Anthropology, the science that deals with humans, reveals a rather interesting truth in regards to Genesis chapters 1 through 11. Specifically, it would seem that all mankind share tiny nuggets of the same truth in regards to creation, a global flood, and the dispersion of mankind. From that point, the cultures of man seem to develop independently of one another. This fact can only serve to bolster the credentials of the Bible.
Similarities between the Bible and the stories of ancient Babylon have already been well established. Liberal scholars have long stated that these similarities result from the Hebrews copying the Babylonian stories when they were held in Babylonian captivity. Since this is the case, the focus of this article will be primarily on those peoples whom it would be assumed could have been least affected by the culture of ancient Mesopotamia: Native Americans.
Paula R. Hartz states that while the “Native American religions go back to distant prehistory”, “[They] probably brought their religious beliefs with them, gradually adapting them to the land they settled” (13). Recent DNA studies seem to reinforce the commonly held belief that the first Americans utilized a land bridge that once existed in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska. James Shreeves reported the following in the March 2006 issue of “National Geographic” magazine:
[Native Americans] carry markers that link them unequivocally to Asia. The same markers cluster in people who today inhabit the Altay region of Siberia, suggesting it was the starting point for a journey across the land bridge. (69)
Thus, for apologetic purposes, we would once more state that in no way could the Native Americans have been influenced by the stories of ancient Babylon. The progenitors of their beliefs would have been Asian. But since similarities exist between Native American, Babylonian, and Hebrew accounts of such things as creation, a deluge, and the dispersal of mankind, we are forced to conclude that all of these distinct cultures were witnesses the same universal truth. Rather than one culture copying another, each culture related the stories in a manner consistent with its own development following its dispersion. Since Christian faith acknowledges that it would have been the Hebrews that would have received the direct revelation of these truths from God, it follows that the Babylonian and Native American stories are a corruption of the original.
We will begin with Native American creation stories. Typically, the creation stories of Native Americans share “three time periods” (Hartz 34). Hartz identifies these time periods as follows: 1) “early creation, when all beings spoke the same language (emphasis mine—BP) and could understand each other”; 2) “the era of a culture hero, a divine being who prepared the world (emphasis mine—BP) for humankind and taught people their sacred customs”; and 3) “present time, in which people now live and try to follow the will of the spirits” (34).
Most Native American creation stories begin with a world that is “covered with water, which must give way to dry land so that humans can live there” (Hartz 34). This deluged world may parallel the truth of the global flood as recorded in Genesis chapters 6 through 8. However, since it pertains to creation, these stories most likely refer to the state of the Earth on Day Three of creation. Note the words of Genesis 1:9 and 10:
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. (ESV)
Before man could inhabit the Earth, God had to create dry land capable of supporting him.
According to the Maidu Indians of the California coast, the culture hero* that prepares the world for mankind is called “Earth Starter” (Hartz 39). Earth Starter climbed down from the sky and found “a dark world covered with water” (39). Floating on this primordial ocean was a raft that was being ridden by “Turtle” and “Pehe-ipe” (39). Earth Starter instructed Turtle to go “to the bottom of the waters to get earth” (39). The Maidu Indians declare that “The distance was so great that Turtle did not return for six years” (39).
Consider this as a perversion of the Genesis creation account. The world discovered by “Earth Starter,” a dark, watery world, sounds like the status of the world existing in Genesis 1:2:
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep (emphasis mine—BP). And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (ESV)
In the latter part of Genesis 1:2, God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters. The Hebrew word translated as “hovering” (“moving” in the KJV) is “to brood” (Strong e-Sword 7.7.7). Strong says that this implies a state of relaxation (e-Sword 7.7.7). Often we compare God’s Spirit to a mother hen brooding on her nest, a very tranquil picture indeed. The tranquility of the Maidu Indians primordial ocean enabled “Turtle” and “Pehe-ipe” to ride upon a raft. Webster defines “raft” as a “flat floating platform.” Such a platform could not have survived the ravenous waters of an event like a flood. Therefore, we once more point out the similarity of the Maidu Indian belief and the Genesis creation account.
The other striking similarity between the Maidu Indian creation account and that recorded in Genesis is the fact that the dry land was brought up out of the water. The only difference in the two stories is that God performed this task on Day Three over a span of 24 hours (Cf. Genesis 1:9) whereas “Turtle” accomplished the same feat in “six years” (Hartz 39). Despite this glaring difference, though, note the commonality in the number “6.” God made a world capable of supporting humanity in 6 days. “Turtle,” at the behest of “Earth Starter” did the same thing in 6 years. Another observation that we can make in regards to the similarity of the Biblical and Maidu Indian creation accounts at this point is that a trinity is present at the founding of the world. Genesis 1:2 and 26 demonstrate the presence of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Maidu Indian account declares the presence of “Earth Starter”, “Turtle”, and “Pehe-ipe.”
After “Turtle” brought earth up out of the waters, “Earth Starter” made the first people (Hartz 39). “Kuksu” was the first man and “Morning Star” was the first woman (39). It would be their children, according to the Maidu, that would “[fill] the world” (39). Again, note the similarities between this and the Genesis account. Genesis 3:20 states:
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. (ESV)
Another passage to which the Maidu belief relates is Genesis 1:28:
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (emphasis mine—BP) and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (ESV)
So then, just as in the Genesis account, the Maidu Indians believe that all human life originated from a single created pair.
Keeping with this idea of the first pair, we see similarities in the Genesis creation account and the creation account of other Native American tribes. According to the Northwest Coast peoples:
Raven could see that man was lonely (emphasis mine—BP). So he made another figure from the clay (emphasis mine—BP) of the stream and breathed life into it (emphasis mine—BP). It was the first woman. Together the man and woman had many children, who lived and grew and peopled the earth (Hartz 41).
Now, read the account of the creation of woman taken from Genesis 2:18, 21-22:
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone (emphasis mine—BP); I will make him a helper fit for him.” So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. (ESV)
God declared that man should have companionship, a helper, since it was not good for him to remain alone. So, He took a rib from the man He had created to create the woman. The culture hero, “Raven” formed woman from the clay just as he had created man because he said that man was lonely. “Raven” likewise “breathed” life into the woman as it is implied that he had done with the first man. Though the Bible relates the creation of woman as being from the rib of man, listen to how it records the creation of man in Genesis 2:7:
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground (emphasis mine—BP) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (emphasis mine—BP), and the man became a living creature. (ESV)
“Raven”, like the true and living God, created the first man from the earth itself and breathed life into him. The only difference, as we have previously stated, is in the manner in which “Raven” created woman. Just as with the Maidu, the peoples of the Northwest Coast believed that the inaugural pair was responsible for peopling the earth (Hartz 41). As we have seen, the Bible declares the same truth.
Other stories could be cited to reinforce this idea that all cultures once shared a common history as related by Genesis chapters 1 through 11. For the sake of brevity, however, these will serve to point to the similarities between the creation stories of the Native Americans and the revelation of God recorded in Genesis 1 through 3.
Next time, we will look at the similarities between the flood stories of various cultures and the Biblical account.
*= “Although all things come from the Great Spirit, the Great Spirit is not the creator of the world. In Native American belief, that function is performed by a supernatural being with special creative powers, a being whom scholars call a culture hero.” (Hartz 18)
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Hartz, Paula R. World Religions: Native American Religions. New York: Facts on File, Inc. 1997
Shreeves, James. “The Greatest Journey.” National Geographic March 2006: 69.
Meyers, Rick. e-Sword. Version 7.7.7 (CD-ROM) Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2000-2005.
“Raft.” Webster’s New Dictionary of the English Language. New Edition. 2006.