Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names, and Constellations: Essays and Critiques
The Development, Heyday, and Demise of Panbabylonism by Gary D. Thompson
Copyright © 2004-2020 by Gary D. Thompson
The Development, Heyday, and Demise of Panbabylonism
Astral mythology: Explaining Mesopotamian (and other) mythology as a projection and allegory/metaphor of the movement of celestial bodies. It is an attempt to articulate knowledge of the Sun, Moon, stars and planets. First promulgated by the German star-myth school (by Eduard Stucken). An elaborate system of astronomical mythology is a different category to mythology supposedly being used as a (coded) technical language to explain an elaborate system of astronomical knowledge/astronomical constructs.
Theories of astronomical mythology are no longer popular. They are passé, but not defunct. The benchmark for the high-point of astronomical explanations of mythology comprised the activities of the late 19th-century German star-myth school and the early 20th-century German Panbabylonian school. During this period astronomy was commonly employed to explain mythology/ancient religions. Earlier in the 19th-century – and lasting mid to late 19th-century – there had been the German/British nature-myth school which had included astronomical explanations. One hundred years after the demise of Panbabylonism (at the end of World War I) a minor resurgence in astronomical mythology has occurred. See: Sullivan, Lawrence. (1983). “Astral Myths Rise Again: Interpreting Religious Astronomy.” (Criterion, Volume 22, Number 1, Winter, Pages 12-21). Aspects of the modern renewal copy/repeat themes present in the German star-myth school and the German Panbabylonian school, plus the earlier nature-myth school. An example is Hamlet’s Mill by Giorgio de Santillana and Herth von Dechend (1969). An important/relevant issue is: what is meant by the descriptor ‘astronomical mythology’? Approaches to the supposed content of astronomical mythology vary. There is a need to distinguish between what can be termed categories of explanation of astronomical mythology. Astronomical mythology as explanation can be reduced to 2 convenient (simplified but not distortive) categories. Each of these categories have distinctive parameters.: (1) Star stories (simple/descriptive stories independently invented by cultures). Included within this category are nature-myths. Star stories are usually comprised of catasterisms/star lore. The main sources of Greek star-myths were the lost astronomical poems of Hesiod and Pherecydes and later works by Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Aratus and Hyginus. (2) Coded language myths (preliterate origin, single point of origin, spread by cultural diffusion). This category comprises a more complex approach to the nature and function of astronomical mythology. Mythology is interpreted as a coded technical language for astronomical phenomena. Included within this category is Panbabylonism and the application of the theory to the Old Testament. The application of Panbabylonism (astral mythology) to the interpretation/explanation of Old Testament figures did not rule out historicity. The historicity of traditions was not denied. But the traditions had been shaped by astral motifs. However, the application of astral mythology acted to demolish the historicity of Old Testament figures. Important component parts of Panbabylonism include an equally divided 12-part zodiac and an exact knowledge of precession (and a system of ‘world ages’ based on it). There is no evidence to support the development of an elaborate system of astral myths, especially as a form of technical language. It is difficult to have any patience with claims for a widely spread ancient (pre-literate) system of myth as an astronomical language originating from the establishment of an ancient zodiac and knowledge of precession (precessional time (as calendar?)).
Panbabylonism was/is a school of thought within Assyriology and religious studies. Essentially, Panbabylonism flourished between 1900 and 1914. It was a relatively short-lived movement in scholarship amongst Assyriologists and bible scholars. It formally originated in 1901, reached the zenith of its popularity in 1907, and its effective demise can be dated to 1913. It has been described as a German fantasy. The Panbabylonist position was supported by leading German Assyriologists and biblical scholars (initially Winckler, Jeremias, and Zimmern), and also a number of scholars in Europe and North America. These scholars claimed that there was a single common cultural system extended over the whole of the ancient Near East, which was overwhelmingly influenced by the Babylonians. They maintained that all the religions of the Near East were identical. Using and misusing Babylonian scientific texts and the so-called Epic of Gilgamesh a core of scholars concluded that Babylonian astral science had influenced all religions and cultures. The Panbabylonian school assumed that the Bible (both old and new testaments) was also rooted in Babylonian culture, and not merely influenced by it.
Despite the copious productivity of the principal Panbabylonists, Stucken, Winckler, and Jeremias, very little of their work has retained any lasting significance. The only book translated into English was Des Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients (1904)/The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East by Alfred Jeremias (1911).
The wider dates for Panbabylonism – which was largely a phenomenon in German scholarship – are 1890 to 1925. The Panbabylonists were almost entirely confined to Germany. They can be considered an extreme wing of the astral-myth school. The proponents of Panbabylonism claimed a highly influential/dominant position for early Mesopotamian culture throughout the ancient Near East. The movement placed an exclusive emphasis on the importance of Mesopotamia. Particularly, the Panbabylonists believed that most of the world-wide narratives that are classified as mythology actually deal with astronomy. For the Panbabylonists the astral element they could uncover in a variety of religions and myths demonstrated they had a common origin, and this origin was in Babylon circa 3000 BCE. This article primarily seeks to trace the twin influences leading to Panbabylonism (pan-Babylonismus). (Also termed Pan-babylonianism/Panbabylonianism.) These were (1) the theme of Babylonian influence on the Bible, and (2) the theme of diffusion from Babylon. Panbabylonism became very preoccupied with diffusion. The theme of Babylonian influence on the Bible originated with the discovery of a Babylonian version of a flood myth that had similarities to the flood myth in the Old Testament Book of Genesis. The theme of diffusion of culture from Babylon originated with discoveries and theories regarding Babylonian metrology. Both ideas were to come together in the early 1900s in the Panbabylonian beliefs of Hugo Winckler. Winckler can be considered the real founder of Panbabylonism in his Geschichte Israels, Volume 2, 1900 (Chapter: “The System”). (In Volume II, however, Winckler would affirm that “the understanding of the map of the heavens as the key to mythology belongs to Stucken.” (Eduard Stucken was the source and “guarantor” for Hugo Winckler’s material on astral mythology.) In his Astralmythen, Stucken promoted the idea of the impact of the stellar constellations on the myths of the Babylonians, Hebrews, and Egyptians.) Winckler became the most prominent exponent of Panbabylonism. By 1901, with the publication of his Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier, Winckler had worked out a comparative schema of world mythology based on Babylonian presuppositions. Importantly, the Panbabylonian school of Winckler-Jeremias introduced the notion of a Babylonian ‘Weltanschauung’ (= a world view that comprised a total system of ideas and beliefs based on an astronomical and scientific basis). An alternative term for Panbabylonism is the Astral-mythological school. The more exact designation for Panbabylonism would be Panbabylonian astralism. Ultimately it sought to explain many historical persons and events within a framework of astral mythology (diffused at an early date from Babylonia). (The Panbabylonian theory contained no reason why other cultures could not themselves originate astral myths. The idea of independent or parallel development was rejected. It was argued that it could not account for systematic similarity between myths.) Loosely, the last quarter of the 19th-century and the first quarter of the 20th-century comprised the period for the development, heyday, and demise of Panbabylonism. What came to be known as the ‘Babel-Bibel-Streit’ continued from 1902 to 1920. The debate had importance for the study of theology in Germany.
There were 3 streams of Panbabylonism: (1) Star-myth school, (2) Babel-Bible school, and (3) Gilgamesh school. The Panbabylonian movement and the Babel-Bibel movement were distinct but related movements. (Panbabylonists converted Judaism into an astral religion and Jewish heroes into astral myths.) The star-myth school originated in the last decade of the 19th-century by Ernst Siecke, Eduard Stucken, and Hugo Winckler building upon their ideas. The “Bible versus Babel” controversy originated in the first decade of the 20th-century by Friedrich Delitzsch. The Gilgamesh school also originated in the first decade of the 20th-century by Peter Jensen. Peter Jensen’s unique and radical development of Panbabylonism was the whole Bible was a rewriting of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh epic. It has been suggested that perhaps Jensen could be more accurately termed a Neobabylonian diffusionist rather than a Panbabylonist. (Jensen’s assertions followed the same general method as the assertions of Stucken and Winckler, differing from them only in the material used for comparisons.)
For simplicity the concepts of astronomical mythology can be divided into (1) pre German Star-myth/Panbabylonism period, (2) German Star-myth/Panbabylonism period, and (3) post German Star-myth/Panbabylonism period. Whilst it’s hardly ideal it tends to be useful if the German Star-myth/Panbabylonism period from circa 1890 to 1930 is recognised as including non-German star-myth ideas. (Unfortunately the ideas of the German star-myth school now tend to be overlooked.) Astral mythology dominated much of the German Panbabylonism school.
Before Panbabylonism there were a number of other theories of a dominant widespread civilizing country/culture which lay the influential groundwork that other countries/cultures later followed. An example is seen in the Egyptomania which arose after the French mission to Egypt under Napoleon. The early advocates of Panbabylonism (circa 1890-1925) developed most of their arguments about borrowing around the Sumerian/Akkadian textual corpus. Any possibility of an Egyptian background for the Bible stories was not generally supported or sought. Ultimately, the roots of the Panbabylonism are the early 19th-century debates on the origin of religions.
In the late 19th-century and early 20th-century large quantities of cuneiform tablets and their information attracted the attention of scholars. It soon became evident that some of the most cherished aspects of the Hebrew Bible, such as the Creation and Flood stories, possessed counterparts in earlier Near Eastern literature. (At this time the corpus of Ugaritic/Canaanite literatures was either not yet discovered or not yet studied. Later similarities that would be identified included Yahweh’s battle with Leviathan and the tannin showing similarities with Canaanite Baal myths, which show no signs of dependence on Mesopotamian sources.) The development of Panbabylonism essentially took place in the 1890s. After its heyday it lingered on until circa 1930.
There existed conflict between several Panbabylonists. Alfred Jeremias reserved particularly harsh criticism for the ideas of Peter Jensen. Several of Jensens’ publications (specifically pamphlets?) setting out his views aroused Winckler’s wrath. Jensen could be a severe critic of Winckler’s views. Interestingly, Peter Jensen became embittered with the rejection of his ideas on the significance of the Gilgamesh epic. Theologians and classicists especially ignored his ideas.
Eduard Stucken, Hugo Winckler, and Alfred Jeremias were institutionally marginal. Stucken was without a doctorate, Winckler was academically insecure for most of his career (only receiving a university post when he was 41 years old), and Jeremias did not receive a university chair until he was 58 years old. By being outside the academic mainstream they all were able to develop their new ideas quite freely.
Assyriology can be said to begin with the agreement (achieved working independently) between 4 European scholars (Henry Rawlinson, William Talbot, Edward Hincks, and Jules Oppert) in 1857 on the method for correctly deciphering one particular type of cuneiform script. The decipherment of Assyrian cuneiform caused Assyriology to be acknowledged as a legitimate discipline. The early assyriologists had to work under the shadow of the biblicists, who for the most part considered Assyriology an auxiliary to biblical studies. Many Assyriologists in the early period maintained a traditional doctrinal orthodoxy.
The early discoveries showed that at the earliest stage of the development of cuneiform writing there was a developed system of mathematics. This and the concept of diffusion of ideas from Mesopotamia (and the concept of star myths) were the basis for Panbabylonism. The Panbabylonism existing in Germany from circa 1904 to 1918 was comprised largely of Assyriologists and cuneiform philologists. Additionally, for much of the 19th-century (and declining by the 1920s) the study of Assyriology was often valued primarily as a means of illustrating the Bible. (What had been known about ancient Near Eastern empires had been based on the Bible (Old Testament).) This period of biblical-Near Eastern comparative research resulted in what Samuel Sandmel has labelled as “parallelomania.”
British excavations in the Near East largely recovered the first source material for the initial speculations that later became labelled as Panbabylonism. (The designation “Pambabylonism” was introduced as a caricature in 1903 by the theologian Karl Budde in his highly critical pamphlet Das Alte Testament und die Ausgrabungen. Budde was annoyed that the 3rd edition (published 1902) of Schrader’s Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament had been transformed into Panbabylonist propaganda.
Discovery of Babylonian Astronomy
In 1847 the German Orientalist Julius Oppert (1825-1905) moved to France and in 1869 was appointed Professor of Assyriology in the College du France. In 1856 Oppert gave the first approximate correct rendering of the Michaux Stone (Caillou du Michaux) which had been brought from Mesopotamia to Paris in 1800. This was one of the earliest decipherments of the new newly discovered language on Babylonian inscriptions.
In 1891 the Reverend Archibald Sayce (1846-1933), a pioneer Assyriologist, was appointed Professor of Assyriology at the University of Oxford and held the position until 1919. In 1874 Sayce published a long and important paper titled the Astronomy and Astrology of the Babylonians (Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 3, Part 1), with transcriptions and translations of the relevant cuneiform texts.
Both Oppert and Sayce were the first to recognise and translate astronomical cuneiform texts. Sayce initiated the modern study of Babylonian astronomy in 3 articles co-authored with Robert Bosanquet (1841-1912, an English scientist and musical theorist) and published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (Volumes 39-40, 1879-1880). The 1st article discussed the calendar; the 2nd article discussed/analysed 2 planispheres (including astrolabe A); and the 3rd article discussed/analysed the so-called ‘Venus tablet.’
Notion of Diffusion from Mesopotamia (1)
The Flood Tablets unearthed by the British scholar George Smith in 1872 unleashed a scholarly debate about the origins of culture and religion.
The idea of Babylonian influence on the Old Testament originated with the discovery by George Smith in 1872 of a Babylonian deluge story (this fragment of the flood story was Chapter II of the Gilgamesh epic), and in 1875 of a Babylonian creation story; both similar to the biblical stories. (When Smith first read the deluge story on the tablet he reportedly became very excited and ran around the room and began undressing. This is explained as the excitement of discovery brought on an epileptic fit.) George Smith’s account of the Mesopotamian flood myth as a source for the flood story in Genesis stirred theological controversy. It also created a wave of scholarly interest in cuneiform texts. (Smith quickly prepared a paper to present to the Society of Biblical Archaeology at their premises at 9 Conduit Street in Mayfair.) In 1872 the newspaper announcement by the Assyriologist George Smith (1840-1876) of his discovery of a close parallel in Babylonian cuneiform tablets to the Bible story of the Deluge (he had discovered a Babylonian Noah in cuneiform tablets) served to create an ecclesiastical and scientific sensation sensation in both Britain and France, and an unflagging public and professional interest in the subject of Assyriology in both Europe and North America. Smith announced that the Bible deluge story was merely a Hebrew adaptation of an older Babylonian story. (“The Chaldean History of the Deluge.” appeared in The [London] Times, Number 27551, 4th December, 1872; and “The Chaldean Story of the Deluge.” appeared in The [London] Times, Number 27552, 5th December, 1872.) Coming less than 15 years after Darwin’s book, On the Origin of Species, the Epic of Gilgamesh and its Flood story was received by many as a another great blow to the edifice of Victorian Christianity. Also triggered by Smith’s discovery was an ongoing debate in Britain on the origin of culture and religion that engaged such scholars as James Frazer and Edward Tylor. (Smith first read a paper on his discovery to the December 3rd, 1872, meeting of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. December 3 1872 is reported as a cold and showery day when Smith gave his presentation to the Society of Biblical Archaeology. Because The Daily Telegraph had previewed Smith’s discovery, the room was filled with reporters and members of the public, and the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, was also in attendance.)
