A Brief History and Critique of the Academic Search (1854-2010) for the Pre-biblical origins of the Serpent who could walk and talk to man in the Garden of Eden via parallels appearing in Ancient Near Eastern Myths and “Why” the Hebrews blamed a walking, talking Serpent for man’s removal from a God’s garden in Eden.
Part One (Please click here for Part Two)
06 November 2008 (Revisions through 14 January 2013)
To buy my book Eden’s Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origins please click here
On 16 March 2009 Yahoo ranked this article Number One over 989,000 other urls when “serpent walking in the garden of eden” was keyed in.
On 13 April 2010 Yahoo ranked this article Number One over 55,800 other urls when “Eden’s Serpent pre-biblical origins of” was keyed in.
Please click here for an earlier article on Eden’s Serpent and its pre-biblical background from which some of the below data has been borrowed and reformatted. This earlier article is still important and should be read because not all of its information and insights have been transferred to this article.
Please click here for pictures of the Mesopotamian gods who were fused together and recast as Eden’s Serpent
This article in a nutshell:
For over 150 years,1854 to 2010, various Liberal Scholars, most possesssing PhDs in the fields of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, employing a humanist, rationalist or anthropological point of view, have suggested that Eden’s mythical serpent might be a later recast of an earlier protagonist appearing in some pre-biblical Ancient Near Eastern myth, a notion that I am in full-agreement with. A brief history of this research is presented and a critique offered of these views
(please click here and scroll down for the Critique).
It is not my intent with this article to merely call attention to the findings of earlier scholars (1854-2010), I have contributions to make myself in solving from a rationalist, humanist and anthropological point of view the pre-biblical origins of Eden’s mythical serpent. My research to some degree incorporates the earlier findings of 1854-2010 and expands upon them, offering new insights that _I have not seen_ brought up or touched upon in the published scholarly literature, be that books, monographs, or articles in professional journals. The reader is cautioned however that I am not a professional scholar, I am an amateur scholar, an enthusiast, so, be on your guard! (please click here for my background and click here for my methodologies).
My research is best encapsulated by the Latin Motto currently found on the money of the United States of America:
E PLURIBUS UNUM, “From Many, One.” It is argued that Eden’s Serpent is a _recast_ of several Mesopotamian gods, some bearing the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, or usumgal, a combining of two words: ushum = “serpent,” gal = “great,” variously translated as “great serpent,” “dragon,” or “serpent-dragon,” who were held responsible in differing myths for:
(1) man’s creation; (2) man’s being denied knowledge; (3) creating a fruit tree garden in edin/eden for man to care for on their behalf; (4) man’s being warned not to eat forbidden food or he would die; (5) man’s being offered forbidden food; (6) man’s acquistion of “god-forbidden knowledge”;(7) man’s being denied immortality; (8) the removal of “man” from a god’s garden in edin/eden for rebellion because of a walking, talking, conning “serpent’s” (ushumgal’s) actions.
Professor Evans in 1968 suggested that Genesis’ serpent was “possibly” a re-casting of some individual in an earlier Mesopotamian myth as noted by Professor Childs in 1960:
“In a recent study of this conflict between the story and the mythical relics it preserves B. S. Childs has remarked that ‘behind the figure of the serpent shimmers another form still reflecting its former life.’ A tension exists because this independent life of the original figure still struggles against the framework of a simple snake into which it has been recast.”
(p. 20. John Martin Evans. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford, England. Clarendon Press. 1968, citing from B. S. Childs. “Myth and Reality In the Old Testament.” Studies in Biblical Theology. Vol. 27. 1960. pp. 45-48)
Professor Child’s 1960 observation caused me to investigate the ancient Mesopotamian myths to see if I could “find” the Mesopotamian “prototype” to Eden’s serpent. The surprise? I found _several_ Mesopotamian “prototypes” which apparently had been fused together, transformed and recast into Eden’s Serpent. They are “principally,” but not exclusively, the Sumerian deities Enki (Akkadian Ea), An (Akkadian Anu), Dumuzi (biblical Tammuz) and Ningishzida (also rendered Gizzida) and “others.”
A brief thumbnail sketch of “some” of the anthropological, rationalist, humanist scholarly research (1854-2010) on the pre-biblical origins of Eden’s serpent follows.
Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson is apparently the “first” scholar _that I am aware of_ to suggest behind Eden’s serpent there lurked an earlier Mesopotamian god as noted by Howey in 1928 who cites the following in his bibliography (cf. “Bibliography.” p. 173. M. Oldfield Howey. The Encircled Serpent, A study of Serpent Symbolism in All Countries and Ages. London. Rider & Company. 1928. also published in Philadelphia):
Henry Rawlinson. “Notes on the Early History of Babylonia.” London. 1854.
However, another source gives the following bibliographic reference: Henry Creswicke Rawlinson. “Babylonian Discoveries.” Athenaeum. Issue No. 1377 (18 March 1854). pp. 341-343. (The Athenaeum was a weekly periodical published in London between 1828 and 1923 covering a wide range of topics in literature, the fine arts, music, theatre, etc.)
Howey (1928) on Eden’s serpent being a recast of the god Ea of Eridu, citing Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1854):
“According to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the most prominent titles of Hea refer to “his functions as the source of all knowledge and science.” He is not only “the intelligent fish,” but his name may be interpreted as signifying both “life,” and a serpent (an initiated adept). He may be considered as “figured by the great serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian benefactions.” And here we note that the name of Hea related to Arabic Hiya, which has the double meaning of “serpent” and “life.” Sir Henry Rawlinson says that “there are very strong grounds indeed for connecting him with the serpent of scripture and with the Paradisaical traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.” Hea, like the snake of Genesis, was the revealer of knowledge, but in Babylonian myth is clearly identified with the creator of mankind, and represented as taking an affectionate and fatherly interest in their progress and welfare.”
(p. 168. Howey. 1928)
Note: Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson is considered to be one of the “Founding Fathers of Modern Assyriology” because of his work in translating ancient cuneiform inscriptions during the 1840’s-1880s.
Some of Henry C. Rawlinson’s (born 1810 died 1895) published works:
“His published works include (apart from minor contributions to the publications of learned societies) four volumes of Cuneiform Inscriptions, published under his direction between 1870 and 1884 by the Trustees of the British Museum; The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun, 1846-1851, and Outline of the History of Assyria, 1852, both reprinted from the Asiatic Society’s journals; A Commentary on the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Babylon and Assyria, 1850; Notes on the Early History of Babylonia, 1854…and assisted in editing a Translation of Herodotus by his brother, Canon George Rawlinson…”
George Rawlinson (1812-1902), M. A., Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford University and a Canon of the Anglican Church at Canterbury, was assisted in composing his work on Herodotus by his older brother Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson who apparently contributed an Essay on the Babylonian and Assyrian Religions. George in a later work (1881) mentions Henry’s Essay in the Herodotus work (2d edition of 1859).
Henry’s Essay noted that the god Ea’s (his Hea or Hoa) association with knowledge and wisdom mirrored themes identified with Eden’s Serpent:
“…Hea or Hoa was….the ruler of the abyss…His most important titles refer, however, to his functions as the source of all knowledge…There are no means at present of determining the precise meaning of the cuneiform Hea, which is Babylonian rather than Assyrian, but it may reasonably be supposed to be connected with the Arabic Hiya, which equally signifies “life” and “a serpent;” for Hea is not only “the god of knowledge” but “of life”…and there are very strong grounds indeed for connecting him with the serpent of Scripture and with the Paradisaical traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life…For the present, indeed, we may believe that…the god Hea is figured by the great serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian benefactions.”
(pp. 492-493. volume 1. [of 4 volumes]. George Rawlinson, M. A., Late Fellow and Tutor of Exeter College, Oxford, assisted by Colonel Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, K. C. B., and Sir J. G. Wilkinson, F. R. S. History of Herodotus. London. John Murray. 1858) Note: George and Henry were brothers. The “full title” of this opus is: A new English version, edited with copious notes and appendices, illustrating the History and Geography of Herodotus, from the most recent sources of information; and embodying the chief results, historical and ethnographical, which have been obtained in the progress of cuneiform and hieroglyphical discovery.
George Rawlinson (1881) refering in a footnote to Henry’s Essay in the Herodotus work (2d edition of 1859):
“See Sir H. Rawlinson’s Essay in the author’s Herodotus, vol. 1, p. 482, 2d edition.”
(Vol. 2, p. 2, note 4. George Rawlinson. Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World. 1881. London)
George Rawlinson, M.A. Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and a Canon at Canterbury, again averred that Ea (his Hea or Hoa) probably was recast as Eden’s serpent:
“…Hea, or Hoa…Berosus…Oannes…There are no means of strictly determining the precise meaning of the word in Babylonian; but it is perhaps allowable to connect it provisionally, with the Arabic Hiya, which is at once “life” and
“a serpent,” since, according to the best authority, there are very strong grounds for connecting Hea or Hoa with the serpent of Scripture and the Paradisaical traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life…Hoa is the “lord of the abyss”…one of his emblems is…the serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the symbols of the gods on the black stones recording benefactions, and which sometimes appears upon the cylinders… This symbol, here as elsewhere, is emblematic of superhuman knowledge -a record of the primeval belief that the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field…Besides his chief character of “god of knowledge,” Hoa is also “god of life,” a capacity in which the serpent would again fitly symbolize him…his name appears on a very ancient stone tablet brought from Mugheir (Ur)…Hoa had a wife, Dav-kina…their most celebrated son was Merodach or Bel-Merodach…”
(pp. 78-80. “First Monarchy: Religion of Chaldea.” Vol. 1. George Rawlinson, M.A. The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, or the History, Geography, and Antquities of Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, Parthia, and the Sassanian or New Persian Empire. 1862. A “second edition” was released in 1870)
An author who signed off as F. P. C. (1869) noted that Fergusson (1868) mentioned Hea (Hoa) as a possible pre-biblical protagonist behind Eden’s serpent, apparently referring to Henry C. Rawlinson’s (1854, 1858, 1859) research:
“The Garden of Eden, bounded on the one side by the Euphrates, was doubtless conceived of as occupying a position in Mesopotamia. Here, in the earliest record of Semitic thought, we find the two inseparable relics, the tree of knowledge and a serpent ‘more subtle than any beast of the field,’ -doubtless the Hea or Hoa, the serpent god, the third of the Babylonish triad of gods. Very ingenious is Mr. Fergusson’s idea that this story, and the curse of the serpent, was introduced by the monotheistic author of Genesis in which it is found, for the purpose of teaching the hatred of the early serpent worship, which in his time and for ages afterwards was doubtless still flourishing.”
(p. 425. “Fergusson’s ‘Tree and Serpent Worship.” pp. 417-430 in Fraser’s Magazine For Town and Country. London. Longmans, Green & Co. Volume 79, January-June 1869. The article by F. P. C. carries the date of April 1869. Cited is James Fergusson. F. R. S. Tree and Serpent Worship, Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India in the First and Fourth Centuries After Christ. London. India Museum, 4to. 247, Vol. LXXIX, No. CCCLXXII, 1868)
Smith’s proposal in 1876 that Tiamat was the prototype of Eden’s Serpent was embraced at first by several scholars. Tiamat in Mesopotamian myths personifies the salty ocean, her husband Apsu (Sumerian Abzu) personifies the freshwater ocean the earth is believed to float upon. In myths Enki (Ea) slays his ancestor Abzu (Apsu) and becomes ruler of the Abzu/Apsu at Eridu in Sumer upon his ancestor’s slaying, he encourages his “son” Marduk of Babylon to later slay Tiamat. Both Apsu and Tiamat sought to slay the gods their offspring because their noise and tumult were preventing them from resting by day and sleeping by night. The gods in self-defense (Ea and Marduk) slay their ancestors, Apsu and Tiamat.
George Smith, a translator of cuneiform tablets at the British Museum in London thought that the goddess Tiamat who personified the salty sea and who sought the destruction of the gods, her children, might be a prototype of Eden’s Serpent who sought Man’s destruction (in Christian teachings):
“…the Bible goes on to relate (Genesis iii, 1) that the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field, and that he tempted the woman to sin. This attributes the origin of sin to the serpent, but nothing whatever is said to the origin or history of the serpent. The fragmentary account of the Fall in the inscriptions mentions the dragon Tiamat, or the dragon of the sea, evidently in the same relation as the serpent, being concerned in bringing about the Fall. This dragon is called the dragon of tiamat or the sea; it is generally connected with the original chaos…a spirit opposed in principle to the gods, and, according to the Babylonians, self-existent and eternal, older even than the gods, for the birth or separation of the deities out of this chaos was the first step in the creation of the world…It is quite clear that the dragon of the sea or dragon of Tiamat is connected with the Fall like the serpent in the book of Genesis, and in fact is the equivalent of the serpent.”
(pp. 87 & 90. “Babylonian Legend of the Creation.” George Smith. The Chaldean Account of Genesis containing the description of the creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the tower of Babel, the times of the patriarchs and Nimrod: Babylonian fables, and legends of the gods from the cuneiform inscriptions. London. Whittingham & Wilkins. Tooks Court, Chancery Lane. 1876. Reprint of 1994 by Wizard’s Bookshelf, San Diego, California)
Smith questioned Henry C. Rawlinson’s assertion that Ea (Hea, Hoa) was associated with serpents:
“…Hea…he is lord of the sea or abyss, he bears the titles lord of wisdom…It has been supposed that the serpent was one of his emblems, and that he was the Oannes of Berosus; these things do not, however, appear in the inscriptions.”
(p. 57. George Smith. 1876)
My note: Akkadian/Babylonian Ea in his earlier manifestation as Sumerian god Enki bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, meaning either “great serpent” or “great serpent-dragon,” a mythological beast of reddish color with four legs, two horns, wings and scales. Ea/Enki created man to care for his city-garden at Eridu surrounded by the edin.
Reynolds in agreement with Smith (1876) thought Tiamat (“the dragon of the sea”) was behind Eden’s Serpent.
“The dragon of the sea answering to the serpent in Genesis…”
(p. 275. Joseph William Reynolds. The Supernatural in Nature: A Verification by Free Use of Science. London. C. Kegan Paul & Company. 1878)
Ward with “great caution” thought Tiamat “might” be associated with the Tempter Serpent but via a very indirect association. He noted that the war in heaven between the Archangel Michael and Satan who is called a serpent and dragon might be an allusion to the combat between Marduk and Tiamat. For the most part, he doubted that Tiamat was indeed Genesis’ Serpent-Tempter but he was sure that such a motif probably did exist, it simply had not yet been excavated. He was right, it was later unearthed in 1888 at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt in the form of Adapa and the South Wind Myth.
“…Tiamat, the dragon principle of chaos and disorder was sometimes represented as a serpent…I think it can be shown that the Chaldeans, as well as the Hebrews, possessed an indigenous and extremely ancient story of the temptation, which compared very closely to that given by Moses, and in which the serpent performs the same part.”
(p. 210. Reverend William Hayes Ward. “The Serpent Tempter in Mythology.” pp. 209-229. Edwards Amasa Park & Samuel H. Taylor, editors. The Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 38. London: Trubner & Company; Andover: Warren F. Draper.1881)
“The fragments of Berosus as they have come down to us, contain, like the monuments, no account of the temptation and fall, and so none of the serpent tempter…The evil principle in the Chaldean literature and art appears to be generally represented by a dragon rather than a serpent. This dragon or griffin, is Tiamat, the chaotic, disorderly sea, the principle of evil…Tiamat would seem to have been more the symbol of physical than of moral disaster…Depending merely on the literary and mythological records thus far discovered, we have imperfect evidence that there was any Chaldean account of the temptation of man by Tiamat corresponding fully to the Bible story…The existence, however, of such an account of the temptation is probable, and its recovery to be hoped for…If, as seems likely, the “war in heaven” between Merodach and Tiamat is a further continuation of the Mosaic story of the curse on the serpent, there is a notable difference between the two in the form taken by the tempter; the Chaldean story, reproduced with scarcely a variation in Babylonian, Assyrian, and Persian art for more than a thousand years, giving him the form of a winged griffin, half lion, and half eagle, the queen of the watery abyss, Tiamat, “the deep” [Hebrew: tehom] of Genesis i.2, while the biblical version ascribes to him the form of a serpent more subtle than all the beasts of the field.
There are reasons, however, to believe that a parallel and perhaps older version, equally indigenous to Chaldea, represented the tempter and destroyer as a serpent; and it is far from improbable that the Jews, in their captivity, learned to identify the dragon and the serpent so that we find the identification of nature complete in Rev. 12:7-9, which recounts the war in heaven between Micheal and the dragon, and describes the latter as “the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan…” It may be that it was from the version of the story current in Ur of the Chaldees that Abraham brought the tradition of the serpent afterwards recorded in Genesis.”
(pp. 220-221. Reverend William Hayes Ward. “The Serpent Tempter in Mythology.” pp. 209-229. Edwards Amasa Park & Samuel H. Taylor, editors. The Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 38. London: Trubner & Company; Andover: Warren F. Draper.1881)
Professor Sayce of Oxford University apparently (?) accepted Rawlinson’s 1854 proposal that Hea (Ea) was behind Eden’s serpent:
“…Irnin is a name of the Euphrates when regarded as the “snake river,” which encircled the world like a rope and was the stream of Hea, “the snake-god of the tree of life.” The Euphrates, we must remember, was one of the rivers of Paradise. The site of Paradise is to be sought for in Babylonia.”
(p. 21. Archibald Henry Sayce. Fresh Light From the Monuments, A Sketch of the most striking confirmations of the Bible from recent discoveries in Egypt, Palestine, Assyria, Babylonia, Asia Minor. London. The Religious Tract Society. 1884. 2d edition)
Professor Sayce later thought Eden’s serpent was derived ultimately from the goddess Nina whom he identified as a daughter of the Akkadian/Babylonian Ea (the god of wisdom) of Eridu in ancient “Edina” (Note: edina or edin in Sumerian means “back” as in a person’s “back” and refers to the uncultivated land “backing,” abutting, or surrounding Sumerian cities and their cultivated/irrigated city-gardens and fields):
“Ea…his daughter…was…one of the poisonous reptiles that swarmed in the marshes at the mouth of the Euphrates. It was in this way the serpent became connected with the god of wisdom, ‘more subtil than any beast of the field’ which had been created in the land of Edina…It was a curious development which eventually transformed the old serpent-goddess, ‘the lady Nina,’ into the embodiment of all that was hostile to the powers of heaven…”
(pp. 282-283. Archibald Henry Sayce. The Hibbert Lectures 1887, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. London. Williams & Norgate. 1897. Fourth Edition)
Hugo Winckler and Ludwig Abel published in German the Adapa and the South Wind Myth tablet found in 1888 at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt. I have not been able to access their article. “If” they noted the parallels between Adapa and Adam then it was by 1889-1890 that scholars had come to realize Genesis’ account of “forbidden food” that would cause “death” was a possible recast of the “forbidden food” offered Adapa (cf. below “1901:” for more details).
