A Brief History and Critique of the Academic Search (1854-2010) for the Pre-biblical origins of the Serpent who could walk and talk to man in the Garden of Eden via parallels appearing in Ancient Near Eastern Myths and “Why” the Hebrews blamed a walking, talking Serpent for man’s removal from a God’s garden in Eden.
Part Two (Please click here for Part One)
06 November 2008 (Revisions through 15 May 2016)
To buy my book Eden’s Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origins click here
Mesopotamian Myths Hebrew myth
about Serpents (ushumgals) removing “man” about a Serpent causing man’s removal
from gods’ gardens in the Edin/Eden for rebellion. from a god’s garden in Eden for rebellion.
The uncultivated plain lying in Sumer which is A region called Eden is watered by
watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
called by the Sumerians edin.
The gods create city-gardens to provide food for God plants a garden in a location called Eden and
their sustenace. These gardens lie in or are it possesses not only fruit trees but wheat as well,
surrounded by uncultivated land called the edin. for Adam is told he will grow his “bread” by the sweat
These gardens possess fruit trees: apples, dates, of his brow after his removal from Eden’s garden. Figs,
figs, pomegranates as well as wheat and barley. dates, apples and pomegranates are understood by
some scholars to be grown in the Garden of Eden.
The gods tiring of the grievous labor in maintaining God creates man (Adam) and places in in his
their gardens create man to do their work. He will grow garden in Eden to care for it on his behalf. The
the gods’ food and present it to them in temples. garden will provide food for man.
The junior gods called the Iggi were tasked with “Man” (Adam and Eve) is removed from God’s
caring for the senior gods (the Anunnaki) garden of edin. garden for an act of rebellion.
They rebel and threaten to kill their masters who give
them no rest from toil day or night for 40 years at Nippur.
The Igigi are euphemistically called “man” because they
endured hard agricultural toil like man.
The god of Nippur, Enlil, asks Enki of Eridu to A serpent that can walk and talk is blamed for:
end the rebellion. Enki and Enlil accept (1) Causing man to rebel against God and (2) causing blame for the rebellion by “man” (the Igigi). man to be removed from the Garden of Eden for this
Enlil and Enki remove “man” (the Igigi) from act of rebellion by his God.
the garden and create “man” (humans) to do
the work of the Igigi. Enlil and Enki both bear the
Sumerian epithet ushumgal meaning “great serpent”
or “great serpent-dragon.”
“Man” (the Igigi) was removed from a god’s garden “Man” (the Igigi) has been recast into “Man” (Adam
because “man” rebelled against a god. The rebellion was and Eve). The ushumgals who were to blame for the
caused by two ushumgals (Enlil and Enki) who refused to (1) rebellion and (2) removal of “man” (the Igigi) have
end the exploitation of “man” (the Igigi). The two ushumgals been recast into Eden’s serpent who is held liable for
remove “man” (the Igigi) from their garden because (1) Adam’s rebellion and (2) Adam’s removal.
“man” rebelled against them at Nippur and at Eridu.
“Man” (Humans) are _never_ portrayed as rebelling The Hebrews, apparently objecting to the Sumerian
against their gods and being expelled from the gods’ notion that the gods created man to be their slave to
gardens of edin. The only “man” being expelled from give themselves a rest from earthly toil, inverted the
the gods’ gardens of edin for an act of rebellion is the myths. God loves man, he made the Garden of Eden
Igigi gods. Two gods, Enki of Eridu and Enlil of to provide food for man not God. God created man
Nippur are held as blameable for inciting “man” to not to be a servile slave, but to be a ruler, to take
rebel in their gardens and they are also responsible for dominion over the earth and all its creatures (Ge 1:26).
“man’s” (the Igigi) removal from their garden. Enki and
Emlil both bore the epithet ushumgal, “great serpent”
or “great serpent-dragon.” Man is a slave of the gods.
Agricultural toil is grievous for man because it was Agricultural toil was _not_ grievous for man (Adam)
earlier grievous for the Igigi gods in the Anunnaki in God’s garden of Eden. It was grievous _after_ his
gods’ gardens of edin at Eridu and Nippur. removal from the Garden of Eden.
Ea who denied man (Adapa) immortality by lying Eden’s serpent is famous for being a subtil/subtle
to him with “subtle words” is a recast of the god creature who sought to deny man immortality in
Enki who bore the epithet ushumgal, “great serpent.” Christian belief. Its wily words ensnared a naive Eve
Ea/Enki misrepresented the intent of Anu, Dumuzi and thereby ultimately Adam.
and Ningishzida who sought to confer immortality
on man with the bread and water of life, telling the
man he would die if he consumed these items.
So a “great serpent” (Enki/Ea) conned man, to
prevent him obtaining immortality.
Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi urge man (Adapa) Eden’s serpent urges the eating of forbidden food,
to eat forbidden food which his god Ea told him and it is portrayed as being able to talk to man,
would cause his death if consumed. They “play and it has legs to walk upon.
the part” of Eden’s serpent who urged the
eating of forbidden fruit. Ningishzida in art can
assume the form of a human or a walking four
legged, winged and horned serpent-dragon while
Dumuzi was called ushumgal “great serpent” and
was transformed into a serpent to escape the ugalla
demons who sought his life at his sheep stall in edin.
Shamhat of the Epic of Gilgamesh ate bread “first” Shamhat has been recast as Eve who urged Adam to
long before Enkidu did as she was a city-dweller. to eat forbidden food. Adam is a recast and fusion of
In the edin she urges Enkidu to eat food (bread) Enkidu and Adapa of the Adapa and the Southwind
forbidden him as a naked wild beast of edin the steppe myth.
(edin being the Sumerian logogram being used at
times in the Epic of Gilgamesh as a shorthand The edin in which Enkidu ate forbidden food at a
rendering of Akkadian seru or seri, tseri). woman’s (Shamhat’s) urging has been recast as Eden.
He receives a set of clothes after eating the food
forbidden to the wild animals of edin growing in the
gods’ city-gardens or fields at Uruk.
Shamhat and Enkidu who were naked as they engaged in Adam and Eve’s clothing of their nakedness in Eden
sex with each other for 6 days and seven nights in edin and leaving Eden’s garden is a clothed state recalls
clothe themselves before leaving edin to live in Uruk. the clothing of Enkidu and Shamhat before leaving edin.
In the edin neither Enkidu or Shamhat were embarassed Before eating of the “forbidden fruit” Adam and Eve
about their nakedness as they engaged in sex for exhibit no embarassment over their being naked, just
six days and seven nights at edin’s watering hole. as Enkidu and Shamhat were not embarassed.
Shamash the sun-god is portrayed a being favorable Yahweh-Elohim is outraged that a naked man and
of naked Enkidu learning it is wrong to be naked in woman have clothed themselves for this means they
edin after his exposure to a naked woman (Shamhat) know it is wrong to be naked and have rebelled against
at edin’s watering hole for he upbraids Enkidu for him and eaten of the forbidden tree of knowledge of
cursing the woman who gave him a fine robe to cover good and evil.
his nakedness. Shamash does not expell the In a rage Yahweh has man and woman expelled from
clothed man and woman from edin, they leave of his Garden in the Eden.
their own free will for a better life in Uruk.
Man’s purpose in life is to be a slave toiling in God created man and placed him in his garden in Eden
the gods’ gardens of edin for ever, never to be to care for it on his behalf. God removed man from his
released from this bondage, for his slavery gives garden for rebellion, but one day he will allow man back
the gods their shabbat rest from toil for all into his garden of Eden and a life of bliss with no toil.
eternity. The gods will _never_ remove_ man God _intended_ that man would “always remain” in his
from their gardens in edin. Man’s lot is to garden of Eden, his removal is just “temporary.” After
toil in edin’s gardens till death brings him a death, man will be restored to eden’s garden and a life
release from the grievous toil. free of grievous toil.
After a lifetime of grievous toil in the gods’ city- The Sumerian notion that all men (good and evil) will
gardens in edin/eden man, after death, winds up after death, wind up in edin-the-underworld has been
spending the rest of eternity in the underworld recast by Judaism, Christianity and Islam via a “twist”
which was euphemistically called edin, dwelling into a paradise called Eden set aside for the righteous
with its god Nergal and apparently still remaining dead and denied to the unrighteous dead. In both myths
a slave or servant of the gods. For the gods must the dead dwell in an edin/eden with a god as
eat and drink with man to sustain their lives in his servant (Nergal, the god of edin-the-underworld, being
edin-the-underworld (the dead’s food is clay transformed into Yahweh, Christ and Allah).
and their drink is muddy water). Nergal bore the
Sumerian epithet ushumgal “great serpent” or Christianity has Serpent-Dragon-Satan the ruler of
“dragon” and he is the “ruler” or “lord” of the the Underworld (Hell) who welcomes man (“sinners”)
Underworld called edin/eden. into his domain.
Enlil and Enki the gods of Nippur and Eridu in Genesis has “man” (Adam and Eve) being conned by a
Sumer are involved in man’s creation to replace a wily serpent in the Garden of Eden. Both fall for his
the rebelling Igigi gods as agricultural laborers deceiving words and they are consequently removed from
in their city-gardens of edin/eden. Both gods Eden’s garden for rebelling against God. I understand that
bore the epithet ushumgal meaning “great Enlil and Enki, the walking, talking ushumgals who
serpent dragon.” In two different myths a removed “man” (the Igigi) from their city-garden
god called ushumgal is held as responsible for (at Nippur and Eridu) for an act of rebellion replacing the
the removal of “man” (a euphemism for the Igigi) Igigi with “man” (humans) have been recast as Eden’s
from a god’s garden in edin/eden. The ushumgal serpent. These ushumgals deny man immortality-
at Eridu (Enki/Ea) denied man immortality by their eternal rest from earthly toil would be lost if man
conning him (Adapa), but allowed him to becomes a god, for gods do _not_ toil in the edin’s
possess “forbidden knowledge” against Anu’s gardens, only man the mortal slave does.
wishes. Man (Adapa) lost out on a chance to obtain To the degree that Christians understand that Eden’s
immortality for himself and for mankind because serpent is Satan (the Devil), I understand that Eden’s God
he was conned by an ushumgal at Eridu. The Eridu and Satan are but “alter-egos” of Enlil and Enki
and Nippur ushumgals being gods were able to the ushumgals of Nippur and Eridu who created man as
talk to man and they possessed legs to walk with. their agricultural slave and denied him immortality to
The fruit trees in the ushumgal’s city-gardens of obtain an eternal Sabbath Rest from toil upon the earth for
edin were tended by “man” (the Igigi) whom they themselves as well as the Anunnaki and Igigi gods.
later removed for rebellion.
Enlil sends a Flood to destroy man and Enki Genesis has one God sending a Flood and warning one
intervenes to spare a remnant to repopulate man called Noah to save the seed of man and animalkind
the earth by having Atra-Khasis build a boat and for new post flood beginning by building a boat to escape
stock it with the seed of man and animalkind. the Flood. Enlil and Enki have been fused together and
In otherwords, two gods who both bore the recast as Yahweh-Elohim.
Sumerian epithet ushumgal worked at cross Christians understand Serpent Satan seeks to deny man
purposes regarding man’s annihilation. God’s offer of a Sabbath Rest, just as the two ushumgals
Both ushumgals wanted to preserve a Sabbath Enlil and Enki denied man entry into the gods’ Sabbath
Rest for themselves vis-a-vis man’s Rest from earthly toil.
creation, destruction, and post Flood survival.
The “surprise” here, _for me_, in all this research is that some of the pre-biblical Mesopotamian protagonists who were fused together and assimilated to Eden’s serpent were also the pre-biblical protagonists of Eden’s God, Yahweh-Elohim.