His paper “The Chaldean Account of the Deluge.” appeared in The Transactions of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 2, 1873, Pages 213-234.) In 1874/1875 he translated and pieced together the Babylonian creation story. The results of this further work by Smith was published in his book The Chaldean Account of Genesis (1876). Because the earlier Babylonian creation and deluge accounts were so similar to the biblical accounts it was recognised that the Bible narratives had been influenced by the Babylonian accounts. It was perhaps the start of exaggerated assertions concerning links between Babylon and the Bible.
The German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch was in London at the time of the books publication and considered it to be an epoch-making book. He persuaded his brother Hermann to translate the text into German. The result was the book also appeared in a German edition in 1876; with a preface and afterward by Friedrich. Friedrich Delitzsch held that the Deluge accounts derived from a single source. In Germany there existed at that time the belief in a diffusionist cultural history. Initially, Friedrich Delitzsch, a Berlin assyriology professor, was the most important spokesperson for the ideas of Panbabylonism. (It is considered that Friedrich Delitzsch was not actually an ardent proponent of Panbabylonism. He was very interested in what the Mesopotamian material seemed to be indicating in the way of cultural, religious, and mythological influences/diffusion.) Delitzsch marginalised the importance of biblical sources and scholarship by showing that many Old Testament texts could be traced back to earlier Babylonian sources.
The revised 1880 second edition of Smith’s book – The Chaldean Account of Genesis by George Smith and Archibald Sayce – draws extraordinary parallels between cuneiform documents and the biblical book of Genesis.
The closest similarities between Mesopotamian myths and the Old Testament lie in the Flood stories. (Smith’s discoveries comprised incontrovertible evidence that implied a direct borrowing from East the West.) In the pioneering period of Assyriology most scholars assumed the primacy of Hebrew ideas over those of the Babylonians. Interestingly, for both Babylonians and Hebrews the Flood marked the end of an age.
An interesting early proponent of astronomical borrowing from Babylonia was Albrecht Weber. Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) was a German Indologist and historian. He was considered one of the outstanding scholars of the latter half of the 19th-century. In 1848, Weber qualified as university professor in Berlin. In 1856 he became an Adjunct (Associate) Professor of the Language and Literature of Ancient India. In 1867 he was appointed full professor. Weber was a member of the Academy of Sciences of Berlin, and was the author of many books and periodical contributions on classical subjects. Weber educated a whole generation of Indologists. Also, he was a close friend of Max Müller. The problem of the chronology of Indian texts induced Weber to study astronomical texts. In his Die vedischen Nachrichten von den Naxatra (“Vedic accounts of the Nakshatras”), published in 2 parts, 1860 and 1861, he concluded (correctly) that the Indian ‘lunar mansions,’ the nakshatras, could not have originated in China (‘lunar lodges’) as this type of system was mentioned earlier in India. After studying the semantic development of the word nakshatra in Vedic sources, Weber concluded (incorrectly) that the Indian (and other ?) concept of lunar ‘mansions’ had been borrowed from Babylonia.
Also, the discovery in 1887 of the cuneiform Tell el-Amarna tablets in Egypt, revealed a network of ruler correspondents had existed in Western Asia. The content of the tablets convinced researchers such as Archibald Sayce that Mesopotamian arts and sciences had dominated the scribal period of the Late Bronze Age throughout the region.
Note: Frank Scherer in his book, The Freudian Orient (2015) writes: “Inspired by the sensational archaeological discovery of a large stele in the acropolis of Susa (now Iran) inscribed with a Babylonian version of of the flood myth that showed astonishing similarities to the flood myth known from the Old Testament (Genesis), all three [i.e., Stucken, Winckler, and Jeremias] promoted “Panbabylonism”.” This seems to be a confused reference to the recovery of a black diorite (stone) stele at Susa by a French expedition in 1901. The Stele – removed from Babylon during a raid – contained laws, not a flood myth.
The babel-bibel controversy was between the emerging discipline of assyriology and its representatives, and Protestant theology and clergy.
Early in the 19th-century research in Assyriology began to instill doubt in devout members of the clergy about the accuracy of biblical history. “As early as 1847, a member of the Anglican church protested against the further prosecution of the excavations in Assyria, being alarmed at the idea that the annals of the Assyrian kings might test the credibility of biblical history.” (“Images of Assyria in 19th and 20th Century Scholarship.” by (the assyriologist) Eckart Frahm. In: Steven Holloway. (Editor). Assyriology, Orientalism, and the Bible. (2006, Pages 79-94, see pages 78-79.)
For a long time the believed distinctiveness of the religion of Israel was supposed to lie precisely in its seclusion from foreign influences. (Also, it should not be overlooked that during the 19th-century most theological scholars assumed the primacy of Israelite ideas over those of the Babylonians.) The German Orientalist Eberhard Schrader (1836-1908) was the first scholar to publish, in his book Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (1872), a compilation of what he believed were elements in the Old Testament that were borrowed from Babylonian religion. The commentary was arranged by canonical order of the Old Testament books. His commentary moved through each chapter and verse of the Old Testament, stopping at each verse where comparative philology, mythology, geography, or historical examples could shed light. It displayed a wide knowledge of the history of the ancient Near East and also of ancient languages. An English-language translation by Owen Whitehouse, of the second enlarged German edition, appeared in 1885-1888. (The German-language work was subsequently issued in revised form in 1903 by the German Assyriologists Hugo Winckler and Heinrich Zimmern. Needless to say they rewrote it in the interests of Panbabylonism. Schrader’s 3rd-edition by Zimmern and Winckler was permeated with the tenets of Panbabylonism. The so-called 3rd edition by Zimmern and Winckler, with Eberhard Schrader’s name retained on the title page, has every word originally written by Schrader removed and substituted with those by Zimmern and Winckler.)
Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament by Eberhard Schrader published (2nd expanded edition, 1885-1888) has been described as a model of thorough scholarship that helped lead to the founding of the Deutsche Orient Gesellschaft (German Oriental Society) in 1898 (which eventually led to the German excavations in Babylon and Assur). In 1899, the Deutsch-Orient Gesellschaft obtained permission from the Ottman authorities to conduct excavations at Babylon – resulting in a 15 year German excavation there. Schrader was a learned scholar and has been described as being free of bias.
For some scholars all Bible problems were to be explained by Babylonian culture, religion, and mythology.
Babel-Bibel proponents have been carelessly identified by many modern historians with the Panbabylonists and the Star-myth School. To identify the Babel-Bibel School with the Panbabylonist School is too simplistic, they were not really identical. To an extent the Babel-Bibel-Streit did originate from the tenets of Panbabylonism. The Panbabylonists held that all major myths throughout the world derived from a system of narratives created in Babylon/Mesopotamia circa 5000-3000 BCE. In the Babel-Bibel diffusionist scheme certain features of stories within the Bible are identified earlier Babylonian literature. However, Panbabylonists such as Alfred Jeremias held that Saul is the moon, David is Marduk, and Solomon is Nabu. Also, according to Jeremias the entire literature, history, theology, and thinking of Israel are the outworking of Babylonian ideas. Everything in Israel is Babylonian.”
Panbabylonism became an particular/important feature of the larger Babel-Bibel controversy. The application of Panbabylonism (astral mythology) to the interpretation/explanation of Old Testament figures did not rule out historicity. The historicity of traditions was not denied. But the traditions had been shaped by astral motifs. However, the application of astral mythology acted to demolish the historicity of Old Testament figures.
Discovery of Babylonian Astronomy
The German Jesuit Joseph Epping (1835-1894) was the founder of the study of cuneiform mathematical astronomical texts. In 1876 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the Jesuit College at Blijenbeck Castle, Holland.
When arriving at Blijenbeck Castle in 1881 to work on his Alphabetisches Verzeichniss (published in 6 parts, 1882-1886) the German Jesuit Johann Strassmaier (1846-1920), an Orientalist and leading pioneer in Assyriological studies, sought the help of Epping to understand the cuneiform mathematical astronomical texts he had been copying in the British Museum since 1878; particularly the ones he had come across that year and several of which were dated.
Epping initially succeeded in 1881 in understanding the concluding columns of a lunar ephemeris (BM 34033). The end results of studying further cuneiform mathematical astronomical texts in the British Museum that were copied by Strassmaier were published by Epping in his small book Astronomisches aus Babylon (1889).
The published works of Epping and Strassmaier, which showed the sophisticated content of late Babylonian astronomy, gave impetus to the Panbabylonian school which uncritically projected it back to earlier periods.
Work by others at this time included statements about Babylonian astronomy and astro-theology. Belief in a high level of Babylonian astronomical knowledge and a system of Babylonian astro-theology preceded the star myth school and Panbabylonism. “Astronomers will welcome this ancient list of festivals, as it proves very clearly the high character of the astronomical knowledge of the Babylonian priests.” “The discovery of an important list of solar festivals such as we have here is an important addition to our knoeledge of Babylonian astro-theology.” See the short article (an extract from an article in The Times): “Babylonian Sun-Worship.’ by Anon (Knowledge, December 30, 1881, Page 174). See also the short correction of inaccuracies by Theophilus Pinches “Sungod Festivals.” (Knowledge, Volume 1, January 27, 1882, Pages 278).
Notion of Diffusion from Mesopotamia (2)
In the late 19th-century the idea of cultural diffusion throughout history was influential in Germany. Questions gradually polarised into a debate over polygenesis versus monogenesis. This helped lead the way to Panbabylonism. In 1889 the German Orientalist Carl Lehmann-Haupt (1861-1938), Professor of Ancient History at the University of Innsbruck, submitted a paper titled Das altbabylonische Maass- und Gewichtssystem als Grundlage der antiken Gewichs-, Münz- und Maassysteme [The Old Babylonian System of Volume and Weight as the Foundation of the Ancient System of Weight, Coinage, and Volume] to the 8th International Congress of Orientalists meeting in Stockholm. (See: Actes du Huitième Congrès International des Orientalistes, Tenu en 1889, Section I: Sémitique et de L’Islâm, Pages 165-249.) The paper resulted in the general acceptance of the notion that a single system of measures spread throughout the world by diffusion from Mesopotamia. The further influence of the paper was that it was also reasonable to infer that scientific thinking spread by diffusion from Mesopotamia. Hence, during the 1890s there was the development of the notion of diffusion of culture from Mesopotamia. This was to influence the star-myth school of both Ernst Siecke and Eduard Stucken.
Overall diffusionism originated with a group of Austro-German anthropologists, led by Fritz Graebner and Wilhelm Schmidt. They rejected 19th-century evolutionism in favour of a belief that a few core cultures influenced all later societies. This diffusion, or spreading, of culture traits was believed to be the fundamental influence in human development. By analysing the cultural behaviours and aspects of a society, the diffusionists believed they could determine from which core culture that society derived its civilization. Because the diffusionists called the original ancient civilizations “kulturkreise” (or “cultural clusters”) they were also known as the kulturkreise school of anthropology. Later, a British group of diffusionists, led by Grafton Elliot Smith and William J. Perry, argued that only one civilization was responsible for all cultural development. The English hyper-diffusionist writers Smith and Perry replaced Panbabylonism with an equally all-embracing Pan-Egyptionism. They believed that the civilization fitting their theory was ancient Egypt and that ideas were spread throughout the world from ancient Egypt, by voyagers who were seeking precious jewels. This theory was called the Manchester, or heliocentric (sun-centred) school of thought. The metaphor of the sun suggested that all cultures radiated from only a single source. The diffusionist approach to anthropology was dominant in early 20th-century Europe. However, it was thought to be an inadequate theory by later scholars because it disregarded important geographical and psychological differences in culture.
Evolutionists believed in a 3-step model of cultural evolution: a ‘magical’ stage is replaced by a ‘religious’ stage, which gives way to a ‘scientific’ stage. Diffusionism did not completely shed its evolutionist associations. Most diffusionists still believed that change generally led progress and increased ‘sophistication.’
Panbabylonism and diffusion
For the Panbabylonists, all myths are concerned with the movements of the sun, the moon, the planet Venus, and precession- and originated in Mesopotamia. This system – held to be completely developed in Mesopotamia by 3000 BCE – was then diffused over the whole earth, being found even today in the myths of the ‘primitives.’ The Panbabylonists saw evidence of this diffusion in the astronomical knowledge they believe was implied in mythological systems (i.e., naturistic origin of myths}. They argued that because such scientific observations were impossible for most archaic peoples the knowledge was obtained from elsewhere – a single source. Thus the Panbabylonists linked the naturistic origin of myths in Mesopotamia with their historical diffusion from Mesopotamia. Against opposing viewpoints on the origin of mythology, the Panbabylonists emphasised what they saw as the highly elevated, ‘scientific’ origin of mythology, and its diffusion even among the so-called most ‘primitive’ tribes.
Note: Panbabylonian influence in Asia was maintained. At least one Panbabylonist held that Chinese writing is a product of cuneiform script and Chinese culture a Panbabylonian extension.
Astronomical Interpretation of Mythology
The French scholar Charles Dupuis was the founder of astralism and his bloated Origine des tous les cultes: ou, Religion universelle is the ancestor of all modern European works on astral mythology. (19th-century astral mythology has been described as the prototype of 20th-century archaeoastronomy.). Dupuis may have been influenced by astral theories of myth set out in Histoire du ciel [L’histoire du ciel] by Noël-Antoine Pluche (1739), a French priest. Charles Dupuis (1742-1809) and Comte de Volney (Constantin François de Chassebœuf; 1757-1820) (both French scholars) were pioneers in arguing for an astral-mythical interpretation of Jesus and Christianity, and other stories. He was also motivated by the antireligious fervour of post-revolutionary France (the period of the French Revolution dated 1789-1799). Charles Dupuis explained all religious myths as astronomical in origin. Charles Dupuis tried to prove that all primitive religions were evolved from a system of astral mythology originating in Upper Egypt. See: Dupuis, Charles François. (1794/1795). Origine des tous les cultes: ou, Religion universelle. (7 Volumes (in octavo) (appeared 1794) plus 1 Volume of plates (i.e., atlas) (appeared 1795)). Alfred Jeremias acknowledged this books’ contribution to the astronomical interpretation of mythology. Jeremias stated that Dupuis had published the ‘masterwork’ and Stucken and Winckler had made new/additional discoveries about such. Also see the much smaller book: The Ruins by Comte de Volney (1793). In Volney’s view, the entire Gospel tradition represented an astral myth.
