Good question--is Genesis merely a rip-off of other ANE lit?

[Series Index: gilgymess.html // Last update: to this piece: Feb 20 2005]

Part2: Considerations, Method, and Issues for looking at the cosmogonic materials (gilgy00.html)

...With special focus on Enki and Ninhursag, or the Dilmun Myth.

Fortunately, I have discussed elsewhere many of the methodological issues (copycat.html), so I will 'cut and paste' some of that below (mutatis mutandi)...and continue on with material specific to our quest here...


Now, before we try to analyze this notion, we need to gather some established criteria (from scholars) on how to detect and establish that 'borrowing' (especially "content/material" borrowing) has occurred.

Fortunately, there are a number of established criteria for this (so we don't have to 'make up' or 'create' our own), drawing largely from the work of scholars working in the area of Semitic influence on the Greek/Western world (e.g., Walter Burkert, Charles Pengrase, M. L. West), so let's start with some of their work:

"Since the discovery of the Akkadian epics and of Gilgamesh in particular, there has been no shortage of associations between motifs in these and in the Homeric epics, especially the Odyssey. These motifs can be highlighted and used to surprise, but hardly to prove anything: Approximately the same motifs and themes will be found everywhere. Instead of individual motifs, therefore, we must focus on more complex structures, where sheer coincidence is less likely: a system of deities and a basic cosmological idea, the narrative structure of a whole scene, decrees of the gods about mankind, or a very special configuration of attack and defense. Once the historical link, the fact of transmission, has been established, then further connections, including linguistic borrowings, become more likely, even if these alone do not suffice to carry the burden of proof." [OT:ORNEI:88; his examples often contain elements that are 'holdovers'--elements that appear in the borrower that only made sense in the original source...they are unexpected and without purpose in the new usage, since they have been removed from their original context.]
"I can anticipate at least two possible lines of criticism that may be employed against my work. One would be that, in stressing similarities and parallels, I have ignored the great differences between Greek and Near Eastern answer will be that of course Greek literature has its own character, its own traditions and conventions, and the contrast that might be drawn between it and any of the oriental literatures might far outnumber the common features. If anyone wants to write another book and point them out, I should have no objection...But even if it were ten times the size of mine (600+ pages!), it would not diminish the significance of the likenesses, because they are too numerous and too striking to be put down to chance. You cannot argue against the fact that it is raining by pointing out that much of the sky is blue." [HI:EFHWAE:viii]
"Difficult and hazardous are words which describe the study of Mesopotamian influence in Greek myths, and an appropriate method is essential. To establish influence, or at least the likelihood of influence, there are two main steps. First it is necessary to establish the historical possibility of influence, and then the parallels between the myths of the areas must fulfill a sufficiently rigorous set of relevant criteria." [HI:GMM:5]
"The second step of the method is to demonstrate the existence of parallels of the correct nature between the Mesopotamian and Greek literary material. Parallels must have qualities which conform to a suitable set of criteria in order to indicate influence or its likelihood." [HI:GMM:5]
"It is all too easy to run eagerly after superficial parallels which cannot really be sustained under a closer scrutiny. Accordingly, the parallels must have similar ideas underlying them and, second, any suggestion of influence requires that the parallels be numerous, complex and detailed, with a similar conceptual usage and, ideally, that they should point to a specific myth or group of related myths in Mesopotamia. Finally, the parallels and their similar underlying ideas must involve central features in the material to be compared. Only then, it would seem, may any claim stronger than one of mere coincidence be worthy of serious consideration" [HI:GMM:7]

What kinds of examples do these authors offer us?

Now, if we extract some principles from these scholars, we would end up with:

  1. Similarity of general motifs is not enough to "prove anything"; we must have "complex structures" (e.g., 'system of deities', 'narrative structure').

  2. Ideally, we would need to establish the historical link first, before looking for borrowings.

  3. Differences between structures/stories/complexes do not disprove influence, as long as the parallels are 'too numerous' and 'too striking'.

  4. Parallels must be 'striking' (i.e., unexpected, 'odd', difficult to account for).

  5. Some/many parallels/parallel motifs are superficial (i.e., identical on the surface), and 'prove nothing'.

  6. Parallels that can be used to support the possibility of influence need to be numerous.

  7. Parallels that can be used to support the possibility of influence need to be complex (i.e., with multiple parts and interrelationships).

  8. Parallels that can be used to support the possibility of influence need to be detailed.

  9. The details in alleged parallels must have the same "conceptual usage" reflected in them (e.g., they must be used with the same meaning).

  10. The parallels must have the same ' ideas underlying them'.

  11. The similar ideas in alleged parallels must be 'central features' in the material--and not just isolated or peripheral elements.

  12. Details which are completely unexpected (to the point of being unexplainable apart from borrowing) are strong evidence for borrowing

  13. Details which are almost irrelevant to the new context, but which have function in the old context are strong evidence for borrowing

Now, let me also point out here that the amount and texture of the evidence has to be very strong, for even in cases that do NOT look superficial, there still may be considerable doubt about the actual fact of direct influence or borrowing. Take this case from [HI:CMY6:13f]:

The point I want to make here is that even with this 'numerous, complex, and detailed' structure, scholars are STILL NOT sure that borrowing happened! So, our evidence for borrowing will have to be at least stronger than this example.

So, to apply these to our case here, we would need to show that:

What this means, of course, is that it is not simply enough to point to some vague similarities and yell "borrowing!"--one must, in light of the scholars' criteria documented above, be prepared somehow to defend his/her alleged parallels from the charge of being 'superficial' and to show that they are 'striking' (a rather subjective term, of course). In the scholarly world, noted above, the burden of argument was on the 'proponent' of borrowing. Each of the scholars above realize that there is a certain amount of subjectivity in how much one 'weights' the pieces, and our case is no different. The reader has to decide whether the parallels advanced by the CopyCatist are numerous, detailed, striking, complex, central, etc., etc. Even in such a monumental work as that by West, he can point out: "I am well aware that some of the parallels are more compelling than others. Readers must decide for themselves what weight they attach to each." [HI:EFHWAE:viii])


A couple of more points before we start applying this to the case of "Dilmun" etc...

One. When I was a kid, our dad taught us an old folk song--Froggy went a Courtin. If I dare to profane such heritage, let me give a quick digest of the first part of the central story. Froggy (a male frog, with regal weapons and some kind of stead) rides up to Miss Mouse's house and asks her to marry him, 'down in the hollow by the old oak tree'. She says that she would not even marry the President, without the consent of her Uncle Rat. Uncle Rat says it's okay, and they are married. (That's enough of the story for my purpose--although in some versions a snake appears and eats them doubt borrowing from ANE stories of the

Then, years and years later, I heard a fairy tale story of a beautiful princess, who happened upon a talking frog in a marsh one day. The frog helped her in some way, and in return the frog asked a favor--that she kiss him and turn him back into a prince (since he was under a spell). They kissed, wedded, and lived happily ever after.

