Several pre-biblical protagonists appearing in Mesopotamian myths are identified as being fused together and recast as the Garden of Eden's serpent.
Paperback: 189 pages
Publisher: lulu.com (October 24, 2010)
and its Pre-biblical
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y d la Torre, M.A. Ed.
17 Dec 2000
Revisions through: 15 August 2010
Some scholars have expressed the opinion that Eden's serpent "might be" a later Hebrew recasting of some unknown god or demi-god in some long-lost Mesopotamian myth.
Almost 100 years ago (1910) Professor Skinner made just such an observation:
"It is more probable that behind the sober description of the serpent as a mere creature of Yahwe, there was an earlier form of the legend in which he figured as a god or a demon." (pp. 71-72. John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1910. Revised edition 1930. Reprint 1994)
Some 50 years years later (1960) Professor Childs (as noted by Evans) also expressed a similar notion, that Genesis' serpent was "possibly" a re-casting of some individual in an earlier Mesopotamian myth:
"In a recent study of this conflict between the story and the mythical relics it preserves B. S. Childs has remarked that 'behind the figure of the serpent shimmers another form still reflecting its former life.' A tension exists because this independent life of the original figure still struggles against the framework of a simple snake into which it has been recast." (p. 20. J. M. Evans. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford, England. Clarendon Press. 1968, citing from B. S. Childs. Myth and Reality in the Old Testament (Studies in Biblical Theology). Vol. 17. 1960. pp. 45-48)
The above "insights" of these two Professors of Biblical Studies (Skinner and Childs) caused me to investigate the ancient Mesopotamian myths to see if I could "find" the Mesopotamian "prototype" to Eden's serpent. The surprise? I found _several_ Mesopotamian "prototypes" which apparently had been fused together, transformed and recast into Eden's Serpent.
Many scholars have suggested that the Mesopotamian myth titled Adapa and the South Wind might be a prototype of Adam's lost chance at immortality, however, no serpent appears in this myth. I thereupon decided to investigate _all_ the characters in this myth to see if any "serpent associations" existed with them in "other" compositions. I discovered that Ea (Enki), Dumuzi (Tammuz) and Gizzida (Ningishzida) had "serpent associations" in various hymns, myths and literary works. This article was originally created and posted to this website on 17 Dec of 2000, and at that time I "thought" Nin-gish-zida was exclusively the god "behind" Eden's serpent. By 28 April of 2006, I came to realize I was in error. Note: Sumerian Enki "lord earth" in later ages becomes Akkadian Ea (e.a) meaning "house of water" according to some scholars; both dwell in the depths of the apsu or abzu (a freshwater stream under the earth or "abyss" which provides water for all the earth's rivers) at Eridu.
A special note on the Sumerian epithet ushumgal, usumgal, ucumgal:
Earlier scholarship, at least as late as 1923, rendered ushumgal as meaning "serpent" (ushum) "great" (gal) but the present (1970-2009) scholarly preference is to render ushumgal as meaning "dragon" or "great dragon" rather than "great serpent."
(1) Adam's lost chance at immortality is a later Hebrew reworking of motifs, concepts and events appearing in the Mesopotamian Adapa and the South Wind myth, which sought to explain how man came to lose a chance to acquire immortality (as has been noted by numerous scholars over the past 100 years).
(2) Adam is a recast of Adapa (as noted by numerous scholars).
(3) God or Yahweh is a recast of Ea (Enki) _and_ Anu (An) in the Adapa and the South Wind myth. Anu gave Adapa a change of clothes before he left his abode, Yahweh clothes Adam before expelling him. Yahweh has Adam removed from the garden in Eden, Anu has Adapa removed by his gate guards.
(4) The serpent is a recast of Ea (Enki), Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi in the Adapa and the South Wind myth who have been fused together. Note, in 1910 Skinner had proposed that because Ea (Enki) had given "knowledge" to Adapa that he was a prototype of Eden's serpent:
"...Yahwe forbids both wisdom and immortality to man, Ea confers the first (and thus far plays the part of the biblical serpent)..." (p. 92. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T &T Clark. 1910. Revised edition 1930. Reprint 1994)
(5) Eve is a recast of:
(1) Shamhat the Harlot who seduced Enkidu (an Adamic prototype) in The Epic of Gilgamesh _fused_ with Sumerian
(2) Inanna (Akkadian Ishtar), the wife of Dumuzi, a shepherd who cares for his flock of sheep in the steppe or plain called in Sumerian the edin. Inanna bears the epithet or title Inanna-edin, "Inanna of edin" and another epithet Sumerian Nin-edin, "[the] Lady of edin." (cf. "below" Hugo Radau's identifications) Please click here for a wall mural at Mari showing Inanna/Ishtar in the Garden of Eden.
(3) Adapa, a male servant of Ea in the Adapa and Southwind myth. Why? Eden's serpent asks Eve about Eden's trees, she recites to the serpent Yahweh's warning "do not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or you will die." This recalls Adapa's reciting Ea's similar warning to Anu when Anu asks "Why didn't you eat the bread of life?" That is to say the Hebrews have taken the motif of a recitation of a warning about eating and dying associated with a male (Adapa) and ascribed the recitation to a female, Eve! Other Eve prototypes?
(5) Dumuzi of the Adapa and Southwind Myth. How so? Eve is portrayed offering Adam forbidden food that will take his life, it is Gishzida and Dumuzi who on Anu's behalf offer Adapa the forbidden food. Other myths reveal that these two male gods bore female epithets. Gishzida was also called Nin-gish-zida, nin means "lady" (en means "lord" in Sumerian) Dumuzi bore the epithet ama-ushum-gal-anna "the mother is a great serpent dragon of heaven," ama means "mother." So the Hebrews have taken two male deities who confusingly bore female epithets nin and ama and fused them into Eve's persona, having her offer a man (Adam) the food of death instead of two male deities.
Eve is a fusion of several characters in different myths. Other protagonists?
(6) The Cherubim (a plural form of the Hebrew word Cherub) who in Christian tradition are portrayed removing Adam and Eve from Paradise are recasts of Anu's two heavenly gate-guards Ningishzida and Dumuzi who "take" Adapa back to his earth when he fails to partake of the "bread and water of life" conferring immortality.
(7) The warning not to eat given by God (Yahweh) in an earthly garden to Adam and Eve, is a recast of Ea's warning to Adapa on the earth in Eridu, where Ea (Enki) has created an earthly garden near his temple or shrine that Adapa serves him at. Enki made man to replace the Igigi or junior gods who objected to the onerous working conditions in Enki's earthly city-garden. That is to say the warning was given Adapa on the earth in Eridu, the proferring of the forbidden food, however, was in heaven by Anu.
Of interest is that some Christians understand Paradise is in heaven and Islam teaches the Garden of Eden is in heaven and it was from this heavenly Paradise Adam and Eve were expelled to live on the earth.
(8) To the degree that God does not "initially" deny the Tree of Life to Adam, suggesting God was, at first, willing to "let" man obtain immortality, this may be a recast of Anu who was willing to grant immortality to Adapa (said "bread and water of life" being proffered on his behalf by his servants Gishzida/Ningishzida and Tammuz/Dumuzid.
As the "focus" of this article is the Edenic Serpent, I make the following observations:
(1) The Serpent's urging Eve (and thus Adam) to eat, contra Yahweh's orders is a recasting of Anu/An, Gishzida/Ningishzida and Tammuz/Dumuzi/Dumuzid, all of whom urged Adapa to eat forbidden food contra Ea's (Enki's) orders.
(2) The Serpent's being responsible for Adam and Eve's acquisition of forbidden knowledge is a recast of Ea (Enki) who gave Adapa forbidden knowledge teaching him powerful curses and incantations to overpower the lesser gods (Anu being "upset" by Ea's doing this).
(3) The Serpent's ability to walk and to talk to mankind (Eve) reflects the fact that:
(a.) Ningishzida (Gizzida) in art appears in human form which gives him the ability to "talk and walk" and he also is represented in art as a serpent/dragon with wings, horns and four legs.
(b.) Dumuzi (Tammuz) although a human, in one myth is made into a Sakgal snake by the Sumerian sun-god Utu (Akkadian: Shamash). Dumuzi specifically asks Shamash to "take away his hands and feet" to free him of his bonds by making him a serpent and thus escape his captors. This may explain why the Serpent loses its feet? And he bears the epithet ama-ushumgal-an-na, "[the] mother is a great serpent of heaven." Dumuzi also bears the Sumerian title mulu edin "Lord of Edin" perhaps an allusion to the biblical Eden, and thus Dumuzi becomes another "Adamic prototype." Dumuzi is not ever portrayed iconographically as a serpent despite the fact he is briefly turned in to one by the Sumerian sun-god Utu in order to escape his captors the Ugalla/Galla demons.
Black on Dumuzi's seizure at his wife Inanna's behest under an "apple tree" in the "plain" (edin) of Kulaba (identified with Uruk) and Dumuzi's request of Utu the sun-god and brother of Inanna, to help him escape the demons who have bound his hands and feet with ropes to sticks which I understand has been "recast" in Genesis as the serpent of Eden loosing its feet as a "curse" by Yahweh-Elohim; the loss of Dumuzi's feet in the original Sumerian account was not a curse, it was a blessing in that Dumuzi the ushumgal "great serpent," was able to temporarily slither out of his bonds and briefly elude his demon captors That is to say the Hebrews, employing an inversion, have recast these motifs as a "curse" when they were originally a "blessing" and an act of "mercy" thereby allowing the ushumgal (Dumuzi) to briefly elude his captors and escape death. Note: Snakes have no hands or feet, so the Sumerian author is apparently being 'playful' or employing a 'poetical metaphor' in transforming Dumuzi's human hands and feet into "snake hands and feet," in effect, saying Dumuzi's loss of hands and feet allowed him to escape his bonds:
"Holy Inana answered the demons...Let us go on to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba. They followed her to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba. There was Dumuzid...The demons seized him there...She looked at him, it was the look of death. She spoke to him (?), it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him (?), it was the shout of guilt: 'How much longer? Take him away.' Holy Inana gave Dumuzid the shepherd into their hands...Dumuzid let out a wail...raised his hands to heaven, to Utu...Turn my hands into snake hands and turn my feet into snake's feet, so I can escape my demons, let them not keep hold of me.' Utu accepted his tears. Utu turned Dumuzid's hands into snake's hands. He turned his feet into snake's feet. Dumuzid escaped his demons. (pp. 74-75. "Inana and Dumuzid." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. New York & Oxford.Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006).
(c) Ea in his earlier life as the Sumerian god Enki, although human in form and thus able to "talk and walk" like Dumuzi, bears the Sumerian epithet ushumgal meaning "great serpent/dragon" (a mythical beast which has four legs to walk upon). However Enki the ushumgal is never portrayed in art as a serpent or serpent-dragon (one king of Sumer bore the name ushumgal). His identifying symbol is a so-called "goat-fish" which is best imagined as the Greek astrological sign of Capricorn, the forepart being a goat with two forefeet and the hindquarters being a fishes' body or tail. Enki bore the epithet "the leading goat."