The development of the astronomical interpretation of mythology basically originated with scholars such as Max Müller (1823-1900) who developed the ‘comparative mythology’ method of investigation. Müller considered mythologies to be primitive rationalisations of celestial phenomena. In its extreme form, proponents reduced the content of all myths, legends, and even fairy-tales to the eternal contest the sun and night, and also interpreted biblical and early Christian narratives entirely in terms of solar mythology. Eduard Stucken is an example of this type of extreme proponent. Proponents of the ‘Naturmythologie’ theories drew from Indian writings such as the Rigveda. These texts were considered to be the oldest Indo-European sources. Later Indian commentaries on the Rigveda seemed to confirm that natural phenomena were the actual subjects of myths. This led to the situation where proponents of the ‘Naturmythologie’ theories felt confident regarding their efforts to retrace the original meanings of myths. Within this conceptual framework even if the myth does not directly mention natural phenomena the researcher assumed that natural phenomena were implied. Also in the early 19th-century some scholars tried to reconstruct the oldest Indo-European religion in a manner similar to that used at the time for the attempted reconstruction of a proto Indo-European language. amongst these early scholars were the Grimm brothers who concentrated on the Old Germanic heritage and employed the German folk tales current at the time, as well as the Edda. The German folk tales collected by the Grimm brothers were considered to be old Germanic myths reduced over time to folk tales. Later followers of the work of the Grimm brothers added the notion of the folk tales as always being remainders of ‘Naturmythen.’ They believed the knowledge of this had been lost by by the people who conveyed the folk tales. The assumption was that diligent researchers could recover the original meaning which was always nature-related. As example: A torn cloak actually is allegory/code meaning a break in the cloud cover. Obviously the data did not decide the interpretations; as it should. See the Introduction by Jørgen Prytz-Johansen (1911-1989, Danish scholar, historian of religion) to Handbuch der Religionsgeschichte by Jes Asmussen and Jøorgen Laessøe (3 Volumes, 1971-1972).
A somewhat overlooked influence is Henry Rawlinson’s mistaken notion that the Babylonians possessed advanced knowledge of the planets. This was uncritically accepted and promulgated by by his brother George Rawlinson (The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World (1879, Pages 571-579)). It resulted in numerous astral interpretations of Mesopotamian myth and religion and helped contribute to Panbabylonism.
Beginning circa 1880 various academics and popular writers began to increasingly publish astronomical interpretations of mythology. (Astralmythologie (to use German term) interpreted religion, myth, and rituals almost exclusively in terms of astronomical events.) For example: Theogonie und Astronomie by Anton Krichenbauer (1881). Krichenbauer (1825-1884), a classical philologist, interpreted Homer’s Iliad as an astronomical allegory. The sun-myth theory of Ignác Goldziher, Mythology Among the Hebrews and its Historical Development (1877), depended largely on etymologies and was discredited soon after its appearance. In 1892 the German folklorist Ernst Siecke (1846-1935) published his Liebesgesschichte des Himmels. According to Siecke, myths must be understood literally because their contents always refer to some specific celestial phenomena, namely the forms and movements of the planets, stars, and moon. The result of his numerous publications was that interest in star myths generally and the particular interest in Babylon had a mutual affect on each other and resulted in their combining together. (The pan-lunarisn of Siecke overemphasised the role of the moon in cultures.) Eduard Stucken (Astralmythen, 1896-1907) (at least initially) sought to explain all the mythologies of the world on the basis of supposed astral lore encrypted in Mesopotamian myths.
The astronomical method of interpretation of mythology applied by Eduard Stucken (and later adopted by the key Panbabylonists) was simply the restricted application/extension of the nature method of interpretation of mythology applied by such persons as Wilhelm Schwartz (Friedrich Leberecht Wilhelm Schwartz, 1821-1899). There was actually, however, limited astral interpretation within Stucken’s Astralmythen. The title Astralmythen is rather misleading as Stucken only ocasionally discussed (proposed) astronomical mythologies. Stucken’s Astralmythen is actually an example of the Comparative School of Mythology in its most extreme form. The roots of Panbabylonism were in comparative mythology. Suzanne Marchand (Down from Olympus (2003)) has described Stucken’s Astralmythen as “bizarre.” Also, the book was written in an iconoclastic manner. According to Stucken, Abraham is originally the constellation Orion, and Sarah is the star Sirius. Also, Abraham and Sarah are parallel figures to Osiris and Isis in Egyptian mythology. According to Stucken the accounts of Abraham go back to 2 Babylonian sources, the legend of Etana and Istar’s Journey to the Underworld. Not a lot is known about what the Panababylonists believed about supposed coding methods and rules. According to Hertha von Dechend’s predecessor Eduard Stucken there were formal formulas of astral mythology. In an article on Panbabylonism in The American Journal of Theology, Volume 12, 1908, it is explained that Stucken applied the ‘astral’ test to the myths of various people. It was believed by Stucken that mythology was converted into a formula for universal application. In the case of Israel this particularly constructed mythology was later demythologized and recast as Biblical historical figures.
Stucken’s background is interesting: The German dramaticist and author Eduard Stucken was an exotic and esoteric writer of neo-Romantic tendencies with a predilection for mythological themes. He came from an old Bremen merchant family . After extensive archaeological, philosophical, scientific, linguistic, and ethnological studies he turned to writing. In addition to his plays and historical novels he wrote a series of books on ethnographic and linguistic topics. His Grail sagas were played on German stages at the beginning of the 20th-century.
Eduard Stucken was a nephew of the anthropologist Adolf Bastian. Stucken completed a course in astronomy in Hamburg then went with Robert Koldewey’s 1890-1891 German Oriental Society expedition to the Hittite site Sendschirli in northern Syria. On his return to Berlin Stucken studied multiple ancient languages but does not seem to have acquired sufficient knowledge of any. He was not – as some persons believed – a linguist. The first volume of his Astralmythen was published in 1896 and was crammed with philological detail. In it he argued that the origin of all myths (especially Old Testament stories) and art was Assyrian astral sciences. (Like the author’s of Hamlet’s Mill (1969) he sought to explain all the mythologies of the world on the basis of supposed astral-lore encrypted in Mesopotamian myths.) The volume was written as his doctoral dissertation but it was rejected. Stucken simply proceeded with additional volumes. In his second volume of Astralmythen published in 1899 he rejected Adolf Bastian’s ideas of independent cultural evolution and universal “elementary forms of thinking.” (The polymath and pioneering ethnologist/anthropologist Adolf Bastian was Stucken’s uncle.) Instead, Stucken argued for the diffusion of all myths from a ur-Babylonian form. After all 5 volumes of his Astralmythen were published (1896-1907) Stucken focussed on writing plays and novels. The Panbabylonists considered Stucken to be a dilettante. Stucken’s ideas of astral myths were adopted by the Panbabylonists but usually Stucken’s Astralmythen was not cited directly.
Dupuis held to the unity of all ancient religions and the astral origin of all myths. This is substantially the point of view of Eduard Stucken. Stucken, unlike Dupuis, held that all myths diffused to the rest of the world from Babylonia. Any influence of Dupuis on Stucken has not been shown and likely Stucken’s ideas were formed independently of his predecessor Dupuis even though broad common agreement exists. Stucken was the originator of the theory of Panbabylonism. The comparative mythographer Stucken was the first to claim that ancient Mesopotamia was the source of a tendency to personify and allegorise the movements of heavenly bodies as mythic projections of the activities of gods/goddesses and from Mesopotamia these mythic interpretations diffused throughout the ancient world as astral mythology and astral religion.
According to Panbabylonists myth originated from ancient Mesopotamian (Babylonian) attempts to articulate growing knowledge of the stars and planets (i.e., Babylonian astrology and astronomy). According to Panbabylonism the mythology of the whole world originated as a system of sun, moon, star, and skylore developed by the Babylonians circa 3000 BCE. Additionally the Panbabylonian school maintained there was a time when Babylonian astronomers circa 5000 BCE began the year with the constellation Gemini, after which came Taurus, followed by Aries, then Pisces. Also represented more or less by Leo Frobenius, a sun-myth advocate, in his book Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes (1904); and by Ernst Siecke (sometimes (mistakenly) spelled Seiche) in the ‘Panlunarism’ of his Drachenkämpfe (1907). Within ‘Panlunarism’ the centre of all mythology was believed to be the moon. Representatives of this theory were Eduard Stucken, Georg Hüsing, Hugo Winckler, and Alfred Jeremias.
The excessive speculations of the ‘Astralmythologie’ school rejected any notions of independent or parallel developments of astronomical knowledge. It was simply assumed that all mythologies were based on astronomical events containing detailed but hidden information that spread throughout the world by cultural diffusion.
The ill-founded ideas of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend still affect modern research into the origin of mythology. An example is the ideas of the academic David Pankenier into the basis for early Chinese mythology. Modern adherents to the Panbabylonism that is Hamlet’s Mill who uncritically support its interpretations are obviously not familiar with the 19th-century/early 20th-century history of the interpretation of religion and mythology/folk tales. Outside of knowledge of this conceptual framework modern investigators – claiming knowledge and insight – have proceeded to attach whatever interpretations to the data chosen for use.
Charles Dupuis in his Origine des tous les cultes: ou, Religion universelle proposed a common origin and unity of the astronomical and religious myths of ancient peoples. Among the numerous factors that enabled astralism/Astralmythologie to survive into the late 20th-century and present were (1) the abuse of comparative method, (2) the abuse of cross-cultural comparisons, and (3) the lack of contextualised evidence. Contextualised evidence is based on factors that address whether a strategy is useful, feasible to implement, and accepted by a particular community of scholars.
Panbabylonian Theory and Weltanschauung
In the late 1800s some German scholars believed they had the materials and expertise to tackle the big question of of the geographical origins of all myths, religions, and symbols. amongst this group were Friedrich Delitzsch, Fritz Hommel, Eduard Stucken, Hugo Winckler, Peter Jensen, Felix Peiser, Heinrich Zimmern, and later Alfred Jeremias and Ferdinand Bork.
According to Panbabylonism theory myth from its very beginning developed from astronomy – it was a projection of astral phenomena. According to the Panbabylonians it was the supposed old-Babylonian Weltanschauung and culture developed on an astronomical and scientific basis which always underlay religious and cultic symbolism. Further, the Panbabylonian school held that all religious and cultic symbolism derives from the Babylonian world view (Weltanschauung).
According to the Panbabylonians such as Winckler and Jeremias, myth could not have developed an inherently consistent Weltanschauung (which they believed they had identified in Babylonian religion/mythology) if it had originated first/solely from one or more such sources as primitive magical conceptions, dream lore, animistic beliefs, or other superstitions. They believed a Weltanschauung could develop only from a specific concept which was the idea of the world as an ordered whole – and that this condition was fulfilled only in Babylonian astronomy and cosmogony. For the Panbabylonians this particular historical orientation seemed to be a breakthrough which for the first time opened up the possibility of seeing myth not as a product of pure fantasy but rather as an intelligible and self-contained system. However, in the hands of the Panbabylonians, it was a form of a priori assertion (assumption) about the direction and aim of mythological research. The assumption that all myths were of astral origin, and that ultimately they are ‘calendar myths,’ was the core of the Panbabylonian method. For the Panbabylonists the astral explanation became the ‘Ariadne’s thread’ (= the way of solving a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding) which alone could offer a suitable pathway through the labyrinth of mythology. This general postulate was repeatedly called upon by the Panbabylonists to fill the gaps in empirical documentation and proof. The discoveries of archives at such places as Ugarit and Ebla, after the demise of Panbabylonism, would have provided the Panbabylonists with much needed ‘ammunition.’ However, these type of discoveries show it isn’t all Ugarit/Ebla and it isn’t all Babylonian.
The Panbabylonists maintained that the cuneiform texts showed that at a very early date the Babylonians believed the universe is double. According to the Panbabylonists the early Babylonian (imperial) cosmology comprised a worldview dominated by the equivalence “as above, so below.” In actual fact this was a very late belief only.
In the 1880s 2 Babylonian king lists were published for the first time. However, because of mis-readings and the general uncertain state of interpretation at the time, the first chronological models placed the reigns of kings far too early. With the gradual publication of new lists and datings the estimated dates of their reigns were gradually placed lower. In particular, the time between the estimated rule of Sargon of Akkad and Hammurabi of Babylon began to lessen. Cuneiform chronology began to have the appearance of being somewhat firmly established, but exactness was not suitable achieved until the 2nd half of the 20th-century. Up to circa 1930 Sargon of Akkad was generally believed to have reigned circa 3,800 BCE. This chronological error partly influenced the early dating of Babylonian astronomy by the Panbabylonists to circa 3,000 BCE. During the hey-day of Panbabylonism (early 19th-century) the chronology of early Mesopotamian/Babylonia was in a confused state. Very early dates were mistakenly established (and encouraged by Panbabylonists). (Hammurabi was once dated to circa 2400 BCE. The Mari records indicate that Hammurabi was a contemporary of Shamshi-Adad, who is dated to circa 1700 BCE.) Mesopotamian/Babylonian chronology was not suitably stabilized until circa the 1940s. At the turn of the 19th-century Sargon of Akkad was dated to circa 3,800 BCE until decades later circa 2,350 BCE was confidently established. (In one of his publications Jeremias dated Sargon to 2,650 BCE.) Hermann Hilprecht (who was also a Lutheran minister) had no problem with dating Enshakushanna, an early king of Uruk, to circa 6,500 BCE. The current dating is circa 2,500 BCE. Prior to the 1950s new material always compelled lowering of dates. (See, for example: “A Third Revision of the Early Chronology of Western Asia” by William Albright (Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, Number 88, December, 1942, Pages 28-36).
