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CREATION AND THE DRAGON MYTH

CREATION AND THE DRAGON MYTH;
AND THE PROBLEM OF BABYLONIAN PARALLELS
IN HEBREW TRADITION



In our discussion of the new Sumerian version of the Deluge story we came to the conclusion that it gave no support to any theory which would trace all such tales to a single origin, whether in Egypt or in Babylonia. In spite of strong astrological elements in both the Egyptian and Babylonian religious systems, we saw grounds for regarding the astrological tinge of much ancient mythology as a later embellishment and not as primitive material. And so far as our new version of the Deluge story was concerned, it resolved itself into a legend, which had a basis of historical fact in the Euphrates Valley.

It will be obvious that the same class of explanation cannot be applied to narratives of the Creation of the World. For there we are dealing, not with legends, but with myths, that is, stories exclusively about the gods. But where an examination of their earlier forms is possible, it would seem to show that many of these tales also, in their origin, are not to be interpreted as nature myths, and that none arose as mere reflections of the solar system. In their more primitive and simpler aspects they seem in many cases to have been suggested by very human and terrestrial experience. To-day we will examine the Egyptian, Sumerian, and Babylonian myths of Creation, and, after we have noted the more striking features of our new material, we will consider the problem of foreign influences upon Hebrew traditions concerning the origin and early history of the world.


In Egypt, as until recently in Babylonia, we have to depend for our knowledge of Creation myths on documents of a comparatively late period. Moreover, Egyptian religious literature as a whole is textually corrupt, and in consequence it is often difficult to determine the original significance of its allusions. Thanks to the funerary inscriptions and that great body of magical formulae and ritual known as "The Chapters of Coming forth by Day", we are very fully informed on the Egyptian doctrines as to the future state of the dead.

The Egyptian's intense interest in his own remote future, amounting almost to an obsession, may perhaps in part account for the comparatively meagre space in the extant literature which is occupied by myths relating solely to the past. And it is significant that the one cycle of myth, of which we are fully informed in its latest stage of development, should be that which gave its sanction to the hope of a future existence for man. The fact that Herodotus, though he claims a knowledge of the sufferings or "Mysteries" of Osiris, should deliberately refrain from describing them or from even uttering the name,suggests that in his time at any rate some sections of the mythology had begun to acquire an esoteric character. There is no doubt that at all periods myth played an important part in the ritual of feast-days. But mythological references in the earlier texts are often obscure; and the late form in which a few of the stories have come to us is obviously artificial. The tradition, for example, which relates how mankind came from the tears which issued from Ra's eye undoubtedly arose from a play upon words.




On the other hand, traces of myth, scattered in the religious literature of Egypt, may perhaps in some measure betray their relative age by the conceptions of the universe which underlie them. The Egyptian idea that the sky was a heavenly ocean, which is not unlike conceptions current among the Semitic Babylonians and Hebrews, presupposes some thought and reflection. In Egypt it may well have been evolved from the probably earlier but analogous idea of the river in heaven, which the Sun traversed daily in his boats. Such a river was clearly suggested by the Nile; and its world-embracing character is reminiscent of a time when through communication was regularly established, at least as far south as Elephantine.

Possibly in an earlier period the long narrow valley, or even a section of it, may have suggested the figure of a man lying prone upon his back. Such was Keb, the Earth-god, whose counterpart in the sky was the goddess Nut, her feet and hands resting at the limits of the world and her curved body forming the vault of heaven. Perhaps still more primitive, and dating from a pastoral age, may be the notion that the sky was a great cow, her body, speckled with stars, alone visible from the earth beneath. Reference has already been made to the dominant influence of the Sun in Egyptian religion, and it is not surprising that he should so often appear as the first of created beings.

His orb itself, or later the god in youthful human form, might be pictured as emerging from a lotus on the primaeval waters, or from a marsh-bird's egg, a conception which influenced the later Phoenician cosmogeny. The Scarabaeus, or great dung-feeding beetle of Egypt, rolling the ball before it in which it lays its eggs, is an obvious theme for the early myth-maker. And it was natural that the Beetle of Khepera should have been identified with the Sun at his rising, as the Hawk of Ra represented his noonday flight, and the aged form of Attun his setting in the west. But in all these varied conceptions and explanations of the universe it is difficult to determine how far the poetical imagery of later periods has transformed the original myths which may lie behind them.


