A Brief History Of The OT
To understand the present day Christian bible it is essential to understand the politics, cultures and mergers that formed it. In this hub I will be dealing with the origins of the Old Testament. The reason I say that this knowledge is essential, is because many Christians have been living under the impression that the bible is a book handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth; its original intent always preserved through the ages, intact. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Current wisdom suggests that the Torah was actually written by 4 major factions, with a fifth being the scribes that eventually put it all together. This is called the Documentary Hypothesis. It suggests that those that call god Yahweh are one of the major factions. A book has been found that was written by them called: “The Book of Yahweh” It was found and published in 1922. It differs greatly from those who called god El orElohim. El is also the name of a Canaanite god as well as a Babylonian god. The Canaanites were, after all, Hebrews, and it is thought that the Jews worshiped the Canaanite pantheon before they worshiped their single god. In theElohist version of Abraham, for instance, Isaac is sacrificed, but in theYahwehist works a sacrifice is not mentioned and he gets a life story. It is thought the two stories were merged by the scribes when finally writing the Torah and that they literally inserted a scapegoat to tie the two together. The other major players seem to have been rival priest classes. One who saw Aaron as the real hero and Moses as just a mouthpiece that god speaks through, and the other who sees Moses as the hero and Aaron and therefore his priest class as somewhat heretical.
There is even some speculation that the Canaanite god Yem became Yahweh due to the fact that Yem and Baal were mortal enemies, and the Israelites god seems focused on killing every man woman and child who believes in Baal. Yem is coincidentally a god who fell from grace because he wanted to become the highest god. This also the source of his rivalry with Baal. But there is no proof that Yem somehow morphed into Yahweh.
But all of that is Judaism’s inside influences and politics. We want to know what influenced them to create Judaism. Let’s start from the beginning: 5000 BC and the first "modern" culture. I say "modern" because this is where we find the first written language on stone tablets, and the people who are responsible for many of the stories of Genesis.
The people of Sumer lived in the mountains near land where four great rivers originated. The Tigris, the Euphrates, the Aras, and the Uizon. This land is now in Azerbaijan, in western Iran. The Uizon, or pishon is also known to this day as the: Medan, or “the garden.” It is fed by an ancient volcano that brings fresh water from deep underground. From then till now, that volcano has been referred to as the Abyss, or the gateway to the underworld. The Abyss is known as the giver of life.
Lake Urmia is at the center of Eden. It's a large lake with a volcanic island on it. It is a dead lake in that it supports no life due to a very high salt content. But on that island, we find hundreds of mummified snakes, and a very interesting artefact. It is a Sumerian cylinder seal impression. (Now in the British Museum.) You see a tree in the center. On the left you see a woman on a throne. On the right, you see a man with horns on his hat . In Sumerian mythology this tells us he is a god. You also see a snake behind the woman. The tree has seven branches, and fruit dangling from it.
This is the story of Lilith. In some of the later Rabbinical and Kabala writings, she was Adam's first wife and in fact, some say god’s second wife. As we will see later, the bible has two creation myths in one. This reflects two opposing factions in Judaism up to the Babylonian captivity. One maintained that Man and Woman were created at the same time, out of dust, as all the other animals were. The other claimed that Eve was created later from the rib of Adam, and that she was the only wife.
Out of those two factions came the story that Lilith (or Litit in Hebrew) was the first wife of Adam. It is said they bickered constantly, and she insisted that they were equals because they were created at the same time. She also refused his constant demand that she lay under him during sex. She went to god with her problem but he left it to them to work out. When she got nowhere with Adam or god on the subject, she got frustrated and uttered the real name of god. With that she was transformed in to a wind demon.
This jibes quite well with the Sumerian wind goddess by the same name, and indicates that the Rabbis were probably explaining old myths and folk tales to each other and at the same time defining the new ones.
As with the Sumerian goddess and her counterpart, the Babylonian Lilitu, Jewish legend has it she comes in the night to young men and gives them wet dreams. In other words, when a young man has a sexual dream, it was said that Lilith had seduced him in his sleep. Lilith was blamed for woman dying in child birth, and even more so for crib death. She is also said to be the reason there are so many demons in the word.