Another “surprise” for me was Tennant’s penetrating observation back in 1903 that Eden’s serpent and Eden’s God appeared to be recasts of the god Ea appearing in the Adapa and the South Wind. That is to say as early as 1903, over 100 years ago, some scholars had realized that certain motifs and actions assimilated to Eden’s serpent and God were earlier ascribed to Ea of Eridu (the same can be said of the god Anu in the Adapa Myth, in that like Eden’s serpent he offered man forbidden food, and like God gave man a change of clothing before having him removed from his presence and abode).
Ea “played the part of Eden’s Serpent” to the degree that he allowed Adapa to obtain forbidden knowledge against Anu’s wishes but Ea did not play the part of a “Tempter.” It was Anu, Gishzida and Tammuz who played the part of Eden’s Serpent as a “Tempter” in that they urged Adapa to eat forbidden food, but they were _not_ successful “Tempters” as he refused to disobey his god’s warning.
Ea also plays the part of Eden’s god in that he issued the warning “do not eat or you will die,” a statement attributed to Eden’s God Yahweh-Elohim.
Anu also plays the part of Eden’s God in that he (1) was upset that man had obtained forbidden knowledge, (2) he summoned man into his presence to account for his actions which he took offense with, (3) he gave man a change of clothes before having man (4) removed from his presence and abode and (5) returned to his earth (6) thereby denying man any further chance to obtain immortality by an act of eating.
Remember the Latin Motto: e pluribus unum: “from many, one.” The Hebrews have not only taken the many gods and goddesses of Mesopotamia and assimilated their feats and epithets to _one_ God, they have also transferred feats and epithets of many different protagonists in the Mesopotamian myths and fused them together creating new mythological characters as for instance Eden’s serpent assimilating motifs originally associated with Ea, Enlil, Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi.
Christians understand that Eden’s serpent is Satan who is called a dragon, serpent, and devil in the book of Revelation and the epithet ushumgal can be variously translated as great-serpent, serpent-dragon or dragon:
Revelation 20:2 (Revised Standard Version)
“And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…”
I understand that the ushumgals Enki and Enlil are also prototypes of Eden’s god Yahweh-Elohim. Enlil (like Yahweh) sends a flood to destroy mankind. Enki (like Yahweh warned Noah) warns one man variously called Ziusudra, Atra-Khasis, or Utnapishtim, to build a boat and stock it with the seed of man and animal kind for a new post-flood beginning. I understand that Satan (the great serpent-dragon of heaven, the earth, and underworld) and Yahweh are but alter-egos of these two ushumgals who caused man to be created and placed in their gardens in the midst of the edin in order to serve them for all of eternity and who later were involved in a flood who’s intent was the destruction of mankind. Like Yahweh-Elohim these two ushumgals rested on a seventh day after man’s creation. Please click here for my article on the pre-biblical origins of the Hebrew Shabbat (Sabbath) being a recast of motifs associated with the Mesopotamian myth about a worldwide flood in the Epic of Atra-Khasis and the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Professor Sayce (1902) understood that Ea of Eridu caused man to learn of laws and moral codes, to the degree that Eden’s serpent stated that God did not want Adam and Eve to know of good and Evil suggests Yahweh was denying mankind knowledge of a moral nature:
“Eridu…seat of the Chaldean god…Ea…had there his temple, and it was there that he taught the first inhabitants of Babylonia all the elements of civilization, writing down for them the laws they should obey, the moral code they should follow…he was…the all-wise god…and creator of man. He had made man like a potter, out of the clay…it was at Eridu that the garden of the Babylonian Eden was placed…”
(pp. 262-263. A. H. Sayce. The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia: The Gifford Lectures. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. 1902, 1903)
Conclusions and critiques of earlier scholar’s proposals 1854-2010:
I am in the debt of the scholars who’s names appear in this article: all of them _correctly_ realized that Eden’s serpent was probably a recast of an earlier protagonist or protagonists in some earlier ancient Near Eastern myth(s) and I share their conviction on this point.
Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1854) is the “first” scholar _that I am aware of_ to propose that Ea (his Hea or Hoa) was the pre-biblical protagonist that was later transformed by the Hebrews into Eden’s serpent. Because he rendered Ea as Hea (and Hoa) he thought it might be a cognate of Arabic hiya meaning “serpent” and “life.” He was wrong on both points. Modern scholars understand the rendering is not Hea but Ea and it is pronounced aya or ayya; it means “house of water” (e=house, a=water). In 1876 George Smith of the British Museum in London challenged Rawlinson, stating that no cuneiform inscription existed identifying Hea with a serpent. Nevertheless, Rawlinson did _correctly_ note that Hea was associated with wisdom and knowledge and similar motifs were ascribed to Eden’s serpent. So, Henry was wrong about Hea being a cognate of hiya invalidating the serpent association. My own research reveals that Ea in his earlier Sumerian form as Enki, “lord of the Earth,” (en=lord, ki=earth) bore the Sumerian epithet usumgal meaning either “great serpent,” or “great serpent-dragon” or “dragon” and it is via this epithet that Ea becomes associated with Eden’s walking talking serpent for me. So Henry was right, Ea is indeed a prototype of Eden’s serpent, but for the wrong reason, Hea not being associated with hiya.
Professor George Rawlinson (1858, 1862) _correctly_ identified Ea as a prototype of Eden’s serpent apparently citing his brother Henry’s 1854 research. He (or Henry) noting that Ea was presented as a god of wisdom and knowledge and he bestows these on mankind in myths. Eden’s serpent also sought to bestow wisdom and knowledge on mankind. Leick has noted that excavations at Tell Abu Shahrein (ancient Eridu), the main temple of Ea (Enki) uncovered clay coils deposited beneath the main altar resembling serpents and has suggested serpents may have been worshipped. This would seem to align somewhat with Rawlinson’s notion if they do indeed represent Ea/Enki:
“Beneath the pavement of the nave, directly below the ‘altar’, were a number of curious snake-like clay coils some 30 to 40 centimetres long. These may have had something to do with an underworld cult.”
(p. 7. “Digging Up Eridu.” Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2001, 2002)
Fergusson (1868), a Fellow of the Royal Society, London, who’s expertise was Indian mythology, noted Henry C. Rawlinson had identified Eden’s serpent with Hea and that Hea was probably cognate with Arabic hiya meaning “serpent” and “life.” I have addressed this erroneous Hea=Hiya identification under Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, above.
Smith (1876) who was a remarkable “self-trained layman,” _correctly_ surmized that Eden’s serpent was probably a recast of an earlier Mesopotamian protagonist. He suggested the female serpent-dragon, Tiamat, personifying the salty sea, who sought the destruction the gods, her children, was behind Eden’s serpent who sought mankind’s destruction. I do not see a strong association of the Edenic serpent’s actions with Tiamat. She does not dwell in a god’s garden in the edin. She does not attempt to deny man immortality. She does not misrepresent a God’s warning to primal man as being false. Her only association is that she does embody the powers of chaos and of death in that she seeks to destroy the gods her children who have rebelled against her and slain her husband, Abzu/Apsu who personifies the fresh water ocean the earth floats upon. She is “demonic” and to be feared, but she has _no_ direct or _indirect_ involvement with denying man immortality.
Reynolds (1878) thought Tiamat, “the dragon of the sea,” was Eden’s serpent prototype. I disagree, cf. above my critique of Smith’s views.
Ward (1881) with great caution suggested Tiamat, if she was behind the book of Revelation’s portrayal of Micheal the archangel fighting in heaven Satan who is called a serpent and dragon, noting that Marduk of Babylon fights Tiamat the serpent-dragon. Ward did acknowledge Tiamat had no tempter of man role in the texts hence his cautionary remarks. He correctly surmised that future excavations would uncover a tempter story and this hunch was realized in 1888 with the discovery the Adapa and the South Wind Myth at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt. As noted correctly by Ward, Tiamat is not portrayed tempting man, and for this reason I reject her as being in part what is behind Eden’s Tempter-Serpent.
Sayce (1887) _correctly_ proposed that some Mesopotamian protagonist had been transformed into Eden’s serpent. He proposed that a goddess called Nina, a daughter of Ea (Enki) was a serpent-lady who became Eden’s serpent. If Sayce’s Nina is Inanna/Inana, who in some myths _is_ called Enki’s daughter, is who he is speaking about, he is partially correct in that Inanna did bear the epithet ushumgal “great serpent.” But this is a”weak” association in my view. The strongest associations are the offering of forbidden food by Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth.
Contra Sayce Professor Jastrow (1893) understood that Nina’s name ideographically identified her as being a “fish-goddess” _not_ a snake-goddess:
“Nina. A goddess…whose name is plausibly conjectured to be read nina. The compound ideogram expressing the deity signifies ‘house of the fish’…the ideogram would be the equivalent of our ‘Fishtown’…In the incantation texts, Nina is frequently appealed to as the daughter of Ea, the god of the deep. This relationship, as well as the interpretation of the ideogram above set forth, points to the original character of the goddess as a water-deity.”
(pp. 63-64. “Nina.” Morris Jastrow. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. Boston, New York, Chicago, London. Ginn & Co. 1893. Reprinted by the Dodo Press. The United Kingdom)
Jensen (1890) suggested that the Gilgamesh serpent might lie behind Eden’s serpent. The problem as noted by Professor Davis (1894) was that this serpent is not portrayed as having the power of speech and using subtle words to deny man immortality.
Ryle (1890-91) suggested Eden’s serpent as man’s and God’s enemy was a recast of Tiamat who was called “the enemy of the gods.” Tiamat is not portrayed as conning man out of chance to obtain immortality, or enticing man to eat forbidden food, so I doubt there is any relationship with Eden’s serpent.
Bodington (1893) thought Mummu-Tiamat was Eden’s serpent prototype. Cf. above for why I diagree.
Boscawen (1895) Thought Tiamat’s ability to talk and cast spells explained Eve’s statement that a serpent had beguiled her. This is an interesting observation not made by other proponents of Tiamat being behind Eden’s serpent. Yet Tiamat does not try to tempt a man or a woman into eating forbidden food, so I do not see an association here with Eden’s serpent.
Cobb (1895) following Henry C. Rawlinson thought that behind Eden’s serpent was Hea/Ea. I hve noted the problem of equating Hea with Arabic Hiya.
Palmer (1897) thought Eden’s serpent is a recast of Tiamat and Ea who came to be associated as being a serpent because he dwells in a watery abyss which is personified as Tiamat the great serpent-dragon. I do not see a strong relationship between Eden’s serpent and Tiamat. While I do understand that Ea is one of several protagonists behind Eden’s serpent, this association arises from Ea’s role in the Adapa and the South Wind myth which Reverend Palmer does not discuss. So Palmer was right, Ea is indeed a pre-biblical prototype of Eden’s Serpent, but for the wrong reasons (his alleged association with Tiamat).
Jastrow (1898) who was not only a Professor of Semitic Languages but also a Rabbi, thought that Rabbinical traditions of Eden’s serpent symbolizing “sexual passion” might be a link to Enkidu’s “sexual passion” for Shamhat. I find this proposal to be very unsatisfactory. The serpent that robs Gilgamesh of rejuvenation by eating a herb has a stonger association as noted by Batto, Clifford, and Ziolkowski. Jastow realized that several motifs in the Adapa and South Wind myth appeared in Genesis’ account of why man (Adam) lost out on a chance at immortality but he failed to identify any of these motifs specifically with Eden’s serpent (cf. pp. 475-484). In 1899 Jastrow proposed Saidu/Sadu the hunter and Ukhat/Shamhat as being behind Eden’s serpent tempter in that Saidu _used_ Ukhat/Shamhat to tempt or seduce Eabani/Enkidu away from his animal companions and accomplish his “Fall” and removal from the edin (like Eden’s serpent _uses_ Eve to accomplish Adam’s “Fall” and removal from Eden) and later Eabani blames them for his ultimate death, cursing both of them. Furthermore Jastrow attempted to associate Ukhat’s name with Hebrew Khawwa, Eve’s name in Hebrew, tying the Hebrew name with serpents via a similar word in Aramaic and Arabic, hewa. If the tempting “forbidden fruit” originally was “sex” with Shamhat, I guess such an association is possible.