As the Egyptian Creator the claims of Ra, the Sun-god of Heliopolis, early superseded those of other deities. On the other hand, Ptah of Memphis, who for long ages had been merely the god of architects and craftsmen, became under the Empire the architect of the universe and is pictured as a potter moulding the world-egg. A short poem by a priest of Ptah, which has come down to us from that period, exhibits an attempt to develop this idea on philosophical lines. Its author represents all gods and living creatures as proceeding directly from the mind and thought of Ptah.

But this movement, which was more notably reflected in Akhenaton's religious revolution, died out in political disaster, and the original materialistic interpretation of the myths was restored with the cult of Amen. How materialistic this could be is well illustrated by two earlier members of the XVIIIth Dynasty, who have left us vivid representations of the potter's wheel employed in the process of man's creation. When the famous Hatshepsut, after the return of her expedition to Punt in the ninth year of her young consort Thothmes III, decided to build her temple at Deir el-Bahari in the necropolis of Western Thebes, she sought to emphasize her claim to the throne of Egypt by recording her own divine origin upon its walls.

We have already noted the Egyptians' belief in the solar parentage of their legitimate rulers, a myth that goes back at least to the Old Kingdom and may have had its origin in prehistoric times. With the rise of Thebes, Amen inherited the prerogatives of Ra; and so Hatshepsut seeks to show, on the north side of the retaining wall of her temple's Upper Platform, that she was the daughter of Amen himself, "the great God, Lord of the sky, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands, who resides at Thebes". The myth was no invention of her own, for obviously it must have followed traditional lines, and though it is only employed to exhibit the divine creation of a single personage, it as obviously reflects the procedure and methods of a general Creation myth.


This series of sculptures shared the deliberate mutilation that all her records suffered at the hands of Thothmes III after her death, but enough of the scenes and their accompanying text has survived to render the detailed interpretation of the myth quite certain. Here, as in a general Creation myth, Amen's first act is to summon the great gods in council, in order to announce to them the future birth of the great princess. Of the twelve gods who attend, the first is Menthu, a form of the Sun-god and closely associated with Amen.

But the second deity is Atum, the great god of Heliopolis, and he is followed by his cycle of deities--Shu, "the son of Ra"; Tefnut, "the Lady of the sky"; Keb, "the Father of the Gods"; Nut, "the Mother of the Gods"; Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, Set, Horus, and Hathor. We are here in the presence of cosmic deities, as befits a projected act of creation. The subsequent scenes exhibit the Egyptian's literal interpretation of the myth, which necessitates the god's bodily presence and personal participation.

Thoth mentions to Amen the name of queen Aahmes as the future mother of Hatshepsut, and we later see Amen himself, in the form of her husband, Aa-kheperka-Ra (Thothmes I), sitting with Aahmes and giving her the Ankh, or sign of Life, which she receives in her hand and inhales through her nostrils. God and queen are seated on thrones above a couch, and are supported by two goddesses. After leaving the queen, Amen calls on Khnum or Khnemu, the flat-horned ram- god, who in texts of all periods is referred to as the "builder" of gods and men; and he instructs him to create the body of his future daughter and that of her /Ka/, or "double", which would be united to her from birth.


The scene in the series, which is of greatest interest in the present connexion, is that representing Khnum at his work of creation. He is seated before a potter's wheel which he works with his foot, and on the revolving table he is fashioning two children with his hands, the baby princess and her "double". It was always Hatshepsut's desire to be represented as a man, and so both the children are boys. As yet they are lifeless, but the symbol of Life will be held to their nostrils by Heqet, the divine Potter's wife, whose frog-head typifies birth and fertility. When Amenophis III copied Hatshepsut's sculptures for his own series at Luxor, he assigned this duty to the greater goddess Hathor, perhaps the most powerful of the cosmic goddesses and the mother of the world.