One story says that when she left Adam she went to the Red sea. There she became a prostitute and has 100 demon children per day. When god sent three angels to demand she return to Adam, she refused. Instead of killing her, they killed 100 of her children. Afterward, she told them that only babies that had an amulet with names of the three angels, and Adam and Eve on it, would be spared her revenge. There are many such amulets in existence today in museums.
Some ancient Jewish versions of the story portray Lilith as the serpent in the garden. When she hears that god has made another woman for Adam, she is furious. Out of revenge she tricks Eve into eating the apple. In some versions she corrupts Cain in Eve’s womb.
In the Babylonian Talmud, she is portrayed as having a woman’s face, wings, and long hair. There is but one reference to her in the bible, and that is in Isaiah 34:14. In most English versions of the bible, Lilith is translated as “Screech owl”, which is one of the meanings of the word Lilit, in Hebrew.
There are a multitude of tales told about Lilith, both modern and post Babylonian captivity. In the middle ages she was even turned into a vampire.
Today, she is the hero of some small feminist groups. Little wonder.
In Kramer’s “The Sumerians” he translates this poem for us:
The tree grew big, its trunk bore no foliage,
In its roots the snake who knows no charms set up its nest,
In its crown the Imdugud-bird placed its young,
In its midst the maid Lilith built her house
The always laughing, always rejoicing maid,
The maid Inanna - how she weeps!
Sumerian Legend also has it that East of Urmia is “the garden of “. If we read the bible, we see that east of Eden, is “the garden.”
So Eden itself can be traced to the valley of Tabriz. Today, due to centuries of grazing sheep, the land is but a shadow of its former self. We know this because the region is described in detail in the bible and in the Gilgamesh epics.
But perhaps most remarkable of all is the fact that north of Tabriz, through a mountain pass, is the valley of Gihon. There, is a town here called Ardabil. This town is on the map, so it is easily verifiable. But what is not on most western maps, is the fact that all over this region, there are villages called Nodi. The “i” at the end of the word meaning “of” as in Pakistani: Of Pakistan. In this case “of Nod”. This is the legendary land of Nod we find in the bible. These villages are all but forgotten to western consciousness, yet they are here, and have been here for thousands of years. They make our discovery complete, and verify the location of Eden.
We also know, through a study of the linguistics of the region, that the Aras and the Uizon rivers were once called the Gaihun and the Pishon. (As I noted above) These two rivers are a major part of the bible, in that they, along with the Tigris and Euphrates, mark the location of Eden.
But even if we did not know about the other two rivers, the bible makes it clear that the Tigris and the Euphrates have their origin in Eden, so no more needs to be known than the location of the beginning of those two rivers, to know generally where Eden is. It is no mystery at all when we have the other two rivers as well, though Christianity seems to want to make a mystery of it.
During excavations of that area earlier this century, we found stone tablets written in cuneiform. This is the earliest known written language. The stories were the stories of Genesis, but they spoke of the gods of Sumer. “An” was the chief god of heaven prior to 2500 BC, but there were many gods in this pantheon. At least ninety odd. I won’t sight all of them here, only the major players.
“An” ruled with his goddess, Ninhursag. She is also known as Ki, and this is probably her original name though she is also referred to as Nintu or Ninmah. She was the earth goddess. Ki and An were the partents of the gods. Enlil was their first born and he was the god of wind. Notice his name ends in Lil meaning air or wind. Later An, would become En which was the word: god. He became the leader of the gods and took power from An in myths dating from around 2500 BC. He invents the plow, he brings the dawn, and makes the plants grow. He also rapes his intended bride, Ninlil (Lilit) and is banished to the neither world with her. He later returns with their first born son, Sin. (The moon god) also known as Nana.
Enki This would normally mean: god of earth, but he is actually known as the god of water, specifically, the water which surrounds the earth. Even more specifically, he is known as the god of the Abzu, (watery abyss) and semen. He, along with his mother create mankind. There is speculation that he is also Enkur, lord of the underworld, and wisdom.
In the Gilgamesh epic, he fights with a god named Kur, “lord of the realm” in the story called: Enkidu and the underworld. When he wins the fight, he claims the title for himself. He is also given the divine laws for safe keeping.