Professor Jensen (1890) remarked upon the Gilgamesh Serpent (Gilgamesh was known to early scholarship as Izdubar) possibly being behind Eden’s Serpent as noted by Professor Davis (1894), but confusingly, Davis then suggests Jensen may have seen no parallel:
“A point of contact with the tradition of the temptation has been suggested as possibly found in the legend of Izdubar. ‘Tsitnapishtim who dwells in ‘Paradise’ (on the ‘island of the blessed’) and in whose possession is a plant with the name ‘Aged a man becomes young,’ gives of this plant to Izdubar. On the way thence to Erech, it is taken from him by a snake (?). “Has this plant,” asks Jensen, from whom also the foregoing sentences are quoted, “nothing to do with the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and the snake (?)?” (Kosmologie, S. 227)
The caution which puts the suggestion in the form of a question rather than a declaration is well observed. A connection between the garden of Eden with its tree of life and the youth-renewing plant of the island where the Babylonian Noah dwells in the enjoyment of immortality is not at all improbable…But the story of the loss of the life herb by a descendant of Noah cannot be regarded and doubtless is not regarded by Jensen, as a parallel to the tradition of the temptation…Now, did the serpent of the temptation suggest this snake detail of the story of Izdubar? There is no reason to think so; for, though the theory would be acceptable and would in no-wise disparage the Hebrew account, it finds scant support in the tale, the snake playing so insignificant part…It remains to exhibit the Hebrew doctrine of the seducing serpent.”
(pp. 74-75. “The Serpent of the Temptation” John D. Davis. Genesis and Semitic Tradition. New York. Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1894), citing from Professor Peter Christian Albrecht Jensen. Kosmologie der Babylonier. 1890)
Professor Ryle (1890-91) thought Tiamat was the Mesopotamian protagonist that had been recast as Eden’s serpent (Perhaps he was under the influence of George Smith’s similar proposal made in 1876?):
“…the appearance of the serpent, as the agent of temptation, suggests the Assyrian Tiamat, the evil serpent overthrown by Merodach; and the fact that in several inscriptions the serpent is called aibu ilani, “the enemy of the gods,” illustrates the resemblance of the Genesis narrative to the mythology of Assyro-Babylonia.”
(pp. 38-39. Herbert Edward Ryle. The Early Narratives of Genesis. A Brief Introduction to the Study of Genesis I-XI. London & New York. Macmillan & Co. 1892. Note: This book is based on 8 papers submitted to a british journal called the
Expository Times, 1890-1891 which the author edited slightly for the 1892 book)
Professor Heinrich Zimmern of the University of Leipzig, Germany wrote an article on Adapa and the South Wind and apparently (?) its parallels with Genesis’ account of Paradise for the Sunday School Times. I have not been able to access this article, but it is “probable” that he drew the same parallels in his later article published in 1901, cf. below, in which he noted Eden’s serpent’s words seemed to recall Anu’s and Yahweh’s warning recalled Ea’s warning to Adapa (Heinrich Zimmern. “An Old Babylonian Legend From Egypt.” The Sunday School Times. No. 25. 18 June 1892. pp. 386-387).
Bodington also thought Tiamat was the prototype of Eden’s Serpent. Note: Nowadays Mummu is understood to be a separate personage from Tiamat and not Tiamat.
“The serpent of Genesis we reognize as Mummu-Tiamat the dragon…”
(Alice Bodington. “Legends of the Sumiro-Accadians of Chaldea.” The American Naturalist. Volume 27. 1893)
Boscawen, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, thought that Tiamat was behind Eden’s Serpent, noting that Tiamat has the ability to speak and cast spells, which he sees as what is behind Eve’s statement a talking serpent had beguiled her.
“She uttered her former spells, she repeated her words;
Tiamat also cried vehemently with a high voice,
She recited an incantation, she cast her spell.
Here, then, we have the direct association of the subtilty of the Serpent, and the witch or magician -a very remarkable comment on the curious phrase in the Bible (Gen. 3:13), “the serpent beguiled me and I did eat.” But this association was not only with magic, but also with death.”
(p. 88. William St. Chad Boscawn. The Bible and the Monuments: The Primitive Hebrew Records in the Light of Modern Research. London. Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1895)
Cobb (1895), citing and quoting from Sir Henry C. Rawlinson’s Essay on the Religion of Babylonia and Assyria in George Rawlinson’s Herodotus, 1875 edition:
“At all events, Sir Henry Rawlinson’s identification of Hea, the third god of the Babylonian triad…was the presiding deity of the great deep or the abyss…He is regarded, as the serpent universally was, as the source of knowledge. He was the intelligent fish, the teacher of mankind, the lord of understanding. He answers to Oannes…half fish, half man, who came from the Persian Gulf, and taught astronomy and letters to the dwellers on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. The word Hea, too, is probably connected etymologically with the Arabic Hiya, which denotes both life and a serpent, for Hea is at once lord of life and lord of knowledge. “There are very strong grounds indeed for connecting him with the serpent of Scripture, and with the Paradisiacal traditions of the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.”
(pp. 174-175, William Frederick Cobb. Origines Judaicae. An Inquiry into Heathen Faiths as Affecting the Birth and Growth of Judaism. London. A. D. Innes & Co. 1895, cf. note on p. 175 for the quoting from Herodotus, Rawlinson’s edition 1875, Vol. 3, pp. 621, 622)
Palmer, who possessed a Doctor of Divinity, and who was a Vicar of Holy Trinity, Heran Hill, Wanstead, England, understood that Tiamat was behind Eden’s Serpent and that Ea as a god of Wisdom was associated with this serpent-dragon.
“…to the Babylonians…the deep, seemed full of mystery, and its god, they thought, must be a god of knowledge. The watery abyss -Tiamat in its primitive sense- was thus the home and the visible embodiment of Ea, and he was regarded as being at once the god of waters, the god of wisdom, and god of the infernal region. He was the lord of the deep…compared to a huge snake or serpent. Then by natural transition Ea himself came to be symbolized as a serpent, and was styled “god of the river of the great snake.” This primeval sea-serpent is evidently identical with Tiamat, the dragon of the great deep…as this serpent is closely associated with the god of wisdom we discern the reason without difficullty why it is described in Genesis as the subtlest of created things.”
(pp. 25-27. Abram Smythe Palmer, D.D. Babylonian Influence on the Bible and Popular Beliefs: “Tehom and Tiamat”, “Hades and Satan.” A Comparative Study of Genesis I.2. London. David Nutt. 1897)
“This dragon, of misshapen body and malignant disposition, the enemy of all righteousness was the prototype of the Hebrew Satan…”It is difficult,” says professor Sayce, not to trace in the lineaments of Tiamat the earliest portraiture of the mediaeval devil.”
(p. 31. Abram Smythe Palmer, D.D. Babylonian Influence on the Bible and Popular Beliefs: “Tehom and Tiamat”, “Hades and Satan.” A Comparative Study of Genesis I.2. London. David Nutt. 1897)
Professor Jastrow (who was also a Jewish Rabbi) proposed that Enkidu (Eabani) and Shamhat (Ukhat) of the Epic of Gilgamesh were transformed and assimilated to Adam and Eve. He noted that Enkidu’s sexual passion for Shamhat was the cause of his undoing and that some Rabbis understood that Eden’s serpent symbolized sexual passion and suggests Saidu the hunter was behind the tempter in Genesis’ Garden of Eden story:
“In the episode of Eabani, Ukhat and the hunter- who, it be noted, plays the part of the tempter- we seem to have an ancient legend forming part of some tradition regarding the beginnings of man’s history…”
(p. 412. Morris Jastrow. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. Boston. Ginn & Co.. 1898, reprint by Dodo Press, United Kingdom)
“The creation of Eabani recalls the Biblical tradition of the formation of the first man, and Ukhat appears to be the Babylonian equivalent to the biblical Eve, who through her charms entices Eabani away from the gazelles and cattle, and brings him to Uruk, the symbol of civilized existence. It is significant that in the Biblical narrative, the sexual instinct and the beginnings of culture as symbolized by the tree of knowledge are closely associated. According to the rabbinical traditions, the serpent is the symbol of the sexual passion..”
(p. 476. Morris Jastrow, Jr. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. Boston. Ginn & Company. 1898)
Professor Jastrow again proposed that two individuals lurk behind Eden’s serpent: Saidu “the hunter” and Ukhat (Shamhat) “the temple prostitute” from the Epic of Gilgamesh (equating Adam with Eabani/Enkidu):
“Saidu, in fact, plays a part which bears a considerable analogy to the role of the serpent in the third chapter of Genesis…The main point of the temptation and fall is that through the serpent and Eve Adam is led to a “knowledge of good and evil”…It is, perhaps, of some significance, also, that the rabbinical tradition associates the serpent with the sexual passion…Khawwa -the Hebrew name for Eve- is found in Arabic, and in Aramaic dialects, as the common name for serpents…Is it not possible, therefore, that “the serpent” was originally and in reality merely the woman who, by arousing the sexual passion, leads man to a “knowledge of good and Evil”? This suggestion is due to Professor Haupt, and certainly has much in its favor. (Proposed by him in the course of a discussion on this paper before the Oriental Club of Philadelphia, November 10, 1898).”
(p. 209. Morris Jastrow, Jr. “Adam and Eve in Babylonian Literature.” pp. 193-214. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Volume XV, No. 4, July, 1899)
“Saidu plays the part of the tempter to Ukhat, bringing the latter face to face with Eabani, much as the serpent beguiles Eve…Ukhat promises Eabani that he will become divine, and so the serpent, whose role is confused with that of Khawwa, or Eve, makes a similar promise…The biblical and Babylonian tales in question embody some of the traditions belonging to the period when man lived in close association with animals.”
Jastrow’s notion that Christians understood Eden’s serpent was Satan who could assume human and serpent forms (Revelation 20:2) seems to bear out the Babylonian notion the tempter was a human (his Saidu and or Ukhat) originally:
“…it is sufficient to note that the “serpent” is a “doublet” of Eve, introduced through a species of etymological confusion, instead of Saidu. In the oldest form of the tradition there was no mention of a serpent…The theological and exegetical discussions, so popular at one time, as to the “serpent” being a tempter in human form, appear more reasonable in the light of the Babylonian tradition, where the tempter is actually a human being, and no mention is made of the serpent.”
(p. 213, note 58, Jastrow Jr. 1899)
Professor Zimmern of the University of Leipzig compared the dialogue between Eden’s Serpent and Yahweh-Elohim, with the dialogue between Anu and Ea in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth. Ea is identified as giving Adapa forbidden knowledge, a role here of the Edenic Serpent, while Anu who offered forbiden food like the Edenic Serpent told the man he would not live if he didn’t eat. Apparently Zimmern realized that both Ea and Anu were behind Eden’s Serpent? Zimmern went on to suggest Tiamat as an enemy of the gods (Marduk) might also be another prototype behind Eden’s serpent. I have not been successful in “pinpointing the date” when Zimmern wrote this article in German, the 1901 edition being used here is a later English translation. Zimmern cites from a German text dated 1895 so he apparently wrote his views on Eden’s serpent sometime between 1895-1901?
“It would, of course, be an error to regard this story as the direct prototype of the biblical story of paradise, but it has so many points of close resemblance as to make it probable that it had a certain influence on the development of the tradition narrated in Genesis iii…in the prophecy of Ea to Adapa “food of death and water of death will they offer thee,” as compared with what really takes place- we have an antithesis precisely similar to that between the words of Jahve and the words of the serpent as to the consequence of eating of the tree of knowledge- “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” and, on the other hand, “Thou shalt not surely die.” Lastly, we have in both myths the thought that when once man has attained knowledge immortality only is wanting to his perfect equality with the gods. The third chapter of Genesis concludes, “Behold the man has become as one of us” (again a relic of the earlier polytheistic substratum), “knowing good and evil, and now, let him not put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever!” A corresponding reflection is attributed to the god of heaven, Anu. Ea has revealed the secret things of heaven and earth to the man Adapa (i.e., he has invested him with the highest wisdom): What then, can be added thereto, i.e., to surpass the gift that he has received from Ea? The answer is, “the food of life”; but when Adapa refused this, with it he cast away the gift of immortality, not, we may assume, for himself alone, but for all his posterity too…the part played by the snake as tempter and as enemy of God in Genesis iii. must certainly belong in origin to Babylonian mythology, in which anatgonism between the creator-god and the dragon or serpent-like Tiamat is so prominent a feature…Despite these resemblances between the Adapa and other Babylonian myths and the story of paradise, the striking differences between them suffice to show how characteristically the people of Israel moulded the older traditions of a polytheistic religion.”
(Heinrich Zimmern. “Babylonian Details: Paradise.” pp. 37-38. The Ancient East Volume No. III. The Babylonian and the Hebrew Genesis. London. David Nutt. 1901. A translation into English from the German text. Note: Zimmern in 1892 wrote an earlier article on Adapa which I have not been able to obtain: Heinrich Zimmern. “An Old Babylonian Legend From Egypt.” The Sunday School Times. No. 25. 18 June 1892. pp. 386-387. It is “possible” that Zimmern’s observations of an
antithesis between Anu and Ea and Eden’s serpent and Yahweh may have been made as early as 1892? Note: Adapa and the South Wind Myth was found in 1888 at Tell el-Amarna in an archive at Pharaoh Akhenaten’s capital. It was published in German as part of the el-Amarna tablets treasure trove by Hugo Winckler and Ludwig Abel as an article titled “Thontafel von el-Amarna,” in Mitteilungen aus den Orientalischen Sammlungen Konigliche Museen zu Berlin, Hefte 1-3, Berlin, 1889-1890. I have not been able to access this work to know if perhaps Winckler and Abel may have called attention to the parallels between Adapa and Genesis’ Adam and Eve. If they did note the parallels (?), then it was by 1889-1890 that scholars noted in published form the parallels with the Garden of Eden account in the Bible)
Professor Cheyne suggests Ea is possibly behind Eden’s serpent as noted by Professor Charlesworth:
“If ultimately a Babylonian origin is more attractive for the Yahwist, Cheyne drew attention to Ea, the lord of wisdom, who appears frequently as a serpent; he was especially interested in human affairs.”
(p. 296. James H. Charlesworth. The Good and Evil Serpent, How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized. New Haven. Yale University Press. 2010, citing from Thomas Kelly Cheyne, editor. Encyclopedia Biblica. Vol. 4. p. 4396, “Serpent.” New York & London. Macmillan. 1902)
Frederick Robert Tennant (1866-1957), a Christian Theologian and Philosopher of Religion at Cambridge thought that Tiamat was an unlikely pre-biblical prototype for Eden’s Serpent. He thought that proposals by Rawlinson, Lenormant, Gunkel, and Zimmern for Ea being the Edenic Serpent-Tempter as being more likely.
“The attempt to connect the serpent of Genesis iii with Tiamat.. may be very safely neglected, and indeed is now generally abandoned. Except that Tiamat was called ‘the enemy of the gods’…she has nothing in common with the tempter in the Paradise-story. It is true the Babylonian dragon or serpent was also called the ‘serpent of darkness’ and ‘wicked serpent’, but it is extremely improbable that the tempter of Genesis was originally intended to be pre-eminently an evil power; the narrative rather suggests that, if he were ever more than a demoniac animal or kind of jinn, he was a power beneficent to man. Tiamat, however, is a being we can hardly suppose to be the original, however remote, of the subtly persuasive figure of Genesis…There is more justification for the view which sees in the Babylonian god Ea the possible original of the tempter. (cf. Sir H. Rawlinson, Herodotus. ed. I, p. 106 where the suggestion was perhaps made. Lenormant (op. cit. I. p. 106 n.) and Gunkel (Genesis, S. 34) seem favourably inclined to this view, which is also widely accepted by writers on mythology)”
(pp. 43-44. F. R. Tennant. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. Cambridge University Press. 1903)
“The only Babylonian writing in which we have evidence of Ea’s performing a definite act for mankind analogous to that ascribed in the present form of the Paradise-narrative to the serpent (though possibly the role of the tempter was very different originally, as will be seen) is the Adapa legend; and in this story he is the creator of man and also, indirectly, the means by which Adapa is prevented from obtaining immortality. This purpose he effects too, by a deception; but it is of kind the converse of that of the Hebrew serpent-tempter, and somewhat resembles the deception contained in the threat attributed to Jahveh in Genesis, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Adapa is thus allowed entrance into heaven, and is consequently permitted by Ea to obtain the knowledge of the ‘secrets of heaven and earth,’ which it is not ordinarily permitted to mortals to behold. Anu and the gods then agree to confer immortality upon him, and the food and water of life are accordingly offered to him. They are refused, as Ea advised; and thus deceived, Adapa forfeits the virtues which they would have conveyed…For the best statement, perhaps of the relation of this story to that of Genesis iii, see Zimmern in Der Alte Orient 2 ter Jahrg. S. 91 ff…In many respects the Babylonian Ea is the parallel of Jahveh in the Fall-story, rather than of the serpent.”
(p. 45. and notes 1 & 2. F. R. Tennant. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. Cambridge University Press. 1903)
“This is obviously no Fall-story, but it contains much that unquestionably resembles certain details in the Jahvist representation of the relations between Adam and God. The legend is concerned with man’s possibility of acquiring immortality and likeness to the gods, one of the root ideas underlying the Bible story of Paradise in its present form. It is not an exact parallel: the knowledge which Adam sought in opposition to Jahveh’s will was freely granted to Adapa, though in the case of both stories immortality was lost through deception by a supernatural being.
Important conceptions are common to the two narratives; the divergence lies in the fact that they are differently combined. Of course the mode in which Hebrew writers used Babylonian material in other cases prepares one not to expect a complete appropriation of the qualities and deeds of one individual, such as Ea in the present instance and the attribution of them in totality to the character or action of the corresponding person, such as either Jahveh or the serpent-tempter. Nor does the Jahvist writer devote his borrowed material to a purpose corresponding to that which it served in its original setting…The same kind of thing has been done with the Eabani and Adapa legends if they have really contributed any of the conceptions met with in the biblical account of Adam.”
(p. 46. F. R. Tennant. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. Cambridge University Press. 1903)
Hastings thought the eaglet in the Etana myth was recast as Eden’s serpent:
“As for the serpent who ‘was more subtil than any beast of the field,’ he has taken the place of the eaglet in the Babylonian legend of Etana, who is similarly described as the Atar-khasis or ‘very clever,’ and is made to advise his father, the eagle, not to devour the young of the serpent of the night.’ ”
(p. 471. Vol. 17, pp. 471-476. “The Reading of Scripture in Public Worship.” James Hastings. Editor.
The Expository Times. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1906)
Mari thought that motifs associated with the god Anu appearing in the Adapa and the Southwind myth had been reworked and ascribed to Eden’s Serpent:
“The Babylonian myth which comes nearest…to the biblical story of the Fall, is the legend of Adapa.”
