The ancient Atra-Hasis epic of Babylon includes a creation story similar to the version in the Bible

Anita Durairaj
The cuneiform tablet with the Atra-Hasis epicCredit: Jack1956; Public Domain Image

The Atra-Hasis epic is ancient literature written in the Akkadian language in the 18th century BCE. The epic exists in many different versions and is written in the cuneiform alphabet on various stone tablets. Fragments of the story were found throughout the 19th century but archaeologists only found the complete version in 1965.

The word "atra-hasis" means "extra wise." It was the name of the king of Shurupakk (a Sumerian city in what is now Iraq). There are different versions of the epic but the most complete version is written on three tablets.

Tablet I of the Atra-Hasis epic contains the creation story which begins before mankind existed. In the creation story, three Sumerian gods decided that humans should be created to help the gods with laborious work. Humans were created by shaping clay figurines mixed with the flesh and blood of a god. The Sumerian gods spit upon the clay and after 10 months, humans emerge from a specially made womb.

Biblical scholars have compared the creation story in Atra-Hasis to the creation story in the book of Genesis in the Bible. Some scholars believe that Genesis in the Bible is the Israelite version of Atra-Hasis.

While the stories are not exactly the same, there are some conceptual similarities as dictated by an article in BioLogos. In both Atra-Hasis and Genesis, there is a garden created by the god(s). In both versions, humans were created from clay and were initially created to be immortal. However, the humans disappoint the god(s) and the end result is that they are punished.

Historians and scholars suggest that there are clear differences between the stories as well. Yet the differences cannot minimize the similarities in both creation stories.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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