gives birth to the Ennead
Hermopolis’s Ogdoad
Universal Flood
Space or Infinity
Darkness
Invisible Winds
The Ogdoad
leads to the Creation
of the Ennead
Re
The eight deities of the Ogdoad give birth to Re.
Re, then, creates the Ennead
Thebes
• Amen, the creator
– The other creator deities were just
forms of Amen;
• Amen appears first in the
Hermopolitan Ogdoad,
• Then as the Memphite Ptah,
• Then as Heliopolitan Atum,
• And then as Re
Genesis 1:1-2
• The Beginning
In the beginning
God created the
heavens and the
earth. 2 Now the
earth was formless
and empty,
darkness was over
the surface of the
deep, and the Spirit
of God was
hovering over the
waters.
1
Formless and empty
are translated from
the Hebrew tohu
and bohu, an
idiomatic
expression for
chaos and disorder
Spirit is translated
from ruach,
meaning wind or
violent exhalation
Genesis 1:1-2
• The two opening
Hebrew verses
describe the
order of creation
– An earth and
heaven that take
up space but
have no form
– Darkness
– A watery deep
– A wind moving
over waters
Genesis 1:3
•
And God said,
"Let there be light,"
and there was light.
3
• Amen “speaks and
what should come
into being comes
into being”
• Ptah “thinks out
and commands
what he wishes [to
exist]”
• Atum “took
Annunciation in his
mouth”
Genesis 1:3
•
And God said,
"Let there be light,"
and there was light.
3
• Amen “speaks and
what should come
into being comes
into being”
• Ptah “thinks out
and commands
what he wishes [to
exist]”
• Atum “took
Annunciation in his
mouth”
Genesis 1:3
•
And God said, "Let
there be light," and
there was light. 4 God
saw that the light was
good, and he separated
the light from the
darkness. 5 God called
the light "day," and the
darkness he called
"night." And there was
evening, and there was
morning--the first day.
3
• A hymn to Amen
shows the same
sequence: Amen-Re
“opened [his] eyes
to see with them
and everybody
became illuminated
by means of the
glances of [his]
eyes, when the day
had not yet come
into being.”
Genesis 1:4-5 & 1: 16-19
•
God saw that the • 16 God made two great
light was good, and
lights--the greater light to
he separated the
govern the day and the
light from the
lesser light to govern the
darkness. 5 God
night. He also made the
called the light
stars. 17 God set them in the
"day," and the
expanse of the sky to give
darkness he called
light on the earth, 18 to
"night." And there
govern the day and the
was evening, and
night, and to separate light
there was morningfrom darkness. And God
the first day.
saw that it was good. 19 And
there was evening, and
there was morning--the
fourth day.
4
Genesis 1: 6-8
•
And God said, "Let
there be an expanse
between the waters to
separate water from
water." 7 So God made
the expanse and
separated the water
under the expanse from
the water above it. And
it was so. 8 God called
the expanse "sky." And
there was evening, and
there was morning-the
second day.
6
• The firmament
rising out of the
waters is the
primeval
mountain that
arises out of Nun,
the primeval
waters
• Egyptians saw the
sky as a waterway
that Re sailed
though on his
solar barque.
Genesis 1: 20 & 2:19
• 120 And God said,
"Let the water teem
with living creatures,
and let birds fly
above the earth
across the expanse of
the sky.“
• 219 Now the LORD
God had formed out
of the ground all the
beasts of the field and
all the birds of the air.
• “Teem” can also be
translated as “bring
forth,” changing the
meaning to suggest
that the birds are
created out of the
waters in the first
passage, creating,
then, a contradictory
meaning as the
second passage
suggests that birds
come from the
ground.
Genesis 1:27
•
So God created
man in his own
image, in the image
of God he created
him; male and
female he created
them.
27
• Hebrew man is
ha-adam, which
means “the
adam,” a pun
because the
creature is
formed from clay
(adamah)
The first “man”in the passage translates as
humans or, more literally, earth creatures
Genesis 1
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