(p. 168. Francesco Mari, Doctor of Divinity. “Assyro-Babylonian Elements in the Biblical Account of the Fall.” pp. 163-180. Vol. 3. The New York Review a Journal of the Ancient Faith and Modern Thought. St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York. 1907-1908)
“In the myth of Adapa we find, mutatis mutandis, several elements which appear also in the narrative of Genesis…For the most part Anu seems to enact the role of the biblical serpent. Thus after the manner of the serpent addressing Eve, he says to Adapa “Why dost thou not eat and drink?” Adapa replies, alledging like Eve the prohibition of Ea.” (pp. 171-172. Mari)
“Just as Yahweh had said that the eating of the forbidden fruit would be followed by death, so also Ea had warned Adapa not to eat the proferred aliments for in reality, they were mortiferous. The serpent promises immortality, saying: “Ye shall not surely die…Ye shall be as God,” (and consequently immortal), so also does Anu hold out to Adapa the promise of immortality.” (p. 172. Mari)
“Loisy in comparing the legends of Adapa and the biblical narrative, considers the attribution to Yahweh of the twofold role of Ea and Anu, to be a modification entailed by the passage of the story from a polytheistic to a monotheistic setting. This hypothesis, however, does not seem necessary since the serpent could well have represented one of the two…If the serpent is conceived of as occupying the place of Anu, the correspondence is exact since he knows as well as Anu that the forbidden fruit is fatal to man, that his suggestion contains a plot born of jealousy to ruin the beautiful creation of Ea.” (p. 173. Mari)
Professor Sayce (Oxford) proposed Ea might be behind Eden’s serpent as noted by Charlesworth:
“[Sayce claims “that the serpent in Genesis is a symbol of the Babylonian god Ea.” Sayce, A. H. “The Serpent in Genesis,” Expository Times 20 (1909) p. 562.” Charlesworth noted: “More recently, the tendency is to look to Canaan for the source of the symbolism in Genesis.” p. 666. “Selected Serpent Bibliography.” James H. Charlesworth. The Good and Evil Serpent, How a Universal Symbol became Christianized. New Haven. Yale University Press. 2010)
Professor Skinner had noted that the god Ea in the Adapa and the Southwind Myth appeared “to play the part of Eden’s serpent” in that he allowed man (Adapa) to obtain forbidden knowledge:
“It is more probable that behind the sober description of the serpent as a mere creature of Yahwe, there was an earlier form of the legend in which he figured as a god or a demon…Adapa, the son of the god Ea, is endowed by him with the fulness of divine wisdom, but denied the gift of immortality:
‘Wisdom I gave him, immortality I gave him not.’
This looks like a travesty of the leading ideas of Genesis 3…Yahweh forbids both wisdom and immortality to man, Ea confers the first (and thus far plays the part of the biblical serpent) but witholds the second, and Anu is willing to bestow both. Still, it is not much to expect that a story like this will throw light on the mythical antecedents of the Genesis narrative, if not directly on the narrative itself…”
(pp. 71-72; 92. John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1910. Revised edition 1930. Reprint 1994)
Professor Langdon of Oxford University thought that Eden’s tempter serpent may have been the Sumerian goddess Ninhursag (Ninhursaga) in a myth concerning a gardener he called Tagtug (identified as a School of Nippur composition) and that along the way the serpent goddess evolved into a woman tempter, Eve, and Eden’s tempter serpent (note: ophidian means “serpentlike” in Greek):
“In a sense the mother goddess is the temptress who caused this great disobedience.
Have we here the origin of the temptation of Adam by his wife Eve? We know that Eve like Ninharsag was originally an ophidian mother goddess. Has this led further to the Hebrew story concerning the serpent? In the Hebrew mythology the ophidian as well as the goddess character of Eve seems to have been lost sight of. Perhaps her serpent origin is retained in the peculiar form in which we know it there. Suppose that the general tradition obtained that a serpent goddess placed this daring temptation before man. Suppose that by the involved crossing of ideas in the evolution of this legend the goddess became the consort of this sorely tried ancestor of man. Evidently the serpent alone would be left to figure as the tempter. Such seems to be the probable construction we must place upon this story.”
(pp. 55-56. Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood, and the Fall of Man. Philadephia, Pennsylvania. The University Museum. Publications of the Babylonian Section. Vol. X. No. 1. 1915)
Note: Black, et al, (2004) noted that Ninhursaga was likened to being a “great-dragon”:
“Ninhursaga sits within like a great dragon’-”
(p. 328, figure 38 commentary. Jeremy Black, et al. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006 with corrections)
Professor Pinches suggested Eden’s serpent-tempter might be Babylonian, suggesting a serpent-god called variously Sakhan (Sahan), Serakh (Serah), or Gu-silim:
“This deity seems to have been called sakhan, and dialectically, serakh. He appears as one of the six utukku-genii of the temples E-kura (in Nippur?) and E-sara (possibly in the same city), and was one of the attendants of Ellila, the ‘older Bel.’ In another place the serpent-god is explained as being gu-silim, “the speaker of well-being’ perhaps the serpent-tempter the seducer with fair words. But if this be the case, the Babylonians did not regard him as a malignant divine personage, but rather of the nature of the evil spirit in Heine’s lines…It is doubtful whether the ancients thought of their gods as being anthropomorphic- probably they did not; and the Babylonians would certainly not have desired their evil spirits to be recognizably so. For this reason, maybe, gu-silim, if really the serpent-tempter, was thought of not as an evil spirit, but as a divinity.”
(p. 184. Theophilus G. Pinches. “The Babylonian Paradise and Its Rivers.” pp. 181-184. in The Expository Times. Vol. 29, No. 4. 1918. Edinburgh & London)
Professor Albright noted that Enki/Ea of Eridu in the Adapa and Uttu myths seemed to play a role analogous to that of Eden’s serpent, commenting on the Gilgamesh serpent taking the plant of rejuvenation from Gilgamesh. He seems to be suggesting (?) the Hebrews recast motifs from the following three myths: (1) the serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh, (2) Ea of the Adapa and South Wind myth, and (3) Enki in the Uttu myth whose locale is Dilmun, believed by some to be a Sumerian prototype of the Garden of Eden:
“A serpent smelled the fragrance of the plant,
came up [from the wa]ter and took the plant,
On its return, it shed (its) slough.
There can be no doubt that this is a syncopated version of the Babylonian story of the Fall explaining man’s loss of eternal life…The theft of the divine gift of eternal life by the serpent (see above) survives only in the framework of the Fall; loss of life becomes a loss of innocence, and the snake appears as the instigator, like Enki-Ea in the Adapa and Uttu myths, not as the thief.”
(pp. 278, 282. William F. Albright. “The Goddess of Life and Wisdom.” pp. 258-294. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Chicago. Vol. xxxvi. Oct. 1919-July 1920)
Sir James George Frazer (most famous for his book titled The Golden Bough) noted that Eden’s serpent in depriving Adam and Eve of immortality seemed related to the serpent that ate the plant of rejuvenation in the Epic of Gilgamesh. While he was open to the notion that the epic might be founded on Sumerian concepts he thought that ultimately Eden’s serpent was to be traced to Africa and provided African stories about serpents perverting a god’s message to humans. He suggested via ancient Egypt the Sumerians and Babylonians picked up the story and reworked it (today most scholars understand there is no borrowing and reworking by the Sumerians of Egyptian or African motifs). Quoted below is Jackson’s analysis (1933) of Frazer’s ideas (1926). Jackson is citing Rawlinson on Greek myths claiming that the Babylonians were a colony of Egyptians:
“Though it is generally held by historians and scholars that the Hebrews got both their theories of the creation of the world and the fall of man from the Babylonians it is not improbable that these stories came originally from Africa. For the Babylonians received their civilization from a still earlier culture of the Mesopotamian valley, a people known as the Sumerians. According to ancient tradition, the Sumerians were originally a colony of Ethiopians. Though the Ethiopians were spread far and wide over the earth in ancient times their original home has generally been considered to have been located in the heart of Africa. In discussing the origin of the myth of the fall as recorded in the Old Testament Sir James G. Frazer comments as follows:
“In favor of an African origin of the myth it may be observed that the explanation of the supposed immortality of serpents, which probably furnished the kernel of the story in its original form, has been preserved in several African versions, while it has been wholly lost in the Hebrew version; from which it is natural to infer that the African versions are older and nearer to the original than the corresponding but incomplete narrative in Genesis (The Worship of Nature, Vol. I, page 224).
Frazer infers an African origin of the Sumerians by stating that, “Even if the story should hereafter be found in a Sumerian version this would not absolutely exclude the hypothesis of its African origin, since the original home of the Sumerians is unknown” (The Worship of Nature, Vol. I, page 223).”
Jackson thought Frazer was correct that Eden’s serpent was ultimately of African origin:
“My personal opinion is that these myths and legends of the Garden of Eden, besides many others of similar nature, had their origin in the heart of Africa in very ancient times and were spread by way of Egypt to the rest of the world.”
(John G. Jackson. “The African Origin of the Myths & Legend of the Garden of Eden: A Rationalistic Review.” 1933, citing from James George Frazer. The Worship of Nature. 2 Vols. New York. MacMillan. 1926)
Howey noted that Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson in 1854 had identified Eden’s serpent with Babylonian god of Eridu, Ea (Rawlinson’s Hea or Hoa) (p. 168. M. Oldfield Howey. The Encircled Serpent, A Study of Serpent Symbolism in All Countries and Ages. London. Rider & Company. 1928).
Professor Langdon thought Eden’s serpent was ultimately derived from two Sumerian fertility gods: Ningishzida (Gishzida) and Tammuz (Dumuzi), earlier (1915) he had proposed the Sumerian goddess Ninhursag (cf. above):
“Into this garden of Paradise came the serpent, in Sumerian mythology symbol of the earth’s fertility, and especially connected with Ningishzida and Tammuz…Then came Yaw into the garden; Adam and his wife hid themslves…The woman, questioned by Yaw, reported to Him the temptation by the serpent. The serpent, therefore, is cursed by Yaw…This condemnation of the serpent…rests surely upon the…jealousy of the gods of fertility, probably of Ningishzida and Tammuz, of whom the serpent was symbolic, jealous of that man who would attain immortality like themselves.”
(p. 185. “The Myth of Adapa and Adam.” Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931)
Professor Yahuda claimed (1934) that the pre-biblical origin of Eden’s serpent is Egyptian, not Mesopotamian (Below, Duncan, 1936, summarizes Yahuda’s claims):
“Though Eridu or Paradise is mentioned, no detailed account is given; so that we cannot say whether the Eden of Genesis is borrowed from it or not. To the Babylonian, Paradise was Babylonia and to the Egyptian, Paradise was the Underworld. The Hebrew recognised no underworld in the Egyptian sense and located his Paradise on earth. Since the Hebrew mind was accustomed to, and influenced by, Egyptian ideas for over four centuries, it is only reasonable to expect that the Hebrew writer reproduced Egyptian ideas both in the Creation and in the Eden narratives, as Prof. Yahuda substantially proves.”
(p. 36. “The Babylonian Narratives of Genesis.” J. Garrow Duncan, D.D. New Light On Hebrew Origins. London. Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1936 citing Abraham S. Yahuda. The Accuracy of the Bible: The Stories of Joseph, The Exodus And Genesis Confirmed and Illustrated by Egyptian Monuments and Language. London. William Heinemann. Ltd. 1934)
“The serpent appears also in the Egyptian Paradise…In Egypt he is constantly and openly at war with gods and men, always aggressive. In the Old Testament he is endowed with diplomatic cunning and accomplishes his purpose by subtlety. This alteration of the Egyptian idea probably marks the difference between racial character of the Egyptian and that of the Hebrew. The Egyptian will have his devil a straightforward, open adversary, a sport; the Hebrew will have him a cunning diplomat. Altogether in Gen. ii.-iii. Yahuda finds twelve to fourteen ideas or expressions which strongly suggest an Egyptian origin…It is quite clear that the Old Testament narrative is here far more influenced by Egyptian than by any other notion, and if there is borrowing or imitation the Hebrew must be the imitator. But we must not fail to realise that he has adapted the borrowed material to his own ideas and purpose and left upon them the indelible stamp of monotheism.
All this presupposes a thorough knowledge of Egyptian lore and thus therefore a strong bearing on the authorship of the original document. He must have been a Hebrew who knew Egypt thoroughly. Further, when we come upon a passage which we cannot explain from the Old Testament itself, we are justified in accepting an Egyptian origin or explanation if it can be found, so far as the earlier books of the Old Testament are concerned.”
(pp. 49-50. “The Serpent.” “The Babylonian Narratives of Genesis.” J. Garrow Duncan, D.D. New Light On Hebrew Origins. London. Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1936)
Professor Campbell suggested that Eden’s serpent was a later recasting of an earlier mythic protagonist, the Sumerian god of Wisdom who dwelt on the earth at the city of Eridu called Enki (Akkadian/Babylonian: Ea). Below, Campbell is discussing the Mesopotamian myth about Inanna’s (Akkadian: Ishtar) descent into the underworld and her warning to her servant that if she fails to return after three days and nights to have the great gods effect her release and restoration back to life (emphasis mine):
“Ninshubur, known too as Papsukkal, “chief messenger of the gods,” and Ilabrat, “the god of wings,” was told by the goddess before her departure that if she did not return he should weep before Enlil (the air-god), weep before Nanna (the moon-god), and if these failed to respond, then weep before Enki, the lord of Wisdom (the serpent), who knows the food of life and water of life. He, she said, “will surely bring me to life.”
(p. 416. “Thresholds of the Neolithic.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1959, reprinted 1971-1976; 1991 by Arkana)
Professors Graves and Patai understood that the motif of Eden’s Serpent attempting to foil God’s warning to Adam and Eve is drawing from the Adapa and the Southwind myth, suggesting Ea plays the role of Eden’s serpent in deceiving man about the properties of the forbidden food:
“Another source of the Genesis Fall of Man is the Akkadian myth of Adapa, found on a tablet at Tell Amarna, Pharaoh Akhenaten’s capital…Ea summoned Adapa…and warned him that, having displeased Anu…the gods would offer him the food and drink of death, which he must refuse. Anu, however, learning of this indiscreet disclosure, foiled Ea by offering Adapa the bread of life and the water of life and, when he refused them at his father’s orders, grimly sending him back to the earth as a perverse mortal. This myth supplies the theme of the Serpent’s warning to Eve: that God had deceived her about the properties of the forbidden fruit.”
(p. 79. “The Fall of Man.” Robert Graves & Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis. New York. Greenwich House, distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc. 1963, 1964, reprinted 1983)
Brandon (a Professor of Comparitive Religion at the University of Manchester) understands the Gilgamesh serpent is probably behind Eden’s serpent:
“However, it must be recognised that the Yahwist clearly depicts the intention of the serpent as malevolent, which in turn suggests some unexplained enmity on its part either towards God or Adam. This apparent trait raises the question why the serpent was chosen by the Yahwist as the agent through whom man was tempted to disobey his creator… It is significant that it is a serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh that robs the hero of his opportunity to acquire immortal youth; also, we may note, this incident in the career of Gilgamesh appears to be our earliest known instance of a motif that occurs in the folklore of many peoples. It is inspired by the phenomenon of the snake’s ability to slough off its old skin. To the primitive mind it appeared that the snake had learned the secret of renewing its youth – a secret that man so earnestly sought to learn for himself, and of which it was easy to believe that he had been cheated by the serpent. As we shall see in the Yahwist narrative, the serpent, although it does not win immortality for itself, becomes the effective agent through whom man loses the inestimable attribute with which he had been originally endowed. It would, accordingly, appear that the Yahwist writer, while conceiving of the serpent primarily as an animal, was probably influenced in his choice of it for the role of the Tempter of Man by the ambivalent symbolism which it had in current Semitic folklore, namely, in the cult of the fertility goddess and in the legend of the robbing of Gilgamesh of the secret of perpetual youth.”
(p. 130. S. G. F. Brandon. Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East. London. Hodder and Stoughton. 1963).
Helmer Ringgren, an Old Testament scholar, proposed that Eden’s serpent might be a recast of the Canaanite gods El or Baal according to Professor Charlesworth:
“It is thus conceivable that the Yahwist has left a trace of an earlier myth in which a god speaks with a serpent-god about knowledge (of good and evil) and eternal life. One can recognize the brilliance of H. Ringgren who perceives that “the serpent” of Genesis 3 may be identified with either El, the supreme god in the Ugaritic pantheon, or Baal, the god of lightning and storms.”
(p. 46. James H. Charlesworth. “Did the Serpent Deceive Eve?” pp. 1-73, in James H. Charlesworth, Origins Matter. Manila, the Philippines. Catholic Biblical Association of the Philppines. 2009, citing Helmer Ringgren. Israelite Religion. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1966 (Translated by D. Green from Ringgren’s Israelitische Religion, 1963).
Campbell in a follow-up volume identified the Sumerian god Ningishzida as “another” prototype for Eden’s serpent (emphasis mine):
“In Eve’s scene at the tree…nothing is said to indicate that the serpent who appeared and spoke to her was a deity in his own right, who had been revered in the Levant for at least seven thousand years before the composition of the Book of Genesis. There is in the Louvre a carved green steatite vase, inscribed c. 2025 B.C. by King Gudea of Lagash, dedicated to a late Sumerian manifestation of this consort of the goddess, under his title Ningizzida, “Lord of the Tree of Truth.”
(p. 9. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1964. Reprint 1991 by Arkana)
Campbell suggests Yahweh-Elohim, Eden’s god may be a “serpent-spouse”:
“Moreover, as in the early Bronze Age seals of Ningizzida and his serpent porter, we have clear and adequate evidence throughout the biblical text the the Lord Yahweh was himself an aspect of the serpent power, and so himself properly the serpent spouse of the serpent goddess of the cauduceus, Mother Earth.”
(p. 30. “The Serpent’s Bride.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God; Occidental Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Books. 1964. Arkana reprint 1991)
In his final volume in his Masks of God series (The four volumes were released 1959 through 1968), Campbell again stresses that Eden’s serpent is a recast of a serpent deity known in earlier Ancient Near Eastern myths (cf. above his comments on the Sumerian deities Enki and Ningishzida):
The late Joseph Campbell on the Sumerian serpent-deity being recast into a new and CONTRARY role by the Hebrews as the Garden of Eden’s serpent (Emphasis mine in bold print and capitals):
“In Primitive Mythology I have employed the term “mythogenetic zone” to designate any geographical area in which such a language of mythic symbols and related rites came be shown to have sprung into being. However, when the forms of the rites and symbols are then diffused to other zones, or passed on to later generations no longer participating in the earlier experience, they lose depth, lose sense, lose heart..they are consciously reinterpreted and applied to new and even CONTRARY themes -as occurred in the case, for example, of the serpent symbol in the Near East, when it passed from Sumero-Babylonian mythology to the Bible.”
“So let us return our gaze, now, to the great creative masters of the West, bearing in mind, as a basic principle of our study, that the symbols put to use by them have come from afar. Their sources are far deeper, broader, and more ancient…like the serpent of the Garden of Eden, who had been known to the peoples of the ancient Near East long before the advent of Yahweh.”
(pp. 90 & 170. “The Word Behind the Words.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin, Inc. 1968. Reprinted 1976)
Liverani appears to see Ea as performing Eden’s serpent’s task, facilitating a man’s acquisition of knowledge or wisdom according to Godfrey’s summary (2007) of the 2004 English translation of Liverani’s 1982 article:
“1. The Adapa Myth begins with the ‘getting of wisdom…despite that wisdom, despite the presence of the food of immortality, Adapa must remain mortal.
2. The Adam myth begins likewise with the getting of wisdom, but in this case the wisdom is not good…It then concludes with the pronouncement of mortality…”
Liverani on this basis compares the two:
1. Ea intervenes in order for Adapa to acquire wisdom about heaven and earth…
2. The serpent intervenes in order for Adam to acquire wisdom about good and evil…”
(Neil Godfrey, 2007-10-09, “Comparing the myths of Adapa and Adam, prototypes of priest and humankind,” citing pp. 3-26, “Adapa, Guest of the Gods” in Mario Liverani. Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 2004. citing Professor Liverani’s article on Adapa and Adam, in Italian, in Religioni e Civilta. Bari, Italy. 1982)
Professors Davies and Rogerson understand the “closest parallel” to Eden’s serpent is the Gilgamesh serpent:
“A central role in Genesis 3 is that played by the serpent. The closest parallel found in other ancient Near Eastern literature comes from…the Epic of Gilgamesh…Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh of a plant that restores people’s youth…a serpent snatches it, and sloughs its skin.