Biblical-Near East comparative research in the late 19th-century eventually led to a quite spectacular controversy/debate, beginning early in the 20th-century. It is worth noting that Delitzsch’s 1878 acceptance speech (“Keilinschriftenforschung und die Bibel”) when he was appointed Professor of Assyriology and Semitic Languages at Leipzig University stressed his view that a close similarity existed between Assyrian-Babylonian religion and the religion of the Bible. (Delitzsch was never a Panbabylonist. Neither did he take any notice of Panbabylonism. He was for the priority of Babylon over the Bible.)
In 1891 the Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern published an article (in Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Band 11) in which he claimed that the feast of Purim, mentioned in the Old Testament (only in the Book of Esther), is of Babylonian origin.
In 1892 the Assyriologist Peter Jensen published two articles on Elamite proper names (in Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes) in which he claimed (1) that the names Haman and Vashti in the Book of Esther are the names of Babylonian deities, (2) that the names Mordecai and Esther (in the Book of Esther) are the Babylonian deities Marduk and Ishtar; and (3) Hadassa, a Babylonian word for bride, is another name for Esther. (Writing in 1908, George Barton identified Jensen’s 2 articles as the beginning of Panbabylonism. However, several other German scholars published similar articles at this time.)
In March 1894, Paul Haupt presented at a conference of the American Oriental Society the lecture, “History of the Biblical Source.” Much of the content matched Delitzsch’s later 1902 lecture. Haupt’s lecture was later printed in the literary supplement, Ner Hama’aravi, Volume 1, Number 6, June, 1895, Pages 2-10.
In 1895 Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) published his book, Schöpjung und Chaos, Urzeit und Endzeit. In this study, largely dealing with the New Testament Book of Revelation, Gunkel also attempted the trace the influence of the Babylonian creation-myth in the Old Testament. Gunkel identified analogies between the dragon in the Babylonian creation epic and the dragon in the Book of Revelation. Gunkel sought support in Jensen’s arguments concerning Babylonian proper names in the Book of Esther. Also, in 1895 Hugo Winckler published Volume 1 of his Geschichte Israels in Einzeldarstellung. In this volume Winckler viewed the history of Israel from the standpoint of Eberhard Schrader’s Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (1872). Between circa 1895 and 1900 Winckler also published various minor writings on the history of Israel from this same standpoint.
In 1896 Heinrich Zimmern published the “Babel-Bibel” pamphlet Vater, Sohn und Fürsprecher in der babylonischen Gottesvorstellung. It presented many ideas that were to be later expressed in 1902 by the German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch in his lecture series. However, because of limited readership it – and similar publications from a number of other authors in the 1890s – did not create controversy. (Also, in 1896 Stucken’s Astralmythen: I, Abraham appeared.)
In 1899 Hugo Winckler published Das alte Westasien. Both this publication and Winckler’s earlier Geschichte Israels in Einzeldarstellung (Volume 1, 1895) precipitated the 1902 “Babel-Bibel” controversy by the Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch. (Interestingly, Winckler believed that behind Babylonian polytheism there was actually a doctrine of monotheism that was held by chosen intelligentsia.)
Beginning 1900 (Assyrisch-Babylonische Mythen und Epen), Peter Jensen published a transliteration and translation of the Gilgamesh material with an extensive commentary. Jensen began the argument that the Mesopotamian myths (Gilgamesh in particular) were the foundation for all world folk tales, including the Bible (Jensen later expanded his ideas in 2 large volumes published in 1906 and 1924). For Jensen, Israelite history was simply a series of repetitions of the Gilgamesh story. The story of Jesus Nazareth in the New Testament was simply a retelling of Gilgamesh. Jeremias made the first German translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, Zdubar-Nimrud, eine altbabylonische Heldensage, in 1891.
Also, publication of “Himmel, kalender und mythus.” by Hugo Winckler (Altorientalische Forschungen, Zweite Reihe, Band II, 1899, Pages 354-395).
Note: For all those involved in speculation about Babylonian mythology and its spread, the origins and uniqueness of Christianity was a subject that was central to their work.
The German folklorist Ernst Siecke (1846-1935) was the real founder and most active supporter of the star-myth movement. For Siecke, myths are to be be understood literally because their contents always refer to some specific celestial phenomena. In 1892 Siecke published his Liebesgesschichte des Himmels. This was the first of his many books and pamphlets supporting an astronomical interpretation of mythology. The result of his publications was that interest in star myths generally and the particular interest in Babylon had a mutual affect on each other and resulted in their combining together.
In 1892 the German Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern published a paper “Der Jakobssegen und der Tierkreis.” (Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Verwandte Zimmern, Siebenter Band, Pages 161-172) in which he showed his willingness to consider astronomical interpretations of Biblical literature.
The Star-Myth Movement laid emphasis on the predominant importance of the Moon (“Panlunarism”) and also the Sun. Another term used for the Star-Myth Movement is the ‘Mythological School.’ Members of the ‘Mythological School’ included: Wolfgang Schultz (1881-1936), Georg Hüsing (1869-1930), Leopold von Schroeder (German Indologist; 1851-1920), Robert Bleichsteiner (Viennese ethnologist; 1891-1954), Fritz Röck (Viennese ethnologist; 1879-1953), the ‘foreign academics’ Walter Anderson (German ethnologist; 1885-1962), Rudolf Geyer (1861-1929), Heinrich Lessmann (1873-1916), Nikolaos Politēs (1852-1921), Wilhelm Roscher (1845-1923), and Heinrich Wossidlo (German (philologist?)). Franz Linnig (1832-1912) can also be included. [Note: It has been very difficult to locate any information about Heinrich Wossidlo excepting a reference to him as a member of the ‘mythological school’ and a reference to him as a contributing author to the journal Mitra. The key to finally identifying and finding biographical information about H. Wossidlo was a Russian-language booklet/pamphlet dated 1930 mentioning H. Wossidlo (Waren). It is likely he is related (brother?) to the folklorist Richard Wossidlo (1859-1939).]
The astro-mythological school of biblical interpretation began with the publication of Eduard Stucken’s Astralmythen. (See the (German-language) book review by ? of Parts1 & 2, 1896-1897, in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, Band 1, 1898, Column 114ff.) The German amateur Orientalist Eduard Stucken (1865-1936) began publication of his Astralmythen (5 parts, 1896-1907) on world mythology. (Part 1, 1896, Abraham; Part 2, 1897, Lot; Part 3, 1899, Jacob; Part 4, 1901, Esau; Part 5, 1907, Moses.) The work of Stucken, Astralmythen, Part 1, Abraham, and Part 2, Lot, began the idea that the origin of much of Hebrew culture lies in Babylonian mythology. Stucken had intellectual connections with the star-myth school of Siecke in that he adopted the methods of the star-myth school. However, Stucken (an amateur philologist) knew no restraint and attempted to trace the whole system of world myths (at least those he believed to be astral) back to Babylon. (Stucken claimed an astral character for all myths. Panbabylonim had its inception in Astralmythen. Winckler attributed to Stucken the discovery of the system according to which the astronomical sky is the map for understanding the historical traditions and and myths of past ages. According to Winckler the the map of the sky is the safest guide through the tangled paths of myths and legends. Stucken believed completely in the accuracy of his myth comparison method. However, Stucken’s method of comparing myths was, from the beginning, criticised as high fantasy. Stucken believed that all legends word-wide are to be reduced to a creation myth – a primitive legend of the separation of the first parents, Heaven and Earth. According to Stucken the creation myth is comprised of 11 motifs.) It was the work of Stucken that paved the way for the attempt to make Babylonia the prime centre of all religious thought. Stucken held that the Pleiades was the key to the worldwide diffusion of astral myths from Babylonia. On the basis of cuneiform texts Stucken believed he could identify a calendar reform in 2800 BCE as the precise dated when astral myths began diffusing from Babylonia. Stucken believed the calendar reform was connected with a vernal equinox occurring in the constellation “Taurus” (to which the Pleiades belonged) in 3000 BCE. A succession of zodiacal world ages was also part of Stucken’s scheme.
The Star-Myth Movement and the Panbabylonian Movement affected each other mutually. The Star-Myth movement was the earlier of the two and the Panbabylonian Movement arose from within its ranks. Eduard Stucken’s Astralmythen strongly influenced Hugo Winckler. The entire theory of Panbabylonism received its stimulus from the elaborate work of Stucken, Astralmythen. Panbabylonism adopted the Star-myth school ideas of a highly developed astral-mythological scheme underlying the religions of both the Old and the New Worlds. The Panbabylonists further developed the tenets of the Star-Myth school specifically the mythological studies of Eduard Stucken. The Pleiades and the Zodiac, not the Moon and the Sun, were emphasised in Panbabylonism. The astral interpretation of mythology pioneered by Stucken was taken over and expanded by Winckler and Jeremias. Both Stucken and Winckler maintained the migration theory.
The Elamite scholar Georg Hüsing belonged partly to the Star-Myth School and partly to the Panbabylonian School. Hüsing derived all myths from Elam.
Astronomical Interpretation of the Gilgamesh epic
In the epic of Gilgamesh (Table ix. cols. ii.–iv.) there is mention of 2 giant scorpion-‘men,’ one male and the other female, terrible giants, keepers of a door.
Alfred Jeremias in his book, Izbubar-Nimrod. Eine Altbabylonische Heldensage (1891, “Das Izdubar-Epos und die Zeichen des Tierkreises” Pages 66-68) proposed that these (were) 2 celestial scorpions – reproduced in Babylonian sculptures – that were the 2 zodiacal constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius. A major problem is Jeremias dating the zodiac to circa 2000 BCE.
Peter Jensen in his book, Assyrisch-Babylonische Mythen und Epen (1900, Pages 205-210); also proposed that these (were) 2 celestial scorpions – reproduced in Babylonian sculptures – that were the 2 zodiacal constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius.
The nature-mythology theory was continued by the astral-mythological school of Panbabylonism, mainly through the work of Hugo Winckler, Alfred Jeremias, and Eduard Stucken.
According to Panbabylonism Babylonian religion was at first purely astral in character. All the world’s major religions had their origin in a single astral religion of ancient Mesopotamia (Babylonia) which developed circa 3000 BCE. Alfred Jeremias strongly argued for the diffusion theory of all myths. Within the Panbabylonian school adherents maintained different and sometimes contradictory positions.
The sources for old Babylonian religion included an emphasis on, both actual and imagined, astronomical and meteorological phenomena. When the notion of diffusion was added on we had Panbabylonism. The religious nature of scientific knowledge in ancient Mesopotamia was quickly recognised from the earliest studies of cuneiform scientific texts. This – and building on the claims of the amateur comparative mythologist Stucken – was the foundation for the Panbabylonist claim for the existence of astral religions.
The first person to publish a major work setting out Panbabylonist ideas was Eduard Stucken whose Astralmythen (Part 1) appeared in 1896. It was originally his (abandoned) doctoral dissertation. Stucken sought to prove that all the mythologies of the world were based on astral-lore encrypted in Mesopotamian myths. The theory that astral elements in a variety of religions/mythologies showed they had a common origin was the core of Panbabylonism.
The ideas of the German Assyriologist Hugo Winckler (1863-1913), a Cuneiform Philologist and Professor at the University of Berlin, were to lead to the school of thought termed Panbabylonism. (The term “Pan-Babylonianism” was apparently first used by Alfred Jeremias in 1906. In his Der Einfluss Babyloniens auf das Verstandnis des Alten Testaments (1908, Page 8) (Jeremias preferred to designate the material discussed by the Panbabylonian school as “ancient Oriental lore.”) Alfred Jeremias distinguished between Panbabylonism (Panbabylonismus) and Babylonism (Babylonianism).) Panbabylonism was largely spread through the efforts of Winckler. (The term “Panbabylonism” was actually coined by the critics of the Winckler-Jeremias school of astral diffusion from Babylon but became adopted by them.) Winckler was to become the leader of the main Panbabylonist movement (distinct from episodes such as Friedrich Delitzsch and the Babel-Bibel controversy, and the independence of the German Assyriologist and Panbabylonist Peter Jensen). Winckler began actively propounding his developing theories all through the 1890s. At the beginning of 1890 Winckler had not systematically worked out the details to his approach to comparative mythology. He produced and edited the periodicals Altorientalische Forschungen (3 volumes, 1893-1906), and Kritische Schriften (6 volumes, 1898-1907) which were the original mouth pieces for his emerging Panbabylonist views. His early book Geschichte Babyloniens und Assyriens (1892) also marked the start of his emerging Panbabylonist views.
By the early 19th-century the Panbabylonists were claiming Babylonian and also other foreign influences on all parts of the Bible. In the early 1900s the astral school of Panbabylonism was formed by Stucken, Jensen, Jeremias, Zimmern, and Winckler. (However, Stucken did not pursue an active role with anybody, and Jensen was outside the initial group cooperation comprising Winckler, Jeremias, and Zimmern. Jensen’s approach was distinctly different to that of Winckler-Jeremias. Jensen combined the literary-critical method of his day with Panbabylonism. He limited his focus to the Gilgameš Epic and endeavoured to demonstrate it themes and a series of motifs were everywhere in ancient literature (including both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible).) Jensen argued that the Mesopotamian myths (Gilgamesh in particular) were the foundation of all world folk tales. (Note: Peter Jensen’s translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh and many other literary compositions has been described by the modern-day assyriologist Andrew George as an extraordinary feat of scholarship.) Other scholars supporting Panbabylonism held mostly non-astral views (or limited astral views) and believed that Babylon had influenced/shaped Israel’s civilisation, history, and literature.
Steven Holloway (2002) has stated that Winckler’s diffusionist model was likely inspired by the ideas of Georg Creuzer set out in his Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker besonders der Griechen (1822, 1-Volume edition). Interestingly, Creuzer claimed that myth was a universal religion sustained by a priestly class.
Generally, the key Panbabylonists (Winckler and Jeremias) tried to show that the most important mythologies and world views of other peoples originated from an ancient system of astral myths diffused from Babylon. (Previously, Eduard Stucken believed he could show the existence of astral myths in all parts of the world.) Hugo Winckler held that all world myth originated from Babylonian astral religion which had originated circa 3000 BCE. Both Winckler and Jeremias held to the “analogy doctrine” of similarities between Mesopotamia and Israel that were borrowed by Israel from Mesopotamia. Peter Jensen’s approach to establishing the case for Panbabylonism was distinctively different. Jensen held that virtually the entire bible was a rewriting of the Akkadian Gilgamesh Epic. According to Jensen, Israelite history in the Bible, and the story of Jesus of Nazareth, were simply a series of repetitions (a rewriting) of the Epic of Gilgamesh. He attempted to prove that the prominent figures and key narratives in the Old Testament were based on literary influences from the Epic of Gilgamesh. His case for Panbabylonism made almost exclusive use of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Peter Jensen held that Mesopotamian myths, in particular the Epic of Gilgamesh, were the source of all the mythological patterns (world folk tales) in world literature (including the Bible). According to Jensen’s hyperdiffusionist hypothesis all mythological motifs in world literature were derivations of the Gilgamesh Epic, which in itself was astralmythology.