Now, if I --just for fun--drew the obvious parallels between these two folk tales, one might be surprised at the correspondences:

  1. Both stories have a frog as the romantic lead.

  2. In both stories the frog is male.

  3. Both stories initially involve cross-species romance.

  4. Both stories involve marriage.

  5. Both stories involve allusions to governmental authority ("President", prince and princess)

  6. Both stories take place in the wild.

In light of these parallels, why would we not entertain the notion that there was 'borrowing' going on here? It's because the parallels--though real, and even one parallel (i.e., male frog as cross-species romantic aggressor) is very 'odd' and specific--are not 'tightly correlated' with literacy dependence. The parallel--though 'strong'--just doesn't seem to imply 'borrowing'. The link is too 'weak'. There are too many other ways to arrive at that parallel (e.g., anthropomorphism), and so the thesis of "similarity can best be explained by borrowing" seems almost bizarre in this case. [For example, a common anthropomorphism can better be understood as common ways of seeing the world, instead of somebody being 'surprised' at the very image of a frog going courtin'...There is no literary borrowing going on between Mickey Mouse, Mighty Mouse, and Stuart Little...]

Two. For the creation genre, we have an interesting 'control'--creation stories from non-ANE cultures. If, for example, we find stories in China or MesoAmerica or Australia with 'striking similarities' to non-biblical ANE stories, we will have to come up with a different explanation than 'borrowing' to account for them! The wider the net a mythographer throws over the various world cultures, the more likely they are to explain foundation stories (i.e. "myths" in the technical sense) as either (a) shared ancestral memories; or (b) shared sub-conscious, Jungian-type parts of our humanity. So Beirlein:

"Myth is a constant among all human beings in all times. The patterns, stories, even details contained in myth are found everywhere and among everyone. This is because myth is a shared heritage of ancestral memories, related consciously from generation to generation. Myth may even be part of the structure of our unconscious mind, possibly encoded in our genes." [PM:5].

So, to the extent we find that some alleged biblical-ANE parallel-that-proves-borrowing ALSO is found in remote cultures unconnected with the ANE, to that same extent the hypothesis of literary dependence (instead of 'shared heritage of ancestral memories') will lose its force.


Okay, so let's look at Enki and Ninhursag (the source of the elements mentioned in the objection, hereafter referred to as 'E&N'), and see:

(a) how many 'vivid' parallels there are;

(b) how many of them pass the gauntlet of criteria mentioned by the scholars above; and

(c) how 'tight' is the connection between literary borrowing (conscious, intentional, non-repudiational) and these parallels (as opposed to other explanations for the parallel).

The specific items for comparison (as listed in the objection) are: a paradise named 'Dilmun', goddess making 8 vegetables in a garden, one of the gods has a problem with his RIB, goddess cures him and is called 'woman of life'. The comparison is stated to be with Genesis 2.5-23, but the objection probably refers also to some later passages (3.20, added below):

"In the day that the Lord - when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground—then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made 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.

A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”...The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living." [NRSV]

Now, the postulated 'source' of this: the story of Enki and Ninhursag, or the Dilmun Myth...

"The second myth [Sumerian text, of the Eridu tradition] of Enki the creator is Enki and Ninhursag, known also as the Dilmun Myth, which is preserved on three tablets totaling 278 lines and was copied in the Old Babylonian period. The locale of the myth is Dilmun (modern Bahrain in the Persian Gulf), an important trading center in the early historical period. Not far offshore are fresh-water wells; these are the wells of Enki. Enki in this myth is not the old and wise counselor of the gods; he is young and sexually insatiable." [OT:CAANEB, p.35f; emphasis mine]

The text appears in Pritchard's ANET, but doesn't appear in the newer Context of Scripture [COS3]. In ANET, Kramer wrote the intro. I will use Clifford, Kramer, and others in describing some of the sections, and I will cite some of the text as well.

First, let me quote the summaries of the story given by Kramer in ANET (who says the text "perhaps even provides a number of interesting parallels to the motifs of the biblical paradise story "--emphasis mine) and by Clifford. To these I will add some descriptive statements by Leick and Jacobsen. The reader is urged to compare the Genesis story above with the story-flow as given in these summaries (look especially for 'amazing parallels'

Kramer in ANET:

"The poem begins with a eulogy of Dilmun, described as both a "land" and a "city," where the action of the story takes place. This Dilmun, according to our poem, is a place that is pure, clean, and bright (lines 1-13). It is a land in which there is probably neither sickness nor death (lines 14-30). It is a city which by the command of the Sumerian water-god Enki, has become full of sweet water and of crop-bearing fields and farms and has thus become known as "the house of the bank-quays of the land" (lines 31-64)

Following a brief passage whose interpretation is far from clear (lines 65-72), the main action of the myth begins. Enki impregnates the goddess Ninhursag, "the mother of the land," who after nine days of pregnancy gives birth, without pain and effort, to the goddess Ninmu. Enki then proceeds to impregnate his daughter Ninmu, who in the same way as her mother Ninhursag, gives birth to the goddess named Ninkurra (lines 89-108). Enki then impregnates his granddaughter Ninkurra, and the latter gives birth to the goddess Uttu (lines 109-127). Enki is now evidently prepared to impregnate his great-granddaughter Uttu when Ninhursag, the great-grandmother, intervenes and offers the latter some pertinent advice. Unfortunately the relevant passage (128-152) is almost completely destroyed. But to judge from the passage that follows (lines 153-185) Uttu may have been instructed by Ninhursag not to cohabit with Enki until and unless he brings her a gift of cucumbers, apples, and grapes. Be that as it may, we next see Enki obtain the cucumbers, apples, and grapes from a gardener who probably brought them to him in gratitude for his watering the dikes, ditches, and uncultivated places (lines 153-167). Enki brings them to Uttu as a gift, and the latter now joyfully receives his advances and cohabits with him (lines 165-185).

But of this union probably no new goddess is born. Instead, Ninhursag seems to utilize Enki's semen in a way which leads to the sprouting of eight different plants: the "tree"-plant, the "honey"-plant, the roadweed-plant, the apasar-plant, the thorn plant, the caper-plant, a plant whose name is illegible, and the cassia-plant (lines 186-195). And now Enki commits a sinful deed. As he looked about him in the marshland, he noticed the eight plants and probably determined to decide their fate. But first, it seems, he had to know their heart, that is, he probably had to taste what they were like. And so his messenger, the two-faced god Isimud plucks each of the eight plants for Enki, and the latter eats them one by one (lines 196-217). Angered by this act, Ninhursag, the goddess who is so largely responsible for their first coming into existence, utters a curse against Enki, saying that until he dies she will not look upon him with the "eye of life." And, as good as her word, she immediately disappears.

