Derivation of the Adam & Eve story from the Epic of Gilgamesh

Peter Myers

Date July 9, 2002; update May 1, 2023

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The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story from ancient Sumeria (5,000 years ago) about the connection between sex and death (item 3).

Through having sex, we give birth to children. As they grow up, the older generation must die off, to make room for new generations. If they did not, the earth would become over-populated.

The Sumerian civilization viewed sex as civilizing. But this was replaced by the Puritanism of the Jewish Bible (item 6).

Walter Mattfeld shows (item 4) that the authors of the Book of Genesis in the Jewish Bible reworked the earlier Sumerian/Mespotamian origin stories, reversing their meaning to create a counter-myth overthrowing, as it were, Sumerian civilization, and instead portraying Jews as the founders of civilization. The meaning of "chosenness" is that God is a Jew - the alter ego (or superego) of the Jews.

(1) S. G. F. Brandon on the story of Adam and Eve
(2) The Epic of Gilgamesh - a summary by H. W. F. SAGGS
(3) Epic of Gilgamesh - the connection between Sex and Death
(4) Biblical authors reworked the Epic of Gilgamesh to make a counter-myth
(5) Confusion in Genesis, by Mark Alford
(6) The Licentiousness of the Epic of Gilgamesh is replaced by the Puritanism of the Jewish Bible

(1) S. G. F. Brandon on the story of Adam and Eve

S. G. F. Brandon, Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1963).

This is a study of the Book of Genesis, Chapter 2, depicting the creation of Adam and Eve. A few footnotes are included, mainly those referencing the Gilgamesh Epic, the origin story from Sumeria. Words in Hebrew script are omitted and denoted {Hebrew}.

{p. 126} in verse 15 ... it is related that Yahweh put Adam in the garden to maintain it and guard it. Again the meaning of the statement must not be pressed by asking whether this work of cultivation was easy compared to that spoken of in iii. 17-19, or against what menace had the garden to be guarded. The next verses (16-17) are of crucial importance to the theme in their record of the divine prohibition that, while Adam may eat freely of all the other trees in the garden, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he must not touch. However, consideration of this statement we must now leave to a more appropriate occasion. The verses that follow (18-24) are clearly aetiological in character and intended to prepare the way for the great drama that is to be unfolded in chapter iii. Thus the raison d'etre of the animals is represented in this passage as being that of providing companionship for the man, which they fail to do, so incidentally frustrating the divine plan, although the Yahwist does not notice the fact. In turn it is explained that the animals received their names from Adam - we may perhaps legitimately ask whether, on the analogy of Mesopotamian thought in this connection, as we have noticed, this naming of the animals meant rather the decreeing of their particular functions. This idyllic picture of the primordial man living in a state of harmony with the animals also recalls a Mesopotamian parallel, namely, of Enkidu and his communion with the animals before he is civilised. {footnote 5: Epic of Gilgamesh, Tab. 1, col. i 35-41. ...}

{p. 127} The failure of the animals to provide an adequate companionship for Adam is given as the reason for the creation of woman (20-3). The writer here is obviously concerned to show the derivative, and, therefore, the subordinate character of the female sex, while at the same time attesting the essential unity of man and woman and their complementary natures. The curious means by which Yahweh procures the substance from which to make the woman has long puzzled commentators, who have naturally sought to find some relevant parallel to the extraordinary idea. The most likely one found so far comes from the interesting fact that the Sumerian words for 'side' (ti) and life (til) are depicted by the same ideogram; however, no instance of Sumerian interest in this homonymity has yet come to light. The Yahwist clearly found his own explanation of the union of the sexes and the institution of marriage in the fact that the Hebrew word for woman ('isshah) is constructed from that for man ('ish). The concluding verse (25) of this section is obviously intended to prepare for the sequel, but it raises a problem that may be conveniently discussed at this point. The Yahwist records: "And they were both naked, the man ('adam) and his wife ('isshah), and they were not ashamed". The verb {Hebrew} translated here as meaning 'to feel ashamed', signifies in this context specifically 'to change colour, to blush', and its employment surely indicates the author's attitude towards nudity. To the Hebrew the exposure of the sexual organs, whether of man or woman, was a shameful thing; but possibly the real point of the Yahwist's remark in this verse is to be seen by way of comparison with what is said of Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh. As we have seen, in his original state Enkidu represents mankind before civilisation. Accordingly, he is shown as living with and as the

{p. 128} animals and wearing no clothes - instead his body is covered with hair. {footnote 1: Epic of Gilgamesh, Tab. I, col. ii. 36, cf. Tab. II, col. iii. 22-6} In this picture of the primordial state the Mesopotamian author is clearly only concerned with nudity as the natural result of primitive ignorance - man is just brutish, and to emphasise this aspect he is depicted as having a hairy pelt. It is interesting, therefore, to note that the Yahwist writer, in envisaging the primordial state, thinks especially of the first human pair as naked, and that it is necessary to explain that they were not ashamed of the fact. As becomes evident in the sequel, the significance of the comment on their nudity is that they are male and female.

How long this idyllic existence of the first human pair continued in the divine garden the Yahwist does not tell us. Indeed the question is irrelevant, because time, in the sense of the past conditioning the future, only really commences with the fateful transaction that the writer now proceeds to relate. The account opens in chapter iii by introducing the mysterious agent of the tragedy that now befalls Adam and his wife: "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made". The role played by this famous dramatis persona in the story of the Temptation and Fall of Man has, understandably, become involved in much subsequent theological speculation, both Jewish and Christian, so that it is difficult to evaluate it in its proper context in the Yahwist narrative. Traditionally the serpent has been identified with Satan, and his part in the Fall of Man is consequently interpreted in terms of the veiled dualism that has its place in both Jewish and Christian theological thought. {footnote 4: 4 The identification of the serpent of Genesis with the devil first appears in Wisdom ii. 24 (1st cent. B.C.); possibly an earlier reference is to be found in Enoch lxix. 6 ...} But we must be careful to note that in the text itself the serpent is consistently represented as an animal. Thus in iii. 1, as we have just seen, the serpent is specifically associated with 'the beasts of the field', and in the divine condemnation that falls on the serpent in iii. 14 for its part in the Fall of Man, its essential animal

{p. 129} nature is made even plainer: "And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life" - the latter clause being obviously intended as an explanation of the curious locomotion of the snake and its lowly habitat.

That the author envisaged the serpent essentially as an animal there can, therefore, be no doubt. However, it is also endowed with one attribute, namely, the power of (human?) speech, which makes it something more than a beast. Whether that was the author's conscious intention may be doubted, since to play its part the serpent had to speak - perhaps also, on the analogy of Enkidu's originally complete accord with the animals, it may have been thought that in Paradise before the Fall, man and beast could communicate with each other. That the serpent was 'more subtil' than all other animals suggests in the light of the sequel a malevolent mind or disposition, although the epithet {Hebrew} ('subtil') is used in Hebrew literature in both a good and a bad sense. However, it must be recognised that the Yahwist clearly depicts the intention of the serpent as malevolent, which in turn suggests some unexplained enmity on its part either towards God or Adam. This apparent trait raises the question why the serpent was chosen by the Yahwist as the agent through whom man was tempted to disobey his creator. On general grounds it could be answered that there is a widespread fear and detestation of the serpent because of its silent sinuous movements and the deadly power of its bite. The fact of this attitude is undoubted, and it must be reckoned with; however, among the Semites the serpent had other significant aspects of a more specific kind. There is evidence of a belief in the serpent as an emblem of healing and of the use of a bronze serpent as a cult object. The serpent also was associated with the worship of the goddess Astarte and thus had some fertility symbolism - the serpent's tempting of the woman, and the consequences of the Fall, as we shall see, appear accordingly to have a possible sig-

{p. 130} nificance in this connection. There is yet another aspect of the symbolism of the serpent that could conceivably be also relevant here. It is significant that, it is a serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh that robs the hero of his opportunity to acquire immortal youth; also, we may note, this incident in the career of Gilgamesh appears to be our earliest known instance of a motif that occurs in the folklore of many peoples. {footnote 2: Epic of Gilgamesh, XI, 266-95. ...} It is inspired by the phenomenon of the snake's ability to slough off its old skin. To the primitive mind it appeared that the snake had learned the secret of renewing its youth - a secret that man so earnestly sought to learn for himself, and of which it was easy to believe that he had been cheated by the serpent. As we shall see in the Yahwist narrative, the serpent, although it does not win immortality for itself, becomes the effective agent through whom man loses the inestimable attribute with which he had been originally endowed. It would, accordingly, appear that the Yahwist writer, while conceiving of the serpent primarily as an animal, was probably influenced in his choice of it for the role of the Tempter of Man by the ambivalent symbolism which it had in current Semitic folklore, namely, in the cult of the fertility goddess and in the legend of the robbing of Gilgamesh of the secret of perpetual youth.

