Guide to Ancient Astronaut PaleoBabble

I’ll be on Coast to Coast AM this evening. This time I decided to do something that will help listeners follow the discussion more easily.  I’ve created a sort of quick guide to my basic responses to a range of ancient astronaut paleobabble. It’s a one-stop reference point for all sorts of links, posts, and files on my sites and blogs.  Check it out.

You may also find this page of interest (it’s linked to on the above guide). A few paleobabble topics here I haven’t blogged on yet.

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.

The Bias of 19th Century German Biblical and Assyriological Scholarship

Turns out even real scholars can be guilty of paleobabble when motivated by biases. They simply filter the data through a preconceived grid.

I’ve blogged before about how F. Delitzsch was influenced by racial theories of his day toward anti-Semitism, which in turn erased his objectivity about the Mesopotamian influence on the Old Testament (see, “Is Zecharia Sitchin Anti-Semitic?”). I don’t think Sitchin or others who blindly follow him are anti-Semitic. But they keep foisting exaggerated and misguided 19th century academic conclusions about Sumerian-Akkadian influence on the Old Testament on their readers. The fact is that today, in the real 21st (and 20th) century worlds of biblical studies and Assyriology, conclusions about such influence are far more tame and guarded. The issue is just more complex than 19th century scholars either knew or cared to admit. Many were propelled by racism.  Here’s another article on Delitzsch and this subject. It’s introduction and conclusion read in part (my highlights):

“Our concern in this essay is not with the role of Delitzsch’s work in the history of the disciplines of Assyriology and biblical studies per se. Instead we aim to take this centennial as an opportunity to refresh the guild’s memory concerning his presuppositions and the tragic turn observable in the lectures themselves.

At the centennial of the “Babel und Bibel” lectures, our intent has been to consider Delitzsch and his method in the context of his time and place in order to gain a heuristic depth perception after the passage of a full century. Delitzsch was a brilliant Assyriologist, one of the most distinguished scholars of the time. But beyond his philological accomplishments, he also left behind a legacy of uncritical political nationalism and questionable assumptions. In this light, Delitzsch stands as a singular reminder of the importance of the way in which we relate our research to our context.”

Fantasy Channel Special on Ancient Astronauts

Well, I guess some of you may have caught last night’s Fantasy Channel (what I used to refer to as the History Channel) special promoting the ancient astronaut idea.  I didn’t watch it since there’s nothing new here except better special effects and CGI to help shovel this crap into the minds of viewers.  Anyone who thinks the Fantasy Channel had objectivity in mind is naive, or perhaps hasn’t read my own encounter with the channel for an earlier “aliens in the Bible” special. You can read about my interview for that and my subsequent censorship here.  You can also read what their editors did to some other people who didn’t take the ancient alien party line here.  But alas, only one of us was smart enough (or suspicious enough) to audio-record our own interview so we could compare it to what would actually appear.  I got off easy since I was edited out completely. Others weren’t so lucky and had their views raped and pillaged by Fantasy Channel anti-objectivity thugs.

Though I didn’t watch it (I think I spent the time more usefully, watching my daughters color their toenails), I have thoughts.  Today I got an email from someone who seems a sincere Sitchin follower.  Anyway, the questions seemed sincere and I have no reason to think otherwise.  Here is part of my response (familiar territory, but summarized):

No one denies the language in Gen 1:26 is plural, but few on the web of Sitchin’s ilk do much thinking about it (or so it seems), since they try to use that to make the creator of humankind a plural.  Nothing could have less merit as an idea.  There is a singular speaker (the singular God of Israel) speaking to a crowd as it were. How do we know the speaker is singular here? Because the corresponding verb forms that take elohim as subject are grammatically singular AND the suffix pronoun (“his” image) in 1:27 is also singular. In point of fact in EVERY passage in the Hebrew Bible where humans are created, the verbs are singular in agreement with a singular deity.  You can speculate as to why Sitchin doesn’t give that information to his readers.  In my view, he either doesn’t know, in which case his competence is in question, or he just hides it, in which case his ethics and intentions are in question.

Further, in regard to the crowd, my view, and the view of all semitists I’ve ever read, is that the crowd is the divine council / heavenly host.  This is standard fare in the field. Many Christians wrongly try to tie this language to the trinity, but I assume you’ve come across that and know that.

I hope you can tell by my answers that I’m not given to speculation.  I like to stick with what’s in the texts and then come up with ways to parse that.  My objection to Sitchin is that his system is entirely opinion and imagination based.  That isn’t a sin, of course. But what is either unethical or incompetent about it is when he (or someone who uses him) pits his ideas AGAINST what the Mesopotamian scribes actually do tell us quite clearly. They’re dead so they can’t defend themselves. I’ll be happy to do that. What exactly am I speaking of?  Here’s a short list:

1.  We have Sumerian and Akkadian bilingual texts that give us the meaning of terms like “me” and “shem” – and they are not even close to what Sitchin says.  I’d rather believe the people who created the texts than Sitchin. Seems reasonable to me. These texts and their vocabulary can be correlated (and have been) with other texts and bilinguals.  This is how dictionaries of ancient languages are built – from primary sources where a dead scribe tells us “this word in my language meant the same thing as that word in another language.” These tools aren’t built by modern scholars who just invent the material.

2. We have many texts that mention the Anunnaki and nibiru.  NONE of them have nibiru as a planet beyond Pluto. NONE of them have the Anunnaki living on nibiru or “flying in” nibiru. These are direct contradictions of Sitchin’s ideas not from me, but from the Mesopotamian knowledge-keepers, the scribes. Several texts have nibiru being sighted EVERY YEAR (the MUL.APIN astrolabe), in direct contradiction with Sitchin’s 3600 year cycle idea. Again, I’ll take sides with the scribes.

3. We have a great deal of Mesopotamian astronomical texts. The material has all been published and collated and is easily obtained (but it’s expensive) in scholarly monographs on the subject. NONE of the material has any planets beyond Saturn.  Another point-blank contradiction to Sitchin.

For those who have read such things before here, thanks for indulging me. I have to post things like this since you won’t get it on the Fantasy Channel.

Zecharia Sitchin’s Astronomy Debunked

There are a number of good critiques on the web showing the flaws in Sitchin’s discussion of astronomy from the Sumerian and Mesopotamian texts. Here are a few:

Chris Siren’s page

Ian Lawton’s analysis

Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website deals with “Planet X

My own contribution to this subject was previously blogged. But here are links to my short paper on Nibiru (it isn’t a 12th planet) and Cylinder Seal VA243 (which doesn’t show a 12th planet). These files are old (written before I finished my doctorate) but still useful.

Nibiru and Zecharia Sitchin

What do Mesopotamian texts say about “nibiru”? Does what Zecharia Sitchin say about it demonstrable from the tablets themselves? Is it a planet beyond Pluto? Does it cycle through our solar system every 3600 years? Is it a planet inhabited by the Anunnaki?  Are the Anunnaki connected with it in any way?

In order, that would be: Plenty; no; no; no; no; and no.

Read about nibiru here in an old (2003) PDF of mine on the subject.

Ancient Mesopotamian Science vs. Sitchin

Came across a free PDF article on divination as science in Mesopotamia. Seems the people that had advanced knowledge of the heavens, including the outer planets and orbital mechanics of the most distant objects in our solar system believed you could discern the future from sheep livers and other body parts. But despite this primitive thinking, we know they had advanced knowledge about space since Sitchin has made that case.


This one is preparatory to my own PDF on the seal Sitchin says shows 12 planets.