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.

Great Moments in Pulpit PaleoBabble

Here’s a YouTube video that’s a real treat (if you like PaleoBabble on Sunday morning).  The sermon is about “alpeh and tav” — the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  The minister (?) equates this with the description of Jesus as the first and the last, and as the Word in John 1:1.  The result?  Why, Jesus is in Genesis 1:1, since we see a small two-letter word there, made of the letters aleph and tav!  These two letters have allegedy mystified scholars for millennia — who were too stupid to see Jesus in the aleph and tav.

This is another nominee for the PaleoBabble Aaaargghhh! Award.  A spellbinding example of truly craptastic Bible interpretation (not to mention the old bromide about knowing enough to be dangerous).

In the real world of biblical knowledge, the aleph and tav spell what is known as the accusative marker (and scholars have known it for millennia – no mystery here).  It is not translated since it is a grammatical/syntactical pointer.  It is a two letter word that points to (in most instances) the direct object of a sentence (clause) in Hebrew.  Other ancient semitic languages have aleph-tav to mark the direct object (the accusative):  Ugaritic, Pheonician, Aramaic, etc.  I guess Jesus is in these pagan inscriptions too!

What an idiot . . . er, paleobabbler.

Is Zecharia Sitchin Anti-Semitic?

I don’t believe so (Sitchin is Jewish).

That said, it seems Sitchin and his followers don’t realize how his ideas open themselves to that charge. How? Aside from pure imagination, a lot of Sitchin’s ideas presuppose a dependence of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) on earlier Sumerian and Babylonian literature. More acutely, Sitchin asserts over and over again in his books that the Old Testament writers borrowed their material from the Sumerian and later Mesopotamian people.

This idea was all the rage in the late 19th century and early 20th century, particularly in the wake of the famous “Babel und Bibel” (“Babel and the Bible”) lecture of Friedrich Delitzsch. It was the era of the decipherment of cuneiform and the discovery of creation and flood stories in Mesopotamian literature. It was also the era of deepening anti-Semitism, a belief cultivated nowhere more zealously than Germany, Delitzsch’s fatherland. In fact, it was in this environment that the “higher criticism” of the Bible began. The criticism of the Bible as in any way historical was led by German anti-Semites. The result was the pursuit of alternative origin stories, found ever-so-conveniently in the writings of the “Aryans” (who supposedly came from Sumeria — is this sounding familiar, ye followers of Sitchin?). The Nazis, of course, made this dogma, since the “Aryan” (Vedic) writings were written in Sanskrit, which was the ancient ancestor of Indo-European languages, of which German was prominent. Yes, they descended from the gods who first gave kingship, the right to rule, at Sumer — unlike those inferior Jews. They and their myths had to be eradicated.

As I’ve told Sitchinites at various lectures, no credible OT scholar today argues that the Genesis stories came wholesale from Mesopotamian material. That idea is passe, but Sitchin doesn’t seem to mind being 100 years behind the curve. The literary issue is far more complex than what we think of as borrowing, and people who spend time in the biblical text know it, and so have abandoned the views of Delitzsch and his followers.

For a readable (non-specialist) discussion of how Delitsch’s anti-semitism fueled his scholarship, click here [from Bible Review 18 no 1 (F 2002): 32-40, 47].  Amazing how this despicable bias influenced generations, and is still influencing amateur researchers like Sitchin, though only sub-consciously.

Replica of Noah’s Ark Completed

Kind of interesting – a full-scale model of Noah’s ark according to the biblical dimensions (and assuming an 18-inch cubit) built by a guy in the Netherlands.  The link leads to the BBC story, but you can view additional pictures here.

If you are familiar with comparative ancient literature, stories of a great flood (not necessarily global) and the building of a great ship to save human and animal life are found in literature around the world. I take these stories as a sort of “shared collective memory” tradition of some perceptively cataclysmic event, not as PaleoBabble. But there is plenty of Noah’s ark paleobabble, to be sure. One of the more notorious instances is that of Ron Wyatt, who claimed to have discovered the ark (among just about every other interesting biblial artifact). Here’s a link about what one person who bothered to investigate the claims found. Here’s a pretty thorough expose by a creationist organization.