In the dialogue that follows (iii. 1b-7) between the serpent and the woman, and the act to which it leads, we reach the heart of the problem that faces us in seeking to understand this Yahwist interpretation of human nature and destiny: "And he (the serpent) said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat: but the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree

{p. 131} was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat".

The dialogue is written with great skill, and it attests the psychological insight of the author. The serpent's opening remark shows great subtlety by inviting the woman's correction, namely, that God had not forbidden all the trees of the garden to them, and so leading her on to be the first to mention the one tree that was forbidden. It is natural to ask why the woman is chosen by the Yahwist to be, as it were, the mediator of the serpent's temptation, and why the serpent is not depicted as approaching the man directly with his fatal suggestions. Hebrew society was essentially a patriarchal society, and in the organisation of family life, in public affairs, and in religious thought and practice women had a very subordinate, in fact almost a passive, part. It is remarkable, therefore, that in the account of this fateful transaction the man is represented as following the woman's lead. Indeed it would seem that the Yahwist writer was intent on stressing Adam's subordination to his wife on this occasion. Thus, when Adam encounters Yahweh after his act of disobedience, he seeks to excuse himself by blaming the woman: "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat" (iii. 12). Then, the subservience is again mentioned in Yahweh's reply: "And to Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, ..." (iii. 17). From this emphasis it would seem that the Yahwist, while not seeking to abate the guilt of Adam, regards Eve as a temptress and as the means by which Adam's integrity was successfully assaulted. With Eve cast in this role, at once a classic parallel springs to mind, namely, Hesiod's myth of Pandora, the original and veritable femme fatale, whose eager reception by Epimetheus, heedless of his brother's warning, brings sorrow to the race of man. But interesting though the parallel be which this Greek myth affords, it could not have been known to the Yahwist in view of its date and location. A more likely source of influence for the Yahwist's conception of Eve in this respect is provided once more by the Epic of Gilgamesh, and most notably too in the story of Enkidu, to which we have already made reference. This wild man, representative as we have seen of humanity

{p. 132} before civilisation, is lured away from his simple harmonious life with the animals, by a sacred courtesan who is sent out for the purpose from the city of Erech. By her wiles she makes him sexually conscious, she teaches him to eat bread and wear clothes, and finally brings him into the city and so ultimately to his doom. In describing this process of weaning the primaeval man from his natural innocence, the Epic contains one passage of especial significance for our interpretation of the Yahwist story, as we shall see. Having seduced him and with him sitting tamely at her feet, the courtesan exclaims: "Thou art wise, Enkidu, art become like a god!" {footnote 1: Epic of Gilgamesh, Tab. I, col. iv 34; cf. Tab. II, col. ii. 10-11.} Later, however, when he lays dying, Enkidu curses the woman who had tempted him away from his original simple life. {footnote 2: Op. cit., Tab. VII, col. iii. 5-37.} We have, then, in the Epic of Gilgamesh the figure of a woman, undoubtedly one of the temple prostitutes of Ishtar, the great fertility goddess, who seduces the type-figure of a primitive man from his original innocence and well-being by giving him sexual experience, which makes him god-like, but which sets him on the course that leads inevitably to his death. In view of the wide dispersion of texts of the Epic, if we seek for some precedent for Eve's role in the fall of Adam, it would seem, therefore, that it is in the story of Enkidu that we shall find it. We must deal now with the problem which we have already encountered but have deferred for later discussion, namely, that of the meaning of the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. The eating of the fruit of this tree clearly constitutes the crisis of the drama of Adam's fall, so that upon a proper understanding of the nature of the tree the interpretation of the myth essentially depends. That the problem involved here is fundamentally obscure is obvious from the conflict of opinion that is found when the relevant commentaries and monographs are consulted. The interpretation that will be put forward here is built partly upon earlier suggestions, as will be seen from the notes; the new elements which it contains seem to have the virtue of providing a consistently intelligible explanation of the

{p. 133} Yahwist's intention which otherwise is exceedingly obscure. Before entering upon this interpretation it is, however, necessary to remove what most scholars recognise as a basic contradiction in the Yahwist narrative as we now have it. This contradiction is constituted by the mention in two places of the existence of a 'tree of life' as well as the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' in the garden. The first mention is very brief; it occurs in ii. 9, where it is recorded that "out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil". Now, after this brief mention, this 'tree of life' plays no part in the subsequent narrative of Adam's cultivation of the garden or the drama of his temptation and fall. Reference is only made to it again in iii. 22-4, where it then features in a kind of appendix to the denouement of the story of the temptation and fall. If these two mentions of the 'tree of life' are to be considered part of the original form of the tragedy of man, then a number of self-evident contradictions have to be faced. The first is constituted by the fact that in ii. 16-17 it is recorded that, "the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die". Why, it must be asked, did God prohibit Adam only from eating of the 'tree of knowledge of good and evil' and not from eating of the 'tree of life', if both grew in the garden? Presumably, in the light of what is said in iii. 22, if Adam

{p. 134} had eaten of the 'tree of life', he would "live for ever" - yet God only bars him from the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil', warning him that death would be the penalty of eating its fruit. The contradiction here is reinforced by Eve's answer to the serpent in iii. 2-3: "Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat: but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die". Now, the tree concerned here is obviously the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' and it is located "in the midst of the garden" {Hebrew}; but, according to ii. 9, this was the location of the 'tree of life' - once more it is exceedingly strange that there should be no mention of this tree, which, if the reference to it in ii. 9 is original, must have been standing at the very place of, or alongside, the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. Moreover, if the 'tree of life' appeared in the original form of the story, we then have the rather improbable situation that, in the midst of the garden, there stood two trees of unique virtue, one giving immortality and the other giving death; but Adam is only barred from eating of the latter, so that it follows that he would normally have eaten of the 'tree of life' - action is only taken to prevent him from doing this as a kind of afterthought, after he had eaten of the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. These contradictions and inconsistencies are at once removed and a logically

{p. 135} coherent narrative is obtained, if the brief reference to the 'tree of life' in ii. 9 is omitted as an interpolation designed to prepare for the passage about this tree (iii. 22-4) that has been added on to the story of the temptation and fall which properly ends at iii. 21. The reason for this addition is not far to seek. As we have seen, a plant, conferring perpetual youth on its possessor, features in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the influence of which, or of some of the motifs which it incorporates, we have already noticed in the Yahwist narrative. It would, accordingly, be legitimate to conclude that either the original writer himself or some later editor, impressed by the idea of such a marvellous plant or tree, sought to incorporate it in the story, howbeit at the expense of logical consistency - as we shall see, the story of the Flood was in a rather similar manner inserted into the original narrative of the Yahwist Primaeval History. If we may thus reasonably account for the references to the 'tree of life', we are left with the drama of Adam's temptation and fall in which only one supernatural tree is involved, namely, the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'. Now we have the task of investigating the nature of this mysterious tree. Its description is not self-explanatory, since 'knowledge of good and evil' in itself is ambiguous and can be interpreted to mean various things, as indeed has been done. Some clue is, however, given of the author's meaning in the warning with which Yahweh reinforces his prohibition of this tree to Adam - "thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (ii. 17, cf. iii. 3). The author evidently intended then, that it should be understood that this knowledge, whatever it be, would be fatal to man. The obvious inference from this is, of course, that Adam was already immortal by nature, or rather perhaps that his Maker had not decreed death as his end - it is useful to recall here that in the Pyramid Texts a primordial state was envisaged when there was no death. But, not only would this knowledge be fatal, it is explained by the serpent that by its acquisition "your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God (or, gods), knowing good and evil" (iii. 5). This statement of the serpent is apparently reflected in Eve's

