Is the Book of Genesis Plagiarized from Sumerian and Akkadian (Mesopotamian) Sources?

This is a common claim by Zecharia Sitchin and those who adore him, like his webmaster Erik Parker, and Jason Martell. As I have blogged here before (here and here), this idea was common fare toward the end of the 19th century, due primarily to two historical forces: (1) the novelty of the decipherment of cuneiform material, certain items of which sounded like Genesis stories; and (2) anti-Semitism being rife within higher-critical biblical scholarship. Today, in the 21st century (and one could say since the mid 20th century), scholars of Akkadian and Sumerian do NOT hold this view.  They just know better since they have a much more accurate grasp of Akkadian and Sumerian, as well as Semitic linguistics.

This morning the University of Chicago graciously posted a new e-book on the ABZU website entitled, “From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West.” It’s free, and so here’s a link to it. I recommend (unless you are a fundamentalist Sitchinite) reading the article “The Genesis of Genesis” by Victor Hurowitz.  I have inserted a hyperlink to the page in the Table of Contents. Hurowitz is a professor at Ben Gurion University in Israel (so he lacks that awful Christian bias). He is a recognized expert in the interface of the Hebrew Bible and Assyriology, and serves on the steering committee of the Melammu Project, which focuses on the study of the intellectual heritage of Assyria and Babylonia in the modern East and West.

Guess what? He doesn’t agree with Sitchin and his followers that Genesis came from Sumerian and Akkadian works. What a shock. I’ve highlighted a few choice phrases in the PDF at the link so you can’t miss them. What’s even better is that the article also includes quotations from Assyriologist Wilfred Lambert that say the same thing. Who is Lambert? He’s one of the scholars Sitchin likes to quote in his books to create the impression that he (Sitchin) is doing serious research when he isn’t.

But please read it for yourself. Yes, there is a relationship between works like Enuma Elish and the book of Genesis — because they both come from the ancient Near East, not because of literary dependence. As the article points out, the real parallels to Genesis from non-biblical material do not come from Mesopotamia; they come from Ugarit. This is something that anyone who has looked at my divine council site already knows, since I point it out all the time.

There’s no antidote against PaleoBabble like fact-based scholarship. But like any medicine, you have to take it before it can help you.

66 thoughts on “Is the Book of Genesis Plagiarized from Sumerian and Akkadian (Mesopotamian) Sources?

  1. Hallo,
    You write “The sun, of course, doesn’t move ”
    Correction – it does move as all planets, stars (suns), and galaxy is moving also ….
    that is proved, theory say that whole cosmos is moving

    • YOu and I both know this wasn’t about the whole cosmos. Show me where the Sumerians knew of any planet beyond Saturn and then we can talk about the “cosmos.”

  2. Is there anything about Sitchin’s work that you can agree with or would you encourage people to reject all of his writings?

    • There simply is no evidence of the alien stuff he makes up. There are many fascinating mysteries about the ancient world to research; Sitchin’s material is a waste of time.

    • I need context for this; you can’t just give me a random sentence under the assumption I have all of the couple hundred thousand words on the blog memorized.

  3. I commented on a post by KarKu on February 23rd of this year. I hit the reply button on your reply directly..Perhaps the website needs some tinkering?

    Anyway, the context was in relation to your statement that the concept of flight was illustrated by the winged symbol – is this what you are saying? If so, then Inanna and her doppel-ganger in Babylonian culture, Ishtar, is also depicted with wings in many drawings and cuneifrom carvings? Am I to assume by your description of the wing symbol that Inanna/Ishtar also possessed the ability of flight?

    If that is not what you are saying, then can you please clarify any difference between an inanimate object such as a star or a planet being depicted with wings and that of an “alleged” flesh and a blood deity also being depicted with wings?

    • if one believed the gods lived in the heavens, you’d naturally use motifs for the sky and things in the sky. It’s as normal as can be.

  4. Ok fair enough, that’s a reasonable interpretation. However this represents an issue, or at least a potential issue in interpretation with Inanna. As you know, she was goddess of heaven/queen of heaven (amongst other things) in Sumerian literature, but she was also described (as were all the other gods of the Sumerian Pantheon) as a flesh and blood Deity! She didn’t live in the sky, she lived in a palace in Uruk. How does the winged description of her relate to your interpretation of the wing symbol?