Whereupon, Enki no doubt begins to pine away, and the Anunnaki, the "great" but nameless Sumerian gods, sit in the dust. At this point the fox comes to the rescue; he asks Enlil, the leader of the Sumerian pantheon, what would be his reward if he brought Ninhursag back to the gods. Enlil names his reward, and the fox, sure enough, succeeds in some way in having Ninhursag return to the gods in Dilmun (lines 221-249). Ninhursag then seats the dying Enki by her vulva, [Kramer notes that the text actually says 'in her vulva'] and asks where he feels pain. Enki names an organ of the body which hurts him, and Ninhursag then informs him that she has caused a certain deity to be born for him, the implication being that the birth of the deity will result in the healing of the sick member. All in all, Ninhursag repeats the question eight times. Each time Enki names an organ of the body which pains him, and in each case Ninhursag announces the birth of a corresponding deity (lines 250-268). Finally, probably at the request of Ninhursag, Enki decreed the fate of the newborn deities, the last of whom, Enshag by name, is destined to be "the lord of Dilmun.""

Then Clifford:

"The story opens with a remarkable tableau of Sumer and Dilmun before creation. Enki is with his daughter and wife Ninsikila (variously called in the story Nintu, Damgalnuna, and Ninhursaga)....It is significant that immediately after the precreation tableau Ninsikila prays to her father Enki for water for the city that he has given her...[Enki cuts a trench with his penis and then apparently ejaculates the water...see the text below...then copulates with his daughter/wife]...Ninmu is born after nine days, each day equaling a month. Enki then impregnates Ninmu. After nine days she bears Ninkurra. He impregnates Ninkurra, and she gives birth to Uttu (the spider goddess, goddess of weaving). Enki turns his amorous attentions toward Uttu, but she, on instructions from Ninhursaga, steals his seed and sows it on the steppe. From it various plants grow, which Enki eats and so becomes pregnant. As a male, he cannot bring them to term and falls ill. Ninhursaga cures him by giving birth to the eight deities, each from a different part of Enki's body. The story ends with Ninhursaga assigning roles to the newborn gods. The last of them, Ensag, Enki designates to be lord of Dilmun." [OT:CAANEB, pp. 36-38]

Now Leick:

"The setting of the story is not Eridu, Enki's traditional home, but Dilmun, a city famous for its springs of clear water and a prosperous international trading post. The first episode is an aetiological account of Dilmun's origin (lines 1-63). It is a 'pure' and 'holy' place, where Enki lies with Ninsikila, the Maiden...Dilmun, though 'holy', is strangely lacking in essential commodities, and the behavior of people and animals differs from that of later times. These descriptions were probably meant to be funny and absurd. Ninsikila is obviously aware of the anomalous situation when she tells Enki [the city has no water]...But he rises to the challenge with great aplomb and makes a magnificent speech, very much in the style of the blessings in Enki and the World Order, but probably satirical for all its pomposity. He not only promises abundant water but blesses Dilmun with everlasting agricultural and trade superiority (lines 39-50, plus fragment). Enki achieves all this by the power of his divine word; whatever he utters becomes reality...After this impressive display of verbal command, Enki turns to the physical expression of his vigour...Before the goddess, now called Nintu(r), he uses his penis [to fulfill her request]...[then Enki impregnates her]...Her pregnancy, as befitting a goddess, is miraculously short, lasting only nine days. The delivery is also remarkably easy ('like butter, like oil') and she gives birth to a daughter, Ninnisiga...The next episode concerns Enki's continuous desire for any female who ventures into his territory, the marshland. The names of the goddesses change, but otherwise the text is repeated practically verbatim four times. There is no doubt as to the identity of each of the goddesses because we are told that they are the offspring of the goddess born previously...The scene is always the same: following the copulation with Enki, the goddess has a nine-day pregnancy and then painlessly, 'as if oiled', gives birth to a daughter. Then we meet the same daughter, obviously nubile by now, by the riverbank, when Enki 'sticks out of the marshland'...The set pattern could continue, but now Nintur, one of the names of Enki's original partner, intervenes and speaks to the beautiful Uttu with motherly advice...[after requiring gifts, Utta also copulates with Enki, but his seed is removed from her body before she becomes pregnant]...A short gap in the text also prevents us from knowing what exactly Ninhursaga [who 'wiped the sperm off her body', line 186] did with Enki's seed. It somehow got into the ground, as eight plants, each one named separately emerge (lines 188-195)...He [Enki] perceives the plants, which , like his daughters before, have now grown, and again he is overcome with desire and curiousity...He asks Isimud to name the plants and then proceeds to eat them one by one. ..This so enrages Ninhursaga that she curses Enki, threatening that she will 'not look on him with the eye of life' until he is dead. The gods are worried and it is only through the mediating offices of a fox that Ninhursaga is persuaded to cure Enki from his affliction. ..Ninhursaga then takes Enki, places him in her vagina and asks him where he hurts. For each affected limb she gives birth to a deity, four males and four females, and their names correspond phonetically to the different ailing parts of Enki's body. This has the effect of restoring Enki's health. The text ends with a 'decreeing of fate'--each deity is assigned a function, the last one is Enzag, the Lord of Dilmun..." [OT:SEML, pp30-35]

Now, strictly speaking, there is a good chance this text is more in the category of 'ribald humor' and NOT in the category of 'foundation myth' (and correspondingly, 'less likely to be borrowed from' for the Hebrew foundational stories)! In addition to its omission from the "Canonical Myths" of the ANE in [COS], Leick notes that it 'reads better' as non-myth, and points out that traditional ANE scholars have noted the absence of real myth too:

"I shall not try to formulate an 'interpretation' that accounts for all the motifs of this composition. There are still too many passages that remain beyond my comprehension linguistically or are just too damaged. But the observations by Jacobsen and Kramer and Maier, that it might in parts be satirical, seem worth pursuing...As this narrative is to a considerable extent concerned with sex, a prime target for creates an expectation of absurdity and exaggeration which then colours our whole understanding of the events unfolding...I have pointed out some of these absurdities in my synopsis, such as the description of Dilmun lacking water, Enki's constant display of his phallus, the significance of the fruit [as aphrodisiac], the glut of sperm all over Uttu, the lewd comments of Isimud, the appearance of the fox...etc...Inevitably, the comic situation is heightened by the protagonist's discomfort; and what could be more risible than a male made pregnant by his own spilled seed? To say nothing of the humiliation of being at the mercy of the Wife and having to borrow her sexual equipment to rid himself of this painful progeny....Another reason for adopting such a reading is the time of composition, the time of the Third Dynasty of Ur. Doubtless, the author made use of other sources, probably much older ones, but he turned them into a typical product of an age that admired wit, style and a certain 'raciness' in a literary composition. We do not get the impression of great religious intensity. A work such as Enki and Ninhursaga therefore makes no sense as a 'myth' or a deeply significant theological treatise. Kramer and Meier admitted that 'none of the currently known Sumerian theological credos or myths... shed any light on these questions...." [OT:SEML, pp.3738,39]

And a recent translator of it (Thorkild Jacobsen) thinks it was a court tale, with ancient 'sailor humor' in it:

"This odd composition is perhaps best understood as an occasional piece put together to entertain visitors from the island of Dilmun at a banquet at the royal court in Ur. Dilmun, modern Bahrein, was the intermediary for sea trade with India and Africa, and so was of sufficient importance for traders from there to be given official welcome when their ships docked at UR. The composition takes pains to flatter the visitors with praise of Dilmun's sacred origins and its god-given worldwide trade relations. It is also, one might venture, tailored to a sailor's robust sense of humor." [OT:THTO, p.181; He footnotes: "The humorous character of the composition was missed by me in earlier attempts at interpretation. It should have been obvious."]