{p. 136} estimate of the forbidden fruit as "to be desired to make one wise" (iii. 6), and it is surely confirmed by Yahweh when he is represented as saying: "Behold, man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; . . ." (iii. 22). We see, then, that the Yahwist regarded this knowledge as something that it was only proper for God to have, and that its acquisition by man would bring death upon him. It is, accordingly, surprising to find that the first consequence of the eating of the forbidden fruit is not immediate death, as was threatened, but that the man and the woman become aware of their nudity: "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (iii. 7)1 Next, significantly, when Adam hides himself from his Maker, saying that he did so because he was naked, Yahweh in his reply immediately connects man's consciousness of his nudity with the forbidden fruit: "And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" (iii. 11). It would appear, then, that the knowledge which the first man and woman acquired by eating of the 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' was the realisation that they were naked, which, in the light of our previous discussion, must surely mean consciousness of sex. Sexual consciousness, let us also recall, was represented as the first stage in the process of changing Enkidu from his primordial state. But why, we may ask, was such knowledge considered as something that man should not have? It would seem that we may perhaps have a clue to the answer to this question in the fact, which we have already noted, that such knowledge would make man like God (iii. 5, 22). Now, for sexual consciousness to have such effect, it must surely follow that the author was thinking rather of the potentiality of such consciousness and not just the fact in itself. In other words, the knowledge that was acquired by eating of the forbidden fruit was that of the means of producing or reproducing life. It was this knowledge

{p. 137} that now made Adam like his Maker - indeed, when we consider the presentation of Yahweh in these chapters of Genesis, we see that it is essentially as the Creator of living things that he appears. By his awareness of the potentiality of sex, Adam can now emulate Yahweh in creating new beings like himself. But why should the acquisition of this creative power bring death upon him? The answer would seem to lie in a widespread folk-belief concerning the origin of death which has been aptly entitled the myth of the 'Overcrowded Earth'. It is based on what might be termed a shrewd appraisal by the primitive mind of a kind of 'Malthusian exigency'. Old people become an economic burden to the tribe; if they did not die and children continued to be born, a dire situation would obviously be created in which all would be involved - hence death is the solution, and its origin as such is explained in a variety of myths or legends. That such an interpretation of the necessity of death was known in Israel, although the evidence itself comes from a much later period than that of the Yahwist story, is attested by a passage from the apocalyptic work known as the Fourth Book of Ezra (v. 43-4). There Ezra is represented as asking God: "Couldst thou not have created at one time all the generations of the past, the present, and the future, so that thy judgement might have been manifested the sooner?' He answered me and said: 'The creation cannot anticipate the creator; moreover, the world could not support all the generations at one moment'."

{p. 138} Seen, then, in such a context, the decree of death that follows on man's acquisition of the knowledge of procreation becomes intelligible as the inevitable consequence of his ability to increase his species. It is, accordingly, significant that the Yahwist writer also explains the pain of child-birth as the penalty that now falls upon the woman for her part in acquiring this knowledge: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy pregnancy {Hebrew}; in pain {Hebrew} thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (iii. 16). And, immediately after their expulsion from the garden of Eden, the Yahwist records: "And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord (iv. 1). Adam, therefore, had won a knowledge that was fatal to him as an individual, for he had acquired and soon used the power to create children who would supplant him. Accordingly, having decreed his own fate by his disobedience to his creator, the man ('adam) must, as an individual, return to the earth ('adamah) out of which he had been formed (iii. 19).

{p. 139} In thus presenting the essential nature and the destiny of man, the Yahwist writer also skilfully provided a rationale to support that doctrinal position which accepted the Sheol eschatology and rejected the faith that inspired the old mortuary cults. In a superb drama, calculated to arrest the imagination, it was shown that the constitution of human nature contained nothing significant that might survive the dissolution of death; "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (iii. 19). It was perhaps as an afterthought, as we have noted, that either the original author or an early redactor thought it well also, mindful of the quest of Gilgamesh, to forestall any hope that man might by some means acquire immortality. Accordingly, the motif of the 'tree of life' was introduced only to show the decisive measures which Yahweh had taken to keep man from it (iii. 22-4). As a good story-teller, the Yahwist was able also to use his narrative to express his views on a number of subsidiary issues. Thus, possibly in accord with the prophetic view that Israel's golden age was when the people lived as nomads and were uncorrupted by the agrarian civilisation of Canaan, agriculture is represented as part of the divine penalty imposed on man for his disobedience to his creator: instead of the easy life in the fruitful garden, man has now to labour hardly on ground which is barren and productive only of weeds (iii. 17-19). The strange curse that is laid upon the serpent is undoubtedly intended, as we have already noted, to explain its repulsive form and movement; but the enmity which is placed between the woman and the serpent and between their respective progeny (iii. 14-15) seems to suggest some deeper meaning than that of mankind's instinctive dislike of snakes because of the menace of their insidious habits.

{p. 140} Possibly the Yahwist is mindful here of the connection of the serpent with the fertility cults of Canaan. We have already noticed the ambivalence of his attitude towards Eve in that, like the sacred courtesan who brought doom to Enkidu in seducing him from his simple life, Eve is the means whereby the serpent's temptation is presented to Adam - perhaps Eve and the serpent, with whom she conspired to bring Adam into possession of that fatal knowledge, reminded him of Astarte and the serpents of her licentious rites. The third piece of aetiology in this story is the brief explanation of the wearing of clothes, which incidentally suggests some awareness that the art of weaving was a later invention: "And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife coats of skins, and clothed them" (iii. 21) {footnote 2: According to the Phoenician legend of Usoos (given in Eusebius, Praep. ev. 1 ,10.7f), the wearing of skins resulted from the first hunting of animals - cf. Skinner, p. 87; Konig, pp. 250-1. The divine precautions taken to keep man from re-entering the garden of Eden and approaching the 'tree of life' in iii. 24 certainly seem to indicate imagery of Mesopotamian derivation. Cf. Jeremias, pp. 115-16.}

{end quotes}

A search of a Concordance shows that the words 'Adam' and 'Eve' occur surprisingly rarely in the Jewish Bible, suggesting that this story is a late addition.

It seems that people familiar with the Gilgamesh Epic would have been able to interpret the Adam & Eve story in the light of it.

But once knowledge of the Gilgamesh Epic died out, the key to interpreting the story of the "Fall" in the Garden of Eden was not available; as a result, new interpretations arose, which saw sex as sinful.

Brandon wrote another book, The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church: a study of theeffects of the Jewish overthrow of A.D. 70 on Christianity (London, S.P.C.K., 1974).

Judaism was once a major proselytsing religion in the Roman Empire; it was only the schism caused by Christianity, and the loss of many of the converts to it, which put an end to such missionary activity.

The Fall of Jerusalem to the Roman army in 70AD, and the destruction of the Second Temple, had a major effect on the early Christians. It enabled the "Hellenistic" faction, associated with Paul and Rome, to triumph over the "Jewish" faction, associated with James and Jerusalem (Robert Eisenmann, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians and James the Brother of Jesus). It facilitated the momentous shift of religious centre from Jerusalem to Rome. Prior to the destruction, Christians worshipped in the Temple, and both Jewish and Gentile Christians venerated it as their chief shrine.