(4) Inanna, Dumuzi's wife has been fused with Shamhat of the Gilgamesh Epic to become Eve. Inanna in other myths is not only called Nin edin "Lady of edin" (Sumerian edin being variously translated as wilderness uncultivated desert, steppe or plain), she also bears the Sumerian epithet ama-ushumgal-an-na "[the] mother is a great serpent-dragon of heaven." That is to say Inanna is "the Lady of edin" her husband Dumuzi is the "Lord of edin" (mulu edin) and both bear the Sumerian epithet ushum-gal meaning "serpent-great." or "dragon" (cf. "below" Hugo Radau's identifications). However, like Enki/Ea, she is never portrayed iconographically as possessing a serpent's body. Inanna (Inana) bears two epithets "great serpent-dragon" _and_ "lady of edin," she singles out her husband Dumuzi the "lord of edin" to be killed by the Ugalla demons thereby becoming her "unwilling surrogate" in the Underworld. That is to say, Genesis' notion that a serpent and a woman of Eden are to be held responsible for the man of Eden's death somewhat recalls Dumuzi's death at the hands of his wife Inanna the "serpent-dragon" and "lady of edin." His scene of death in Sumerian hymns is under the great apple tree lying in the "plain" (edin) of Kulaba (cf. pp. 74-75. "Inana and Dumuzid." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006). Of interest here is that some Christian art forms portray Eden's serpent as possessing the upper torso of a woman, and lower body of a serpent (cf. Michealangelo's Sistine Chapel at the Vatican). It makes the hair stand up on the back of one's neck doesn't it, that the serpent of Eden is later portrayed as a woman and Inanna, the "lady of edin," who bore the epithet ushumgal "great serpent-dragon," was responsible for her husband's death in edin, handing him over to the Ugalla demons? That is to say Eve's association with a serpent and her being blamed for the man of eden's death, appears to recall the roles and epithets associated with the Sumerian goddess Inanna. The notion of an apple tree and Adam's demise uncannily seems to preserve Dumuzi's death under the Great Apple Tree in the edin of Kulaba. Kulaba is "the cultic area of the city of Unug, often used to mean Unug in its entirety." (cf. p. 366. "Glossary: Kulaba." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006). Please note: Sumerian Unug is Akkadian Uruk, a city in Sumer, whose temple honored Inanna (Ishtar) the goddess of whores and temple prostitutes, one of whom, Shamhat (whom I and others have identified with being a prototype of Eve), seduced Enkidu (Adam) at the watering hole in edin near Uruk (Genesis' Erech, Ge 10:10).
Black on Dumuzi's demise at his wife Inanna's behest under an "apple tree" in the "plain" (edin) and Dumuzi's request of Utu the sun-god and brother of Inanna, to help him escape the demons who have bound his hands and feet with ropes to sticks, which I understand has been "recast" in Genesis as the serpent of eden loosing its feet as a "curse" by Yahweh-Elohim; the loss of feet in the original Sumerian account was not a curse, it was a blessing in that Dumuzi the ushumgal "great serpent-dragon," was able to temporarily slither out of his bonds and briefly elude his demon captors; That is to say the Hebrews, employing an inversion, have made the loss of Eden's Serpent's legs a curse when it was originally a blessing and an act of "clemency." Note: Serpents do not have hands or feet, apparently the Sumerian author is being either 'playful' or employing a 'metaphor' in having Dumuzi's hands and feet being made into "serpent hands and feet" saying in effect that Dumuzi's loss of hands and feet allows him to escape his bonds. Note: "plain" (of Kulaba) in Sumerian is edin (Kulaba is another name for Uruk and vicinity), so Dumuzi lost his feet in edin the plain. The Hebrews are apparently "playfully" inverting the story, a god given serpent feet, loses its serpent feet (via another inversion the god, Dumuzi, is 'playfully' recast as being a mere serpent):
"Holy Inana answered the demons...Let us go on to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba. They followed her to the great apple tree in the plain of Kulaba. There was Dumuzid...The demons seized him there...She looked at him, it was the look of death. She spoke to him (?), it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him (?), it was the shout of guilt: 'How much longer? Take him away.' Holy Inana gave Dumuzid the shepherd into their hands...Dumuzid let out a wail...raised his hands to heaven, to Utu...Turn my hands into snake's hands and turn my feet into snake's feet, so I can escape my demons, let them not keep hold of me.' Utu accepted his tears. Utu turned Dumuzid's hands into snake's hands. He turned his feet into snake's feet. Dumuzid escaped his demons. (pp. 74-75. "Inana and Dumuzid." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006).
(5) The Serpent's fame for subtlety with words reflects Ea's (Enki's) fame for subtlety with words he bearing also the epithet ushumgal, "great serpent/dragon."
(6) The Serpent's association with wisdom (Matthew 10:16) reflects Enki's/Ea's being the god of wisdom and knowledge in Sumerian and Akkadian texts.
(7) The Serpent's association with a wonderous tree may recall Enki the ushumgal who raised up two wonderous trees in his fruit-tree garden at Eridu in edin-the-plain of Sumer, the Mes-tree and the Kiskanu-Tree? To the degree that some scholars understand Ningishzida and Dumuzi to be Vegetation gods or the life-force in trees, their association with trees is important too.
(8) Christianity's notion that the Serpent is to be held responsible for denying Adam immortality is a recast of Enki (Ea) the ushumgal or "great serpent/dragon" who in his earthly fruit-tree city-garden in Eridu denied Adapa immortality via the trickery of subtle double-meaning words.
(9) Anu as "the father of the gods" is ultimately the father or progenitor as well of _all_ gods some of whom are associated with Serpents, either iconographically as in the case of Ningishzida, or via epithets like ushumgal and ama-ushumgal-an-na. Thus, while I am unaware of any "direct" serpent associations with Anu (he not having any epithets like ushumgal or possessing a serpent form at any time), as the "father" or ancestor of Ea (Enki) he has an "in-direct" serpent association.
(10) The "Bread of Death" and the "Bread of Life" _recast_ as "Fruit of Death" and "Fruit of Life" in Genesis:
Adapa was warned on the earth in Eridu by his god Ea (Enki) not to eat "the Bread of Death" or drink "the Water of Death" or he would surely die. In Anu's heaven he is presented "Bread of Life" and "Water of Life" which will give him immortality. I understand that the Hebrews, employing "a new twist," have transformed the Bread of Death into a Fruit of Death which if eaten will cause Adam to die, said fruit being from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The "Bread of Life" offered by Anu has been _recast_ by the Hebrews as a Fruit conferring Immortality if consumed. In other myths we learn that Ea (Enki) who is called an ushumgal or "great serpent/dragon" has created a garden full of fruit-trees for himself near his shrine. He is, in another myth, responsible for creating man of the clay over the apsu in Eridu to replace the toiling Igigi gods who complain they have no rest from agricultural toil in his city garden. I thus understand that Ea's FRUIT_TREE_GARDEN was known by Terah and Abraham who lived at Ur of the Chaldees (Tel Muqqayar near Eridu) and they (Terah and Abraham) used fruits from these fruit-trees to replace "Bread of Death" and "Bread of Life" in the Hebrew recasting of motifs from the Adapa and the Southwind myth.
(11) Inanna (Akkadian Ishtar) in other myths is portrayed descending from heaven with her brother the sun-god (Sumerian Utu) for the express purpose of obtaining knowledge by eating of various unknown herbs including of cedar trees (pine nuts or cedar nuts are used in a number of Middle Eastern dishes). This act of eating gives her "sexual" knowledge so that she can perform her "bridal duties" with her husband Dumuzi. I understand that Eve as Adam's mate or "wife" and her eating a fruit from a tree in the garden of Eden is a later Hebrew recasting of Inanna as the "Lady of Edin" eating of cedar trees to acquire sexual knowledge. These trees and plants reside not in heaven, from which she descends but grow on the earth. Thus I understand the biblical tree of knowledge of good and evil which resides on the earth in a God's garden is a recast of Sumerian motifs regarding the "Lady of Edin" acquiring knowledge via eating of a tree. (For further details on the Sumerian account please click here ). Inanna also bears the Sumerian epithet ama-ushumgal-an-na, "the mother is a great serpent-dragon of heaven." Perhaps Eve's association with a serpent and eating of a tree are recastings of motifs assocated with Inanna (Ishtar)? Inanna is also called nin-edin "the lady of edin." Please click here for a wall mural at Mari showing Inanna/Ishtar associated with a garden possessing date-palms (the Bible mentions Cherubim and Palm-trees decorating Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, cf. 1 Kings 6:32).
(12) Dumuzi as mulu-edin, the "lord of edin" is portrayed on a cylinder seal as being bound by several ugalla demons who accomplish his death in the steppe (Sumerian edin) where he earns his livelihood as a shepherd. Of interest is that these demons are portrayed on this cylinder seal as erect serpents. That is to say the death of the Lord of Edin (mulu-edin) is accomplished by erect serpent deities, whose abode is the underworld. Were these serpent-deities transformed into Genesis' serpent who is held to be responsible for Adam's death in Eden? Inanna's release from the underworld is accomplished when the Ugalla demons accompany her to the earth's surface to find a "substitute" for her to remain in the underworld effecting her release from death. She chooses her husband Dumuzi to be her substitute. That is to say the "lady of edin" (nin-edin) under demonic influence and control (the Ugalla in erect serpent forms) is held culpable for the "lord of edin's" death. All this is to say there are several motifs of a location called edin where a man and woman are associated with dying due to the actions of serpent dieties. Could these motifs from differing contradicting myths have been fused together and recast by the Hebrews into Adam, Eve and the Serpent of Eden? Please click here for a picture of a cylinder seal showing the ugalla as erect serpents and their carrying off Dumuzi of edin to the underworld. The final scene on the seal shows Dumuzi standing atop a four-legged serpent dragon holding two branches with fruit on them, implying he is the life-force in the Spring of fruit-bearing plants which nourish mankind. Did these _two_ branches and their fruits become the fruits of death and of life of _two_ trees in the Genesis account?
Please click here for another article exploring "in greater depth" Parallels between Adam's "Fall" and Adapa's "Fall" in the South Wind myth.
Barton on several "modern" scholars (by 1916) suggesting Genesis' Fall motif is a recast of similar motifs appearing in the Adapa and the Southwind myth:
"In the first place, Adapa, like Adam, had gained knowledge. This knowledge carried with it a power hitherto regarded as an attribute of divinity. It enabled Adapa to break the wing of the southwind; it tempted Adam and Eve "to become like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:5). As in Genesis, knowledge did not carry with it immortality. Ea, the god who had permitted Adapa to become wise, feared that he might gain immortality, as Jehovah thought that Adam might "put forth his hand and take of the tree of life and eat and live forever" (Gen. 3:22). Ea accordingly told Adapa a falsehood when he was about to go into the presence of the supreme god, Anu, in order to prevent him from eating the food that would make him immortal; Jehovah drove man from the garden where the tree of life grew. The two accounts agree in thought that immortality could be obtained by eating a certain kind of food. The lines at the end of the Adapa story are much broken, but they make clear that as punishment for what he had done, Adapa was subjected to sickness, disease and restlessness. This corresponds to the toil inflicted upon woman (Gen. 3:17-19), and the pangs of childbirth imposed upon woman (Gen. 3:16). It appears also that as Adam and Eve were clothed with skins in consequence of their deed (Gen. 3:21), so Adapa was clothed by Anu in a special clothing.
These similarities indicate that the Babylonians possessed the same general ideas of the connection of increasing knowledge, with the attributes of divinity on the one hand, and with suffering and clothing on the other, which are presented in Genesis. An increasing number of modern scholars regard the Babylonian story as an earlier form of a narrative which the Hebrew writer took and purified...In the Babylonian myth, the gods, Ea and Anu, are divided and work at cross purposes; Ea tells a falsehood to accomplish his end." (pp. 260-261. George A. Barton. Archaeology and the Bible. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. American Sunday-School Union. 1916)
I take the "Secular-Humanist position," that the Garden of Eden is a Myth and all the dialogs coming from the characters in this myth are from the mind of the narrator. I do, however, understand that behind all myths are historical kernels. In this case the "kernels" are vestiges of earlier Mesopotamian myths reaching back to the 3rd and 2nd milleniums B.C. which the Hebrews later reinterpreted into the Garden of Eden and its motifs (I have argued in other articles posted to this website that Genesis is a creation of the 6th century B.C.).
My research has suggested that several ancient Mesopotamian myths have been combined and reinterpreted and probably lie behind the Eden story and its scenarios regarding God, Adam, Eve and the Serpent.