Second, let's go parallel-hunting...

Outline of the first part:

Here are the translations of this description as given in ANET and Clifford (divisions given in ANET's summary above, roughly):

ANET (Kramer)

OT:CAANEB (Clifford)

[The place] is [pure]...
...[the land] Dilmun is pure;
[The land Dilmun[ is [pu]re;
...the [la]nd D[il]mun is pure;
The land Dilmun is pure, the land Dilmun is clean;
The land Dilmun is clean; the land Dilmun is most bright.
Who had lain by himself in Dilmun--
The place, after Enki had lain with his wife,
That place is clean, that place is most bright.
(10) Who had lain by himself in Dilmun--
The place, (after) Enki (had lain) by Ninsikila,
That place is clean, (that place is bright).
In Dilmun, the raven utters no cries,
The ittidu-bird utters not the cry of the ittidu-bird,
The lion kills not,
The wolf snatches not the lamb,
Unknown is the kid-devouring wild dog,
Unknown is the grain-devouring.,
[Unknown] is the ... widow,
(20) The bird on high...s not its...,
The dove droops not the head,
The sick-eyed says not "I am sick-eyed,"
The sick-headed [says] not "I am sick-headed,"
Its old woman (says) not "I am an old woman,"
Its old man (says) not "I am an old man,"
Unbathed is the maid, no sparkling water is poured in the city,
Who crosses the river utters no ...,
The wailing priest walks not round about him,
The singer utters no wail,
(30) By the side of the city he (utters) no lament. (1-30)

[first part not translated]

At Dilmun, no crow cries "ka'gu,"
no francolin [type of partridge] goes "dardar,"
(15) no lion kills,
no wolf takes a lamb.
Unknown is the dog herding the goats,
unknown is the pig, eater of grain
The widow does not spread malt on the roof,
(20) no bird in the sky forages for it.
No dove goes with head held high.
No one with eye disease says, "I have an eye disease,"
no one with a head disease says, "I have a head disease."
No old woman says, "I am an old woman,"
(25) no old man says, "I am an old man."
No young woman, not yet bathed, makes her ablutions in the city.
No man crossing the river cries, "Mine" [a work song?]
No herald tours the frontiers in his charges.
No singer utters an "elulam,"
(30) utters and "ilu" at the edge of the city.

[Father Enki answers Ninsikilla his daughter]
["Let Utu standing in heaven],
[From the . . . , the breast of his ...
Ninsikilla says to her father Enki:
"The city thou hast given, the city thou hast given, thy ...,
Dilmun, the city thou hast given, the city (thou hast given, thy...),
Has not...of the river;
Dilmun, the city thou hast given, the city (thou hast given, thy ...),
... furrowed fields (and) farms,
(40) ..."
[Father Enki answers Ninsikilla, his daughter]:
["Let Utu standing in Heaven],
[From the ..., the breast of his ...]
[From the ... of Nanna],"
[From the 'mouth whence issues the water of the earth,' bring thee sweet water from the earth];
Let him bring up the water into thy large ....
Let him make thy city drink from it the waters of abundance,
(Let him make) Dilmun (drink from it) the waters of ab(undance),
Let thy well of bitter water become a well of sweet water,
[Let thy furrowed fields (and) farms bear thee grain],
(50) Let thy city become the bank-quay house of the land,
Now Utu is a..."
Utu standing in heaven,
From the. . . , the breast of his ....
From the ... of Nanna,
From the "mouth whence issues the water of the earth," brought her sweet water from the earth;
He brings up the water into her large ....
Makes her city drink from it the waters of abundance,
Makes Dilmun (drink from it) the waters of ab(undance),
(60) Her well of bitter water, verily it is become a well of sweet water,
Her furrowed fields (and) farms bore her grain,
Her city, verily it is become the bank-quay house of the land
Dilmun, (verily it is become) the bank-(quay) house (of the land),
Now Utu is ... ; verily it was so. (31-64)

Who is alone, before the wise Nintu, the mother of the land,
Enki (before) the wise Nintu, (the mother of the land),
Causes his phallus to water the dikes,
Causes his phallus to submerge the reeds,
Verily causes his phallus to ...,
(70) Thereupon he said, "Let no one walk in the marshland,"
Thereupon Enki said: ("Let no one walk in the marshland),"
He swore by the life of Anu.
His ... of the marshland, ... of the marshland,
Enki ...d his semen of Damgalnunna,
Poured the semen into the womb of Ninhursag. (65-75)

He, the wise, before Nintu, the mother of the country,
Enki, the wise, before Nintu, the mother of the country,
with his penis cuts a trench for the water,
with his penis bathes the reeds in the water,
with his penis makes gush a great ... clothing
(70) He cries out, "I allow no one to pass through the marsh."
Enki cries, "I allow no one to pass through the marsh."
He swears by heaven.
"Lie down in the marsh, lie down in the marsh, that (will be) splendid!"
Enki besprinkles Damgalnuna with his seed (?).
He pours out seed into her womb, the seed of Enki.


