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In the Beginning: Creation Myths of the Biblical World

In the Beginning:Creation Myths of the Biblical World

Washington University in St. Louis

Dr. Pamela Bannash Office Hours: Wed 8am-Wam Office: Busch 117

Jewish, Islamic and Near Eastern Studies 3751

In the Beginning: Creation Myths o/the Biblical World

We will read myths and epic literature from the Bible, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt, and
the ancient Near East about the birth of the gods, the creation ofthe world and ofhumanity, and
the establishment of societies. These masterpieces ofancient literature recount the deeds ofgods
and heroes and humanity's eternal struggle to come to tenns with the world, supernatural
powers, love, lust, and death. This course will examine how each culture borrows traditions and
recasts them in a distinct idiom.

We will examine different approaches to mythology and to the study of ancient cultures
and the Bible.


The Bible (The Tanakh, The Jewish Publication Society; other translations ofthe Bible,
such as the New Revised Standard Version, are acceptable, but please check with me ifyou want
to use one)

Hesiod, Works and Days and Theogony

Dalley, ed., Myths from Mesopotamia

Parker, ed., Ugaritic Narrative Poetry

Hoffner, ed., Hittite Myths

Jacobsen, ed. The Harps That Once ...

Dundes, ed., Sacred Narrative

Other readings will be available on Ares (password: Atrahasis).

Presentations: Each student will be asked to lead the discussion on one day of class. The date and
text for these presentations will be assigned. Generally, leading the discussion involves
preparing questions to inspire class discussion. The questions should require more than a oneword
answer, and the discussion leader may ask follow-up questions to develop the discussion.

Reaction papers: Students will need to tum in a one-page reaction paper for each new primary
text or set of primary texts (indicated by an asterisk). These papers must be handed in to the
professor at the beginning ofthe class meeting. Reaction papers should not be thought ofas
"book reports" or plot summaries. Rather, these should include your immediate impressions of
the text: What themes are dominant? How is the work structured? How does the work compare
with others read in class? What questions did the work raise in your mind? What aspects of the
work would you like to pursue for further study? You may focus on imagery, motifs, and tone,
and you may take comparative approaches to the text. You will be evaluated on the quality of
your analysis, not your writing. Reaction papers should be typed and double-spaced.

Writing Intensive: This is a writing intensive course, and special attention will be paid to student
writing. During the semester, I will take a portion ofa number ofclass sessions to discuss issues
in writing. Each student will prepare a draft ofa short essay (five pages) --this essay should not
be "drafty" and should be written as if it is the final draft. I will return it to you with comments,
suggestions, and corrections for you to rewrite and resubmit ten days later. Each student will
prepare a draft ofa long essay (ten pages) --this essay, too, should not be "drafty" and should be
written as if it is the final draft. I will return it with comments, suggestions, and corrections for
you to rewrite and resubmit at the end of exam period (with the exception of students who plan
to graduate in May, who must submit their rewritten draft on May 5). Papers should be typed and
double-spaced. Both the first draft and the final draft ofeach essay will be graded.

All assignments must be turned in on time for full credit. Students are strongly encouraged to
review the Statement on Academic Integrity.

Grading criteria

Class participation 10%
Presentation 15%
Reaction papers 15%
Short Essay 25%
Long Essay 35%

(frequent absences will lower your grade)

1. (Wed Jan 20) Introduction
2. (Mon Jan 25) The Comparative Method and the Study ofMyth
Kirk, The Nature ofGreek Myths, 13-91.( Ares)

Mesopotamian Mythology

*3. (Wed Jan 27) Gilgamesh
The Epic ofGilgamesh, in Dalley, pp. 39-153

4. (Mon Feb I) The Epic ofGilgamesh (con't)
Dundes, pp. 5-29,41-52, 193-206

*5. (Wed Feb 3) Dumuzi Mythology
Dumuzi, in Jacobsen, The Treasures ofDarkness, 24-73.(Ares) (also Jacobsen, pp. 1-84)
Inanna's Descent, in Jacobsen, pp. 205-232
The Descent ofIshtar to the Underworld, in Dalley, pp. 154-162

*6. (Mon Feb 8) The Flood
Atrabasis, in Dalley, pp. 1-38
The Eridu Genesis, in Jacobsen, pp. 145-150

*7. (Wed Feb 10) Some Political and Ritual Uses ofMyth
The Epic ofCreation (a.k.a. Enuma Elish), in Dalley, pp. 228-277
Temple Program. (Ares)

*8. (Mon Feb 15) The God Eold
The Birth ofMan (a.k.a. Enki and Ninmab), in Jacobsen, pp. 151-166
Enki and·Ninbursag, in Jacobsen, pp. 181-204

*9. (Wed Feb 17) The Problem ofWisdom
Adapa, in Dalley, pp. 182-188

Canaanite Myths

*10. (Mon Feb 22) The Baal Cycle
Baal, in Parker, pp. 81-180
First Draft of Short Essay due

*11. (Wed Feb 24) Other Canaanite Myths
Aqhat, in Parker, pp. 49-80
The Birth ofthe Gracious Gods, in Parker, pp. 205-214
El's Divine Feast, in Parker, pp. 193-196

Hittite Myths

*12. (Mon Mar 1) Old Hittite Myths
Illuyaold, in Hoffner, pp. 9-14
Telepinu, in Hoffner, pp. 14-31

*13. (Wed Mar 3) New Hittite Myths
The Kumarbi Cycle, in Hoffner, pp. 40-65
The Song ofRelease, in Hoffner, pp. 65-80

Egyptian Mythology

*14. (Mon Mar 15) Coffin Texts, Pyramid Texts, and Miscellaneous Inscriptions
Coffin Texts, Pyramic texts, and Miscellaneous. (Ares)

*15. (Wed Mar 17) The Theology of Memphis
The Theology ofMemphis (Ares)

Greek Mythology

*16. (Mon Mar 22) Hesiod, Theogony
Hesiod, Theogony

*17. (Wed Mar 24) Hesiod, Works and Days
                                                                                 Hesiod, Works and Days

no class --Mar 29, 31, and Apr 5

*18. (Wed Apr 7) Myth ofDemeter and Homeric Hymn to Gaea
Myth ofDemeter (Ares)
Homeric Hymn to Gaea (Ares)

The Bible

*19. (Mon Apr 12) The Creation
Genesis 1: 1-2:4 

First Draft of Long Essay Due


*20. (Wed Apr 14) The Garden of Eden
Genesis 2:4-3:24

*21. (Mon Apr 19) Cain and Abel, the Vengeance of Lamech, and the Sons of God and the
Daughters ofMan
Genesis 4:1-6:4

*22. (Wed Apr 21) The Flood
Genesis 6:5-9: 17

*23. (Mon Apr 26 ) Noah's Drunkenness, the Tower ofBabel, and Other Matters
Genesis 9:18-11:12

24. (Wed Apr 28) Biblical Texts and Mythology --Concluding Thoughts
Dundes, pp. 336-342