Now, with Rome in disarray, a rebuilt Third Temple could similarly become the chief shrine, not only for Jews but for Christians too. The emotion generated by this historic shift might be a catalyst for a cultural shift, in the Western world as a whole, away from the current Hellenism (now called New Age) and back to Hebraism: tmf.html.

(2) The Epic of Gilgamesh - a summary by H. W. F. SAGGS

The Epic of Gilgamesh, tr Nancy K. Sandars,

Here is a summary of it from Everyday life in Babylonia and Assyria, by H. W. F. SAGGS, 1965:

Assyrian International News Agency Books Online

The scribal activity most likely to find an echo in modern man is ancient Mesopotamian literature (the word being used here in the narrow sense of something worth reading, not something which happened to be written). Much of this has been preserved for us in the great library collected at Nineveh by Ashurbanipal and his successors, but other important works, both in Sumerian and Akkadian, have been found at a number of other sites, some of them far outside the boundaries of ancient Babylonia or Assyria.

The best known of these ancient literary works is the Epic of Gilgamesh, available in several translations in English, some good, others less than good. We do not know who composed this any more than (with one possible exception) we know who composed any other piece of ancient Mesopotamian literature. There were, indeed, at least four or five older Sumerian stories about Gilgamesh in circulation. The underlying Sumerian stories are separate tales dealing with different aspects of the traditions of Gilgamesh. The Babylonian poet has integrated these Sumerian compositions and created a tragedy, a single story which moves relentlessly forward to its final conclusion, that man's lot has been decreed by the gods, and that man is powerless to resist the working of the divinely ordained order.

Gilgamesh was a priest-king of the city of Uruk (Biblical Erech) in the Early Dynastic period (about 2600 B.C.). This period was in the very shadow-land of tradition, and beyond it lay the period of the gods, so that Gilgamesh himself was said to be two-thirds divine.

According to a fragment of the epic in Hittite, Gilgamesh was of gigantic proportions; his height was about sixteen feet and his chest measurement in proportion (49). As the story begins Gilgamesh, likened to a wild bull, and described as the shepherd of Uruk, is acting oppressively towards his fellow-citizens.

The gods considered the matter, and ordered the goddess Aruru to make a rival to him. This she did, in the form of a wild man Enkidu, whom she placed in the steppe-land, where he lived with the beasts of the field. There a hunter saw him, and reported to his father that this formidable creature was making it impossible for him to catch the game. The matter finally came to Gilgamesh, who decided to send a prostitute to ensnare Enkidu. The hunter took the lady to the watering place in the steppe-land, where she awaited the coming of Enkidu with the animals. As soon as the wild man arrived, the prostitute exposed herself to him; Enkidu fell in love with her, and they made love together for six days and seven nights. But when Enkidu, his desire at last satiated, sought to join the wild beasts again, they fled from him. Perforce Enkidu had to go back to the woman, who persuaded him to return with her to Uruk. She described the splendour of city life, and inspired in him a desire to meet Gilgamesh. Meanwhile in Uruk the Sun-god had sent to Gilgamesh a dream, foretelling the coming from the steppe-land of one like himself, who should become his comrade. Enkidu entered the city, challenged Gilgamesh, and wrestled with him:

They met in the market-place of the land.
Enkidu barred the gate with his foot,
And would not allow Gilgamesh to enter.
They grappled with each other, butting like bulls.
They shattered the doorpost, so that the wall trembled.
As Gilgamesh bent his knee, with his foot still on the ground,
His rage left him, and he turned away.
When he had turned away, Enkidu said to him, to Gilgamesh,
Your head is raised above (all other) men;
Enlil has granted you the kingship over the people.'

The two became fast friends.

The idea now came to Gilgamesh of going to the cedar forest to destroy the monster Huwawa (or Humbaba), whom the god Enlil had appointed to protect the forest against mankind. (In economic terms one may perhaps interpret this as the beginning of the large-scale exploitation of the forests of the Zagros.) Enkidu attempted to dissuade his friend, though without success, and the two, armed with great axes and swords which no ordinary man could even lift, set off, after duly consulting the omens.

At last the heroes reached the forest, which struck them with awe:

They stood, and they gazed at the forest;
They kept looking at the height of the cedars,
They kept looking at the entrance to the forest.
Where Humbaba used to walk there was a path made;
The tracks ran straight;
the way was well looked after.
They saw the cedar mountain,
the dwelling place of the gods,
the throne of the goddess Irnini.

The heroes rested for the night, and in the morning they entered the forest and began to fell the cedars. This aroused and enraged the guardian Humbaba, but with the aid of his patron the Sun-god, Gilgamesh was able to overcome him.

The text is broken at this point. Where it resumes, the scene has shifted back to Uruk, where Gilgamesh, cleansed from his journey, has put on his most splendid raiment. Ishtar, the goddess of love(50), was overcome by the sight of his virile beauty, and offered herself to him, with the promise of luxury, wealth, and pre-eminence amongst rulers. Gilgamesh rejected the offer, narrating somewhat caddishly the fate of previous lovers of Ishtar. The rejected goddess went off in a rage to her father Anu, the supreme god, and complained to him

My father, Gilgamesh keeps pouring insults upon me,

and by means of threats induced her father to create the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh. But terrible as the bull was to ordinary men, Enkidu seems to have vaulted over the bull's horns (in a manner often depicted in Minoan art, 85) and grasped it by the thick of the tail. The point of this was presumably to steer the brute into a position where Gilgamesh could finish it off. Gilgamesh managed to drive his dagger into the upper part of the of monster's neck, and so killed it. Ishtar, watching from the walls of the city, shrieked out a curse and assembled all the temple-women in lamentation. For Gilgamesh and Enkidu, however, this was a time of triumph, and they rode (presumably on donkeys, since horses were not yet known in Mesopotamia) through ranks of admiring citizens lining the streets of Uruk. A great celebration followed.

But in the night Enkidu had a dream, in which he saw the gods in council. The supreme three, Anu, Enlil and Ea, together with the Sun-god Shamash, the patron of Gilgamesh, discussed the matter, and despite the opposition of Shamash decreed that, because of the killing of Humbaba and the Heavenly Bull, Enkidu must die. Enkidu fell ill, and as the end approached he regretted the events which had taken him from the steppe-land, and called down curses on the hunter and the prostitute. But the Sun-god pointed out the blessings of civilisation to which the prostitute had brought him, and Enkidu became calm, and turned his curse to a blessing. Before he died Enkidu had another dream, in which there was revealed to him the nature of the Underworld, the place of the Afterlife. In the dream, said Enkidu, he was met by a being who changed him so that his arms were covered with feathers like those of a bird. His guide took him down to a house of gloom, a house from which the person who enters never comes forth, from which there is no road back. Here the people were all like birds, and lived in gloom, with dust and clay as their food.

Finally Enkidu died. Gilgamesh lamented bitterly over his friend, and performed for him the appropriate last rites. Then there came upon Gilgamesh the realisation that he too must in the end die like Enkidu. Like every man, when this truth first came to him he could not accept it, and sought a means by which to avoid the human lot. There was a primeval ancestor, Uta-napishtim, who had escaped mortality, and to him Gilgamesh would go, to learn his secret.

Gilgamesh walked to the mountains of Mashu, which the Sumerians thought of as forming a ring round the earth, and reached one of the gates at the edge of the world provided for the rising and setting of the sun. The scorpion-people(51), appointed as guards, recognised him as part divine, and allowed Gilgamesh to pass. He travelled on through thick darkness for eleven hours, and then at last the dawn broke. In another two hours he came into the full light of day, and found himself in a garden with trees bearing precious stones.