She took the semen into the womb, the semen of Enki.
One day being her one month,
Two days being her two months,
Three days being her three months,
(80) Four days being her four months,
Five days (being her five months),
Six days (being her six months),
Seven days (being her seven months),
Eight [days] (being her eight months),
Nine [days] being her nine months, the months of "womanhood , "
L[ike ... fat], like ... fat, like good princely fat,
[Nintu], the mother of the land, like [ ... fat], (like ... fat, like good princely fat),
Gave birth to [Ninmu] (76-88)

Ninmu ... d at the bank of the river,"'
(90) Enki in the marshland looks about, looks about,
He says to his messenger Isimud:
"Shall I not kiss the young one, the fair?
(Shall I not kiss) Ninmu, the fair?"
His messenger Isimud answers him:
"Kiss the young one, the fair,"
(Kiss) Ninmu, the fair,
For my king I shall blow up a mighty wind, I shall blow up a mighty wind.
First he set his foot in the boat,
Then he set it on dry land,
(100) He embraced her, he kissed her,
Enki poured the semen into the womb,
She took the semen into the womb, the semen of Enki,
One day being her one month,
Two days being her two months,
Nine days being her nine months, the months of "womanhood,""
[Like ... ] fat, like [ ... fat], like good princely fat,
[Ninmu], (like) ... [fat] (like . . . fat, like good princely fat),
Gave birth to Nink [urra]. (89-108)

Ninkurra ... d at the bank of the river,
(110) Enki in the marshland [looks about, looks about],
He [says] to his messenger Isimud:
"Shall I not [kiss] the young one, the fair?
(Shall I not kiss) Ninkurra, the fair?"
His messenger Isimud answers him:
"Kiss the young one, the fair,
(Kiss) Ninkurra, the fair.
For my king I shall blow up a mighty wind, I shall blow up a mighty wind."
First he set his foot in the boat,
Then he set it on dry land,
(120) He embraced her, he kissed her,
Enki poured the semen into the womb,
She took the semen into the womb, the semen of Enki,
One day being her one month,
Nine days being her nine months, the months [of] "womanhood,""
Like ... fat, like ... fat, like good, princely fat,
Ninkurra, (like) ... fat, (like ... fat, like good, princely fat),
Gave birth to Uttu, the fair lady. (108-127)

Nintu says [to] Uttu, [the fair lady]:
"Instruction I offer thee, [take] my instruction,
(130) A word I speak to thee, [take] my word.
Someone in the marshland look [s] about, [looks about],
Enki in the marshland [looks about, looks about],
The eye.. .
... (approximately 10 lines destroyed)
... Uttu, the fair lady ...
... in his ....
... heart ...
Bring [the cucumbers in their ...]
Bring [the apples] in their [ ... ],
(150) Bring the grapes in their. . . ,
In the house may he take hold of my leash,"
May Enki there take hold of my leash." (128-152)

A second time while he was filling with water,
He filled the dikes with water,
He filled the ditches with water,
He filled the uncultivated places with water.
The gardener in the dust in his joy . . . ,
He embrac[es] him.
"Who art thou who ... [my] garden?"
(160) Enki [answers] the gardener:
[Bring me the cucumbers in their ...],
[Bring me the apples in their ... ],
[Bring me the grapes in their ....]"
[He] brought him the cucumbers in their. . . ,
He brought him the apples in their ....,
He brought him the grapes in their ...., he heaped them on his lap. (153-167)

Enki, his face turned green, he gripped the staff,
To Uttu Enki directed his step.
(170) "Who in her house, open.""
"Thou, who art thou?"
"I, the gardener, would give thee cucumbers, apples, and grapes as a 'so be it.' ""
Uttu with joyful heart opened the door of the house.
Enki to Uttu, the fair lady,
Gives the cucumbers in their ...,
Gives the apples in their . . . ,
Gives the grapes in their....
Uttu, the fair lady ... s the ... for him .... s the ... for him."
Enki took his joy of Uttu,
(180) He embraced her, lay in her lap,
He ... s the thighs, he touches the ....
He embraced her, lay in her lap,
With the young one he cohabited, he kissed her.
Enki poured the semen into the womb,
She took the semen into the womb, the semen of Enki. (168-185)

Uttu, the fair lady ....
Ninhursag ... d the semen from the thighs,
[The "tree"-plant sprouted],
[The "honey"-plant spro]uted,
(190) [The roadweed-plant spro]uted,
[The . . .-plant s]prouted,
[The thorn s]prouted,
[The caper-plant] sp(routed),
[The. . .-plant] sp(routed),
[The cassia-plant s]prouted. (186-195)

Enki in the marshland looks about, looks about,
He says to his messenger Isimud:
"Of the plants, their fate ....
What, pray, is this? What, pray, is this?"
(200) His messenger Isimud answers him:
"My [king], the 'tree'-plant," he says to him;
He cuts it down for him, he eats it.
"My king, the 'honey'-plant," he says to him;
He plucks it for him, he eats it.
"My king, the r[oadwee]d-plant, he (says to him),
He cuts it down for him, he eats it).
"My king, the.. .-plant," he (says to him);
[He plucks it for him, he (eats it)].
"[My king, the t]horn-plant," he (says to him);
(210) [He cuts it down for him], he (eats it).
"[My king, the ca] per- [plant]," he (says to him),
[He plucks it for him, he (eats it)].
["My king, the . . .-plant," he (says to him)]
[He cuts it down for him], he (eats it).
"My king, the cassia-plant," he says to him;
[He plucks it for him], he eats it.
Of the plants, [Enki] decreed their fate, knew their "heart." (196-217)

(Thereupon") Ninhursag cursed Enki's name:
"Until he is dead I shall not look upon him with the 'eye of life.'"
(220) The Anunnaki sat in the dust,
(When)" up speaks the fox to Enlil:
"If I bring Ninhursag before thee, what shall be my reward ? "
Enlil answers the fox:
"If thou wilt bring Ninhursag before me,
In my city I will plant trees (and) fields for thee, verily thy name will be uttered."
The fox, as one ... d his skin,
As one, loosened his ....
As one, painted his face.
(four lines destroyed)
"[To Nippur] I shall go, Enlil . . .
[T]o [ Ur] I shall go, Nanna ...
To [Larsa] I shall go, Utu . . . ,
To [Erech ] I shall go, Inanna ....
... is, my name ... bring."
(240) (four lines destroyed)
... stood by him.
Ninhursag. .. d.. . ,
The Anunnaki seized her garments,
Made. . . "
Decreed the fate,
Interpreted the . . . , (218-249)

(250) Ninhursag seated Enki by her vulva:
"My brother, what hurts thee?"
"My ... hurts me."
"Abu I have caused to be born for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee?"
"My jaw hurts me."
"Nintulla I have caused to be born for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee?" "My tooth hurts me."
"Ninsutu I have caused to be born for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee?" "My mouth hurts me."
(260) "Ninkasi I have [caused] to be [born] for thee."
"My brother what hurts thee?" "My. . [. hurts me]."
"Nazi I have caused to be [born] for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee?" "[My] arm [hurts me]."
"Azimua I have [caused] to be [born] for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee ? My] rib [hurts me]."
"Ninti I have caused to be [born] for thee."
"My brother, what hurts thee?" "My ... [hurts me]."
"Enshag I have caused to be [born] for thee. (250-268)

For the little ones which I have caused to be born....
(270) "Let Abu be the king of the plants,
Let Nintulla be the lord of Magan,
Let Ninsutu marry Ninazu,
Let Ninkasi be she who sates the desires,
Let Nazi marry Nindara,
Let Azi[mua] marry [Nin]gishzida,
Let N[inti] be the [qu]een of the months,
Let [ Ensha ] g be the lord of Dilmun."
[O Father Enki], praise!" (269-278)

(Does anyone else get the impression that Harrison's description "this narrative clearly has little in common with that in Gen. 2" is a bit understated?!