The text contains the theme of a serpent depriving man of rejuvenation.”
(pp. 118-119. Philip R. Davies & John Rogerson. The Old Testament World. Westminster John Knox Press. 2d edition 2006. 1st edition 1989)
Professor Batto on the Gilgamesh serpent (which consumes a magical plant of youthful rejuvenation, denying it thereby to Gilgamesh) being recast as the edenic serpent (as well as a biblical seraph and Egyptian cobra):
“It is likely that the Yahwist derived the character of the serpent in part from Gilgamesh, as J’s serpent bears some semblance to the serpent that had a part in depriving the semidivine Gilgamesh of the plant of life. In any case, the serpent of Genesis 3 is more a mythic character than an ordinary animal, as is evident from its ability to talk and to walk upright…Indeed, given the later presence of cherubim to guard the divine tree of life (3:24), one wonders whether the serpent here is not to be connected with the awesome seraphim who stand in the presence of Yahweh (Isa 6:1-7), which in turn are to be identified with the divine winged uraeus or cobra well known in Egyptian art as the protector of the deity, and thus a semidivine figure in its own right. The serpent’s principal distinction, however, was its possession of wisdom.”
(p. 60. “The Yahwist’s Primeval Myth.” Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon, Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992)
Kapelrud (Professor of the Old Testament, University of Oslo, Norway) suggests that a “Canaanite god” associated with serpents might be what is behind Eden’s serpent:
“The monotheistic tendency is distinct, but, as so often in the Old Testament texts, ancient ideas shimmer through the present form of the narrative. No ordinary snake could talk, no ordinary snake could imagine what God intended to do. There is a discrepancy here that has been monotheisized. The serpent in the story was originally a foreign (Canaanite) god, who tried to trick man and woman away from their God YHWH. As in the cases of Adapa and Gilgamesh, the human beings have no chance to stand up against the cunning of the chtonic powers: they are beaten. The story in Gen 3 shows traces of ancient serpent cult…Again ancient belief shimmers through: the serpent represented dangerous underground forces, whom man could not defeat. A talking serpent, who knows God’s plans, could not possibly be an ordinary beast. The Christian interpretation that saw the Devil in the figure of the serpent is here close to the apprehension of the ancient narrator…reminiscenses from a time and a world when the serpent was considered a representative of a divine underworld. It was in this latter capacity that it tricked the man and woman and deprived them of attaining everlasting life.”
(pp. 58-59. Arvid S. Kapelrud. “You Shall Surely Not Die.” pp. 50-61, in Andre Lemaire & Benedikt Otzen, editors. History and Traditions of Early Israel, Studies Presented to Eduard Nielsen. [A Festschrift]. Leiden, the Netherlands. A. J. Brill. 1993)
Professor Clifford on the edenic serpent being a recast of the Gilgamesh serpent (note: Clifford cites Batto’s above work in his bibliography, did he get the notion Eden’s serpent is a recast of the Gilgamesh serpent from Batto?):
“The J-storyteller takes the Gilgamesh motif of the snake’s theft of the plant of life from the hero (a postflood occurrence in Gilgamesh XI) and places it before the flood (Genesis 3). As in Gilgamesh, Adam is naked when the loss takes place, the snake deceitfully steals the fruit supposed to transform life, and a tree or plant of life is involved. Such kaleidoscopic reuse of traditional details may seem strange to modern readers, but ancient authors evidently like to put familiar objects in new contexts.”
(p. 148. “Genesis 1-11.” Richard J. Clifford. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. Washington, D.C. The Catholic Biblical Association of America. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series # 26. 1994)
Rice thought Eden’s serpent might be an echo of the serpent appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh like Batto and Clifford. He notes that some scholars have proposed that the island of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf is Dilmun, a location some scholars have suggested is the Sumerian equivalent of the Garden of Eden:
“The serpent that played so deplorable a part in the garden of Eden was almost certainly Sumerian or Babylonian in its mythical origins, though the Biblical story was probably based on a misunderstanding of the original source. A snake cult was still maintained in Bahrain 1,000 years after the time from which the earliest versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh dates and 2,000 years after the events which it describes.”
(p. 313. Michael Rice. The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf, Circa 5000-323 B.C. London. Routledge. 1994)
Carr (Professor of the Old Testament, Union Theological Seminary, New York) noted that in Genesis a snake is blamed for denying man (Adam) immortality and in the Gilgamesh epic a snake denies Gilgamesh of rejuvenation. Perhaps Carr sees the Gilgamesh serpent as behind Eden’s serpent?
“To be sure, the non-P primeval story draws on other Mesopotamian themes as well. In the Garden of Eden, the deity lies in order to preserve the divine-human boundary, much as in the Adapa epic (Adapa is the equivalent to Hebrew Adam). In addition, in Eden a snake plays a crucial role in denying humans the chance at immortality, as in the flood section of the Gilgamesh epic. The humans grow into full adulthood through acquisition of wisdom, clothing, and sexuality, much like Enkidu of the Gilgamesh epic and other primeval figures.”
(p. 245. “The Earliest Reconstructible Precursors to Genesis.” David McClain Carr. Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminister John Knox Press. 1996)
Dr. Coupe (Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, Department of English, teaching areas of: Myth, Literature, Religion, Culture, Counter-culture) understands Eden’s serpent is owing to Tiamat as well as the Gilgamesh snake:
“Genesis gives us the Creation, the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, and the tempting serpent (itself obviously owing something to the chaos dragon Tiamat)…Utnapishtim gives Gilgamesh a plant which bestows the gift of immortality, but on the way home a snake steals it from him while he is bathing (this story forming a type of the later, Biblical story of Adam and Eve being forced to endure mortality after being tempted by the serpent on the garden of Eden).”
(pp. 103, 189. Laurence Coupe. Myth. London. Routledge. 1997; 2008, 2009)
Porter, a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, was of the opinion that Eden’s serpent was originally a more important character in an earlier myth. He noted that serpents figure in various Ancient Near Eastern myths in a demonic way, but he did not attempt to identify motifs associated with Eden’s serpent with a mythical serpent protagonist with the exception of the Gilgamesh serpent.
“…the serpent in Eden probably…represents a demythologized version of what was originally a much more significant being.”
(p. 29. J. R. Porter. The Illustrated Guide to the Bible. Oxford University Press. 1998)
Brichto (1998), a Theologian at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, noted that Eden’s serpent’s words recalled Shamhat’s and that the Gilgamesh serpent is behind Eden’s serpent:
“Could we ask for a clearer correspondence between our two stories? Eden: tree of knowledge/sexual experience results in enlightenment, the opening of eyes. Gilgamesh: sexual experience results in wisdom, broader understanding. But we have more than this parallel, we have an identical expression in both stories. The harlot says to Enkidu, “Thou art wise, Enkidu, art become like a god.” The serpent says to Eve, “God knows full well that you will be like God [gods]… The serpent gained by theft from Gilgamesh…The serpent in Eden is a reflex of the serpent in the Epic.”
(pp. 87, 89. “Eden and Eden’s Aftermath.” Herbert Chanan Brichto. The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings. Oxford University Press. 1998)
Ziolkowski (Professor Emeritus Princeton University) on the Hebrews recasting of earlier motifs associated with the Epic of Gilgamesh and Adapa and the Southwind Myth, noting Eden’s serpent might be the serpent that deprived Gilgamesh of the plant which would restore him to youthful vigor (Ziolkowski also notes the Shamhat’s words appear to anticipate the words of Eden’s serpent who told Eve she would be wise like a god if she ate the forbidden fruit): He understands Enkidu “the trickster” has become Adam and Eden’s serpent the trickster.
“…biblical scholars have long been aware that the Genesis account is based on cosmological legends and mythological elements known to various peoples of the ancient Near East, in particular the image of a garden of the gods containing trees with mysterious powers. The anthropomorphic conception of a god strolling in his garden, as alien to the Hebrew tradition as is the walking and talking serpent, probably also came from another source. Notably, most of the characteristic motifs of the Genesis account are to be found, albeit in wholly different configurations, in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh.”
(p.13. “Near Eastern Sources.” Theodore Ziolkowski. The Sin of Knowledge. Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press. 2000)
“…the harlot tells him, in words anticipating the biblical serpent’s, “Thou art wise, Enkidu, art become like a god!” Clothing him with half of her garment, she leads him to Uruk…”
“…the epic contains virtually all the elements of the biblical account of the Creation, Temptation, and Fall…”
“Like Adam, Enkidu is created by a deity from the clay of the earth and spends his early days in naked innocence among the beasts of the field. Then, succumbing to a woman’s temptation, he loses his innocence and acquires godlike knowledge. The motifs of a plant of life and the serpent that tricks Adam and Eve out of immortality occur after Enkidu’s death in connection with Gilgamesh, who obtains the plant but is prevented from eating of it. Several of these common Mesopotamian elements occur also in the later (fourteenth-century B.C.E.) Akkadian tale of Adapa, who is created by the culture-god Ea as “the model of men,” and to whom is given wisdom but not eternal life.”
“In the biblical account the serpent…assumes the role of the trickster that was originally held by Enkidu…to transform the trickster Enkidu into the culture-hero Adam (and simultaneously to give the serpent a new importance by projecting upon it the role of the trickster).”
(pp.17, 23. Ziolkowski)
Ziolkowski speaks of Shamhat as being a tempter of Enkidu. Eden’s serpent is characterized as being a tempter of Eve. Could this be a role reversal or inversion: instead of a temptress (woman) we have a tempter (male) serpent?
“A hunter, frightened by Enkidu’s fierce demeanor, seeks counsel from Gilgamesh, who advise him to tempt the man of nature with a seductive harlot or temple prostitute…after Enkidu has mated with the temptress for six days and seven nights…”
(pp. 14-15. Ziolkowski)
Professors Walton, Matthews and Chavalas noted parallels between Eden’s serpent and serpents in two Mesopotamian myths involving lost immortality for man, the Gilgamesh serpent and the god Ningishzida in the Adapa myth. Being devout conservative Christian scholars they were careful _not_ to claim that Eden’s serpent was a recasting of these two protagonists:
“…Gilgamesh is cheated out of perpetual youth when a serpent consumes a magical plant…Of particular interest is the Sumerian god Ningishzida, who was portrayed in serpent shape and whose name means “Lord of the Productive/Steadfast Tree.” …He was one of the deities that offered the bread of life to Adapa…”
(p. 32. John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews & Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary to the Old Testament. Downers Gove, Illinois. InterVarsity Press. 2000)
Greenberg understands that the Egyptian god Set has been assimilated to the serpent-god Aphophis and is behind Eden’s serpent.
“The Reality: Genesis modeled the clever serpent after the Egyptian god Set, who took the serpent form of Aphophis, enemy of Re…The Egyptians often identified Aphophis with the god Set, a clever and ambitious deity…”
(p. 64. “Myth #28: The serpent was more subtle than any beast.” Gary Greenberg. 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History. Sourcebooks. 2002)
Nigosia (who has a PhD) sees parallels between the Gilgamesh serpent and Eden’s serpent:
“Similarly, the characterization of the serpent, the eating of the fruit of the tree, and the deprivation of human immortality, are all paralled in the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh,” in which the legendary hero succeeds in obtaining the “plant of life,” only to have it stolen by a serpent, thus depriving him of immortality.”
(pp. 36-37. Solomon Alexander Nigosian. From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts: The Old Testament and Apocrypha. Baltimore, Maryland. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2004)
Professors Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, understand behind Eden’s serpent are two prototypes, a flying Seraph mentioned by the prophet Isaiah, whence the title of their chapter “Eden’s Flying Serpent” and perhaps the Gilgamesh serpent (?):
“But what was the snake’s appearance before its divine punishment…Recognizing the relationship between the Garden of Eden, the serpent, and the Temple…Isaiah…chapter 6…Seraphs stood in attendance on Him, Each of them had six wings, with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly (v.2). Seraphs, then, have wings, legs, and even hands.. Isaiah: “From the stock of a snake there sprouts an asp, a seraph branches out from it” (14:29)…From these verses it becomes clear that seraphs were in fact flying serpents…it seems likely that this was the tradition that Isaiah knew regarding the primeval serpent in the Garden of Eden, before God transformed it into a dirt-slitherng animal.”
(pp. 20-21. “Eden’s Winged Serpent.” From Gods to God, How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends. Philadelphia. The Jewish Publication Society. Printed by The University of Nebraska Press. 2012, an English translation of Lo kakh katuv ha-Tanakh originally printed at Tel Aviv, Israel, in Hebrew as by Miskal-Yedioth Ahronoth Books and Chemed Books)
“Aside from the physical appearance of the paradisiacal snake- with wings, arms, legs, mouth, and ears- this creature, in its pre-fall form, seems to have possessed one more significant characteristic. The serpent, like God, apparently lived eternally. Just as with the granting of knowledge, the snake gave to Adam and Eve what he himself already possessed- wisdom, insight, shrewdness- so it is possible that he also was about to grant them eternal life. The story of the Garden of Eden, it appears, was also meant to challenge that belief. The immortal serpent as a source of life plays a role in the mythologies of the ancient Near East. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example…the snakes steals from Gilgamesh a special plant that has the power to reinvigorate, to retain one’s youth, and so gains what he denies humankind: immortality. (p. 24. From Gods to God, How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends.)
Professor Mettinger proposed Genesis account has reworked an earlier Edenic account found in Ezekiel 28. He understands that the Genesis account is late postexilic and of the Persian era (cf. p. 11) while Ezekiel’s account is Exilic. He notes that Mesopotamian myths (Adapa and Gilgamesh) have man obtaining wisdom and being denied immortality. He noted a serpent whom he describes as “cunning” deceiving Gilgamesh, robbing him of a chance to prolong his life, so apparently, for Mettinger, the pre-biblical prototype for Eden’s serpent is the Gilgamesh serpent.
Mettinger (Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible at Lund University, Sweden):
“On the level of narrative technique, the magic herb demonstrates that the story of Gilgamesh is similar to the story of Adapa. In both Gilgamesh and Adapa, the divine council or its chief deity, Anu, has the authority to grant immortal life. In both, deception plays a role: Adapa was deceived by Ea, and Gilgamesh by the cunning serpent. And, most importantly, in both, the protagonist only missed immortality by a very narrow margin.”
(p. 120. “Wisdom and Immortality in Adapa and Gilgamesh.” Tryggve N. D. Mettinger. The Eden Narrative, A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2-3. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 2007)
“A prior Adamic myth was retrieved by means of an analysis of Ezekiel 28. The changes carried out by the Eden poet point up to the focus of his composition: the divine test and consequences of disobedience…The role of wisdom and immortality in this Adamic myth can be understood against the background of their role in two major Mesopotamian compositions, Adapa and Gilgamesh, in which wisdom and immortality serve as the divine perogatives par preference.”
(p. 124. “Snythesis.” Tryggve N. D. Mettinger. The Eden Narrative, A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2-3. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 2007)
Eve Wood-Langford, employing an anthropological point of view, proposed that Ningishzida (Ningizzida) appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh is Eden’s serpent (She understands correctly that Enkidu and Shamhat were recast as Adam and Eve and their leaving the wilderness was recast as Adam and Eve leaving of the Garden of Eden):
“Stories surrounding Gilgamesh circulating in Mesopotamia in that age told of the creation from clay of an adult male; of the sexual, life-changing meeting between a naked man and woman; of the first man to enter the garden paradise; of a serpent-guardian of the Tree of Life known as Ningizzida…At the king’s funeral, the list of gods given offerings includes Ningizzida -also called Gizzida or Gishzida- Lord of the Tree of Life. This fertility god, a doorkeeper of the sky-god, or high god, Anu, is sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head…In the Gilgamesh epic one of the gods given offerings at the king’s funeral was Ningizzida, guardian of the tree of life, depicted as a serpent with a human head…Whether, or not, Ningizzida ‘Lord of the Tree of Life’ mentioned in the Gilgamesh epic, was a template for the articulate serpent in Eden, the serpent-image depicted in much of the ancient world…was so widely accepted as a symbol of wisdom, fertility and guidance, that polytheist populations are unlikely to have understood it as an influence for evil.”
pp. 15, 58, 128, 218. Eve Wood-Langford. Eden The Buried Treasure. Central Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. AuthorHouse. 2009)
Note: Wood-Langford’s notion that Ningishzida possessed a snake’s body and a human head and that its name meant “Lord of the Tree of Life” is apparently from N. K. Sandars (p. 122. “Glossary of Names: Ningizzida.” N. K. Sandars. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England. Penguin Books Ltd. 1960):
“Ningizzida: Also Gizzida; a fertility god, addressed as “Lord of the Tree of Life’; sometimes he is a serpent with human head, but later he was a god of healing and magic; the companion of Tammuz, with whom he stood at the gate of heaven.”
Professor Charlesworth seems to hold the view that Eden’s serpent may have been originally a serpent-god and he notes that the Gilgamesh serpent was associated with the motif of “eternal life,” so perhaps Charlesworth sees the Gilgamesh serpent as behind Eden’s serpent (Hebrew nachash means “serpent” or “snake”)?
“In the Hebrew text, the nachash is a masculine noun. The verbs associated with him are masculine…the creature seems to be a male, both grammatically and conceptionally in the Hebrew Bible…In the present narrative, one learns that only God and the serpent originally knew about good and evil. Perhaps the Yahwist, as editor and compiler, has left an echo of traditions that portrayed the serpent as a god among other gods, now dethroned by the Yahwist and the growing influence (or foreshadowing) of monotheism…the serpent seems to possess divine knowledge…The serpent also knows what only God Yahweh knows: he knows the difference between good and evil. Thus the nachash seems to have features of a god…The serpent has intimations of divinity in the biblical story of Eden, although the Yahwist most likely tried to remove them. The Yahwist attempts to tone down the possibility of many gods, including the serpent, by categorizing the serpent beneath God…in speculating on pre-Yahwist serpent symbolism…we are exploring pre-monarchic serpent symbolism that may still be mirrored in Genesis 3…It is thus conceivable that the Yahwist has left a trace of an earlier myth in which a god speaks with a serpent god about knowledge (of good and evil) and eternal life…This is a folktale…enriched by Canaanite culture that was shaped by Mesopotamia and Egypt. The influences on the author of Genesis 3 from the creation myths of non-Israelite cultures are certain and not limited to oral tradition. These were often shaped by earlier accounts that reached a literary stage; paramount among these would be the Gilgamesh epic. The Yahwist’s story is indebted to Akkadian, Canaanite, Hittite, North Arabia, and Ugaritic myths…The Yahwist may have known and been influenced by the Gilgamesh epic, since fragments of this epic were found at Megiddo and it antedates the Yahwist. According to this influential and well-known tale in antiquity, the serpent possesses supernatural knowledge and has obtained the secret of “everlasting life”…A major part of the Eden story is missing from the Babylonian myths. There is no Fall and the serpent does not mislead or cause the woman to eat from the forbidden tree. There is no myth of temptation and expulsion from a paradise in the East. There are no etiological concerns and cures as in Genesis 3.”