Here he met the friendly Sun-god, who warned him that his quest would be without avail. But Gilgamesh went on, and presently came to the lady Siduri, who kept the inn at the edge of the Abyss. She received him kindly, but warned him that no one but the Sun-god could ever cross that sea. Nevertheless Uta-napishtim had a ferryman, Urshanabi, at present in the woods near by, and by his help Gilgamesh might cross. Gilgamesh met Urshanabi, who instructed Gilgamesh what to do. It was necessary to punt across the centre of the Abyss, but the waters there were waters of death, and no drop must touch Gilgamesh. 'Therefore Gilgamesh was instructed to cut down 120 trees and prepare them as punting poles. The two embarked, and when they reached the danger area Urshanabi ordered Gilgamesh to punt, using each pole once only to avoid contact with the waters of death. When the last pole had been used the boat reached safe waters, within sight of Uta-napishtim, who looked in amazement at the unexpected stranger. Upon arrival Gilgamesh gave an account of himself and his desire to avoid death. Uta-napishtim in reply pointed out the impermanence of all human life and institutions, but Gilgamesh pointed out:

I keep looking at you, Uta-napishtim,
Your appearance is no different, you are like me;
And you yourself are not different, you are like me;
Tell me how it is that you stand in the assembly of the gods, (and) have life.

Uta-napishtim thereupon gave Gilgamesh the story of the Deluge, which had resulted in his being granted eternal life.

He had lived in the city of Shurippak on the Euphrates. The gods decided to permit Enlil to destroy mankind by a great flood, but the god Ea, however, revealed the secret to Uta-napishtim by whispering to the reed-hut in which the hero slept, and gave instructions for the making of a ship. Uta-napishtim had the ship built and provisioned, and filled it not only with specimens of all living creatures, as in the Biblical story of Noah, but also with craftsmen: the Sumerians realised that without craftsmen civilisation as they knew it would be impossible.

At last the heavens and the subterranean water channels were opened, there was a great tempest, and the whole earth and everything on it was submerged and drowned. Even the gods were terrified and fled to the highest heaven. When the destruction was complete, the storm abated, and the ship grounded on a mountain. Uta-napishtim, like Noah, sent out birds to seek for dry land, and at last he knew that the waters had subsided sufficiently for him to release his cargo of animals and to leave the shi . He himself offered a sacrifice upon the mountain, and the hungry gods, who had received no smoke offering since the flood began, came clustering round. But Enlil was furious that his plan for the total destruction of mankind had not been carried through. Ea, however, succeeded in calming the angry god by pointing out that there were other means of controlling mankind than total destruction; were there not wild beasts, famine and disease to control the population? The divine wrath should not be indiscriminate but should have a moral basis:

On the sinner impose his sin; on the transgressor impose his transgression.

Enlil saw the reasonableness of this, went into the ship and called Uta-napishtim and his wife to him. Then, as Uta-napishtim described it,

He touched our foreheads and stood between us (and) blessed us, (Saying),
'Formerly Uta-napishtim was human.
Now Uta-napishtim and his wife shall become gods, like us.
Uta-napishtim shall dwell far away, at the mouth of the rivers.'
They took me and let me dwell far away, at the mouth of the rivers.

Uta-napishtim went on to point out that there was no one to do this for Gilgamesh, and challenged him to show himself able to conquer his human frailty in even such a small matter as being able to resist sleep for six days and seven nights. But even as he sat there, Gilgamesh, exhausted from his wandering, succumbed to a heavy sleep. Uta-napishtim realised that Gilgamesh would claim only to have fallen into a brief doze, and so set his wife to bake bread each day and set it beside the sleeping hero. This she did, and when Gilgamesh awoke and began to excuse himself for what he thought had been a short nap, Uta-napishtim pointed out the heaps of bread to him. There it was, in all stages from bread still cooking on the coals, through bread that was beginning to go mouldy, to dried-up crusts of a week ago. Gilgamesh was compelled to acknowledge his failure, and to accept his human lot. Utanapishtim told the ferryman Urshanabi to wash Gilgamesh and give him new clothing, and then take him back to Uruk.

But just as the wanderer was leaving, the wife of Uta-napishtim persuaded her husband not to let him go back empty-handed, whereupon Uta-napishtim gave him the secret of a magic plant with thorns, called 'Old-man-becomes-young', growing at the bottom of the sea. This plant would give Gilgamesh eternal youth. In the manner of a pearl-diver Gilgamesh fixed heavy stones to himself, which dragged him down to the bottom of the water. There he found the plant, and, cutting off the stones which held him down, was thrown up on to the shore, where he continued his journey, by land, still accompanied by Urshanabi. But even after obtaining the magic plant Gilgamesh was to be frustrated.

On the way home the hero stopped to bathe in a pool of cold water, and in his absence a snake came and stole the plant. Gilgamesh bitterly lamented his total failure to alter his human lot of old age and death, and returned with Urshanabi empty-handed to Uruk. But if he had lost the possibility of escape from the human lot, Gilgamesh could still rejoice in the sight of human achievements, and we finally see him pointing out to Urshanabi the splendours of Uruk, the great centre of early Sumerian civilisation.


(3) Epic of Gilgamesh - the connection between Sex and Death

Peter Myers

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a story about the connection between sex and death.

Through having sex, we give birth to children. As they grow up, the older generation must die off, to make room for new generations. If they did not, the earth would become over-populated.

This was the original theme of the Flood story too: the Gods made the Flood because the human population was expanding too much.

The story has a surprising relevance ecologically, today when we are trying to increase the human lifespan indefinitely, even denying the right to die to those who wish it.

Here is the first part of Tablet 1:

The Epic of Gilgamesh, tr. Stephanie Dalley.

From Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others, Translated with an Introduction and notes by STEPHANIE DALLEY (OUP, Oxford, 1989).


i [Of him who found out all things, I [shall te]ll the land,
[Of him who] experienced everything,
[I shall tea]ch the whole.
He searched (?) lands (?) everywhere.
He who experienced the whole gained complete wisdom.
He found out what was secret and uncovered what was hidden,
He brought back a tale of times before the Flood.
He had journeyed far and wide, weary and at last resigned.
He engraved all toils on a memorial monument of tone.
He had the wall of Uruk built, the sheepfold
Of holiest Eanna, the pure treasury.
See its wall, which is like a copper band,
Survey its battlements, which nobody else can match,
Take the threshold, which is from time immemorial,
Approach Eanna, the home of Ishtar,
Which no future king nor any man will ever match !
Go up on to the wall of Uruk and walk around !
Inspect the foundation platform and scrutinize the brickwork !
Testify that its bricks are baked bricks,
And that the Seven Counsellors must have laid its foundations !
One square mile is city, one square mile is orchards, one square mile is claypits, as well as the open ground of Ishtar's temple.
Three square miles and the open ground comprise Uruk.
Look for the copper tablet-box,
Undo its bronze lock,
Open the door to its secret,
Lift out the lapis lazuli tablet and read it,
The story of that man, Gilgamesh, who went through all kinds of sufferings.
He was superior to other kings, a warrior lord of great stature,
A hero born of Uruk, a goring wild bull.
He marches at the front as leader,
He goes behind, the support of his brothers,
A strong net, the protection of his men,
The raging flood-wave, which can destroy even a stone wall.
Son of Lugalbanda, Gilgamesh, perfect in strength,
Son of the lofty cow, the wild cow Ninsun.
He is Gilgamesh, perfect in splendour,
Who opened up passes in the mountains,
Who could dig pits even in the mountainside,
Who crossed the ocean, the broad seas, as far as the sunrise.
Who inspected the edges of the world, kept searching for eternal life,
Who reached Ut-napishtim the far-distant, by force.
Who restored to their rightful place cult centres (?) which the Flood had ruined.
There is nobody among the kings of teeming humanity
Who can compare with him,
Who can say 'I am king' beside Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh (was) named from birth for fame.

ii Two-thirds of him was divine, and one-third mortal.
Belet-ili designed the shape of his body,
Made his form perfect, [ ] ] was proud [
In Uruk the Sheepfold he would walk about,
Show himself superior, his head held high like a wild bull.
He had no rival, and at his pukku
His weapons would rise up, his comrades have to rise up.
The young men of Uruk became dejected in their private [quarters (?)].
Gilgamesh would not leave any son alone for his father.
Day and night his [behaviour (7)] was overbearing.
He was the shepherd (?) [ ]
He was their shepherd (?) yet [ ]
Powerful, superb. [knowledeable and expert]
Gilgamesh would not leave [young girls alone]
The daughters of warriors, the brides of young men.
The gods often heard their complaints.
The gods of heaven [ ] the lord of Uruk.