OK, so, let's do the parallels checking next...

Technically, we should first go through Gen 2-3 to find the elements that were borrowed (since the allegation/objection is that elements present within Gen 2-3 were 'taken' from this, and similar Sumerian myths). Then, we will reverse the process and look at the elements in E&N and see how they compare to Genesis.

First, Genesis 2-3. Let me do this in tabular format--perhaps it will be clearer...


Enki and Ninhursag


Before Eden was made, the land was already watered by the rising of subterranean streams.

Even after Dilmun was made, there was no water, and Ninsikila has to ask Enki for water. He complies by digging an irrigation canal with his penis, and, according to most translators (and according to another tale in which he does this, Enki and the World Order), fills the canal with semen from masturbating.

This is of course a very contrary state of affairs, with nothing borrowed (since there's nothing in common between the passages).

God makes man from the dust of the ground (before Eden is made)

There are no human players in this story at all, except a cameo by a gardener (but he might be divine, too). (The possible exception of the last sub-deity given birth, Enshag, who is the ruler of the city of Dilmun, is not one--since the ruler was considered to be a lesser deity in this case anyway). The only 'created' entities here are (a) the daughters of Enki's incestuous affairs [all goddesses]; and (b) the 8 deities given birth by Ninhursag. None of even the deity-birthing events are connected with the 'dust of the earth', and all of these deity-birthing events occur AFTER Dilmun is already made and given to Ninsikila.

No parallels whatsoever. Lotsa contrary-parallels.

God makes man a living being by breathing into his nostrils the 'breath of life'

No humans again. Even the deity-birthing/deity-making events are 'normal' procreative processes. No mention of dust, of breathing, of 'breath of life'. Only nostril is Enki's, which hurts.

No parallels whatsoever.

God plants a garden (orchard) in Eden, in the east.

Dilmun is described as a 'city' and a 'land'. It is populated already with people (apparently some who are sick), and other cities are already in existence (i.e., Nippur, Ur, Larsa, Erech). It is described as 'marshland' (assuming this is not a sexual reference, a la Leick, [OT:SEML, pp.32-38]), but there is a gardener there who gathers plants for Enki(?) later in the story (after several of Enki's incest acts/goddess births). Actually, it is not even said to have been 'created' or 'made' or anything, other than given to Ninsikila. The creation aspect is altogether missing.

No parallel--Enki doesn't plant a garden (and the gardener character in the story is required to actually get some plants for him...). There is no real parallel between the garden of Eden and the inhabited, with-houses, city of Dilmun (a city would be expected to have a garden somewhere in it, but this would hardly characterize it).

God places the man (formed outside of Eden) into the garden/orchard.

No humans in the story. No creation of humans (they are already in Dilmun when our narrative begins). No movement of people from outside Dilmun to inside Dilmun

No parallels.

God makes trees to grow from the ground, including the Tree of Life

There are two sets of plants in this story: the fruits/vegetables given to Enki by the gardener (e.g., cucumbers, apples, grapes); and the plants which spring up from Enki's semen (after being 'stolen' from Utta by Ninhursag and 'planted' in the ground?). In neither case are (1) they trees; or (2) planted by Enki. And there is not a whisper about a 'tree of life' or 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil'.

No parallels.

God puts the man into the garden to 'till it and keep it'

No humans. No assignment of responsibility to humans. No orchard to care for. Even Dilmun is not assigned to anyone, except the sub-deity Enshag in one line of the story. The gardener is an incidental character, not chartered by Enki (or by any other god in the story). There are no moral imperatives in the story.

No parallels.

God tells the man that he can eat of all the trees, except one.

No humans. No trees. No commands about eating. Only references to eating (maybe) are the requests of Utta to Enki for the edible fruits/vegetables (for a marriage compact) and the story of Enki eating the plants created from his sperm. No moral imperatives, allowances, or prohibitions stated.

No parallels.

The penalty for eating from the one tree is death for the human.

No human. No tree. No eating from a tree. No prohibition and no stated punishment. No death. The closest E&N comes to this is where Enki gets sick from eating his semen-based plants. N curses his name (not him, actually?) and vows to abandon him (but the text doesn't indicate what the reason is) for as long as he lives. Enki begins to feel bad, N puts him inside her vagina, and heals him by giving birth to 8 deities.

No parallels whatsoever.

God comments that it is not good for man to be alone. (Man is alone in the garden/orchard.)

No solitary human. And no absence of characters in Dilmun! Dilmun has--from the outset of the story--animals, old men, old women, young maidens, widows, birds, priests, singers, gods and goddesses. No observations about solitude.

No parallels. Lotsa contrary parallels.

God creates animals and brings them to the human to name them (and to learn that they are not companion-class creatures).

No creation of animals (they are already there). No bringing of animals to a created human for naming.

No parallels.

God causes a deep sleep to fall on the man

No sleeping anywhere in E&N (lots of 'sleeping around' by Enki, though)

No parallels.

God takes (removes) one of the man's 'sela' ('sides', but traditionally translated 'rib'), closes up the wound, and builds a woman from it.

No creation of woman (from any source). No surgery. No removal of ribs from anyone. [N gives birth to eight deities, corresponding to the eight places E 'hurts', but it doesn't say that the deities come from those parts, or that those parts are removed at all. The deities' names are puns on the body parts (see Comment 1), but the body parts are not removed, nor fashioned into these deities.

The only possible connection here is with the word 'rib', but the rib is only ONE of 8 body parts in E&N--it's not prominent or 'special' enough to have suggested itself for borrowing (e.g., if Genesis was borrowing, why not borrow from one of the other seven body parts?). See Comment 2 on why the 'range of choices' affects our assessment of the likelihood of borrowing. Otherwise the whole surgery theme is completely missing from the story.

The man becomes ecstatic over the woman, proclaiming their solidarity due to shared essence, and naming her (class) 'woman'. [The name 'woman' (ishah) is not derived from 'rib'/sela.]

Nothing remotely similar.

No parallels.

[The story of the Fall and God's judgments]

Nothing. Even the lone 'talking animal' (the fox) is a good character, as opposed to the 'talking serpent' in Genesis.

No parallels.

Man gives his wife (another?) name "Eve", she gives birth to all subsequent humans.

There is plenty of birthing going on in this story(!), and everybody gets a name, but it is never human birthing, and never is the mother given the name--it's always the offspring (as would be expected). The only name 'connections' are "superficial" (Kramer's term--see Comment 1) linguistic puns between the terms of the body parts and parts of the deity-offspring terms, but the connections are not thematic, but phonetic.

No real parallels.