First, is the myth titled "Adapa and the South Wind." Adapa journeys to Heaven and loses a chance to obtain immortality by refusing to consume the food and drink which would confer it on him, on the advice of the jealous god he serves, Enki. I suspect this where the Hebrews are getting their notion that the eating of a fruit from a plant on the earth, can give one immortality.
The Mesopotamian myths stress that Man was made in order grow and harvest food to feed and nourish the gods. He did this by presenting "real food," harvested from irrigation fed gardens, and slaughtering animals for meat. Water, beer and wine were poured out on the altars for the gods to consume. Evidently these products of the earth were conceived sometimes as rising up to heaven where the Gods dwelt, in the form of smoke, allowing them to "mystically consume or smell" the food as a sweet savour. Thus earthly grown food feeds the gods.
When Adapa got to Heaven, he was presented food and drink, which would have conferred immortality (as the gods consume earthly food, the food they offered him, had to have been earthly in origin too). He refused the food and drink, having been forewarned by the god he served on earth, Enki, that he would surely die if he consumed them. Anu laughed to hear that Adapa wouldn't eat or drink, so he sent him back to the earth from which he came, and thus mankind lost its chance at immortality.
Before offering Adapa the food, Anu, the supreme god, made an interesting statement, after quizzing Adapa to learn how he was able to break the south wind's wing and prevent sea breezes reaching Lower Mesopotamia, he learned indisbelief, that Enki had revealed certain knowledge to Adapa, knowledge that was restricted to the gods, and not to be possessed by Mankind. It was upon this realization that Adapa possessed secret knowledge restricted to the gods, that he thereupon decided to offer him immortality by having him consume the drink and food which could confer it (If he's got a god's wisdom, why not make him a god?).
"The story of Adapa shares with the Epic of Gilgamesh the motif of man's squandered opportunity for gaining immortality. It is extant in four fragmentary accounts. The oldest and longest of these (B) comes from the El-Amarna archives (14th century B.C.), whereas the other three (A, C, and D) derive from the library of Asshurbanipal."
"Wide understanding he had perfected for him ...To him he had given wisdom; eternal life he had not given him. In those years, the sage of Eridu, Ea [Enki], created him as the model of men..."
Ea instructs Adapa not to eat anything offered in heaven by Tammuz and Ningishzida:
"When they offer thee bread of death, Thou shalt not eat it. When they offer thee water of death, Thou shalt not drink it. When they offer thee a garment put it on...This advice that I have given thee, neglect not..."
In Genesis Yahweh apparently is speaking to other heavenly beings for in making a decision to deny Adam immortality he says "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil..." (Ge 3:22). I suspect the term "us" is an echo of Anu's speech to Ningishzida and Dumuzi regarding what are "they" to do about Adapa, as preserved in Pritchard's and Sandar's below translations, Anu speaking to Dumuzi (Tammuz) and Gishzida (Ningishzida) who have brought Adapa before him:
"Why did Ea to a worthless human of the heaven and earth the plan disclose, rendering him distinguished and making a name for himself? As for us, what shal we do about him? Bread of life fetch for him and he shall eat it. When the bread of life they brought him, he did not eat; when the water of life they brought him, he did not drink...Come now Adapa! Why didst thou neither eat or drink? Thou shalt not have eternal life! Ah, perverse mankind!"
Please note that it is two male deities offering man (Adapa) forbidden food on Anu's behalf instead of a woman (Eve offering Adam the forbidden food). There is however a surprise. So what's the surprise? Gishzida in other myths is called Nin-gish-zida, and nin means in Sumerian "lady" (en in Sumerian means "lord") while Tammuz/Dumuzid in other myths bears the epiteth ama-ushum-gal-an-na "mother great serpent of heaven," ama meaning "mother." So, confusingly two male deities who offered man (Adapa) forbidden food bore epithets identifying them as females: nin "lady," and ama "mother." That is to say perhaps the biblical notion that a "female" (Eve) offered man (Adam) forbidden food is drawing from nin and ama?
"Ea, my master, Commanded me: "Thou shalt not eat, thou shalt not drink."
"Take him away and return him to his earth."
(pp. 76-79. "Adapa." James B. Pritchard. Editor. The Ancient Near East, An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. Princeton University Press. 1958. Paperback)
Sandar's translation seems _to me_ to capture the notion that Adapa "the man" has knowledge granted him by his god Ea (Enki) making the "man" like a god, recalling the Edenic serpent telling Eve she will become "like a god" possessing knowledge:
Anu addresses Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzi) and Gizzida (Nin-gish-zida) his gate guards, who in other myths were able to assume the form of a serpent and also were the life force in fruit-trees as vegetation deities:"What was Ea about to give knowledge of all nature to a wretch of a man, to make him like one of us, and with such a name for wisdom? But now that he is here what else can we do? Fetch the bread of life and he shall eat it."(p. 171. "Adapa: The Man." Translation by N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell From Ancient Mesopotamia. London. Penguin Books. 1971. paperback)
When they brought him the bread of life he would not eat.
When they brought him the water of life he did not drink.
When they brought him a garment he put it on...
Then Anu, the lord of heaven, looked at the man and laughed,
"Ah, Adapa, why did you neither eat or drink, stupid man; perverse mankind; you will never now have eternal life."
"My master Ea ordered me, "You shall not eat, you shall not drink.""
Ea (Enki) did not tell Adapa to refuse bread and water "of life" it was bread and water "of death" he was to refuse. Apparently a confused Adapa did not focus in on the words from Anu and in a state of confusion refused the bread and water of life thinking they were "of death." Alternately, Adapa could have thought (?) that Anu was lying and the bread and water of life were really "of death."
Kramer and Maier:
"Enki is the god of secrets. The one who would know and use his advice must be prepared to listen carefully when the cunning god speaks...Ea's second bit of advice is how to act when Anu offers Adapa hospitality. When he is offered bread and water, he is not to eat or drink...Ea emphasizes that Adapa "seize" the words he has spoken. When the plan is actually put into effect, though, Adapa misses his chance at immortality. Where Ea had warned Adapa against eating the "bread of death" (akala sha muti) and drinking the "water of death" (me muti), what Anu offers Adapa instead is the bread of life and the water of life...No sooner does Adapa make his mistake (a trick, really, of language), when Anu laughs at him...Adapa's failure to see through Ea's cunning words...the consequences of Adapa's crime are noted in the "ill" he brought to humankind -and the disease that he brought to the bodies of human beings, The text turns at last to implore the goddess of healing to turn the disease aside...The word adapu means "wise"...Adapa is given wisdom by Ea, but not eternal life. The "sage" from Eridu is the very "model" of humanity." (pp. 114-116. "Esoteric Advice." Samuel Noah Kramer & John Maier. Myths of Enki, The Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
So, man was offered immortality by Anu, Dumuzi and Ningishzida, but Ea's cunning caused a naive, trusting man to obey the subtle words of the "trickster" god. 'The man's' (Adapa's) acquistion of "forbidden knowledge" was not from eating a forbidden fruit in a god's garden. He was given illegally the "forbidden knowledge" by Ea/Enki "the cunning trickster god", who is famed for playing tricks on his fellow gods as well as mankind. The Hebrews in recasting this myth have the man's God, denying him _knowledge_and_immortality. Ea did deny Adapa knowledge, as well as immortality: he didn't let Adapa know that the food presented him would bestow immortality making him like a god (just as the Edenic serpent had predicted: "You shall not die...You shall become like a god...").
I understand that the Hebrews have merely "reworked" and given several "new twists" to the ancient Mesopotamian myths which attempted to explain how man lost a chance to become immortal. Yahweh-Elohim is Enki who tells Adapa/Adam "not to eat or he will die." The Genesis serpent offered man knowledge, but in the original myth Enki gave man forbidden knowledge but not eternal life. Genesis' myth has the serpent offering knowledge when he as Ningishzida, "Lord of the Good Tree," offered immortal life to mankind (as Adapa).
Apparently it is Tammuz and Ningishzida who bring Adapa before Anu and who speak favorably on his behalf. Anu, upset that Enki who dwells on the earth at Eridu, where he has a temple and fruit-tree garden he has planted for himself has revealed forbidden knowledge to a man (spells to overpower the lesser gods, breaking the wing of the south wind), declares what shall WE (Anu, Tammuz and Ningishzida) do? In other words if this man has a god's wisdom and knowledge, why not "make him like the gods," possessing immortality? Thus 'the bread and water of life' are summoned by Anu and presented to Adapa. I understand it is Tammuz and Ningishzida who present the bread and water of life to Adapa on Anu's behalf.
Langdon (1931) on Anu wanting to keep man in ignorance of the secrets of Heaven and Earth and Yahweh's denying Adam knowledge of Good and Evil:
"It was the plan of Anu to keep man (amelutu) in ignorance of the secrets of Heaven and Earth, and when he found that Adapa had learned them from Ea, he had no alternative but to give him the bread and water of life. Yaw had the same intention for Adam, who became a gardener in Eden." (p. 184. "The Myth of Adapa and Adam." Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races: Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. Archaeological Institute of America. 1931)
"...Yaw-Elohim planted a garden in eden toward the east. This is surely a survival of a Sumerian legend; for the word edin in Sumerian means "plain," and "Eden to the eastward," refers to some legendary part of Sumer, from the point of view of a writer in Canaan." (pp. 183-184. "The Myth of Adapa and Adam." Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races: Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. Archaeological Institute of America. 1931)
Langdon has argued that Tammuz and Ningishzida are alter-egos of the same god, Tammuz in one hymn being addressed as "Damu the child Ningishzida." Ningishzida appears in human form as a god with serpents erupting from his shoulders and alternately as serpent dragon with four legs, wings, and horns in a cylinder seal of the Sumerian king Gudaea of Lagash. I understand that Adapa has become Adam, and Ningishzida/Tammuz the serpent who told Eve she and Adam would "become like gods," knowing good and evil if they ate the fruit. Adapa's being to told to "return to his earth" by Anu becomes Yahweh declaring Adam "is to return to the dust he was taken from" (Ge 3:19). Adapa's removal from Anu's presence and heavenly abode, he being taken from the heavenly abode apparently by Tammuz and Ningishzida and escorted back to the earth and Eridu, I understand to be reformatted as the Cherubim driving Adam and Eve from Paradise and God's presence.
Langdon thought Eden's serpent might be a recast of Gishzida (Nin-gish-zida) and Tammuz (Sumerian Dumuzi/Dumu-zid) who appear in the Adapa and the Southwind myth, who were associated with serpents and trees as vegetation deities. He thought these deities were "jealous" of Adapa's having a chance to obtain immortality from Anu whom they served. I disagree with Langdon's analysis.
Ea had told Adapa (in Eridu) to put on sackcloth and ashes to appear to be a mourner when he approached Ningishzida and Dumuzi, Anu's heavenly gate guards. Ea told Adapa they will ask for whom he is in mourning he is to reply he mouns the death of Gizzida (Ningishzida) and Tammuz (Dumuzid). This will "please" and flatter them and they will consequently seek to mollify Anu's anger toward Adapa who has broken the wing of the southwind daemon who is a servant of Anu's. Apparently the ruse worked and they seek Anu's favor on Adapa's behalf. Anu realizes that Adapa's curse overpowering the southwind was because Ea has given the man forbidden knowledge intended to be reserved to the gods (Man is not supposed to know the workings of heaven and earth, the workings of the physical phenomena of Nature, for example, how winds move about and how to control them). He thereupon decides to offer Adapa immortality as he already has possession of forbidden godly knowledge. Apparently Anu has Ningishzida and Dumuzi present the bread and water of life to Adapa but he refuses to consume them thinking they are the bread and water of death he was warned against by Ea. So, I understand that there was no jealousy on the part of Anu, Ningishzida, and Dumuzi in seeking to deny Adapa immortality. Agreed Anu was upset that Ea had revealed forbidden knowledge to mankind in the form of Adapa, but the jealousy was Ea's who did not want Adapa to become immortal and a god. Why? Ea had made man of the clay over the apsu to replace the toiling Igigi gods who had threatened rebellion at Eridu over the onerous working conditions, dredging irrigation canals and ditches to keep water flowing for the city-gardens. Man's purpose in life was to provide the gods with life's necessities: food, shlter and clothing, freeing the gods of toil. If man becomes a god, who would work the gods' gardens of edin and provide them with food? The gods would have to work their gardens and feed themselves, a task they did not relish.