(pp. 319, 313-314, 282, 294 & 295. James H. Charlesworth. The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized. Yale University Press. 2010)
Gardner (died in 2010) in his search for the pre-biblical origins of the Hebrew God, concluded that the Sumerian god Enlil of Nippur had been recast as Yahweh-Elohim and Eden’s serpent was perhaps Enlil’s brother, Enki of Eridu (note Gardner’s Anannage are rendered as the Anunnaki or Anunna by others and Enlil and Enki were Anunnaki gods):
“In consideration of the serpent’s identity (if not created by God), we are reminded of the fact that God was, of course, not alone among the elohim. After Adam had eaten the fruit, God spoke to the serpent, cursing him for his actions, and subsequently announced “Behold, the man is become one of us,’ thereby identifying the said serpent as another god. Given the persistent use of the plural term elohim (gods) in Genesis, and since we know that the primary God of Genesis was Enlil, then the chances are that the serpent was representative of his brother Enki. After all, it was Enki (not Enlil) who actually created the Adamu earthling and imparted to him wisdom and knowledge. The garden of Eden story therefore presents itself as indicative of the ongoing feud over the seniority between the Anannage brothers. Enlil preferred that those who were created to toil in the garden should be maintained in scholastic ignorance, but Enki was adamant that they should be educated. The biblical term that became mistranslated to ‘serpent’ was nahash. Before the vowels were added, the original Hebrew stem was NHSH, which meant ‘to decipher” or ‘to find out.’ Hence, there was no serpent in the common snake-like sense of the word, and a better interpretation of NHSH would have been the perfect definition for, in Anannage society, the sages were indeed classified as enlightened serpents.”
(p. 110. Laurence Gardner. The Origin of God. Brockenhurst, Hants. England. Dash House. 2010)
Summary of the Ancient Near Eastern pre-biblical prototypes of Eden’s serpent from the above rationalist/humanist research (1854-2009):
1854 Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson proposes Eden’s serpent is Ea (Hea/Hoa) of Eridu.
1858 Professor George Rawlinson: Ea (Hea, Hoa) of Eridu is behind Eden’s serpent, citing Henry C. Rawlinson (1854).
1862 Professor George Rawlinson: Ea (Hea, Hoa) of Eridu is behind Eden’s serpent.
1868 James Fergusson, Fellow of the Royal Society, Hea (Hoa) is Eden’s serpent, following H. C. Rawlinson.
1876 George Smith: Tiamat of Eridu (spouse of Abzu/Apsu of Eridu) is the Mesopotamian prototype of Eden’s serpent.
1878 Joseph William Reynolds: Tiamat, the “dragon of the sea” is behind Eden’s serpent following Smith’s proposal.
1881 William Hayes Ward: With great caution: Tiamat, acknowledging she does not tempt man in any known accounts.
1884 Professor Sayce: Ea (Rawlinson’s Hea/Hoa) is the snake-god behind Eden’s serpent.
1887 Professor Sayce: The “serpent-goddess” Nina of Eridu, daughter of Ea (Sumerian: Enki) the god of wisdom.
1889 Winckler and Abel publish in German Adapa and the South Wind Myth excavated in 1888 at Tell el-Amarna, Egypt.
1890 Professor Jensen remarks upon the parallels between the Gilgamesh serpent and Eden’s serpent.
1890 Professor Ryle suggests Tiamat as the “enemy of the gods” was recast as Eden’s serpent.
1892 Professor Zimmern: Anu’s words anticipate Eden’s serpent’s words (?) in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth.
1893 Alice Bodington: Mummu-Tiamat is behind Eden’s serpent, following Smith’s proposal.
1895 W. S. C. Boscawen: Tiamat’s ability to speak and cast spells is why Eden’s serpent was able to beguile Eve.
1895 W. F. Cobb: Henry C. Rawlinson’s Hea (Ea) is behind Eden’s serpent.
1897 A. S. Palmer: Eden’s serpent is traced to Tiamat and Ea.
1898 Professor Jastrow: Enkidu’s sexual passion is “the serpent” citing Rabbinical traditions.
1899 Professor Jastrow: Saidu the hunter and Ukhat (Shamhat) of the Epic of Gilgamesh are behind Eden’s serpent.
1901 Professor Zimmern: Anu and Ea play the part of Eden’s serpent and Tiamat too.
1902 Professor Cheyne: Ea is behind Eden’s serpent.
1903 F. R. Tennant: The Babylonian god Ea might be the pre-biblical model for Eden’s Serpent-Tempter as well as Yahweh.
1906 J. Hastings: The Etana eaglet has been recast as Eden’s serpent.
1908 F. Mari: The god Anu of the Adapa and the South Wind Myth plays the role of Eden’s serpent.
1909 A. H. Sayce: Ea is behind Eden’s serpent.
1910 Professor Skinner: The god Ea of the Adapa and the Southwind Myth plays the role of Eden’s serpent.
1915 Professor Langdon: The Sumerian goddess Ninhursag is behind Genesis’ temptress Eve and tempter serpent.
1918 Professor T. G. Pinches: Babylonian snake-god called variously Sakhan, Serakh, Gu-silim an attendant of Enlil/Ellil.
1920 Professor W. F. Albright: Gilamesh serpent, Ea of Adapa myth, and Enki of Uttu myth.
1926 Sir James G. Frazer: Eden’s serpent recalls the Gilgamesh serpent (reworked African myths via Egypt to Sumer).
1928 M. Oldfield Howey: Ea is Eden’s serpent, following H. C. Rawlinson (1854).
1931 Professor Langdon: Two gods of fertility, Ningishzida and Tammuz (Dumuzi) of the Adapa and the Southwind Myth.
1934 Professor Yahuda claims myths about various mythical Egyptian serpents lie behind Genesis’ serpent.
1959 Professor Campbell: Enki (Akkadian Ea) of the Adapa and the Southwind Myth).
1963 Professors Graves and Patai: Ea is Eden’s Serpent.
1963 Professor Brandon: Eden’s serpent is a recast of the Gilgamesh serpent.
1963 H. Ringgren: Eden’s serpent might be a recast of the Canaanite gods, El or Baal.
1964 Professor Campbell: Ningishzida, ‘lord of the tree of truth’ (who appears in the Adapa and the Southwind Myth).
1982 Professor Liverani: Ea, like Eden’s serpent, facilitates man’s acquisition of wisdom and knowledge.
1989 Professors Davies & Rogerson: The Gilgamesh serpent is the “closest parallel” to Eden’s serpent.
1992 Professor Batto: The Gilgamesh serpent, a biblical Seraph and an Egyptian Cobra.
1993 Professor Kapelrud: A Canaanite serpent god underlies Eden’s serpent.
1994 Professor Clifford: The Gilgamesh serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
1994 Michael Rice: The Gilgamesh serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
1996 Professor Carr: The Gilgamesh snake (?)
1997 Laurence Coupe: Tiamat and the Gilgamesh serpent.
1998 J. R. Porter: The Gilgamesh serpent and possibly various other Ancient Near Eastern serpent deities in myths.
1998 H. C. Brichto: Eden’s serpent reflected in Shamhat’s comment “you are like a god,” and the Gilgamesh serpent.
2000 Professor Ziolkowski: The Gilgamesh serpent, Shamhat “the temptress” and Enkidu “the trickster.”
2000 Professors Walton, Matthews and Chavalas: Gilgamesh serpent and Ningishzida of the Adapa myth.
2002 Gary Greenberg. The Egyptian god Set assimilated to the serpent Aphophis is behind Eden’s serpent.
2004 S. A. Nigosian, PhD: The Gilgamesh serpent appears to be a parallel to Eden’s serpent.
2004 Professors Shinan & Zakovitch, Isaiah’s Seraph and the Gilgamesh snake are behind Eden’s Serpent.
2007 Professor T. N. D. Mettinger: The Gilgamesh serpent appears to be a parallel to Eden’s serpent.
2009 Eve Wood-Langford, Eden’s serpent is Ningishzida (Ningizzida) appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
2010 Professor Charlesworth: The Gilgamesh serpent possesses supernatural knowledge of eternal life.
2010 Laurence Gardner: Enki is Eden’s serpent.
Since 1854 various scholars employing a rationalist, humanist and anthropological point of view have suggested that motifs appearing in the Genesis’ mythical Garden of Eden account appear to be recasts of earlier Mesopotamian themes and I am in agreement with this scholarly analysis. The issue before us is the identification of these pre-biblical sources via parallels. It is quite clear that in many cases the Hebrews were not interested in preserving Mesopotamian beliefs, rather their aim seems to have been to refute, challenge, and deny these beliefs. Thus in seeking parallels we should _not_ expect to find an exact 100% match-up of details, concepts, or morals being derived because all this is being transformed into a system of Israelite belief that _repudiates_ for the most part earlier Mesopotamian concepts and worldviews.
Campbell noted that the Hebrews, apparently _employing inversions_, are reversing or inverting motifs by _180 degrees_ borrowed from the earlier Mesopotamian culture. He notes that Abraham through Jacob are portrayed as wandering shepherds, _not_ settled urbanites, planting orchards and harvesting the fruit. He suggests the Hebrew shepherds wanting to magnify themselves, took earlier Mesopotamian themes praising city life and applied these motifs to themselves, portraying the urban life as depraved and not in God’s favor (After the expulsion from the Garden of Eden Cain the agriculturalist and murderer appears and builds the world’s first city). Campbell may be right. This would explain how a Mesopotamian city garden which man is created to toil in, relieving the Igigi gods, becomes a lush garden planted by a God before man’s creation (Adam) in the midst of a wilderness called Eden. The uncultivated desert or steppe land in which wandered wild animals and shepherds was called in Sumerian edin. That is to say, the Hebrews may have reversed or inverted the Mesopotamian “creation of man” myths. Instead of man being created to work in a city garden, he is placed in God’s garden in the midst of a wilderness called Eden (edin?). Campbell also notes the motif of man TILLING the city gardens of Sumer and Adam’s TILLING the Garden in Eden.
Campbell on the Garden of Eden’s Trees having been originally a myth of a settled peoples who plant trees and gardens instead of desert-wandering shepherds and herdsmen like the Hebrews (Emphasis mine):
“…And Yahweh took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till and keep it…We recognize the old Sumerian garden, but with two trees now instead of one, which the man is appointed to guard and tend…it is to be remarked that one of the chief characteristics of Levantine mythology here represented is that of man created to be God’s slave or servant. In a late Sumerian myth retold in Oriental Mythology it is declared that men were created to relieve the gods of the onerous task of tilling their fields. Men were to do that work for them and provide them food through sacrifice…The ultimate source of the biblical Eden, therefore, cannot have been a mythology of the desert -that is to say, a primitive Hebrew myth- but was the old planting mythology of the peoples of the soil. However, in the biblical retelling, its whole argument has been turned, so to say, one hundred and eighty degrees…One milllennium later, the patriarchal desert nomads arrived, and all judgements were reversed in heaven, as on earth.”
(pp.103, 105-106. “Gods and Heroes of the Levant.” Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. Arkana. A Division of Penguin Books. 1964. 1991 reprint)
Professor Lambert made another important observation, that the Mesopotamian forte was not to create new myths out of whole cloth but to change an earlier myth by employing a “new twist,” and I understand that the Hebrews are using “new twists” (sometimes these “new twists” are “inversions”) in changing, adapting and modifying earlier Mesopotamian concepts and scenarios.
“The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft.”
(p. 107, Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura. Editors. I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994)
Campbell’s and Lambert’s above penetrating insights, that the Hebrews appear to be refuting earlier Mesopotamian beliefs via inversions is important as I understand that many of Genesis’ notions of the relationship between man and God are “new twists to old ideas” of Mesopotamian notions and some of these “new twists” are in the form of inversions to thereby refute, deny and challenge earlier Mesopotamain beliefs about the relationship between God and Man.
The Sumerians called the uncultivated land about their cities the edin. Some scholars have proposed that via a homophone or homonym confusion (words that sound or look alike but have different meanings) Sumerian edin (the semi-arid plain of Sumer) came to equated with Hebrew ‘eden (a lush, well-watered delightful fruit-tree oasis). This suggestion strikes me as plausible.
Genesis has God planting a garden _in_ Eden (Genesis 2:8) and the Sumerian gods, according to myths, planted their gardens _in_ an edin/eden too (note: some professional scholars spell Sumerian edin alternately as eden). Their gardens were associated with cities that the gods had built for themsleves to dwell in before man’s creation. The purpose of these gardens was to provide nourishment for the gods. The gardens received water from irrigation canals associated with the edin’s two major rivers the Euphrates and Tigris. Eventually the gods tired of the exhaustive work in building and maintaining canals and irrigation ditches and decide to create man to bear the toil. Man will provide for the gods with life’s neccesities: food, clothing and shelter, freeing them of earthly toil for all of eternity.
Genesis portrays man as being tasked with the care of God’s garden in Eden (Hebrew: `eden) and later rebelling against his God and being removed from the garden of Eden for this act of rebellion. The Mesopotamian myths have _no_ knowledge of man ever being removed from the gods’ city-gardens in edin for an act of rebellion. It would be foolish of the gods to expell man from their gardens of edin for then they would have to work the gardens themselves for their sustenance, a back-breaking task they abhorred, hence the reason they created man, to avoid having to toil for their own food.
Where then are the Hebrews getting the notion that a rebellion has occurred in a God’s garden _in_ Eden and man has been removed from this garden for an act of rebellion?
I understand this is a recast (a Hebrew “new twist” or “inversion”) of the Igigi rebellions at Eridu and Nippur. At both locations the junior gods called the Igigi rebel against the senior gods called the Anunnaki or Anunna who have tasked them with building and maintaining irrigation canals and the planting, harvesting and presentation of crops in the temples for the gods to consume. If the gods do not eat earthly food they will die, for the gods possess fleshly bodies and can be slain by their fellow gods in the myths and wind up in the Underworld upon their deaths.
The gods created man that they might enjoy an eternal sabbath-rest from earthly toil. In Mesopotamian belief gods do not toil in edin’s city-gardens, man does, to provide the gods their daily food rations in temple sacrifices.
So then, where are the Hebrews getting the notion that “man” (in the form of Adam and Eve) has been expelled by God for an act of rebellion, initiated by the cunning lies of a wonderous serpent who has the ability not only to talk with Eve but also has legs to walk upon? I have already answered the first part of the question: The Igigi rebellion is being recast as Adam and Eve rebelling against God. When the Igigi worked the city-gardens of edin they were euphemistically referred to in the Atra-Khasis myth as “when the gods were _man_, they bore grievous labor.” I understand that the euphemism “man” as applied to the Igigi became in the Hebrew recasting “man” in human form (Adam and Eve) being expelled from a God’s garden for an act of rebellion. So, then “man” (the rebelling Igigi) was expelled from a Mesopotamian god’s garden at Eridu and at Nippur. In other words the Hebrews employing a “new twist” (inversion) present two humans (Adam and Eve) as being expelled from a god’s garden in Eden in lieu of many gods (the Igigi) being removed from a god’s (Enlil’s) garden in the edin.
But the Atra-Khasis myth does not tell us that a serpent (who is able to walk and talk with man) was responsible for removing “man” (the Igigi) from a god’s garden so where are the Hebrews getting this notion from?
Here’s the solution to the great mystery which has puzzled Humanist Scholars for over one hundred years (1854-2009) who sought a “rational” answer as to “What Mesopotamian myth(s) are the Hebrews getting the notion from of a walking, talking serpent being held responsible for man’s removal from a god’s garden in Eden for an act of rebellion?”
From several Mesopotamian myths I have been able to piece together the pre-biblical origins of Eden’s serpent. Two Anunnaki (alternately rendered Anunna by some scholars) gods Enki and Enlil who both bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal (alternately rendered usumgal), translated variously as “great serpent,” “dragon,” or “serpent-dragon” by different scholars were responsible for the removal of “man” (the Igigi gods) for an act of rebellion.
Professor Langdon (1914) on ushum-gal (usumgal) meaning “great-serpent” (ama = “mother”, anna= “heaven”):
“A title of Tammuz to be discussed below, is d.ama-ushumgal-anna, a name which means ‘mother-great-serpent-heavenly’…”
(p. 17. Stephen Herbert Langdon. Tammuz and Ishtar, A Monograph Upon Babylonian Religion and Theology. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1914)
Professor Clay (1923) on ushum-gal meaning “great serpent”:
“Ushum-gal “the great serpent” is frequently mentioned in connection with Tammuz…”
(p. 90. Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions: Hebrew Legends in Babylonia and Israel. Lectures on Biblical Archaeology delivered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. New Haven. 1923. Reprinted 1999 by The Book Tree, Escondido, California)
Black and Green on the Sumerian epithet ushumgal being applied to gods (as well as kings) as a metaphor:
“Dragon (Greek drakon, ‘serpent’) is the word usually used in English for a terrifying mythical monster with a scaly snake-like or lizard-like body…Mesopotamian art includes a number of such dragon-like creatures, of malevolent and beneficent natures. Most closely corresponding to the general image is the so-called snake-dragon…In Sumerian poetry, ushumgal, a serpentine monster, can be a metaphor for a god or king; it is a term of praise and not necessarily evil or unpleasant.”
(p. 71. “Dragons.” Jeremy Black & Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press in association with the British Museum Press. London. 1992)
The British Museum (London) on the ushumgal as being a ‘snake-dragon’ and its being also called in Akkadian (Babylonian) mushhushshu ‘furious snake’ (please click here for the below quote and a color photo of an 8th century B.C. clay plaque showing an ushumgal/mushhushshu in the British Museum’s collection):
“…the ushumgal, the ‘snake-dragon’ of Sumerian poetry…has horns, the body and neck of a snake, the forelegs of a lion, and the hind legs of a bird. It is represented in art from 2300 B.C. …as a symbol of various gods or as a magically protective hybrid. It has been identified as the Akkadian mushhushshu or ‘furious snake’.”
Black on the Sumerian god Enlil being called a “dragon of the earth” (However Enlil or Akkadian El-lil does not appear in the Adapa and the Southwind myth):
“Enlil, faithful shepherd of the teeming multitudes, herdsman, leader of all living creatures…He alone is the prince of heaven, THE DRAGON OF THE EARTH. The lofty god of the Anuna himself determines the fates.”
(p. 323. “Enlil in the E-kur.” Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi.
The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press. 2004 hardcover, 2006 paperback with corrections)
The Sumerian text behind the above translation, revealing that Enlil the ushumgal is a “dragon”:
“…an-na dili nun-bi-im ki-a ušumgal-bi-im…”
(line 100. Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A). transliteration: c.4.05.1 ETCSL, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom)
“He alone is the prince of heaven, the dragon of the earth.”