  5. Thanks, but I don’t believe that we need to be particular about this – and to be honest I don’t wish to trawl through the entire ETCSL just to try and find an obscure text describing Inanna’s physical attributes lol. It is commonly accepted that the Sumerians believed that their gods were flesh and blood deities as they lived with them, ate with them and drank with them – according to the literature. I am not looking for a debate regarding this, all I am seeking is an opinion as to why an earth bound goddess like Inanna would be depicted with wings?

    Cheers.

    • if it’s so common it should be easy to establish. The point is your over-literalization. We have to establish how the really saw things by virtue of their own writings, not some modern ancient astronaut theory.

  6. I think that you need to understand that I am not a bonafide Sitchenite and nor do I necessarily ascribe to any Ancient Astronaut Theory. As for the over-literalization, all I am doing is looking at texts that have been transliterated and translated by authorized Assyriologists, not independant researchers. The texts say what the texts say. It is up to the individual to interpret those translations as one sees fit to – all I am seeking is an opinion, only an opinion, as to why a Deity like Inanna would be depicted with wings if she lived in a palace in Unug (correction from my earlier statement saying she lived in Uruk) and had what “appears” to be daily interaction with the inhabitants of that city – as it is written in the texts?

    Why would the Sumerians create a mythological deity that is supposed to be the goddess of heaven, queen of heaven etc etc, portray her with wings and then say she lives in a physical brick and mortar palace and governs the city’s inhabitants? It makes no sense, even from a mythological perspective…Do you agree with this last observation?

    Thanks.

    • The issue of literalization has nothing to do with transliteration and translation. It has to do with semantics and hermeneutics. The Mesopotamians did not construe their gods as humans or human. They also did not construe them as off planet (they never say that, and their astronomy was primitive in terms of the vastness of the solar system and beyond). Temples were where the heavenly met the earthly. Saying the god resided in one, and doing things like setting food out for a deity (which then had to be disposed of — that is in the texts) doesn’t mean they were physical beings you could go and see. That would make the use of idols in processions and in ceremonies pretty silly — why didn’t the physical deity just take a stroll? The texts *say* that when objects like idols associated with the deity went out of the temple for XYZ reason, those objects were considered the deity or to be “holding” the deity. These simple observations about ancient ritual are just the tip of this iceberg that contradicts an over-literalized reading.

      The reason gods and goddesses are described as doing things people do is simple — what else would a human writer describe? If they believed (and they did) that they were created by the gods and some among them were chosen by the gods to rule earth in the place of the gods, it stands to reason by such logic that “we must be like the gods and they must be like us in some way.” And so the bureaucracy, marriages, lifestyles, residences, sports, appetites, etc. of the gods are cast in human terms because that’s what humans can process and understand.

  7. I understand the meaning of over-literalization. I re-read my previous post and I can see how you have interpreted that, and I should have elaborated further before going on, but nevermind. Thankyou for giving me your interpretation.

    Cheers.

  8. Hello. Can you provide sources for this claim “scholars of Akkadian and Sumerian do NOT hold this view.” ?

    I ask because I have read Victor Hurowitz’s “From Babylon to Baghdad: Ancient Iraq and the Modern West” and remain unconvinced by his argument. He relies heavily on, but conveniently not on all since some of it weakens his view, the Akkadian Enûma Eliš but ignore older Sumerian versions. He also seems to commit some basic informal fallacies.

    I do have read most of Zecharia Sitchin’s book and do not agree with his ancient alien theory but I don’t think he flat out claims “plagiarism” but, I think, distortions and variations.

    • Give me the full context — be specific — so I don’t have to hunt for precisely what you want.

  9. Thank you for responding. I mean if you could cite sources for the claim that “scholars of Akkadian and Sumerian do NOT hold” the view that parts of Genesis are variations of older creation myths i.e. Sumerian and Akkadian ones. I actually hold the view that parts of Genesis are based on those older creation myths. You could disregard the last paragraph in my original reply, my grammar was horrendous.