The subsequent scenes at Deir el-Bahari include the leading of queen Aahmes by Khnum and Heqet to the birth- chamber; the great birth scene where the queen is attended by the goddesses Nephthys and Isis, a number of divine nurses and midwives holding several of the "doubles" of the baby, and favourable genii, in human form or with the heads of crocodiles, jackals, and hawks, representing the four cardinal points and all bearing the gift of life; the presentation of the young child by the goddess Hathor to Amen, who is well pleased at the sight of his daughter; and the divine suckling of Hatshepsut and her "doubles". But these episodes do not concern us, as of course they merely reflect the procedure following a royal birth.

But Khnum's part in the princess's origin stands on a different plane, for it illustrates the Egyptian myth of Creation by the divine Potter, who may take the form of either Khnum or Ptah. Monsieur Naville points out the extraordinary resemblance in detail which Hatshepsut's myth of divine paternity bears to the Greek legend of Zeus and Alkmene, where the god takes the form of Amphitryon, Alkmene's husband, exactly as Amen appears to the queen; and it may be added that the Egyptian origin of the Greek story was traditionally recognized in the ancestry ascribed to the human couple.




The only complete Egyptian Creation myth yet recovered is preserved in a late papyrus in the British Museum, which was published some years ago by Dr. Budge. It occurs under two separate versions embedded in "The Book of the Overthrowing of Apep, the Enemy of Ra". Here Ra, who utters the myth under his late title of Neb-er-tcher, "Lord to the utmost limit", is self-created as Khepera from Nu, the primaeval water; and then follow successive generations of divine pairs, male and female, such as we find at the beginning of the Semitic-Babylonian Creation Series.

Though the papyrus was written as late as the year 311 B.C., the myth is undoubtedly early. For the first two divine pairs Shu and Tefnut, Keb and Nut, and four of the latter pairs' five children, Osiris and Isis, Set and Nephthys, form with the Sun-god himself the Greater Ennead of Heliopolis, which exerted so wide an influence on Egyptian religious speculation. The Ennead combined the older solar elements with the cult of Osiris, and this is indicated in the myth by a break in the successive generations, Nut bringing forth at a single birth the five chief gods of the Osiris cycle, Osiris himself and his son Horus, with Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Thus we may see in the myth an early example of that religious syncretism which is so characteristic of later Egyptian belief.



The only parallel this Egyptian myth of Creation presents to the Hebrew cosmogony is in its picture of the primaeval water, corresponding to the watery chaos of Genesis i. But the resemblance is of a very general character, and includes no etymological equivalence such as we find when we compare the Hebrew account with the principal Semitic-Babylonian Creation narrative. The application of the Ankh, the Egyptian sign for Life, to the nostrils of a newly-created being is no true parallel to the breathing into man's nostrils of the breath of life in the earlier Hebrew Version, except in the sense that each process was suggested by our common human anatomy.

We should naturally expect to find some Hebrew parallel to the Egyptian idea of Creation as the work of a potter with his clay, for that figure appears in most ancient mythologies. The Hebrews indeed used the conception as a metaphor or parable, and it also underlies their earlier picture of man's creation. I have not touched on the grosser Egyptian conceptions concerning the origin of the universe, which we may probably connect with African ideas; but those I have referred to will serve to demonstrate the complete absence of any feature that presents a detailed resemblance of the Hebrew tradition.



When we turn to Babylonia, we find there also evidence of conflicting ideas, the product of different and to some extent competing religious centres. But in contrast to the rather confused condition of Egyptian mythology, the Semitic Creation myth of the city of Babylon, thanks to the latter's continued political ascendancy, succeeded in winning a dominant place in the national literature. This is the version in which so many points of resemblance to the first chapter of Genesis have long been recognized, especially in the succession of creative acts and their relative order.

In the Semitic-Babylonian Version the creation of the world is represented as the result of conflict, the emergence of order out of chaos, a result that is only attained by the personal triumph of the Creator. But this underlying dualism does not appear in the more primitive Sumerian Version we have now recovered. It will be remembered that in the second lecture I gave some account of the myth, which occurs in an epitomized form as an introduction to the Sumerian Version of the Deluge, the two narratives being recorded in the same document and connected with one another by a description of the Antediluvian cities. We there saw that Creation is ascribed to the three greatest gods of the Sumerian pantheon, Anu, Enlil, and Enki, assisted by the goddess Ninkharsagga.