Exposing the Work of Zecharia Sitchin, Part 2: Does the Bible Have the Gods Creating Humankind?

This is a Sitchin signature teaching. In an effort to marry his notion that the Anunnaki (a group of gods in the Sumero-Mesopotamian pantheon) created humankind to the biblical story, Sitchin teaches that the Bible itself has plural gods creating humankind in Genesis. This is just paleo-babble.

Genesis 1:26 is of course offered as proof of this idea, but this is not what the passage teaches. Let’s take a look at the passage in context (Gen 1:26-28), noting the underlining:

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind as our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man as his own image, as the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

If you are familiar with my work on the divine council, you know that God is not speaking to the other members of the Trinity, but rather to the members of his council. Among Old Testament scholars, this isn’t anything new. In “academese” the wording of Genesis 1:26 is called the “plural of exhortation”-a fancy way of saying one person is announcing something to a group. God comes to the divine council with an exciting announcement: “let’s create humankind!” It would be like me going into a room of friends and saying, “Hey, let’s go get some pizza” (which I have been known to do with some regularity).

The point is that the speaker is ONE entity. But do the other guys in the audience (the heavenly host) participate in the creating? This is what Sitchin teaches. Sadly for him, the Hebrew text says the opposite. How do we know that? At the risk of dredging up painful memories of your high school English classes, the answer is “grammar says so.”

If you take a close look at verse 27, it’s obvious as to who is doing the creating: “So God created man as his own image, as the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” One grammatical clue is obvious, even in English. If more than one god was participating in the creation of humanity, the text would read “they created.” What isn’t so obvious to those who can’t read Hebrew is that the verbs of creation in this passage (and in ALL passages where the God of Israel creates anything) are SINGULAR. Don’t believe me? Get out your popcorn and turn up your speakers! Here’s a video of me doing a search for where elohim is the subject of a verb of creation. I go through all the results and each time the God of Israel is the elohim referred to, the verbs are SINGULAR. Video just doesn’t get more compelling than this. It’s just under 21 MB ; 14:46.

Was Cain Fathered by the Devil? No, Wait — Extraterrestrials

I’ve gotten more emails on this topic than I can shake a stick at, so I’ve decided to blog it and then just direct people to this post in the future. I don’t know who started this on the internet-probably one of those “I found secret knowledge about the Bible” people who start followings in cyberspace. At any rate, he wasn’t anyone who knew anything about the Bible, the Dead Sea scrolls, or the other material I’ll touch on.

Cain Fathered by Satan or a Demon?

Though there are by no various expressions of it online, the nonsense goes something like this.

What really happened in Eden (Genesis 3) was that Eve was seduced by the serpent (whose name was Sammael), they had sex, and produced Cain (Genesis 4). This is why Cain was “marked” by God later on-God hated him since the serpent was his father. The Bible covers all this up since its editors removed it. Thankfully, the Dead Sea Scrolls preserve it. That’s just one reason the scrolls were kept from the public for so long.

Hogwash.

Here’s the truth about this particular web gem. I’ll unpack each point briefly.

1. Genesis 4:1 was NOT found among the textual remains of the Hebrew Bible among the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is important to realize that much of the biblical material from Qumran is partial and fragmentary. Only the book of Isaiah can be said to be virtually complete (99% of it was found at Qumran). There are portions and scraps of every other OT book except Esther. Genesis 4:1, the account of Can’s birth, is not in the Dead Sea Scroll material. The closest you get is Genesis 4:2-11, which is 4QGenb or 4Q2 (read, Qumran, Cave 4, Genesis “b” – that was the name given to the fragment – also called Qumran, Cave 4, no. 2 by other researchers). This fragment was published in volume 12 (pp. 36-37) of the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (DJD) series (Oxford University Press – the official publisher of scrolls material). The fragment is IDENTICAL to the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible used today. Therefore, the Dead Sea scrolls don’t preserve this weird view of Cain’s lineage. Readers can check on what I’m saying through two relatively inexpensive sources:

2. Since we already know the name doesn’t occur in the biblical scrolls (the point above), I thought I’d look for it among the other scrolls material – sometimes the other material has commentaries on the biblical material. A computer search for “Sammael” (or the alternate spelling Samael) yields ZERO occurrences in the non-biblical texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is more proof that this “account” is not only absent in the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls; it isn’t present in the scrolls that covered other subjects besides copying and commenting on the Hebrew Bible. You can watch a video of me doing this search so you know I’m not making it up. (Turn your speakers up and use high speed – it’s 29 MB).

3. I knew that I wouldn’t find the name Sammael or Samael in any of the scrolls. The name does occur among the Pseudepigrapha. The video I made above includes this search and its results. Sorry, no sex between the serpent / Sammael and Eve. Boring, I know. Outside the name Sammael/Samael, n some pseudepigraphic material (4 Maccabees 18:8) the serpent gets blamed for all sexual sin, but that’s a lot different than fathering Cain.

4. Some rabbinic material does have the devil fathering Cain. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan has this idea. Here’s a brief video of me looking this up an explaining the reading [You can check my translation by consulting the English translation of Targum Pseudo-Joanathan at this link. This translation, though, does NOT have the variant that includes Samael]. The other Targums do not have this reading. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan is dated by Aramaists at roughly the sixth century A.D., or between 1500-2000 years AFTER Genesis was written (the date range depends on when one thinks Genesis was written). The Talmud relates a story that Yonatan ben Uziel, a student of Hillel (roughly contemporary with Jesus), fashioned an Aramaic translation of the Prophets. That translation is considered by some to be Targum Pseudo-Jonathan. However, the story makes no mention of any translation by him of the Torah, and so it cannot be argued that Targum Pseudo-Jonathan of Genesis 4:1 is as old as Jesus’ day. The sixth century A.D. is all the evidence allows. Targums can be very elastic translations, adding material quite freely with no Hebrew manuscript evidence at all. Everyone who does Aramaic knows this about the Targums-they can play pretty fast and loose with the text of the Bible; they INSERT all kinds of things into the translation, without regard to any prior textual manuscript history for support. IN plain language, the Targums often add made up material to the biblical text. Having Samael in Genesis 4:1 is a classic example – it was added at least 1500 years after the fact, and no other prior ancient Jewish material supports it.

Cain Fathered by Extraterrestrials?

Laurence Gardner, that pseudo-ancient text researcher of Jesus bloodline nonsense fame, wants Eve and Yahweh to be the ones having sex-or, “more realistically” in his mind, to have the extraterrestrial god known as Yahweh (who is really Sumerian Enki) genetically implant his DNA in her. In an online lecture on this topic Gardner (largely parroting Zecharia Sitchin) says:

Conventional teaching generally cites Cain as being the first son of Adam and Eve – but he was not; even the book of Genesis tells us that he was not. In fact, it confirms how Eve told Adam that Cain’s father was the Lord, who was of course Enki the Archetype. Even outside the Bible, the writings of the Hebrew Talmud and Midrash make it quite plain that Cain was not the son of Adam . . . Around 6000 years ago, Adam and Eve . . . were purpose-bred for kingship by Enki and his sister-wife Ninkhursag. This took place at a ‘creation chamber’ which the Sumerian annals refer to as the House of Shimta (Shi-im-tA meaning ‘breath – wind – life‘ ). Adam and Eve were certainly not the first people on Earth, but they were the first of the alchemically devised kingly succession. Nin-khursag was called the Lady of the Embryo or the Lady of Life, and she was the surrogate mother for Adam and Eve, who were created from human ova fertilized by the Lord Enki. 1