Panbabylonism was in conflict with the evolutionism of the Wellhausen school and was viewed as an attempt to overthrow it. Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was an eminent German biblical scholar. Wellhausen’s, Prolegomena zur Geschitche Israels (Prolegomena to the History of Israel), published in 1878 as Geschichte Israels, then in 1883 with the changed title, is a detailed synthesis of existing views on the origins of the first 6 books of the Old Testament. Wellhausen placed the development of these books into a historical and social context. This approach, called the documentary hypothesis, remained the dominant model among biblical scholars until circa the early 20th-century. The Wellhausen school was founded upon detailed critical investigations of sources and, in regard to the history of religion, an evolutionary standpoint. Wellhausen and his school considered Judaism as a post-Israelite creation. The Panbabylonian school considered Judaism to be a pre-Israelite Babylonian creation. Winkler’s work was considered an independent attempt to prove that the archaeological data gained from Babylonian sources overthrow the Wellhausen school. Panbabylonism very much had the effect of being a weapon for undermining the Wellhausen school of Old Testament criticism. Panbabylonism also replaced the Higher Criticism. (However, the Panbabylonism espoused by Winckler proved to be an unsatisfactory substitute for the Wellhausen school of Old Testament criticism. The astral theories were burdened with serious improbabilities.) See Winckler’s booklet criticising the Wellhausen School: Religionsgeschichtler und geschichtlicher Orient by Hugo Winckler (1906).
According to some commentators Panbabylonism was involved in replacing Europe’s “Ancient Model” (Egypt-Greece-Rome model) of historiography with the “Aryan” (India-Mesopotamia-Babylon-Assyria) model.
Winckler’s periodicals Altorientalische Forschungen (3 Volumes, 1893-1906) and KritischeSchriften (6 Volumes, 1898-1907) were his earliest publications for his developing Panbabylonism.
The Orientalistische Literaturzeitung was founded in 1898. It is the oldest international review journal covering the field of Oriental studies. (The sympathy of the early editors of OLZ for Panbabylonism is clear in OLZ, Number 12, 1909, Columns 521-527.).
The founding of the Gesellschaft für vergleichende Mythenforschung in 1906
At the beginning of the 20th-century the so-called ‘Star Myth’/’Astral-mythological’ and Panbabylonian schools became popular in Germany. Although the supporters of either originally representing 2 independent approaches, their basic beliefs were similar. In 1906 the supporters of both schools founded the Gesellschaft für vergleichende Mythenforschung (Society for the Study of Comparative Mythology) in Berlin. The first volume published by the society was Ernst Siecke’s, Drachenkämpfe: Untersuchungen zur indogermanischen Sagenkunde (1907).
Panbabylonism flourished in Germany between 1900 and 1914. Indeed the Panbabylonists were almost confined to Germany. (Off-shoots of Panbabylonism did appear in England and North America. At the beginning of the 19th-century the Anglican Church retained sufficient supremacy over biblical studies to ensure that Babel-Bibel issues and Panbabylonism remained ‘Germanisms’ that were not widely adopted in Britain.) Though the founder of the main Panbabylonist movement was Hugo Winckler its short though virulent popularity was largely due to the writings of the German Archaeologist Alfred Jeremias. (Hugo Winckler has been described as the unsuspecting founder of Panbabylonian school of thought. He sided with the diffusionists and argued for monogenesis. It was Winckler who brought coherence to the tenets of Panbabylonism.) Jeremias was a great admirer of Winckler and untiring in both his promotion and defence of Winckler’s views on Panbabylonism. The claim that moderate Panbabylonism was represented by Alfred Jeremias seems misplaced.
The initial core of staunch Panbabylonists consisted of Eduard Stucken, Hugo Winckler, Heinrich Zimmern, and Alfred Jeremias. Heinrich Zimmern was not as combative as the other. The Panbabylonists were never an entirely cohesive group. (Simo Parpola has stated that the original group of Panbabylonians consisted of Hugo Winckler, Alfred Jeremias, and Heinrich Zimmern. However, Eduard Stucken and Hugo Winckler had collaborated on a number of publications.) Their ranks were later added to by Peter Jensen (whose Panbabylonist arguments remained largely independent from those of the Winckler-Jeremias school) and Ernst Weidner. (Winckler, Jeremias, and Zimmern had all studied Assyriology at the University of Leipzig under Friedrich Delitzsch. Jeremias spent most of his working life as a Lutheran pastor in Leipzig. As a student he had studied both Assyriology and Theology.) They can be considered an extreme wing of the astral myth school.
Stucken bases his assertions upon motifs (individual elements) of the legends. Stucken’s method was to identify motifs within Mesopotamian stories and then identify correspondences. Stucken based his theory on certain similar features of narratives/myths. According to Stucken the motifs diffused and the personages attached to them likely varied within different cultures. Whilst he collected a huge number of (loose) parallels from all over the world they largely remain unconvincing. These parallels are often only very incidental. As example, Stucken was unconcerned when matching motifs whether certain features of a historical tale were analogous to certain features of a mythical story. Winckler’s distinctive emphasis was the identification of number symbolism. Hugo Winckler found ultimate significance in an abstract mathematical scheme. Distinctive in Winckler’s particular version of Panbabylonism was the emphasis/importance he gave to its “number theory.” He claimed that this has come down to us in the Pythagorean teaching (which was simply a product of the ancient Near East). Winckler’s approach to Panbabylonism was gradually transformed by Jeremias. Jeremias placed emphasis on astral symbolism. Jeremias focused on what he believed was astral symbolism. However, like Winckler, whose methods he adopted, he emphasises in his mythological arguments the role played by numbers. (Later, Jensen was to distinctively emphasise the influence of the Gilgamesh myth. For Jensen, Bible narratives in which he believed he could detect traces of the Gilgamesh saga were unhistorical. He also regarded important events in the gospel stories of Jesus as forms of the Gilgamesh myths. The 4 gospels were “mythographs.” Both Jensen and Zimmern failed to distinguish between documents approximately contemporary with the events they record and documents which are centuries removed from the events they describe.)
Discovery of Babylonian Astronomy
In 1900 the German Jesuit mathematician and astronomer Franz Kugler (1862-1929) Franz Kugler published his first study of Babylonian astronomy Die Babylonische Mondrechnung which brilliantly extended the previous work of Epping. By the end of the decade Kugler, a chemist by training who was appointed to teach mathematics and astronomy at Ignatius College in Valkenburg, had become a competent Assyriologist and single-handedly, and in scholarly isolation, demolished the tenets of the Panbabylonist movement. Kugler showed that Panbabylonian claims were established upon their ignorance of Babylonian astronomy and ‘astrology.’ Most of his academic life was dedicated to the interpretation of cuneiform texts dealing with astronomy and with the related topics of chronology and mythology. The main characteristic of his method was the application of mathematical rigor for which he is still considered unsurpassed today.
The appearance of Winckler’s Geschichte Israels, Teil II. The Panbabylonian school conceived the Babel-Bibel controversy later articulated by Friedrich Delitzsch. Winckler, in his Geschichte Israels (Volume II, 1900), built his ideas on astral mythology largely upon the recurrence of characteristic numbers. As example: In his view the 4 wives of Jacob are the 4 phases of the moon; the 12 sons are the 12 months; the 7 children of Leah are the gods of the days of the week; the 300 pieces of silver given to Benjamin are the 30 days of the last month; the 5 changes of raiment are the 5 intercalary days. The 318 men with which Abraham put to flight the armies of Cherdolaomer and his allies are the 318 days during which the moon is visible during the year.
Other German scholars at the beginning of the 20th-century argued for all cosmology and other cultural beliefs coming from Babylon. “Some scholars, as for instance Winckler, Zimmern, Jensen, Delitzsch, extend this Babylonian influence both to form and to substance, claiming Babylonian origin for practically every Hebrew belief, rite, custom, and law. It will be remembered, from the so-called Babel-Bible controversy, that Professor Delitzsch claimed Babylonian origin even for the name of Jahwe—and in our next study we shall see that almost every feature in the picture of Christ is traced back to Babylon—so that there remains hardly anything which could be considered specifically Hebrew. According to these scholars, the historical books of the Old Testament are pamphlets with a religio-political tendency. Their religious aim is to inculcate the teaching of monotheism; their political object, to demonstrate the religious claims of the reigning dynasties. The prophets, according to this view, were the political advance-agents of Babylonian imperialism, hired to make Babylonian supremacy plausible to the Hebrews as having been decreed by Jahwe.” (Some Recent Phases of German Theology by John Nuelsen (1908, Pages 34-35).)
The foundations of the whole Panbabylonian system were laid (with some reserves) by Winckler. At the end of volume 2 of his Geschichte Israels (1900) Winckler set out for the first time the mythological and astronomical tenets of the Panbabylonian system. In volume 2 of his Geschichte Israels Winckler proclaims that Stucken’s astral interpretation of myths is a great discovery and a most reliable guide to understanding myths and legends. The Panbabylonians, from Stucken onwards, engaged in far-fetched analogies between astral phenomena and Biblical figures. In volume 2 of his Geschichte Israels Winckler’s initial ideas focused on Israelite legends. In this volume Winckler adopted and extended Stucken’s point of view set out in the published parts of Astralmythen. In volume 2 of his Geschichte Israels Winckler maintained that a large astral entered into Israel’s early national stories. Winckler sought to identify moon gods, sun gods, astral goddesses, and moon goddesses in the biblical stories spanning from Abraham to Solomon. Babylonian astral cult was seen as the origin of religion. (The bible scholar Sigmund Mowinckel made the point that one of the things the Panbabylonians lacked was sufficient knowledge of general comparative history of religions.) However, Winckler built his argument more upon the recurrence of characteristic numbers than upon parallel motifs. As example: The four wives of Jacob are the four phases of the moon; the twelve sons of Jacob are the twelve months; the seven children of Leah are the gods of the days of the week; Lot is associated with Abraham so the two must be Gemini; Abraham’s wife Sarah is also his sister and so are identical with Tammuz and Ishtar (who in Babylonian mythology were similarly related to each other).
Both Winckler and Jeremias (and Stucken) had intellectual connections with the star-myth school of Siecke. Their Panbabylonism movement can be considered a special part of it which put forward particular tenets of their own. Stucken’s work attracted the attention of Winckler. Winckler’s Panbabylonism owed much to the volumous work Astralmythen (5 parts) by his pupil Stucken (which also had connections to the Star-Myth School of Siecke). It was the work of Stucken which laid the foundations for the Panbabylonist attempt to make Babylonia the prime centre of all religious thought (and grounded in an astral philosophy). (However, similar “Babel-Bibel” conceptions of the Old Testament antedate both these authors.) Stucken (who had studied assyriology but was essentially a writer, artist, and dramatist) had uncritically reached the conclusion that all sagas of all peoples can be traced back to the astral myths, such as the creation-myth, of the Babylonians. Stucken’s method was to define myths by their motifs, not by persons or types, and he maintained that as it was motifs that were passed from people to people then only motifs could be used for the purposes of comparison. (A motif is a small narrative unit recurrent in tales. The same motif in different cultures may hold vastly different meanings.)
The basic astral-myth tenets of Panbabylonism were fixed prior to the large-scale decipherment of Babylonian mathematical astronomical texts. The task of the decipherment of Babylonian mathematical astronomical texts was first begun with the pioneering work of Franz Kugler. The task of fully understanding their intellectual context would only begin nearly 100 years after Kugler began his pioneering work.
To some degree Panbabylonism originates out of an initial low regard shown by theologians and Biblical specialists in Germany and other parts of Europe to Assyriology. (At first most scholars assumed the primacy of Israelite ideas at the expense of the Babylonians. Many pioneering assyriologists were also Biblical scholars.) At the same time there was a growing desire by some German Assyriologists for increasing recognition in Biblical studies and to independent of Biblical studies. Biblical theology was viewed by some German Assyriologists as encroaching dangerously on the emerging field of Assyriology. Panbabylonism represented a break and a new frontier. The initial trigger for Assyriological self-assertion beginning in earnest has been identified as the publication of the 1st part of Eduard Stucken’s Astralmythen in 1896. It is identified that the conclusive event that ultimately gave Assyriology the academic recognition that it had been lacking was Friedrich Delitzsch’s controversial public lectures beginning in 1902. (Steven Holloway (Orientalism, Assyriology and the Bible (2006) attributed Panbabylonism to “sweeping neo-romantic diffusionist models.”)
Panbabylonism was perhaps first (formally) proposed in the 1901 essay “Die altbabylonische Weltanschauung.” by Hugo Winckler, that appeared in the influential (conservative) monthly journal for politics, history, and literature, Preussische Jahrbücher [= Prussian Yearbook/Almanac] (May, 1901) then edited by Hans Delbrück (1848-1929), Professor of History at the University of Berlin, and military historian. Winckler proposed an original Babylonian astralmythology from circa 3000 BCE exerting a worldwide influence. Stucken’s 1st part of Astralmythen presented his key to Near Eastern mythology, and this captured Winckler’s imagination. It provided the impetus for Winckler to form his own version of Babylonian astral mythology and its diffusion. It was Winckler who provided the drive and systematicity that brought cogency and order to the Panbabylonist project. Stucken’s enormous collection of suggestive but loose/incidental parallels became, with Winckler, a well-worked-out ‘scientific’ scheme for understanding the ancient civilizations and cultures of the world.
In 1901 Winckler published the booklet Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier. The star-myth aspect of Winckler’s Panbabylonism was only fully adopted with this publication – which was written for a nonspecialist audience. The booklet was very influential within Germany. Outside of Germany the publication attracted very little attention and remained obscure. Winckler contended that the zodiac was recognised when the spring equinoctial constellation was the “Twins” circa 4000 BCE. Also, Winckler believed he had worked out an important element of the ancient “world conception” in the formula Himmelsbild ist Welt and he used the term Entsprechungstheorie to describe the formula as the “theory of correspondence.” (See also Winckler’s: Die Weltanschauung des Alten Orients (1904).) Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier caught the attention of the Assyriologist Alfred Jeremias who quickly became the major proponent of Panbabylonism.
