The old time New Age
Posted by Fredsvenn on September 5, 2015
This is some of the similarities between Sumerian (Mesopotamian) mythology/religion, comming out of the PIE-culture existing in the Armenian Highland, and Jewish/Christian mythology/religion. But it is just a start cause there is a lot of similarities to be found.
There should be no doubt that Judaism and Christianity have the same root as the other mythologies/religions, as f ex the Greek mythology, Buddhism or Hinduism. In this way Mesopotamian mythology/religion have kept it going until today.
The Bible was formed over many centuries, by many authors, and reflects shifting patterns of religious belief; consequently, its concepts of cosmology are not always consistent. Nor should the Biblical texts be taken to represent the beliefs of all Jews or Christians at the time they were put into writing.
The majority of those making up Hebrew Bible or Old Testament in particular represent the beliefs of only a small segment of the ancient Israelite community, the members of a late Judean religious tradition centered in Jerusalem and devoted to the exclusive worship of Yahweh.
Biblical cosmology is the biblical writers’ conception of the Cosmos as an organised, structured entity, including its origin, order, meaning and destiny.
The universe of the ancient Israelites was made up of a flat disc-shaped earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below. Humans inhabited earth during life and the underworld after death, and the underworld was morally neutral; only in Hellenistic times (after c.330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven.
In this period too the older three-level cosmology was widely replaced by the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the center of a number of concentric heavens.
The opening words of the Genesis creation narrative (Genesis 1:1-26) sum up the authors’ view of how the cosmos originated: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”; Yahweh, the god of Israel, was solely responsible for creation and had no rivals.
Later Jewish thinkers, adopting ideas from Greek philosophy, concluded that God’s Wisdom, Word and Spirit penetrated all things and gave them unity. Christianity in turn adopted these ideas and identified Jesus with the creative word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
The Genesis creation narrative is the creation myth of both Judaism and Christianity. It is made up of two parts, roughly equivalent to the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis.
In the first part (Genesis 1:1-2:3) Elohim, the Hebrew generic word for God, creates the heaven and the earth in six days, starting with darkness and light on the first day, and ending with the creation of mankind on the sixth day. God then rests on, blesses and sanctifies the seventh day. In the second part (Genesis 2:4-2:24) God, now referred to by the personal name Yahweh, creates the first man from dust and breathes life into him. God then places him in the Garden of Eden and creates the first woman from his side as a companion.
A common hypothesis among modern scholars is that the first major comprehensive draft of the Pentateuch (the series of five books which begins with Genesis and ends with Deuteronomy) was composed in the late 7th or the 6th century BC (the Jahwist source) and that this was later expanded by other authors (the Priestly source) into a work very like the one we have today. The two sources can be identified in the creation narrative: Genesis 1:1-2:3 is Priestly and Genesis 2:4-2:24 is Jahwistic.
Borrowing themes from Mesopotamian mythology, but adapting them to Israel’s belief in one God, the combined narrative is a critique of the Mesopotamian theology of creation: Genesis affirms monotheism and denies polytheism. Robert Alter described the combined narrative as “compelling in its archetypal character, its adaptation of myth to monotheistic ends”.
The Bible’s similarities with Egyptian, Greek and Babylonian mythology are too close to be a coincidence. The writers weren’t isolated from other cultures and they didn’t get their ideas by sitting on some mountaintop meditating with God; they borrowed ideas from their neighbor’s creation myths. The technical term is called called syncretism.
Comparative mythology provides historical and cross-cultural perspectives for Jewish mythology. Both sources behind the Genesis creation narrative borrowed themes from Mesopotamian mythology, but adapted them to their belief in one God, establishing a monotheistic creation in opposition to the polytheistic creation myth of ancient Israel’s neighbors.
Genesis 1–11 as a whole is imbued with Mesopotamian myths. Genesis 1 bears both striking differences from and striking similarities to Babylon’s national creation myth, the Enuma Elish.
On the side of similarities, both begin from a stage of chaotic waters before anything is created, in both a fixed dome-shaped “firmament” divides these waters from the habitable Earth, and both conclude with the creation of a human called “man” and the building of a temple for the god (in Genesis 1, this temple is the entire cosmos).
On the side of contrasts, Genesis 1 is uncompromisingly monotheistic, it makes no attempt to account for the origins of God, and there is no trace of the resistance to the reduction of chaos to order (Gk. theomachy, lit. “God-fighting”), all of which mark the Mesopotamian creation accounts. It also bears similarities to the Baal Cycle of Israel’s neighbor, Ugarit.
The Enuma Elish has also left traces on Genesis 2. Both begin with a series of statements of what did not exist at the moment when creation began; the Enuma Elish has a spring (in the sea) as the point where creation begins, paralleling the spring (on the land – Genesis 2 is notable for being a “dry” creation story) in Genesis 2:6 that “watered the whole face of the ground”; in both myths, Yahweh/the gods first create a man to serve him/them, then animals and vegetation.
At the same time, and as with Genesis 1, the Jewish version has drastically changed its Babylonian model: Eve, for example, seems to fill the role of a mother goddess when, in Genesis 4:1, she says that she has “created a man with Yahweh”, but she is not a divine being like her Babylonian counterpart.
Genesis 2 has close parallels with a second Mesopotamian myth, the Atra-Hasis epic – parallels that in fact extend throughout Genesis 2–11, from the Creation to the Flood and its aftermath. The two share numerous plot-details (e.g. the divine garden and the role of the first man in the garden, the creation of the man from a mixture of earth and divine substance, the chance of immortality, etc.), and have a similar overall theme: the gradual clarification of man’s relationship with God(s) and animals.
The narratives in Genesis 1–2 were not the only creation myths in ancient Israel, and the complete biblical evidence suggests two contrasting models. The first is the “logos” (meaning speech) model, where a supreme God “speaks” dormant matter into existence. The second is the “agon” (meaning struggle or combat) model, in which it is God’s victory in battle over the monsters of the sea that mark his sovereignty and might.
Genesis 1 is the supreme example of the “logos” mythology; Isaiah 51:9–10 recalls an ancient Canaanite myth in which God creates the world by vanquishing the water deities: “Awake, awake! … It was you that hacked Rahab in pieces, that pierced the Dragon! It was you that dried up the Sea, the waters of the great Deep, that made the abysses of the Sea a road that the redeemed might walk…”
Monotheism is defined by the Encyclopædia Britannica as belief in the existence of one god or in the oneness of God. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church gives a more restricted definition: “belief in one personal and transcendent God”, as opposed to polytheism and pantheism.
A distinction may be made between exclusive monotheism, and both inclusive monotheism and pluriform monotheism which, while recognising many distinct gods, postulate some underlying unity.
Monotheism characterizes the traditions of Babism, the Bahá’í Faith, Cao Dai (Caodaiism), Cheondoism (Cheondogyo), Christianity, Deism, Eckankar, Islam, Judaism, Rastafari, Ravidassia religion, Seicho no Ie, Shaivism, Shaktism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo (Tenriism), Vaishnavism, and Zoroastrianism and elements of the belief are discernible in numerous other religions including Atenism and Ancient Chinese religion.
The word monotheism comes from the Greek monos meaning “single” and theos meaning “god”. The English term was first used by Henry More (1614–1687).
In Zoroastrianism, one of the earliest documented instances of the emergence of monism in an Indo-European religion, Ahura Mazda appears as a supreme and transcendental deity. Depending on the date of Zoroaster, who usually considered to be contemporary with the Vedas.
Monolatrism can be a stage in the development of monotheism from polytheism. Three examples of this are the Aten cult in the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, the rise of Marduk from the tutelary of Babylon to the claim of universal supremacy, and the rise of Yahweh from among the Canaanite gods to the sole God of Judaism.
Ethical monotheism and the associated concept of absolute good and evil emerge in Zoroastrianism and Judaism, later culminating in the doctrines of Christology in early Christianity and later (by the 7th century) in the tawhid in Islam.
In the cities of the Ancient Near East, each city had a local patron deity, such as Shamash at Larsa or Sin at Ur. The first claims of global supremacy of a specific god date to the Late Bronze Age, with Akhenaten’s Great Hymn to the Aten.
However the historicity of the Exodus is disputed. Furthermore it is not clear to what extent Akhenaten’s Atenism was monotheistic rather than henotheistic with Akhenaten himself identified with the god Aten.
Currents of monism or monotheism emerge in Vedic India earlier, chiefly with worship of Lord Krishna, which is full-fledged monotheism, but also with e.g. the Nasadiya Sukta (after the incipit ná ásat “not the non-existent”), also known as the Hymn of Creation, the 129th hymn of the 10th Mandala of the Rigveda (10:129). It is concerned with cosmology and the origin of the universe.
In the Indo-Iranian tradition, the Rigveda exhibits notions of monism, in particular in the comparatively late tenth book, also dated to the early Iron Age, e.g. in the Nasadiya sukta.
According to Christian tradition, monotheism was the original religion of humanity but was generally lost after the fall of man. This theory was largely abandoned in the 19th century in favour of an evolutionary progression from animism via polytheism to monotheism, but by 1974 this theory was less widely held.
Austrian anthropologist Wilhelm Schmidt had postulated an Urmonotheismus, “original” or “primitive monotheism” in the 1910s. It was objected that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had grown up in opposition to polytheism as had Greek philosophical monotheism. Furthermore, while belief in a “high god” is not universal, it is found in many parts of Africa and numerous other areas of the world.
Mesopotamian religion refers to the religious beliefs and practices followed by the Sumerian and East Semitic Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and later migrant Arameans and Chaldeans, living in Mesopotamia (a region encompassing modern Iraq, Kuwait, southeast Turkey and northeast Syria) that dominated the region for a period of 4200 years from the fourth millennium BCE throughout Mesopotamia to approximately the 10th century CE in Assyria.
Mesopotamian polytheism was the only religion in ancient Mesopotamia for thousands of years before entering a period of gradual decline beginning between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. This decline happened in the face of the introduction of a distinctive native Eastern Christianity (Syriac Christianity such as the Assyrian Church of the East and Syriac Orthodox Church) as well as Judaism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism, and continued for approximately three to four centuries, until most of the original religious traditions of the area died out, with the final traces existing among some remote Assyrian communities until the 10th century CE.
As with most dead religions, many aspects of the common practices and intricacies of the doctrine have been lost and forgotten over time. Fortunately, much of the information and knowledge has survived, and great work has been done by historians and scientists, with the help of religious scholars and translators, to re-construct a working knowledge of the religious history, customs, and the role these beliefs played in everyday life in Sumer, Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia during this time.
Mesopotamian religion is thought to have been a major influence on subsequent religions throughout the world, including Canaanite, Aramean, ancient Greek, and Phoenician religions, and also monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Mandaeism and Islam.
It is known that the god Ashur, among others, was still worshipped in Assyria as late as the 4th century CE. Mesopotamian religion was polytheistic, worshipping over 2,100 different deities, many of which were associated with a specific city or state within Mesopotamia such as Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Assur, Nineveh, Ur, Uruk, Mari and Babylon.
Historians, such as Jean Bottéro, have made the claim that Mesopotamian religion is the world’s oldest religion, although there are several other claims to that title. However, as writing was invented in Mesopotamia it is certainly the oldest in written history.
What is known about Mesopotamian religion comes from archaeological evidence uncovered in the region, particularly literary sources, which are usually written in cuneiform on clay tablets and which describe both mythology and cultic practices. Other artifacts can also be useful when reconstructing Mesopotamian religion.
As is common with most ancient civilizations, the objects made of the most durable and precious materials, and thus more likely to survive, were associated with religious beliefs and practices. This has prompted one scholar to make the claim that the Mesopotamians’ “entire existence was infused by their religiosity, just about everything they have passed on to us can be used as a source of knowledge about their religion.”
Although, a few isolated pockets in Assyria/Upper Mesopotamia aside, it largely died out by approximately 400 CE, Mesopotamian religion has still had an influence on the modern world, predominantly because many biblical stories that are today found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mandaeism were possibly originally based upon earlier Mesopotamian myths, in particular that of the creation myth, the Garden of Eden, the flood myth, the Tower of Babel and figures such as Nimrod and Lilith.
In addition, the story of Moses’ origins shares a similarity with that of Sargon of Akkad, and the Ten Commandments mirror Assyrian-Babylonian legal codes to some degree. It has also inspired various contemporary neopagan groups to begin worshipping the Mesopotamian deities once more, albeit in a way often different from that of the Mesopotamian people themselves.
In the New Testament book of Revelation, Babylonian religion is associated with religious apostacy of the highest order, the archetype of a political/religious system heavily tied to global commerce, and it is depicted as a system which, according to the author, continued to hold sway in the first century CE, eventually to be utterly annihilated.
According to some interpretations, this is believed to refer to the Roman Empire, but according to other interpretations, this system remains extant in the world until the Second Coming of Christ.
Jowever, according to a theory developed in the late Nineteenth century called Panbabylonism, many of the stories of the Tanakh, the Old Testament and the Qur’an are believed to have been based on, influenced by, or inspired by the earlier legendary mythological past of Mesopotamia, which for centuries dominated the entire region.
The Enuma Elish in particular has been compared to the later Genesis creation narrative. The story of Esther in particular is traced to Assyro-Babylonian roots. Others include The Great Flood and Noah’s Ark which may well have been influenced by the earlier Epic of Gilgamesh narratives.
