In the Genesis creation myth God creates heaven, earth and the all creatures who roam it in seven days. He creates man and woman last, on the sixth day, before he rests on the seventh. He shows these humans complete love and adornment and only gives them one strict measure: not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Of course, the man and woman do not obey, and they eat from it anyway. Eventually, out of dissatisfaction from what he created, God struck down a great flood on the Earth, killing everything and everyone who crossed its path.
However, he gave the human race a second chance by saving one loyal family, belonging to a man named Noah, on his ark, along with couplets of every animal he created. Eventually Noah’s family would repopulate the Earth, allowing humans to reign free under God’s rule. Yet God did not forget about the sin that Adam and Eve committed. Ever since then, humans were tainted with the flaw of original sin. In the Popul Vuh, one witnesses the views and perspectives of a polytheistic culture, believing and living under various Gods and religious figures.
In the story, the Gods try creating their ideal “race;” one that would praise them and “keep their days,” or traditions. Yet the Gods cannot seem to be content with anything that they’ve created. They made animals, mud people, and wooden manikins, but all of these creations remained unaware of their surroundings and resisted praising the gods for their existence. The manikins especially were harshly punished for not recognizing the glory of their creation; a flood was struck down upon them while everything living and nonliving took whatever life was left in the wooden people.
However, in one last attempt to make a new race, the Gods decided to make a people out of corn from the earth, as it was considered an all-providing and supplying staple crop. These new people were all-seeing, all-perceiving, all-knowing, and even praised the Gods for their existence on the earth and for their newfound abilities. Yet the Gods saw this as a threat, fearing these new people would become too powerful and rise above them. As a result, they took away some of their knowledge and skill, purposely adding flaws to the people and making them imperfect.
In the end, humans would forever remain unknowing and less understanding of the world around them. In both of these stories, readers can see similarities between how the world was created and how it was destroyed. In Genesis, God created nature and the world before humans; in Popul Vuh, humans were the last official creations. In addition, both creations seemed to either defy or dissatisfy the Gods in some way; in both stories the Gods struck down a flood as a symbol of their anger as well.
Lastly, at the end of each story, the once perfect creation (humans) became cursed, whether it was with sin, or ignorance. Along with the similarities, there were also many recognizable differences among the two stories. In “Noah,” God seemed to be giving humans another chance by letting Noah and his family survive and repopulate the Earth. In the Popul Vuh, the story ended with the human race remaining an imperfect, oblivious people.
In addition, the culture behind Genesis believed in one God who was all perfect and glorifying, while the followers of the Popul Vuh were polytheistic and believed in Gods who made mistakes, yet had the power to fix them. Most of all, Adam and Eve were to obey Gods wishes, yet were allowed to have free reign and dominion over everything else on the earth. In the Popul Vuh, the creation’s sole purpose was to rise to the level of wisdom and understanding of the Gods, not to mention to praise them.
A person’s background and culture can have a big impact on how they view religion, especially concerning their creation and being. However, as expressed in Genesis and the Popul Vuh, many of these ideals, although different, are quite similar to each other. In this way, although these stories may have come from different cultures, the intent of them both is to have a moral effect on the people reading them, so the people have a better understanding of where they came from and how we become.