Langdon (1931) on the Adapa myth possibly being recast into Genesis' Fall of Adam and that Eden's serpent is a recast of Ningishzida and Dumuzi/Tammuz:
"It was the plan of Anu to keep man (amelutu) in ignorance of the secrets of heaven and earth, and when he found that Adapa had learned them from Ea, he had no alternative but to give him the bread and water of life. Yaw had the same intention for Adam, who became a gardener in Eden. Yaw caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he took one of his ribs, closed up the flesh, and from it made woman. They were naked and yet had no sense of shame; for shame springs from knowledge of evil. Into this garden of Paradise came the serpent, in Sumerian mythology symbol of the earth's fertility, and especially connected with Ningishzida and Tammuz. The introduction of the serpent into the myth probably rests upon the same motif, the jealousy of God, who, knowing that man was immortal, tempted him to his doom. Yaw had told Adam that in the day when he should eat of "the tree of knowledge" he would die...This condemnation of the serpent is introduced into the myth to explain the natural abhorrence of man for this creature, and has no connection with the subtle reason for making the serpent the cause of the Fall of Man. That rests surely upon the Babylonian theory of the jealousy of the gods of fertility, probably of Ningishzida and Tammuz, of whom the serpent was symbolic, jealous of that man who would attain immortality like themselves...After the loss of Paradise and eternal life, Yaw made for Adam and his wife coats of skin and clothed them, as Anu gave Adapa a garment after he had rejected the bread of life." (pp. 184-186. "The Myth of Adapa and Adam." Stepen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races: Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. Archaeological Institue of America. 1931)
From the contradicting Mesopotamian myths regarding the creation of man, his lost chance at obtaining immortality for himself and his demise being sought in a universal flood it is clear that the gods were viewed as both benefactors and enemies of mankind. The gods did not have to behave in an ethical manner, they could and were capricious at times in regards to man.
The Serpent in the Garden of Eden presented itself as man's benefactor, warning Eve that God was lying, God's concern was not that she and Adam would die, rather God's concern was that they would become "like him, knowing good and evil." Genesis' narrator has God repeating back the serpent's words, confirming the serpent's shrewd and penetrating analysis which unmasked God's duplicity:
Genesis 3:4-5, 22 RSV
"But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil..."
In the Adapa and the Southwind myth, Ea, who is credited with creating mankind and placing him in his fruit-tree garden at Eridu to work it and thus end the toil of the Igigi gods, lies to Adapa, telling him not to eat or drink anything for it is the food and water of death. In other words, Ea portrays Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi falsely as man's enemy, seeking his death, when in fact they sought man's welfare in offering him a chance at becoming like a god and possessing immortality. Ea succeeded, his will "trumphs" the will of Anu who sought immortality for man. That is to say man's creator and benefactor, Ea (Enki) was also man's nemesis, lying to him because he did not want man to have immortality.
Foster (Professor of Assyriology at Yale University) on Ea's tricking man out of immortality, Ea apparently fearing the loss of man as his servant if made a god:
"When Adapa declined the food and drink, which would have made him a god and released him from Ea's service, Anu was vastly amused by Ea's cleverness and his sage's stupidity, and so sent the swindled mortal back home." (p. 97. "How Adapa Lost Immortality." Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
"They brought him food of life, he did not eat,
They brought him waters of life, he did not drink...
Anu stared and burst out laughing at him,
"Come now, Adapa, why did you not eat or drink?
"Won't you live? Are not people to be im[mor]tal?"
Ea my lord told me,
'You must not eat, you must not drink...
Anu laughed uproariously at what Ea had done,
"Who else, of all the gods of heaven and netherworld,
could d[o] something like this?
"Who else could make his command outweigh Anu's?"
"That is, by thwarting Anu's good intentions to give Adapa eternal life." (p. 101. "How Adapa Lost Immortality." Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995)
The late Graves and Patai have identified some of the motifs associated with the Garden of Eden as reworked Mesopotamian concepts from the so-called Adapa and the Southwind Myth. I, however, disagree with them regarding Anu "knowing" of Ea's warning to Adapa. I understand that Anu was willing to bestow immortality on Adapa and Ea anticipating this, lied to Adapa telling him he would be offered bread and water of death and thus not to consume them. I do agree with Graves and Patai, that this myth does provide the motif of the Serpent's warning Eve that she has been lied to by God that she will die if she eats the forbidden fruit.
Graves and Patai (1963):
"Another source of the Genesis Fall of Man is the Akkadian myth of Adapa, found on a tablet at Tell Amarna, Pharaoh Akhenaten's capital. Adapa, son of Ea, the Babylonian god of wisdom, was attacked in the Persian Gulf by a Storm-bird while catching fish for his father's priests, and broke its wing. The bird proved to have been the South Wind. Ea summoned Adapa to explain his violence and warned him that, having displeased Anu, King of Heaven; the gods would offer him the food and drink of death, which he must refuse. Anu, however, learning of this indiscreet disclosure, foiled Ea by offering Adapa the bread of life and water of life and, when he refused them at his father's orders, grimly sending him back to the earth as a perverse mortal. This myth supplies the theme of the Serpent's warning to Eve: that God deceived her about the properties of the forbidden fruit." (p. 79. "The Fall of Man." Robert Graves & Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths, the Book of Genesis. New York. Greenwich House. Distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc. 1963, 1964, reprint of 1983)
Note: Graves and Patai "err" about Adapa's fishing on the _Persian Gulf_. He was fishing in a nearby freshwater lake. How so? Modern satellite photos reveal that four freshwater lakes are formed seasonally and then disappear (evaporate away) by summer's end by a flooding Euphrates river (these lakes are called sebkhas). Sometimes these four lakes take in so much flood water they merge into one huge lake as revealed in satellite photos. The Sumerians called lakes and marshes "seas." Please click here for satellite photos of Eridu's sebkha lakes or "seas."
Campbell (1968) on the Sumerian serpent being recast into new and contrary role in the Hebrews' garden of Eden serpent (emphasis mine):
"In Primitive Mythology I have employed the term "mythogenetic zone" to designate any geographical area in which such a language of mythic symbols and related rites cane be shown to have sprung into being. However, when the forms of the rites and symbols are then diffused to other zones, or passed on to later generations no longer participating in the earlier experience, they lose depth, lose sense, lose heart..they are consciously reinterpreted and applied to new and even contrary themes -as occurred in the case, for example, of the serpent symbol in the Near East, when it passed from Sumero-Babylonian mythology to the Bible." (p. 90. "The Word Behind the Word." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin, Inc. 1968. Reprinted 1976)
Campbell (1959) suggested that Eden's serpent was a later recasting of an earlier mythic protagonist, the Sumerian god of wisdom who dwelt on the earth at the city of Eridu called Enki (Akkadian/Babylonian: Ea of the Adapa and the Southwind myth). Campbell is discussing the Mesopotamian myth about Inanna's (Akkadian: Ishtar) descent into the underworld and her warning her servant that if she fails to return after three days and nights to have the great gods effect her release and restoration back to life (emphasis mine):
"Ninshubur, known too as Papsukkal, "chief messenger of the gods," and Ilabrat, "the god of wings," was told by the goddess before her departure that is she did not return he should weep before Enlil (the air-god), weep before Nanna (the moon-god), and if these failed to respond, then weep before Enki, the lord of wisdom (the serpent), who knows the food of life and water of life. He, she said, "will surely bring me to life." (p. 416. "Thresholds of the Neolithic." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1959, reprinted 1971-1976; 1991 by Arkana)
Campbell in a follow-up volume (1964) also identified the Sumerian god Ningishzida as another prototype for Eden's serpent (emphasis mine):
"In Eve's scene at the tree...nothing is said to indicate that the serpent who appeared and spoke to her was a deity in his own right, who had been revered in the Levant for at least seven thousand years before the composition of the Book of Genesis. There is in the Louvre a carved green steatite vase, inscribed c. 2025 BC by King Gudea of Lagash, dedicated to a late Sumerian manifestation of this consort of the goddess, under his title Ningizzida, "Lord of the Tree of Truth." (p. 9. "The Serpent's Bride." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1964. Reprint 1991 by Arkana)
Campbell suggests Yahweh-Elohim, Eden's God may be a "serpent-spouse":
"Moreover, as in the early Bronze Age seals of Ningizzida and his serpent porter, we have clear and adequate evidence throughout the biblical text the the Lord Yahweh was himself an aspect of the serpent power, and so himself properly the serpent spouse of the serpent goddess of the cauduceus, Mother Earth." (p. 30. "The Serpent's Bride." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Books. 1964. Arkana reprint 1991)
Campbell suggests serpent associations with Yahweh in that he made Moses' wooden staff into a serpent and caused Moses to create a bronze serpent to heal people bitten by snakes in the Exodus wanderings, and that this bronze serpent was worshipped in the Temple of Solomon until removed by King Hezekiah (cf. p. 30. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology).
In his final volume in his Masks of God series (The four volumes were released 1959 through 1968), Campbell again stresses that Eden's serpent is a later recast of a serpent deity known in earlier Ancient Near Eastern myths (cf. above his comments on the Sumerian "serpent" deities Enki and Ningishzida):
"So let us return our gaze, now, to the great creative masters of the West, bearing in mind, as a basic principle of our study, that the symbols put to use by them have come from afar. Their sources are far deeper, broader, and more ancient...like the serpent of the Garden of Eden, who had been known to the peoples of the ancient Near East long before the advent of Yahweh." (p. 170. "The Word Behind Words." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin, Inc. 1968. Reprinted 1976)
According to the late Professor Jacobsen (Professor Emeritus of Assryriology, Harvard University), Ningishzida means "Lord of the Good Tree," and the trees' roots are serpent symbols and this god is "the life-force" within the tree itself. That is to say this god is a vegetation deity:
"...the god Ningishzida, "Lord of the good tree," who represented the numinous power of trees to draw nourishment and to grow, had as his basic form that of the tree's trunk and roots; however, the winding roots, embodiments of living supernatural power, free themselves from the trunk and become live serpents entwined around it." (p. 7. Thorkild Jacobsen. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven & London. Yale University Press. 1976)
Tammuz or Dumuzi (the latter being his Sumerian name) is also a vegetation deity (like Ningishzida), associated with the numinous power in the date clusters of date palms according to Jacobsen:
"Correspondingly, the bridegroom, Ama.ushumgal.an.na, represents what is to be stored in the storehouse. As indicated by his name, which means "the one great source of the date clusters," he is the personified power in the one enormous bud which the date palm sprouts each year, and from which issue the new leaves, flowers and fruits. Dumuzi-Amausshumgalanna is thus a personification of the power behind the yearly burgeoning of the palm and its producing its yield of dates; he is, in fact, the power in and behind the date harvest." (p. 36.Thorkild Jacobsen. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven & London. Yale University Press. 1976).
Note: Not all scholars agree with Jacobsen's rendering of _ama.ushumgal.an.na_ as meaning "the one great source of the date clusters." Instead they prefer to render this as "the mother is a heavenly serpent", cf. below, such renderings by Langdon and Leick.
In later Jewish texts, the Apocrypha, the tree of life in the garden of Eden is associated with a date palm.