Zimmern (1901) realized that the dialogue between Eden’s serpent and Yahweh was an _antithesis_to_ the dialogue associated with Anu and Ea. He also noted Tiamat as a serpent-enemy of the gods. I am in agreement with Zimmern’s Anu and Ea analysis, but less so with Tiamat. Like others, Zimmern was apparently unaware that there were “four” protagonists in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth who were behind Eden’s serpent: (1) Anu, (2) Ningishzida, (3) Dumuzi and (4) Ea.
Cheyne (1902) proposed Ea as behind Eden’s serpent. I agree, but there were others too as noted above.
Tennant (1903) argued persuasively (for me) that Tiamat was not the pre-biblical prototype for Eden’s serpent, the Babylonian God Ea made a better model as noted by earlier scholars like Rawlinson, Lenormant, Gunkel, and Zimmern. My research supports this notion, Ea is indeed “one” of the pre-biblical models of Eden’s serpent. What these scholars missed was that Anu, Gishzida and Tammuz “played the part” of Eden’s serpent in that they urged Adapa to consume forbidden food.
Hastings (1906) thought the eaglet in the Etana myth had been recast as Eden’s serpent because it was described as being an Atar-khasis or ‘very clever’ creature just as Eden’s serpent had been described as being “very clever” or “subtle.”
I do not find Hastings’ novel proposal very convincing. The Eaglet does not attempt to persuade Etana (a man) to eat forbidden food, he persuades only his father (an eagle) not to eat the serpent’s young at the base of the tree (the serpent having eaten some of the eagle’s young in a nest in the same tree).
Mari (1908) _correctly_ identified Anu as playing the role of Eden’s Serpent. What he failed to realize was that Anu’s servants Gishzida and Dumuzi, in that they too “offered forbidden food” (on Anu’s behalf) to Adapa, also played the role of the serpent.
Sayce (1909) proposed Ea as behind Eden’s serpent. I agree, but there were others too as I have earlier noted.
Skinner (1910) _correctly_ noted that Ea of the Adapa and the South Wind Myth appeared to “play the role of Eden’s serpent” in that he was willing for man (Adapa) to possess forbidden knowledge (curses to overpower the south wind). Where Skinner “missed the boat,” _in my opinion_, was his failure to realize that Anu, Ningishzida (Gishzida in the South Wind Epic) and Dumuzi, to the degree that they offered man forbidden food, also “play the part of Eden’s serpent.” In other words, Skinner, in my estimation, had not cast his net “wide-enough,” there were four protagonists: (1) Ea, (2) Anu, (3) Gishzida/Ningishzida, and (4) Dumuzi, in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth who “played the part of Eden’s serpent” not just one (Ea).
Langdon (1915) thought Ninhursag had been a serpent-goddess who tempted man (Tagtug), who evolved into a temptress Eve and the tempter serpent of Eden. I do not find his analysis convincing. He did, however, realize that Adapa’s lost chance at immortality had been transformed by the Hebrews into Adam’s Fall and loss of immortality. Strangely, he failed to realize that Adapa had been tempted by Anu, Tammuz (Dumuzi) and Gishzida (Ningishzida) with forbidden food that would cause his death according to Ea and that this temptation had been recast by the Hebrews into a serpent tempting Eve and thereby Adam. He also did not pick up on the serpent associations (as ushumgals) of Anu, Dumuzi and Ningishzida in other myths.
Pinches (1918) suggested the serpent-tempter might be a Babylonian called called variously Sakhan, Serakh or Gu-silim, an attendant of the god Ellil (Enlil) of Nippur. I do not see any strong parallels here. No doubt there were numerous snake-deities but the strongest partallel for me is the Adapa and the South Wind Myth and the gods who interacted with Adapa.
Albright (1919/1920) correctly perceived that behind Eden’s serpent lurked an earlier Mesopotamian protagonist. He suggested three protagonists (1) the Gilgamesh serpent, (2) Ea of the Adapa and South Wind myth, and Enki of the Uttu myth located at Dilmun. I have already expressed my reservations about the Gilgamesh serpent. I do agree that Ea of the Adapa myth was one of the protagonists that was recast as Eden’s serpent. As for Enki in the Uttu myth at Dilmun, I have reservations. The story which unfolds is how Enki rapes his daughter, grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter at Dilmun. There is nothing about a snake or serpent, and nothing about man being denied immortality. The only connection is that Enki after eating forbidden plants is cursed to die, his aching rib is cured by the goddess Nin-Ti, “lady of the rib” which also can be rendered “lady of life.” This is the possible connection to the Garden of Eden story and Eve as being made of Adam’s rib or side, but, again, nothing here about serpents. Enki did bear the epitheth usumgal “great serpent” or “dragon” and it is this epithet plus his role in the Adapa myth that associates him with Eden’s serpent for me.
Frazer (1926) _correctly_ surmized that Eden’s serpent was a recast of an earlier mythological protagonist, and suggested that it perhaps was the Gilgamesh serpent, who in turn was possibly a descendant of some protagonist in an earlier Sumerian myth, but he averred that ultimately the motifs had been borrowed from Africa via Egypt whom he thought had had contact with Sumer. Frazer’s notion that Egypt passed on to Sumer and Babylonia African motifs and myths is _not_ embraced today by most professional scholars versed in Sumerian archaeology and myths (and I concur). Frazer had stated that the original home of the Sumerians was unknown in his day (1926) but that is not the case today (2008). Archaeologists have determined that the settlers of Sumer appear to have been originally from the foothills of the Taurus and Zagros mountain ranges where the earliest Neolithic (New Stone Age) villages appear with irrigated gardens of the 12th-7th millenniums B.C. whereas the fertile plain of Lower Mesopotamia (ancient Sumer) appears to have been settled about the 6th-4th millenniums B.C. (the Ubaidian Culture). Frazer had nothing to say about Eden’s serpent being a recast of protagonists appearing in the Adapa and Southwind myth as noted by Skinner in 1910. He may not have been aware (?) of Skinner’s observations on Ea playing the role of Eden’s serpent by allowing man to possess forbidden knowledge.
Howey (1928) following Rawlinson (1854) noted Eden’s serpent might be Ea (Rawlinson’s Hea or Hoa). I agree.
Langdon (1931) _correctly_ identified Ningishzida and Dumuzi as pre-biblical prototypes of Eden’s Serpent, but he wrongly assumed, in my opinion, that these two were antagonistic toward man (Adapa) and did not want man to possess immortality. Where Langdon really “missed the boat,” for me, was his failure to forthrightly state that both Ningishzida and Dumuzi (as well as Anu) in offering man (Adapa) forbidden food, “played the role of” Eden’s serpent. Langdon also failed to note that Ea “played the part of Eden’s Serpent” in that he offered forbidden knowledge to man (Adapa).
Yahuda (1934) _is correct_ in assuming that Eden’s serpent is a recast of an earlier mythical protagonist in an Ancient Near Eastern myth. He “broke” with fellow-scholars by seeking the origins of Eden’s serpent not in Mesopotamian but in Egyptian myths. I do not find Yahuda’s arguments convincing. I have studied Egyptian myths and I do not see parallels with the Genesis story. The strongest parallels for reasons, given above, are Mesopotamian, _not_ Egyptian. For me, Yahuda “missed the boat” in attempting to find the pre-biblical origins of Eden’s serpent in Egyptian myths.
Geza Roheim (1940) “Tammuz and Ningishzida or Anu who offer the true food of life to Adapa are therefore the equivalents of the serpent in the Hebrew version.” (p. 4, Geza Roheim, PhD. “The Garden of Eden.” The Psychoanalytic Review, An American Journal of Psychoanalysis. Vol. 27, No. 1, January 1940. pp. 1-26 part one; and pp. 177-199, in part two, April 1940). I agree with Dr. Roheim. He was Jewish, born in Budapest, Hungary, was trained as an Anthropologist and Psychoanalyst. I would simply add that Ea is also behind Eden’s serpent as he provides forbidden knowledge to Adapa, upsetting Anu.
Campbell _correctly_ identified Enki (1959) and Ningishzida (1964) as prototypes of Eden’s serpent. His “weakness” was that he did not go into “enough depth” (for me) in drawing parallels between the actions and behaviors of Eden’s serpent and those of Ningishzida and Enki. He did not identify Enki/Ea with offering man (Adapa) forbidden knowledge and he did not point out that Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi “played the part of Eden’s Serpent in that they offered man (Adapa) forbidden food like Eden’s Serpent.
Graves and Patai (1963) _correctly_ noted that motifs drawn from the Epic of Gilgamesh and Adapa and the South Wind Myth appeared to have been recast and assimilated to Adam and Eve. They suggested that the Serpent’s warning to Eve about the forbidden food being misrepresented suggests to me they are speaking of Ea’s misrepresentation of Anu’s proffered food. That is to say, the Edenic Serpent’s “false” warning is a recast of Ea’s “false” warning. If I am understanding them correctly about Ea playing the role of Eden’s Serpent via a warning that constituted a misrepresentation, they “missed the boat” on identifying Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi playing the role of Eden’s Serpent in that they offered man (Adapa) forbidden food like Eden’s Serpent.
Brandon (1963) identified the Gilgamesh serpent as behind Eden’s serpent. For reasons already given I do not find the Gilgamesh serpent as fulfilling the tempter role. It does not tempt anyone and it has no power of speech.
Ringgren (1963) proposed that the Canaanite gods (appearing in texts at ancient Ugarit in Syria) El or Baal, might be what is behind Eden’s serpent. I do not find an association of serpents with either of these gods in the ancient texts, so I doubt they are what is behind Eden’s serpent.
Professor Mario Liverani (1982) noted that Ea, like Eden’s serpent, facilitates a man’s (Adapa’s) acquisition of wisdom and knowledge. I have no problem with this analysis. Liverani’s intent was not to identify Eden’s serpent’s pre-biblical protagonist.
Davies and Rogerson (1989) identified the Gilgamesh Serpent as the closest parallel to Eden’s serpent. I disagree, cf. below for why.
Several scholars, Batto (1992), Clifford and Rice (1994) and Ziolkowski (2000), _correctly_ surmised that some Mesopotamian protagonist had been transformed into Eden’s Serpent. They suggested that the serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh was recast as Eden’s Serpent. The “problem” I have with their proposal is that this serpent is not portrayed as offering forbidden food to man (Gilgamesh), nor is it portrayed as having the ability to walk and talk with man, nor does it misrepresent a god’s intentions in order to deceive man.The fact that it eats the magical food thus denying man youthful rejuvenation is not as strong a parallel (for me) as the food offered Adapa which would have given him immortality and Ea’s misrepresentation of Anu’s intentions. The forbidden food offered Adapa by Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi, seem (for me) to be closer parallels with Eden’s Serpent than the motifs associated with the Gilgamesh Serpent. Batto, Clifford and Ziolkowski “missed the boat” in limiting their proposal to to just one Mesopotamian protagonist: the serpent in the Epic of Gilgamesh. They failed to note Ea playing the role of Eden’s Serpent in that he offered man forbidden knowledge and misrepresented to man’s harm the true properties of the forbidden food. They also overlooked or failed to mention Anu, Ningishzida and Dumuzi and their playing the role of Eden’s Serpent in their urging man (Adapa) to consume forbidden food like Eden’s Serpent.
