Biblical Egypt by R. David Pogge

Chapter 7

Creation

Genesis 1 -3 compared to Egyptian Mythology

Section 7.1 - Biblical Creation

No one questions what the Bible says about how the world was created. It is found in the first three chapters of Genesis. Some question whether or not the story is literally true; but there is no question what the official story is. God created everything from nothing in six days and rested on the seventh.

God created light. Then He separated the chaos into air, water, and land. He created plants, fish, animals, and heavenly bodies simply by speaking them into existence. Finally He created Adam from the ground, breathed life into him and gave him dominion over the Earth. He created Eve from Adam.

Briefly, that’s the story. Not everybody believes the story is literally true. Some say it is just an allegory. Some say it is total nonsense. But everybody agrees that’s what the Bible says.

Section 7.2 - The Many Egyptian Creation Myths

What is “the Egyptian creation myth?” It depends upon who you ask. There are lots of Egyptian creation myths.

In keeping with the complex and varied nature of their religion, the Ancient Egyptians had several theories of the creation of the universe. These creation myths evolved in the country’s major cult centres and usually concentrated on the role played by local gods. 1

One of the creation myths involves Ptah, another Amun, and a third a cooperative effort between Nun and Naunet, Amun and Amaunet, Heh and Hauhet, and Kek and Kauket. 2

The Egyptian sphinx—shesep ankh (living image)—was the symbolic representation of the earthly reincarnation of the creator god Atum. 3

It is clear from the Great Hymn to the Aten that Akhenaten either believed Aten to be the creator, or Akhenaten forced Aten into that role.

Who is the creator? Amun, Atum, Aton, or Aten? Given the several different spellings and pronunciations of many pharonic names, it is possible that Aten, Aton, and Atum were (at one time) the same deity, whose name got changed through multiple repetitions of the story. Not only did the name get changed, details of the story apparently evolved over time.

So, there is a great deal of uncertainly as to what the majority of ancient Egyptians actually believed about creation.

Section 7.3 - Similarities

Just as there are similarities in the songs describing Aten and the God of Abraham, there are similarities in what the Hebrews and some Egyptians believed about creation.

The basic Egyptian myth described the primordial eight gods—the Ogdoad—in the primordial waters. These gods came in pairs.

  1. Hok and Hokel represent formlessness.
  2. Kuk and Kuket are darkness.
  3. Amun and Amunet are hiddenness.
  4. Nun and Nunet are the primordial waters.
  5. Together the eight gods represent Chaos and are often depicted with the heads of frogs.
  6. The primordial hill rises out of these waters.
  7. Atum, a god, stood on that hill. He created himself, then generated the other gods. 4

Comparing this particular myth to what the Bible says, there are these similarities:

And the earth was without form, and void [Hok and Hokel]; and darkness [Kuk and Kuket] was upon the face of the deep [Amun and Amunet]. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters [Nun and Nunet]. 5

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land [the primordial hill] appear: and it was so. 6

And God [Atum] said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion [be other gods] over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 7

The fundamental elements of this particular Egyptian creation myth are very much like the Genesis account. No doubt some secular scholars will see this as evidence that Moses (or some unknown priest during King David’s reign) used this as the basis for his creation story in Genesis. I disagree.

Doing a little math on the Biblical genealogies, we see that Adam continued to live 525 years after Mahalaleel was born, so Mahalaleel had plenty of time to hear the creation story from Adam. Noah was born 234 years before Mahalaleel died, and must have heard him tell the story. Noah’s son, Ham, took the story with him to Egypt, where it became slightly corrupted after generations of telling and re-telling, as one would expect. Moses was one of Shem’s descendents, and must have heard the story by word of mouth, as well. If there were any errors in Shem’s account, God would have corrected Moses when he wrote Genesis.

So, it seems likely that at least one of the various Egyptian creation myths is actually a corruption of the story Noah told Ham, and was passed down from generation to generation of his Egyptian descendents.

Back to Chapter 6 Table of Contents On to Chapter 8

Footnotes:

1 Strudwick, The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, 2006, Amber Books Ltd., page 103
2 ibid.
3 ibid. page 254
4 Bob Brier, 1999, The History of Ancient Egypt, “Lecture Three – Ancient Egyptian Thought”, page 10
5 Genesis 1:2
6 Genesis 1:9
7 Genesis 1:26