If Jacobsen is correct about Tammuz and Ningishzida's associations with serpents and date palms perhaps this why the Hebrews have the notion of a serpent associated with a tree telling man he will not die and will be like a god if he eats the fruit forbidden him by his God? Adapa's warning from Enki was given at Eridu, where a fruit-tree garden exists that Enki planted for himself. Adapa is his servant and bakes bread and prepares fish (he is also a fisherman) and fresh water to present daily to Enki. I suspect Enki's fruit-tree garden has become Eden's garden of fruit trees. Even today, this region is famed since antiquity for its many date palm plantations, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which were associated with Eden in Genesis. Eridu lies in Sumer, which lies in Lower Mesopotamia, which is a great flood-plain. The Sumerian word for "plain" is edin (Akkadian/Babylonian edinu and seru). Thus Enki's fruit-tree garden planted by him next to his shrine in edin-the-plain where he warned Adapa not to eat the food or drink the water offered by Anu for he would surely die, becomes the Garden of Eden and Yahweh-Elohim warning Adam and Eve.
Campbell suggested that Eden's serpent was a later recast of the Sumerian god Ningishzida (Ningizzida) and that Eve was his "bride" by another name. However, what is most important is Campbell's _penetrating_ observation that the Hebrews in the Book of Genesis are apparently transforming or recasting the earlier Mesopotamian motifs and concepts in such a way as to render an argument contrary by 180 degrees to the older faiths' understandings (emphasis mine):
"No one familiar with the mythologies of the goddess of the primitive, ancient, and Oriental worlds can turn to the Bible without recognizing counterparts on every page, transformed, however, to render an argument contrary to the older faiths. In Eve's scene at the tree, for example, nothing is said to indicate that the serpent who appeared and spoke to her was a deity in his own right, who had been revered in the Levant for at least seven thousand years before the composition of the Book of Genesis. There is in the Louvre a carved green steatite vase, inscribed c. 2025 BC by King Gudaea of Lagash, dedicated to a late Sumerian manifestation of this consort of the goddess, under his title Ningizzida, "Lord of the Tree of Truth." (p. 9. "The Serpent's Bride." Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Arkana, a Division of Penguin Books. 1964, 1991 reprint)
I would disagree with Campbell about "Eve being the bride of Ningishzida." For me, Eve is a recast of Shamhat (Epic of Gilgamesh), Ninhursag (Dilmun), and Inanna of Edin, bride of Dumuzi, all fused together. The Hebrews, I suspect, being loathe to have a man being conned by a serpent and loosing out on a chance to obtain immortality, replaced Adapa the man with Shamhat/Inanna, women who are associated with the edin near Uruk in myths. However, Inanna was called nin-edin "lady of edin" and she was the bride of Dumuzi who was called mulu-edin "lord of edin." Both Inanna "the bride" and Dumuzi her "bridegroom" are called ama-ushumgal-an-na "the mother is a great serpent-dragon of heaven." So _Campbell is right_ in speculating that Eve in an earlier myth was a "serpent's bride," but he had the wrong deity, the "serpent-groom" isn't Ningishzida its Dumuzi. Eve the lady of Eden is Inanna the "lady of edin" (nin-edin). In one myth Dumuzi is actually turned into a Sakgal serpent by the sun-god Utu so he can slither out of his captor's bonds who seek his death, the Ugalla demons. So Dumuzi not only bears a serpent-dragon epithet, in one myth he actually assumed a serpent's form. He was seized and bound by the demons at his sheepfold in edin the steppe, and he escapes in edin his bonds as a serpent, becoming edin's serpent that lost its human legs upon becoming a snake.
Langdon (1931) thought Eden's serpent was a recast of Ningishzida and Dumuzi, who were, for him alter-egos of each other and associated with Sumerian vegetation deities, however he did not identify Eve as the serpent's bride.
But, where is "Eve" in the Adapa myth, there is no woman present in this account? I understand that the biblical story of Eden is drawing motifs from several different and contradicting Mesopotamian myths. Eve is a recasting of Shamhat, the temple priestess/harlot who sells her sexual favors to generate revenue for the temple she serves in Uruk. Adam is in part, a re-cast of Enkidu, the naked man who roams edin-the-plain with wild animals for companions. The harlot seduces the "innocent" naked man of edin, telling him he "is now like a god," and should abandon his animals friends and live with men. She leads the innocent child-like Enkidu away "like a mother" to Uruk to meet Gilgamesh, clothing him with her garment before they leave edin-the-plain and telling him to eat the bread and drink (beer?) set before him by shepherds in edin. After eating the food and drink Enkidu becomes "like a human" and puts on a new change of clothes and abandons his wild animal friends to dwell with mankind and Gilgamesh in Uruk.
Clifford appears to understand that some motifs in Genesis' Garden of Eden account are drawing from earlier Mesopotamian works. He specifically identifies Atrahasis and Gilgamesh and the Sumerian Pre-flood list of kings and suggests that the serpent appearing in the Epic of Gilgamesh has been recast as Eden's serpent and that Enkidu and Shamhat have been recast as Adam and Eve as man and wife "instituting" marriage:
"Were Adam and Eve created immortal only to lose it in the sentence imposed on them in 12:17, "on the day you eat [the fruit] you shall die"? The question is difficult to answer. For one thing, Genesis 2-11 drew on more traditions than Atrahasis and Gilgamesh. The ten preflood ancestors of Noah seem derived from the ten kings found in some versions of the Sumerian King List...The question of Adam's mortality must ultimately, of course, be decided from Genesis and not its sources...The J-storyteller [Yahwist author] takes the Gilgamesh motif of the snake's theft of the plant of life from the hero (a postflood occurrence in Gilgamesh XI) and places it before the flood (Genesis 3). As in Gilgamesh, Adam is naked when the loss takes place, the snake deceitfully steals the fruit supposed to transform life, and a tree or plant of life is involved. Such kaleidoscopic reuse of traditional details may seem strange to modern readers, but ancient authors evidently liked to put familiar objects in new contexts...Another example comes from Gilgamesh I: the naked and animal-like Enkidu acquires wisdom from his seven-day dalliance with a prostitute. Afterwards she clothes him and leads him to the city of Uruk and its king Gilgamesh. Genesis rearranges the same traditions to describe the institution of marriage!" (pp. 147-149. "Genesis 1-11." Richard J. Clifford. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. Washington, DC. The Catholic Biblical Association of America. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series No. 26. 1994. ISBN 0-915170-25-6)
Now the Serpent. Genesis portrays the serpent as possessing two rather amazing characteristics, it has the ability to walk on legs, and it can carry on a conversation with humans. This serpent is also portrayed as dwelling in a God's earthly garden with Adam and Eve. My research has concluded that the Sumerian Dragon-Serpent called "Nin-Gish-Zida" is _one of several prototypes_ behind the Genesis' "Serpent" myth.
Although Anu allows Adapa to become immortal, it is his servant, Nin-Gish-Zida, who actually put in a good word on Adapa's behalf, and who is instructed to actually present the food and drink to Adapa. Ningishzida was a guard at the heavenly gate with Tammuz (both had in earlier myths, been dwellers of the underworld, who achieved a resurrection to heaven). Some myths call Tammuz, "Damu, the child Ningishzida," so both gods are aspects of each other. No humans got to Anu's presence without first having Tammuz/Ningishzida take them by the hand and present them, putting in a good word for them.
Ningishzida was not only an alternate form of Tammuz, he was also called "The Great Serpent-Dragon of Heaven," being identified with the star constellation Hydra (Hydra being a creature with multiple serpent heads). He was alternately associated with the winged and horned serpent dragon called "Mushussu." Mushussu apears standing on hind legs, holding a staff (or a gate?) in his forepaws (Langdon p.285, fig. 88). A cylinder seal of Gudaea of Lagash, shows Ningishzida in human form, taking Gudaea by the hand and presenting him as a petitioner before the god, Enki (the source of the "waters of life"). Arising from Ningishzida's human shoulders are two horned dragon heads. Behind Gudaea, on the same seal, we see Ningishzida in animal form as a horned, winged, serpent-dragon, walking on all four legs (cf. "Ningishzida" in Stephen Herbert Langdon, M.A. The Mythology of All the Races, Semitic. Vol. 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931).
Langdon on Ningishzida and Tammuz:
"Both Tammuz and his mother bore the title ama-ushumgal-anna, "mother-great-serpent of heaven," that is the serpent deity who emanated from the Heaven-god Anu." (p. 78. Langdon. 1931)
Note: an alternate scholarly rendering sometimes encountered is ama-ucumgal-ana.
"....Tammuz...is here represented with a beard, but Tammuz is invariably described as a child or youth...one of the parasite Tammuz forms was Ningishzida, a tree deity, who is invariably represented with a mythical serpent springing from each shoulder, and he too always appears bearded." (p. 90. Langdon. 1931)
"Tammuz and Gishzida...This is the only reference to the ascension of the dying gods to heaven; Tammuz and Ninsubur were both identified with Orion, and Ningishzida was identified with Hydra. These two constellations stand at the beginning and end of the Milky Way....Tammuz, the shepherd, is connected with Orion, called the constellation Sbzianna, "Faithful shepherd of Heaven," and Ningishzida, who is represented as a serpent deity, is therefore connected with Hydra...The dying god was originally called Ushumgalanna, "Mighty serpent dragon of Heaven"; Tammuz and Ningishzida are only differentiated types of this ancient deity, connected with the serpent because they are gods of the earth's fertility." (pp. 178-179. Langdon. 1931)
"The god Ningishzida was identified with the constellation Hydra in the late period and so was also Mushushshu. The design of this animal as Hydra (fig. 89), from an astronomical tablet of the age of the Seleucidae, emphasizes the serpent form of the body. The wings are reduced to small proportions. The horns and feathers are preserved...and the forefeet. The design agrees almost completely with the scene of Marduk's conquest of this dragon on Fig. 57. In Sumerian mythology this monster is symbolic of Ningishzida, a vegetation deity and form of the dying god Tammuz. Sometimes he has not only the Mushushshu springing from his shoulders but also a serpent twining about his body. He was a chthonian deity and his parents were Ninazu and Ningirda, lord and queen of Arallu." (pp. 284-285. Langdon. 1931)
Leick on Ningishzida:
"The meaning of his name nin.gish.zid.da, 'Lord of the Good Tree', is obscure...He was an Underworld deity...Ningishzida himself is 'the prince who stretches out his pure hand to heaven'...His emblem was the horned serpent and Gilgamesh sees him officiating in the Underworld...He is sometimes identified with Damu, the dying god, and was mourned by his sisters. As a (temporarily) absent god in the company of Dumuzi, he was found by Adapa at An's gate in heaven. This close connection with Dumuzi and fertility is further underlined by the fact that his wife was Geshtianna, Dumuzi's sister. His astonomical correlate was Hydra." (p. 131. "Ningishzida." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991)
Black and Green on Ningishzida:
"The god Ningishzida was an underworld deity, the son of Ninazu. His name may etymologoically mean 'Lord of the Good Tree'...Babylonian incantations name Ningishzida as a guardian over demons who live in the underworld. The god's name is also mentioned in laments over the death of Dumuzi. Unexpectedly, in the myth of Adapa, the sage who traveled to heaven, we encounter Dumuzi and a god called Gishzida, certainly an abbreviated form of Ningishzida, guarding the gate to heaven of Anu (An), the highest heaven. Adapa is told that he must say, in reply to the gods' questions, that he is in mourning for two gods who have disappeared from earth, namely Dumuzi and Gishzida. This, together with the complicated interplay of the themes of death and immortality in the poem, makes it clear that it is exceptional that Dumuzi and Gishzida are found in heaven on this occasion. The symbol and beast of Ningishzida was the horned snake or dragon bashmu and astrolgically Ningishzida was associated with the constellation we know as Hydra." (pp. 139-140. "Ningishzida." Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London. British Museum Press. 1992)
Wiggermann argues that Nira is the animal to be associated with Nigishzida:
"In Lagash Ningishzida, the son of Ninazu, is associated with the dragon; his proper animal, however, is the snake Nirah." (p. 169. "basmu." F.A. M. Wiggermann. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits. Brill Academic Press. 1992)
Ebeling et al, shows Nirah (fig. 29) to be a god whose legs are replaced by a snake's body, whose head is held by the human-form:
"Snake-god. Many Akkadian period seals show a god with human upper body and the lower body of a snake...Frankfort...regards this god as a fertility aspect of Ningishzida. The type may rather represent the snake-deity Nirah or, perhaps more likely, Ishtaran." (p. 259. "Snake-god." Erich Ebeling et al. Reallexikon der Assriologie. Band 8. Berlin & New York. Walter de Gruyter. 1997)
Wiggermann acknowledges confusion exists on the Sumerian terms usum (pronounced ushum) and mussatur (pronounced mushshatur), noting that these two terms are _confusingly_ rendered by one word in Akkadian: basmu (note the diacrtical marks, not reproduced here, over s becomes sh in sound):
"For the two Sumerian terms ushum and mus-sa-tur Akkadian has only one: basmu (spelled logographically MUS.SA.TUR/TUR). It is uncertain whether usum and mus-sa-tur denote two different iconographic types. If they do, and if the two types have not been confused in the course of history, Akkadian basmu must refer to two different types of mythological snakes as well, and we will call them usum/basmu and mus-sa-tur/basmu.