In regard to how the book of Genesis tells us Cain was not the son of Adam and Eve, Gardner has this quotation in his book about the birth of Cain. Let me go on record as saying this is one of my favorite Gardner quotations, only because it’s a crystal clear example of how Gardner DELIBERATELY misleads his readers, likely because he hates Christianity so much:

“In the opening verse of Genesis 4, it is written that Hawah [Eve] said, I have gotten a man from the Lord’. Other variations are I have got me a man with the Lord’ and I have acquired a man from the Lord’.”2

Gardner’s quotation creates the distinct impression for his readers that Genesis 4:1 contains ONLY this line about Eve saying she “got a man from/with the Lord.” It’s an incomplete citation, though-and you’ll see right away why Gardner wouldn’t give you the rest of the verse in his book. Here’s the whole verse in Hebrew and English (I have given the English and the Hebrew matching colors so you can follow the translation):

It’s easy to see here how Gardner only gave his readers the second half of the verse – omitting the part that explicitly says that ADAM “knew” Eve (a common sexual euphemism in the Bible) and so fathered Cain. How convenient. How self-serving. How dishonest.

Again, it’s just PaleoBabble.

  1. http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblianazar/esp_biblianazar_21.htm
  2. Laurence Gardner, Genesis of the Grail Kings, 128

ET Gods in the Garden of Eden?

I thought I’d share a recent email I received from someone with a question about a new book that claims that one version (source) of the book of Genesis teaches readers that humankind was created by a group of gods:

>>

Hello Michael,

I was talking with Kevin Smith (via email) a few weeks ago, about his interpretation of creation according to the book of Genesis.

As you may know, Kevin is the author of the book ‘Gods in the Garden’ which puts forward the idea that there were essentially two creation origins of “man”…. one by the Lord God, and another (previous) by the “gods” (elohim).

I don’t claim to be a Hebrew scholar, but having read much of your material, I respect your work in this area. Therefore I was curious if you had read Kevin Smith’s book, and could give me your impression of his work?

>>

Kevin Smith is an internet radio talk show host. His show, The Kevin Smith Show, focuses on paranormal topics.  His website notes that “He is a former International Police commander, a native of Texas, and graduate of Dallas Baptist College.”

I have been interviewed by Kevin (a couple years ago as I recall) and found him more well read than most talk show hosts I’ve interacted with.  I could tell he had a nose for information (former cop) and a ready mind.  He was pretty well acquainted (for someone who had no knowledge of the biblical languages) with critical approaches to the Bible.  He was also very engaging.  All that said, his idea here doesn’t have a prayer.  His lack of knowledge with respect to biblical languages is his undoing.  Here’s my response:

** [Dear X] I haven’t read Kevin’s book, but it’s easy to see what he’s doing.  Since the late 19th century it has been fashionable in critical biblical scholarship to see the Pentateuch as a patchwork quilt of sources (not written by Moses). The sources are called:  J, E, D, and P.  J and E are so named because (so the theory goes) one source uses Jehovah (Yahweh; the LORD) as the name for God and the E source uses Elohim. Kevin is taking this common source-critical idea and using it to argue as you describe.

** Other than the problems with the traditional (since the late 1800s!) view of source criticism for the Pentateuch, Kevin has one fundamental, “my view is D.O.A.” problem.  Even if the source divisions are correct, the “E” source (that uses elohim for the name of God) NEVER has elohim as the subject of a plural verb (EVER) when describing creation (of anything).  If you have read my discussion of Zecharia Sitchin’s nonsense you know that elohim, though “shaped” as a plural noun, gets grammatically paired with a SINGULAR verb form nearly 1500 times in the OT.  That is because “elohim” became a proper name for the singular God of Israel – and Hebrew grammatical agreement reflects that.  Therefore, when elohim creates in the E source, it is a SINGLE elohim, not plural.  Kevin’s idea is doomed by the text.  Don’t waste any time considering it.

Let’s hope Kevin sticks to things he knows in the future. He’s good at what he does, but this is nonsense.