Creation Stories: The Similarities and Differences

All cultures and people have their own story about how the world began. Some of them have similarities, some of them are very different. Two such stories are the creation story from Genesis, and the Iroquois creation story. There are some aspects of the story that are similar, but they are also both unique portrayals of their culture.
The Iroquois creation story starts with two worlds, the upper and the lower. The upper world is the realm of mankind, albeit different than the current understanding. The lower realm is the realm of darkness and monsters. One day, a woman in the upper world becomes pregnant without having intercourse, and while she rested, she fell or sank from the upper world toward the lower world. The creatures of the lower world work together to create an island to save her, and she lands safely to give birth to twins, one bad and one good. She dies shortly after birth, and the twins grow to adulthood alone.

The good twin wished to create light in the dark world, so turned his mother’s body into the sun, moon and stars, to create day, night, seasons, and years. He also created animals, creeks, fish, and other creatures to inhabit the world. He then created two people out of dust, and brought them to life with a breath. Throughout this time, the bad twin tried to sabotage the island, adding dangerous animals, creating apes in an attempt to create his own people, and trying to trap the animals the good twin had made.

Eventually the bad twin challenged the good twin, for the winner to govern the universe. The good twin won through trickery, and the bad twin descended to the afterworld, where he would have dominion over the souls of mankind after death. 

In Genesis, the universe starts out as nothing. There is only a void, empty and lifeless, the only thing in all of existence is God. Over six sections of time, God creates the world. In the first day, he create light to separate night and day. In the second day, he separates water and sky. On the third, he creates land. On the fourth day, he creates plants and vegetation to fill the earth and sea. On the fifth day, he creates the sun, moon, and stars to mark time and seasons, and he also created birds, and all the creatures in the sea. On the sixth day, he created all of the animals of the land, and then he created mankind, two people in his own image.

He formed first the man, out of dust, and gave him life by breathing into him. He later took a rib from the man while he was sleeping, and made the woman, so that neither would be alone. He also made two trees, the tree of life, and the tree of good and evil. The man and woman were forbidden to eat from the tree of good and evil, but a serpent came and tricked the woman into eating it. She then convinced the man to eat it, and both became aware of good and evil, and were ashamed, for they were both naked.
When God returned to walk with them, he discovered their disobedience, and placed a curse upon the snake, man, and woman, and sent them out from the garden paradise he had created, for they could not be allowed to eat from the tree of life and live forever in their state of sin.

There are a lot of similarities in these two stories. Both the Iroquois and Genesis creation story have a good being and an evil being involved in creation. In the Iroquois story, the good and evil twin create the world. The good twin creates people, the sun, moon and stars, animals, plants, water, etc, while the evil twin attempts to ruin the good twins work with dangerous animals, high mountains, steep cliffs, and waterfalls. In Genesis, God creates the world, putting animals, plants, and humans there to live peacefully. Then the serpent tricked mankind into disobeying God and plunging themselves into a life of exile and sin.

Both have mankind made from dust and brought to life from the breath of this good being. The good twin in the Iroquois story makes both man and woman out of dust, breathing the breath of life into them to turn them into real people. In Genesis, God formed the first man out of dust, and also breathes life into him, and then turns one of his ribs into the first woman. In both stories, the good being creates the world, time, and all of the animals and plants on the world, while the evil being works to destroy and interfere with the good beings plan. The evil twin makes the world more dangerous, and steals the animals. The serpent tricks mankind into ruining God’s plan for them.

Both evil beings end up cursed or punished in some way to reduce the harm they can do to humankind. The evil twin is sent to the underworld and becomes the Evil Spirit, to have power over mankind’s souls after death. The serpent is cursed to crawl on the ground, and it is prophesied that in time, mankind will be redeemed and the serpent will be crushed underfoot.

There are also several differences in the stories. In the Iroquois story, there is already two worlds at the beginning: the upper and the lower. In Genesis, there is nothing, there is only God. In the Iroquois story, the good and evil beings are twins. In Genesis, the serpent and God are not related. In Genesis, it is unclear whether there are other beings in existence. All that is explicitly stated is that the earth is ‘formless and empty’ (Genesis 1:2, NIV). In the Iroquois story, both the upper and lower world have other beings. There are monsters and other creatures in the lower world, and an elevated version of mankind in the upper world.

In summary, stories are a vastly important part of human culture, and often these stories share elements, but in the end they are all unique and valuable perspectives in their own ways.

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