The story of the biblical hunter-king Nimrod (a ruler not attested in Mesopotamian annals) is believed to have been inspired by the real Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I, or alternatively by the Assyrian war god Ninurta. Others include Lilith, who seems to have been based on the Assyrian demoness Lilitu, and the Tower of Babel inspired by the impressive Ziggurats of Assyria and Babylonia.
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic believers address the assertion that parts of the Bible may derive from pagan texts, apologists point out that the differences between the Bible and Mesopotamian texts far outweigh the similarities, and that there is, at least, nothing about the ancient texts that indicates the biblical stories were directly copied from the older Mesopotamian ones. Instead, they may both draw from even older sources.
For example, the Flood story appears in almost every culture around the world, including cultures that never had contact with Mesopotamia. Other apologists point out that the Mesopotamian texts appear highly embellished compared to the simpler Biblical texts, which bear closer resemblance to the creation account described in tablets discovered at Ebla in 1968.
However, much of the initial media excitement about supposed Eblaite connections with the Bible, based on preliminary guesses and speculations by Pettinato and others, is now widely deplored as generated by “exceptional and unsubstantiated claims” and “great amounts of disinformation that leaked to the public”. The present consensus is that Ebla’s role in biblical archaeology, strictly speaking, is minimal.
Stories describing creation are prominent in many cultures of the world. Unfortunately, very little survives of Sumerian literature from the third millennium B.C. There are no specific written records explaining Mesopotamian religious cosmology that survive to us today. Nonetheless, modern scholars have examined various accounts, and created what is believed to be an at least partially accurate depiction of Mesopotamian cosmology.
In Mesopotamia, the surviving evidence from the third millennium to the end of the first millennium B.C. indicates that although many of the gods were associated with natural forces, no single myth addressed issues of initial creation. It was simply assumed that the gods existed before the world was formed.
However, several fragmentary tablets contain references to a time before the pantheon of the gods, when only the Earth (Sumerian: ki) and Heavens (Sumerian: an) existed. All was dark, there existed neither sunlight nor moonlight; however, the earth was green and water was in the ground, although there was no vegetation.
More is known from Sumerian poems that date to the beginning centuries of the second millennium BC. A Sumerian myth, known today as Gilgamesh and the Netherworld (also known as “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld” and variants), opens with a mythological prologue.
It assumes that the gods and the universe already exist and that once a long time ago the heavens and earth were united, only later to be split apart. Later, humankind was created and the great gods divided up the job of managing and keeping control over heavens, earth, and the Netherworld.
Seven debate topics are known from the Sumerian literature, falling in the category of disputations; some examples are: The Debate between sheep and grain; The Debate between bird and fish; the Debate between Winter and Summer; and The Dispute between Silver and Copper, etc.
These topics came some centuries after writing was established in Sumerian Mesopotamia. The debates are philosophical and address humanity’s place in the world. Some of the debates may be from 2100 BC. The Song of the Hoe or the Creation of the Pickax stands alone in its own sub-category as a one-sided debate poem.
The Song of the Hoe
In the Sumerian poem The Song of the Hoe or the Creation of the Pickax, as in many other Sumerian stories, the god Enlil is described as the deity who separates heavens and earth in Duranki, the cosmic Nippur or Garden of the Gods, and creates humankind. Humanity is formed to provide for the gods, a common theme in Mesopotamian literature.
One of the tablets from the Yale Babylonian Collection was published by J.J. Van Dijk which spoke of three cosmic realms; heaven, earth and kur in a time when darkness covered an arid land, when heaven and earth were joined and the Enlil’s universal laws, the me did not function.
The myth continues with a description of Enlil creating daylight with his hoe; he goes on to praise its construction and creation. Enlil’s mighty hoe is said to be made of gold, with the blade made of lapis lazuli and fastened by cord. It is inlaid with lapis lazuli and adorned with silver and gold.
Enlil makes civilized man, from a brick mould with his hoe – and the Annanuki start to praise him. Nisaba, Ninmena, and Nunamnir start organizing things. Enki praises the hoe; they start reproducing and Enlil makes numerous shining hoes, for everyone to begin work.
Two of the major traditions of the Sumerian concept of the creation of man are discussed in the myth. The first is the creation of mankind from brick moulds or clay. This has notable similarities to the creation of man from the dust of the earth in the Book of Genesis in the Bible (Genesis 2:6-7). This activity has also been associated with creating clay figurines.
The second Sumerian tradition which compares men to plants, made to “break through the ground”, an allusion to imagery of the fertility or mother goddess and giving an image of man being “planted” in the ground.
Wayne Horowitz notes that five Sumerian myths recount a creation scene with the separation of heaven and earth. He further notes the figurative imagery relaying the relationship between the creation of agricultural implements making a function for mankind and thereby its creation from the “seed of the land”. The myth was called the “Creation of the Pickax” by Samuel Noah Kramer, a name by which it is referred in older sorurces.
In Sumerian literature, the hoe or pickaxe is used not only in creation of the Ekur but also described as the tool of its destruction in lament hymns such as the Lament for Ur, where it is torn apart with a storm and then pickaxes.
Enlil then founds the Ekur, a Sumerian term meaning “mountain house”, the assembly of the gods in the Garden of the gods, parallel in Greek mythology to Mount Olympus, with his hoe whilst a “god-man” called Lord Nudimmud builds the Abzu in Eridug.
Various gods are then described establishing construction projects in other cities, such as Ninhursag in Kesh, and Inanna and Utu in Zabalam; Nisaba and E-ana also set about building. The useful construction and agricultural uses of the hoe are summarized, along with its capabilities for use as a weapon and for burying the dead.
Allusions are made to the scenes of Enkidu’s ghost, and Urshanabi’s ferry over the Hubur, in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Ninmena is suggested to create both the priestess and king. The hymn ends with extensive praisings of the hoe, Enlil, and Nisaba.
Modern society may have trouble comprehending the virtue of extolling a tool such as the lowly hoe, for the Sumerians the implement had brought agriculture, irrigation, drainage and the ability to build roads, canals and eventually the first proto-cities.
The Debate between Grain and Sheep
In the Sumerian poem “The Debate between Grain and Sheep,” the earth first appeared barren, without grain, sheep, or goats. People went naked. They ate grass for nourishment and drank water from ditches. Later, the gods created sheep and grain and gave them to humankind as sustenance.
The story opens with a location “the hill of heaven and earth” which is discussed by Chiera as “not a poetical name for the earth, but the dwelling place of the gods, situated at the point where the heavens rest upon the earth. It is there that mankind had their first habitat, and there the Babylonian Garden of Eden is to be placed.”
Jeremy Black suggests this area was restricted for gods, noting that field plans from the Third dynasty of Ur use the term hursag (“hill”) to describe the hilly parts of fields that are hard to cultivate due to the presence of prehistoric tell mounds (ruined habitations).
Kramer discusses the story of the god An creating the cattle-goddess, Lahar, and the grain goddess, Ashnan, to feed and clothe the Annunaki, who in turn made man. Lahar and Ashnan are created in the “duku” or “pure place” and the story further describes how the Annunaki create a sheepfold with plants and herbs for Lahar and a house, plough and yoke for Ashnan, describing the introduction of animal husbandry and agriculture.
The story continues with a quarrel between the two goddesses over their gifts which eventually resolves with Enki and Enlil intervening to declare Ashnan the victor.
Samuel Noah Kramer has noted the parallels and variations between the story and the later one of Cain and Abel , according to the Book of Genesis, two sons of Adam and Eve, in the Bible Book of Genesis (Genesis 4:1-16).
Cain is described as a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel as a shepherd. Cain was the first human born and Abel was the first human to die. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother. Interpretations of Genesis 4 by ancient and modern commentators have typically assumed that the motives were jealousy and anger. Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr; while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil.
Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin and Hevel. The original text did not provide vowels. It has been proposed that the etymology of their names may be a direct pun on the roles they take in the Genesis narrative.
Abel is thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning “herdsman”, with the modern Arabic cognate ibil now specifically referring only to “camels”. Cain is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word qyn, meaning “metalsmith”.
This theory would make the names descriptive of their roles, where Abel works with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam (“man,” אדם) and Eve (“life-giver,” חוה Chavah).
Modern scholars typically view the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel to be about the development of civilization during the age of agriculture; not the beginnings of man, but when people first learned agriculture, replacing the ways of the hunter-gatherer.
Emesh and Enten, Cain and Abel
Many scholars have pointed to the similarities between the Sumerian tale of Emesh and Enten and the biblical tale of Cain and Abel. Samuel Noah Kramer called the Emesh and Enten tale “the closest extant Sumerian parallel to the Biblical Cain and Abel story”.
The Emesh and Enten tale is found on clay tablets from the 3rd millennium BCE while the oldest source of the Hebrew Bible is thought to have been written during the 6th century BCE.
In the Sumerian tale, the god Enlil has sex with the Earth, which gives birth to two boys named Emesh and Enten. Emesh is a personification of summer and Enten a personification of winter. Each brother brings an offering to Enlil, but Enten becomes angry with Emesh and the two begin an argument.
In Genesis, Adam has sex with Eve, who gives birth to two boys named Cain and Abel. Cain worked the soil and Abel kept flocks. Each brother brings an offering to Yahweh. Yahweh looks favorably on Abel’s offering but not on Cain’s, so Cain becomes angry.[Genesis 4:1-5]
At this point, however, the similarities end. In the Sumerian tale, Enlil intervenes and declares Enten the winner of the debate. Emesh accepts Enlil’s judgment and the brothers reconcile. In Genesis, Cain murders his brother Abel.[Genesis 4:8]
The Debate between Bird and Fish
The bird and fish debate is a 190-line text of cuneiform script. It begins with a discussion of the gods having given Mesopotamia and dwelling places for humans; for water for the fields, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the marshes, marshland, grazing lands for humans, and the birds of the marshes, and fish are all given.
According to The Debate between Bird and Fish, water for human consumption did not exist until Enki, lord of wisdom, created the Tigris and Euphrates and caused water to flow into them from the mountains.
He also created the smaller streams and watercourses, established sheepfolds, marshes, and reedbeds, and filled them with fish and birds. He founded cities and established kingship and rule over foreign countries.
The Debate between Winter and Summer
In The Debate between Winter and Summer or Myth of Emesh and Enten, an unknown Sumerian author explains that summer and winter, abundance, spring floods, and fertility are the result of Enlil’s copulation with the hills of the earth.
The story takes the form of a contest poem between two cultural entities first identified by Kramer as vegetation gods, Emesh and Enten. These were later identified with the natural phenomena of Winter and Summer. The location and occasion of the story is described in the introduction with the usual creation sequence of day and night, food and fertility, weather and seasons and sluice gates for irrigation.
Samuel Noah Kramer has noted this myth “is the closest extant Sumerian parallel to the Biblical Cain and Abel story” in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 4:1-16). This connection has been made by other scholars. The disputation form has also been suggested to have similar elements to the discussions between Job and his friends in the Book of Job.
Ekur was the most revered and sacred building of ancient Sumer. The splendour of the designs and decorations led Age Westenholz to suggest the anaology of this spiritual sanctuary to the Sumerian empire with that of the Vatican to the Roman Catholic world. The chief administrator of the Ekur or “sanga” of Enlil was appointed by the king and held special status in Nippur and votive inscriptions of the kings indicate that it had held this position since early dynastic times.
There is a clear association of Ziggurats with mountain houses. Mountain houses play a certain role in Mesopotamian mythology and Assyro-Babylonian religion, associated with deities such as Anu, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursag. In the Hymn to Enlil, the Ekur is closely linked to Enlil whilst in Enlil and Ninlil it is the abode of the Annanuki, from where Enlil is banished.
In mythology, the Ekur was the centre of the earth and location where heaven and earth were united. It is also known as Duranki and one of its structures is known as the Kiur (“great place”). Enamtila has also been suggested by Piotr Michalowski to be a part of the Ekur.
A hymn to Nanna illustrates the close relationship between temples, houses and mountains. “In your house on high, in your beloved house, I will come to live, O Nanna, up above in your cedar perfumed mountain“. This was carried-on into later tradition in the Bible by the prophet Micah who envisions “the mountain of the temple of Yahweh”.
The Tummal Inscription records the first king to build a temple to Enlil as Enmebaragesi, the predecessor of Gilgamesh, around 2500 BC. Ekur is generally associated with the temple at Nippur restored by Naram-Sin of Akkad and Shar-Kali-Sharri during the Akkadian Empire. It is also the later name of the temple of Assur rebuilt by Shalmaneser I.
The word can also refer to the chapel of Enlil in the temple of Ninimma at Nippur. It is also mentioned in the Inscription of Gaddas as a temple of Enlil built “outside Babylon”, possibly referring to the Enamtila in western Babylon.
A hymn to Urninurta mentions the prominence of a tree in the courtyard of the Ekur, reminiscent of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden: “O, chosen cedar, adornment of the yard of Ekur, Urinurta, for thy shadow the country may feel awe!”. This is suggested by G. Windgren to reflect the concept of the tree as a mythical and ritual symbol of both king and god.
Hymn to Enlil
The Hymn to Enlil, Enlil and the Ekur (Enlil A), Hymn to the Ekur, Hymn and incantation to Enlil, Hymn to Enlil the all beneficent or Excerpt from an exorcism is a Sumerian myth, written on clay tablets in the late third millennium BC. Andrew R. George suggested that the hymn to Enlil “can be incorporated into longer compositions” as with the Kesh temple hymn and “the hymn to temples in Ur that introduces a Shulgi hymn.”