(line 100. Enlil in the E-kur (Enlil A). translation: c.4.05.1 ETCSL, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom)
Enki is described as walking, talking, great ushumgal “_serpent/dragon_,” who is _cunning and wise_ and associated with planting a garden of fruit trees at Eridu where lives Adapa. Eden’s serpent could walk and talk and was associated with a garden full of fruit trees planted on the earth by _a_ god and famed for his “cunning” and “wisdom” (cf. Matthew 10:16 “…be ye therefore wise as a serpent…”). Perhaps the mes-tree planted by the cunning and wise great ushumgal has been transformed by the Hebrews into the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”? Please note: Scholars render Sumerian ushumgal as “great dragon” or “dragon.” Because this creature is described as partially serpentine in form, I prefer to render instead of great dragon, “serpent-dragon”:
“Lord who walks nobly on heaven and earth, self-reliant,
father Enki, engendered by a bull,
begotten by a wild bull…king, who turned out the mes-tree in the Abzu,
raised it up over all the lands,
who planted it in Eridu-
its shade spreading over heaven and earth-
A grove of fruit trees stretching over the land…
Enki…lord of wisdom…you have given the people a place to live…you have looked after them…”
Enki, king of the Abzu, celebrates his own magnificance-
as is right…
I am cunning and wisein the lands…
I am lord, I am the one whose word endures.
I am eternal…
(pp. 39-41. “Enki and Inanna: The Organization of the Earth and Its Cultural Processes.” Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
Kramer on ushumgal in a footnote to the above hymn:
“ushumgal, “dragon,” a well-known epithet of Enki and other gods.”
(p. 216. Note 5. Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
Enki the ushumgal “great serpent” is associated with possessing great wisdom and he has been tasked with denying to mankind by the god An the guarding of “the divine powers of heaven and earth,” the me, denying them to mankind. His abode, the Abzu/Apsu, is the house of wisdom and of knowledge. Eden’s Serpent declares that God seeks to deny wisdom and knowledge to Adam and Eve and it is in his garden that knowledge and wisdom abide. I understand Enki (Ea) is not only Eden’s serpent but Eden’s god, Yahweh, who sought to deny man wisdom and knowledge, fearing man would thereby “become like God” as penetratingly observed by Eden’s Serpent.
The Sumerian god of heaven, An (Akkadian/Babylonian: Anu), assigns the guarding of wisdom and knowledge, “the me,” or “the divine powers of heaven and earth,” to Enki:
“Lord…who establishes understanding…who knows everything! Enki, of broad wisdom…Your father An the king, the lord who caused human seed to come forth and who placed all mankind on the earth, has laid upon you the guarding of the divine powers of heaven and earth and has elevated you to be their prince. An…has instructed you…to make orchards and gardens ripe with syrup and vines grow as tall as forests.”
Enki’s “house of wisdom” is the Abzu shrine at Eridug:
“May Ur-Ninurta, the king in whom Enlil trusts, open up your house of wisdom in which you have gathered knowledge in plenty…”
(A tigi to Enki for Ur-Ninurta (Ur-Ninurta B): c.220.127.116.11.)
In a drunken stupor at a feast set for his guest Inanna of Uruk of cakes and beer Enki gives Inanna the me that he is to guard and keep from mankind; the me encompass the totality of wisdom and knowledge. I understand these themes were recast as Yahweh denying Adam and Eve wisdom and knowledge and Eve’s acquisition of forbidden knowledge is in part a recast of Inanna’s acquring wisdom and knowledge for mankind.
“I will give them to holy Inana…Inana received wisdom…decision-making…”
(Inana and Enki: c.1.3.1)
Enki upon waking from his drunken stupor realizes what he has done and tries to intercept Inana and get the me back from her. She refuses to surrender them and accuses Enki of _not_ being a man of his word for he swore by his holy word the me were now hers. Upon her arrival by boat in Uruk from Eridug, her people acclaim her as their champion in obtaining the forbidden knowledge, the me, from Enki who was to guard and deny them to mankind on An’s orders. We have here the theme or motif of the gods denying man forbidden knowledge, the me, “the divine powers of heaven and earth,” among which are wisdom and decision-making. The me were kept in the abzu temple at Eridug “the dwelling of knowledge.” They were obtained during a feast of cakes and beer. Inanna, nin edin “the lady of edin,” did not obtain “wisdom” illegally like Eve, another lady of Eden; Enki gave them to her while in a drunken stupor. So Enki the ushumgal, the “great serpent” or “dragon” denied man knowledge and wisdom but Inanna the “lady of edin,” who like Enki, bore the epithet ushumgal “great serpent,” obtained forbidden knowledge and she in another myth ate of a tree to obtain forbidden knowledge (to know how to have sex).
Inanna and her brother Utu the sun-god in one myth descend to the earth that she might acquire knowledge by eating of un-named herbs and cedar/pine trees (consuming pine/cedar nuts?). Utu bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal meaning “dragon” or “great serpent” and Inanna also bore the same epithet. Eden’s serpent is associated with the acquisition of forbidden knowledge and Inanna and Utu, sister and brother, are “great serpents” who both acquired knowledge via the act of eating from a cedar/pine tree, Inanna telling Utu: “let us eat to acquire knowledge.”
Utu bearing the Sumerian epithet “dragon”:
“…Utu…holy dragon, the first-born son cherished by Suen…”
(An adab (?) to Utu for Shulgi (Shulgi Q): c.18.104.22.168)
So, in the Mesopotamian myths (The Atra-Khasis Epic) “man” (a euphemism for the Igigi gods) was indeed removed from a god’s garden in edin for an act of rebellion and “man” (humans) were created to replace the Igigi in these gods’ gardens. At both locations, Eridu and Nippur, the rebellion is over the back-breaking toil in creating and maintaining irrigation canals and ditches to provide freshwater for the god’s gardens which is neccessary to raise crops. So in both locations the rebellion was _in_ an irrigated city-garden setting, a garden watered by the Euphrates river in the edin. The Hebrews, employing a “new twist” (an inversion in this case, two humans being expelled instead of many gods) have recast two Sumerian gods (Enki and Enlil) who bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, meaning “great serpent” or “dragon” into a mere snake that once-upon-a-time had the ability to walk and talk to man in a God’s garden in Eden.
Professor Foster (1995) on the gods (the Igigi) at Nippur in Sumer euphemistically being called or likened to _man_ because before man’s creation they bore back-breaking toil like man (emphasis mine):
“When the gods were man, they did forced labor, they bore drudgery. Great indeed was the drudgery of the gods, the forced labor was heavy, the misery too much: The seven (?) great Anunna-gods were burdening the Igigi gods with forced labor…[The gods] were digging watercourses, canals they opened, the life of the land…They heaped all the mountains. [ years] of drudgery, [ ] the vast marsh. They counted years of drudgery, [and] forty years too much ! [ ] forced labor they bore night and day. They were complaining, denouncing, muttering down in the ditch, “Let us face up to our foreman the prefect, He must take off this our heavy burden upon us!
(pp. 52-53. “The Story of the Flood.” [The Atra-Khasis version]. Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
Professor George (2003) on the gods (the Igigi gods at Nippur) being eupehmistically called “man” in the epic of Atra-Khasis (George’s: Atram-hasis):
“Another masterpiece of Babylonian literature known from late in the Babylonian period is the great poem of Atram-hasis,
‘When the gods were man’, which recounts the history of mankind from the Creation to the Flood. It was this text’s account of the Flood that the poet of Gilgamesh used as a source for his own version of the Deluge myth. It also provided a striking model for the story of Noah’s Flood in the Bible.”
(p. xx. “Introduction.” Andrew George. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. London. The Penguin Press. 1999, 2000, 2003)
Below, is another mythical variation of how and why mankind came to be created by Enki. In this account he is sleeping through the commotion on the earth’s surface caused by the earth-dwelling junior gods called the Igigi who labor ceaselessly to provide food for the senior gods called the Anunnaki or Anunna (Enki or Ea is an Anunna god). He is awakened from his sleep in his underwater Abzu dwelling called the Engur by his mother who asks him to end the commotion. He creates man from clay above the Abzu transfering the burden of agricultural toil from the earth-dwelling gods (the Igigi) to mankind.
The below myth has the “minor gods” (the Igigi gods) in revolt at Eridu, destroying their hoes (?) and refusing to work anymore on the irrigation canals and ditches that provide water for Eridu’s crops. Enki, the chief god of Eridu, is portrayed as ignoring their protests or clamor, that is to say he is in part responsible for their grievous toil and he is responsible for their _removal_ from his garden after man has been created as the replacement for the “minor gods” (Igigi). Enki in other myths bore the epithet ushumgal “great serpent” or “dragon,” so a “serpent” at Eridu (Enki/Ea) was responsible as being the cause or instigator behind man’s rebellion (the Igigi being likened to “man” in the Atra-Khasis myth) and “man’s” (the Igigi) removal from a god’s (Enki’s) garden in the midst of the edin, rather as Eden’s serpent is held as responsible for inciting man to rebel against a God as well as Eden’s serpent’s actions being, in part, responsible for man’s being removed.
The Enki and Ninmah Myth, notes the “complaining” of the Igigi gods at Eridu, a type of “clamor” or “noise” if you will, that will be transferred to man who is created to replace them and bear their grievous toil in the Atra-Khasis Myth:
“In those days, in the days when heaven and earth were created; in those nights, in the nights when heaven and earth were created; in those years, in the years when the fates were determined; when the Anunna gods were born; when the goddesses were taken in marriage; when the goddesses were distributed in heaven and earth; when the goddesses …… became pregnant and gave birth; when the gods were obliged (?) … their food … for their meals; the senior gods oversaw the work, while the minor gods were bearing the toil. The gods were digging the canals and piling up the silt in Harali. The gods, dredging the clay, began _complaining_ about this life.
At that time, the one of great wisdom, the creator of all the senior gods, Enki lay on his bed, not waking up from his sleep, in the deep engur, in the flowing water, the place the inside of which no other god knows. The gods said, weeping: “He is the cause of the lamenting!” Namma (Nammu), the primeval mother who gave birth to the senior gods, took the tears of the gods to the one who lay sleeping, to the one who did not wake up from his bed, to her son: “Are you really lying there asleep, and … not awake? The gods, your creatures, are smashing their … My son, wake up from your bed! Please apply the skill deriving from your wisdom and create a substitute (?) for the gods so that they can be freed from their toil!”
At the word of his mother Namma, Enki rose up from his bed. In Hal-an-kug, his room for pondering, he slapped his thigh in annoyance. The wise and intelligent one, the prudent, … of skills, the fashioner of the design of everything brought to life birth-goddesses (?). Enki reached out his arm over them and turned his attention to them. And after Enki, the fashioner of designs by himself, had pondered the matter, he said to his mother Namma: “My mother, the creature you planned will really come into existence. Impose on him the work of carrying baskets. You should knead clay from the top of the Abzu; the birth-goddesses (?) will nip off the clay and you shall bring the form into existence. Let Ninmah act as your assistant; and let Ninimma, Cu-zi-ana, Ninmada, Ninbarag, Ninmug, … and Ninguna stand by as you give birth. My mother, after you have decreed his fate, let Ninmah impose on him [mankind] the work of carrying baskets.”
( “Enki and Ninmah.” <http://theoldpath.com/senkimah.htm> cf. also Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. Oxford. 1998.)
All this is to say that Enki (Ea) of Eridu and Enlil (Ellil) of Nippur who both bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, “great-serpent” or “dragon” were held as responsible for the removal of “man” (the Igigi) from their garden in edin for rebelling against them and these two gods, I would argue, are thus “pre-biblical prototypes” of Eden’s serpent who is held responsible for causing (1) “man” in the form of Adam and Eve to be expelled from Yahweh-Elohim’s garden of Eden for (2) inciting an act of rebellion by “man.” These ushumgals were also _responsible for the rebellion_ of “man” (the Igigi) in their garden. How so? The Igigi were burdened with greivous toil at Nippur, their pleas for an end of this toil were _ignored_ “night and day for 40 years” according to the Atra-Khasis Epic. Enki (Ea) in a speech addressed to the Anunnaki gods summarizes the rebellion acknowledging that the Anunnaki gods _are to blame_, they heard the noise, the complaining over the grievous labor and did nothing to rectify the situation; the Igigi are _not_ to blame for this rebellion, the Anunnaki are to blame, and two of the Anunnaki are Enlil of Nippur and Enki of Eridu, locations associated with Igigi rebellions and both Enki and Enlil bear the epithet ushumgal, “great serpent.” So, in the Mesopotamian myths an ushumgal “great serpent” that could walk and talk to to “man” was _indeed_ responsible for inciting “man” to rebel against the god who owned the garden (at Nippur the garden belongs to Enlil, at Eridu the garden belongs to Enki). So an ushumgal “great serpent” was held to blame for (1) inciting “man” (the Igigi) to rebel and this ushumgal or “great serpent” was also responsible for (2) causing “man’s” _removal_ from a god’s garden in the edin for an act of rebellion (edin being the uncultivated plain surrounding the cities of Sumer and their city-gardens and fields). Please also note that Enki/Ea has man formed of clay associated with the abzu/apsu at Eridu. Scholars understand that the Sumerian word ab-zu means “dwelling of knowledge,” in this watery abyss (abzu/apsu) which lies under the earth dwells the Sumerian god of “wisdom and knowledge,” Enki/Ea. Adam is made of dust, a type of earth and he portrayed as dwelling in a location where man can acquire “knowledge” (of good and evil). I suspect the Hebrews have recast the Sumerian motifs about man being created of clay taken from the “dwelling of knowledge” into a Garden of Eden “dwelling” where primal man can obtain knowledge. Ushumgal Enki/Ea, the god of knowledge and wisdom who denied man (Adapa of Eridu) immortality, has been recast as Yahweh-Elohim (and Eden’s Serpent) who denied man (Adam) knowledge and wisdom as well as immortality.
Professor Sayce (1887) on apzu (apsu) or abzu meaning “House of Knowledge”:
“…the deep was termed ap-zu…read ab-zu, “the house of knowledge,” wherein Ea, the god of wisdom, was imagined to dwell.”
(p. 374. Archibald Henry Sayce. The Hibbert Lectures 1887: Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. London. Williams & Norgate. 1897)
Contenau on abzu/apsu meaning “dwelling of knowledge”:
“…Ea (Enki in Sumerian). He was the lord of …the abyss of waters upon which the terrestial world floated…Ea’s very name, with its meaning of ‘house of water’, is itself descriptive of his realm. The Babylonians believed that wisdom and knowledge resided in this abyss, which they knew by the name of apsu, which is simply the Semitic form of the Sumerian ab-zu, meaning ‘dwelling of knowledge’;. Ea’s wife was Damkina…certain theological traditions make him a creator of mankind…which he formed… of clay…he ruled the domain which was the seat of knowledge…”
(p. 248. Georges Contenau. Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York. St. Martin’s Press, Inc. 1954. Translated from the French edition of 1950: La Vie quotidienne a Babylone et en Assyrie)
The Igigi at Nippur in the Atra-Khasis Epic (Foster’s: “Story of the Flood”) state the reason for their rebellion to Enlil who has called for all the Anunnaki to assemble, including Anu and Enki/Ea to help find a solution to end the rebellion; Enki/Ea after listening to the grievances admits the rebellion is just, and declares that the Anunnaki gods (who include Anu, Enlil and Enki) must assume blame (note: I have not reproduced Foster’s scholarly ellipses and brackets for restored portions of text for ease of reading):
“…let us kill him!
let us break the yoke!
…call for battle!…warfare!…
Enlil made ready to speak…
…that they bring Anu…
…that they bring Enki…
….the Anunna-gods present…
Ea…said to the gods his brethren
“What calumny do we lay to their charge?
Their forced labor was heavy, their misery too much!
Every day the out cry was loud, we could hear the clamor.
There is Belet-ili, the midwife…
Let her create, then, a human, a man,
Let him bear the yoke…
Let man assume the drudgery of god…”
(pp. 54-58. “Story of the Flood.” Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
So, dear reader the question has been answered from a rationalist or humanist point of view: “Why of all things did the Hebrews settle on a serpent -who could walk and talk to man- as being responsible for: (1) inciting man to rebel and why was this (2) serpent blamed for man’s removal from a god’s garden in Eden over this act of rebellion? The Hebrews in the Book of Genesis have apparently recast and transformed the Igigi rebellions at Eridu and Nippur against Enki and Enlil the ushumgals or “great serpents” who could walk and talk to man in their human form. These two ushumgals are also responsible for man’s creation and his being placed in their gardens of edin to toil in place of the rebelling Igigi who were euphemistically called “man.” These ushumgals in other myths share motifs appearing in the Garden of Eden story: Yahweh warns a man (Adam) not to eat or he will die, it is Ea/Enki the ushumgal who warned Adapa not to eat or he will die. Yahweh decides to send a flood to destroy mankind and warns Noah to build an ark while in the Mesopotamian myths it is Enlil the ushumgal who chiefly instigated the flood. Enki/Ea and Enlil/Ellil have not only been fused together and recast as Eden’s serpent, they have been fused together to become Eden’s god, Yahweh-Elohim.
So then, Professor Skinner (1910) was correct, Ea, the god of Eridu who “appeared to play the part of Eden’s serpent in that he allowed man (Adapa) to obtain forbidden knowledge” is indeed a pre-biblical prototype of Eden’s serpent. What Skinner had failed to realize was that Ea in his earlier form as Enki bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, “great serpent,” and he was responsible for “man’s” (the Igigi) removal from his garden in edin at Eridu for an act of rebellion. Enki in another myth is called to Nippur by its chief god Enlil to put down an Igigi rebellion. It is Enki who with Enlil’s assent, removes “man” (the Igigi) from Nippur’s garden and replaces them with man (humans).
After Babylon had come to power, the Sumerian myths about man’s being created to relieve the gods of earthly toil were recast. Instead of Enlil and Enki being responsible for man’s creation it became Marduk (biblical Merodach). Professor Sayce (1887 cf. p. 537 line 31) preserves a hymn in which Marduk is called an usumgal. So, we have three gods, Enki (Ea), Enlil (Ellil) and Marduk (Merodach assigns the task of creating man to his father Ea) who all bore the epithet ushumgal “great serpent,” who were responsible for creating man to work their gardens in edin to relieve the gods of earthly toil.
Professor Sayce (1887) on Marduk’s epithet ushumgal (usumgal):
“Incantation -O Merodach, lord of the world…
The dragon (usumgal)…
the omniscient lord of heaven and earth, the creator of the
(terit) of the universe…”
(p. 537. “Ceremonies and Prayers.” Archibald H. Sayce. The Hibbert Lectures 1887: Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. London. Williams & Norgate. 1897)
“Marduk…spoke his utterance to Ea,
And communicated to him the plan that he was
Let me put blood together, and make bones too.
Let me set up primeval man: Man shall be his name.
Let me create primeval man.
The work of the gods shall be imposed (on him),
and so they shall be at leisure.”
Kingu, a god who led a revolt against Marduk, is slain and from his blood mankind is created to relieve the gods of toil. So man is a rebel to the gods because he has a god’s rebellious spirit animating his clay:
“Marduk assembled the great gods…
“Whosoever started the war,
and incited Tiamat, and gathered an army,
Let the one who started the war be given up to
And he shall bear the penalty for his crime, that
you may dwell in peace…”
‘It was Qingu who started the war…”
They bound him and held him in front of Ea,
Imposed the penalty on him and cut off his blood.
He created mankind from his blood,
Imposed the toil of the gods (on man) and released
the gods from it.
When Ea the wise had created mankind,
Had imposed the toil of the gods on them…”
(p. 261. “The Epic of Creation.” Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1991)
It is thus my understanding that the _removal of “man”_ in the form of Adam and Eve from a God’s garden in Eden is a recasting of the _removal of “man”_ (the Igigi euphemistically being called “man” in the Atra-Khasis Epic) for an act of rebellion by the ushumgals or “great serpents” Enki (Ea) at Eridu, Enlil (Ellil) at Nippur and Marduk (Merodach) at Babylon.
