Bible Review 14:3, June 1998

Creation Myths Breed Violence

The Chaoskampf myth of creation sets up a cosmic cycle of violence. Can it ever bring peace?

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky

Bible Review

One hundred years ago Hermann Gunkel identified the Chaoskampf—the Battle Against Chaos—as a fundamental biblical myth. Working from the then recently published Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation epic, Gunkel drew a picture of the events before creation, in which the sovereign god (in Babylon, Marduk) had to establish his sovereignty by defeating watery opponents. Gunkel showed that many poetic biblical passages in the Psalms, prophets and wisdom literature refer to this same mythical concept. Moreover, he demonstrated that biblical ideas of the eschaton (the end of time) mirrored these conceptions of the beginning, that is, God’s ultimate kingdom will also be established after a defeat of enemies.

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