In his lengthy pamphlet, Arabisch-Semitisch-Orientalisch. Kulturgeschichtlich-mythologische Untersuchungen. (1901) Winckler claimed to have found an astro-mythological basis for many of the stories of early Mohammedanism.
Peter Jensen was a harsh critic of Winckler’s booklet Himmels- und Weltenbild der Babylonier. Felix Peiser promptly came to Winckler’s defense in print after Jensen’s bitter critique. Peiser was a key promoter of the works of Hugo winckler whom he had met at the University of Leipzig and befriended.
The Babel-Bibel controversy involved the extent to which the text of the Bible was dependent on Babylonian culture. The Bible had traditionally been considered the oldest book. However, the new field of Assyriology was presenting new knowledge that predated the Bible.
The “Babel-Bibel” controversy broke out in 1902 over 2 (public) lectures by the German Assyriologist (Semitist/Semiticist) Friedrich Delitzsch (1850-1922). (The lectures were aided by lantern slides.) The invitations for Delitzsch to deliver the first and second lectures were a kind of ‘command performance’ of German élites (business, government and military leaders) with nationalistic aims. Delitzsch, 51 years old at the time, had established through his numerous publications a reputation as a leading Semitic scholar (and ancient historian). Delitzsch has rightly been called one of the founders of modern Assyriology. He put the emerging discipline of assyriology on an equal footing with biblical studies. Delitzsch gave a set of lectures on “Babylon [Babylonia] and the Bible” before the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). The 1st public lecture was delivered in January (actually January and February), 1902, in Berlin’s renowned Music Academy (Singakademie), in the presence of the German Emperor Wilhelm II and numerous members of the court. Also included in the audience were business elite, military personnel, scholars and pastors. (Kaiser Wilhelm II was President of the German Oriental Society , and was always present for the annually held lectures on Mesopotamia.) Delitzsch’s lecture did not contain any original discovery or insights. Most of the lecture material was based on studies by British and French scholars. Within the content of his lecture, Delitzsch described Babylonia as the ancient source of Western culture. The Kaiser enjoyed the 1st lecture and asked for it to be repeated privately. (Delitzsch repeated the lecture on February 1 in the Royal Palace at Berlin.) Between the 1st and 2nd lectures Delitzsch visited the Near East. A year later the 2nd public lecture was delivered in January, 1903 (and largely consisted of an answer to his critics). The 2nd, even more inflammatory, lecture (Delitzsch’s radical criticism of the New Testament was contained in his 2nd lecture) was delivered in the presence of the emperor and the empress, and an even more distinguished audience of friends and foes. (Most of the controversy arose out of the content of the 2nd lecture – certainly the international controversy.) Because Delitzsch deviated into theology the Kaiser was not supportive and rebuked Delitzsch for the content and tone of his 2nd lecture. (Kaiser Wilhelm II was the titular head of the Lutheran Church.) It is considered doubtful whether Friedrich Delitzsch’s positions in the “Babel-Bible” controversy were actually inspired by theology. The ‘big picture’ point Delitzsch had made was to challenge the Old Testament’s origin in divine revelation. The eventual series of 3 lectures delivered between 1902 and 1904 was titled “Babel und Bible” (“Babylonia and the Bible”). (The German Emperor invited Delitzsch to repeat the (first) lecture for the Empress 2 weeks later at the Royal Palace.) The second public lecture, also delivered in the presence of the German Emperor, was given in January, 1903. It mainly comprised an answer to his critics. Delitzsch’s lecture series was subsidised by the German Oriental Society (founded in 1898). The 3rd lecture took place over 3 separate evenings at the end of October and the beginning of November, outside Berlin. Delitzch’s 3rd Babel-Bibel lecture is regarded as infamous. The 3rd and final lecture in the series was presented on October 27th and 28th before the literary societies of Barmen and Köln respectively. The final presentation was given before the Verein für Geographie und Statistik in Frankfurt am Main. The Kaiser was not present for the 3rd lecture.
The high profile of the Babel-und-die-Bibel-Streit was contributed to by the interest of Wilhelm II in it. (Even the Kaiser himself argued that Jesus was a non-Jew who actually opposed the message of the Old Testament.)
Note: Delitzsch (and others) preferred to give the name Babylonia to the cultures of Mesopotamia. The name Babylonia is applied to any of the succession of southern Mesopotamian states (circa 2000-540 BCE) having Babylon as their principal city. The name given to the discipline dealing with the history of Mesopotamia, Assyriology/assyriology, was derived from the name of Assyria.
The “Babel und Bibel” lectures series and resulting pamphlets containing the lectures contained little that was new to scholars. (Public lectures given by Delitzsch prior to 1902 contained similar views but did not generate controversy.) Rather it was the emphasis that Delitzsch placed on his claims for the superiority of Babylonian religion over Israelite religion that quickly brought “Babel und Bibel” to attention. (Delitzsch never retreated from his original Babel-Bibel views.)
Delitzsch argued against the independence of the Old Testament. He argued that Israelite traditions were directly dependent on earlier Babylonian traditions. Like the Panbabylonians, Delitzsch argued for an exclusive emphasis on the importance of Mesopotamia for human religion and culture. For Delitzsch, Babylon was the starting-point for the whole of European culture up to the present time. The lectures by Delitzsch brought Panbabylonism into the public arena. Previously the idea of Panbabylonism had been limited to discussions among academics specialising in Assyriology or Biblical studies. In academic circles discussions about Babylonian culture went far beyond theology and involved the origin of the natural sciences. (By 1902 Panbabylonism was well established amongst German assyriologists and bible scholars. It was the German Panbabylonists who asked Delitzsch to present his ideas on such in his 1902 lectures.) In his two public lectures Delitzsch attempted to demonstrate the Babylonian origins for many Old Testament beliefs. (Both were published as pamphlets. Babel und Bibel ein Vortrag (1903) and Zweiter Vortrag über Babel und Bibel (1903). More than 60,000 copies of the first pamphlet were printed, and more than 45,000 copies of the second pamphlet were printed. Note: The number of printed copies of Delitzsch’s first lecture, which is given as “more than 60,000 copies” is the total number of different, modified and extended editions.) The “Babel-Bibel” debate was a debate between scholars. Basically the initial reaction against the views expressed by Friedrich Delitzsch was that of conservative German protestantism. The anti-Semitic aspect of the views expressed by Delitzsch within his arguments did not really heighten until 1908. (Note: The only detailed assessment of Delitzsch’s publications for anti-Jewish bias was published by Reinhard Lehmann. (Lehmann, Reinhard. (1994). Friedrich Delitzsch und der Babel-Bibel-Streit.) From his critical analysis of modifications and add-ons in various passages in several passages Lehmann demonstrated that the shift in Delitzsch’s attitude from a pro-Jewish (in 1900/1902) towards an anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic bias took place after the Babel-Bibel series, the turning point being somewhere in the years 1907/1908 (but not earlier), under the influence of the “prophet of Germanic religion” Wilhelm Schwaner (1863-1944).) The Babel und Bibel lectures of Delitzsch raised a furor in Germany. (If the German Emperor had not been present at the 1902 lecture then it is likely that scant attention would have been given to the lecture series. “Had the German Emperor not been in the main the advertising and press agent of the advocate of Panbabylonianism little attention would have been paid the lectures of the renowned Berlin Assyriologist. His material was certainly anything but new.” (The Advocate, Volume 45, 1913, Page 5.) This was also the opinion of Paul Haupt.) The “Babel-Bibel Streit” (“Babel Bible Controversy”) (more fully, Babel-und-die-Bibel-Streit = Babylon and the Bible Controversy) begun by Delitzsch was the most public controversy of the time. The “Babel-Bibel” controversy was at its height in throughout 1903 and began to subside in 1904. (A 3rd and final lecture was given in October, 1904.) However, Old Testament studies have been constantly beleaguered by by a number of similar attempts to demonstrate/prove parallels with ancient Near Eastern Culture and religion ever since.
Yaacov Shavit and Mordechai Eran (2007) make the point that the Babel-Bibel controversy was a public scholarly controversy. It was not waged in the pages of professional journals or by private correspondence between scholars. The flood of oppositional articles that followed the 1903 and 1903 lectures by Delitzsch only decreased after the 3rd lecture in 1904. Delitzsch estimated that by 1904 the response (in Germany and other countries) had totalled 1350 brief articles, 300 lengthy articles, and 28 pamphlets. Bibel und Babel [The Bible and Babylon] by Eduard König (1902) (English translation 1905) was, at the time of its publication, deemed the principle rebuttal of Delitzsch. A book review (recension) by Hugo Winckler appeared in a supplement of the Norddeutsche Allgemeine dated August 3, 1902.
Some people took Panbabylonism to be a form of anti-semiticism – specifically Friedrich Delitzsch’s ‘Babel-Bibel’ stream. The anti-semitic use of Panbabylonism was promoted by Delitzsch who basically sought to prove that the Jews were copiers and corruptors of Babylonian civilisation. Delitzsch was anti-semitic in that he wanted to show that Aryan cultures rather than Semitic cultures laid the foundation for civilisation. Delitzsch argued that because Assyria was an older Aryan culture than the Semitic world of the Bible it was necessarily more influential.
The 1902 lectures by Delitzsch intensified the Babel-Bibel aspect of the Panbabylonism of both Winckler and Jeremias. (Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel view were part of the Panbabylonism movement supported by Winckler.) For several years after 1902 Winckler and Jeremias emphasised biblical studies. After 1902 the application of the Panbabylonian theory to the narrative of the Old Testament is made in detail by both Winckler and Jeremias. In this manner the publications of the Panbabylonists served to continue the Babel-Bibel debate. The Winckler-Jeremias school held that the astral conception of the world and of religion was known in Canaan and was expressed by the Israelite writers in the Old Testament stories especially. The Winckler-Jeremias school held that substantial Biblical narratives are presented under astral forms. (See also, apart from Geschichte Israels (Volume 2, 1900) by Winckler; Winckler in the first half of Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (3rd edition) edited by Schrader; Zimmern in the second half of Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (3rd edition) edited by Schrader; and Jeremias in Das Alte Testament.)
In the Johns Hopkins University Circular Volume XXII, Number 163, June 1903, Paul Haupt published “Bible and Babel” claiming all the heterodox views expressed in Germany by Delitzsch in his lectures had already been promulgated by Haupt himself at various periods during the last 24 years. However, even if the case, both Delitzsch and Haupt were only elaborating what they derived from the works, writings, and oral remarks of Henry Rawlinson and George Smith regarding the Creation and Deluge tablets.
Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859) had indirectly discredited the account of human origins in Genesis. Friedrich Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bibel” lectures comprised a major blow to the textual and historical authority of the Bible. However, in the early 20th-century greater ecclesiastical attention was given to evolutionary thought.
Publication of: Jeremias, Alfred. (1902). “Das Gilgameš-Epos in der israelitischen Legende.” (Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. Band 16).
Publication of the pamphlet Die babylonische Kultur in ihren Beziehungen zur unsrigen (1902, 54 pages) by Hugo Winckler marks the beginning of numerous publications over the next decade by the group of German scholars who would become known as Panbabylonists. The pamphlet is mainly a popularisation of earlier investigations by Eduard Stucken and Hugo Winckler of Babylonian mythology and astrology.
By 1902 the twin themes of Babylonian influence on the Bible (from George Smith in 1872 through to Friedrich Delitzsch in 1902) and diffusion from Babylon (from Carl Lehmann-Haupt in 1889, through Ernst Siecke in 1892, through to Eduard Stucken in 1896) had been absorbed into the Panbabylonism of Winckler and Jeremias. Before the 1902 lectures by Delitzsch interest in the Panbabylonism of Winckler was confined to limited academic circles in Germany. Delitzsch made public the views of many Assyriologists, who now publicly espoused to a school of thought called ‘Panbabylonism,’ championed by Hugo Winckler, who argued that all world myths were reflections of Babylonian astral religion which had developed about 3000 BCE. After the 1902 lectures by Delitzsch the Panbabylonism of Winckler went to extreme lengths in its reduction of the Old Testament to dependency of Babylonian astral mythology.
The beginning of the astronomical interpretation of the Gilgamesh epic by Peter Jensen. Publication of “Das Gilgamis-Epos und Homer. Vorlaufige Mitteilung.” in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Verwandte Gebiete, Sechzehnter Band [Band 16], 1902, Pages 125-134; and “Das Gilgamis-Epos in der israelitischen Legende.” in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Verwandte Gebiete, Sechzehnter Band [Band 16], 1902, Pages 406-412.
Publication of “Beiträge zur orientalischen Mythologie.” by Eduard Stucken (Mitteilungen der vorderasiatischen Gesellschaft, 1902, Volume 7, Number 4 [72 pages]).
Das Gilgamis-Epos in seiner Bedeutung für Bibel und Babel by Chr[istian?]. Dieckmann (1902) is a typical example of the uninformed responses rejecting the claims made by Friedrich Delitzsch. The book comprises a series of lectures by Dieckmann, a self-proclaimed “country parson” (“Landpfarrer”) residing in Niederaudenhain, Sachsen (Saxony), Germany, with no training in Assyriology or languages. See: “Kritik über Dieckmann’s »Das Gilgamis-Epos in seiner Bedeutung für Bibel und Babel«,” Berliner philologische Wochenschrift, 1903, Number 31/32, Sp. 1001. [A weekly publication, issued 1884-1920.] Also, see the book review of his apologetic polemic in Theologische Revue, February, 1903.
The 3rd revised edition of Die Keilinschriften und das Altes Testament (1903) by the German Orientalist Eberhard Schrader (1836-1908) was rewritten by the co-editors Hugo Winckler and Heinrich Zimmern in the interests of Panbabylonism.
Publication by Hermann Gunkel of Zum religionsgeschichtlichen Verständniss des Neuen Testaments (1903). In this radical book Gunkel claimed that the eschatology of the Old Testament prophets and psalmists contain numerous mythological elements traceable to Babylonia. He believed that Israelite eschatology was borrowed from a fully developed Babylonian eschatology. He also regarded the figure of the Jewish Messiah as mythological and of Babylonian origin. The Jewish belief in the resurrection is traced by Gunkel to Egyptian and Persian influence. Astral elements are also introduced to explain apocalyptic material. Many statements connected with the story of Jesus in the gospels are seen as having a mythological basis. (Hermann Gunkel’s bible commentaries (on Old Testament books) were an important source for the spread of academic support for Panbabylonism to England and the USA.)