The hymn, noted by Kramer as one of the most important of its type, starts with praise for Enlil in his awe-inspiring dais. The hymn develops by relating Enlil founding and creating the origin of the city of Nippur and his organization of the earth.
In contrast to the myth of Enlil and Ninlil where the city exists before creation, here Enlil is shown to be responsible for its planning and construction, suggesting he surveyed and drew the plans before its creation.
The hymn moves on from the physical construction of the city and gives a description and veneration of its ethics and moral code. The last sentence has been compared by R. P. Gordon to the description of Jerusalem in the Book of Isiah (Isiah 1:21), “the city of justice, righteousness dwelled in her” and in the Book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:23), “O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.”
A similar passage to the last lines above has been noted in the Biblical Psalms (Psalms 29:9) “The voice of the Lord makes hinds to calve and makes goats to give birth (too) quickly”. The hymn concludes with further reference to Enlil as a farmer and praise for his wife, Ninlil.
The poetic form and laudatory content of the hymn have shown similarities to the Book of Psalms in the Bible, particularly Psalm 23 (Psalms 23:1-2) “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Line eighty four mentions: ”Enlil, if you look upon the shepherd favourably, if you elevate the one truly called in the Land, then the foreign countries are in his hands, the foreign countries are at his feet! Even the most distant foreign countries submit to him.”
In line ninety one, Enlil is referred to as a shepherd: “Enlil, faithful shepherd of the teeming multitudes, herdsman, leader of all living creatures.” The shepherd motif originating in this myth is also found describing Jesus in the Book of John (John 10:11-13).
The foundations of Enlil’s temple are made of lapis lazuli, which has been linked to the “soham” stone used in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 28:13) describing the materials used in the building of “Eden, the Garden of god” perched on “the mountain of the lord”, Zion, and in the Book of Job (Job 28:6-16) “The stones of it are the place of sapphires and it hath dust of gold”.
Moses also saw God’s feet standing on a “paved work of a sapphire stone” in (Exodus 24:10). Precious stones are also later repeated in a similar context describing decoration of the walls of New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:21).
Lament of Ur
The fall of Ekur is described in the Lament for Ur or Lamentation over the city of Ur, a Sumerian lament composed around the time of the fall of Ur to the Elamites and the end of the city’s third dynasty (c. 2000 BC). It contains one of five known Mesopotamian “city laments”—dirges for ruined cities in the voice of the city’s tutelary goddess. The other city laments are The Lament for Sumer and Ur, The Lament for Nippur, The Lament for Eridu, and The Lament for Uruk.
The Book of Lamentations of the Old Testament, which bewails the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon in the sixth century BC., is similar in style and theme to these earlier Mesopotamian laments. Similar laments can be found in the Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Ezekiel and the Book of Psalms, Psalm 137 (Psalms 137:1-9), a song covered by Boney M in 1978 as Rivers of Babylon.
The ancient Sumerian chief deity was Enlil, the Lord of the Wind. Enlil owed nominal loyalty to his father Anu/Heaven but outside of southern Mesopotamia he gradually became more important evolving to the status of king of the gods. In Canaan Enlil was known as El, the father of an entire pantheon of gods.
In the second verse of Genesis God, who is called Elohim (literally the plural “Gods”) in the Hebrew, is said to hover over the waters. This description of God and the use of the name Elohim further reveals this Mesopotamian god’s influence.
Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:2). This image of God moving over the waters compares directly with the mythology of Enlil who was made visible by traces of his passing such as ripples on the water.
Tiamat is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon. She was the “shining” personification of salt water who roared and smote in the chaos of original creation. She and Apsu filled the cosmic abyss with the primeval waters. She is “Ummu-Hubur who formed all things”.
Thorkild Jacobsen and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu, following an early form, ti’amtum. Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (תהום) (the deeps, abyss), in the Book of Genesis 1:2.
Greek χάος (Chaos) means “emptiness, vast void, chasm, abyss”, from the verb χαίνω, “gape, be wide open, etc.”, from Proto-Indo-European *ǵhehn, cognate to Old English geanian, “to gape”, whence English yawn. It may also mean space, the expanse of air, and the nether abyss, infinite darkness. It refers to the formless or void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos in the Greek creation myths, or to the initial “gap” created by the original separation of heaven and earth.
Pherecydes of Syros (fl. 6th century BC) interpretes chaos as water, like something formless which can be differentiated. Hesiod and the Pre-Socratics use the Greek term in the context of cosmogony. Hesiod’s “chaos” has been interpreted as a moving, formless mass from which the cosmos and the gods originated.
In Hesiod’s opinion the origin should be indefinite and indeterminate, and it represents disorder and darkness. Chaos has been linked with the term tohu wa-bohu of Genesis 1:2. The term may refer to a state of non-being prior to creation or to a formless state.
In the Book of Genesis, the spirit of God is moving upon the face of the waters, and the earliest state of the universe is like a “watery chaos”. The Septuagint makes no use of χάος in the context of creation, instead using the term for גיא, “chasm, cleft”, in Micha 1:6 and Zacharia 14:4.
In one interpretation, Genesis 1:1-3 can be taken as describing the state of chaos immediately before God’s act of creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Of the certain uses of the word chaos in Theogony, in the creation the word is referring to a “gaping void” which gives birth to the sky, but later the word is referring to the gap between the earth and the sky, after their separation.
A parallel can be found in the Genesis. In the beginning God creates the earth and the sky. The earth is “formless and void” (tohu wa-bohu), and later God divides the waters under the firmament from the waters over the firmament, and calls the firmament “heaven”.
Nevertheless, the term chaos has been adopted in religious studies as referring to the primordial state before creation, strictly combining two separate notions of primordial waters or a primordial darkness from which a new order emerges and a primordial state as a merging of opposites, such as heaven and earth, which must be separated by a creator deity in an act of cosmogony. In both cases, chaos referring to a notion of a primordial state contains the cosmos in potentia but needs to be formed by a demiurge before the world can begin its existence.
This model of a primordial state of matter has been opposed by the Church Fathers from the 2nd century, who posited a creation ex nihilo by an omnipotent God.
In modern biblical studies, the term chaos is commonly used in the context of the Torah and their cognate narratives in Ancient Near Eastern mythology more generally. Parallels between the Hebrew Genesis and the Babylonian Enuma Elish were established by Hermann Gunkel in 1910. Besides Genesis, other books of the Old Testament, especially a number of Psalms, some passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and the Book of Job are relevant.
Use of chaos in the derived sense of “complete disorder or confusion” first appears in Elizabethan Early Modern English, originally implying satirical exaggeration.
Hubur (ḪU.BUR, Hu-bur) is a Sumerian term meaning “river”, “watercourse” or “netherworld”. It is usually the “river of the netherworld”. A connection to Tiamat has been suggested with parallels to her description as “Ummu-Hubur”. Hubur is also referred to in the Enuma Elish as “mother sea Hubur, who fashions all things”.
The river Euphrates has been identified with Hubur as the source of fertility in Sumer. The Khabur or Khaboor River is the largest perennial tributary to the Euphrates in Syrian territory. Several important wadis join the Khabur north of Al-Hasakah, together creating what is known as the Khabur Triangle, or Upper Khabur area.
This Babylonian “river of creation” has been linked to the Hebrew “river of paradise”. Gunkel and Zimmern suggested resemblance in expressions and a possible connection between the Sumerian river and that found in later literary tradition in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47) likely influencing imagery of the “River of Water of Life” in the Apocalypse (Revelation 22).
They also noted a connection between the “Water of Life” in the legend of Adapa and a myth translated by A.H. Sayce called “An address to the river of creation”. Delitzch has suggested the similar Sumerian word Habur probably meant “mighty water source”, “source of fertility” or the like. This has suggested the meaning of Hubur to be “river of fertility in the underworld”.
Linda Foubister has suggested the river of creation was linked with the importance of rivers and rain in the Fertile Crescent and suggested it was related to the underworld as rivers resemble snakes.
Samuel Eugene Balentine suggested that the “pit” (sahar) and “river” or “channel” (salah) in the Book of Job (Job 33:18) were referencing the Hubur. The god Marduk was praised for restoration or saving individuals from death when he drew them out of the waters of the Hubur, a later reference to this theme is made in Psalm 18 (Psalms 18).
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
The motif of Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the religions of the Ancient Near East, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet.
Indo-European examples of this mythic trope include Thor vs. Jörmungandr (Norse), Tarhunt vs. Illuyanka (Hittite), Indra vs. Vritra (Vedic), Θraētaona vs. Aži Dahāka (Avestan), and Zeus vs. Typhon (Greek) among others. Examples of the storm god vs. sea serpent trope in the Ancient Near East can be seen with Baʿal vs. Yam (Canaanite), Marduk vs. Tiamat (Babylonian), Ra vs. Apep (Egyptian Mythology), and Yahweh vs. Leviathan (Jewish) among others.
The Chaoskampf would eventually be inherited by descendants of these ancient religions, perhaps most notably by Christianity. Examples include the story of Saint George and the Dragon (most probably descended from the Slavic branch of Indo-European and stories such as Dobrynya Nikitich vs. Zmey Gorynych).
Some scholars argue that this extends to Christ and/or Saint Michael vs. the Devil (as seen in the Book of Revelation among other places and probably related to the Yahweh vs. Leviathan and later Gabriel vs. Rahab stories of Jewish mythology), but this is hotly contested.
Even more controversial is the view that the narrative appears in the crucifixion story of Jesus found in the gospels, a view debated by scholars such as Walter Wink, who indicates that the gospel accounts of Christ’s death present the diametric opposite thematic viewpoint presented in the Chaoskampf myths.
Lôtān, Litan, or Litānu (Ugaritic: Ltn, lit. “Coiled”) was a sea monster in Canaanite mithology, better known as Leviathan in Hebrew mythology. Lotan seems to have been prefigured by Têmtum, the serpent killed by the benevolent storm god Hadad in Syrian seals of the 18th–16th century BC.
In the Baal Cycle discovered in the ruins of Ugarit, Lotan is a servant of the sea god Yammu and is defeated by the benevolent storm god Baʿal, possibly with the help or by the hand of his sister ʿAnat. Lotan or Litanu was his proper name.
The account has gaps, making it unclear whether some phrases describe him or other monsters at Yammu’s disposal. Most scholars agree on describing him as “the fugitive serpent” (bṯn brḥ) but he may or may not be “the wriggling serpent” (bṯn ʿqltn) or “the mighty one with seven heads” (šlyṭ d.šbʿt rašm).
The Baal Cycle’s description of Lotan is directly paralleled by a passage in the later Apocalypse of Isaiah, where scholars are likewise uncertain as to whether two leviathans and a tannin are slain or whether all three figures refer to a single Leviathan.
Leviathan, in the Bible, one of the names of the primeval dragon subdued by Yahweh at the outset of creation: “You crushed Leviathan’s heads, gave him as food to the wild animals” (Psalm 74:14; see also Isaiah 27:1; Job 3:8; Amos 9:3). Biblical writers also refer to the dragon as Rahab (Job 9:13; Psalm 89:10) or simply as the Abyss (Habakkuk 3:10).
The biblical references to the battle between Yahweh and Leviathan reflect the Syro-Palestinian version of a myth found throughout the ancient Near East. In this myth, creation is represented as the victory of the creator-god over a monster of chaos.
The closest parallel to the biblical versions of the story appears in the Canaanite texts from Ra’s Shamrah (14th century BC), in which Baal defeats a dragonlike monster: “You will crush Leviathan the fleeing serpent; you will consume the twisting serpent, the mighty one with seven heads.” (The wording of Isaiah 27:1 draws directly on this text.)
A more ancient version of the myth occurs in the Babylonian Creation Epic, in which the storm god Marduk defeats the sea monster Tiamat and creates the earth and sky by cleaving her corpse in two.
The latter motif is reflected in a few biblical passages that extol Yahweh’s military valor: “Was it not you who split Rahab in half, who pierced the dragon through?” (Isaiah 51:9; see also Job 26:12; Psalm 74:13, 89:10).
Babylonian poets, like their Sumerian counterparts, had no single explanation for creation. Diverse stories regarding creation were incorporated into other types of texts. Most prominently, the Babylonian myth “Enuma Elish”, the Babylonian creation mythos (named after its opening words) dated to 1200 BCE, is a theological legitimization of the rise of Marduk as the supreme god in Babylon, replacing Enlil, the former head of the pantheon.
One of the best-known literary texts from ancient Mesopotamia describes Marduk’s dramatic rise to power: Assyriologists refer to this composition by its ancient title Enūma eliš, Akkadian for “When on high”. It is often called “The Babylonian Epic of Creation,” which is rather a misnomer as the main focus of the story is the elevation of Marduk to the head of the pantheon, for which the creation story is only a vehicle.
The Enûma Eliš has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets, each holding between 115 and 170 lines of Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform script. Most of Tablet V has never been recovered but, aside from this lacuna, the text is almost complete. A duplicate copy of Tablet V has been found in Sultantepe, ancient Huzirina, near the modern town of Şanlıurfa in Turkey.
The poem was most likely compiled during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I in the later twelfth century B.C., or possibly a short time afterward. At this time, Babylon, after many centuries of rule by the foreign Kassite dynasty, achieved political and cultural independence. The poem celebrates the ascendancy of the city and acts as a political tractate explaining how Babylon came to succeed the older city of Nippur as the center of religious festivals.