'Did [Aruru (?)] create such a rampant wild bull?
ls there no rival? At the pukku
His weapons rise up, his comrades have to rise
Gilgamesh will not leave any son alone for his father.
Day and night his [behaviour (?)] is overbearing.
He is the shepherd of Uruk the Sheepfold,
He is their shepherd, yet [ ]
Powerful, superb, knowledgeable [and expert],
Gilgamesh will not leave young girls [alone],
The daughters of warriors, the brides of young men.
Anu often hears their complaints.

They called upon great Aruru:
'You, Aruru, you created [mankind (?)] !
Now create someone for him, to match (?) the ardour (?) of his energies!
Let them be regular rivals, and let Uruk be allowed peace!Õ
When Aruru heard this, she created inside herself the word (?) of Anu.
Aruru washed her hands, pinched off a piece of clay, cast it out into open country.

She created a [primitive man], Enkidu the warrior:
offspring of silence (?), sky-bolt of Ninurta.
His whole body was shaggy with hair, he was furnished with tresses like a woman,
His locks of hair grew luxuriant like grain.
He knew neither people nor country; he was dressed as cattle are.
With gazelles he eats vegetation,
With cattle he quenches his thirst at the watering place
With wild beasts he satisfies his need for water.

A hunter, a brigand,
Came face to face with him beside the watering place.
He saw him on three successive days beside the watering place.
The hunter looked at him, and was dumbstruck to see him.
In perplexity (?) he went back into his house
And was afraid, stayed mute, was silent,
And was ill at ease, his face worried.
[] the grief in his innermost being.
His face was like that of a long-distance traveller.

iii The hunter made his voice heard and spoke, he said to his father

'Father, there was a young man who came [from the mountain (?)],
[On the land] he was strong, he was powerful.
His strength was very hard, like a sky-bolt of Anu.
He walks about on the mountain all the time,
All the time he eats vegetation with cattle,
All the time he puts his feet in (the water) at the watering place.
I am too frightened to approach him.
He kept filling in the pits that I dug [ ],
He kept pulling out the traps that I laid.
He kept helping cattle, wild beasts of open country, to escape my grasp.
He will not allow me to work [in open country].'

His father spoke to him, to the hunter,

'[ ] Uruk, Gilgamesh. [ ] his open country.
[His strength is very hard, like a sky-bolt of Anu]
[Go, set] your face [towards Uruk].
[ ] the strength of a man,
[ ] lead (her) forth, and
[ ] the strong man.
When he approaches the cattle at the watering place,
She must take off her clothes and reveal her attractions.
He will see her and go close to her.
Then his cattle, who have grown up in open country with him, will become alien to him.'

[He listened] to the advice of his father [ ].
The hunter went off [to see Gilgamesh (?)].
He took the road, set [his face] towards Uruk,
Entered the presence (?) of Gilgamesh [ ]:

'There was a young man who [came from the mountain (?)],
On the land he was strong, he was powerful.
His strength is very hard, like a sky-bolt of Anu.
He walks about on the mountain all the time
All the time he eats vegetation with cattle,
All the time he puts his feet in (the water) at the watering place.
I am too frightened to approach him.
He kept filling in the pits that I dug,
He kept pulling out the traps that I laid.
He kept helping cattle, wild beasts of open country, to escape my grasp.
He did not allow me to work in the open country.

Gilgamesh spoke to him, to the hunter,

'Go, hunter, lead forth the harlot Shamhat,

{endnote 14: Shamhat is used as a personal name here; it means 'voluptuous woman, prostitute', in particular as a type of cultic devotee of Ishtar in Uruk.}

And when he approaches the cattle at the watering place,
She must take off her clothes and reveal her attractions.
He will see her and go close to her.
Then his cattle, who have grown up in open country with him, will become alien to him.

The hunter went; he led forth the harlot Shamhat with him,
And they took the road, they made the journey.
In three days they reached the appointed place.
Hunter and harlot sat down in their hiding place (?).
For one day, then a second, they sat at the watering place.
Then cattle arrived at the watering place; they drank.
Then wild beasts arrived at the water; they satisfied their need.
And he, Enkidu, whose origin is the mountain,
(Who) eats vegetation with gazelles,
Drinks (at) the watering place with cattle,
Satisfied his need for water with wild beasts.

Shamhat looked at the primitive man,
The murderous youth from the depths of open country.

'Here he is, Shamhat, bare your bosom,
Open your legs and let him take in your attractions !
Do not pull away, take wind of him !
He will see you and come close to you.
Spread open your garments, and let him lie upon you,
Do for him, the primitive man, as women do.
Then his cattle, who have grown up in open country with him, will become alien to him.
His love-making he will lavish upon you !'

Shamhat loosened her undergarments, opened her legs and he took in her attractions.
She did not pull away. She took wind of him,
Spread open her garments, and he lay upon her.
She did for him, the primitive man, as women do.
His love-making he lavished upon her.

For six days and seven nights Enkidu was aroused and poured himself into Shamhat.
When he was sated with her charms,
He set his face towards the open country of his cattle.
The gazelles saw Enkidu and scattered,
The cattle of open country kept away from his body.
For Enkidu had stripped (?); his body was too clean
His legs, which used to keep pace with (?) his cattle, were at a standstill.
Enkidu had been diminished, he could not run as before.
Yet he had acquired judgement
(?), had become wiser
He turned back (?), he sat at the harlots feet.
The harlot was looking at his expression,
And he listened attentively to what the harlot said.
The harlot spoke to him, to Enkidu '

You have become [profound] Enkidu, you have become like a god.
Why should you roam open country with wild beasts?
Come, let me take you into Uruk the Sheepfold,
To the pure house, the dwelling of Anu and Ishtar,
Where Gilgamesh is perfect in strength,
And is like a wild bull, more powerful than (any of) the people.'

She spoke to him, and her speech was acceptable.
Knowing his own mind (now), he would seek for a friend.
Enkidu spoke to her, to the harlot, '

Come, Shamhat; invite me To the pure house, the holy dwelling of Anu and Ishtar,
Where Gilgamesh is perfect in strength,
And is like a wild bull, more powerful than (any of) the people
Let me challenge him, and [ ]

v (By saying:) "In Uruk I shall be the strongest!
I shall go in and alter destiny:
One who was born in open country has [superior(?)] strength!'

Shamhat answered,

'Come on, let us go forth, and let me please you!
[ ] there are I know.
Go, Enkidu, into Uruk the Sheepfold
Where young men are girded with sashes
And every day is a feast day,
Where the drums are beaten
And girls (?) [show off] (their) figures,
Adorned with joy and full of happiness.
In bed at night great men
[ ] O Enkidu! You who [know nothing (?)] of life!
Let me show you Gilgamesh, a man of joy and woe!
Look at him, observe his face,
He is beautiful in manhood, dignified,
His whole body is charged with seductive charm.
He is more powerful in strength of arms than you!
He does not sleep by day or night.
O Enkidu, change your plan for punishing him !
Shamash loves Gilgamesh,
And Anu, Ellil, and Ea made him wise!
Before you came from the mountains,
Gilgamesh was dreaming about you in Uruk.
Gilgamesh arose and described a dream, he told it to his mother,
Mother, I saw a dream in the night.
There were stars in the sky for me.
And (something) like a sky-bolt of Anu kept falling upon me!
I tried to lift it up, but it was too heavy for me.
I tried to turn it over, but I couldn't budge it.
The country(men) of Uruk were standing over [it].
[The countrymen had gathered (?)] over it,
The men crowded over it,
The young men massed over it,
They kissed its feet like very young children ...