Comment 1:

Sometimes a faux parallel is suggested along these lines (from Kramer):

"Kramer holds that this Sumerian literary background would explain why Eve, 'the mother of all living,' was fashioned from the rib of Adam. In the present myth one of Enki's sick organs is the rib (Sumerian ti); the goddess created for healing his rib was called in Sumerian Nin-ti 'The Lady of the rib'. But the Sumerian ti also means 'to make live'. The name Nin-ti may thus mean 'the Lady who makes live' as well as 'the Lady of the rib'. Through the wordplay, these two designations were used for the same goddess. It is this 'literary pun,' according to Kramer, that explains Eve's title and her being fashioned from Adam's rib" [ISI,37-38]

"Now it is true that Adam called the woman that God had formed from his rib “Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Gen 3:20). Samuel Noah Kramer commented, “It was this, one of the most ancient of literary puns, which was carried over and perpetuated in the biblical paradise story, although here, of course, it loses its validity, since the Hebrew word for ‘rib’ [tsela] and that for ‘who makes alive’ [hoveh] have nothing in common.” [HSB, at Gen 2.21]

What can we say about this objection? Well, we can say basically, that it doesn't work--for a couple of reasons...

First of all, the E&N story didn't take this TI-issue very seriously at all--and its readers (or listeners) would not have been 'theologically awed' enough by the literary puns to enshrine it in Genesis!

"The correspondence between the sick member and the healing deity rests on the superficial and punlike etymologizing of the ancient scribes; the Sumerian word for the sick organ contains at least one syllable in common with the name of the deity. Thus e.g. one of the organs that pained Enki was the 'mouth,' the Sumerian word for which is ka, and the deity created to alleviate this pain is called Ninkasi; similarly the goddess born to alleviate the pain of the rib, the Sumerian word for which is ti, is named Ninti, etc. [Kramer, in ANET, p.37]

"The deities, most of which are known from elsewhere, have been so chosen by the storyteller that the name of each has an element that corresponds with the name of the part of Enki's body from which the deity is question was born. In some case this correspondence amounts to no more than a similarity in sound of a syllable, as when ugu-dilli 'brainpan' is resumed in the name Abu by their common syllable u only. Similar cases are zi, ti, and zag, for it is unlikely that the corresponding syllables in the Na-zi, Nin-ti, and En-sa-ak are words for 'throat,' 'rib,' and 'side'...The list as a whole, again, is most likely to be seen as a jeu d'esprit rather than an attempt at serious theology: The rhapsodist ends his performance with a scintillating display of wit." [OT:THTO, p.203, n26]

Secondly, it is very doubtful the biblical author would have had access to (or linguistic skill to effectively understand) the Sumerian composition!

"In the Sumerian paradise myth of Enki and Ninhursag, the goddess Ninhursag created the goddess Nin-ti in order to heal the god Enki’s afflicted rib. Reflecting this healing purpose, the name “Nin-ti” can mean both “lady of the rib” and “lady who makes live.” Similarly, the Genesis account associates Eve both with a rib and with life (see Gen. 3:20). This explanation fails to commend itself not only because of the superficial character of the alleged parallels (cf. Renié; Kidner, pp. 65f n 3) but also because it commits the genetic fallacy — it is doubtful that “J,” or any other presumed editor/author, would have been aware of the mentioned Sumerian ideograms (so Landy, p. 350 n 135)." [ISBE, s.v. 'rib']

Thirdly, we should note that points one and two work to support one another: if the biblical author DID have access/skill (point two), then they would have understood that the piece was not to be taken seriously (point one). Conversely, if they didn't have the skill to perceive that it wasn't a serious piece, then they would not have been able to 'see' the original pun that they allegedly borrowed from!

Fourth, it doesn't help the argument to suggest that the Sumerian was translated into Akkadian before the Genesis author saw it, because the pun disappears in Akkadian just as it does in Hebrew. TI (rib) becomes SILA in Akkadian (cf. tsela in Hebrew) and TI (life) becomes BALATU/BULUTU in Akkadian. Nope, the Genesis author (assuming composition of the passage around 1200 BC at the latest) would have had to have had special scribal training (in certain Mesopotamian culture centers) to read a language that had been dead-except-to-scholars of Mesopotamia for at least 500-1000 years. [And the problem, btw, gets worse, the later one thinks Genesis was]

Fifth, there is the abject absence of motive in this case. Why in the world would a Hebrew borrow one minor point (and only that one minor point) in an ancient ribald/court poem to ground the creation of the human ancestor of their race?-- ESPECIALLY if they didn't even understand the pun in the passage enough to render it effectively?! Not only are the non-parallels and anti-parallels HUGE in this case, there is just no apparent motive, and nothing at all to be gained by borrowing (and then, changing everything else about the setting: gods to humans; marsh to orchard, the rib of god to rib of man, 8 deities to 1 human, etc.--nobody would get the reference at all). It's just massively speculative to assert borrowing in this case.

Sixth, another core discontinuity is that 'rib' does not form a part of Eve's name (as it does for Ninti). "Woman" is related phonetically to "man"--NOT to 'rib' or 'side'.

Finally, we should note that the Translators in ANET and OT:THTO do not actually translate NinTi as "mother of living" or "mother who makes a live". Kramer gives "Queen of the months" and Jacobsen gives "Lady of the month". These are royal titles, not motherly. And the work assigned to her is not "Lady of LIFE", but "Lady of MONTHS"--not quite the same.

All in all, the pieces just don't come together well enough to make a case for borrowing here...

Comment 2:

I just want to point out that there is a major problem with singling out one element in a group, and arguing on the basis of that. In our case, Enki has eight parts of his body which hurt (the rib is nothing special or unique), and eight deities come forth (Ninti is nothing special or unique). What this means is that the argument from one element is reduced by the amount of other elements (a problem of under-determination). For example, in our case, had Eve been made out of any of the OTHER SEVEN body parts, then the objection about borrowing could still have been made (from one of the 4 female deities). The only difference in Ninti's case is that TI can mean life, so it looks like a possible two-point connection. But the same could have been done for the other 3 female deities, by having Eve fulfill their assigned duties.

Essentially, this is a statistical reality. It's a little like a statewide lottery. The fact that 6-12-22-43-59 came out is not "thematically" significant (even IF you are holding that Lottery ticket!), because any other possibility was equally likely. For this to have been even a possible consideration in E&N, there would have had to have been ONLY ONE body part affected (i.e., the rib)--not either-- and then only one female created from it (with the same pun obvious, of course). And that's just to start the argument about parallels and borrowing...


Okay--the next piece is to make some parallel-oriented observations looking at E&N first...

Here I want to note the major items in E&N which have no counterpoint in (or disagree with) Genesis. The more substantial this list is, the less likely we could build a case for (a) Hebrew desire to borrow; or (b) the requisite 'same underlying ideas', etc. from the criteria list. I won't be exhaustive, since many of the differences might be as superficial as the alleged parallels, but many of these should be clear enough to cast doubt on claims of any level of borrowing/influence.