Nanna’s daughter is called Innana. She is the goddess of love and war. Her visit with Kur is replayed in the Greek story of Persephone. She goes to the funeral of her sister in laws, (Ereshkigal) husband, Gugalana (The Bull of heaven.) She ends up killed by Ereshkigal and is hung on a wall. But gods do not stay dead, and she is rescued by Enki. He restores her by giving her the bread of life and the water of life. Enki was later named Iya or Ya by the Acadians (A Jewish tribe). In Hebrew, the name for god is Yahweh. There is some evidence that Yahweh and Enki are one and the same god. Others speculate that Yahweh is the patron volcano god of Ur, the Sumerian city Abraham came from.
It is written that: One day, the King of Uruk (by the name of Nmeaka) came down out of the mountain to the lush valley. There he built a ziggurat for his goddess Innana, who he took from the mountain kingdom of Arata.. He was Sumer's first great builder. It is this Ziggurat or tower, that would later bring about the story of the tower of Babel.
As late as Ezekiel, there is mention of a Sumerian goddess. In Ezekiel 8:14, he sees women of Israel weeping for Tammuz (Dumuzi) during a drought.
Even though the Sumerian stories speak of many gods, the stories of Genesis can easily be seen to originate here. As in Genesis, the Sumerian’s world is formed out of the watery abyss. The heavens and earth are separated from one another by a solid dome. Eden itself is seen in the Sumerian Dilmun. It is described in the story of "Enki and Ninhursag". Dilmun is a pure and holy land, blessed by Enki with abundant, pure water.
Just as the god of Judaism is said to have created man from clay, or dust, Ninhursag bids Enki to "Kneed the 'heart' of the clay that is over the Abzu " and "give it form". They give the being life, and it is the first man. However, unlike the Jewish story, they mess it up a few times before they get it right, and have to destroy their creation. The reason they made mankind was because they wanted slaves to take care of the land.
In Genesis, Eve is fashioned from Adam's rib and her name ( hawwa) is related to the Hebrew word hay or living. In the Sumerian version Enki consumed the trees that were Ninhursag's children and so was cursed by Ninhursag, and received one wound for each tree consumed. Enlil and a fox act on Enki's behalf and ask Ninhursag to undo the damage she has done. She mates with Enlil again and bears eight new children. Each of the new trees are a cure for one of Enki’s wounds. The tree that cures his rib is named Ninti, whose name means the Queen of months, the lady of the rib, and she who makes life.
It is interesting that Eve is later made of Adam’s rib and is also known as the mother of the world and the lady of the rib.
The beginning of Gilgamesh contains the predecessor to the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This tree not only contains a crafty serpent, but also, the legendary first wife of Adam: Lilith. (As seen in the artefact I mentioned before) The huluppu tree is transplanted by Inanna from the banks of the Euphrates to her garden in Uruk. There she finds that a serpent, who could not be charmed away, had made its nest in the roots of the tree. Lilith, builds her home in the middle of the tree. It is known as the knowledge of good and evil.
Most of these references can be found in the writings of Wolkstein and Kramer and the lectures of Egyptologist David Rohl
So it is easy to see that the first book of the bible (Genesis) is in fact a reworking of the Sumerian creation myths. The people who came down from the mountain and started farming villages in 5000 BC, (called Sumer) mixed with other tribes over time.
They were not Semitic, but the Semitic tribes lived with them. Again, Abraham came from the city of Ur which was a Sumerian city. In those days it was tradition to take the patron god of the city with you. It is thought that Abraham did the same. The OT is full of references to other gods, and that Abraham’s god is the Israeli god, and they his chosen people. It is only when Moses comes along that he is transformed into the only god.
Of course, the twelve tribes eventually became the Jews through Moses. The Sumerian people who did not come down from the mountain to Sumer are thought to have later became the Kurds or the Chaldeans of the Bible. Sumer was later absorbed into Babylon.
The Sumerian culture thrived for centuries until it was destroyed by the Amorite Sargon of Agade around 2370 BC. He kept the culture going for a while, but soon it was completely absorbed In to other cultures. In the mean time, the Babylonians had borrowed their gods, their stories and their written language.
