Comparison between Biblical, Mesopotamian,
Egyptian, and Norse Creation Myths
Over the ages, there have been a wide variety of religions, all stemming from some important culture of the time. Some of the more widely known of these myths, especially those pertaining to creation, originate from familiar cultures such as the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and the Vikings. However, the most widely known and still often accepted creation myth originates from the Bible. Now, most myths are not entirely original, and draw from former religions for standards and for its easier acceptance into everyday life. As such, there are both similarities and differences between the ancient religions and a more recent one. The main differences would be in the gods themselves, how creation took place, and the materials of creation. The similarities mainly pertain to man, as to his role and why he was created, along with how the people worshipped their gods.
One of historys most ancient religious texts, the Enuma Elish, tells the tale of Mesopotamian religion. The basic story of their mythology lies in the reign of Tiamat and Apsu, and the rise of Marduk as the supreme god. Tiamat and Apsu were the most ancient gods, and how they came into being was unclear. However, they were also known as salt water and fresh water, which recalls the location of Mesopotamian culture, blossoming between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The myth explains the existence of those rivers through the death of Tiamat, whose eyes were the source of both of these rivers. In fact, the whole of Tiamats body was used to form the world. Man came much later, as an idea of Marduks, when the gods decided that they no longer wished to do menial labor. So to make man, Marduk murdered Kingu, Tiamats widowed husband, and used his flesh and blood to form mankind. This idea of the creation of man points at the Mesopotamian belief that all beings had a god or gods residing in them, including themselves.
The Egyptians are one of historys best known ancient cultures, and their creation myths are very similar to those of the Mesopotamians. The Egyptian creation myths varied, due to competition between the temples of Egypt as each temple took their god and placed him above all others, only to be superseded later. The more dominant tradition is known as Heliopolitan cosmology. In it, the most important god was Atum, who was later accepted as the sun god. In the myth itself, Atum wills himself into being, then creates a mound for himself to stand on, surrounded by waters on all sides. These waters are thought to represent the Nile river, by which the entire culture of ancient Egypt survived. Atum then masturbated, bringing further gods into existence, such as Shu and Tefnut. So Atum himself came from the waters, and from Atum came all other gods. So then Shu and Tefnut created Geb and Nut, who in turn created some of the more widely known gods of Egypt: Osiris, Set, Isis, Nephtilys, and Horus.
Norse mythology has a small difference from the previous two myths, in its origin. In both of the myths already explained, they began from water. In Norse mythology however, their origins were found in fire and ice, which observes the lifestyle led by the Vikings in their frozen environment, where fire was vital to survival. It wasnt a far stretch to believe that those two elements in themselves could be a creating force, if it already was how they lived. They believed that when fire and ice met, the resulting droplets formed into Ymir, the forerunner of the frost giants. Ymir lived off of milk supplied by a cow that kept itself alive by licking the salt from the ice, and over time the cows licking uncovered man, which points at their belief that man originated entirely from the ice. That man was known as Buri, and in years after it, his grandsons murdered Ymir, whose blood wiped out most of the entirety of the frost giants species. The grandsons of Buri were then considered gods, and took Ymirs body and made the world from him, using his flesh for the land, his blood for the rivers and seas, and his bones the mountains. This belief led to the Vikings seeing all of existence of having some form of being to it, and respecting nature as well as man. In turn, this displayed many of the reasons the Vikings lived as they did, such as their love for fighting (reflected in the slaying of Ymir) and their respect for the elements (the build of the world was of the body of a frost giant).
The three myths just now explained can be compared to the Bible in many ways, showing several similarities and differences between them. One of the big differences would be in how everything came into being. In all of the previous myths, all life came from some primordial element, being fire/ice or water. The Bible, however, states that the one God has always existed, and nothing existed before him. In addition, he had no elements to create by, he simply willed other things into being. For example, in the 3rd line of Genesis: And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light. There was nothing to create light from, he simply made it so. The idea that God created everything leads to the Biblical belief that God is omnipotent and all-knowing, whereas the other myths had several gods which often strove for either greater power or cooperation amongst the gods. Another big difference would be in the creation of man itself. Again, God simply willed man into being, after the world was created, and put him in charge of the Garden of Eden. He gave man the world as his own to influence, and allowed for the most part, free reign. In other belief systems however, such as the Mesopotamians, man was created because the gods tired of doing menial labor. Man was created to serve the gods and fulfill their every whim. The pagan gods were more focused on their own affairs, and used mortals to do what they themselves saw as a waste of time, whereas the one God treated mortals as though they were children almost, by giving them a little leash to explore and enjoy their life as they wish, but could still come in at any time and fix where they go wrong. However, some elements between the stories are shared among all of these myths. For one, man was created after all other things were settled already. Nothing major was created or done by the gods to alter the fabric of existence after the introduction of mankind into existence. Man was introduced in the Biblical belief after the world was created, along with all the other life forms and formations. In the pagan beliefs, man was created to do the jobs of the gods, so that they would no longer need to be so attentive to the world they created.