a. usum/basmu, "Venomous Snake".
b. identification: horned snake with forelegs...MUS is a shortened spelling of MUS.SA.TUR=basmu, historical usum/basmu)."
d. mythology: originally usum/basmu is perhaps nothing more than "Venomous Snake", a natural enemy of man mythologized. Whether it was once associated with a chtonic god (Ninazu or Ningiszida)..." (p. 166. "basmu." F.A. M. Wiggermann. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits. Brill Academic Press. 1992)
"After Sennacherib's conquest of Babylon the mushussu is usurped by Assur. Ninazu and Tispak become associated with other snakes and dragons (usum/basmu, usumgallu). Though since Tispak's takeover in Esnunna no longer the servant of an undereworld god, the mushussu remains a fearless killer...Apotropaic use of representations of the mushussu can be understood from his functions as a fearless warrior watching over the just rule of his masters and attacking evildoers..." (p. 169. "basmu." F.A. M. Wiggermann. Mesopotamian Protective Spirits. Brill Academic Press. 1992)
An aside Here: I recently (12 August 2009) came across an interesting formal debate on the internet between two individuals arguing over whether or not dragons were worshipped by the Mesopotamians and if Ningishzida was rendered iconographically as an ushumgal (cf. Unexplained Mysteries.Com Forum, 8 September 2008-15 March 2009, between usernames: legionromanes and draconicchronicler.). Legio argued that as the serpent dragons on the Gudaea vase are called basmu by Black, that therefore, Ningishzida was not an ushumgal. As can be seen from the above extracts of Wiggerman and Ebeling, basmu is an Akkadian word which came to replace both usum (ushum) and mus.sa.tur (mush.sha.tur). So Legio's argumment that Ningishzida cannot be an ushumgal is seriously called into question. Draco is correct in that there are Sumerian texts which call him usumgal and therefore the Gudaea vase dedicated to Ningishzida is probably showing him as an ushumgal. To add to the confusion Wiggerman proposes the snake god Nira to be the original animal associated with Ningishzida. The problem? I am unaware of any text associating Ningishzida with Nira, his association epithet-wise is with ushum-gal. Also "if" the god shown with human upper body and snake lower body is Nira (fig. 29, p. 259. Ebeling), it does not match the imagery on the Gudaea vase.
As to whether or not dragons were actually worshipped: This is a difficult "call." Some scholars understand that some gods were originally animal in form, later taking on human forms and thus they appear in art forms with a combination of fauna and or flora human features. The question isn't settled among the experts. They do agree that some of the dragons are "symbols" of the gods, thus perhaps the dragon could be worshipped as symbolizing its god. I recall seeing a seal showing a worshipper adoring a dragon on a dias. He "might" be worshipping Marduk who's symbol was a dragon? Gudaea showered Ningishzida with praises. Ningishzida in the Adapa myth presents human petitioners before the high god Anu, so it is possible prayers were directed to Ningishzida as a friendly demon who could put in a good word for man with the higher gods?
Dalley on Nin-gish-zida:
"Nin-gish-zida, "Lord of the trusty timber'. See Gishzida." (p.326. "Glossary." Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. New York. Oxford University Press. , 1991 World's Classics paperback. ISBN 0-19-281789-2)
"Gishzida (sometimes pronounced Gizzida, also called Nin-gishzida) -'trusty timber', Sumerian god paired with Dumuzi, son of Ninazu, consort of Belili, doorkeeper of Anu. Cult centre: Gishbanda, between Lagash and Ur. Symbol: horned snake." (p. 322. "Glossary." Dalley. , 1991)
Ningishzida is alternately described as a poisonous snake and a dragon:
"Lord with holy dignity, imbued with great savage awesomeness! My king, lord Ninjiczida...(1 ms. has instead: ......), dragon snarling (?) in the lagoon...Lord, your mouth is that of a pure magician (1 ms. has instead: a snake with a great tongue, a magician) (1 ms. has instead: a poisonous snake), lord Ninjiczida, ...who can find out your intentions? Your holy word is known to them that know it, but is unknown to them that do not know it. To them that do not know it, to them that do not know it...A balbale to Ninjiczida." ("A Balbale to Ningishzida (Ningishzida B): translation." The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature. ( www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section4/tr4192.htm)
A hymn exists titled Ningishzida's Journey to the Netherworld which portrays him bound neck and hands, by a demon, who is preparing a boat to take him via a river into the depths of the Underworld. A dialogue takes place between Ningishzida and his sister, who wants to accompany him. He tells her he goes bound by a demon and against his will. His sister addresses him by various names and epithets among which are Damu and Ningishzida. It would appear that in this myth, Ningishzida originally dwelt on the earth and was forcibly carried off to the Underworld in bonds, rather like his counterpart, Tammuz, who was also bound by demons and carried off the Netherworld.
"11-12 His older sister removed the cover (?) from the boat's cabin (1 ms. has instead: the cabin at the boat's stern): "Let me sail away with you, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. (2 mss. add 1 line: My brother, let me sail on your barge with you, my brother, let me sail away with you.) (1 ms. adds 1 further line: Let me sail on your splendid barge with you, my brother, let me sail away with you.)"
13-14 She was crying a lament to him at the boat's bow: "Brother (1 ms. has instead: My brother), let me sail away with you. Let me ...... for you in your boat's stern, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you." (1 ms. adds 2 lines: "The gudu priest sits in the cabin at your boat's stern." She was crying a lament to him: "Let me sail away with you, my brother, let me sail away with you.")
15-19 "My young man Damu, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. Ictaran of the bright visage, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. Alla, master of the battle-net, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. Lugal-cud-e, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. (1 ms. adds 1 line: Lugal-ki-bura, let me sail away with you, my brother, let me sail away with you.) Ninjiczida, let me sail away with you, brother (1 ms. has instead: my brother), let me sail away with you. (1 ms. adds 2 lines: My brother, let me sail on your barge with you, my brother, let me sail away with you. Let me sail on your splendid barge with you, my brother, let me sail away with you.)"
20-28 The evil demon who was in their midst called out to Lugal-ki-suna (2 mss. have instead: Ninjiczida): "Lugal-ki-suna (1 ms. has instead: Lugal-ki-bura), look at your sister!" Having looked at his sister, Lugal-ki-suna (1 ms. has instead: Lugal-ki-bura) said to her: "He sails with me, he sails with me. Why should you sail (1 ms. adds: to the underworld)? Lady, the demon sails with me. Why should you sail (1 ms. adds: to the underworld)? The thresher sails with me. Why should you sail (1 ms. adds: to the underworld)? The man who has bound my hands sails with me. Why should you sail? The man who has tied my arms sails with me. Why should you sail?
29-37 "The river of the nether world produces no water, no water is drunk from it. (1 ms. adds: Why should you sail?) The fields of the nether world produce no grain, no flour is eaten from it. (1 ms. adds: Why should you sail?) The sheep of the nether world produce no wool, no cloth is woven from it. (1 ms. adds: Why should you sail?) As for me, even if my mother digs as if for a canal, I shall not be able to drink the water meant for me. The waters of springtime will not be poured for me as they are for the tamarisks; I shall not sit in the shade intended for me. The dates I should bear like a date palm will not reveal (?) their beauty for me. I am a field threshed by my demon -- you would scream at it. He has put manacles on my hands -- you would scream at it. He has put a neck-stock on my neck -- you would scream at it."
38-44 Ama-cilama (Ninjiczida's sister) said to Ninjiczida: "The ill-intentioned demon may accept something -- there should be a limit to it for you. My brother, your demon may accept something, there should be a limit to it for you. For him let me ...... from my hand the ......, there should be a limit to it for you. For him let me ...... from my hand the ......, there should be a limit to it for you. For him let me ...... from my hips the dainty lapis lazuli beads, there should be a limit to it for you. For him let me ...... from my hips the ...... my lapis lazuli beads, there should be a limit to it for you.
45-49 "You are a beloved ......, there should be a limit to it for you. How they treat you, how they treat you! -- there should be a limit to it for you. My brother, how they treat you, how haughtily they treat you! -- there should be a limit to it for you. "I am hungry, but the bread has slipped away from me!" -- there should be a limit to it for you. "I am thirsty, but the water has slipped away from me!" -- there should be a limit to it for you."
50-54 The evil demon who was in their midst, the clever demon, that great demon who was in their midst, called out to the man at the boat's bow and to the man at the boat's stern: "Don't let the mooring stake be pulled out, don't let the mooring stake be pulled out, so that she may come on board to her brother, that this lady may come on board the barge."
Black on Ningishzida being a god who loves justice:
"...Ningishzida, who brings together giant snakes and dragons!...who directs speech aright, and who hates wickedness! Mighty power, whom no one dare stops when he spreads confusion!...The merciful king [Enki] entrusted you from your birth...He let you have life and creation...Who can rival you in the highest heaven?...you who carry out commands in the great Underworld..." (pp. 250-252. " A balbale to Ningishzida." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press. 2004 hardback edition, 2006 paperback edition with corrections)
Black and Green on Snake-dragons, and Snake gods:
"The snake-dragon (with horns, snake's body and neck, lion's forelegs and bird's hindlegs) is represented from the Akkadian Period down to the Hellenistic Period as a symbol of various gods...the creature's Akkadian name as mushhushshu, 'furious snake'...originally an attendent of Ninazu, the god of Eshnunna...in Lagash [it] became associated with Ninazu's son Ningishzida. Possibly after Hammurabi's conquest of Eshunna, the creature was transferred to the new Babylonian national god, Marduk, and later to Nabu. The conquest of Babylon by the Assyrian king Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 B.C.) brought the motif to Assyria, normally as the beast of the state god Asshur..." (p. 166. "Snake-dragon." Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. London. British Museum Press. 1992)
Black and Green on the Sumerian ushumgal as being a horned snake with legs:
"Snakes...The horned viper...a mildly venomous snake native to the Middle East, has a pair of spike-like folds of skin on its head...It has been identified as the creature called in Akkadian bashmu (Sumerian mush-sha-tur)...A variant horned snake with forelegs was apparently regarded as a different creature, although carrying the same name bashmu (Sumerian ushum). This being was also known as ushumgallu (Sumerian ushumgal)...the snake-dragon became Marduk's animal- the symbol of various gods formerly associated with the snake-dragon, including Ningishzida. A seven-headed mushmahhu monster is referred to in mythological texts and depicted in Early Dynastic art as a kind of dragon with seven long snake necks and heads." (pp.167-168. "Snakes." Black & Green. 1992)
Black and Richards on the Sumerian ushumgal (ushumgallu) being a horned snake:
"...Tiamat gives birth to eleven monsters...the eleven are the mushmahhu, ushumgallu and bashmu (three types of horned snake)...All of these are defeated by Marduk...in a great battle." (p. 177. "Tiamat's Creatures." Jeremy Black & Anthony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. Austin, Texas. University of Texas Press. [Published in association with the British Museum, London]. 1992. ISBN 0-292-70794-0. paperback)
Sandars on Tammuz (Dumuzi) and Ningishzida (Gizzida) as heavenly tree contellations or stars:
"Unlike Utnapishtim, the Babylonian Noah, who won eternal life for himself through his obedience to a god, in Adapa mankind was given the chance of eternal life and lost it through obedience to a god...Of the two lesser gods, Tammuz and Gizzida, who stand at the east gate of heaven, Tammuz has descended from Dumuzi, and Gizzida was a god of healing sometimes connected with the underworld. Gizzida was called Lord of the Tree of Truth, as Dumuzi-Tammuz was Lord of the Tree of Life- trees that were stars planted in heaven." (p. 167. "Introduction to Adapa: the Man." N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell From Ancient Mesopotamia. London. Penguin Books. 1971. Paperback)
Is it possible that Genesis' two trees planted in the Garden of Eden, may be reflections of Tammuz and Ningishzida as two heavenly trees?
