- The cosmogony of the Jews, as recorded in Genesis, was mainly borrowed from the Babylonians. According to A. H. Sayce, the creation myth that it embodies arose at Eridu, a town on the Persian Gulf. Here, he says in the Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, “the land was constantly growing through disposition of silt, and the belief consequently arose that the earth had originated in the same way. The water of the great deep accordingly came to be regarded as the primordial element out of which the universe was generated. The deep was identified with the Persian Gulf, which was conceived as encircling the earth.” In Genesis 1, 2, the Spirit of God moves “upon the face of the waters, “before there is anything else, even light. Not only are fish precipitated from their substance, but also “fowl”… and “great whales,”… Man himself appears to be watery, too, for, though in the next chapter he is represented as formed “of the dust of the ground,” it is explained that just previously “there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” This is a palpable echo of the Babylonian Gilgamesh legend, wherein Ebani, the first man, is fashioned of clay by the Goddess Ishtar.
- The Garden of Eden is also plainly Babylonian, for one of its rivers, the Euphrates, bears a Babylonish name, and another, the Hiddekel (no doubt the Tigris) is said to run “toward the east of Assyria.” The Babylonians, whose notions of life after death were of the vaguest, believed that there was an earthly Paradise somewhere to the northwest of their country. In it, those mortals who were lucky enough to gain entrance dwelt with the gods, just as Adam dwelt with Yahweh in Eden, and from it flowed the four rivers that watered the earth. The very name of Eden seems to have been Babylonian, for in that language edina signified a pleasant plain. The Jews also got the Flood legend from the Babylonians, though in one form or another it was common throughout the East.
- The prodigious ages of the patriarchs, as given in Genesis v… show Babylonian influence, though here the Jews seem to have tempered imitation with a considerable moderation. To match Methusaleh, who lived 969 years, there were kings of Ur who reigned for 28,800, 36,000 and even 43,200 years!
- The Flood legend is common to all parts of the world save only Africa, and even there it is occasionally encountered. …The gods usually send the obliterating waters because man has become hopelessly wicked, but occasionally they do so for a trivial reason. …The fable of the Fall of Man is also widespread, and nearly always, as in Genesis, it is based upon a violation of taboo. The first man, forbidden to go into some area reserved for their pleasure, or to bath in a certain pool, or to kill a certain animal, or catch a certain fish, does so notwithstanding, and is immediately doomed to suffer disease, famine and death.
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