So, if all these creation stories, including those in the scriptures, are but various “tellings” of the One Story, then a valid approach to learning what happened in that first epoch would be to make a comparative analysis of the information or beliefs they provide. This is the basis of our approach here in order to give a fuller, more comprehensive understanding of the scriptural creation accounts.
In the Genesis account we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” In the Moses account, apparently the same event or condition is described thus: “And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God.” The Abraham account says: “… and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.”
The Egyptian version of this story declares that this “face of the waters” or “face of the deep” was an “inert, watery mass” located in the heavens or sky in which Atum, the sky and creator god, “the god One” sat, alone and in an “inactive” state. “I was the Primeval Waters, he who had no companion when my name came into existence.” That is, this ‘water’ of creation was not the ocean, as most understand the reference today. It was an astral phenomenon, something seen in the heavens.
This explains why, later in the creation story, we are told of “waters which were above the firmament.” This puzzling reference has perplexed biblical exegetes down through the ages. None have had a believable explanation for it. Yet, when seen through the perspective of other creation stories, a more plausible and practical explanation emerges. So it will be with the entire Genesis account as we move forward with our analysis.
Interestingly, a simple wavy line is the Egyptian hieroglyph for water. The sound given this wavy line hieroglyph is the ‘n’ sound, as in Nile. In fact, this seems to be true of all very early cultures, because this ‘n’ sound is part of the name of several creator gods. For example, the Sumerian creator was An or Anu; the Greek was Ouranos (Our-an-os); and the Roman was Janus (J-anu-s). Of course, all these ‘creator gods’ can be traced back philologically to the planetary god, Saturn, who was also said to be a creator or father of the many gods that came later.
Thus, it becomes apparent from reading other creation accounts that these enigmatic “waters” or “deep” were part and parcel of the creator god himself as he sat in the heavens. His very name referred to the primeval waters in which the creation occurred.
Once again, Joseph Smith casts great light upon the subject. In the his facsimile No. 1 we see this firmament illustrated as water near the bottom of the panel, above the “pillars of heaven.” The “firmament” or heavens is not a place where one normally looks to see a watery expanse. Yet, if these “waters of creation” were a heavenly phenomenon, such a placement above heaven’s pillars would be natural. Note that the crosshatch lines in the panel are but a variation of the wavy line ideogram or hieroglyph for water, further reinforcing the idea that this firmament was water. Moreover, a crocodile is pictured in this firmament. Crocodiles are seen in the water, not in the sky. But, if our assertion is correct, the seemingly incongruous juxtaposition of the sky and the crocodile above the pillars of heaven make perfect sense. These are the waters of creation, the “deep” spoken of in the scriptures.
So, as we’ve seen in so many instances in the past, Joseph Smith’s revelatory power comes to our rescue. These facsimiles and his accompanying explanations are invaluable keys to our understanding of the restored gospel and the creation.
So, what the ancients saw was something very different than the picture we get from reading Genesis. Analysis of the content of the creation story told in the scriptures does not tell the whole story. Only by referring to outside sources — contextual analysis — can we get the fuller picture. This is true with everything in scripture.
© Anthony E. Larson, 2008