This epic is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview, centered on the supremacy of Marduk and the creation of humankind for the service of the gods. Its primary original purpose, however, is not an exposition of theology or theogony but the elevation of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods.
The Enûma Eliš was recognized as being related to the Jewish Genesis creation account from its first publication (Smith 1876), and it was an important step in the recognition of the roots of the account found in the Bible and in other Ancient Near Eastern (Canaanite and Mesopotamian) myths.
Creation of man
After six generations of gods, in the Babylonian “Enuma Elish”, in the seventh generation, (Akkadian “shapattu” or sabath), the younger Igigi gods, the sons and daughters of Enlil and Ninlil, go on strike and refuse their duties of keeping the creation working.
Abzu, the god of fresh water, co-creator of the cosmos, threatens to destroy the world with his waters, and the Gods gather in terror. Enki promises to help and puts Abzu to sleep, confining him in irrigation canals and places him in the Kur, beneath his city of Eridu.
But the universe is still threatened, as Tiamat, angry at the imprisonment of Abzu and at the prompting of her son and vizier Kingu, decides to take back the creation herself. The gods gather again in terror and turn to Enki for help, but Enki who harnessed Abzu, Tiamat’s consort, for irrigation refuses to get involved.
The gods then seek help elsewhere, and the patriarchal Enlil, their father, God of Nippur, promises to solve the problem if they make him King of the Gods. In the Babylonian tale, Enlil’s role is taken by Marduk, Enki’s son, and in the Assyrian version it is Asshur.
After dispatching Tiamat with the “arrows of his winds” down her throat and constructing the heavens with the arch of her ribs, Enlil places her tail in the sky as the Milky Way, and her crying eyes become the source of the Tigris and Euphrates.
But there is still the problem of “who will keep the cosmos working”. Enki, who might have otherwise come to their aid, is lying in a deep sleep and fails to hear their cries. His mother Nammu (creatrix also of Abzu and Tiamat) “brings the tears of the gods” before Enki and says: “Oh my son, arise from thy bed, from thy (slumber), work what is wise. Fashion servants for the Gods, may they produce their bread.”
Enki then advises that they create a servant of the gods, humankind, out of clay and blood. Against Enki’s wish the Gods decide to slay Kingu, and Enki finally consents to use Kingu’s blood to make the first human, with whom Enki always later has a close relationship, the first of the seven sages, seven wise men or “Abgallu” (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = Man), also known as Adapa. Enki assembles a team of divinities to help him, creating a host of “good and princely fashioners”.
He tells his mother “Oh my mother, the creature whose name thou has uttered, it exists. Bind upon it the will of the Gods; Mix the heart of clay that is over the Abyss, The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay. Thou, do thou bring the limbs into existence; Ninmah (the Earth-mother goddess (Ninhursag, his wife and consort) will work above thee. Ninti (goddess of birth) will stand by thy fashioning; Oh my mother, decree thou its (the new born’s) fate.
Adapa, the first man fashioned, later goes and acts as the advisor to the King of Eridu, when in the Sumerian Kinglist, the “Me” of “kingship descends on Eridu”. Babylonian texts talk of the creation of Eridu by the god Marduk as the first city, “the holy city, the dwelling of their [the other gods] delight”.
Samuel Noah Kramer believes that behind this myth of Enki’s confinement of Abzu lies an older one of the struggle between Enki and the Dragon Kur (the underworld).
Elevation of Marduk
In Enûma Elish, a civil war between the gods was growing to a climactic battle. The Anunnaki gods gathered together to find one god who could defeat the gods rising against them. Marduk, a very young god, answered the call and was promised the position of head god.
To prepare for battle, he makes a bow, fletches arrows, grabs a mace, throws lightning before him, fills his body with flame, makes a net to encircle Tiamat within it, gathers the four winds so that no part of her could escape, creates seven nasty new winds such as the whirlwind and tornado, and raises up his mightiest weapon, the rain-flood. Then he sets out for battle, mounting his storm-chariot drawn by four horses with poison in their mouths. In his lips he holds a spell and in one hand he grasps a herb to counter poison.
First, he challenges the leader of the Anunnaki gods, the dragon of the primordial sea Tiamat, the deified ocean, often seen to represent a female principle, whereas Marduk stands for the male principle, to single combat and defeats her by trapping her with his net, blowing her up with his winds, and piercing her belly with an arrow.
Marduk is victorious, kills the mother goddess Tiamat, a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods, and creates the world from her body.
He use half her body to create the earth, and the other half to create both the paradise of šamû and the netherworld of irṣitu. A document from a similar period stated that the universe was a spheroid, with three levels of šamû, where the gods dwelt, and where the stars existed, above the three levels of earth below it.
Then, he proceeds to defeat Kingu, who Tiamat put in charge of the army and wore the Tablets of Destiny on his breast, and “wrested from him the Tablets of Destiny, wrongfully his” and assumed his new position. Under his reign humans were created to bear the burdens of life so the gods could be at leisure.
In gratitude the other gods then bestow 50 names upon Marduk and select him to be their head. The number 50 is significant, because it was previously associated with the god Enlil, the former head of the pantheon, who was now replaced by Marduk.
This replacement of Enlil is already foreshadowed in the prologue to the famous Code of Hammurabi, a collection of “laws,” issued by Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE), the most famous king of the first dynasty of Babylon.
In the prologue, Hammurabi mentions that the gods Anu and Enlil determined for Marduk to receive the “Enlil-ship” (stewardship) of all the people, and with this elevated him into the highest echelons of the Mesopotamian pantheon.
It is interesting to note that Marduk had to get the consent of the assembly of gods to take on Tiamat. This is a reflection of how the people of Babylon governed themselves. The government of the gods was arranged in the same way as the government of the people. All the gods reported to Marduk just as all the nobles reported to the king. And Marduk had to listen to the assembly of gods just as the king had to listen to the assembly of people.
Though most scholarly work on the Enûma Eliš regard its primary original purpose to be the elevation of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above other Mesopotamian gods, researchers seeking to remove Babylonian influence onto Judaism assert counter arguments.
To address the similarities between the accounts, Christian apologist Conrad Hyers of the Princeton Theological Seminary, stated that the Genesis account polemically addressed earlier Babylonian and other pagan creation myths to “repudiate the divinization of nature and the attendant myths of divine origins, divine conflict, and divine ascent,” thus rejecting the idea that Genesis borrowed from or appropriated the form of the Enûma Eliš.
According to this theory, the Enûma Eliš was comfortable using connections between the divine and inert matter, while the aim of Genesis was supposedly to state the superiority of the Israelite god Elohim over all creation (and subsequent deities).
Biblical story of Job
Another important literary text offers a different perspective on Marduk. The composition, one of the most intricate literary texts from ancient Mesopotamia, is often classified as “wisdom literature,” and ill-defined and problematic category of Akkadian literature. Assyriologists refer to this poem as Ludlul bēl nēmeqi “Let me praise the Lord of Wisdom,” after its first line, or alternatively as “The Poem of the Righteous Sufferer”.
The literary composition, which consists of four tablets of 120 lines each, begins with a 40-line hymnic praise of Marduk, in which his dual nature is described in complex poetic wording: Marduk is powerful, both good and evil, just as he can help humanity, he can also destroy people.
The story then launches into a first-person narrative, in which the hero tells us of his continued misfortunes. It is this element that has often been compared to the Biblical story of Job.
In the end the sufferer is saved by Marduk and ends the poem by praising the god once more. In contrast to Enūma eliš the “Poem of the Righteous Sufferer” offers insights into personal relationships with Marduk. The highly complicated structure and unusual poetic language make this poem part of an elite and learned discourse.
Shabbat (“rest” or “cessation”) or Shabbos is Judaism’s day of rest and seventh day of the week, on which religious Jews remember the Biblical creation of the heavens and the earth in six days and the Exodus of the Hebrews, and look forward to a future Messianic Age. Shabbat observance entails refraining from work activities, often with great rigor, and engaging in restful activities to honor the day.
Judaism’s traditional position is that unbroken seventh-day Shabbat originated among the Jewish people, as their first and most sacred institution, though some suggest other origins. Variations upon Shabbat are widespread in Judaism and, with adaptations, throughout the Abrahamic and many other religions.
Reconstruction of the broken Enûma Eliš tablet seems, however, to define the rarely attested Sapattum or Sabattum as the full moon. This word is cognate or merged with Hebrew Shabbat (cf. Genesis 2:2-3), but is monthly rather than weekly; it is regarded as a form of Sumerian sa-bat (“mid-rest”), attested in Akkadian as um nuh libbi (“day of mid-repose”). This conclusion is a contextual restoration of the damaged tablet, which is read as “[Sa]bbath shalt thou then encounter, mid[month]ly.”
Morning star is a name for the star Sirius, which appears in the sky just before sunrise during the Dog Days, refering to the hot, sultry days of summer, originally in areas around the Mediterranean Sea, and as the expression fit, to other areas, especially in the Northern Hemisphere.
It is also a less common name for the planet Mercury when it appears in the east before sunrise or to the planet Mercury when it appears in the west (evening sky) after sunset.
Morning star is most commonly used as a name for the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. Venus is also the Evening Star when it appears in the west (evening sky), after sunset. The ancients first thought the two were separate stars and later realized it was the same star appearing as the harbinger of the Sun in the east and marking the end of the day in the west.
The morning star is an appearance of the planet Venus, an inferior planet, meaning that its orbit lies between that of the Earth and the Sun. Depending on the orbital locations of both Venus and Earth, it can be seen in the eastern morning sky for an hour or so before the Sun rises and dims it, or in the western evening sky for an hour or so after the Sun sets, when Venus itself then sets.
It is the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, outshining the planets Saturn and Jupiter but, while these rise high in the sky, Venus never does. This may lie behind myths about deities associated with the morning star proudly striving for the highest place among the gods and being cast down.
Inanna was associated with the planet Venus. There are hymns to Inanna as her astral manifestation. It also is believed that in many myths about Inanna, including Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld and Inanna and Shukaletuda, her movements correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky.
Because of its positioning so close to Earth, Venus is not visible across the dome of the sky as most celestial bodies are; because its proximity to the sun renders it invisible during the day. Instead, Venus is visible only when it rises in the East before sunrise, or when it sets in the West after sunset.
Because the movements of Venus appear to be discontinuous (it disappears due to its proximity to the sun, for many days at a time, and then reappears on the other horizon), some cultures did not recognize Venus as single entity, but rather regarded the planet as two separate stars on each horizon as the morning and evening star. The Mesopotamians, however, most likely understood that the planet was one entity.
The discontinuous movements of Venus relate to both mythology as well as Inanna’s dual nature. Inanna is related like Venus to the principle of connectedness, but this has a dual nature and could seem unpredictable. Yet as both the goddess of love and war, with both masculine and feminine qualities, Inanna is poised to respond, and occasionally to respond with outbursts of temper. Mesopotamian literature takes this one step further, explaining Inanna’s physical movements in mythology as corresponding to the astronomical movements of Venus in the sky.
Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld explains how Inanna is able to, unlike any other deity, descend into the netherworld and return to the heavens. The planet Venus appears to make a similar descent, setting in the West and then rising again in the East.
In Inanna and Shukaletuda, in search of her attacker, Inanna makes several movements throughout the myth that correspond with the movements of Venus in the sky. An introductory hymn explains Inanna leaving the heavens and heading for Kur, what could be presumed to be, the mountains, replicating the rising and setting of Inanna to the West. Shukaletuda also is described as scanning the heavens in search of Inanna, possibly to the eastern and western horizons.
In Greek mythology, Hesperus is the Evening Star, the planet Venus in the evening. He is the son of the dawn goddess Eos (Roman Aurora) and is the half-brother of her other son, Phosphorus (also called Eosphorus; the “Morning Star”). Hesperus’ Roman equivalent is Vesper (cf. “evening”, “supper”, “evening star”, “west”). Hesperus’ father was Cephalus, a mortal, while Phosphorus’ was the star god Astraios.
Hesperus is the personification of the “evening star”, the planet Venus in the evening. His name is sometimes conflated with the names for his brother, the personification of the planet as the “morning star” Eosphorus (Greek Ἐωσφόρος, “bearer of dawn”) or Phosphorus (Ancient Greek: Φωσφόρος, “bearer of light”, often translated as “Lucifer” in Latin), since they are all personifications of the same planet Venus.
“Heosphoros” in the Greek Septuagint and “Lucifer” in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate were used to translate the Hebrew “Helel” (Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one), “son of Shahar (god) (Dawn)” in the Hebrew version of Isaiah 14:12.
When named thus by the ancient Greeks, it was thought that Eosphorus (Venus in the morning) and Hesperos (Venus in the evening) were two different celestial objects. The Greeks later accepted the Babylonian view that the two were the same, and the Babylonian identification of the planets with the great gods, and dedicated the “wandering star” (planet) to Aphrodite (Roman Venus), as the equivalent of Ishtar.
While at an early stage the Morning Star (called Phosphorus and other names) and the Evening Star (referred to by names such as Hesperus) were thought of as two celestial objects, the Greeks accepted that the two were the same, but they seem to have continued to treat the two mythological entities as distinct.