Publication by Wilhelm Bousset of Religion des judentums im neutestamentlichen Zeialter (1903). In the final chapter Bousset claimed that the Hebrews borrowed certain stories from Babylonia as well as astronomy, astrological fatalism, and magic. Bousset also claimed that later Jewish religion took their belief in Satan, and the legends of the Antichrist, from the Persian religion.
In England, where the Panbabylonist theory had received a great deal of public attention, the London Times of February 25,1903, printed a letter in which Wilhelm II answered those who wondered whether he had performed his imperial duty of upholding the Christian faith.
After 1900 Winckler found a vigorous and efficient ally in Alfred Jeremias. In his booklet Im Kampfe um Babel und Bibel (1903) Alfred Jeremias first fully and emphatically accepted the hypotheses of the mythological system developed by Winckler. Jeremias followed Winckler in essentials but lay special stress on the notion of zodiacal ages. (The idea of zodiacal eras marked by the (shifting) location of the spring equinox in a constellation and dating back to circa 5000 BCE is not original with the Panbabylonism school but was merely put forward by them with more insistence on the Babylonian origin of such ideas.)
An important work published in 1903, supporting the tenets of Panbabylonism, was Keilinschriften und Babel nach ihrem religionsgeschichtlichen zausammenhang by the German Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern (1862-1931). Zimmern dealt more with the New Testament. (Winckler, for example, dealt more with the Old Testament.)
In a lengthy letter published in The [London] Times during 1903 the English Assyriologist William St. Chad Boscawen defended the German Assyriologist Friedrich Delitzsch from the growing number of attacks made on him since his two “Babel-Bibel” lectures in 1902.
Publication of Hermann Gunkel’s classic rebuttal-essay, Babyloniern und Israel (1903), to the 1902 lectures of Delitzsch. An early and influential critique of some ideas of Delitzsch. This short essay of approximately 80 pages comprised a point-by-point response to the 1902 lectures of Delitzsch. (The publication of the essay was encouraged by Gunkel’s colleagues.) Gunkel sharply criticises Delitzsch for (1) getting facts wrong; (2) failing to take into account the influence of oral tradition; and (3) failing to consider the parallels between the Hebrew and Mesopotamian traditions in terms of degree (i.e., to assess how much of the Old Testament is indigenously Hebrew versus how much might be originally Babylonian). (An English-language translation by E.S.B. was published in 1904 and another English-language by Kenneth Hanson was published in 2009. Mistakenly believed by some recent scholars, such as Michael Moore, to be a response to Panbabylonism. It was, as Gunkel states, a response to the Babel-Bibel controversy begun by Delitzsch. The Star-Myth school of Panbabylonism developed by Winckler-Jeremias was ignored. Gunkel’s focus was the extreme methods of Delitzsch. Of concern also to Gunkel was Delitzsch was denying the independence of the Old Testament.)
A major critic of Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel ideas was Eduard König, who – beginning 1903 and continuing until 1912 – published numerous pamphlets and articles opposing Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel claims. See: Bible and Babylon: Their Relationship in the History of Culture by Eduard König (translated by William Turnbull) (1903). For more against the position taken by Winckler and Jeremias, see the small book (108 pages) entitled Babylonisierungsversuche betreffs der Patriarchen und Könige Israels (1903) by Eduard Konig. König’s publications also criticised Panbabylonism.
The brochure Babylon und Christentum. Erstes Heft. Delitzschs Angriffe auf das Alte Testament [Babylon and Christianity: The Attacks of Delitzsch on the Old Testament] by von Franz Xaver Kugler (1903) was written, as the sub-title indicates, with special reference to Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bibel,” It set out Kugler’s initial rebuttal (a 2nd one followed). Kugler’s brochure originally appeared in 1903 as a 3-part article in the journal Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, shortly after the 2nd lecture by Delitszch. The booklet is almost unchanged. Early in his career Kugler was one of the numerous critics of the “Babel-Bibel” claims of the Berlin Assyriologist Delitzsch, who suggested that the Biblical account of the Creation and other events in Genesis had been taken from Assyrian mythology.
A 3rd and final lecture in the “Babel und Bibel” lectures series was given by Delitzsch in October, 1904. Delitzsch’s 3rd lecture bordered on anti-Semitism, as Delitzsch emphasized the non-Semitic roots of Mesopotamian civilization. Delitzsch also declared that, since the Old Testament was entirely superfluous to the Christian church, one should rather read German cultural folk epics. He advocated replacing the Old Testament with Wilhelm Schwaner’s Germanen-Bibel cms heiligen Schriften germanischer Volker (1904 [the earliest edition]), which was a compilation of German folk traditions and theological ideas.
In his Die Panbabylonisten: Der alte Orient und die ägyptische Religion (1904) Jeremias agreed with Fritz Hommel in holding that the Egyptian religious system was based on, or derived from, the Babylonian religious system. Something of a Panbabylonism textbook. It gained considerable attention in its 2nd edition publication in 1907.
In 1904 Alfred Jeremias also published Das Alte Testament im Lichte den Alten Orients (2 Volumes). The later (1911) English translation of this book is the best presentation of Panbabylonism in English. It is a comparativist tour de force. In it Jeremias formulated and firmly grounded the Panbabylonian position, drawing upon his own area of expertise, the Biblical Near East. The book’s major goal is to prove that the Old Testament Weltanschauung derives from and is the same as the Babylonian one. In it, Jeremias set out in detail arguments previously presented, in which he held that Old Testament legends from Abraham to Solomon belong to a system resting on Babylonian astrology. According to Jeremias, astrology is the last word of science in antiquity.
The last of several early flirtations by Franz Kugler (the pioneer of the recovery of much of Babylonian astronomy) with the astral tenets of Panbabylonism is his essay “Die Sternenfahrt des Gilgamesh: Kosmologische Würdigung des babylonischen Nationalepos.” (Stimmen aus Maria-Laach, Volume LXVI, 1904, Pages 432-449, and 547-561). It was an examination of the Gilgamesh epic as astronomical mythology. (A few years later in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Buch 1, (1907) Kugler rejected the article.) In this 1904 essay Kugler agreed with Panbabylonism to a limited extent. At the time of its publication Kugler’s essay was accepted as an excellent exposition proving the purely astral character of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Kugler at first was sympathetic to Panbabylonism, but later rejected it when he became convinced that any significant astronomy could not have existed in Mesopotamia before the era of Nabonassar. Late Mesopotamian and Hellenistic astronomers calculate the years by a chronological system called ‘era of Nabonassar,’ which began on February 26, 747 BCE. Regarding Kugler’s, “Die Sternenfahrt des Gilgames, kosmologische Würdigung des babylon Nationalepos.” (Stimmen aus Maria Laach, Band LXVI, 1904). In the epic of Gilgamesh (Table ix. cols. ii.–iv.) there is mention of 2 giant scorpion-‘men,’ one male and the other female, terrible giants, keepers of a door. Kugler believed in his 1904 article that he had shown that these (were) 2 celestial scorpions – reproduced in Babylonian sculptures – that were the 2 zodiacal constellations Scorpio and Sagittarius. This position was also argued earlier by Peter Jensen in his book, Assyrisch-Babylonische Mythen und Epen (1900, Pages 205-210); and by Alfred Jeremias in his book, Izbubar-Nimrod. Eine Altbabylonische Heldensage (1891, Pages 66-68).
Universal Solar Myth Movement
Publication of Das zeitalter des sonnongottes (1904) by the eccentric amateur anthropologist and ethnologist Leo Frobenius. Frobenius sought an ancient sun myth origin for world-wide mythology. The arguments in this book were to later influence his last pupil Hertha von Dechend and result in her 1969 book (with Giorgio de Santillana) Hamlet’s Mill.
Publication of Die Götter Babyloniens und die Neue Testament [The Gods of Babylonia and the New Testament] by von Franz Xaver Kugler (1905). This booklet was Kugler’s 2nd rebuttal to Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bibel.” Note: Despite Kugler’s advice that it was published it is impossible to actually ocate a printed copy.
Publication of Babylonisches im Neuen Testament by Alfred Jeremias (1905). The author suggested a background in ancient Near Eastern myth, especially for the Book of Revelation. (See the (English-language) book review by George Barton in The American Journal of Theology, Volume 9, Number 35, April, 1908, Page 471.)
After circa 1905/6 both Winckler and Jeremias retired from debates about the value of Biblical testimony for the Panbabylonist case. By circa 1905 reaction was setting in against the astral theories comprising Panbabylonism. However, the Panbabylonist debate continued and was not a spent force until the time of Winckler’s death in 1913. Peter Brown expressed the opinion that with the death of Winkler Panbabylonism was scientifically dead. However, its tenets were never more than pseudo-scientific. After World War 1 it lingered on through the efforts of Alfred Jeremias and Peter Jensen (and, to a lesser extent, Ernst Weidner).
Also, publication of “Astronomisch-mythologisches 1.” by Hugo Winckler (Altorientalische Forschungen, Dritte Reihe, Band II, 1905, Pages 179-184); “Astronomisch-mythologisches 2-4.” by Hugo Winckler (Altorientalische Forschungen, Dritte Reihe, Band II, 1905, Pages 185-211); Astronomisch-mythologisches 5-18.” by Hugo Winckler (Altorientalische Forschungen, Dritte Reihe, Band II, 1905, Pages 274-314).
Stucken’s Astral Myth Theory
Publication of the lengthy critique of the first 4 parts of Stucken’s Astralmythen, “Fantaisies Biblico-Mythologiques d’un Chef d’École M. Édouard Stucken et le Folk-Lore.” by Emmanuel Cosquin (Revue Biblique Internationale, Nouvelle Série, Deuxième Année, Number 1, Janvier, 1905, Pages 5-38). The article was also published as a brochure in 1905 and parts appeared in the authors book, Études Folkloriques (1922). Emmanuel Cosquin (1841-1919) was a leading/prominent fastidious French folklorist. He supported the theory that the origin of folk-tales is historically traceable to India. His books include, Contes Populaires de Lorraine [Popular Tales of Lorraine] (1860).
Wilhelm Erbt in his book Die Hebraer (1906, Pages 196-201), under the influence of the astral theories of Panbabylonism, suggested that Canticles is a collection of paschal songs of Canaanitish origin. Erbt proposed that Canticles describes the love of the sun-god Tammuz (called Dod or Shelem), and the moon-goddess Ishtar (under the name of Shalmith). His arguments met with little favour.
Hugo Winckler published the booklet, Der Alter Orient und die Bibel. Nebst einem Anhang: Babel und Bibel – Bibel und Babel. For Winckler (and others) all the heroes of early Old Testament “history” – from Abraham down to Elijah, and perhaps further i.e., Sampson – are nothing more than astral, zodiacal, solar, and lunar gods/goddesses.
The Panbabylonists organized a “Gesellschaft für vergleichende Mythenforschung” (a society for pursuing the comparative study of mythology, founded in June, 1906 in Berlin), which began the publication of a series, of popular works in advocacy of its views, titled Im Kampfe um den alten Orient. The principal representatives of Panbabylonism (Winckler, Jeremias, and Stucken) were among the founders of the Gesellschaft für vergleichende Mythenforschung (“Society for the Promotion of Comparative Mythology”). Indeed, they were the key founders. (The Star-Myth School with Panbabylonism was established within such. It advocated the so-called astral mythology that was championed by Ernst Siecke.) The Society then proceeded to publish (from 1907 to 1916) a “Mythological Library” (Mythologische Bibliothek) The first volume published was Drachenkampfe: Untersuchungen zur indogermanischen Sagenkunde by Ernst Siecke (1907).
Publication of Das Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur (Volume 1) by the German Assyriologist Peter Jensen (1861-1936). (Volume 2 was published in 1928.) The assyriologist Peter Jensen was a capable philologist but less than astute with his Panbabylonian constructions. In this book Jensen maintained that the greater parts of the Old Testament (i.e., the Patriarchs and the Prophets) and even the substance of the Gospels (including Jesus) are simply faint echoes of the old Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh. According to Jensen the New Testament is a divergent Israelitish form of the Gilgamesh saga. (Jensen expected little support for his views.) It was an uncritical attempt to derive all ancient myths from the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic. For Jensen, the single Gilgamesh myth was the source for a world-wide system of myths and stories. Apparently it was this book and its doctrines that completely converted Zimmern to Panbabylonism. However, Jensen’s book was largely ignored. The ultimate (sole) source for the Panbabylonism of Jensen was the single Gilgamesh myth. Jensen never supported the Winckler-Jeremias view of Panbabylonism – an encompassing ancient world-system based in astral mythology. However, in Jensen’s view the Gilgamesh epic is a story that that deals with the movements of a planet in its conjunction with the fixed stars, and that the story is to be understood in terms of the astrological significance of such. (For Jensen, Gilgamesh was a solar myth. Basically, the passage of the sun through the 12 zodiacal signs.) The fallibility of Jensen’s multitude of Gilgamesh parallelisms with various world-wide sagas, myths, and tales is that most of such are simply coincidences of detail, sometimes of a very natural and unsurprising character, and sometimes the resemblances are of such a general nature as to be quite useless as convincing evidence. Jensen never formed part of the Winckler-Jeremias school of Panbabylonism and a degree of hostility actually existed between them. It has been remarked that Jensen was a rival of Winckler and the remark likely applies to Panbabylonism. As far as Winckler and Jeremias were concerned the Gilgamesh-centred approach of Jensen excluded Jensen from being a Panbabylonist. Jeremias made clear the Winckler-Jeremias school of Panbabylonism specifically dissociated itself from the claims Jensen made in his highly controversial book on Gilgamesh. (The prominent German assyriologist Albert Schott (1901-1945) who wrote Das Gilgamesch-Epos (1934) was a student of Peter Jensen.)
Morris Jastrow Junior in his 1906 fascicle for Die Religion Babylons und Assyriens gave a short but sympathetic outline of Winckler’s views. However, 2 years later he expressly rejected Panbabylonism.
Publication of “Winckler’s altorientalisches Phantasiebild.” by Hugo Gressmann (Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie, Band 49, 1906, Pages 289-309). An early and major criticism of Panbabylonism. Winckler was particularly hostile to this article and he replied to it at length.
Jensen’s exaggerated views (wild phantasies) concerning analogies with the Gilgamesh epic were set out in Volume 1 (Hebrew legends) and (Volume 2 (Greek legends) of his massive work. Jensen conceded that he was outside his field of expertise with the study and its claims. A key criticism made by critics was that merely comparing a series of stories rather than scrutinizing individual stories on their own merits ignores a fundamental principle of comparative mythology.
