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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Frank Moore Cross: Theogony, Cosmogony and Philosophy

Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic


We have previously had occasion to note the distinction that Cross draws between two types of creation myths: theogony and cosmogony. Cross first addressed this distinction in his classic Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (CMHE, 1968). Cosmogonic myths are those that deal with the establishment of the world order, and the cosmogonic gods are those that feature in cultic worship (the Olympian gods, for example). In the ancient Middle East, from Egypt to Mesopotamia—but also including the Greeks--cosmogonic myths took the characteristic form of a struggle in which a young generation of gods overcame the “olden gods” and as a result of this victory established the world order, and most especially kingship both among the gods and among men. (The relation of the cosmogonic creation myth to Eliade's archaic ontology is clear.)