In Greek mythology, Hesiod calls Phosphorus a son of Astraeus and Eos, but other say of Cephalus and Eos, or of Atlas. The Latin poet Ovid, speaking of Phosphorus and Hesperus (the Evening Star, the evening appearance of the planet Venus) as identical, makes him the father of Daedalion. Ovid also makes him the father of Ceyx, while the Latin grammarian Servius makes him the father of the Hesperides or of Hesperis.
The names Aurvandil or Earendel are cognate Germanic personal names, continuing a Proto-Germanic reconstructed compound *auzi-wandilaz “luminous wanderer”, in origin probably the name of a star or planet, potentially the morning star (Eosphoros).
As a Germanic name, Auriwandalo is attested as a historical Lombardic prince. A Latinized version, Horvandillus, is given as the name of the father of Amleth in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum. German Orentil (Erentil) is the hero of a medieval poem of the same name. He is son of a certain Eigel of Trier and has numerous adventures in the Holy Land.
The Old Norse variant appears in purely mythological context, linking the name to a star. The only known attestation of the Old English Earendel refers to a star exclusively.
The name is a compound whose first part goes back to *auzi- ‘dawn’, a combining form related to *austaz ‘east’, cognate with Ancient Greek ēṓs ‘dawn’, Sanskrit uṣā́s, Latin aurōra, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₂éuso-s ‘dawn’.
The second part comes from *wanđilaz, a derivative of *wanđaz (cf. Old Norse vandr ‘difficult’, Old Saxon wand ‘fluctuating, variable’, English wander), from *wenđanan which gave in English wend.
Jacob Grimm (1835) emphasizes the great age of the tradition reflected in the mythological material surrounding this name, without being able to reconstruct the characteristics of the Common Germanic myth. Viktor Rydberg in his Teutonic Mythology also assumes Common Germanic age for the figure.
In the Old English poem Crist I name is taken to refer to John the Baptist, addressed as the morning star heralding the coming of Christ, the “sun of righteousness”.
Phosphorus (Greek Φωσφόρος Phōsphoros), a name meaning “Light-Bringer”, is the Morning Star, the planet Venus in its morning appearance. Φαοσφόρος (Phaosphoros) and Φαεσφόρος (Phaesphoros) are forms of the same name in some Greek dialects.
The Latin word corresponding to Greek “Phosphorus” is “Lucifer”. It is used in its astronomical sense both in prose and poetry. Poets sometimes personify the star, placing it in a mythological context.
Another Greek name for the Morning Star is Heosphoros (Greek Ἑωσφόρος Heōsphoros), which means “Dawn-Bringer”. The form Eosphorus is sometimes met in English, as if from Ἠωσφόρος (Ēōsphoros), which is not actually found in Greek literature, but would be the form that Ἑωσφόρος would have in some dialects.
As an adjective, the Greek word φωσφόρος is applied in the sense of “light-bringing” to, for instance, the dawn, the god Dionysos, pine torches, the day; and in the sense of “torch-bearing” as an epithet of several god and goddesses, especially Hecate but also of Artemis/Diana and Hephaestus.
The Latin word lucifer, corresponding to Greek φωσφόρος, was used as a name for the morning star and thus appeared in the Vulgate translation of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (helel) — meaning Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one — in Isaiah 14:12, where the Septuagint Greek version uses, not φωσφόρος, but ἑωσφόρος. As a translation of the same Hebrew word the King James Version gave “Lucifer”, a name often understood as a reference to Satan.
Modern translations of the same passage render the Hebrew word instead as “morning star”, “daystar”, “shining one” or “shining star”. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus is referred to as the morning star, but not as lucifer in Latin, nor as φωσφόρος in the original Greek text, which instead has ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρὸς ὁ πρωϊνός (ho astēr ho lampros ho prōinos), literally: the star the bright of the morning.
In the Vulgate Latin text of 2 Peter 1:19 the word lucifer is used of the morning star in the phrase “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”, the corresponding Greek word being φωσφόρος.
Lucifer is the King James Version rendering of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל in Isaiah 14:12. This word, transliterated hêlêl or heylel, occurs only once in the Hebrew Bible and according to the KJV based Strong’s Concordance means “shining one, morning star”.
The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate, which translates הֵילֵל as lucifer,[Isa 14:12] meaning “the morning star, the planet Venus”, or, as an adjective, “light-bringing”. The Septuagint renders הֵילֵל in Greek as ἑωσφόρος (heōsphoros), a name, literally “bringer of dawn”, for the morning star.
Later Christian tradition came to use the Latin word for morning star, lucifer, as a proper name (“Lucifer”) for the devil; as he was before his fall. As a result Lucifer has become a by-word for Satan/the Devil in the church and in popular literature, as in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
However, the Latin word never came to be used almost exclusively, as in English, in this way, and was applied to others also, including Jesus. The image of a morning star fallen from the sky is generally believed among scholars to have a parallel in Canaanite mythology.
In Latin, the word is applied to John the Baptist and is used as a title of Jesus himself in several early Christian hymns. The morning hymn Lucis largitor splendide of Hilary contains the line: “Tu verus mundi lucifer” (you are the true light bringer of the world).
The Latin word lucifer is also used of Jesus in the Easter Proclamation prayer to God regarding the paschal candle: “May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever”.
The Latin word lucifer, corresponding to Greek φωσφόρος, was used as a name for the morning star and thus appeared in the Vulgate translation of the Hebrew word הֵילֵל (helel) — meaning Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one — in Isaiah 14:12, where the Septuagint Greek version uses, not φωσφόρος, but ἑωσφόρος.
As a translation of the same Hebrew word the King James Version gave “Lucifer”, a name often understood as a reference to Satan. Modern translations of the same passage render the Hebrew word instead as “morning star”, “daystar”, “shining one” or “shining star”.
In Revelation 22:16 Jesus is refered to as the morning star, but not as lucifer in Latin, nor as φωσφόρος in the original Greek text, which instead has ὁ ἀστὴρ ὁ λαμπρὸς ὁ πρωϊνός (ho astēr ho lampros ho prōinos), literally: the star the bright of the morning. In the Vulgate Latin text of 2 Peter 1:19 the word lucifer is used of the morning star in the phrase “until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”, the corresponding Greek word being φωσφόρος.
Creation of man
“The Creation of Humankind” is a bilingual Sumerian-Akkadian story also referred to in scholarly literature as KAR4. This account begins after heaven was separated from earth, and features of the earth such as the Tigris, Euphrates, and canals established.
At that time, the god Enlil addressed the gods asking what should next be accomplished. The answer was to create humans by killing Alla-gods and creating humans from their blood. Their purpose will be to labor for the gods, maintaining the fields and irrigation works in order to create bountiful harvests, celebrate the gods’ rites, and attain wisdom through study.
Another early second-millennium Sumerian myth, “Enki and the World Order,” provides an explanation as to why the world appears organized. Enki decided that the world had to be well managed to avoid chaos.
Various gods were thus assigned management responsibilities that included overseeing the waters, crops, building activities, control of wildlife, and herding of domestic animals, as well as oversight of the heavens and earth and the activities of women.
According to the Sumerian story “Enki and Ninmah,” the lesser gods, burdened with the toil of creating the earth, complained to Namma, the primeval mother, about their hard work. She in turn roused her son Enki, the god of wisdom, and urged him to create a substitute to free the gods from their toil. Namma then kneaded some clay, placed it in her womb, and gave birth to the first humans.
According to the Neo-Sumerian mythological text Enki and Ninmah, Enki is the son of An and Nammu (also Namma, spelled ideographically NAMMA = ENGUR), a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology.
Nammu was the Goddess Sea (Engur) that gave birth to An (heaven) and Ki (earth) and the first gods, representing the Apsu, the fresh water ocean that the Sumerians believed lay beneath the earth, the source of life-giving water and fertility in a country with almost no rainfall.
Nammu is not well attested in Sumerian mythology. She may have been of greater importance prehistorically, before Enki took over most of her functions. Reay Tannahill in Sex in History (1980) singled out Nammu as the “only female prime mover” in the cosmogonic myths of antiquity.
Nammu is the goddess who “has given birth to the great gods”. It is she who has the idea of creating mankind, and she goes to wake up Enki, who is asleep in the Apsu, so that he may set the process going.
The Atrahasis-Epos has it that Enlil requested from Nammu the creation of humans. And Nammu told him that with the help of Enki (her son) she can create humans in the image of gods.
Adam and Eva
Ninti is the Sumerian goddess of life. She is also one of the eight goddesses of healing who was created by Ninhursag to heal Enki’s body. Her specific healing area was the rib. Enki had eaten forbidden flowers and was then cursed by Ninhursag, who was later persuaded by the other gods to heal him. Some scholars suggest that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam’s rib in the Book of Genesis.
Ninti, the title of Ninhursag, also means “the mother of all living”, and was a title given to the later Hurrian goddess Kheba. This is also the title given in the Bible to Eve, the Hebrew and Aramaic Ḥawwah (חוה), who was made from the rib of Adam, in a strange reflection of the Sumerian myth, in which Adam — not Enki — walks in the Garden of Paradise.
Hebat, also transcribed, Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the deities. During Aramaean times Hebat also appears to have become identified with the goddess Hawwah, or Eve.
The Epic of Gilgamesh is a long Akkadian poem on the theme of human beings’ futile quest for immortality. A number of earlier Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh, the quasi-historical hero of the epic, seem to have been used as sources, but the Akkadian work was composed about 2000 BC. It exists in several different rescissions, none of them complete.
The goddess Aruru, the goddess of creation, makes Enkidu of clay from the river. God made Adam from clay from the soil. Both were made to do the will of the god(s), nothing more. They were both made from the same material, in the same way, for the same basic purpose.
However, there’s one huge difference. Adam was made by a god, while Enkidu was made by a goddess. So, in the 1500 years separating these two books, women went from being respected while working as prostitutes in the temple to being the first sinners ever.
Lilith is a Hebrew name for a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud, who is generally thought to be in part derived from a historically far earlier class of female demons (līlīṯu) in Mesopotamian religion, found in cuneiform texts of Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, and Babylonia.
In Jewish folklore, from Alphabet of Ben Sira onwards, Lilith becomes Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time (Rosh Hashanah) and from the same earth as Adam. This contrasts with Eve, who was created from one of Adam’s ribs.
The legend was greatly developed during the Middle Ages, in the tradition of Aggadic midrashim, the Zohar, and Jewish mysticism. For example, in the 13th century writings of Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she coupled with the archangel Samael.
In Sumerian religion, Ninlil (NIN.LÍL”lady of the open field” or “Lady of the Wind”), also called Sud, in Assyrian called Mulliltu, is the consort goddess of Enlil. Her parentage is variously described. Most commonly she is called the daughter of Haia (god of stores) and Nunbarsegunu (or Ninshebargunnu [a goddess of barley] or Nisaba). Another Akkadian source says she is the daughter of Anu (aka An) and Antu (Sumerian Ki). Other sources call her a daughter of Anu and Nammu.
She lived in Dilmun with her family. Raped and ravaged by her husband Enlil, who impregnated her with water, she conceived a boy, Nanna/Suen, the future moon god. As punishment Enlil was dispatched to the underworld kingdom of Ereshkigal, where Ninlil joined him.
Enlil impregnated her disguised as the gatekeeper, where upon she gave birth to their son Nergal, god of death. In a similar manner she conceived the underworld god Ninazu when Enlil impregnated her disguised as the man of the river of the nether world, a man-devouring river.
Later Enlil disguised himself as the man of the boat, impregnating her with a fourth deity Enbilulu, god of rivers and canals. All of these act as substitutes for Nanna/Suen to ascend.
After her death, she became the goddess of the wind, like Enlil. She may be the Goddess of the South Wind referred to in the story of Adapa, as her husband Enlil was associated with northerly winter storms. As “Lady Wind” she may be associated with the figure of the Akkadian demon “Lil-itu”, thought to have been the origin of the Hebrew Lilith legend.
Enki was considered a god of life and replenishment, and was often depicted with two streams of water flowing into his shoulders, one the Tigris, the other the Euphrates. Alongside him were trees symbolising the female and male aspects of nature, each holding the female and male aspects of the ‘Life Essence’, which he, as apparent alchemist of the gods, would masterfully mix to create several beings that would live upon the face of the earth.
In the Bible: “…Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold…”
One gets the notion from Genesis’s narrator that by “eating a fruit” one can “obtain knowledge.” This concept appears in Sumerian myths. Kramer has noted that Enki, the god of Wisdom, desires “to know” about several plants in his wife’s garden. Enki’s youngest son, Ningizzida, was Lord of the Tree of Truth, in Mesopotamia and had obtained the secret knowledge of creation.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is one of two trees in the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3, along with the tree of life. A cylinder seal, known as the temptation seal, from post-Akkadian periods in Mesopotamia (c. 23rd-22nd century BCE), has been linked to the Adam and Eve story.
Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876) describes the seal as having two facing figures (male and female) seated on each side of a tree, holding out their hands to the fruit, while between their backs is a serpent, giving evidence that the fall of man account was known in early times of Babylonia.
Edin (É.DIN, E2.DIN, E-din) is a Sumerian term meaning “steppe” or “plain”. It is featured on the Gudea cylinders as the name of a watercourse from which plaster is taken to build a temple for Ningirsu.
“Clay plaster, harmoniously blended clay taken from the Edin canal, has been chosen by Lord Ningirsu with his holy heart, and was painted by Gudea with the splendors of heaven, as if kohl were being poured all over it.”