Ningishzida, however, is not the only serpent behind the Genesis narrative, another serpent also lurks, the serpent who deprived man of "long life" in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh searches the world for the Land of Dilmun in which dwells the only humans to obtain immortality, the survivors of the Great Flood which the gods sent to destroy the world and mankind (Utnapistim, wife and Pilot). He fails to attain immortality, but is given a consolation prize, a magical plant, which if consumed will lengthen one's life. While bathing in a pool, enroute to his home (Uruk in southern Mesopotamia), a serpent appears and consumes the plant. As the serpent slithers away it sheds its skin, it has rejuvenated its life, because of the plant. Gilgamesh bemoans his fate, all his effort has come to nought. So, apparently two serpents are behind Genesis' serpent, Nin-gish-zida of the Adapa myth and the serpent of the Gilgamesh myth.
Black on the Sumerian god Enlil being called a "dragon of the earth" (However Enlil or Akkadian El-lil does not appear in the Adapa and the Southwind myth):
"Enlil, faithful shepherd of the teeming multitudes, herdsman, leader of all living creatures...He alone is the prince of heaven, the dragon of the earth. The lofty god of the Anuna himself determines the fates." (p. 323. "Enlil in the E-kur." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press. 2004 hardcover, 2006 paperback with corrections)
Enlil is credited with being responsible for the creation of man at Nippur (Sumerian: Nibru) to replace the rebelling Igigi gods who tire of building canals and irrigation ditches for his city-garden. Man will plant seed, hoe weeds and harvest the garden produce to feed Enlil, the Anunnaki and Igigi gods, giving these gods rest from earthly toil for-ever-more. In other myths Enlil is singled out as instigating a worldwide flood to destroy mankind because their noise disturbs his rest and sleep. I suspect that Enlil, the dragon of the earth, who made mankind and who sought his destruction in a universal world-wide Flood, has been recast by the Hebrews into Yahweh-Elohim who made man (Adam) and placed him in his Garden of Eden, and later sought man's demise with a Flood. The Sumerian god Enki of Eridu who bore the epithet ushumgal, "great serpent-dragon," warned one man of the coming Flood having him build a boat to save the seed of man and animals. Yahweh-Elohim of the Garden of Eden is then a fusion of two Sumerian gods who both bore serpent-dragon epithets and who were both credited with making man and who were both involved in a flood to destroy mankind, En-lil and En-ki (Akkadian Ea of the Adapa and the South Wind myth).
Other motifs, from additional Mesopotamian myths worked into the Edenic story, are the "Epic of Gilgamesh," and "Enki and Ninhursag in Dilmun."
Professor Leick on Enki and Ninhursag myth, which mentions Dilmun, which some scholars understand lies behind Eden:
"Enki and Ninhursag. Sumerian myth preserved on Ur III and Old Babylonian tablets...The story is set in a mythical place called Dilmun...sickness was non-existent, lions and wolves did not behave like lions and wolves and mostly there was no sweet water [fresh water]. The mother goddess...asks Enki to procure some water. Enki first creates the rivers and canals. With the help of the god Ud, he brings water from the depth of the earth and makes basins and cisterns for their storage. The fields are thus able to produce grain with the water of abundance. Quays and waterways essential for trade are also erected; Dilmun is now a desirable place...Enki creates the marshland...Enki now extends the water well into the dry zones, to the delight of the gardener. When Enki arrives at Uttu's dwelling, laden with the horticultural products that have been brought into existence- apples, cucumbers and grapes- Uttu rejoices and lets Enki sleep with her. Ninhursag, however...creates eight plants... Enki desires the plants, he wants 'to know' their nature. He needs to be ferried from his domain, the Apsu (here probably the marshes), to the garden where the plants grow and proceeds to eat them one by one. This causes the anger of Ninhursag, as it she alone who should 'know' them or decree their fate. She curses Enki who becomes afflicted in eight different parts of his body. She furthermore threatens not to look at him with the 'eye of life', which would entail his death. It is only at the intercession of the fox that she consents to restore Enki's well-being." (pp. 41-42. "Enki and Ninhursag." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991)
I suspect that Dilmun has been transformed into Eden, and Adam's eating of forbidden fruit, originally in a woman's possession, Eve, is recalling Ninhursag's fruits. The forbidden "knowledge" theme of Eden recalls Ninhursag's anger that Enki is eaten of her plants without her permission in order 'to know them," this "knowledge" being reserved to Ninhursag. In revenge she threatens Enki with death, recalling God's threatening Adam and Eve with death for eating of the tree of knowledge.
Could perhaps the Hebrew ed, the "flood source" of the river of Eden (Ge 2:6), recall the god Utu who aided Enki in bringing up sweet-water (freshwaters) from the depths of the earth like a spring? The Mesopotamian myths understand that Enki was the god of freshwaters which erupted from the depths of the earth and the underworld's freshwater ocean that the earth floated atop of. His domain was called the Apsu, "the freshwater ocean," and his temple existed at Eridu on the edge of the marshlands. He is portrayed seated on a throne with pots showing streams of water gushing from them. He is also shown with two streams of water gushing from his shoulders in various art forms, he was not only the god of freshwaters, but also of Wisdom. Skinner noted that the Hebrew ed might be related to Assyrian edu, meaning "flood" as applied to the annual flooding of a river. (cf. p. 55. John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. 1930. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. Reprint 1994)
Genesis 2:6 RSV
"...but a mist [flood] went up from the ground and watered the whole face of the ground..."
"A mist (or flood) probably refers to water which surged up from the subterranean ocean, the source of fertility." (p. 3. Note 2:6. on Genesis. Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. Editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With Apocrypha. Revised Standard Version. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
Leick on Enki:
"The name can either be taken to mean "Lord Earth", but Ki also stands for 'Below' in regard to a two-tiered cosmic structure with An (heaven) as the 'Above'. Certainly the character of Enki ever since the earliest documents from the Old Sumerian period is formed by his association with water, most notably the ground-water or Apsu. The Apsu is his dwelling-place...One of his epithets is nudimmud- 'one who creates', while the appellative nagbu means directly 'source, groundwater.' Enki is also the god of 'wisdom'...His main cult-centre was the lagoon-based Eridu...His symbols include the goat-fish, the tortoise, a ram-headed staff, a ship and a vessel with overflowing water." (pp. 40-41. "Enki." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991)
I also understand that Damu, Dumuzi (biblical Tammuz) associated with Ningishzida, is another aspect of Christ.
Leick on Dumuzi:
"The god Dumuzi is a shepherd god...When Inana visits the underworld, and cannot return without a substitute to take her place, demons come to fetch her beloved young husband Dumuzi to replace her. In this way Dumuzi died and became a god of the underworld. In the Sacred Marriage, in which Sumerian kings were ritually married to Ianana, the king was identified with Dumuzi...he was later thought to be the king of [Badtibira]...[and] an early king of Uruk...In some Sumerian poetry, Dumuzi is also referred to as 'my Damu.' Tammuz, mentioned in the biblical book of Ezekiel (8:14) is a Hebrew form of the name. Ritual lamentation for the death of Dumuzi seems to have been widespread. In early Dynastic Lagash the sixth month of the year was named after the festival of Dumuzi...the fourth month of the Standard Babylonian calendar was called Du'uzu or Duz, and Tammuz is still used in Iraqi Arabic as the name for July." (pp.72-73. Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991)
Leick on Dumuzi (biblical Tammuz):
"Dumuzi. His name, usually written as dumu.zi means literally 'rightful son'...In the god-lists...he is known as ama.ushum.gal (an. na) 'the mother (is) a (heavenly) dragon'. The Sumerian king-list mentions two Dumuzis, one as 'the shepherd' who became the king of antediluvial [pre-flood] Babtibira, the other as 'a fisher', who eventually ruled over Uruk...His cult, however, enjoyed considerable popularity throughout the Ancient Near East until and beyond the Hellenistic time when Tammuz merged with other dying gods, such as Adonis. For the Neo-Assyrian interpretation of Dumuzi as a god who takes disease and affliction with him into the underworld see Farber (1977)...In the mythological texts Dumuzi features primarily in connection with the steppe (Sumerian edinu) and the goddess Inanna...Various compositions celebrate the love of Inanna for Dumuzi...Several Sumerian compositions explain how his death came to pass...In Inanna's Descent, he is chosen by the goddess as a substitute to take her place in the underworld because he alone failed to mourn her. Inanna points him out to the Galla demons who pursue their victim...the demons eventually find him...and seize him. His sister Geshtinanna tries to save her brother by offering herself as a substitute...Another Sumerian text with the modern title, Dumuzi's Dream (Alster), concentrates on the psychologolocal condition of the doomed hero. Dumuzi has left the city and wanders in the lonely steppe, the lawless Arali. He is overcome with foreboding and addresses the very landscape with all its inhabitants to inform his mother of his death, since without the customary burial rites his soul would never find peace..." (pp.31-33. "Dumuzi." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991)
Dumuzi sees in dreams in his fate, he attempts to evade his demon persuers, the Galla (Ugalla) demons, but is betrayed by a friend when the demons offer a bribe. He is eventually captured, killed and taken to the underworld. His mother and sister search for him, and conclude he is dead. The sister is eventually successful in striking a bargin whereby for six moths of the year she will be her brother's surrogate in the underworld allowing him to return to the earth's surface. Dumuzi was identified with the astrological sign of the 'heavenly bull' Taurus. Women traditionally mourn Dumuzi's death, replicating his sorrowful mother and sister. Their sorrow turns to peals of joy however, when it is realized Dumuzi arises from the underworld, in the form of plant-life that goes through the annual cycle of death and renewal accompanying Spring and Winter.
The Galla (Ugalla) demons of the underworld in one scenario succeed in binding Dumuzi's hands and feet with sticks of wood. Dumuzi asks the sun-god (Sumerian Utu, Akkadian Shamash) to turn him into a serpent , the plea is granted and Dumuzi in the form of a snake slithers out of his bonds to escape the demons for a time.