Kapelrud (1993) Suggested a Canaanite serpent god had been recast as Eden’s serpent. He did not idenitfy this god by name but noted serpents appear in the contexts of archaeological digs in ancient israel as motifs on pottery and other art forms, supposing a serpent cult existed. For reasons stated earlier, I understand that it is Mesopotamian gods who are behind Eden’s serpent, gods associated with ancient Sumer’s edin, _not_ a Canaanite serpent god or gods.
Carr (1996) noted in Genesis a serpent causes man to lose at a chance to obtain immortality while a snake denies Gilgamesh rejuvenation of life. I disagree, noting that motifs from the Adapa myth best fits the Edenic serpent’s actions. I am, however, in agreement with Carr’s proposal that Mesopotamian myths are being recast and refuted (his “counterwriting”) in the Garden of Eden account:
“..the non-P primeval history might be described as an originally independent Israelite “Atrahasis.” It retraces the creation-to-flood scope of the Atrahasis epic yet fills it with decisively new content. As such it is a counterwriting of its Mesopotamian counterpart…The Israelite non-P primeval story was hardly a repetition of Atrahasis. Instead, it used the overall outline and motifs of Atrahasis along with other traditions to offer a competing conceptualization of the divine-human relationship and the human condition. Indeed, at the conclusion of the non-P primeval history, in the tower of Babel story, one can detect an implicit anti-Mesopotamian polemic in this reconceptualization.”
(pp. 245-246. “The Earliest Reconstructible Precursors to Genesis.” David McClain Carr. Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster John Knox Press. 1996)
Coupe (1997) also proposed Tiamat and the Gilgamesh serpent “being of a type” that would later become Eden’s serpent.
Porter (1998) _correctly_ noted that Eden’s serpent was probably a more important being in an earlier myth that the Hebrews have “demythologized.” He noted the Gilgamesh serpent depriving Gilgamesh of restored youth and the demonic role ascribed to serpents in other myths. I agree with the “demonic,” “adversarial role” given serpents in various Near Eastern myths.
Brichto (1998) noted Shamhat’s words: “you are like a god” seemed to echo those of Eden’s serpent and that the Gilgamesh serpent was behind Eden’s serpent. I agree with his point about Shamhat, but find the Gilgamesh serpent wanting for reasons already given.
Walton, Matthews and Chavalas (2000) noted parallels with the Gilgamesh serpent and Ningishzida who could assume a serpent’s form. I agree with their Ningishzida proposal. They _correctly_ noted food bestowing immortality being proffered to man (Adapa). Being devout conservative Christian scholars they understandably would _not_ claim these two protagonists were recast as Eden’s serpent. Like so many other scholars they were apparently unaware of the serpent associations in other myths of Anu, Dumuzi and Ea (Enki) who were involved in denying man knowledge and immortality.
Ziolkowski (2000) argued that Eden’s serpent’s words to Eve, “You will be wise and like a god” seemed to be an echo of Shamhat’s words to Enkidu “You are wise and like a god.” He portrayed Shamhat as a “tempter” of Enkidu and Eden’s serpent is seen by many as a “tempter.” He understands Enkidu was a “trickster” and noted that Eden’s serpent is the “trickster.” He also thought the Gilgamesh serpent was behind Eden’s serpent, a notion I am in disagreement with for reasons already given.
Greenberg (2002) argued that Eden’s serpent was the fusion of two Egyptian gods, Set and Aphophis. I am familiar with the mythologies of both and do not see a strong association with Eden’s serpent. The strongest parallels are in the Mesopotamian Adapa and the South Wind myth.
Nigosian (2004) suggested that the Gilgamesh serpent was behind Eden’s serpent. I find this unlikely for reasons already given above.
Shinan and Zakovitch (2004, published first in Hebrew, later, in English in 2012) thought that behind Eden’s serpent was Isaiah’s Seraph, a flying serpent with human face, legs, hands and wings. They noted the Gilgamesh serpent denied man renewed life. I would disagree on both proposals seeing the Adapa and Enkidu myths as the real source behind the biblical story.
Mettinger (2007) portrays the Gilgamesh serpent as “cunning” and “deceiving” Gilgamesh, denying him longlife. He also noted Ea denying Adapa immortality but did _not_ declare Ea to be a prototype of Eden’s cunning, deceiving serpent. As noted above, earlier comments, I do not find the Gilgamesh serpent being the Edenic prototype.
Wood-Langford (2009) suggested Ningishzida (her Ningizzida) in the Epic of Gilgamesh might be the prototype behind Eden’s serpent. She is right about Ningishzida being recast as Eden’s serpent but for the “wrong” reason. How so? She understands that the pre-biblical serpent was an agent of the Ancient Near Eastern Mother Goddess. I disagree. It is because Gizzida offered Adapa forbidden food that he thought would cause his death that the association with Eden’s serpent exists. She is correct however in identifying Enkidu and Shamhat as being recast into Adam and Eve. Her great achievement for me was her realization that the Eden myth recalls from an anthropological point of view that moment in time when primitive man ceased to reason like an animal and came to develop a sense of right and wrong (biblical: good and evil), setting him on the road to civilization and the development of codified laws.
Professor Charlesworth (2010) has suggested a serpent-god has been recast into Eden’s snake (pp. 314-15). I disagree. For me, Eden’s serpent is not a snake which has been made into a god, its a god possessing a human form who bears the epithet ushumgal “great serpent” or “dragon.” True, some of these gods could assume serpent forms, Dumuzi being turned by Utu into a Sagkal snake and Ningishzida being portrayed at times as a serpent (serpent heads arsising from his shoulders). The serpent that became a serpent-god for Charlesworth seems to be for him the Gilgamesh snake, he noting it “possesses supernatural knowledge and has obtained the secret of everlasting life” (p. 294). I have reservations about this identification because it does not talk, it does not walk and it doesn’t try to deny man immortality with subtle words. Charlesworth was aware that earlier scholars (Cheyne  p. 296; Sayce  p. 666; Skinner  pp. 298-9) had associated Eden’s serpent with Ea but apparently did not find their arguments convincing? Charlesworth on the origins of Eden’s serpent in several myths:
“This is a folktale that must have had a long life in oral traditions…During its oral stage, the story grew and was enriched by Canaaanite culture that was shaped by Mesopotamia and Egypt. The influences on the author of Genesis 3 from the creation myths of non-Israelite cultures are certain and not limited to oral traditions. These were often shaped by earlier accounts and reached a literary stage; paramount among these would be the Gilgamesh epic. The Yahwist’s story is indebted to Akkadian, Canaanite, Egyptian, Hittite, North Arabian, and Ugaritic myths.” (p. 282)
Gardner (2010) proposed that Enki was Eden’s serpent, noting that he not only created man but also bestowed upon wisdom and knowledge which his brother-god, Enlil of Nippur objected to. I have no problem with this analysis. But overlooked by Gardner is the role of tempter serpent palyed by Anu, Ea, Gishzida and Dumuzi in the Adapa and South Wind Myth.
Mattfeld (2010) has suggested that ten protagonists appearing in various myths “play the part of Eden’s serpent”:
(1) Ea, as the Serpent misrepresented God’s warning and intent to Eve and Ea misrepresents Anu’s intent to Adapa. The Serpent in Christian belief sought to deny man immortality and Ea seeks to deny man immortality. The Serpent offered man forbidden knowledge and Ea allows Adapa to possess godly-forbidden knowledge (objected to by Anu). The serpent is held as culpable for inciting man to rebel and his removal for rebellion and Ea as an ushumgal or “great serpent” is culpable for inciting the Igigi (euphemistically called “man”) to rebel, and arranges for their removal from the irrigated gardens at Eridu and Nippur. (2) Gishzida (Ningishzida) of the Adapa and South Wind myth plays the part of Eden’s serpent in that he offered forbidden food to Adapa, which was supposed to take the man’s life. Ningishzida can asume a serpent-dragon form as well as human form like Christianity’s Satan.(3) Dumuzi plays the part of Eden’s Serpent in that he too offered man (Adapa) forbidden food that was supposed to cause his demise. Dumuzi also bore the epithet ushumgal “great serpent” or “dragon” and in one myth to escape his captors his bound hands and feet are taken away when he assumes a serpent form, recalling the loss of feet of Eden’s serpent. He also persuades the lady of edin, Inanna, to taste of “forbidden fruit” (have sex). (4) Anu plays the part of Eden’s Serpent in that he too offers forbidden food to Adapa which is supposed to take his life. Anu also plays the part of Eden’s serpent in that he asked Adapa “Why did you not eat?” Adapa recites Ea’s warning: “Do not eat, you will die.” In Genesis it is the serpent who asks Eve “Why don’t you eat?” And like Adapa Eve recites Yahweh’s warning: “Do not eat, you will die.” In other words Anu’s query has been recast as the serpent’s query and Adapa’s recitation has been recast as Eve’s recitation. In other myths (5) Enlil who bears the epithet ushumgal “great serpent” or “dragon” plays the part of Eden’s Serpent in that he is responsible for “man’s” rebellion (the Igigi being called “man” euphemistically) at Nippur and he is the cause of their removal from his garden for their act of rebellion, motifs associated with Eden’s Serpent who is blamed for inciting man to rebel and man’s removal from God’s garden in the Eden. (6) Marduk of Babylon bore the epithet ushumgal and he is responsible for removing the gods (apparently the Igigi gods who were called “man” in the Atra-Khasis myth) from edin’s fields replacing them with man the agricultural slave. (7) Inanna (Ishtar) plays the part of Eden’s Serpent in that she bears the epithet ushumgal and later Christian art has Eden’s serpent as possessing the torso of a woman and lower body of a serpent coiled about a tree (cf. the famous world-renowned Vatican Sistine Chapel painting by Michealangelo) and Inanna was called a “terrifying serpent-dragon” in Neo-Assyrian hymns. (8) Nergal, also called an ushumgal “great serpent” or “dragon,” in that he “anticipates” Christianity’s serpent-dragon in the book of Revelation who rules Hell: Satan, “that Old Serpent, Heavenly Dragon and the Devil.” (9) To the degree, in Christian thought, that Eden’s serpent _uses_ Eve to cause Adam’s “Fall” I am in agreement with Jastrow (1899) that Saidu the Hunter’s _use_ of Shamhat to cause Enkidu’s “Fall” is on target. That is to say Saidu/Sadu is one of several pre-biblical prototypes behind Eden’s serpent. Saidu is also one of several pre-biblical prototypes behind Eden’s God Yahweh-Elohim as both present a naked woman to Eden’s/Edin’s naked man (Enkidu/Adam) causing his “Fall” and “undoing.” (10) Shamhat, in that her words to Enkidu: “You are wise, and like a god” appear to have been reformatted and ascribed to Eden’s serpent who tells Eve “You will be wise and like a god” as noted by Brichto (1998) and Ziolkowski (2000) with whom I agree on this point.
Enki (Ea) is entrusted by An (Anu) with guarding the sacred me, the “totality of knowledge of Heaven and Earth” at his abzu abode the “dwelling of knowledge” at Eridu in Sumer. He fails twice: He allows a “man” (Adapa) to obtain forbidden knowledge: spells to overpower the southwind and he fails again in giving the sacred me to Inanna during a banquet he has arranged for her at Eridu, he being drunk at the time. He is unsuccessful and getting the me back from her and she accuses him of not being a man of his word for he swore that the me were to be hers for ever. Among the me Inanna (nin edin “the lady of edin”) obtained was “wisdom” and “decision-making.” This myth suggests that the gods did _not_ want man to have possession of forbidden knowledge about the “workings of Heaven and of Earth” (the sacred me), but a lady of edin (nin edin) Inanna (who ate of a tree to obtain knowledge) secured them thereby bestowing upon a grateful mankind forbidden knowledge about the “workings of Heaven and Earth” which which would improve man’s life and advance civilization. An ushumgal or “great serpent” (Enki/Ea) gave another ushumgal “great serpent” (Inanna/Ishtar) forbidden knowledge, the me which included “wisdom” and “decision-making.” The Hebrews, apparently, have recast the ushumgals of edin who were associated in varying degrees with denying and offering man forbidden knowledge and immortality, fusing them together and assimilating them to Eden’s serpent and Eden’s God, Yahweh-Elohim.