Thorkild Jacobsen called it the “Idedin” canal, suggesting it was an as yet unidentified “Desert Canal”, which he considered “probably refers to an abandoned canal bed that had filled with the characteristic purplish dune sand still seen in southern Iraq.”
Friedrich Delitzsch was the first amongst numerous scholars to suggest the Jewish and Christian term Eden traced back to this term. It has also been connected with the later Babylonian term “Edinu”.
In Sumerian mythology, Enki was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake, or the Caduceus, sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine. He is often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp.
Considered the master shaper of the world, god of wisdom and of all magic, Enki was characterized as the lord of the Abzu (Apsu in Akkadian), the freshwater sea or groundwater located within the earth. His kingdom was the sweet waters that lay below earth.
The urban nucleus of Eridu was Enki’s temple, called House of the Aquifer or E-abzu (Cuneiform: E.ZU.AB, meaning E = temple; ab = water; zu = far), which in later history was called House of the Subterranean Waters or E-engur (Cuneiform: E.LAGAB×HAL), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. His consort Ninhursag had a nearby temple at Ubaid.
Like all the Sumerian and Babylonian gods, Enki, the Sumerian counterpart of the Akkadian water-god Ea, began as a local god, who came to share, according to the later cosmology, with Anu and Enlil, the rule of the cosmos. His symbols included a goat and a fish, which later combined into a single beast, the goat Capricorn, recognised as the Zodiacal constellation Capricornus. He was also associated with the planet Mercury in the Sumerian astrological system.
The pool of the Abzu at the front of his temple was adopted also at the temple to Nanna (Akkadian Sin) the Moon, at Ur, and spread from there throughout the Middle East. It is believed to remain today as the sacred pool at Mosques, or as the holy water font in Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches.
Eridu was the home of the Abzu temple of the god Enki, the god of wisdom and of the ancient city of Eridu, who brought the arts of civilization to that city (from Dilmun, according to some versions).
Mesopotamian myth tells of seven antediluvian sages known as Abgallu (Ab = water, Gal = great, Lu = man), who were sent by Enki, the wise god of Eridu, to bring the arts of civilisation to humankind. They introduced the practice of the correct rites of religious observance as priest of the E-apsu temple, at Eridu. Enki, the god of Eridu, is said to have brought civilization to Sumer at this point, or just shortly before.
The sages are described in Mesopotamian literature as ‘pure parādu-fish, probably carp, whose bones are found associated with the earliest shrine, and still kept as a holy duty in the precincts of Near Eastern mosques and monasteries.
The word Abgallu survived into Nabatean times, around the 1st century, as apkallum, used to describe the profession of a certain kind of priest. In the court of Assyria, special physicians trained in the ancient lore of Eridu, far to the south, foretold the course of sickness from signs and portents on the patient’s body, and offered the appropriate incantations and magical resources as cures.
Stephanie Dalley writes “From Erra and Ishum we know that all the sages were banished … because they angered the gods, and went back to the Apsu, where Ea lived, and … the story … ended with Adapa’s banishment.”
The first of the Mesopotamian seven sages, Adapa, also known as Uan (Poseidon – Wanax), the name given as Oannes (Johannes) by Berossus, was a man of Eridu, was a mortal man from a godly lineage, a son of Enki, and was iconographically portrayed as a fish-man composite.
Identified with U-an, a half-human creature from the sea, he was considered to have brought civilization to the city during the time of King Alulim, according to the mythological antediluvian section of the Sumerian King List the mythical first (antediluvian) king of Eridu, and the first king of Sumer.
Gift of immortality
Adapa unknowingly refused the gift of immortality, a story first attested in fragmentary tablets from Tell el-Amarna and from Assur in the Kassite period of the late second millennium BC (14th century BC).
Adapa broke the wings of Ninlil the South Wind, who had overturned his fishing boat, and was called to account before Anu. Ea, his patron god, warned him to apologize humbly for his actions, but not to partake of food or drink while he was in heaven, as it would be the food of death.
Anu, impressed by Adapa’s sincerity, offered instead the food of immortality, but Adapa heeded Ea’s advice, refused, and thus missed the chance for immortality that would have been his.
Parallels are apparent with the story of Persephone visiting Hades, who was warned to take nothing from that kingdom. Parallels can be drawn to the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden by Yahweh, after they ate from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thus gaining death.
The word “Adam”, as the proper name for the first man, can be misleading. It comes from ha-adam in Hebrew, which translates to “the man”—Hebrew has no capital letters. The word adam is extracted from adamah, meaning country, earth, ground, husband, earth, or land. This suggests the context in Genesis 3:19, when God says “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The name represents the material from which he was made. He wasn’t an actual person. Adapa means father/Water, apa/ada.
Jonah, Jonas or Younis (Hebrew: יוֹנָה, Modern Yona, Tiberian Yônā ; dove; Arabic: يونس Yūnus, Yūnis or يونان Yūnān ; Latin: Ionas) is the name given in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh/Old Testament) to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC.
He is the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation. The Biblical story of Jonah is repeated, with a few notable differences, in the Qur’an.
The book of Jonah is one of the twelve minor prophets included in the Tanakh. According to tradition, Jonah was the boy brought back to life by Elijah the prophet, and hence shares many of his characteristics (particularly his desire for ‘strict judgment’). The book of Jonah is read every year, in its original Hebrew and in its entirety, on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, as the Haftarah at the afternoon mincha prayer.
Teshuva – the ability to repent and be forgiven by God – is a prominent idea in Jewish thought. This concept is developed in the book of Jonah: Jonah, the son of truth, (The name of his father “Amitai” in Hebrew means truth,) refuses to ask the people of Nineveh to repent.
He seeks the truth only, and not forgiveness. When forced to go, his call is heard loud and clear. The people of Nineveh repent ecstatically, “fasting, including the sheep”, and the Jewish scripts are critical of this.
The story of Jonah and the fish in the Old Testament offers an example of typology. In the Old Testament Book of Jonah, Jonah told his shipmates to sacrifice him by throwing him overboard. Jonah explained that due to his own death, God’s wrath would pass and that the sea would become calm. Subsequently Jonah then spent three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish before it spat him up onto dry land.
Typological interpretation of this story holds that it prefigures Christ’s burial, the stomach of the fish representing Christ’s tomb: as Jonah exited from the fish after three days and three nights, so did Christ rise from His tomb on the third day.
In the New Testament, Jesus invokes Jonah in the manner of a type: “As the crowds increased, Jesus said, ‘This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.’” Luke 11:29–32 (see also Matthew 12:38–42, 16:1–4). Jonah called the belly of the fish “She’ol”, the land of the dead (translated as “the grave” in the NIV Bible).
Thus whenever one finds an allusion to Jonah in Medieval art or in Medieval literature, it usually represents an allegory for the burial and resurrection of Christ.
In the New Testament, Jonah is mentioned in Matthew 12:38–41, 16:4 and Luke 11:29–32. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes a reference to Jonah when he is asked for a miraculous sign by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Jesus says that the sign will be the sign of Jonah. Jesus implies that Jonah’s restoration after three days inside the great whale prefigures his own resurrection.
“But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.” — Gospel of Matthew, chapter 12 verses 39–41.
Jonah is regarded as a saint by a number of Christian denominations. He is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church on September 22.
On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar his feast day is also September 22 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar; September 22 currently falls in October on the modern Gregorian calendar).
He is commemorated as one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Calendar of saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31. Jonah’s mission to the Ninevites is commemorated by the Fast of Nineveh in Syriac and Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The apocryphal Lives of the Prophets, which may be Jewish or Christian in origin, offer further biographical details about Jonah.
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá’í Faith, and Mandaeism. He is described as having the unique practice of baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
Most scholars agree that John baptized Jesus. Scholars generally believe Jesus was a follower or disciple of John and several New Testament accounts report that some of Jesus’ early followers had previously been followers of John. John the Baptist is also mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus.
Although Midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, in Christianity it is associated with the nativity of John the Baptist, which is observed on the same day, June 24, in the Catholic, Orthodox and some Protestant churches.
Sumerian King List
Eridu, also transliterated as Eridug, could mean “mighty place” or “guidance place”. In the Sumerian king list, Eridu is named as the city of the first kings. The king list continues: In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28800 years. Alalngar ruled for 36000 years. 2 kings; they ruled for 64800 years. Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.
In the Sumerian King List, it relies on the flood motif to divide its history into preflood (antediluvian) and postflood periods. The preflood kings had enormous lifespans, whereas postflood lifespans were much reduced.
Some scholars (e.g. Wood, 2003) have drawn attention to the fact that there are remarkable similarities between the Sumerian King List and accounts in Genesis. For example, Genesis tells the story of ‘the great flood’ and Noah’s efforts to save all the species of animals on Earth from destruction. Likewise, in the Sumerian King List, there is discussion of a great deluge: “the flood swept over the earth.”
The Sumerian King List provides a list of eight kings (some versions have 10) who reigned for long periods of time before the flood, ranging from 18,600 to 43,200 years. This is similar to Genesis 5, where the generations from Creation to the Flood are recorded. Interestingly, between Adam and Noah there are eight generations, just as there are eight kings between the beginning of kingship and the flood in the Sumerian King List.
After the flood, the King List records kings who ruled for much shorter periods of time. Thus, the Sumerian King List not only documents a great flood early in man’s history, but it also reflects the same pattern of decreasing longevity as found in the Bible – men had extremely long life spans before the flood and much shorter life spans following the flood (Wood, 2003).
A tiara (from Latin: tiara, from Ancient Greek: τιάρα) is a form of crown. There are two possible types of crown that this word can refer to. Traditionally, the word “tiara” refers to a high crown, often with the shape of a cylinder narrowed at its top, made of fabric or leather, and richly ornamented. It was used by the kings and emperors of some ancient peoples in Anatolia and Mesopotamia, notably the Hittites.
The Assyrians and the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization used to include a pair of bull horns as a decoration and symbol of authority and a circle of short feathers surrounding the tiara’s top. The Iranian tiara (Tarok) was more similar to a truncated cone, without the horns and feathers but more jewels, and a conic-shaped tip at its top.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Papal tiara is a high cap surrounded by three crowns and bearing a globe surmounted by a cross worn by the Pope during certain ceremonies, being the symbol of his authority. Since Pope Paul VI set aside his tiara after the Second Vatican Council, the Papal Tiara has not been worn.
Pope Benedict XVI even removed the tiara from his coat of arms, replacing it with a mitre (but with some symbolic reference to the symbolism of the tiara, still in use in the Holy See’s coat of arms).
Mit mens mind in Armenian. The fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians wore a fish hat that is still seen today with Roman Catholic Church’s pope and bishops. The miter is derived directly from the miters of the ancient pagan fish-god. The papal miter represents the head of Dagon with an open mouth, which is the reason for the pointed shape and split top.
Pisces is the twelfth sign of the zodiac, and it is also the final sign in the zodiacal cycle. Hence, this sign brings together many of the characteristics of the eleven signs that have come before it.
It spans the 330° to 360° of the zodiac, between 332.75° and 360° of celestial longitude. Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits this area on average between February 19 and March 20, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13.
While the astrological sign Pisces per definition runs from elliptical longitude 330° to 0°, this position is now mostly covered by the constellation of Aquarius, due to the precession from when the constellation and the sign coincided. Today, the First Point of Aries, or the vernal equinox is in the Pisces constellation.
The symbol of the fish is derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea. The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European new year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
The astrological symbol shows the two fishes captured by a string, typically by the mouth or the tails. The fish are usually portrayed swimming in opposite directions; this represents the duality within the Piscean nature. Divine associations with Pisces include Poseidon/Neptune, Vishnu, Christ, Aphrodite, Eros, and Typhon.
Purim, a Jewish holiday, falls at the full moon preceding the Passover, which was set by the full moon in Aries, which follows Pisces. The story of the birth of Christ is said to be a result of the spring equinox entering into the Pisces, as the “Savior of the World” appeared as the Fisher of Men. This parallels the entering into the Age of Pisces.
An astrological age is a time period in astrology that parallels major changes in the development of Earth’s inhabitants, particularly relating to culture, society and politics, and there are twelve astrological ages corresponding to the twelve zodiacal signs. Astrological ages occur because of a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, and one complete period of this precession is called a Great Year or Platonic Year of about 25,920 years.
The age of Pisces began c. 1 AD and will end c. 2150 AD. With the story of the birth of Christ coinciding with this date, many Christian symbols for Christ use the astrological symbol for Pisces, the fishes.
The figure Christ himself bears many of the temperaments and personality traits of a Pisces, and is thus considered an archetype of the Piscean. Moreover, the twelve apostles were called the “fishers of men,” early Christians called themselves “little fishes,” and a code word for Jesus was the Greek word for fish, “Ikhthus.”
With this, the start of the age, or the “Great Month of Pisces” is regarded as the beginning of the Christian religion. Saint Peter is recognized as the apostle of the Piscean sign.
Pisces has been called the “dying god,” where its sign opposite in the night sky is Virgo, or, the Virgin Mary. When Jesus was asked by his disciples where the next Passover would be, he replied to them: Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you bearing a pitcher of water… follow him into the house where he entereth in. — Jesus, Luke 22:10
This coincides with the changing of the ages, into the Age of Aquarius, as the personification of the constellation of Aquarius is a man carrying pitchers of water.