"They [the demons] held on fast to holy Inanna and stricken with terror she gave Dumuzi into the power of the devils. They said, ' This boy, put fetters on his feet, truss him up, pinon his neck in stocks...they pinioned that boy by the arms..." (p. 156. "Inanna's Journey to Hell." N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell From Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Books. London. 1971)
"Utu, you are the brother of my wife, Inanna, I am your sister's husband...Change me, transform my body into a snake and take my hands and feet away. Transform me so that my devils will not hold me and I shall escape. Utu received his tears, changed his body and Dumuzi escaped." (p. 151. "Inanna's Journey to Hell." N. K. Sandars. Poems of Heaven and Hell From Ancient Mesopotamia. Penguin Books. London. 1971)
Black renders the above verse somewhat differently mentioning snake hands and snake feet:
"Utu accepted his tears. Utu turned Dumuzid's hands into snake's hands. He turned his feet into snake's feet. Dumuzid escaped his demons." (p. 75. "Inana and Dumuzid." Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford University Press. 2004 hardback edition, 2006 paperback edition with corrections)
That is to say, Dumuzi in this myth is portrayed as able to take on the form of a snake or serpent. So Dumuzi is not only associated with the steppe, rendered in Sumerian edin (alternately, arali) and able to assume a serpent as well as human form, he also bears the epithet ama-ushumgal-anna, "mother-great-serpent of heaven."
Foster noted Dumuzi was a son of Ea who bore the epithet Nudimmud meaning "creator" and Dumuzi's wife Inanna/Ishtar in one hymn is likened to being a terrifying dragon. So Dumuzi has connections with Eridu's principal god Ea/Enki and his wife is likened to a terrifying serpent/dragon to her enemies:
"Tammuz/Dumuzi is celebrated in various Sumerian religious poems as the shepherd boy who wooed and married the youthful Inanna/Ishtar and subsequently met a violent death. He was also known as a netherworld deity, and is here referred to as a son of Ea (Nudimmud, line 2 is an epithet of Ea's meaning "creator of mankind").
"O lord Dumuzi, awe-inspiring shephed of Anu,
Lover of Ishtar the queen, eldest son of Nudimmud...
Drive away from the 'evil gazer', the worker of evil..."
(p. 222. "To Dumuzi." Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Baltimore, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995. ISBN 1-883053-09-9. paperback)
"Yet it was you, Ishtar, terrifying dragon of the gods,
That appointed me by your desire
and wished that I should rule."
(p. 275. "Assurnasirpal I, on Ocassion of Illness."Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths, Tales, and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Baltimore, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995. ISBN 1-883053-09-9. paperback)
I am struck by the parallels between Christ and Dumuzi, both are associated with a location called Eden (where lies the tree of life) and Edinu (the steppe). Christ is the bridegroom who marries his bride the Church, willingly laying down his life so that man can obtain immortality. The demonic forces in the world conspire to end Christ's life, and demons seek Dumuzi "the bridegroom's" life. However Dumuzi is an unwilling surrogate for "his bride," Inanna. Dumuzi foresees his death in a dream by demonic forces like Christ is able to predict his death. Both are betrayed to demonic forces pursuing them, by a companion who takes a bribe. Christ is the 'Good Shepherd', so too, Dumuzi. Christ admits man to God's presence in heaven, and acts as mediator seeking eternal life for man, while Dumuzi as a heavenly gate guard for An or Anu, the high god, also seeks immortality for man in the form of Adapa. Christ who willingly becomes a surrogate in hell for his bride, speaks of himself as "the true vine," whilst Dumuzi's sister, who willingly lays down her life as a surrogate for her brother bears the name Geshtianna, meaning, Lady of the 'heavenly vine stock', and she is the wife of Ningishzida (cf. p. 67. "Geshtianna." Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London. Routledge. 1991). As noted earlier (above), the Tammuz myth existed into late Hellenistic times, the 2d/3rd century A.D., so perhaps the motifs concerning Christ were borrowed and transformed by the early Christians?
I conclude that Christianity's later imagery of Satan as the Serpent in the garden of Eden, is a reflex of some sort of Ningishizida, "Lord of the Good Tree," who had the power to take on human form (in human form he wears a multiple horned turban, a sign he is a god, and is beared, with robe), as well as that as the Mighty-Serpent-Dragon of Heaven and of the Underworld. In the Underworld he was called the bearer of the Throne, and "binder" of those who do evil.
I understand that Christ is another myth, he arose from the underworld in a resurrection (and is associated with a tree of life, called a cross), to stand at the right hand of God. No man is allowed into the Father's presence without Christ bringing him to the Father. In the Christian re-working of this ancient Mesopotamian myth I understand that Christ has replaced the resurrected gods Ningishzida and Tammuz, who offered man immortality.
So, in the Mesopotamian myths, the serpent who could walk and talk, talk not only to man, but face-to-face with the supreme god Anu, who offered man immortality with food and water of life, in heaven, is what lies behind not only the Genesis myth, but the Christian myths about Christ as well. The benificent Mesopotamian Dragon-Serpent, has been "pre-empted" by Christ, who has taken over all his roles (Dying and being resurrected, Petitioner of Man before God, Offerer of Immortality, via the food and water of Life). Thus I understand that Ningishzida is not only what lies behind Satan the Serpent-Dragon, but also Christ as the resurrected Dumuzi (Tammuz) as well (to the degree that Langdon understands that Dumuzi or Damu is called "the child Ningishzida").
Professor Langdon on Dumuzi/Damu being Ningishzida:
"A passage from the Tammuz liturgies reads:
"From the river, from the river rise, rejoice...O Damu, from the river arise, rejoice...O thou with woe overfull, O shepherd...Woe, O man, my Damu. Woe O man, the child Ningishzida...Woe O man, the brother of the mother, the goddess Geshtinanna. He is gone, is gone, to the bosom of the earth; His cup of sorrow is overfull in the land of the dead...Woe for the spinging verdue delayed, woe for the leafing plant which is restrained." (pp. 348-349. "Tammuz and Ishtar." Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races: Semitic. Volume 5. Archaeological Institute of America. Marshall Jones Company. Boston. 1931. Note: Stephen Herbert Langdon, M.A., was of Jesus College, Oxford, England; a Fellow of the British Academy; and Mary W. Shillito Reader in and Professor of Assyriology)
Langdon suggested that Dumuzi as a deity associated with vegetation might be the god shown on cylinder seal hlding a sheaf of grain and grain sheafs arising from his shoulders:
"On seals of the primitive period the Grain-goddess appears with a minor male deity (see fig. 47), who is also a deity of vegetation. The latter may be Tammuz." (p. 90. Langdon. 1931)
If my "hunches" are correct, then Ningishzida as Satan the Serpent-Dragon of Heaven and the Underworld, arch-enemy of the resurrected Dumuzi/Damu/Tammuz Christ, were in the early Mesopotamian myths not enemies of each other, but "companions" in the Underworld and later in Heaven as resurrected deities, and star constellations (Tammuz/Orion and Ningishzida/Hydra, which stand at "the beginning and end" of the Milky Way recalls Christ's claim to being Alpha and Omega, "the beginning and the end" [Rev 22:13] and Christ also claiming to be the bright evening star Venus [Rev 22:16]) who offered immortality to mankind and they were aspects of each other as "Damu, the child Ningishzida."
The Edenic notion that a serpent is capable of speech and is "wily', in regards to its opponent, appears in the Sumerian myth called Etana and the Eagle. In this account a serpent and eagle initially befriend each other and swear an oath of friendship, they will share their daily kills with each other. Accompanying the oath, however is a curse, if either "transgresses the limits" of the sun-god Shamash (break their oath), they will be punished and die. Initially each hunts and provides remnants of their kills for each other and their children. Eventually the eagle breaks his oath and eats the serpent's young. The serpent asks Shamash to avenge him. Which he does, telling the serpent to hide in the carcass of a dead animal and then biting and subduing the feeding eagle, casting him into a pit to die of starvation.
The "parallels" to the serpent in the garden of Eden myth:
1) Both serpents are associated with a tree. In the Etana myth the serpent lives at the base of the tree, its nest being amongst the roots.
2) Both the Etana and Edenic serpent have the power of speech.
3) The Etana serpent offers counsel to the eagle, saying "Let us make a pact, that if broken by either one of us, he will pay with his life." Eden's serpent counsels Eve.
4) Both serpents are associated some way in the providing of food (the "apple" for Eve) and flesh for the eagle and its young.
5) Like Eden's serpent, the Etana serpent is "wily" in dealing with its opponent in bringing about his enemy's "fall" (literally casting the eagle into a ditch after hiding in an an animal carcass to catch the eagle).
6) The "transgressor of the limits" placed upon them by a god pays for their transgression with death at the hands of that god. Adam trangresses God's command. The eagle transgresses his oath to Shamash.
cf. the below url for an on-line version of the Etana and Eagle myth:
I have argued, along with others, that the Hebrews have apparently transformed the Mesopotamian myths in Genesis, but how does one account for this from a biblical point of view? Where's the "link"? Perhaps the "missing link" is Ur of the Chaldees where lived Terah and his son Abraham before their departure to Haran in northern Syria? Excavations at Ur (Tell el Muqqayar, south of Babylon) have uncovered tablets from all periods of the city's long history, and some preserve the myths of this region dating back to Sumerian times. Leick noted that at times Syrian (Amorite) influence is detectable in some of these myths, they are not "purely" Sumerian, they have been reworked and augmented. Perhaps Terah and Abraham's ancestors were Syrians who had earlier settled at Ur? Did a "Syrian" Terah and Abraham later come "to make a break" with the local myths and develop their own interpretation of the relationship between God and Man, via inversions of the local myths? Did they leave Ur because the local populace rejected their new insights or "revelations" and return to their ancestral homeland of Haran, to promulgate their new vision to a less hostile audience? Cf. my article on Ur of the Chaldees for more details.
Professor Kramer on Abraham of Ur being Genesis' "missing link":
"To be sure, even the earliest parts of the Bible, it is generally agreed, were not written down in their present form much earlier than 1000 BC, whereas most of the Sumerian literary documents were composed about 2000 BC or not long afterward. There is, therefore no question of any contemporary borrowing from the Sumerian literary sources. Sumerian influence penetrated the Bible through the Canaanite, Hurrian, Hittite, and Akkadian literatures -particularly through the latter, since, as is well known, the Akkadian language was used all over Palestine and its environs in the second millennium BC as the common language of practically the entire literary world. Akkadian literary works must therefore have been well known to Palestinian men of letters, including the Hebrews, and not a few of these Akkadian literary works can be traced back to Sumerian protoypes, remodeled and transformed over the centuries.
However, there is another possible source of Sumerian influence on the Bible, which is far more direct and immediate than that just described. In fact, it may well go back to Father Abraham himself. Most scholars agree that the Abraham saga as told in the Bible contains much that is legendary and fanciful, it does have an important kernel of truth, including Abraham's birth in Ur of the Chaldees, perhaps about 1700 BC, and his early life there with his family. Now Ur was one of the most important cities of ancient Sumer; in fact, it was the capital of Sumer at three different periods in its history. It had an impressive edubba; and in the joint British-American excavations conducted there between the years 1922 and 1934, quite a number of Sumerian literary documents have been found. Abraham and his forefathers may well have had some acquaintence with Sumerian literary products that had been copied and created in their home town academy. And it is by no means impossible that he and the members of his family brought some of this Sumerian lore and learning with them to Palestine, where they gradually became part of the traditions and sources utilized by the Hebrew men of letters in composing and redacting the books of the Bible." (p. 292. "The Legacy of Sumer." Samuel Noah Kramer. The Sumerians, Their History, Culture, and Character. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press.  reprint 1972. paperback)
Extra-biblical evidence suggests a Jewish understanding from as early as the Hasmonean period (late 2nd century BC), that the Israelite forefathers were indeed originally of Babylonia (Ur of the Chaldees), and only later of Haran of "Mesopotamia" (northern Syria) and that because they had departed from the forms of worship embraced by their ancestors, they were apparently driven away as heretics to Haran and later to Canaan. If I am right in suppossing that the inversions, transformations and reformatting of the Mesopotamian myths are Terah and Abraham's doing, one can see why they would be driven out of Ur of the Chaldees as heretics by the local inhabitants who would object to their religious myths being nul