The Jews and the Babylonians went their separate ways. Later, the Jewish people were enslaved by the Egyptians, and set free again. Once they were free, they created an amazing army that swept through the region laying waste to several civilizations, under Moses. But only a few hundred years after they reached their destination, they were captured and enslaved by the Babylonians.
Around 400 BC during the slavery in Babylon, the Jews wrote down the Torah (The Law) for the first time. It was there that Judaism was merged, or re-merged, with Babylonian and, consequently, Sumerian legend and history. In the later years of captivity, the Jews were treated with a more relaxed and accepting demeanour. Scribes from both sides were only too eager to exchange the stories of their histories.
It was here that the Jews were acquainted with the Babylonian versions of the stories of "The Garden of Eden" "Noah and the ark" "The tower of Babel," and much of the rest of Genesis. The story of Noah (among others) is derived from the Sumerians. The Jews simply did what was natural for them to do. They re-worked the stories to fit the idea of a single, almighty god. After all, they believed that they were the chosen people, as well as the first. It was natural that the history of the Babylonians was their history as well. But the contradictions had to be ironed out.
Until the Sumerians were rediscovered, It was long thought that the Babylonians were the first culture in history to have a written legal code. Those codes were written down by King Hammurabi on clay tablets around 1800 BC. But his codes of law were not innovations, rather, Hammurabi wrote down the traditional laws that had been prevalent for centuries before.
When we found the Sumerian culture, we also found older clay tablets that were also devoted to laws. Much of those two codes are still in use over the entire world in various forms, and the Jewish laws, supposedly given by Moses, were garnered from them.
Moses, being from the Egyptian court, would have known all about these laws. One can’t say Egypt was without law and order or unfamiliar with laws against murder or theft. It didn’t take the Ten Commandments to give us our present laws on those subjects.
The idea of a single god is thought to have originated with the Israelis. But that is not the case either. Zoroastrianism is very much like Judaism in that it has one god, Mazda. It predates Judaism by many hundreds of years. It was probably well known by Moses and may have played a part in his making his god the only god. But of course previous to that Egypt had a monotheistic sun god religion brought about by Akhenaton.
Some scholars have even said that because Akhenaton disappeared from history rather than was murdered or is said to have died, he and Moses may well be the same person. But that theory, in my opinion, does not come with a very convincing argument attached.
There was another religion or set of religions that were monotheistic before Judaism. They all fell under the heading of Pantheism, but probably had nothing to do with Judaism.
As a side note it is interesting that the Arabs worshiped “sin” the Babylonian and Sumerian moon god at the time of Mohammed. It is also interesting to note that the Islamic symbol is a crescent moon. Mohammed wanted to unite the Arab tribes and saw a unified religion, just like the Jews and Christians had, as a way to achieve that. It is evident that he succeeded. Historically, if you can create a religion that is compelling enough, you can unify tribes or even entire diverse civilizations; as the Romans discovered with Christianity.
The Bible is corroborated as an historical book, of sorts, by many archaeological finds. But the fact that some of the tablets are well over three thousand years older than any Jewish writing, leaves us little choice but to conclude that the Israelites converted the stories to match their perception of the origins of life. That is to say, the creation myth of Judaism is actually the altered Sumerian/Babylonian myth.
The entire Jewish text was transcribed into Greek around 300 BC by Jewish scholars. This translation is called the Septuagint, and is referred to as LXX. It is also the version the Catholics adopted when they were compiling the Catholic Bible.
When Luther committed his heresy and broke away from the Catholic church, his new denomination changed the Bible by taking only the official Jewish texts that were decreed as holy scripture by the Council of Rabbis at Yavneh. (around 90 BC.) It is that set of texts that are still seen as official Jewish Cannon by all sects except the Samarians. (They are a small sect and not to be confused with the ancient Sumerians.)
Some books in the Septuagint, such as Daniel and Esther, are longer than those in the original Hebrew, and those officially recognized by the counsel at Yavneh. Some texts, like the books of Tobith, Maccabees, (Also known as Sirach) Ecclesiasticus, Judith, Baruch, and the Wisdom of Solomon, were added in the Septuagint translation and appear only there, and in the Catholic Bible. It is my understanding, though I do not read Hebrew, that these books are not in the original texts that existed before the Septuagint translation.
Thanks for reading