A planet’s domicile is the zodiac sign over which it has rulership, and the rulers of Pisces, or those associated with Pisceans, are Jupiter, Neptune, and the moon. In esoteric astrology, Venus was considered the ruler of Pisces, and prior to the discovery of Neptune in 1846, Jupiter was said to rule Pisces.
Neptune is mostly considered the ruling planet of Pisces today because of the association with the Roman god of water and the sea, Neptune. The detriment, or the sign “opposite” to that which is deemed the ruling planet, is Mercury. Venus is exalted in Pisces, while both Pluto and Mercury fall in Pisces.
According to British astrologer Alan Leo, Pisces, along with Scorpio and Cancer, compose the triplicity for water signs. The mutability is key to the ever-changing element of water, found in several different forms, much like the transformative aspects found in Christ and Piscean nature. Additionally, these three water signs are considered to be the most fruitful signs, who serve a fertilizing function in nature.
He also groups Pisces under the “negative pole;” naturally adept to the astral and psychic worlds. This is resembled in the sign for Pisces (♓), which is composed of two half-circles and a band, signifying the dual nature of man in both the physical world and the unseen realm.
According to 20th century astrologer Robert Hand, the fish facing upwards away from the ecliptic is swimming towards the heavens, or is seeking spiritual illumination. The other fish swims along the ecliptic, concerning itself with material matters. The sign modality for Pisces is mutable. It is part of the group of signs, with Gemini, Virgo, and Sagittarius known as the “mutable signs.”
The last sign of the Zodiac, the Pisces symbol has been said to be a representation of the difficulty in extracting the good from that which appears bad. The moral of the symbol for Pisces is said to be that “the severe season has passed; though your flocks, as yet, do not yield their store, the ocean and rivers are open to you, their inhabitants are placed within your power.”
It is generally considered a feminine sign, and colors that have been used to represent the Pisces sign are gray or blue gray. The body parts associated with Pisces are the feet, or the toes. Likewise, astrologists also associate various diseases of the body with the zodiac, and Pisces’ diseases are those of the feet. This includes gout, lameness, distempers, and sores. Excess of eating and drinking, as well as poisoning related to the consumption of fish and medicines are also shown in Pisces.
Pisces is classified as a short ascension sign; one which takes a shorter amount of time to ascend over the horizon than the other signs. It is also one of the six southern signs, because it is south of the celestial equator when the sun is in it. This results in it being seen in the winter sky in the northern hemisphere. Pisces is also considered a bicorporeal or double-bodied sign, as the astrological sign is composed of two fishes.
Belet-Seri (also spelled Beletseri, Belit-Sheri, Belit-Tseri) in Babylonian and Akkadian mythology is an underworld goddess.As the recorder of the dead entering the underworld she is known as the “Scribe of the Earth”. It is Belet-seri who keeps the records of human activities so she can advise the queen of the dead, Erishkigal, on their final judgement. Married to Amurru, the God of Nomads, she’s known as “Queen of the Desert”.
Beginning in the Old Babylonian Period, Belet-Seri was identified with the goddess Gestinanna, the sister of Tammuz, the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, and a minor goddess in Sumerian mythology, the so-called “heavenly grape-vine”.
As the sister of Dumuzi and consort of Ningisida she is involved in the account of Dumuzi trying to escape his fate at the hands of Inana and Ereshkigal. In her house he is changed into a gazelle before being caught and transported to the underworld.
In Sumerian mythology she is the daughter of Enki and Ninhursag. When Dumuzi died Geshtinanna lamentated days and nights. After her death, she became the goddess of wine and cold seasons. She is a divine poet and interpreter of dreams.
Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, most famous as the place where Jesus prayed and his disciples slept the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. The name is derived from the Aramaic ܓܕܣܡܢ (Gaṯ-Šmānê), meaning “oil press”.
Gethsemane appears in the Greek of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark as Γεθσημανή (Gethsēmanē). Matthew (26:36) and Mark (14:32) call it χωρἰον (18:1), a place or estate. The Gospel of John says Jesus entered a garden (κῆπος) with his disciples.
Tammuz (Akkadian: Duʾzu, Dūzu; Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar. The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.
The Aramaic name “Tammuz” seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid. The later standard Sumerian form, Dumu-zid, in turn became Dumuzi in Akkadian. Tamuzi also is Dumuzid or Dumuzi.
Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god.
Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year.
A dying-and-rising death-rebirth, or resurrection deity is a related motif where the god dies and is also resurrected. “Death or departure of the gods” is motif A192 in Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, while “resurrection of gods” is motif A193.
Examples of gods who die and later return to life are most often cited from the religions of the Ancient Near East, and traditions influenced by them including Biblical and Greco-Roman mythology and by extension Christianity.
The concept of resurrection is found in the writings of some ancient non-Abrahamic religions in the Middle East. A few extant Egyptian and Canaanite writings allude to dying and rising gods such as Osiris and Baal.
The concept of dying-and-rising god was first proposed in comparative mythology by James Frazer’s seminal The Golden Bough. Frazer associated the motif with fertility rites surrounding the yearly cycle of vegetation. Frazer cited the examples of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Dionysus and Jesus Christ.
A main criticism charges the group of analogies with reductionism, insofar as it subsumes a range of disparate myths under a single category and ignores important distinctions. Marcel Detienne argues that it risks making Christianity the standard by which all religion is judged, since death and resurrection are more central to Christianity than many other faiths.
Dag Øistein Endsjø, a scholar of religion, points out how a number of those often defined as dying-and-rising-deities, like Jesus and a number of figures in ancient Greek religion, actually died as ordinary mortals, only to become gods of various stature after they were resurrected from the dead. Not dying as gods, they thus defy the definition of “dying-and-rising-gods”.
One of the leading scholars in the deconstruction of Frazer’s “dying-and-rising god” category was Jonathan Z. Smith, whose 1969 dissertation discusses Frazer’s Golden Bough, and who in Mircea Eliade’s 1987 Encyclopedia of religion wrote the “Dying and rising gods” entry, where he dismisses the category as “largely a misnomer based on imaginative reconstructions and exceeding late or highly ambiguous texts”, suggesting a more detailed categorisation into “dying gods” and “disappearing gods”, arguing that before Christianity, the two categories were distinct and gods who “died” did not return, and those who returned never truly “died”.
Since the 1990s, Smith’s scholarly rejection of the category has been widely embraced by Christian apologists wishing to defend the historicity of Jesus, while scholarly defenses of the concept (or its applicability to mystery religion) have been embraced by the “new atheism” movement wishing to argue the “Christ myth theory”.
Taking a more positive position, Tryggve Mettinger argues in his recent book that the category of rise and return to life is significant for the following deities: Ugaritic Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Osiris and Dumuzi.
Church of the Nativity
According to some scholars, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave that was originally a shrine to Adonis-Tammuz. The Church Father Jerome, who died in Bethlehem in 420, reports in addition that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and a pleasant sacred grove planted before it, to wipe out the memory of Jesus.
Some modern mythologists, however, reverse the supposition, insisting that the cult of Adonis-Tammuz originated the shrine and that it was the Christians who took it over, substituting the worship of their own God.
The cosmogenic myth common in Sumer was that of the hieros gamos, a sacred marriage where divine principles in the form of dualistic opposites came together as male and female to give birth to the cosmos.
In the epic Enki and Ninhursag, Enki, as lord of Ab or fresh water (also the Sumerian word for semen), is living with his wife in the paradise of Dilmun. Dilmun had no water and Enki heard the cries of its Goddess, Ninsikil, and orders the sun-God Utu to bring fresh water from the Earth for Dilmun.
The subsequent tale, with similarities to the Biblical story of the forbidden fruit, repeats the story of how fresh water brings life to a barren land. Enki, the Water-Lord then “caused to flow the ‘water of the heart” and having fertilised his consort Ninhursag, also known as Ki or Earth, after “Nine days being her nine months, the months of ‘womanhood’… like good butter, Nintu, the mother of the land, …like good butter, gave birth to Ninsar, (Lady Greenery)”.
When Ninhursag left him, as Water-Lord he came upon Ninsar (Lady Greenery). Not knowing her to be his daughter, and because she reminds him of his absent consort, Enki then seduces and has intercourse with her. Ninsar then gave birth to Ninkurra (Lady Fruitfulness or Lady Pasture), and leaves Enki alone again. A second time, Enki, in his loneliness finds and seduces Ninkurra, and from the union Ninkurra gave birth to Uttu (weaver or spider, the weaver of the web of life).
A third time Enki succumbs to temptation, and attempts seduction of Uttu. Upset about Enki’s reputation, Uttu consults Ninhursag, who, upset at the promiscuous wayward nature of her spouse, advises Uttu to avoid the riverbanks, the places likely to be affected by flooding, the home of Enki.
In another version of this myth Ninhursag takes Enki’s semen from Uttu’s womb and plants it in the earth where eight plants rapidly germinate. Enki, in the swampland, eats it. And so, despite warnings, Enki consumes the other seven fruit.
Consuming his own semen, he falls pregnant (ill with swellings) in his jaw, his teeth, his mouth, his hip, his throat, his limbs, his side and his rib. The gods are at a loss to know what to do, chagrinned they “sit in the dust”.
As Enki lacks a womb with which to give birth, he seems to be dying with swellings. The fox then asks Enlil King of the Gods, “If i bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward?” Ninhursag’s sacred fox then fetches the goddess.
Ninhursag relents and takes Enki’s Ab (water, or semen) into her body, and gives birth to gods of healing of each part of the body; Abu for the Jaw, Nintul for the Hip, Ninsutu for the tooth, Ninkasi for the mouth, Dazimua for the side and Enshagag for the Limbs.
The last one, Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself. The story thus symbolically reflects the way in which life is brought forth through the addition of water to the land, and once it grows, water is required to bring plants to fruit. It also counsels balance and responsibility, nothing to excess.
The Great Flood
The Mesopotamian flood stories concern the epics of Ziusudra, Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis. The Sumerian flood myth found in the Deluge tablet was the epic of Ziusudra, who heard the Divine Counsel of Anunaki to destroy humanity, in which he constructed a vessel that delivered him from great waters. In the Atrahasis version the flood is a river flood.
Atra-Hasis (“exceedingly wise”) is the protagonist of an 18th-century BCE Akkadian epic recorded in various versions on clay tablets. The Atra-Hasis tablets include both a creation myth and a flood account, which is one of three surviving Babylonian deluge stories. The name “Atra-Hasis” also appears on one of the Sumerian king lists as king of Shuruppak in the times before a flood.
In the Atra-Hasis (“exceedingly wise”), the chief of the gods, Enlil (known as Ellil in Akkadian) had been confronted by a revolt of the lesser gods, which caused him to create humans as servants. However, after some centuries pass the humans became a nuisance. Finally, Enlil released a devastating flood to eliminate humanity, whose noise is disturbing his rest.
Enlil successively sends drought, famine and plague to eliminate humanity, but Enki thwarts his half-brother’s plans by teaching Atrahasis how to counter these threats. Each time, Atrahasis asks the population to abandon worship of all gods, except the one responsible for the calamity and this seems to shame them into relenting. Humans, however, proliferate a fourth time.
Enraged, Enlil convenes a Council of Deities and gets them to promise not to tell humankind that he plans their total annihilation. Enki does not tell Atrahasis directly, but speaks to him in secret via a reed wall. He instructs Atrahasis to build a boat in order to rescue his family and other living creatures from the coming deluge.
After the seven-day Deluge, the flood hero frees a swallow, a raven and a dove in an effort to find if the flood waters have receded. Upon landing, a sacrifice is made to the gods. Enlil is angry his will has been thwarted yet again, and Enki is named as the culprit. Enki explains that Enlil is unfair to punish the guiltless, and the gods institute measures to ensure that humanity does not become too populous in the future.
Assyriologist George Smith translated the Babylonian account of the Great Flood in the 19th century. Further discoveries produced several versions of the Mesopotamian flood myth, with the account closest to that in Genesis 6–9 found in a 700 BCE Babylonian copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In this work, the hero, Gilgamesh, meets the immortal man Utnapishtim, and the latter describes how the god Ea instructed him to build a huge vessel in anticipation of a deity-created flood that would destroy the world. The vessel would save Utnapishtim, his family, his friends, and the animals.
Utnapishtim was tasked by Enki (Ea) to abandon his worldly possessions and create a giant ship to be called The Preserver of Life. He was also tasked with bringing his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals and grains. The oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and humans that were not on the ship, a concept similar to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.
After twelve days on the water, Utnapishtim opened the hatch of his ship to look around and saw the slopes of Mount Nisir, where he rested his ship for seven days. On the seventh day, he sent a dove out to see if the water had receded, and the dove could find nothing but water, so it returned. Then he sent out a swallow, and just as before, it returned, having found nothing.
Finally, Utnapishtim sent out a raven, and the raven saw that the waters had receded, so it circled around, but did not return. Utnapishtim then set all the animals free, and made a sacrifice to the gods. The gods came, and because he had preserved the seed of man while remaining loyal and trusting of his gods, Utnapishtim and his wife were given immortality, as well as a place among the heavenly gods.
In the epic, overcome with the death of his friend Enkidu, the hero Gilgamesh sets out on a series of journeys to search for his ancestor Utnapishtim (Xisouthros) who lives at the mouth of the rivers and has been given eternal life.
