Summary: This is the beginning of a six part series on the story of the Bible beginning with the act of creation.
“In The Beginning…”
Act 1—Gen. 1:1ff
Introduction: The best story wins!
In Texas their athletic and academic meets are both governed by a body called The University Interscholastic League (U.I.L). When I was in second grade we were given the opportunity to compete in the U.I.L.’s story telling competition. The rules were fairly straight forward. We listened to a teacher read a story and then we would retell the story as best we could before a panel of judges. I never made it that far. Not knowing what I was getting into, I eagerly volunteered. The day came for our first practice. We were to hear the story from our homeroom teacher and then go tell the story to the other class. I had no problem on the first part, but the second was a different matter altogether! I stood in front of the classroom and stared blankly into the eyes of my fellow second graders. No words were coming out of my mouth! I was simply petrified! In a great act of mercy, the teacher, Ms. Chisum, had me turnaround and face her desk and just tell the story to her. So with my back to the class I mumbled some pitiful version of the story to Ms. Chisum, slipped out the door, and my U.I.L. storytelling days were over. It doesn’t matter how good your story is, if you can’t tell it.
A lot of us are like the scared 2nd grader. We know there is something compelling about our story, but we can’t tell it. Our backs are turned to the world and we mumble our story in our holy huddles we call a church service and then we wonder why the world isn’t so impressed and why they seem to so greatly misrepresent our story. Maybe part of the problem is that we don’t relate our faith to the idea of a story. We think of our faith as list of propositions that we must believe on one side of the paper and a list of do’s and don’ts on the other side of the paper. We don’t tell our story, because we don’t even know we have one. And the world isn’t very interested in our propositions and list of proper behaviors.
In fact, our holy book, our Bible, our Scriptures are predominately related to us in story form. Even those portions which are not in narrative form are based on the stories. But this is good news, because our culture and our world love stories! I recently saw a movie based on the modern day manifestations of the Greek Gods—Zeus, Poseidon, and the like. It is a great story, but no one today is dying in the name of Zeus. Those stories are reduced to fairy tales, not stories which people orient their lives around by the millions. So, why do people live and die for the story on these pages? Over the next several weeks, we are going to relearn our story, the entire Bible in six acts. Then maybe we will know it better, live it better, and tell it better. Maybe we will finally turn around and face the class, so to speak. The greatest story has the best beginning, and so we start today, “In the beginning.” What does God expect us to believe, proclaim, and defend about creation? We will know the answer when we know our story.
Move 1: The creation story of Enuma Elish (“When On High”)
But first I want to share a different story with you, one you are probably not very familiar with. It helps place our creation story in its appropriate context. This is the story of “Enuma Elish” or translated, “When On High.” It was written down long before our story and it belonged to the ancient Mesopotamians, and the land nicknamed “the cradle of civilization.”
In the beginning…there were the divine beings Tiamat and Apsu. They were personifications of a preexistent realm of only waters. Tiamat, the female, was the salt water and Apsu, the male, was the fresh water. These waters mingled, or more precisely, mated and produced the second generation of gods—Lahmu and Lahamu. Like all other gods, these newly born gods were also associated with nature and so Lahmu and Lahamu were the silt, which were made by the waters. These two mated and produced the third generation—the horizon—Anshar and Kishar and they produce Anu, the god of heavens. The supreme deity was a fourth generation god.
I can relate to the senior god, Apsu, who couldn’t sleep because of all the noise his kids were making! He had a servant named Mummu, who advises him to kill all the other gods. His wife, Tiamat, tries to dissuade him, but the council of Mummu wins out. Ea, who is the god of wisdom and the son of Anu (so, fifth generation) hears about it. He casts a sleeping spell (ironic) on Apsu and then kills him.