But this is not the end of the matter, there is yet more to come: Eden’s serpent is understood by Christians as conning Eve by misrepresenting God’s intentions. Eve is told she will not die if she eats the forbidden fruit, God knows this, he wants to deny her wisdom and knowledge which will make her like a god. The Edenic serpent is then portrayed as attempting to thwart God, encouraging a human to disobey God’s command: “Do not eat, for you will die.” This motif appears to be drawn from several protagonists in the Mesopotamian myths.
Yahweh’s warning: “Do not eat or you will die,” appears to be that of Ea’s to Adapa. The urging of Adapa to eat forbidden food, just as Eden’s serpent urged Eve to eat forbidden food appears to be a recast of Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi urging Adapa to eat food forbidden him by Ea. That is to say to the degree that Eden’s serpent urged the eating of forbidden food, three deities: Anu, Gishzida (Ningishzida) and Dumuzi (Tammuz) play the role of Eden’s serpent. They did not offer man (Adapa) forbidden knowledge, they offered him immortality, for the food had it been eaten, would have conferred immortality, it was not the food of death. Paradoxically Ea who played the role of Yahweh-Elohim in warning man “not to eat or he would die,” also plays the role of the serpent in that he allowed man (Adapa) to obtain forbidden knowledge (as noted correctly by Professor Skinner) and it is Ea who _misrepresents_ to man (Adapa) the actions of Anu, Gishzida and Dumuzi like Eden’s serpent _misrepresented_ God’s actions and intentions. So in the Adapa and the Southwind Myth we have four gods who actions have been fused together, recast, transformed and assimilated to Eden’s serpent: Ea (Enki), Anu (An), Gishzida (Ningishzida) and Dumuzi (Tammuz). For me the Hebrews are giving “new twists” to the earlier myths, changing the names of the protagonists, the locations, the sequences of events and the morals being drawn via a series of 180 degree inversions.
Ningishzida is portrayed in art as having the ability to assume two forms (1) human form, and (2) the form of a four-legged, horned and winged serpent-dragon. He is at home in three locations in various myths (1) the earth’s surface or edin of Sumer; (2) the Underworld; and (3) Heaven as a gate guard for Anu (Sumerian An). He thus has serpent associations similar to those possessed by Christianity’s Satan who in the book of Revelation is called a serpent, dragon and devil (Rev. 20:2) who is portrayed as at home in (1) Heaven; (2) the earth’s surface at Eden; and (3) the Underworld.
Ningishzida being called an ushumgal (ucumgal) or “dragon” in a Sumerian hymn (emphasis mine in bold print):
(ETCSL transliteration: c.4.19.2, A balbale to Ninjiczida (Ninjiczida B) line: 6.)
“…dragon snarling (?) in the lagoon…”
(ETCSL translation: t.4.19.2, A balbale to Ninjiczida (Ninjiczida B) Line: 6. The ETCSL project, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
It has already been noted that Dumuzi who urged man (Adapa) to eat food that would cause him to die, contra his god’s (Ea) command plays the part of Eden’s serpent. What is not so well-known is that Dumuzi bears the Sumerian epithet ama-ushum-gal-anna “the mother is a great serpent dragon of heaven,” thus giving Dumuzi another serpent association. So poor Adapa was confronted by conflicting advice from several gods who had in varying degrees serpent associations: Ea (in his earlier role as Enki the ushum-gal), Gishzida (Nin-gish-zida), and Dumuzi (Dumu-zid). Dumuzi is also in one myth transformed into a serpent by the sun-god Shamash to help him slither out of his bonds (his hands and feet being tied to sticks) and elude capture by the Galla (Ugalla) demons who seek to carry him off to the netherworld as a surrogate to efect the release of his wife Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar). The verses speak of his hands and feet becoming “serpent hands and feet” allowing him to escape (apparently a metaphor for his loss of hands and feet as serpents do not have hands of feet).
Kramer on Dumuzi’s bearing the epithet ushumgal:
“ushum-gal-an-na (also ama-ushum-gal-an-na) is a well-known epithet of Dumuzi, literally the “great dragon of heaven.”
(p. 220. Note 102. Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
I have not been successful in finding a serpent or serpent-dragon epithet (ushumgal) for Anu (Sumerian An). He does have, however a “peripheral” serpent association in that Tiamat, the personification of the salty sea surrounding land, is declared to be “the mother of the gods,” and she is portrayed as assuming the form of a sea-serpent in her battle with Marduk of Babylon. So, to the degree that she is the ancestress of the gods, Anu has a serpent “association” through her. He has another serpent “association” in that in some myths he is portrayed as being the ancestor of Enlil, Enki, and Marduk, all of whom bore the epithet ushumgal, which is variously translated by different scholars as “great serpent,” “great dragon,” or “dragon.”
With the exception of Ningishzida, to my knowledge, none of the gods enumerated above (Enki/Ea, Enlil/Ellil, Dumuzi/Tammuz or Anu/An) as being prototypes of Eden’s serpent are ever pictorially shown as possessing the form of a serpent or serpent-dragon. There is possibly one other one exception: if the clay serpents found by archaeologists below Enki’s altar in Eridu are intended to represent him as an ushumgal (“great serpent”) then he, like Ningishzida, at one time _may have had_ the ability to assume a serpent form. These gods’ association with serpents is primarily via the epithet ushumgal. It is my understanding that the Mesopotamian gods (and goddesses) bore the epithet ushumgal to inspire terror and fear in the hearts of rebels (mankind) to their authority. Ancient man feared venomous serpents and he was to also fear the gods and obey them. By transferring serpent epithets to the gods it was hoped that man would come to fear the gods who would strike him down like a venomous serpent, not countenancing any rebellion on man’s part to doing their soveriegn will.
The perceptive reader will have noticed that the ushumgals or “great serpents” did _not_ con a woman, they conned a man (Adapa). So then, where are the Hebrews getting the notion that a woman (Eve) has been conned by a serpent in Eden’s garden?
Genesis suggests that Adam and Eve acquire wisdom _after_ eating of a fruit. Two Mesopotamian protagonists frequently identifed as being recast into Adam are Enkidu and Adapa and I agree. However, neither Enkidu nor Adapa acquire wisdom and knowledge as a result of eating. In both cases they possess wisdom _before_ eating! I understand the Hebrews are putting a “new twist” on this (an inversion). Enkidu is called “wise” after he returns to Shamhat when his animal companions the gazelles and wild cattle have fled from him. Adapa has wisdom or forbidden knowledge reserved to the gods (how to recite incantations to break the wing of the south wind) _before_ he appears before Anu and rejects the “food of life” or “bread of life” that would give him immortality.
Genesis 3:4-5 RSV
“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil…the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.”
Motifs associated with Adapa and the southwind myth are frequently cited by scholars as having been recast and assimilated to Adam and Eve and I agree. The problem? The “forbidden food” offered Adapa is offered _not_ by a woman (the Bible’s Eve) but by three “male” deities: Anu, Gizzida, Dumuzi/Tammuz. There is a “surprise” here however! So what is “the surprise”?
In other texts Dumuzi/Tammuz and Gishiza/Gizzida bear epithets that identify them as being _females_! Dumuzi/Tammuz bore the Sumerian epithet ama-ushum-gal-anna, “the mother is a great serpent of heaven” (ama = “mother”) whereas Gizzida in other myths is called Nin-gish-zida “lady vinestock faithful,” (nin = “lady”, gish = “vinestock,” zida = “faithful”). So, the two deities, who, apparently on Anu’s behalf, offered Adapa forbidden food that would take his life according to Ea, were, in other myths, identified _confusingly_ with goddesses! Perhaps this “confusion” is what lurks behind Genesis’ notion that a woman (Eve) offered man (Adam) forbidden food after being persuaded to do so by a serpent that could walk and talk (Ningishzida and Dumuzi in other myths appear in both human and serpent forms). In other words Liberal scholars are correct, motifs from the Adapa and the South Wind Myth are indeed being recast and assimilated to the Garden of Eden story. What these scholars “missed” was that in _other_ myths Tammuz/Dumuzi and Gizzida/Gishzida were _confusingly_ identified as being females or goddesses via their Sumerian epithets ama “mother” and nin “lady.” That is to say someone steeped in Sumerian lore “knew” that Adapa had been offered forbidden food by two dieties who also were confusingly spoken of as being goddesses. So, then Adapa was indeed offered forbidden food by “a female” (ama and nin) just as Adam was offered forbiddden food by “a female” (Eve). While it is true that some scholars render nin-gish-zida as “lord of the good tree,” “lord” in Sumerian is en while nin means “lady.”
Eve is portrayed as being Adam’s wife, she dwells with him in a god’s garden in Eden. She is held responsible for her husband’s demise by offering him forbidden food to eat. She ate this food in order to acquire knowledge and wisdom with the encouragement of Eden’s serpent. She is considered the mother of mankind.
I understand Eve is a fusion and recast of motifs originally associated with Shamhat of the Epic of Gilgamesh and of her patron goddess Innana (Ishtar) in other myths.
Perhaps the notion that a serpent in Eden is successful in persuading a woman in Eden to do something she “ought not do” is a recast of events associated with Innana? Her future husband Dumuzi is lovingly addressed by her as ama-ushumgal-anna “the mother is a great serpent-dragon of heaven” and he has a sheep stall in the edin near Uruk. He also in love-language addressed to him by Innana is likened to being a “fruit-sprouting apple tree” as well as being a “fruit-sprouting-apple-tree-garden” in the edin and she desires _to taste of his fruit_; all this appears to be Sumerian metaphors for love-making: kissing, fondling, caressing, embracing, billing and cooing. He attempts to persuade her to engage in pre-marital love-play and she tells him she desires him but is afraid her parents will learn of her indiscretions. So, in a sense, Dumuzi as an ushumgal, a “great serpent,” attempted to persuade the “lady of edin” (Inanna) to do something she knew she should not do, to taste of his fruit (partake of his kisses and caresses), just as Eden’s serpent persuaded Eve to do something she knew she shouldn’t do, partake of “forbidden fruit.” Eventually Dumuzi and Inanna marry, but she still doesn’t have any knowledge of love-making so she asks her brother the sun-god Utu (Akkadian: Shamash) to descend to the earth (kur) with her to eat of various un-named herbs and of cedar/pine trees to acquire knowledge of how to make love to her new husband. This motif for some scholars (Innana’s eating the cedar/pine nuts of cedar/pine trees to acquire knowledge) anticipates Eve’s eating of a tree to acquire knowledge. After this act of eating, Eve, like Innana will later have sex with her husband in eden/edin.
Please click here for my in-depth article on Eve as having assimilated motifs associated with Shamhat and Inanna (Ishtar).
Please click here for Inanna’s desiring to taste of an ushumgal’s (Dumuzi’s) “forbidden fruit” in a garden in edin.
Innana in hymns found at Nippur is called nin edin “the lady of edin” and Innana edin “Innana of edin” and her husband is called mulu edin “the lord of edin.” So, the “lady of Edin” nin edin (Inanna) ate of a tree to acquire knowledge just like another lady of Eden, Eve. Both Innana and her husband leave edin and die, winding up in the netherworld. Later, both achieve a resurrection from the underworld and return the apple-tree-garden in edin near Uruk. With other scholars I understand that Christianity’s notions about a resurrection from death and a restoration to a paradise called the Garden of Eden, is a recast of motifs originally associated with the Inanna and Dumuzi myths. That is to say Dumuzi is not only one of several pre-biblical prototypes of Eden’s serpent (cf. the Adapa and the Southwind Myth) he is one of several prototypes of Eden’s Adam and ultimately of Jesus Christ to the degree Christ is spoken of metphorically as the “new” Adam. Innana’s name means literally ‘the Lady of Heaven” and the Bible mentions that at Jerusalem the “Queen of Heaven” was worshipped along with her husband Dumuzi who appears in the Bible as Tammuz and they were worshipped by Jews up to and including the Babylonian Exile (cf. Jeremiah 44:16-24 and Ezekiel 8:14). All this is to say that the Garden of Eden and its motifs are drawing upon earlier Mesopotamian motifs, but recasting them in such away as to repudiate them via series of inversions or reversals and Judaism, Christianity and Islam are, in part, heavily-veiled transformations or mutations of the Queen of Heaven Cult (Inanna and Dumuzi). I understand that Genesis’ Adam is a fusion of motifs associated with Enkidu of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Adapa of the Adapa and the Southwind Myth and of Dumuzi of the Inanna and Dumuzi myths.
In seeking parallels in Mesopotamian myths to Eden’s serpent I asked myself a number of questions (cf. below) and then sought their answers in Mesopotamian myths and motifs. It is important to stress again that the Hebrews are not copying the Mesopotamian myths. They are refuting them. These refutations are in the form of inversions or reversals, recasting the protagonists, fusing the several into one, changing the location, time and sequence of events. This was a major undertaking on the Hebrews’ part, for the motifs behind Eden’s serpent are scattered among several different Mesopotamian myths.
1) Does there exist a location in extra-biblical sources called Eden or a place “somewhat” resembling that word?
Yes. The Sumerian word edin describes the uncultivated plain through which flow the Tigris and Euphrates rivers,
just as biblical Eden has a Tigris and Euphrates river flowing through it.
2) Does there exist associated with this location a story about a garden being planted by a god and then man being later created and placed in this garden to care for it on the god’s behalf?
Yes. In the midst of the Sumerian edin the gods have created city-gardens to provide food for themselves, later, tiring of all the hard work they create man to toil in their gardens surrounded by the edin, the uncultivated plain.
3) Does there exist in the extra-biblical source(s) a concept of a walking, talking serpent in such a garden?
Yes. Three gods associated with creating man all bore the Sumerian epithet ushumgal meaning “great serpent,’
“dragon,” or “serpent-dragon.” Being humans they possess the ability to walk and talk to man in their city-garden.
They are: Enki (Ea) of Eridu, Enlil (Ellil) of Nippur, and Marduk (Merodach) of Babylon.
4) Does this extra-biblical source portray a god walking in this garden and engaging in a conversation with man, his gardener?
Yes. All of the above gods enjoy walking about in their city-gardens and engage in conversations with man.
5) Is this serpent portayed as urging man to eat forbidden food denied to him by his god who has warned him he will die if he eats it?
Yes. Three gods, Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi who have serpent associations, are identified as urging man
(Adapa) to eat forbidden food. Ningishzida is shown in human and serpent-dragon form and is called an ushumgal,
Dumuzi was called ushumgal and transformed into a sagkal serpent by Utu to escape his Ugalla captors in the edin.
Anu is a descendant of Tiamat, a goddess, who could assume serpent-dragon form and his some of his children
bore the epithet ushumgal.
6) Is this serpent held as responsible for inciting man to rebel against his god, causing the man to be removed from the garden in eden for his act of rebellion?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal admits that the Anunnaki gods, which include himself and Enlil (who is also called an
ushumgal) are responsible for the rebellion by the Igigi gods in Enlil’s garden at Nippur. These two ushumgals remove
“man” (a euphemism for the Igigi gods in the Atra-Khasis Epic) for this act of rebellion in the garden at Nippur,
replacing the Igigi with humans.
Gishzida (Ningishzida) and Tammuz (Dumuzid) “remove man” (Adapa) after he rebels and refuses to eat the “bread of
of life” and “water of life” Anu has instructed them to offer. They escort man (Adapa) back to his earth (Eridu) from
Anu’s heavenly abode. So a man (Adapa) who obtained “forbidden knowledge” spells to break the wing of the south
wind, and who was denied immortality by Ea’s trickery, was removed by two ushumgals “great-serpents,” (Gishzida/
Ningishzida and Tammuz/Dumuzi) this removal preventing him from eating the “food of life” which would give him and
7) Does this serpent “loose its legs” like Eden’s serpent (it having conned Eve into disobeying God’s warning: “Do not
eat, or you will die,” Eve, in turn coaxing Adam to eat the forbidden food too)?
Yes, in that Dumuzi looses his hands and legs and becomes a sagkal serpent to elude his Ugalla captors in the edin
who have bound his hands and feet to sticks to facilitate their carrying him off the Underworld as a surrogate for
Inanna. Dumuzi is also called ama-ushum-gal-anna “the mother is a great serpent of heaven,” and he offered man
(Adapa) “forbidden food” that if eaten would cause man’s death according to Ea.
“O Utu, you are a just judge, don’t disappoint me! Change my hands, alter my appearance, so that I may escape the clutches of my demons! Don’t let them seize me! Like a sagkal snake that slithers across the meadows and mountains, let me escape alive to the dwelling of my sister Ĝeštin-ana.” Utu accepted his tears. He changed his hands, he altered his appearance. Then like a sagkal snake that slithers across the meadows and mountains, like a soaring falcon that can swoop down on a live (?) bird, Dumuzid escaped alive to the dwelling of his sister Ĝeštin-ana.”
(Dumuzid and Geshtin-ana: c:22.214.171.124)
“There was Dumuzid…The demons seized him there…She looked at him, it was the look of death. She spoke to him (?), it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him (?), it was the shout of guilt: ‘How much longer? Take him away.’ Holy Inana gave Dumuzid the shepherd into their hands…Dumuzid let out a wail…raised his hands to heaven, to Utu…Turn my
hands into snake hands and turn my feet into snake’s feet, so I can escape my demons, let them not keep hold of me.’ Utu accepted his tears. Utu turned Dumuzid’s hands into snake’s hands. He turned his feet into snake’s feet. Dumuzid escaped his demons. (pp. 74-75. “Inana and Dumuzid.” Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. New York & Oxford.Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006).
Sandars “paraphrase” of the above verses:
“They [the demons] held on fast to holy Inanna and stricken with terror she gave Dumuzi into the power of the devils. They said, ‘ This boy, put fetters on his feet, truss him up, pinon his neck in stocks…they pinioned that boy by the arms…”
(p. 156. “Inanna’s Journey to Hell.” N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Books. London. 1971)
“Utu, you are the brother of my wife, Inanna, I am your sister’s husband…Change me, transform my body into a _snake_ and take my hands and feet away. Transform me so that my devils will not hold me and I shall escape. Utu received his tears, changed his body and Dumuzi escaped.”
(p. 151. “Inanna’s Journey to Hell.” N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell from Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Books. London. 1971)
8) Is this serpent famed for its “subtle words” that can ensnare and undo humans to their harm?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal is famed for his subtle words of double-meaning that can ensnare and undo mankind
9) Is this serpent associated with being “wise” and possessing knowledge of a god’s intent toward mankind (Eden’s
serpent presenting itself as knowing God’s true intent: to deny man knowledge and wisdom)?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal is famed as being the “god of wisdom” as well as being a creator of mankind. He seeks to
deny man (Adapa) the knowledge that the forbidden food will really give him immortality.
10) Is this serpent portrayed as being man’s enemy, seeking to deny him immortality?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal (Ea) denies man (Adapa) immortality by ensnaring him with a lie about the forbidden food’s
real properties (it will bestow immortality on man).
11) Does this serpent ever present itself to man as his benefactor, seeking to warn him about a god’s true intentions?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal (recast as Ea) presented himself to man (Adapa) as his benefactor, but he lied to the man
telling him that Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi would offer him food that would cause his death. Enki deliberately
misrepresented (like Eden’s serpent) to a man (Adapa) a god’s (Anu’s) intentions (they wanted to bestow immortality
on man, not kill him).