    • What is rejected today is the idea that material in Genesis is *imported* from ANE sources and then presented in Hebrew form. More accurately, the Israelite writers clearly had access to other ANE materials and deliberately responded to the theology in those texts while articulating their own — and so there are elements in Genesis that hearken back to ideas in the ANE material. Sometimes in the course of doing that a word from the ANE material is used, or the structure of a passage is mimed (followed) so as to make it clear to the literate person what is being done (the polemic bent). By “variations” I mean “re-hashings.” For some bibliography, I’d recommend John Walton’s book, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Eisenbrauns, 2011) and the essays by Hess (both of them), Tsumura, and Lambert in the book, I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11 (Eisenbrauns, 1994).

  10. Is there any way that you can post your full version of the translation of the Sumerian or Ugaric tablets? This is because a lot of us enthusiasts and some scholars, are not researched enough to know the difference and would therefore instead like to read what you think they should read. Sitchin has the advantage in that he put his naked opinion out there and faced the music and gave the versions that he would go with. Perhaps you should adopt some similar strategy as well. I am very personally interested in reading your versions.

    • These texts have been published in anthologies already, so I see no reason to re-invent the wheel.

  11. Man made cuneiform clay tablets of ‘The Sumerians’ are the ‘source code’ of all religious myths and fables. What is man made should be worshipped and revered as man made.

    We are product of our ancestors ‘Tree of life!’ Sumerian, Egyptian and the Harappan are mother civilisations and from their womb all scriptures were born! Our human religious myths and civilisation of today is a residual consequence of our historical comprehensive digressions over eons of the cultures, customs, thinking and philosophies of three riparian societies. These three centers of civilization all arose in the ancient near east. They were Sumerian, Egyptian and the Harappan culture of the Indus Valley. All these three great early civilizations gave birth to a wealth of god and goddess and legends that we humans have embraced today. Distorted versions of the river valley civilizational gods made way and created the fabric of the basic legends; 100’s were exported around the world and passed on from generation to generation to the present time. At the heart of these myths are the gods and the relationship to afterlife. From the earliest times we humans are caught in forming deities, the concept of the spirit, paradise, hell, divine retributions and search of immortality. Adam, Eve and our over eager Abrahamic religion scriptures are product of this fundamental past time of man.

    One motivating trait of these three civilizations is the time line for the appearance and growth of these cultures. They all started around 3500 BC and lasted until 2000 BC. given the long period of time where early human progress was only stone age one questions what triggered the inception of these three civilizations came into being at the same time – and relatively close to each other – was civilization was a “gift from the gods”. so authoritative was its metaphors, sacrament and oral traditions that the religion of Sumer influenced the entire near east and beyond. These pagan beliefs were absorbed in all the cultures of River Civilizations. Indus Valley “script” remains yet to be cracked, Harappan imagery shows roots to Sumer and Egypt. The most obvious is the ‘Tree of Life’. The story of the Tree of Life with all its diverse interpretations is the strongest consistent fable shared by the three great river valley civilizations. It is the Mes and Huluppu tree of Sumer, the Pipal to become the Bhodi tree of the Indus Valley and the sycamore-fig tree (Hathor’s tree) in Egypt. From the marvel of the ‘Tree ‘gods were created, immortality was sought, wisdom was procured, cosmic and the concept of paradise and hell was born.er The ‘Garden of Eden’ and the Biblical description between the Tigris and Euphrates the ‘human’ Paradise Lost is just another such myth. continued.. http://iranian.com/main/blog/iqbal-latif/biggest-patent-fraud-sumerians-source-code-all-religions.html

  12. I hear from some people that ENKI was {satan}, others that Enlil was the bad one. There are a lot of antient stories about Molluck, and Baal, and blood sacrefices, children,sacrifices. The {so-called} star of David is actually a hexigram representing Molluk, and is actually an occult symbol. Ref- BOHEMIAN GROVE -sacrefices-bonfires-majic cerimonies predominantly homo activities {typically luciferian worship} are there any references to this {hidden agenda?} Since the burning of the anciant library in Alexandria, is there any referance to these topics? the Zionists are not jews, but some so-called jews are Zionists, They have been the reason for many wars, their bankers start wars-thru lies usually, and their agenda {proticals of Zion} for world conquest is not a made up story- so please dont be defensive for them. Go back to Babalon, their majic,black arts, etc.DO HAVE A HISTORY. Some say { Reptillians are here to manage humans} are they the ‘Gods of old? they live a long time-kinda like the Anunaki are said to have. This may sound crazy, buy this is a real question. please send me any reference to these, not any made up story.T hank you Dan

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