Professor Kramer on the me (pronounced may), the “totality of knowledge of heaven and earth,” reserved to the gods and denied “humankind” (Kramer’s mulu), which are kept at Enki’s (Ea’s) abzu dwelling (abzu meaning for some “dwelling of knowledge”) at Eridu in Sumer (modern Tell Abu Shahrain, 12 miles SW of Ur of the Chaldees, in Iraq):
“…the poet asserts that after human beings had multiplied, Enki brought them forth to his “house” and to his me that were in it, but then took away from the “house” the “me of life,” and fastened to his breast other me he had especially sought out. Moreover he then commanded that humankind (mulu) must not covet the me (lines 112-22)…”
“The river has teemed with teeming humankind.
He made them come out to them in the house,
the Master -to his me.
He made them come out to them,
the Master of the Abzu -to his me.
he made them come out to them in the house.
He took away the me of life from the house.
He hunted out,
he hunted out the me,
he fastened them about his chest.
Master he is of the plenteous me:
for his me the mulu must not long.
Enki of the plenteous me:
for his me the mulu must not long.
He must not long -the mulu must not long- for his me.
His command: “The mulu must not long for them.”
His order: “The mulu must not long for them.”
(pp. 76, 78. “The Enigmatic Enki.” Samuel Noah Kramer & John Maier. Myths of Enki, The Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989)
Eden’s serpent told Eve she would acquire wisdom like a god if she ate of the forbidden fruit, she is described as “desiring” (“coveting”?) wisdom, rather like humankind (the mulu) is not to covet the forbidden me.
Also of interest is the Bible’s association of articles of clothing being made to clothe Adam and Eve’s nakedness after their acquiring forbidden knowledge. Mention is made in some Mesoptamian accounts of a me-garment. If the me are the “totality of knowledge of Heaven and Earth” and are forbidden to man, was clothing at one time also forbidden man, recalling in some myths man at first is a naked beast of the edin and serves edin’s gods in a state of nakedness? Is there an ancient Sumerian motif about clothing and forbidden knowledge being recalled in Genesis? The forbidden me and a me-garment worn by a deity (Haia)?
Kramer on the archivist-god Haia, who serves the great gods, including Enki, wearing a me-garment:
“He [Haia] controlled the divine laws known as the me that governed princeship…held in his hand the plan of Enki’s “Sea-house” in Eridu, and attended to its lustration-rites, wearing the holy me-garment.”
(p. 45. Samuel Noah Kramer. “The Ur Excavations and Sumerian Literature.” pp. 41-47. Expedition. Fall. 1977. Publications of the Pennsylvania Museum)
“Lord who has perfected the lofty me…
Haia, who holds fast the great tablets,
who adds wisdom to wisdom…
The archivist of the palaces of
heaven and earth…”
(p. 46. Kramer. 1977)
“…me (pronounced “may”), the divine laws governing virtually every aspect of civilized life…”
(p. 47. Kramer. 1977)
The Bible purports to be providing God’s divine laws to mankind, laws about what constitutes good and evil, right and wrong and laws to govern human relations, the biblical equivalent of the Sumerian me. Adam and Eve are portrayed as having no knowledge of good and evil, recalling that animals have no sense of good and evil and are naked too. Only the gods in the beginning know of good and evil (they possessing the divine me) and only the gods wear clothing, not naked man and woman their agricultural servants.
Genesis 3:4-6 RSV
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate..”
The Hebrews appear to be taking motifs about the Sumerian gods denying to man, in the beginning, the knowledge that it is wrong to be naked, they also warn humankind not to covet their godly knowledge of the workings of heaven and earth, the divine laws behind the workings of the world and of civilization, recasting these motifs as the forbidden knowledge of good and evil being denied Adam and Eve by Yahweh-Elohim.
Scholars identifying parallels between ONE PROTAGONIST and Eden’s Serpent:
H. C. Rawlinson…………………Ea (Hea/Hoa/Enki) (1854)
G. Rawlinson……………. …..Ea (Enki) is behind Eden’s Serpent (1858, 1862)
J. Fergusson……………………..Ea (Hea) is behind Eden’s serpent following H. C. Rawlinson’s 1854 proposal (1868)
G. Smith:…………………………Tiamat, a female dragon personifying the salty sea (1876)
J. W. Reynolds:…………………Tiamat “the dragon of the sea” (1878)
W. H. Ward:……………………..Tiamat, with great reservation (1881)
A. H. Sayce:…………………….Nina, daughter of Ea of Eridu (1887)
P. C. A. Jensen: ……………….Gilgamesh Serpent possibly behind Eden’s Serpent (1890)
Alice Bodington:………………..Tiamat, “the dragon of the sea” is behind Eden’s Serpent (1893)
W. S. C. Boscawen:…………..Tiamat’s ability to talk explains Eve’s being beguiled by Eden’s Serpent (1895)
W. F. Cobb………………………Hea/Ea is Eden’s serpent, following H. C. Rawlinson’s Hea=Hiya.
M. Jastrow:………………………Enkidu’s sexual passion might be “the Serpent” (1898)
T. K. Cheyne…………………….Ea (1902)
J. Hastings……………………….Eaglet of Etana myth has been recast as Eden’s Serpent (1906)
F. Mari…………………………….Anu plays the part of Eden’s Serpent (1908)
A. H. Sayce………………………Ea (1909)
J. Skinner:………………………..Ea of Eridu (1910)
S. H. Langdon……………………The Sumerian mother-goddess Ninhursag (1915)
T. G. Pinches…………………….Babylonian snake-god variously called Sakhan, Serakh or Gu-silim at Nippur (1918)
J. G. Frazer:………………………The Gilgamesh Serpent (1926)
M. O. Howey……………………..Ea is the Edenic serpent (1928), following H. C. Rawlinson of 1854.
R. Graves and R. Patai:………..Ea of Eridu (1963)
S. G. F. Brandon………………..Gilgamesh serpent (1963)
M. Liverani………………………..Ea, like Eden’s serpent, facilitates a man’s acquistion of wisdom and knowledge (1982)
P. R. Davies & J. Rogerson:. ..The Gilgamesh Serpent (1989)
R. J. Clifford:……………………..The Gilgamesh Serpent (1992)
A. S. Kapelrud………………….A Canaanite serpent god (1993)
M. Rice:…………………………..The Gilgamesh Serpent (1994)
David M. Carr…………………….The Gilgamesh serpent? (1996)
S. A. Nigosian:………………….The Gilgamesh Serpent (2004)
T. N. D. Mettinger……………….The Gilgamesh Serpent (2007)
L. Coupe………………………….The Gilgamesh Serpent (2008)
E. Wood-Langford………………Ningishzida in the Epic of Gilgamesh (2009)
Laurence Gardner……………….Enki is Eden’s serpent (2010)
Scholars identifying parallels between TWO PROTAGONISTS and Eden’s Serpent:
A. S. Palmer…………………Tiamat and Ea (1897)
M. Jastrow, Jr………………. Saidu the hunter and Ukhat/Shamhat (1899)
S. H. Langdon:………………Ningishzida and Dumuzi (1931)
J. Campbell:……………….. Enki (1959) and Ningishzida (1964)
H. Ringgren…………………..El and or Baal (1966)
L. Coupe…………………….. Tiamat and the Gilgamesh serpent (1997)
H. C. Brichto:………………..Shamhat and the Gilgamesh serpent (1998)
Walton, Matthews, Chavalas…………….The Gilgamesh serpent and Ningishzida of the Adapa myth (2000)
G. Greenberg…………………Set and Aphophis of the Egyptian myths (2002)
A. Shinan, Yair Zakovitch….Isaiah’s Seraph and the Gilgamesh snake (2004)
J. H. Charlesworth…………..Gilgamesh serpent, and an un-identified serpent god (2010)
Scholars identifying MORE THAN TWO PROTAGONISTS as behind Eden’s Serpent:
H. Zimmern…………………Anu and Ea of the Adapa and the South Wind Myth and Tiamat (1901)
W. F. Albright………………Gilgamesh serpent, Ea of Adapa myth, Enki of the Uttu myth at Dilmun (1919/1920)
Geza Roheim……………….Tammuz, Ningishzida and Anu (1940)
B. F. Batto………………….The Gilgamesh serpent, a biblical Seraph (a fiery snake), and an Egyptian Uraeus-Cobra (1992)
T. Ziolkowski:………………The Gilgamesh Serpent, Shamhat the “temptress” and Enkidu “the trickster” (2000)
W. R. Mattfeld:……………(1) Anu/An; (2) Dumuzi/Tammuz; (3) Ningishzida/Gishzida; (4) Ea/Enki; (5) Enlil/Ellil;
(6) Marduk/Merodach; (7) Inanna/Ishtar; (8) Nergal as the equivalent of Satan “ruler” of Hell
(9) Saidu (Sadu) the Hunter; (10) Shamhat (Ukhat).(2010)
Where I as an amateur-scholar or “enthusiast” have _differed from_ the above scholars is that I have attempted to cast a “wider net” in seeking out motifs associated with Eden’s serpent by identifying a “greater number” of mythical protagonists and a greater number of scenarios from a “wider spectrum” of Mesopotamian myths.
I also have also attempted to explore in “greater depth” as many parallels as I could think of to establish possible relationships and associations between the pre-biblical protagonists which were fused together, transformed and recast as Eden’s Serpent.
It will be up to the reader, of course, to determine:
(1) How successful my efforts have been.
(2) If my proposals are of any scholarly merit: Are they plausible? Do they make sense?.
(3) If my proposals constitute a “worthwhile contribution” to the advancement of mankind’s collective knowledge on the subject.
Anticipating scholarly objections to my above proposals:
I have noted, above, that the Hebrews appear to have drawn from a wide spectrum of Mesopotamian myths as the motifs found in Genesis regarding Eden’s Serpent are scattered and not restricted to just one composition. Numerous scholars employing a Humanist, Rationalist, and Secular point of view have argued in the scholarly literature that the Hebrews in the book of Genesis appear to have drawn their ideas from a wide spectrum of Mesopotamian sources Sumerian and Babylonian.
One of the _major_ objections to the Bible’s “extensive” borrowing from and recasting of motifs found in Mesopotamian literature is noted by Professor Millard. My reply to Millard’s objection would be: “Just because we do not have an earlier extra-biblical example of an extensive recasting from a wide spectrum of Mesopotamian sources does not, ipso-facto, mean that the proposal is wrong and should be dismissed as unlikely.
“Did the Hebrews borrow from Babylon? Neither an affirmative nor a negative reply to the question can be absolutely discounted in the light of present knowledge. Reconstructions of a process whereby Babylonian myths were borrowed by the Hebrews, having been transmitted by the Canaanites, and “purged” of pagan elements remain imaginary. It has yet to be shown that any Canaanite material was absorbed into Hebrew sacred literature on such a scale or in such a way. Babylonian literature itself was known in Palestine at the time of the Israelite conquest and so could have been incorporated directly. The argument that borrowing must have taken place during the latter part of the second millennium B.C. because so many Babylonian texts of that age have been found in Anatolia, Egypt, and the Levant, cannot carry much weight, being based on archaeological accident. The sites yielding the texts were either deserted or destroyed at that time, resulting in the burial of “librarie” and archives intact. Evidence does exist of not inconsiderable Babylonian scribal influence earlier (e.g., at Alakah and Byblos).