12) Does the serpent lead the man to believe he will not die if he eats the forbidden food?
Yes. Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi are upset that man (Adapa) has refused to eat the proffered food that will give
him immortality. They ask him “Why did you not eat, you will not live now (possess immortality)?” Ningishzida
in art possesses a serpent-dragon form while Dumuzi in one myth was changed into a Sagkal serpent.
13) Does there exist a motif of man being naked, unaware it is wrong to be naked, then he meets a naked woman and
gives up his animal companions for her companionship like Adam did for Eve in Eden?
Yes. Enkidu of the Epic of Gilgamesh is naked, with animal companions wandering the edin when he meets a naked
woman (Shamhat) at a watering hole. He accepts the woman as his companion after his animals have forsaken him.
The Epic of Gilgamesh at times renders the Akkadian/Babylonian word seru, seri, tseri with a Sumerian sign
called a logogram. This sign, edin, is then “read” by modern scholars (Assyriologists) as seru instead of as edin, just
as we would read the Latin et cetera as “and so on…”
14) Do the naked man and woman “clothe their nakedness” before leaving Eden?
Yes. After Enkidu agrees to accompany Shamhat to Uruk, they clothe their nakedness with her garments before
leaving the uncultivated plain of edin (seru) and its watering hole.
15) Does the woman convince a man to eat “forbidden food” in a location called Eden?
Yes. Shamhat urges Enkidu to eat bread forbidden him as a wild naked animal or beast of the edin (bread). This bread
is eaten while they are both at a shepherd’s camp in the edin (seru) before arriving at Uruk (rendered by the
Sumerian logogram Unug). Other myths reveal that grain made into bread is grown in the city-gardens and fields
belonging to the gods of Sumer. It is _forbidden_ to the wild beasts of the edin for foraging, it is for the table of the
gods who wear clothes and for civilized man who also wears clothing like a god.
Leick understands that Ea was pronounced aya or ayya, in the Bible Moses is told by God that when Israel asks of
him the name of the God who will set them free of their Egyptian bondage he is told tell them ehyeh sent you
(Exodus 3:13-14 ehyeh asher ehyeh “I AM THAT I AM”). So, in Mesopotamian myth man is denied immortality by
Ea/Aya/Ayya, while in the Hebrew account it is Ehyah who denied man immortality. Did the Hebrews “hear”
aya/ayya as ehyeh? That is to say via a homophone or homonym confusion Ea/Aya/Ayya came to equated with
(16) Does a woman tell a man “let _us_ eat” of a tree to acquire knowledge?
Yes. Inanna tells her brother Utu (Akkadian: Shamash) “let us eat” in regards to acquiring knowldege from various
un-named herbs and of cedar/pine trees (consuming apparently pine nuts) growing on the earth. Inanna is called in
the Sumerian hymns at Nippur nin edin “the lady of edin.” Her husband who’s death she is responsible for is called
mulu edin “the lord of edin.” Both die and both are restored after death to dwell once again in the edin near Uruk.
(17) Does a man of edin access a forbidden tree and pay for this with his life?
Yes. Enkidu who roamed edin naked with beasts (gazelles and wild cattle) for companions later accesses cedar trees atop a Lebanese mountain denied to man, for timber. He slays its guardian (Huwawa or Humbaba) and he is to die
for this action.
Other myths found at Nippur state that Inanna who was called nin edin “the lady of edin;” she is portrayed as
wanting “to know” how to engage in sex with her bridegroom Dumuzi by eating of cedar/pine trees. So the cedar/pine
trees forbidden to man (Enkidu), if their “fruit” or pine nuts were eaten, could bestow “knowledge” on man.
That is to say the forbidden access to cedars for a formerly naked man who roamed edin with wild animals for
companions (Enkidu) were also a source of of “divine knowledge” for those eating of their pine nuts (the goddess
Inanna acquriring the divine knowledge of how to have sex with her bridegroom Dumuzi).
18) Is the woman held as responsible for the man who dwells in edin/eden ultimate death, and cursed?
Yes. Shamhat (a harlot-priestess of Inanna at Uruk) is later cursed by Enkidu who wandered edin with gazelles and
wild cattle, he blaming her for his impending death.
Inanna (another prototype of Eve fused with Shamhat) is held responsible for her husband Dumuzi’s death at his
sheep stall in the edin at Uruk.
19) Do both man and woman ultimately die like Adam and Eve?
Yes. Being mortal humans both Enkidu and Shamhat eventually die. Enkidu’s death is mentioned Shamhat’s is
assumed she being an earthly mortal.
Both Dumuzi and Inanna die as well (I have identified them as also being pre-biblical prototypes of Adam and Eve
fused with Enkidu and Shamhat). Their being man and wife and dwelling in a fruiting apple tree garden in the edin at
Uruk being recast in Genesis as Adam and Eve being a man and wife in Eden’s garden.
20) Does a serpent tempt a woman with forbidden fruit?
Yes. Inanna (Ishtar) is tempted with forbidden fruit by her lover Dumuzi in the edin. She speaks of his tasty fruit and
tells him she fears her parents will find out about her lover. He tells her not to worry. Knowledge about “how to have
sex” is even today regarded as “forbidden knowledge” (Parents don’t want their children to have this knowledge,
fearing they will then engage in sex).
Motifs associated with Inanna (Ishtar) have been fused to Shamhat who at times played the role of Inanna in the
sacred marriage at Uruk’s temple, she mating with the king who played the part of Dumuzi the bridegroom
of Inanna/Ishtar (motifs associated with Inanna and Shamhat are being fused together and assimilated to Eve).
(21) Is a serpent “present” when a woman eats of a tree to acquire forbidden knowledge?
Yes. Utu the sun-god is the brother of Inanna and he is present when she eats of trees (Cedars/Pines)
to acquire “forbidden knowledge”: how to have sex with her bridegroom Dumuzi. Utu is called a “dragon” or
ushumgal in other hymns. In other hymns Inanna is called nin edin “the lady of edin.”
The sun-god Utu as a holy “dragon,” an ushumgal (ucumgal):
9. “dijir si-sa2 <d>a-nun-ke4-ne /ucumgal\ kug sud-sud”
(An adab to Utu for Shulgi (Shulgi Q): composite text. Line: 9. The ETCSL project, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford)
22) Does this serpent possess special knowledge about the properties of two wonderous trees like Eden’s serpent?
Yes. Enki the ushumgal has planted a garden in Eridu and within this garden are two fabulous trees, a mesu-tree
and a kiskanu-tree. They both bear produce. So he knows very well the properties of these two trees he planted
or caused to be planted by the Igigi gods who cared for his garden at Eridu, in the midst of the edin.
23) Does this serpent have the ability to change its form at will, becoming (1) invisible like a god, (2) serpent in form, and assume (3) a human form, wearing clothing? (Christianity’s Satan, identified as Eden’s serpent, having these abilities)
Yes. Enki the ushumgal is represented in human form, he can also become invisible. Beneath his altar at Eridu
archaeologists found clay images of snakes, perhaps these snakes are an allusion to Enki the ushumgal?
Ningishzida can assume a dragon form and human form. Dumuzi could assume both forms too.
24) Is this serpent ever identified as being able to walk about in heaven, the earth’s surface (Eden) and the underworld (like Christianity’s Satan)?
Yes. Ningishzida and Dumuzi who offered man (Adapa) forbidden food and thus “play the part” of Eden’s serpent,
were at home on the earth in Sumer’s edin, the underworld, and as gate guards at Anu’s heavenly abode.
25) Is this serpent ever portrayed as a dragon (Satan is called a “serpent” and a “dragon” in the Book of Revelation)?
Yes. Ningishzida is portrayed at times as a dragon with serpentine body, horns, wings, and four legs and like
Eden’s serpent he offered man (Adapa) forbidden food that was supposed to take his life if he ate it. Enki, Enlil
and Marduk although not shown in art as dragons bear the ushumgal epithet translated as either
“great serpent” or “dragon.” Some scholars have suggested that the dragon was a “symbol” of Marduk the god of
Babylon as he defeats a dragon of the sea (in the battle with Tiamat) and a dragon is shown at his side in some art
forms and in hymns Marduk bears the epithet ushumgal meaning “great serpent” or “dragon.” Perhaps this dragon
seated at Marduk’s feat is intended to be Marduk himself as he does bear the epithet ushumgal? If so, then Marduk
could be envisioned at times taking on this serpent-dragon form.
26) Do Mesopotamian myths understand that man _after_ death will spend eternity in a location called eden/edin with a
God (noting here that Jew, Christian and Moslem understand the righteous dead will spend eternity in a paradise
called Eden, with a God)?
Yes. The Sumerians sometimes euphemistically called the Underworld edin. They understood all men, good and evil,
upon death would spend eternity in edin with its resident gods and goddesses (Nergal being the god and his wife
being the goddess Erishkigal). The only “man” who was allowed a resurrection back to life to roam the earth’s
surface and feel the heat of the sun on him was Dumuzi, the king of Uruk. Dumu-zid, “the rightful son” was slain in
the edin at his sheepstall under the great apple tree near Uruk by demons at his wife Inanna’s instigation to be her
surrogate in Hell, securing her release from the netherworld’s edin. Dumuzi, the man once upon a time, then, dwelt in
two edins: (1) the edin at Uruk and (2) the underworld edin. In myths, once a year he ascends (is resurrected) from
the Underworld’s edin to dwell for six months at the earthly edin at Uruk, being the life-force in the edin’s plants:
grasses, herbs, fruit-trees and grain. So, Dumuzi who bore the epithet ushumal, “great serpent” or “dragon” offered
man (Adapa) immortality with the “food of life” and “water of life” but another ushumgal, Ea/Enki conned man into
falsely believing it was the food of death and forbidden to him in order to deny man immortality because he did not
want to lose man as his slave and have to toil in the edin’s city-gardens for his own food and thus give up his
eternal sabbath rest from earthly toil.
Leick on edin being a euphemism for the underworld:
“In Mesopotamia the underworld was known by various euphemisms, such as Sumerian kur, ‘mountainous country’, or ‘abroad’, ki-gal, ‘the great place’, edin, ‘the steppe,’ arali, kur.nu.gi -‘land of no return’, which have their equivalents in Akkadian.”
(p. 159. “Underworld.” Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998)
(27) Christianity understands that the “lord” or “ruler” of the Underworld is Satan who is also called a “serpent” and a
“dragon.” Do Mesopotamian myths have the “lord” of the Underworld bearing the title “serpent” or “dragon”? Some
Medieval Christian art shows a demonic figure devouring sinners in Hell. Is the “lord” of the Mesopotamian
Underworld ever portrayed as devouring living beings?
Yes. Nergal, the ruler of the Underworld, bears the Sumerian epiteth ushumgal (ucumgal) meaning “great serpent” or
“dragon” and one hymn speaks of his devouring his enemies who are rebels (sinners are a type of rebel).
dnergal ucumgal u3-mun dul4-lu us2 zi-jal2-la na8-na8
(An adab to Nergal for Shu-ilishu (Shu-ilishu A): c.126.96.36.199. composite text)
“Nergal, dragon covered with gore, drinking the blood of living creatures!”
(An adab to Nergal for Shu-ilishu (Shu-ilishu A): translation. Line: 16. ETCSL, Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom)
(28) Genesis presents the garden in Eden as a magical place in that at this location there resides “the knowledge of good and evil” which God seeks to _deny_ to man according to Eden’s Serpent.
I have proposed that Adam and Eve’s rebellion and removal is a recast of the Igigi gods at Eridu and Nippur. I have identified Adapa’s lost chance at immortality as being recast and assimilated to Adam and Eve. Adapa was warned at Eridu in Sumer (Lower Mesopotamia, modern Iraq) “not to eat the bread of death” or he would die.
Unknown to some is that the Sumerians understood that the god of knowledge and wisdom, Enki, resided at Eridu. By 2500 B.C. the Akkadians/Babylonians had transformed Enki into Ea and Sumerian Eridug into Eridu.
According to Contenau (1954) Eridu was where “godly knowledge” resided. The “knowledge” man needed to be transformed from a wild naked animal or beast that roamed edin with other wild beasts eating grass and unaware it was wrong to be naked (like Enkidu). Sumerian myths portray man as ignorant and without knowledge of good and evil, he is an animal, who does not know it is wrong to be naked.
All this was to change however. Man the beast would eventually come to live like a god and possess a god’s knowledge. The source of this knowledge denied man at first, would be the god of wisdom, Enki (Ea) of Eridu.
Man would become a servant of the gods, caring for their gardens and present the garden’s produce to the gods to consume in temples. He would learn to build and live in cities like a god, wear clothes like a god and eat the food the gods ate (instead of eating grass like a wild naked animal).
Several scholars (most notably Sayce and Leick) have suggested Eridu is the Mesopotamian equivalent of the Garden of Eden and I concur. But I understand that several locations have been fused together (Please click here for my research) to create Genesis’ Garden of Eden.
I understand that Genesis’ notion that “knowledge of good and evil” resides in a God’s garden in Eden is a recast of Eridu where the Sumerian god of Wisdom and Knowledge, Enki/Ea resided. This god is credited with creating man to replace the rebelling Igigi gods and tasking man with the care of his garden, to provide him daily its produce to eat. This god also in other myths was responsible for warning one man of a flood and to build a boat and stock it with the seed of man and animals to repopulate the earth (the man being Ziusudra of Shuruppak, the Mesopotamian “Noah” also called Atra-Khasis or Utnapishtim).
Genesis’ notion that God seeks to deny man knowledge of good and evil (as per the edenic Serpent’s statement) probably is a recasting of Enki’s jealously guarding the sacred “me” (a Sumerian concept for the totality of knowledge and wisdom neccessary for a civilization to arise and flourish: knowledge of law or right and wrong or good and evil, city-building, irrigated gardens for food, animal husbandry, and the making of clothing).
In myths Inanna of Uruk succeeds in obtaining from Enki the jealously guarded “me” upon a visit with him at Eridu. He throws a banquet in her honor and gets drunk. While inebriated he foolishly gives her the “me” which she immediately accepts and takes with her triumphiantly to Uruk to share with mankind, improving man’s life. When he becomes sober, he is advised what he has done and he tries unsuccessfully to get the “me” back, but he fails. Inanna is hailed by mankind as its benefactor for she has acquired forbidden knowledge, the “me,” from Enki (man’s creator) that will enable man to to live a better life. In Genesis Eve, a lady who dwells in a location called Eden is declared to be the “mother of mankind” and Inanna in the story of the Flood (Epic of Gilgamesh) declares it is she who “gave birth to mankind” as she bewails mankind’s destruction by the Flood.
Inanna, who bore the Sumerian epithet nin edin “the lady of edin” descended to the earth to eat pine/cedar nuts from pine/cedar trees to _acquire knowledge_ on how to have sex with her new bridegroom Dumuzi of Uruk who was called mulu edin “the lord of edin.” It is my proposal that the “me,” jealously guarded and denied man by Enki and acquired by Inanna, was recast as Eve illegally acquiring “the knowledge of good and evil” from Yahweh-Elohim by eating of a forbidden tree. In the Epic of Gilgamesh pines/cedars growing in the Lebanon are denied access to Enkidu (a prototype of Adam), and it is of pine/cedar trees that Inanna ate to acquire knowledge (that is to say she ate of tree, a cedar/pine, who’s access was denied man by the gods).
Please note contradictions abound in the Mesopotamian myths. In regards to man’s acquistion of forbidden knowledge, some myths have man naked at first dwelling with wild animals in the edin unaware it is wrong to be naked. In other words, at first, the gods denied him the knowledge it was wrong to be naked. Sumerian art froms show naked man serving the gods food and drink and tilling the god’s fields in a state of nakedness recalling Adam who tills God’s garden of Eden in a state of nakedness. The gods made man to be their slave, to bear the back-breaking toil of constructing irrigation canals and ditches to provide water for the gods’ city-gardens which produce food for the gods to consume. The gods did _not_ make man as an act of love to have someone to fellowship as taught by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, they made man to ruthlessly exploit him, to give themselves an eternal sabbath-rest from earthly toil; man will provide the gods with life’s necessities: food, clothing and shelter. The gods who at first denied man the knowledge it was wrong to be naked change their mind later. They come to realize that if they want to maintain their high standard of living in the cities they have built for themselves in edin (before man’s creation), they will have to give man their slave or servant knowledge of how to grow food, raise domesticated animals, build cities and create clothing on looms. So the gods gave man formerly forbidden knowledge in order to assure themselves of a high standard of living, they did not want to live like man: without shelter, as a naked, grass-eating ignorant beast, wandering the edin with other naked ignorant animals. In other words the gods _later_ gave man knowledge previously denied him not because they loved or cared about man’s welfare and felt sorry for him, but out of self-interest, they not wanting to loose their high standard of living (if man was kept a naked and ignorant slave or servant how could he possibly provide the gods with life’s necessities: food, shelter and clothing?).
Contenau on the gods at first, before the first dynasty of Babylon (circa 1894 B.C.) not being affectionate or caring towards man:
“A study of the relationships between gods and men reveals that they were predominately those of masters and servants…The conceptions of kindliness or love were entirely absent, at least before the period of the first dynasty of Babylon. God was a master swift to wrath and quick to punish, whose anger could only be assuaged by prayer and, above all, by sacrifices…Originally, at all events, there is no sign in Mesopotamian religion of a concept of a god of love and affection.”
(p. 262. Georges Contenau. Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York. St. Martin’s Press. 1954)
(29) Is Wisdom, acquired _before_ eating or after eating?
For over 100 years several Liberal scholars have suggested that motifs associated with Adapa and Enkidu appear to have been recast and assimilated to Adam and I am in agreement with this notion. What is most interesting is that neither Adapa nor Enkidu acquired wisdom _after_ being offered forbidden food, they acquired their wisdom _before_ being offered forbidden food! Adapa’s wisdom or forbidden knowledge was given him by his god Ea, the god of wisdom at Eridu _before_ he appeared before Anu and was offered forbidden food. Enkidu’s “wisdom or broad understanding” was acquired after having had sex with Shamhat and his animal companions abandoned him. He agrees to leave edin/eden with her and she thereupon shares her clothes with him and they cover their nakedness before leaving edin’s watering hole. Enroute to Uruk they stop at a shepherd’s camp in the edin/eden and he is presented forbidden food (bread and alcoholic drink is forbidden to the wild animals of the edin, it is for the table of the clothed gods and clothed civilized men) by Shamhat on the shepherd’s behalf. The Hebrews have apparently added a “new twist here,” instead of wisdom being acquired _before_ being offered forbidden food, it is acquired _afterwards! The Inanna and Utu myth does, however, portray Inanna acquiring “forbidden knowledge” via the eating of various unamed herbs and of cedar/pine trees (eating the cedar/pine nuts?) and she was called nin edin “the lady of edin.” So the notion that eating of a tree confers wisdom and knowledge is confirmed with this Sumerian myth. In various hymns Inanna is portrayed as a naive young maiden who knows nothing of lovemaking (even today parents don’t want their daughters to possess the “forbidden knowledge” of lovemaking and sex, fearing they will engage in sexual activity with their boyfriends), so Inanna’s eating of a cedar/pine tree to acquire sexual knowledge can be regarded as her acquiring “forbidden knowledge” which would have been denied her by her parents.
Please click here for Part Two.