It is significant that in the Sumerian version no less than four deities are represented as taking part in the Creation. For in this we may see some indication of the period to which its composition must be assigned. Their association in the text suggests that the claims of local gods had already begun to compete with one another as a result of political combination between the cities of their cults. To the same general period we must also assign the compilation of the Sumerian Dynastic record, for that presupposes the existence of a supreme ruler among the Sumerian city-states.

This form of political constitution must undoubtedly have been the result of a long process of development, and the fact that its existence should be regarded as dating from the Creation of the world indicates a comparatively developed stage of the tradition. But behind the combination of cities and their gods we may conjecturally trace anterior stages of development, when each local deity and his human representative seemed to their own adherents the sole objects for worship and allegiance. And even after the demands of other centres had been conceded, no deity ever quite gave up his local claims.

Enlil, the second of the four Sumerian creating deities, eventually ousted his rivals. It has indeed long been recognized that the /rôle/ played by Marduk in the Babylonian Version of Creation had been borrowed from Enlil of Nippur; and in the Atrakhasis legend Enlil himself appears as the ultimate ruler of the world and the other gods figure as "his sons".

Anu, who heads the list and plays with Enlil the leading part in the Sumerian narrative, was clearly his chief rival. And though we possess no detailed account of Anu's creative work, the persistent ascription to him of the creation of heaven, and his familiar title, "the Father of the Gods", suggest that he once possessed a corresponding body of myth in Eanna, his temple at Erech. Enki, the third of the creating gods, was naturally credited, as God of Wisdom, with special creative activities, and fortunately in his case we have some independent evidence of the varied forms these could assume.


According to one tradition that has come down to us, after Anu had made the heavens, Enki created Apsű or the Deep, his own dwelling- place. Then taking from it a piece of clay he proceeded to create the Brick-god, and reeds and forests for the supply of building material. From the same clay he continued to form other deities and materials, including the Carpenter-god; the Smith-god; Arazu, a patron deity of building; and mountains and seas for all that they produced; the Goldsmith-god, the Stone-cutter-god, and kindred deities, together with their rich products for offerings; the Grain-deities, Ashnan and Lakhar; Siris, a Wine-god; Ningishzida and Ninsar, a Garden-god, for the sake of the rich offerings they could make; and a deity described as "the High priest of the great gods," to lay down necessary ordinances and commands. Then he created "the King", for the equipment probably of a particular temple, and finally men, that they might practise the cult in the temple so elaborately prepared.



It will be seen from this summary of Enki's creative activities, that the text from which it is taken is not a general Creation myth, but in all probability the introductory paragraph of a composition which celebrated the building or restoration of a particular temple; and the latter's foundation is represented, on henotheistic lines, as the main object of creation. Composed with that special purpose, its narrative is not to be regarded as an exhaustive account of the creation of the world.

The incidents are eclective, and only such gods and materials are mentioned as would have been required for the building and adornment of the temple and for the provision of its offerings and cult. But even so its mythological background is instructive. For while Anu's creation of heaven is postulated as the necessary precedent of Enki's activities, the latter creates the Deep, vegetation, mountains, seas, and mankind.

Moreover, in his character as God of Wisdom, he is not only the teacher but the creator of those deities who were patrons of man's own constructive work. From such evidence we may infer that in his temple at Eridu, now covered by the mounds of Abu Shahrain in the extreme south of Babylonia, and regarded in early Sumerian tradition as the first city in the world, Enki himself was once celebrated as the sole creator of the universe.


The combination of the three gods Anu, Enlil, and Enki, is persistent in the tradition; for not only were they the great gods of the universe, representing respectively heaven, earth, and the watery abyss, but they later shared the heavenly sphere between them. It is in their astrological character that we find them again in creative activity, though without the co-operation of any goddess, when they appear as creators of the great light-gods and as founders of time divisions, the day and the month.

This Sumerian myth, though it reaches us only in an extract or summary in a Neo-Babylonian schoolboy's exercise, may well date from a comparatively early period, but probably from a time when the "Ways" of Anu, Enlil, and Enki had already been fixed in heaven and their later astrological characters had crystallized.