However, it has yet to be shown that there was borrowing, even indirectly. Differences between the Babylonian and Hebrew traditions can be found in factual details of the Flood narrative…and are most obvious in the ethical and religious concepts of each composition. All who suspect or suggest borrowing by the Hebrews are compelled to admit large-scale revisionism, alteration, and re-interpretaion in a fashion which cannot be substaniated for any other composition from the Ancient Near East…If there was borrowing then it can have extended only so far as the “historical” framework, and not included intention or interpretation…The two accounts [Hebrew and Mesopotamian] undoubtedly describe the same Flood, the two schemes relate the same sequence of events. If judgement is to be passed as to the priority of one tradition over the other, Genesis inevitably wins for its probability in terms of meterology, geophysics and timing alone…In that the patriarch Abraham lived in Babylonia, it could be said that the stories were borrowed from there, but not that they were borrowed from any text now known to us.”
(pp.127-128. A. R. Millard. “Observations on the Babylonian and Hebrew Accounts Compared.” in his article “A New Babylonian “Genesis” Story.”pp. 114-128. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood,” Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994. ISBN 0-931464-88-9)
Heidel (1947) objected to scholars claiming that the Bible was indebted to earlier Mesopotamian literature and belief:
“…I reject the idea that the biblical account gradually evolved out of the Babylonian; for the differences are far too great and similarities far too insignificant.”
(p.138. Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1947, 1951. Second edition. Reprint 1993)
Scholars arguing for the Bible’s borrowing and recasting of earlier Mesopotamian motifs, scenarios, and beliefs:
Professor Samuel Noah Kramer on the Bible’s indebtedness to Sumerian literature (1956):
“Both in form and content, the Biblical books bear no little resemblance to the literatures created by earlier civilizations in the Near East…one can only marvel at what has been well termed “the Hebrew miracle,” which transformed the static motifs and conventionalized patterns of their predecessors into what is perhaps the most vibrant and dynamic literary creation known to man.
The literature created by the Sumerians left its deep impress on the Hebrews, and one of the thrilling aspects of reconstructing and translating Sumerian belles-lettres consists in tracing resemblances and parallels between Sumerian and Biblical motifs.”
(pp. 143-144. “Paradise. The First Biblical Parallels.” Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer: Twenty-seven “Firsts” in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor Books. 1959. First edition published by The Falcon’s Wing Press in 1956):
Professor Bernard F. Batto (1992):
“This book is about myth and mythmaking in the Bible…The thesis upon which this book is predicated is that myth is one of the chief mediums by which biblical writers did their theologizing. Rather than trying to read myth out of the Bible as many in the past have done, I intend to demonstrate that myth permeates virtually every layer of biblical tradition from the earliest to the latest. Texts from all periods and of virtually every literary genre reveal that biblical writers borrowed old myths and extended their meaning in novel ways for the purpose of expressing new theological insights…the so-called Primeval History (Genesis 1-11) is heavily dependent upon the mythic tradition of Mesopotamia.”
(pp. 1-2. “Introduction.” Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992):
Dr. Ewa Wasileska Ph.D. (2000):
“There is no doubt that Genesis and other parts of the Pentateuch borrowed heavily from the polytheistic traditions of the region…it is quite obvious that the Sumerian contributions to the continuous development of the Middle Eastern religious systems cannot be overlooked by anyone who wants to be an objective researcher of truth. They include, among others, such important concepts and symbols as…creation of the universe and humankind, universal deluge, existence of a paradise, a sacral tree, special relationship between snakes and women, and so forth.”
(pp. 25-26. “In Search of Foundation: The Sumerian Origin.” Ewa Wasilewska. Creation Stories of the Middle East. London & Philadelphia. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2000, reprint: 2005)
The observations by the following scholars regarding the Epic of Gilgamesh being a recast of earlier Sumerian stories suggests for me that the Bible’s writers (most specifically the Book of Genesis 1-11) are following along in the Mesopotamian tradition of crafting new stories via the recasting of earlier motifs and scenarios in earlier Mesopotamian compositions:
Professor Tigay on the Epic of Gilgamesh drawing from earlier unrelated compositions:
“The Gilgamesh Epic drew heavily upon Mesopotamian literary tradition. Not only did the author of the Old Babylonian version base his epic on older Sumerian tales about Gilgamesh, but he and the editors who succeeded him made extensive use of materials and literary forms originally unrelated to Gilgamesh.”
(p. 247. Jeffrey . Tigay. The Evolution of the Epic of Gilgamesh. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982)
Heidel on unrelated compositions being drawn from and reformatted by the Gilgamesh Epic:
“It has been long recognized that the Gilgamesh Epic constitutes a literary compilation of material from various originally unrelated sources, put together to form one grand, more or less harmonious whole…The composite character of our epic is thus established beyond any doubt.”
(p. 13. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
“The work of the Semites, however, did not consist simply in translating the Sumerian texts and combining them into one continuous story; rather, it constituted a new creation, which in the course of time, as indicated by the different versions at our disposal, was continually modified and elaborated at the hands of the various compilers and redactors, with the result that the Semitic versions which have survived to our day in most cases differ widely from the available Sumerian material.”
(p. 14. Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995)
Seow on earlier, unrelated compositions being brought together and given “new meanings” contrary to their original intents said observation, for me, explaining why Genesis possesses so many inversions of the earlier Mesopotamian myths, citing research by Tigay ( cf. J. H. Tigay. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982. And J. H. Tigay. The Gilgamesh Epic: Empirical Models For Biblical Criticism. Phildaelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1985)
Seow (Emphasis mine):
“…the Gilgamesh Epic. This text is important here inasmuch as it evidences the adaptation of earlier works of various genres, some of which are employed within their new literary context in a manner contrary to their original intent.”
(p. 285. C. L. Seow. “Qohelet’s Autobiography.” Astrid B. Beck. Editor. Fortunate The Eyes That See. [A Festshrift in honor of David Noel Freedman] Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1995)
Kramer’s observation on the Babylonian remolding of the Sumerian motifs _for me_ applies just as well to the later Hebrew “remolding” of the earlier Mesopotamian creation myths regarding man:
“To sum up: Of the various episodes comprising the Epic of Gilgamesh, several go back to Sumerian prototypes actually involving the hero Gilgamesh. Even in those episodes which lack Sumerian counterparts, most of the individual motifs reflect Sumerian mythic and epic sources. In no case, however, did the Babylonian poets slavishly copy the Sumerian material. They so modified its content and molded its form, in accordance with their own temper and heritage, that only the bare nucleus of the Sumerian original remains recognizable. As for the plot structure of the epic as a whole -the forceful and fateful episodic drama of the restless, adventurous hero and his inevitable disillusionment- it is definitely a Babylonian, rather than Sumerian, development and achievement. In a very deep sense, therefore, the Epic of Gilgamesh may be truly described as a Semitic creation.”
(pp. 194-195. “The First Case of Literary Borrowing.” Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven Firsts in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor.  reprint 1959)
Lambert and Millard on ancient writer’s having no qualms about recasting and plagiarizing earlier compositions:
“…the ancient world had no proper titles, no sense of literary rights, and no aversion to what we call plagiarism. Succeeding ages often rewrote old texts to suit new language forms and tastes.”
(p. 5. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1999. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns.)
“The wide divergencies between the Old Babylonian copies illustrate how the scribes and editors could take a free hand in rewriting the text.”
(p. 14. “Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1999. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns.)
“The Sumerian epic…comes closest to Atra-Khasis…Despite the similarity in content, the size is quite different (some 300 Sumerian as opposed to 1,245 Akkadian lines), and the wording nowhere agrees.”
(p. 14.”Introduction.” W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1999. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns.)
Professor Tigay, noting that some scholars deny any “borrowing” of Mesopotamian motifs for the book of Genesis because details differ between the biblical and Mesopotamian accounts of the Flood, concluded that the Bible has “indeed” borrowed from Mesopotamian motifs and transformed them:
“This brief survey shows that peripheral versions of Mesopotamian literary texts may not only differ from the Mesopotamian versions in detail, but that they may abbreviate them or even modify them in accordance with their own ideology and local interests, precisely as the Bible appears to have done. If these data appear to weaken the grounds for opposing claims of literary borrowing –and I believe that they do– then this has some unsettling implications. For it means that an alleged relationship between a Biblical text or motif and some ancient Near Eastern counterpart cannot be refuted simply by pointing to difference between the two, even if they are numerous.”
(for the in-depth arguments cf. Jeffrey H. Tigay. “On Evaluating Claims of Literary Borrowing.” University of Pennsylvania. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jwst/borrow.htm)
Finally, I must say here that I am “most impressed” by Rice’s (1994) penetrating observation regarding the pre-biblical origins of Eden’s mythical serpent:
“The serpent that played so deplorable a part in the garden of Eden was almost certainly Sumerian or Babylonian in its mythical origins, though the Biblical story was probably based on a misunderstanding of the original source.”
(p. 313. Michael Rice. The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf, Circa 5000-323 B.C. London. Routledge. 1994)
My research is in agreement with Rice’s above observation, a Sumerian/Babylonian protagonist (actually several protagonists) is indeed behind Eden’s serpent.
As regards Rice’s notion that the Hebrews probably misunderstood the original source, this is a “plausible” proposal on his part.
But it could also be that someone well-acquainted with Mesopotamian myths deliberately transformed the ushumgals “great-serpents” into a walking, talking snake as way of refuting, denying, and challenging the Mesopotamian notion that a god who had created man also denied him knowledge and immortality because he feared the loss of man as a servant. The loss of man as a servant or agricultural slave would cause this ushumgal to have to return to his garden in edin/eden (at Eridu and Nippur) and labor in its fields for his own sustenance.
The Hebrews apparently objected to the Mesopotamian notion that the gods had created man not as an act of love and a desire for fellowship, but to cruelly exploit him.
The gods wanted man to bear their terrible agricultural toil in their gardens of edin to obtain an eternal sabbath-rest from earthly toil for themselves.
So the Hebrews denied that the walking talking serpent of edin/eden was an ushumgal, a Sumerian/Babylonian god in human form who simply bore the epithet “great-serpent” to inspire fear and terror in the hearts of rebellious man; the “serpent” (ushumgal Enki/Ea at Eridu and ushumgal Enlil/Ellil at Nippur) who incited “man” (the Igigi gods euphemistically being called “man”) to rebel and who was responsible for man’s removal from a god’s garden in edin/eden was recast into a mere snake who once upon a time had legs to walk upon, who via its power of human speech succeeded in conning mankind out of immortality with its subtle words (just as ushumgal Enki, recast as Ea, conned with subtle words Adapa out of chance to obtain immortality for himself and mankind).
Although Genesis presents Eden’s garden being for man’s sustenance and not God’s, refuting thereby Mesopotamian myths that Edin’s gardens were for the gods’ sustenance, there is a later match-up of sorts: The Bible portrays God’s priests as being assigned the task of feeding him twice a day for all of eternity (cf. Leviticus for details), this feeding of God will resume in the Messianic Age according to the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 44-46). In a “roundabout” way then, the Biblical myths reflect the Mesopotamian in that in both accounts man is tasked with providing daily food for his god and caring for his god’s garden, harvesting that food for the deity to eat.