One. Dilmun itself doesn't actually appear to be a 'finished paradise' at all. It is lacking in water, the occupants behave anomalously (Leick used the word 'absurdly', as to invoke comic laughter), and Jacobsen consistently calls it 'inchoate'. [He sees this story as actually TWO separate stories: the first about how Dilmun was supplied with fresh water, and the second story is about Enki and the creation of the Lord of Dilmun (through the entertaining tale of sexual misadventures]. Here is his description of Dilmun:

"The first of these stories deals with how Dilmun was supplied with fresh water. It begins in primeval Dilmun, where Enki lies with his consort Ninsikila, and where everything is still in the bud, pristine and unformed; nothing has yet settled into its final being or behavior. Also, the city of Dilmun, which Enki apparently has given as present to Ninsikila, may not be in its final form: it lacks fresh water for a riverine harbor quay, for irrigation agriculture, and for drinking water...The description of primeval Dilmun in its inchoate state..." [OT:THTO, 181,182]

The text itself seems to suggest that the place already has disease and death (e.g., widows) although the lines are translated differently by different translators. It is said to be 'pure, clean, bright', but we should notice that (a) this by itself doesn't quality as 'paradise'--especially if there's no drinking water; and (b) Genesis never uses ANY of these terms to describe the Garden.

The overall effect of the images of birds who make no normal noises, of the sick who don't cry out, of the predators who do not hunt is one of inactivity or lifelessness -- not of harmony and vibrancy. The picture is not one of 'lack of violence': there is no relationship of bird sounds to inter-species harmony... So, it seems even questionable to call it a 'paradise', much less the exemplar for the verdant, robust, pleasurable, shade-filled Garden of Eden.

Two. The plant episodes, god-birthing, and rib-punning doesn't actually take place in Dilmun (the alleged paradise).

"The linkage between the first [story, lines 1-64] and the second story [lines 65ff, where the rib incident takes place] in the composition is, as mentioned, very loose. Ninsikila's city and its waters are lost sight of completely, and so probably, is Dilmun; for the scene of the second story is most naturally seen as the marshes in southern Mesopotamia. Thus, essentially, there remains as link merely the identity of the chief characters in the two stories, Enki and Ninsikila, and even that identity, at a closer look, is questionable." [OT:THTO, 182]

Three. One of the dominant elements in the Genesis account is the Tree of Life, and there is no counterpart to that in E&N, nor in ANY of the alleged antecedents:

"In commentaries on Genesis, in books on comparative religion, and in publications of Mesopotamian seals we meet again and again with the Tree of Life in Mesopotamian myth and religion...But was there really such a thing in Mesopotamia?...[After looking at all the proposed identifications and finding a lack of evidence to support them:] In short, there is no evidence that there was a Tree of Life in Mesopotamian myth and cult. The identification of different trees on Mesopotamian seals as a Tree of Life is a pure hypothesis, a product of pan-Babylonianism which wished to trace all Old Testament religious and mythological concepts back to Mesopotamia. As already noted, there is no Sumerian or Akkadian expression 'Tree of Life'." [Sjoberg,"Eve and the Chameleon", in In the Shelter of Elyon (Barrick and Spencer, eds), p221]

Four. As the reader should have noticed, this story is about the (incestuous and anatomically graphic!) sexual adventures and misadventures of a Mesopotamia deity. It is not about creation of man and woman, not about humanity's fall, not about humanity's expulsion from the Garden, not about the punishment/curses on humanity as a consequence of moral failure, etc. Its themes (and values!) bear no resemblance to Genesis 2-3. It is difficult in the extreme to imagine a Genesis author wanting to allude to such a work, in the sober and somber account we have in Genesis.

Five. There is not even enough similarity to suspect 'borrowing for repudiation'! (E&N would have had to have been about the creation of man and women, the Fall, the expulsion, etc. for there even to be a reason for repudiation!).

Sixth. The theological discontinuities are obvious and extreme: polytheism, levels of deities, deities being born, deities deceiving one another, moral turpitude of the gods, powerlessness and sickness of deities, gross anthropomorphism (literally, in this case!), deities getting other deities drunk so they can have sex with them (Jacobsen: "Uttu, when she hears what Enki has brought her, happily opens the door to him and lets him in. Once in, Enki, apparently celebrating the occasion, gets Uttu drunk on beer and then takes her by force." [OT:THTO,p.184]).

Seventh. It is sometimes claimed that the 'painless birth' of the goddesses form the backdrop against which to understand the (alleged) curse of painful childbirth on Eve. However, this cannot be the case, because Mesopotamian women all knew that goddesses were not exempt from labor pains. In fact, when they went into labor, they recited a myth believed to help them: "A myth called The Cow of Sin [tn: Sin was a god] was recited; the story was about the Maid-of-the-Moon-god (the moon god's consort in the shape of a cow), who also had a difficult delivery until Anu, the head of the pantheon, anointed her with oil and 'waters of labor pangs' (that is, amniotic fluid). The myth ended with the following incantation: 'Just as Maid-of-the-Moon-god gave birth easily, so may the maid having difficult delivery give birth.'" [OT:DLAM, p. 129]. The ease of birth in E&N (assuming that is what it means) would then be an exception to normal 'backdrop' expectations, and therefore NOT form a 'backdrop' for Genesis 2-3.

Eight. Practically speaking, IF I WERE the skeptic (smile), I wouldn't try to use the city and the marshland of E&N as the supposed backdrop/exemplar for the Garden--the connections are just gossamer at best. Instead, I would go after the image of Royal orchards/gardens, laden with ideology, imagery, completeness, and fitting much closer the description of the Garden (hint, hint). That would pose a more difficult objection than E&N by far (to give you a head-start, since it will take me a while to finish this series (smile), see M. Novak's "The Artificial Paradise: Programme and Ideology of Royal Gardens", in [WS:SGANE:II, pp443ff].)

There are so many minor differences that could be noted, but the combination of the present-in-Genesis-but-not-in-ENKI-etc. list above, and this list of major, deep, pervasive differences should be enough to demonstrate that borrowing is (a) not obvious; (b) unproven; and (c) difficult to defend.


This was our 'test case' but we don't actually need to assess how the 'parallels' stack up against the criteria delineated above---we didn't find any serious parallels to evaluate. [We will have to do so for other, better-for-borrowing myths like Enuma Elish and Atrahasis, but the objector threw us an 'easy one' this]

So, at least for the items mentioned in the original objection (e.g., rib, plants, paradise, mother of life) they do not stand up to scrutiny as being parallels, much less being 'close parallels with similar underlying ideas and details', and even less being evidence of borrowing by the Genesis author. Other texts will require more detailed analysis, but Enki and Ninhursag is one in which the offered parallels vaporize under the slightest amount of scrutiny...

On to the next...(gilgy01.html),




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