Of the translations of the complete Epic of Gilgamesh which are online, some are overdone. One good one is The Epic of Gilgamesh, tr Nancy K. Sandars:

Illustrations of some Gilgamesh/Enkidu Cylinder seals:


(4) Biblical authors reworked the Epic of Gilgamesh to make a counter-myth

Walter Mattfeld shows that the authors of the Jewish Bible reworked the earlier Sumerian/Mespotamian creation stories, reversing their meaning to create a counter-myth overthrowing, as it were, Sumerian civilization, and instead portraying Jews as the founders of civilization.

The licentiousness of the Epic of Gilgamesh is replaced by the puritanism of the Jewish Bible, with its rejection of the Goddess cult and the temple-prostitute-priestesses:

The Pre-biblical Protagonists Behind Genesis' Eve: Shamhat and Inanna (Ishtar) of the Epic of Gilgamesh

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

11 August 2007

Revisions through 27 June 2008

For over a hundred years various professional scholars have proposed that Adam and Eve are recasts of Enkidu and Shamhat from the Epic of Gilgamesh. In 1898 Professor Jastrow (1861-1921) of the University of Pennsylvania made such a proposal and similar conclusions were reached as well by Professor Skinner (died 1925) in 1910 of Westminster College, Cambridge, England. More recently, in 1963, Professors Robert Graves (1895-1985) and Raphael Patai (1910-1996) also identified Adam and Eve as being later Hebrew recasts of Enkidu and Shamhat as well as Adapa of the Adapa and the Southwind myth. I understand that these professors are correct and this article goes into greater depth in expanding their somewhat brief and cursory observations.

The great British Orientalist Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1810-1895) had suggested that some of Genesis' accounts might be of Babylonian origin as noted by Thompson (1930), a notion I am in agreement with:

"The discovery of the Epic and the first arrangement and translation of its material was due to the genius of George Smith, although attention had early been drawn by Sir Henry Rawlinson to the probability that the accounts in Genesis had a Babylonian origin, and that Gilgamesh was a solar hero."

(p. 5. "Introduction." R. Campbell Thompson. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Text, Transliteration, and Notes. Oxford University Press. 1930)

Professor Clay (1923) noted that most Assyriologists understood that Genesis' stories had been borrowed from Babylonia and altered:

"As has already been noted, the versions found in Babylonia have much in common with the Hebrew stories. This fact has given rise to the conclusion, which has been many times retstated, that either the Biblical stories are derived from the Babylonian, or the Babylonian is derived from the Biblical, or that they have a common origin. ...

Genesis portrays the animals as unfit companions for Adam, so God causes him to fall asleep and create of his side or rib Eve. When Adam awakes he finds before him a naked woman to supplant his animal companions. For me this is a recast of the Hunter bringing Shamhat the harlot-priestess of Uruk to the watering hole in the edin to have sex with Enkidu in order to separate him from his animal companions and supplant them as his companion. ...

Eve is made of Adam's side or rib, Hebrew teslah, which can mean, a rib, a side, or stumbling. Eve caused Adam to "stumble" having him disobey God. ...

Enroute to Uruk, and still in the edin, Enkidu and the Harlot encounter a shepherds' camp, they are offered food and drink as an act of courtesy. Enkidu has eaten only grass and drunk water with the gazelles, he knows not the eating of bread or the drinking of alcoholic beverages (apparently wine or beer being offered), so he balks at consuming these items. Shamhat intercedes and tells Enkidu he must consume these items it is the "custom" of the land (a guest should not be rude to his hosts in other words). He subjects his will to hers and consumes the items. Upon this act of consumption he is declared to be "a human," in other words he is like a beast no more, eating grass and drinking water for he is consuming the items of civilized men. He is given a new change of garments, probably more befitting a man as earlier he wore one of Shamhat's garments. I understand this has been recast as Eve offering the forbidden fruit to Adam and his eating of it then their covering their nakedness. ...

In agreement with other scholars I understand that Adam and Eve are recasts of not only Enkidu and Shamhat but other characters in other Mesopotamian myths. Adam is a recast of Adapa and Enkidu (as noted earlier by Jastrow, Skinner, Barton, Graves, Patai and others).

Adapa was told by his god Ea (Sumerian Enki) in Eridu not to eat the BREAD of death or drink the water of death to be offered him in heaven by the gods Anu, Gishzida (Nin-Gish-Zida) and Dumuzi (Tammuz) or he would surely die. This has been recast by the Hebrews as God telling Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil or he will die. Adapa was told not to eat the BREAD of death, Enkidu at first balked or refused to eat the BREAD set before him and he refused to drink the alcoholic drink, just as Adapa refused to drink the water of death offered him. Adam after his expulsion from the Garden in Eden IS TO EAT BREAD in the sweat of his face. I understand that Genesis' notion of Adam eating bread is an echo of the Adapa and Enkidu episodes where BREAD was initially denied to man, it being recast as a fruit by the Hebrews. ...


"Enkidu, why are you cursing my harlot Shamhat, WHO FED YOU on food fit for gods...?"

(p. 87. "Epic of Gilgamesh." Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia, Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh And Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford Unversity Press. 1989, 1991)

Adam is portrayed as "listening to his wife's voice," suggesting she urged him to eat. This appears to be a recast of Enkidu listening to the voice of Shamhat who urges him to eat the bread set before him by the shepherds in the edin which he earlier balked at:

Genesis 3:17 RSV

"And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, "You shall not eat, cursed is the ground because of you." ...

Enkidu's sexual desire for the naked woman at edin's watering hole was his "undoing." This has been recast in Genesis as Eve's "desire for her husband" to be her "undoing," she will be under his control. This a reversal or inversion of motifs in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Instead of man (Enkidu) being undone by his own sexual desire and thereby falling under a woman's powers of persuasion it will be a woman (Eve) who will be undone by her sexual desire and her powers of persuasion over her mate will be taken away from her by God and she will be subject to man's control instead of she controlling man.

The naked woman's (Shamhat's) persuasive power over the naked man of edin (Enkidu), causing him to eat food he initially balked at, persuading him to leave the watering hole in edin, persuading him to cover his nakedness has been recast in Genesis as Man (Adam) taking power over womankind, she will obey him and be under his power, no more will she have power of persuasion over man (another inversion of motifs in the Epic of Gilgamesh). ...

How did motifs originally associated with the Sumerian goddess Inanna, "the lady of heaven" come to be combined with motifs associated with Shamhat and later assimilated to Eve?

Some scholars understand that there once existed in Sumer a holy ritual celebrating Inanna's marriage to Dumuzi who was a king of Uruk. This marriage was "acted out" before the people by Uruk's king assuming the role of Dumuzi and one of Inanna's harlot-priestesses assuming the role of Inanna. They were "married" and a bed was prepared for the two actors to have sex upon in Inanna's temple. This "act of sex" assured Inanna's blessings upon her people. She would bless them with abundant harvests, numerous healthy children and protection from their national enemies (She was in addition to being a goddess of procreation a goddess of war).

So, Inanna's harlot-priestesses at times did assume the role of their goddess in the sacred marriage ceremony; that is to say the harlot-priestess 'became' Inanna (Akkadian: Ishtar). ...