I am unaware of anyone identifying the Igigi rebellions at Eridu and Nippur against Enki and Enlil as being recast into the rebellion and removal from Eden’s Garden of Adam and Eve. I am also unaware of anyone identifying Eden’s serpent as being, in part, a recast Enki and Enlil who, as ushumgals “great serpents,” were responsible for (1) inciting a rebellion of man in their gardens (the Igigi being euphemistically called “man”) and (2) these ushumgals “great serpents” being the cause of “man’s” (the Igigi being recast as Adam and Eve) removal from their gardens for an act of rebellion. If anyone knows of an individual who has earlier made these associations and proposals I would like to have that information and it will be posted to this website and added to this article. Please provide the author’s name, title of the book, or professional journal (if an article), and the date and publisher of said research. Please send this information to me via e-mail by
clicking here. Thankyou.
The search for the pre-biblical prototype(s) of Eden’s Serpent has held a scholarly fascination for well over 100 years as can be seen from the above brief account of the scholarly search for its pre-biblical origins in Ancient Near Eastern Myths.
Eden’s Serpent is held accountable in Christian understanding for Adam and Eve’s “Fall From Grace” and alienation from God because they disobeyed Him and ate the forbidden fruit. As punishment God removed them from His presence in the Garden of Eden and denied them immortal life.
I understand that the notion of a “Fall” does exist in the Adapa and the South Wind Myth but in a somewhat different form. How so?
Adapa is portrayed as an atra-khasis which Professor Albert T. Clay (1923) understood to be an epithet meaning perhaps “exceedingly mindful.” Adapa was indeed “exceedingly mindful,” he obeyed his god Ea’s warning not to eat the “food of death” (alternately rendered by some scholars as the “bread of death”) or he would die. Adapa is portrayed a being of “pure hands” and dilligent in serving his god. Ea found _no fault_ with his faithful, devout servant who as a baker and fisherman prepared daily his (Ea’s) food.
Adam disobeyed God and ate the forbidden food and was removed from God’s presence and the Garden of Eden and denied immortality.
Adapa obeyed his god (Ea) and did _not_ eat the forbidden food as instructed and for this refusal to eat he was removed from Anu’s heavenly abode and presence. He did not attain immortality because he believed his lying god’s (Ea’s) warning.
Ea lied to Adapa apparently because he feared that if he became a god he would lose him as his servant. In Mesopotamian belief the gods had made man to prepare their food and feed it to them and Adapa did just that. Gods do not feed themsleves or grow their own food in the gardens of edin (Sumer’s uncultivated land surrounding the city-gardens), that is man’s task. So, who would feed Ea (and the gods) if man was allowed to become a god? Ea, then, acted out of self-interest, he did not want to have to return to the garden in the Sumerian edin at Eridu and grow his own food and feed himself and give up his eternal sabbath-rest from earthly toil, that was man’s purpose in life. Ea wisely thwarted Anu’s foolish offer of immortality, he realized that if man was granted the boon of immortality the gods would lose their sabbath-rest from toil and have to grow their own food in edin’s gardens and feed themselves.
So man (Adapa) did take a “Fall”: He lost out on a chance for immortality not because he was a disobediant sinner, but because the god in whom he trusted, betrayed that trust, denying him immortality and god-hood because Ea feared the loss of his eternal sabbath-rest from earthly toil if man were allowed to become a god.
Walton (a devout evangelical scholar) summarizes some observations by Andreasen who is a devout Seventh Day Adventist scholar on Adapa and Adam as prototypes of man:
“On the scene staged by the Mesopotamian artists he characterized man as the noble, wise, reliable, and devoted, but humble hero who is resigned to live responsibly before his god. However, in the biblical tradition, the characterization came through in quite a different way, which has put its lasting mark upon the concept of man in the Judeo-Christian tradition- namely, that before God, man is (or rather has become) basically sinful, failing, ignoble and untrustworthy, bent upon usurping the place of his God.”
(pp. 193-194. Niels-Erik Andreasen. “Adam and Adapa: Two Anthropological Characters.” Andrews University Seminar Studies. Vol. 19 (1981). pp. 184-185. p. 64. “Cases of Alleged Borrowing.” John H. Walton. Ancient Israelite Literature In Its Cultural Context, A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. 1989. 1990 Revised Edition)
Heidel (1942) on Adapa’s “Fall” being a misnomer as he lost out on a chance to obtain immortality not through disobedience (sin) but because he was obedient to his god (Ea) who tricked him with a lie:
“Like the biblical account of the fall of man, the Adapa story wrestles with the questions: “Why must man suffer and die? Why does he not live forever?” But, unlike the biblical account, the answer it gives is not: “Because man has fallen from a state of moral perfection,” but rather: “Because Adapa had the chance of gaining immortality for himself and mankind, but he did not take it. The gift of eternal life was held out to him, but he refused the offer and thus failed of immortality and brought woe and misery upon man.” The problem of the origin of sin does not even enter into consideration. Consequently, it is a misnomer to call the Adapa Legend the Babylonian version of the fall of man. The Adapa Legend and the biblical story are fundamentally as far apart as the antipodes.”
(p. 124. “Old Testament Parallels.” Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, The Story of Creation. Chicago & London. The University of Chicago Press. 1942, 1951. Reprint of 1984)
Heidel on the lack of a notion of a “fall” for man in Mesopotamian myths and that if there is a “fall,” it is that the gods have fallen, it is the gods who have acted immorally (the Mesopotamian myths have man made of clay mixed with the flesh and blood of a slain rebel god, Weila at Nippur, the god’s spirit is “in” man, a “rebellious” spirit):
“So far no proof for the first sin has been found anywhere in Babylonian or Assyrian literature. If it is at all permissable to speak of a fall, it was a fall of the gods not of man. It was the gods who first disturbed the peace of Apsu and Tiamat; it was Apsu and Mummu who planned the destruction of these gods; it was Ea who, as a measure of self-preservation, killed his ancestor Apsu; and it was Tiamat and her host who, in a rage of revenge, prepared to bring war and destruction upon the other gods. In Genesis man is created in the image of God; but the Babylonians created thier gods in the image of man. The gods…were guilty of human misconduct…something quite different from…chacteristics attributed to God in the Old Testament…Of the Babylonians can be said what Cicero has said with reference to the poets of Greece and Rome: “The poets have represented the gods as inflamed by anger and maddened by lust, and have displayed to our gaze their wars and battles, their fights and wounds, their hatreds, enmities and quarrels, their births and deaths, their complaints and lamentations, the utter and unbrideled license of their passions, their adulteries and imprisonments, their unions with human beings and the birth of mortal progeny from an immortal parent.” How could such gods possibly be expected to create something morally perfect? Yes, it was with the blood of such gods that man was created! Since all the gods were evil by nature and since man was formed with their blood, man of course inherited their evil nature. This conclusion is in complete harmony with the following passage from the Babylonian theodicy: “Narru, king from of old, the creator of mankind; gigantic Zulummar, who pinched off their clay; and lady Mama, the queen, who fashioned them, have presented to mankind perverse speech, lies and untruth they presented to them forever.” Man, consequently, was created evil and was evil from his very beginning. How then, could he fall? The idea that man fell from a state of moral perfection does not fit into the system or systems of Babylonian speculation.”
(pp. 125-126. “Old Testament Parallels.” Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, The Story of Creation. Chicago & London. 2nd edition. 1942, 1951. Reprint of 1984)
It is my understanding that the Hebrews “reworked” motifs from the Adapa and the South Wind Myth, they are SHIFTING BLAME for man’s misfortunes from God to Man. God is righteous, Man is disobedient and a sinner.
This concept, THE SHIFT OF BLAME FROM GOD TO MAN, “permeates” the whole of the Old Testament. It is a repudiation of the Mesopotamian notion that man (Adapa) as noted by Heidel (1942) acted “nobly” and was not disobediant, he was not a sinner, he was a victim of an unrighteous, untrustworthy god (Ea) who lied to him, taking advantage of the man’s naive trust, to promote his own self-interest (wanting man to remain his slave and prepare his daily food for him).
Genesis’ Garden of Eden account is a recasting of earlier Mesopotamian motifs of why man was created and why he lost out in a chance to obtain immortality. The Mesopotamians blamed the gods for man’s misfortunes. There was no Fall from blamelessness or moral perfection into sin for man (Adapa). Man (Adapa) had been blameless and his trust betrayed by his lying, conniving deceitful god (Ea). Other myths revealed, as noted by Heidel, that the gods were not righteous, they were sinners and man made in their image was a sinner too. Man, made in the image of immoral sinful gods, could not be moral and without sin. Man was a sinner, but not because he chose to defy his god, but because he was made in his god’s image. In Mesopotamian belief man was a “victim” of circumstances beyond his control and MAN WAS NOT TO BLAME for this world being filled with violence and bloodshed contra Genesis’ account (cf. Ge 6:5-8, 11-13):
“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart…the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make and end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them.”
Of all the scholars I have come across in regards to this study on the the pre-biblical Mesopotamian background behind Eden’s serpent the most impressive and enlightening for me is Tennant (1866-1957). I will end this article with some of his observations (1903):
“The serpent is introduced in the Paradise-story, simply as a speaking animal, cleverer than the other beasts of the field. But it is quite plain from the narrative itself that he only became the creeping animal known to us in consequence of punishment for his temptation of Eve. And it is strongly suggested that he had originally been regarded as more than a beast endowed with erect posture, power of speech, and exceptional sagacity. He was even more than the ordinary jinn or demonaic animal. He is acquainted with the real nature and potency of the forbidden tree, “and speaks as if he were on terms of intimacy with the divine circle”; “as if he were in a position to say exactly what the deity knew.” He attributes misrepresentation to Jahveh, and the truth of the charge is practically admitted in the words, “Behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil,” and in the failure of the threat of instant death to take effect. This certainly seems to point to a more primitive story in which the serpent was a supernatural being, higher than man; a legendary story, in fact, the mythology of which has paled and almost been extinguished…It is overwhelmingly probable, however, that the role of tempter was assigned to the serpent only when the legendary basis of the story, whatever may have been its earlier significance, was utilised to explain the existence of human ills and to bid us see their cause in sin. This use of the serpent was only possible to a nation which had acquired a relatively high ethical conception of God, and to a writer who was prepared to attribute man’s loss of Paradise, if not his attainment of self-reliant wisdom, to a sin demanding punishment. In this attribution to the serpent of a hostility to Jahveh, a tendency culminating much later in his identification with Satan, we see therefore an example of the way in which the Jahvist writer, or the Hebrew folk, impressed upon borrowed or inherited legend the mark of their increasingly ethical religion.
Facts have already been adduced to show that the Arabian oasis is probably…the…scenery of the Paradise-story…A legend embodying these conceptions would be carried to Babylonia, and, undergoing modification in terms of Babylonian civilisation and advancement in religious thought, would seem to have been closely connected with Ea and Eridu. The scenery of a desert oasis would be exchanged for that of a garden of the gods…The Jahvist compiler…takes the old legend of the origin of man’s knowledge…stripping it of its previous heathenism and its coarser significance…
Indeed, if man is evolved from a non-human ancestry, if his reason, language, morals, and religion are the product of gradual development, if his antiquity is what geology asserts it to be, and his earliest condition, as human, that to which several sciences now strongly point, it is quite impossible to entertain at all the view that the Fall-story, and the legends kindred to it, embody any genuine tradition once common to the race, or, therefore, any scientific or historical truth. This supposition would logically necessitate the theory of the special creation of man, and that of an original or primitive revelation. All that we know of prehistoric man, derived from many and varied sources and many independent methods of empirical investigation, renders the view that such a tradition could be true, or, if true, could be handed down to historical times, altogether untenable. It must therefore be considered as utterly unfaithful to the cumulative and conclusive results of modern study, still to seek for even a kernel of historical truth, and a basis for a theological doctrine of human nature, in such a narrative as the Fall-story of the Book of Genesis.”