Lods, Adolphe. (1906). “Le Panbabylonisme de M. Jeremias.” (Revue de l’histoire des religions, Volume 27, Number 54, Pages 218-230). Basically a book review essay. Lods has a focus on the book, Das Alte Testament im Lichte des Alten Orients (1904). (Adolphe Lods (1867-1948) was a French Protestant Bible scholar and historian. He described the ideas of the Panbabylonist school (especially the Babel-Bibel stream) as “fantastic” and “romantic.”)
The 2nd revised edition of Hebräische Archäologie by Immanuel Benzinger (1907) was influenced by Panbabylonism. (The 1st edition was influenced by Wellhausen. The 2nd edition was influenced by Panbabylonism.) The 3rd edition appeared in 1927.
Discovery of Babylonian Astronomy
Kugler begins publication of his monumental Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel (2 volumes and 2 supplements, 1907-1924; supplement 3 by the German Assyriologist Johann Schaumberger, 1935). Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel [Star Science and Star Beliefs in Babylon] was the masterwork that recovered Babylonian astronomy. (Kugler’s projected 4 volumes of Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel was unfortunately never completed.) In 1907 the first volume of Kugler’s Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel appeared which showed the non-existence of the astronomical foundation on which Panbabylonism had been built. Kugler demonstrated that the idea of a highly developed scientific astronomy in ancient Mesopotamia was untenable. Kugler showed that a highly developed astronomy did not originate at the beginning of Babylonian civilization but quite at the end of it – after circa 700 BCE. Kugler’s conclusions on the age of Babylonian astronomy was supported by the (German) astronomers (Friedrich) Leopold Ambronn (1854-1930), Adolf Berberich (1861-1920), Friedrich Ginzel (1850-1926), Siegmund Günther (geographer, 1848-1923), and Joseph Plassmann (1859-1940). After World War I the open controversy between Kugler and the Panbabylonists was not renewed.
Publication of the book Die babylonische Geisteskultur by Hugo Winckler in which he set out for the general public the main ideas of Panbabylonism. This is Winckler’s last important publication on the subject of Panbabylonism. (An Italian-language translation, La cultura spirituale di Babilonia appeared in 1982.) 1907 marks the heyday of Panbabylonism.
In 1907 the journal (more a series of booklets) Im Kampfe um den alten Orient: Wehr- und Streitschriften was established by Winckler (and edited by Winckler and Jeremias) to specifically promote and further the cause of Panbabylonism. It largely avoided mythological arguments and the focus was on arguments based on cuneiform philology. (The Panbabylonists argued their skills in being able to read cuneiform writing enabled them to properly comprehend the texts. But Jesuits such as Franz Kugler were gaining expert knowledge of cuneiform writing and combined this with expert knowledge of astronomy to understand Babylonian astral sciences. The Jesuits had realised since the 1872 announcements by George Smith that they could only be successful in the newly developing field of Assyriology and the associated Babel-Bibel controversies about the historicity of the Bible if they had the necessary competence to discuss the primary source material.) The 2nd pamphlet in the series Im Kampfe um den alten Orient (published 1907) is Winckler’s harshly worded response to criticisms of his ideas by Hugo Gressmann (“Winckler’s altorientalisches Phantasiebild.” in Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie, Band 49, 1906, Pages 289-309) and Friedrich Küchler (1874-1920) (Die Stellung des Propheten Jesaja sur Politik seiner Zeit (1906) [sometimes: J./Kuechler/Die Stellung des Propheten Isaia[/Jesaia] sur Politik seiner Zeit; sometimes confused with Friedrich Küchler SJ (1822-1898).]), (2 students of Peter Jensen). As editor of Orientalistische Literaturzeitung Peiser was friendly towards the Panbabylonists. When the German Assyriologist and Panbabylonist Felix Peiser (1862-1921) became editor of Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, the German journal dedicated to ancient Near Eastern studies, Winckler and the supporters of Panbabylonism dominated its content. Peiser, with his Orientalistische Literaturzeitung gave Panbabylonistic tenets protection and support.
There were only 4 issues/monographs of KAO (Im Kampfe um den alten Orient) published. 1. Die Panbabylonisten der alte Orient und die Aegyptische Religion by Alfred Jeremias (1907). 2. Die jüngsten Kämpfer wider den Panbabylonismus by Hugo Winckler (1907). 3. Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie by Alfred Jeremias (1908). 4. Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre by Ernst Weidner (1914). (Hugo Winckler died in April 1913 and WWI began in July 1914.)
Publication of the 2nd edition of Die Panbabylonisten: Der alte Orient und die ägyptische Religion (1907) by Alfred Jeremias. The 2nd edition gained great currency and was akin to a Panbabylonian textbook. Also: Jeremias, Alfred, “Sterne (bei den Babyloniern.” In: W. H. Roscher. (Editor). Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (1915), Volume 4, Columns 1427-1500).
The German archaeologist Immanuel Benzinger (1865-1935) was converted to the ideas of Panbabylonisn by both Winckler and Jeremias. Benzinger’s book Hebräische Archäologie (1894) was revised (1907) to include the Panbabylonian concepts of Winckler and Jeremias. This 2nd edition was permeated with its tenets.
In 1907 the journal Mythologische Bibliothek (“Mythological Library”) was established/began publication with the specific purpose of applying Panbabylonistic methods to the investigation of the mythologies of all countries. It published until 1916.
In his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Buch 1, (1907) Kugler first set out his firm opposition to the tenets of Panbabylonism. He also discussed the issue of supposed Babylonian knowledge of precession.
Alfred Jeremias published the 1st edition of his booklet, Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie (1908). This booklet is mainly directed against Kugler. Also: Jeremias, Alfred. (1908). “Ages of the World (Babylonian).” In: James Hastings (Editor). Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, Volume 1, Columns 183-187.
In his Der Einfluss Babyloniens auf das Verständnis des Alten Testaments (1908, Page 8) Alfred Jeremias distinguished between Panbabylonism (Panbabylonismus) and Babylonism (Babylonianism).
For enthusiastic support for Panbabylonism in an English-language publication see: “Panbabylonism” Pages 33-38; and “II The Person and Work of Jesus Christ.” Pages 44-57; in: Some Recent Phases of German Theology by John Nuelsen (1908). Interestingly, the author attempts to show that Theodore Roosevelt could be explained as a mythical figure.
The ethnologist and historian Wilhelm Schmidt quite early set out to refute Panbabylonianism. His 1908 19-page pamphlet (off-print) Panbabylonismus und ethnologischer Elementargedanke was originally published as a journal article in: Mitteilungen der Anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien, Band XXXVIII, (der dritten Folge Band VIII).
In his “President’s Address” (Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religions, 1908, Volume 1, Pages 231-248) the American Semiticist Morris Jastrow Junior criticised the “Babel-Bibel” aspect of Panbabylonism. (At least one current academic mistakenly believes that Morris Jastrow Junior was a proponent of Panbabylonism.)
Publication of the monograph Moses, Jesus, Paulus: Drei Varianten des babylonischen Gottmenschen Gilgamesch [Moses, Jesus, Paul: Three Variations on the Babylonian God-Man Gilgamesh] by Peter Jensen (1909, Reprinted 1910, 64 Pages). It continued the extreme claims he made in his book published three years earlier (i.e., particularly focused on his assertion that Gilgamesh was the ancient prototype of the Bible figures Moses, Jesus, and Paul). Jensen attempted to derive both the Synoptic and Johannine traditions of Jesus’ life from the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, or, more exactly, from an Israelitish form of it. Jensen attempted to accomplish this derivation only by presupposing a divergent Israelitish form of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Peter Jensen first published studies of the Gilgamesh epic in 1900 (Assyrisch-babylonische Mythen und Epen, an anthology of Akkadian narrative poetry) and 1901. (The earlier complete edition of the Gilgamesh Epic published by Paul Haupt under the title Das babyloniscke Nimrodepos (1884-1891) did not come to public notice.) Later, Jensen believed he could identify aspects of the Gilgamesh epic in the pattern of all other myths and sagas, worldwide, including the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Homeric epics. He argued that Abraham, Jesus and John the Baptist, for example, were borrowed from Babylonian mythology Jensen’s broad position was that Christianity was based on a form of the Gilgamesh myth. Jensen declared the Gilgamesh epic to be a source for all mythological motifs in world literature, and that the Old and New Testaments should be destroyed as religious texts. These exaggerated claims have now been largely discredited. Jensen’s claims for the Gilgamesh Epic as the source of all the mythological patterns in world literature was a sort of forerunner of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.
As much as anything, Heinrich Zimmern (1909) thought that the Weltanschauung of the Panbabylonists made possible a better understanding of Babylonian religion. (Article: “Babylonians and Assyrians.” In: Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics edited by J. Hastings, Volume II, 1909, Columns 309-319.) Note: Heinrich Zimmern did not really adopt the tenants of Panbabylonism until 1909 when he wrote the article on the religion of the Babylonians and Assyrians for Hasting’s Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics. Zimmern was usually more prudent in his Panbabylonistic tendencies.
Regarding Ernst Dittrich’s precession articles in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung (OLZ). Dittrich wrote OLZ, Number 7, 1909, Column 292; then OLZ, Number 3, 1910, Column 103. Kugler replied in OLZ, Number 6, 1910, Column 277 to Dittrich’s 1910 article. Dittrich then replied to Kugler in OLZ, Number 1, 1911, Columns 14-18. It appears Kugler did not reply. (The sympathy of the early editors of OLZ for Panbabylonism is clear in OLZ, Number 12, 1909, Columns 521-527.)
The publication in 1909/1910 of Part 1 of Volume 2 of Franz Kugler’s Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel forced the Panbabylonists to adopt new tactics. In 1909 some key Panbabylonists stated their intention to now only examine whether the astrological foundations of Panbabylonism were better assured than its astronomical ones. Kugler in 1910 with his book Im Bannkreis Babels showed that Panbabylonism was just as unsound in its astrological as in its astronomical foundations.
Publication in the journal Anthropos of the trenchant article against Panbabylonism Auf den Trümmern des Panbabylonismus [On the Ruins of Panbabylonism] by Kugler. Kugler, after some indecision, definitely concluded in 1909 that the Greek astronomer Hipparchus, not the Babylonian, was the discoverer of precession. The article was mostly a critique of a volume in the series Im Kampfe um den alten Orient: Wehr- und Streitschriften. An English-language summary review of Auf den Trümmern des Panbabylonismus at the time: “Critique of the “pan-Babylonian” theory of mythology set up by Hommel and Winckler. The astronomic and other data in Dr A. Jeremias’s Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie (Leipzig, 1908) are severely handled. The character of the older Babylonian astronomy, the assumed Babylonian knowledge of the precession, the Babylonian order of the planets, etc., are discussed.” The Panbabylonist Alfred Jeremias replied the same year with the 2nd edition of his 1908 booklet Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie (1909). Jeremias opposed Kugler’s denial of any scientific astronomy in Mesopotamia before the Assyrians. An English-language blurb at the time stated: “This pamphlet deals with one of the important questions of the Pan-Babylonian controversy, viz. Did the old Babylonians possess a genuine astronomical science, as distinguished from mere general observations of the heavens, and from astrology? Upon the answer to this question the fate of Pan-Babylonianism depends. Jeremias, in this second edition of his treatise, seeks to nullify the considerations urged against the high age of astronomy in Babylon by F. Kugler in a recent volume.” Kugler (and others, such as Carl Bezold and Franz Boll) held the evidence showed that Old Babylon astronomy was the beginning of astronomy, primarily a collection of omens rather than the establishment of strict astronomical facts. Jeremias insisted that the collection of early omens recovered from the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal, the last great king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (reigned 7th-century BCE), could not give an adequate idea of the earlier Babylonian astronomy. Jeremias stressed doing so ignored (would overthrow) all that was known of Old Babylonian civilization and make the Assyrians innovative and the Babylonians laggards.
In his Geschichte des Altertums (Erster Band. Zweite Abteilung: Die ältesten Geschichtlichen Völker und Kulturen bis zum sechzehnten Jahrhundert), (1909, Page 309), the prominent German philologist and historian Eduard Meyer wrote a trenchant criticism of Panbabylonism.
In the USA the Semiticist Albert Clay spent the first half of his book Amurru: The Home of the Northern Semites specifically critiquing the claims of Panbabylonism and arguing against a Babylonian origin for the religion and culture of Israel. (He was the leading opponent of Panbabylonism in North America.) Interestingly, Clay proposed the Israelites were descended from the Semitic Amurru. Clay argues the Babylonians emigrated from Palestine and Syria, taking with them their religion, learning, and traditions. A reworked edition setting out Clay’s Pan-Amurrism appeared in 19919, The Empire of the Amorites.
Zum Streit um die “Christusmythe”: Das babylonische Material in seinen Hauptpunkten dargestellt by Heinrich Zimmern (1910). The German Assyriologist Heinrich Zimmern (1862-1931) collected a mass of material from Babylonian sources which he used in an attempt to prove that the “Christusmythe” is derived from the legends of the Babylonian god Bel-Merodach [Bel-Marduk]. (Or, more exactly, simply a repetition of such. Zimmern argued that the Babylonian creation epic was an older version of the New Testament.) Hermann Zimmern held that the New Testament mirrored the Babylonian Creation Epic and that the “myth of Bel-Marduk of Babylon” formed the basis for the story of Christ’s Passion. His arguments were set out in his book Zum Streit um die “Christusmythe” (1910) but the (flawed) arguments by Zimmern actually appeared as early as 1901. According to Zimmern, Babylonian mythology influenced the story of Jesus in the Gospels and Epistles. For Zimmern: (1) the whole story of the birth of Jesus is simply the story of the birth of Babylonian god Marduk; (2) the agony of Jesus in the garden is traced to an experience in the life of Ashurbanipal as a “penitent expiator;” (3) the death and descent of Jesus into Hades was suggested by the death of Marduk and Tammuz, and the descent of the goddess Ishtar into Hades; and (4) the resurrection of Jesus has its origin in Babel and is found in the repetition of a myth concerning Marduk.
Panbabylonism influenced, to some extent, biblical studies. As example: Old Testament scholars such as Hermann Gunkel began to examine literary types in the Old Testament in the light of Mesopotamian literature. Publication of 3rd edition (1st edition 1901) of Genesis by Hermann Gunkel (comprising his extensive commentary). In this very influential book, Gunkel gave significant consideration to the ideas of the major Panbabylonists (Winckler, Jeremias, Jensen, and Hommel). In 1997 an English-language translation was published. Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) was a German Protestant Old Testament scholar and a pioneer of source- and form- critical methods.