Genesis 1 – Indo-European?

This may seem very odd, but I have developed a hypothesis for that, by assembling various bits and pieces of history and mythology.

The story starts with the speakers of Proto-Indo-European dialects some 6000 years ago in the grassland between eastern Ukraine and Kazakhstan. They had a creation story that goes something like this:

Once upon a time, there were two twin brothers, *Mannus, and *Yemos, Man and Twin. Man sacrificed Twin, dismembered him, and constructed the familiar universe from his body parts.

They also had a story about how a god of storms and war fought and killed a reptilian water monster.

They spread out from their homeland, and though they eventually got assimilated in the Fertile Crescent, these stories were picked up by local people and conflated into a Chaoskampf, “chaos struggle”. The older gods are threatened by a chaos monster, and they send out a younger god to fight it. He defeats it, he creates the familiar universe from its parts, and he becomes the ruler of the gods.

This story is picked up by some Israelites, and they trim it down by God cutting up primordial material. “In the beginning, God separated the heaven and the earth”. The story was then revised into its present form, and it was turned into a charter myth for the seventh-day Sabbath.

This seems like some big argument from scenario, so I will discuss supporting evidence.

First,  Proto-Indo-European mythology (Wikipedia). That article contains a good summary. The creation story is reconstructed from several sources, like the killing, dismemberment, and construction of the familiar Universe from the body parts of the primordial giant Ymir in Norse mythology. Another one is the Romulus and Remus story. Those twins’ names mean “Roman” and “R-win”, with *Iemus changed to Remus because it alliterates.

The god-vs-monster story is reconstructed from several stories of gods and heroes killing monsters: Thor vs. the Midgard Serpent, Indra vs. Vritra, Apollo vs. Python, Zeus vs. Typhon, Hercules vs. the Hydra, and likely others.

Proto-Indo-European speakers spread out from their home, reaching central Europe and the northern Indian subcontinent by 1500 BCE. The settlers in India called their language Samskrta, and English speakers call it Sanskrit. From the group that went to India a group branched off and settled in the northern Fertile Crescent, making the short-lived Mitanni kingdom. However, it left behind some linguistic evidence (Mitanni Indic superstrate hypothesis). Evidence like names of gods, personal names, and even horse-training terminology (Kikkuli’s horse-training instructions).

I speculate that such Indo-European migrants may have left some additional evidence: their mythology. I also speculate that the creation story and the hero-vs-monster story were combined to make the chaos-struggle story, like what finds in Enuma Elish in Babylon. In it, Marduk fights and kills the primordial water monster Tiamat, cutting her up and creating the familiar universe from the pieces.

I now get to the Israelites. Over 597 – 581 CE, several groups of them were deported to Babylon by their conqueror, King Nebuchadnezzar. This Babylonian Exile ended around 539 BCE, when Persian King Cyrus allowed them to return. While in Babylon or not long after their return, some of them likely composed a stripped-down version of Enuma Elish and turned it into a charter myth for the seventh-day Sabbath (Combat Myth: The Curious Story of Yahweh and the Gods Who Preceded Him | Bob Seidensticker, God Created the Universe From Nothing—Or Did He? | Bob Seidensticker).

In it, God separates light from darkness, the water above the sky from the water below the sky, and land from water. So that story may also have originally started off with God separating the heaven and the earth. God also commands various things into existence, and he commands the earth to make plants and the water to make aquatic animals.

The story also has a very orderly sort of quality:

  1. Celestial environments: light, dark
  2. Far-terrestrial environments: sea, sky
  3. Near-terrestrial environments: land, plants
  4. Celestial inhabitants: Sun, Moon, stars
  5. Far-terrestrial inhabitants: aquatic animals, flying animals
  6. Near-terrestrial inhabitants: land animals, humanity
  7. God takes the first day off in the history of the Universe

The first six days form a 2*3 grid, and the seventh is obviously the first Sabbath, thus making this story a charter myth for seventh-day Sabbaths.

As to creation out of nothing, the story is consistent both with that and with creating out of formless matter. The word “create” in Genesis 1:1 sometimes appears in contexts that indicate giving form.

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