(pp. 71-78. Frederick Robert Tennant. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press. 1903)
(William F. Albright. “The Goddess of Life and Wisdom.” pp. 258-294. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Chicago. Vol. xxxvi. Oct. 1919-July 1920.
Bernard F. Batto. Slaying the Dragon: Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminster/John Knox Press. 1992.
Jeremy Black, Graham Cunningham, Eleanor Robson & Gabor Zolyomi. The Literature of Ancient Sumer. Oxford. Oxford University Press. 2004, 2006.
Alice Bodington. “Legends of the Sumiro-Accadians of Chaldea.” The American Naturalist. Vol. 27. 1893.
William St. Chad Boscawn. The Bible and the Monuments: The Primitive Hebrew Records in the Light of Modern Research. London. Eyre & Spottiswoode. 1895.
S. G. F. Brandon. Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East. London. Hodder & Stoughton. 1963.
Herbert Chanan Brichto. The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings. Oxford University Press. 1998.
Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Creative Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin, Inc. 1968. Reprinted 1976.
Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1964. Reprint 1991 by Arkana.
Joseph Campbell. The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology. New York. Viking Penguin Inc. 1959, reprinted 1971-1976; 1991 by Arkana.
David McClain Carr.”The Earliest Reconstructible Precursors to Genesis.” Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches. Louisville, Kentucky. Westminister John Knox Press. 1996.
James H. Charlesworth. The Good and Evil Serpent: How a Universal Symbol Became Christianized. Yale University Press. 2010.
Thomas Kelly Cheyne, editor. Encyclopedia Biblica. Vol. 4. p4396, “Serpent.” New York & London. Macmillan. 1902.
B. S. Childs. “Myth and Reality In the Old Testament.” Studies in Biblical Theology. Vol. 27. 1960. pp. 45-48.
Albert T. Clay. The Origin of Biblical Traditions: Hebrew Legends in Babylonia and Israel. Lectures on Biblical Archaeology delivered at the Lutheran Theological Seminary Mt. Airy, Philadelphia. New Haven. 1923. Reprinted 1999 by The Book Tree, Escondido, California.
Richard J. Clifford. Creation Accounts in the Ancient Near East and in the Bible. Washington, D.C. The Catholic Biblical Association of America. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series # 26. 1994.
William Frederick Cobb. Origines Judaicae. An Inquiry into Heathen Faiths as Affecting the Birth and Growth of Judaism. London. A. D. Innes & Co. 1895.
Georges Contenau. Everyday Life in Babylon and Assyria. New York. St. Martin’s Press. 1954.
Laurence Coupe. Myth. London. Routledge. 2008, 2009.
Stephanie Dalley. Myths From Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others. Oxford & New York. Oxford University Press. 1991.
Philip R. Davies & John Rogerson. The Old Testament World. Westminster John Knox Press. 2d edition 2006. 1st edition 1989.
J. Garrow Duncan, D.D. New Light On Hebrew Origins. London. Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1936.
John Martin Evans. Paradise Lost and the Genesis Tradition. Oxford, England. Clarendon Press. 1968.
James Fergusson, F.R.S. Tree and Serpent Worship, Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India in the First and Fourth Centuries After Christ. London. India Museum. Vol. 79, No. 472. 1868.
Benjamin R. Foster. From Distant Days, Myths Tales and Poetry of Ancient Mesopotamia. Bethesda, Maryland. CDL Press. 1995.
Laurence Gardner. The Origin of God. Brockenhurst, Hants. England. Dash House. 2010.
James George Frazer. The Worship of Nature. 2 Vols. New York. MacMillan. 1926.
Andrew George. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. London. The Penguin Press. 1999, 2000, 2003.
Robert Graves & Raphael Patai. Hebrew Myths: The Book of Genesis. New York. Greenwich House, distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc. 1963, 1964, reprinted 1983.
Gary Greenberg. 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History. Sourcebooks. 2002.
James Hastings. p. 471. Vol. 17. “The Reading of Scripture in Public Worship.” The Expository Times. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1906.
Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Chicago. The University of Chicago Press. 1947, 1951. Second edition. Reprint 1993.
Alexander Heidel. The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. 1946, 1949. paperback. reprinted 1963, 1995.
M. Oldfield Howey. The Encircled Serpent, A Study of Serpent Symbolism in All Countries and Ages. London. Rider & Company. 1928)
John G. Jackson. “The African Origin of the Myths & Legend of the Garden of Eden: A Rationalistic Review.” 1933.
Morris Jastrow, Jr. The Religion of Babylonia and Assyria. Boston, New York, Chicago, London. Ginn & Co. 1898. Reprinted by the Dodo Press. The United Kingdom.
Morris Jastrow, Jr. “Adam and Eve in Babylonian Literature.” pp. 193-214. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. Volume XV, No. 4. July. 1899.
Peter Christian Albrecht Jensen. Kosmologie der Babylonier. 1890.
A. S. Kapelrud. “You Shall Surely Not Die.” pp. 50-61, in Andre Lemaire & Benedikt Otzen, editors. History and Traditions of Early Israel, Studies Presented to Eduard Nielsen. [A Festschrift]. Leiden, the Netherlands. A. J. Brill. 1993.
Samuel Noah Kramer. History Begins At Sumer, Twenty-seven Firsts in Man’s Recorded History. Garden City, New York. Doubleday Anchor.  reprint 1959.
Samuel Noah Kramer and John Maier. Myths of Enki, the Crafty God. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1989.
Samuel Noah Kramer. “The Ur Excavations and Sumerian Literature.” pp. 41-47. Expedition. Fall. 1977. Publications of the Pennsylvania Museum.
W. G. Lambert & A. R. Millard. Atra-Khasis, The Babylonian Story of the Flood. 1969 Oxford University Press. Reprint: 1999. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns.
Wilfred G. Lambert, “A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura. Editors. I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994.
Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Sumerian Epic of Paradise, the Flood, and the Fall of Man. Philadephia, Pennsylvania. The University Museum. Publications of the Babylonian Section. Vol. X. No. 1. 1915.
Stephen Herbert Langdon. The Mythology of All Races, Semitic. Volume 5. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1931.
Gwendolyn Leick. A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology. London & New York. Routledge. 1991, 1996, 1997, 1998.
Gwendolyn Leick. Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City. London. Penguin Books. 2001, 2002.
Mario Liverani. pp. 3-26. “Adapa, Guest of the Gods.” Mario Liverani. Myth and Politics in Ancient Near Eastern Historiography. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 2004. citing Professor Liverani’s article on Adapa and Adam, in Italian, in Religioni e Civilta. Bari, Italy. 1982)
Francesco Mari, Doctor of Divinity. “Assyro-Babylonian Elements in the Biblical Account of the Fall.” pp. 163-180. Vol. 3. The New York Review a Journal of the Ancient Faith and Modern Thought. St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, New York. 1907-1908.
Tryggve N. D. Mettinger. The Eden Narrative, A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2-3. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 2007.
A. R. Millard. “Observations on the Babylonian and Hebrew Accounts Compared.” in his article “A New Babylonian “Genesis” Story.”pp. 114-128. Richard S. Hess and David Toshio Tsumra. Editors. “I Studied Inscriptions from before the Flood,” Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. 1994.
Solomon Alexander Nigosian. From Ancient Writings to Sacred Texts: The Old Testament and Apocrypha. Baltimore, Maryland. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2004.
A. S. Palmer. Babylonian Influence on the Bible and Popular Beliefs: “Tehom and Tiamat,” “Hades and Satan.” A Comparative Study of Genesis I.2. London. David Nutt. 1897.
J. R. Porter. The Illustrated Guide to the Bible. Oxford University Press. 1998.
George Rawlinson, Henry C. Rawlinson, & J. G. Wilkinson. History of Herodotus. London. John Murray. Vol. 1. 1858. The 4 volumes were published between 1858-1862.
George Rawlinson, M.A.. The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World or the History, Geography, and Antiquities of Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia, and the Sassanian or New Persian Empire. 1862, 1870.
Henry Creswicke Rawlinson. “Notes on the Early History of Babylonia.” London. 1854; another source says: “Babylonian Discoveries.” Athenaeum. 1377. March 18, 1854. pp. 341-343. The Athenaeum was a London weekly periodical covering literature, the fine arts, music, etc. from 1828 through1923.
Joseph William Reynolds. The Supernatural in Nature: A Verification by Free Use of Science. London. C. Kegan Paul & Company. 1878.
Michael Rice. The Archaeology of the Arabian Gulf, Circa 5000-323 B.C. London. Routledge. 1994.
Helmer Ringgren. Israelite Religion. London. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1966 (Translated by D. Green from Ringgren’s Israelitische Religion, 1963).
Herbert Edward Ryle. The Early Narratives of Genesis. A Brief Introduction to the Study of Genesis I-XI. London & New York. Macmillan & Co. 1892. Note: This book is based on 8 papers submitted to a British magazine called the Expository Times, 1890-1891 which the author edited slightly for the 1892 book.
Archibald Henry Sayce. The Hibbert Lectures 1887, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians. London. Williams & Norgate. 1897. Fourth Edition.
Sayce, A. H. “The Serpent in Genesis,” The Expository Times. London & Edinburgh. Vol. 20. p. 562. 1909.
A. H. Sayce. The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia: The Gifford Lectures. Edinburgh. T & T Clark. 1902, 1903.
C. L. Seow. “Qohelet’s Autobiography.” Astrid B. Beck. Editor. Fortunate The Eyes That See. [A Festshrift in honor of David Noel Freedman] Grand Rapids, Michigan. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1995.
Avigdor Shinan & Yair Zakovitch. From Gods to God, How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends. Philadephia. Jewish Publication Society. 2012. Originally printed in Hebrew as Lo kakh katuv ba-Tannakh. Tel Aviv. Miskal-Yedioth Ahronoth Books & Chemed Books. 2004.
John Skinner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis. Edinburgh, Scotland. T. & T. Clark. 1910. Revised edition 1930. Reprint 1994.
George Smith. The Chaldean Account of Genesis containing the description of the Creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the tower of Babel, the times of the patriarchs and Nimrod: Babylonian fables, and legends of the gods from the cuneiform inscriptions. London. Whittingham & Wilkins. Tooks Court, Chancery Lane. 1876. Reprint of 1994 by Wizard’s Bookshelf, San Diego, California.
Frederick Robert Tennant. The Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. Cambridge, England. Cambridge University Press. 1903.
J. H. Tigay. The Evolution of the Gilgamesh Epic. Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1982.
J. H. Tigay. The Gilgamesh Epic: Empirical Models For Biblical Criticism. Phildaelphia. University of Pennsylvania. 1985.
Jeffrey H. Tigay. “On Evaluating Claims of Literary Borrowing.” University of Pennsylvania. http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jwst/borrow.htm)
John H. Walton. Ancient Israelite Literature In Its Cultural Context, A Survey of Parallels Between Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Texts. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan Publishing House. 1989. 1990 Revised Edition.
John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, & Mark W. Chavalas. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois. InterVarsity Press. 2000.
William Hayes Ward. “The Serpent Tempter in Mythology.” pp. 209-229. Edwards Amasa Park & Samuel H. Taylor, editors. The Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 38. London: Trubner & Company; Andover: Warren F. Draper.1881.
Ewa Wasilewska. Creation Stories of the Middle East. London & Philadelphia. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2000, reprint: 2005.
Abraham S. Yahuda. The Accuracy of the Bible: The Stories of Joseph, The Exodus And Genesis Confirmed and Illustrated by Egyptian Monuments and Language. London. William Heinemann. Ltd. 1934.
Heinrich Zimmern. The Ancient East Volume No. III. The Babylonian and the Hebrew Genesis. London. David Nutt. 1901.
Theodore Ziolkowski. The Sin of Knowledge. Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton University Press. 2000.