Utnapishtim counsels Gilgamesh to abandon his search for immortality but tells him about a plant that can make him young again. Gilgamesh obtains the plant from the bottom of a river but a serpent steals it, and Gilgamesh returns home to the city of Uruk having abandoned hope of either immortality or renewed youth.
In Plato’s Timaeus, Timaeus says that because the Bronze race of Humans had been making wars constantly Zeus was angered and decided to punish humanity by a flood. Prometheus the Titan knew of this and told the secret to Deucalion, advising him to build an ark in order to be saved. After 9 nights and days the water started receding and the ark was landed at Mount Parnassus.
In the Genesis flood narrative, of the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh decides to flood the earth because of the depth of the sinful state of mankind. Righteous Noah is given instructions to build an ark. When the ark is completed, Noah, his family, and representatives of all the animals of the earth are called upon to enter the ark.
When the destructive flood begins, all life outside of the ark perishes. After the waters recede, all those aboard the ark disembark and have God’s promise that He will never judge the earth with a flood again. He gives the rainbow as the sign of this promise.
Confusion of languages
The building of the Tower of Babel and the Confusion of Tongues (languages) in ancient Babylon is mentioned rather briefly in Genesis Chapters 10 and 11. Genesis 10 is the so-called “Table of Nations”–a list of 70 names of Noah’s descendants through Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
The Sumerian mythological epic Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta lists the countries where the “languages are confused” as Subartu, Hamazi, Sumer, Uri-ki (Akkad), and the Martu land (the Amorites). Similarly, the earliest references to the “four quarters” by the kings of Akkad name Subartu as one of these quarters around Akkad, along with Martu, Elam, and Sumer.
The ancient Mesopotamians believed in an afterlife that was a land below our world. It was this land, known alternately as Arallû, Ganzer or Irkallu, the latter of which meant “Great Below”, that it was believed everyone went to after death, irrespective of social status or the actions performed during life. The Babylonians had a similar underworld called Aralu, and the Greeks had one known as Hades.
Unlike Christian Hell, the Mesopotamians considered the underworld neither a punishment nor a reward. Nevertheless, the condition of the dead was hardly considered the same as the life previously enjoyed on earth: they were considered merely weak and powerless ghosts.
The myth of Ishtar’s descent into the underworld relates that “dust is their food and clay their nourishment, they see no light, where they dwell in darkness.” Stories such as the Adapa myth resignedly relate that, due to a blunder, all men must die and that true everlasting life is the sole property of the gods.
In Mesopotamian mythology, Kur (Sumerian) or Ersetu (Akkadian) is the underworld from which there is no return. It was also called earth of no return, Kurnugia in Sumerian and Erset la tari in Akkadian. Kur is ruled by the goddess Ereshkigal and her consort, the death god Nergal.
Irkalla was originally another name for Ereshkigal, who ruled the underworld alone until Nergal was sent to the underworld and seduced Ereshkigal (in Babylonian mythology). Both the deity and the location were called Irkalla, much like how Hades in Greek mythology is both the name of the underworld and the god who ruled it, or Hel and Hell.
The Sumerian netherworld was a place for the bodies of the dead to exist after death. One passed through the seven gates on their journey through the portal to the netherworld leaving articles of clothing and adornment at each gate, not necessarily by choice as there was a guardian at each gate to extract a toll for one’s passage and to keep one from going the wrong way.
The living spirits of the dead are only spoken of in connection with this netherworld when someone has been placed here before they are dead or wrongly killed and can be saved. The bodies of the dead decompose in this afterlife, as they would in the world above.
According to Herbert C. Brichto, writing in Hebrew Union College Annual, the family tomb is the central concept in understanding biblical views of the afterlife. Brichto states that it is “not mere sentimental respect for the physical remains that is…the motivation for the practice, but rather an assumed connection between proper sepulture and the condition of happiness of the deceased in the afterlife”.
According to Brichto, the early Israelites apparently believed that the graves of family, or tribe, united into one, and that this unified collectivity is to what the Biblical Hebrew term Sheol refers, the common Grave of humans. Although not well defined in the Tanakh, Sheol in this view was a subterranean underworld where the souls of the dead went after the body died.
For biblical references to Sheol see Genesis 42:38, Isaiah 14:11, Psalm 141:7, Daniel 12:2, Proverbs 7:27 and Job 10:21,22, and 17:16, among others. According to Brichto, other Biblical names for Sheol were: Abaddon (ruin), found in Psalm 88:11, Job 28:22 and Proverbs 15:11; Bor (the pit), found in Isaiah 14:15, 24:22, Ezekiel 26:20; and Shakhat (corruption), found in Isaiah 38:17, Ezekiel 28:8.
The Hebrew Scriptures themselves have few references to existence after death. The notion of resurrection appears in two late biblical sources, Daniel 12 and Isaiah 25-26.
As the subterranean destination for all who die, Irkalla is similar to Sheol of the Hebrew Bible or Hades of classic Greek mythology. It is different from more hopeful versions of the afterlife, such as those envisioned by the contemporaneous Egyptians and the later in Platonic philosophy, Judaism, and Christianity.
However, Irkalla also differs from the Greek Tartarus and the Christian perspective of hell. Irkalla had no punishment or reward, being seen as a more dreary version of life above, with Erishkigal being seen as both warden and guardian of the dead rather than a sinister ruler like Satan or death gods of other religions.
Humans inhabited earth during life and the underworld after death, and the underworld was morally neutral; only in Hellenistic times (after c.330 BCE) did Jews begin to adopt the Greek idea that it would be a place of punishment for misdeeds, and that the righteous would enjoy an afterlife in heaven. In this period too the older three-level cosmology was widely replaced by the Greek concept of a spherical earth suspended in space at the center of a number of concentric heavens.
The traditional biblical interpretations explain that Sheol is a grim and desolated land below, occupied by the dead who continue their colorless existence irrespective of their earthly conduct. Contrary to this exposition however, the Hebrew Bible supports the descriptions of Sheol which suggest that it is something more than just a place. In terms of sheer numbers the amount of anthropomorphic descriptions is significant.
Sheol is either portrayed by means of human qualities (ערום, Job 26:6;קשה , Canticles 8:6) or attributed with the elements of human anatomy: womb (בטן, Jonah 2:3), hand (יד, Psalms 49:15; 89:48; Hosea 13:14) or throat (נפש, Isaiah 5:14) and mouth (פה, Psalms 141:7; Isaiah 5:14). In addition, Psalm 49:15 praises the Elohim, who are said to ransom one’s soul from the hand of Sheol, Proverbs 27:20 acknowledges Sheol’s insatiability, whereas Isaiah 5:14 depicts Sheol as a gargantuan monster.
Some additional support for this hypothesis comes from the ancient Near Eastern literary materials. For example, the Akkadian plates mention the name shuwalu or suwala in reference to a deity responsible for ruling the abode of the dead. As such it might have been borrowed by the Hebrews and incorporated into their early belief system.
What is more, some scholars argue that Sheol understood anthropomorphically fits the semantic complex of the other ancient Near Eastern death deities such as Nergal, Ereshkigal or Mot.
Sargon of Akkad, also known as Sargon the Great “the Great King” (Akkadian Šarru-kīnu, meaning “the true king” or “the king is legitimate”), was a Semitic Akkadian emperor famous for his conquest of the Sumerian city-states in the 24th and 23rd centuries BC.
The founder of the Dynasty of Akkad, Sargon reigned during the penultimate quarter of the third millennium BC. After coming to power in Kish, Sargon killed the king of Kish. After having the army of Kish follow him, Sargon soon attacked Uruk, which was ruled by Lugal-Zage-Si of Umma. He captured Uruk and dismantled its famous walls. The defenders seem to have fled the city, joining an army led by fifty ensis from the provinces. This Sumerian force fought two pitched battles against the Akkadians, as a result of which the remaining forces of Lugal-Zage-Si were routed.
Lugal-Zage-Si himself was captured and brought to Nippur; Sargon inscribed on the pedestal of a statue (preserved in a later tablet) that he brought Lugal-Zage-Si “in a dog collar to the gate of Enlil.” Sargon pursued his enemies to Ur before moving eastwards to Lagash, to the Persian Gulf, and thence to Umma. He made a symbolic gesture of washing his weapons in the “lower sea” (Persian Gulf) to show that he had conquered Sumer in its entirety.
Cuneiform sources agree that he was cup-bearer (official in charge of wine) of king Ur-Zababa of Kish, and some later historians have speculated that he killed the king and usurped his throne before embarking on the quest to conquer Mesopotamia.
The story of Sargon’s birth and childhood is given in the “Sargon legend”, a Sumerian text purporting to be Sargon’s biography. The extant versions are incomplete, but the surviving fragments name Sargon’s father as La’ibum.
After a lacuna, the text skips to Ur-Zababa, king of Kish, who awakens after a dream, the contents of which are not revealed on the surviving portion of the tablet. For unknown reasons, Ur-Zababa appoints Sargon as his cup-bearer.
Soon after this, Ur-Zababa invites Sargon to his chambers to discuss a dream of Sargon’s, involving the favor of the goddess Inanna and the drowning of Ur-Zababa by the goddess. Deeply frightened, Ur-Zababa orders Sargon murdered by the hands of Beliš-tikal, the chief smith, but Inanna prevents it, demanding that Sargon stop at the gates because of his being “polluted with blood.”
When Sargon returns to Ur-Zababa, the king becomes frightened again, and decides to send Sargon to king Lugal-zage-si of Uruk with a message on a clay tablet asking him to slay Sargon. The legend breaks off at this point; presumably, the missing sections described how Sargon becomes king.
The Sumerian king list relates: “In Agade [Akkad], Sargon, whose father was a gardener, the cup-bearer of Ur-Zababa, became king, the king of Agade, who built Agade; he ruled for 56 years.”
There are several problems with this entry in the king list. Thorkild Jacobsen marked the clause about Sargon’s father being a gardener as a lacuna, indicating his uncertainty about its meaning.
Sargon survives as a legendary figure into the Neo-Assyrian literature of the Early Iron Age. The earliest legend story we have is tablets with fragments of a Sargon Birth Legend were found in the Library of Ashurbanipal from the 7th century BC.
According to this legend, Sargon was born as the illegitimate son of a priestess or low class woman, a priestess. In shame she brought him forth in secret and placed him in a basket of reeds on the river and floated him down a river where baby Sargon was found by Akki the irrigator and raised as his own son — only later to become a great King and leader.
Similarities between the Neo-Assyrian Sargon Birth Legend and other infant birth exposures in ancient literature, including Moses, Karna, and Oedipus, were noted by Otto Rank in 1909.
The legend was also studied in detail by Brian Lewis, and compared with a number of different examples of the infant birth exposure motif found in European and Asian folk tales. He discusses a possible archetype form, giving particular attention to the Sargon legend and the account of the birth of Moses. Joseph Campbell has also made such comparisons.
The whole biblical Exodus story of the Jews exiled to Egypt where a leader Moses finally led them out of captivity is a myth. Part of that myth is that Moses was born to a Jewish woman (Levite) in Egypt at a time that the Pharaoh commanded all Jewish male babies be killed. So that Jewish woman, hid her child then at 3 months old, when she could no longer hide him, put him in a basket and sent him down a river. Then ironically the daughter of the Pharaoh saw the child and adopted it as her own. Only later would that child help his people escape from the Pharaoh (Exodus 2).
Son of Cush and grandson of Ham; his name has become proverbial as that of a mighty hunter. His “kingdom” comprised Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Sinar, otherwise known as the land of Nimrod (Gen. x. 8-10; I Chron. i. 10; Micah v. 5 [A. V. 6]).
Nimrod was slain by Esau, between whom and himself jealousy existed owing to the fact that they were both hunters (Targ. pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. xxv. 27; “Sefer ha-Yashar,” section “Toledot,” p. 40b; Pirḳe R. El. l.c.; comp. Gen. R. lxv. 12).
After the Flood, Noah had a talented, but evil, great-grandson named Nimrod (Genesis 10:6-10) who rebelled greatly against God. The Bible says that he was “a mighty one” Jewish tradition indicates that Nimrod was a tyrant “who made all of the people rebellious against God.” It is evident from history that Nimrod was not only a political leader, but also the lead priest of a form of occultic worship.
Two prominent theories are now held in regard to Nimrod’s identity: one, adopted by G. Smith and Jeremias, is that Nimrod is to be identified with the Babylonian hero Izdubar or Gishdubar (Gilgamesh); the second, that of Sayce,Pinches, and others, identifies Nimrod with Marduk, the Babylonian Mercury.
The former identification is based on the fact that Izdubar is represented in the Babylonian epos as a mighty hunter, always accompanied by four dogs, and as the founder of the first great kingdom in Asia. Moreover, instead of “Izdubar”—the correct reading of which had not yet been determined—Jeremias saw the possibility of reading “Namra Udu” (shining light), a reading which would have made the identification with Nimrod almost certain.
Those who identify Nimrod with Marduk, however, object that the name of Izdubar must be read, as is now generally conceded, “Gilgamesh,” and that the signs which constitute the name of Marduk, who also is represented as a hunter, are read phonetically “Amar Ud”; and ideographically they may be read “Namr Ud”—in Hebrew “Nimrod.”
The difficulty of reconciling the Biblical Nimrod, the son of Cush, with Marduk, the son of Ea, may be overcome by interpreting the Biblical words as meaning that Nimrod was a descendant of Cush.