The kings at Ur also participated in the sacred Hieros Gamos and we are told that Abram (Abraham) dwelt at Ur of the Chaldees before taking up residence later at Haran. Perhaps it is Abram/Abraham who recast the motifs originally associated with Inanna/Ishtar assimilating them to Shamhat to create a new story repudiating, denying and challenging the Mesopotamian explanations regarding the origin of man and his purpose in life and how he came to serve gods in their city-gardens in the edin of Sumer? That is to say Abraham who once was a polytheist at Ur of the Chaldees who worshipped the many gods and goddesses of the edin, later repudiated them and embraced only one God, Yahweh-Elohim of the Garden in Eden. ...


(5) Confusion in Genesis, by Mark Alford

Confusion in Genesis

Mark Alford (1997)

In Gilgamesh, Utnapishtim loads his boat with animals and posessions.

Gilgamesh XI, col ii, ll 80-85:
All I had I loaded into the boat
all I had of silver I loaded
all I had of gold I loaded
all I had of the seed of all living creatures I loaded
I made all my kin and family go onto the boat
The animals of the fields, wild beasts of the fields,
the children of all the craftsmen I drove aboard.

In Genesis, the narrative is disjointed and repeatedly contradicts itself on the number of animals brought aboard:
6:19: And of all the living, of all flesh, you shall bring two to the ark to keep alive with you, and they shall be male and female.
6:20: Of the birds according to their kind, and of the beasts according to their kind, and of all the creeping things of the earth according to their kind, two of each will come to you to keep alive.
7:2: Of all the clean beasts take yourself seven pairs, man and his woman; and of the beasts which are not clean, two; man and his woman.
7:8: Of the clean beasts and of the beasts which were not clean, and of the birds and of all those which creep upon the earth,
7:9: Two of each came to Noah to the ark, male and female, as God had commanded Noah.

Genesis shows equal confusion over the length of the flood.

Gilgamesh XI, col iii, ll 127-135:
Six days and seven nights the wind shrieked, the stormflood rolled through the land. On the seventh day of its coming the stormflood broke from the battle which had labored like a woman giving birth. (...) I looked out at the day. Stillness had settled in. All of humanity was turned to clay. The ground was like a great, flat, roof. I opened the window, and light fell on my face.

7:12: And there was rain on the earth, forty days and forty nights.
7:17: And the flood was on the earth for forty days and forty nights...
7:24: And the waters grew strong on the earth a hundred and fifty days.
8:3: And the waters receded from the earth continually, and the waters were abated at the end of a hundred and fifty days.
8:4: And the ark rested in the seventh month, in the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat.
8:5: And the waters continued receding until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared.
8:6: And it was at the end of forty days, And Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made.

Copyright © Mark Alford (1997) alford(at)


(6) The Licentiousness of the Epic of Gilgamesh is replaced by the Puritanism of the Jewish Bible

by Peter Myers

The Epic of Gilgamesh attests to the Sumerian civilization's view of sex as civilizing. Temples of the goddess Inanna housed sacred prostitutes. There was an annual "sacred marriage" - ritual pairing between the king and a priestess representing the goddess.

This "sacred marriage" is reflected in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), the book of the Jewish Bible which Christians find most shocking.

The sex-oriented civilization of the Indus, Sumeria and Crete is gone now. It has been replaced by puritan religions which deliberately set out to destroy it.

Walter Mattfeld shows (item 4) that the authors of the Book of Genesis in the Jewish Bible reworked the earlier Sumerian/Mespotamian origin stories, reversing their meaning to create a counter-myth overthrowing, as it were, Sumerian civilization, and instead portraying Jews as the founders of civilization. The meaning of "chosenness" is that God is a Jew - the alter ego (or superego) of the Jews.

The licentiousness of the Epic of Gilgamesh is replaced by the puritanism of the Jewish Bible, with its rejection of the Goddess cult and the temple-prostitute-priestesses.

In Babylonia, the destruction was wrought during the Persian Empire, which like the Rig Veda declared itself "Aryan". Initially, despite the fundamentalism inherent in the official Zoroastrian religion, the Persian Emperors tolerated the various cultures and religions of the empire - from Egypt to India - but after an uprising in Babylon, the old religion there was suppressed.

The religion we know as Judaism was formed during that period, by Ezra and other Jewish exiles (elite) in Babylon. Previous to the Zoroastrian influence, the religion of Israel and Judah had comprised multiple divinities (including goddesses). There were multiple temples, sacred prostitutes in the temples (both male and female), and the occasional human sacrifice.

Ezra led the attack on the old religion, and through his eyes we now denigrate Phoenician/Canaanite/Carthaginan barbarity.

In the Jewish Bible, Ezekiel 8:14f records the lingering tradition of sacred prostitution, and the devotion of women to Tammuz. After this, in Ezekiel chapter 9, God's angel kills them all.

Ezra led a Puritan reaction against that old civilization. The Book of Genesis reworks earlier accounts of creation, imposing the repression of sex.

Christianity and Islam inherited that puritanism from Judaism.

Arnold J. Toynbee summed up the Monotheist revolution which Ezra and Nehemiah imposed from Babylon:


{p. 424} The accounts, in the Second Book of Kings, of the successive purges of Solomon's Temple by Hezekiah in 705 B.C. and by Josiah in 621 B-C show that down to Hezekiah's time, the brazen serpent Nehushtan had held its own in the sanctuary of Jerusalem side by side with Yahweh's ark, and that in Josiah's time Yahweh shared the temple with the god Baal, the goddess Asherah (whose symbol Hezekiah was said to have cut down) and the heavenly bodies - in particular the Sun, to whom chariots and horses were dedicated there as votive offerings. In 621 B.C. the temple at Jerusalem also housed consecrated prostitutes, male as well as female; and in the valley of Hinnom, below Jerusalem on the city's south side, was a 'tophet' where children were sacrificed by being burnt alive - a cult to which the Carthaginians, too, were addicted.

Ritual prostitution was an agricultural fertility rite which was common to Syria and the Sumero-Akkadian world; and it may have come to Syria from there. Human sacrifice was an atrocity of Syria's own. If it had ever been practised in Sumer and Akkad or in Egypt, it was extinct there in historical times. The Assyrians were innocent of it.

{p. 429} It needed the subsequent missions of Nehemiah and Ezra, backed by the Achaemenian Imperial Government's authority, to make them ruefully conform to the new ideals of monotheism and nationalism that had been conceived in adversity by the diaspora in Babylonia.

{endquote} toynbee.html

The Jewish Bible records its own cases of human sacrifice, e.g. at Judges 11:30-40, where Jephthah promises God, in return for a military victory, to sacrifice (as a burnt offering) the first person who comes out of his house after the victory. As a result he kills his own daughter.


Cyrus H. Gordon on Gilgamesh bull-grappling in Crete (Minotaur, Labrynth), and the link to bullfighting in Spain; Alain Danielou says that the Indus Civilization shared the bull-cult with Sumeria too: carthage-became-jewish.html .

Manfred Bietak and the Hebrew/Israelite Four-Room houses at Avaris, the Hyksos capital in the north of Egypt: four-room-house.html.

S. G. F. Brandon shows that what we know as Christianity emerged from the Roman defeat of the Jewish revolt of 66-70: jewish-revolt.html.

S. G. F. Brandon on the development of ideas of the Judgment of the Dead (including Karma) in Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greco-Roman Culture, Hinduism and Buddhism: judgment.html.

Postmortem Journeys - Resurrections and Descents into Hell: postmortem-journeys.html.

The religion of the First Persian Empire (559-330 BC) was Zoroastrianism; it has shaped Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism and Radical Feminism: zoroaster-judaism.html.

The Zoroastrian religion and its progeny: the ancestry of religious fundamentalism, and Marxist millennialism: zoroastrianism.html.

How the Torah (including the Book of Genesis) was produced by Ezra around 458 BC, with the authority of the Persian Empire (and under the influence of its Zoroastrian religion): bible.html.

Did Judaism once have a Goddess? jewish-taoist.html.

S. G. F. Brandon's books are out of print.

To purchase S. G. F. Brandon's books second-hand via Abebooks:

Write to me at contact.html.