The idea that a goddess should take part with a god in man's creation is already a familiar feature of Babylonian mythology. Thus the goddess Aruru, in co-operation with Marduk, might be credited with the creation of the human race, as she might also be pictured creating on her own initiative an individual hero such as Enkidu of the Gilgamesh Epic. The /rôle/ of mother of mankind was also shared, as we have seen, by the Semitic Ishtar. And though the old Sumerian goddess, Ninkharsagga, the "Lady of the Mountains", appears in our Sumerian text for the first time in the character of creatress, some of the titles we know she enjoyed, under her synonyms in the great God List of Babylonia, already reflected her cosmic activities. For she was known as
"The Builder of that which has Breath", "The Carpenter of Mankind", "The Carpenter of the Heart", "The Coppersmith of the Gods", "The Coppersmith of the Land", and "The Lady Potter".


In the myth we are not told her method of creation, but from the above titles it is clear that in her own cycle of tradition Ninkhasagga was conceived as fashioning men not only from clay but also from wood, and perhaps as employing metal for the manufacture of her other works of creation. Moreover, in the great God List, where she is referred to under her title Makh, Ninkhasagga is associated with Anu, Enlil, and Enki; she there appears, with her dependent deities, after Enlil and before Enki.

We thus have definite proof that her association with the three chief Sumerian gods was widely recognized in the early Sumerian period and dictated her position in the classified pantheon of Babylonia. Apart from this evidence, the important rank assigned her in the historical and legal records and in votive inscriptions,[1] especially in the early period and in Southern Babylonia, accords fully with the part she here plays in the Sumerian Creation myth.

Eannatum and Gudea of Lagash both place her immediately after Anu and Enlil, giving her precedence over Enki; and even in the Kassite Kudurru inscriptions of the thirteenth and twelfth centuries, where she is referred to, she takes rank after Enki and before the other gods. In Sumer she was known as "the Mother of the Gods", and she was credited with the power of transferring the kingdom and royal insignia from one king to his successor.


Her supreme position as a goddess is attested by the relative insignificance of her husband Dunpae, whom she completely overshadows, in which respect she presents a contrast to the goddess Ninlil, Enlil's female counterpart. The early clay figurines found at Nippur and on other sites, representing a goddess suckling a child and clasping one of her breasts, may well be regarded as representing Ninkharsagga and not Ninlil.

Her sanctuaries were at Kesh and Adab, both in the south, and this fact sufficiently explains her comparative want of influence in Akkad, where the Semitic Ishtar took her place. She does indeed appear in the north during the Sargonic period under her own name, though later she survives in her synonyms of Ninmakh, "the Sublime Lady", and Nintu, "the Lady of Child-bearing". It is under the latter title that Hammurabi refers to her in his Code of Laws, where she is tenth in a series of eleven deities. But as Goddess of Birth she retained only a pale reflection of her original cosmic character, and her functions were gradually specialized.


From a consideration of their characters, as revealed by independent sources of evidence, we thus obtain the reason for the co-operation of four deities in the Sumerian Creation. In fact the new text illustrates a well-known principle in the development of myth, the reconciliation of the rival claims of deities, whose cults, once isolated, had been brought from political causes into contact with each other. In this aspect myth is the medium through which a working pantheon is evolved. Naturally all the deities concerned cannot continue to play their original parts in detail. In the Babylonian Epic of Creation, where a single deity, and not a very prominent one, was to be raised to pre-eminent rank, the problem was simple enough.

He could retain his own qualities and achievements while borrowing those of any former rival. In the Sumerian text we have the result of a far more delicate process of adjustment, and it is possible that the brevity of the text is here not entirely due to compression of a longer narrative, but may in part be regarded as evidence of early combination. As a result of the association of several competing deities in the work of creation, a tendency may be traced to avoid discrimination between rival claims. Thus it is that the assembled gods, the pantheon as a whole, are regarded as collectively responsible for the creation of the universe. It may be added that this use of /ilâni/, "the gods", forms an interesting linguistic parallel to the plural of the Hebrew divine title Elohim.


It will be remembered that in the Sumerian Version the account of Creation is not given in full, only such episodes being included as were directly related to the Deluge story. No doubt the selection of men and animals was suggested by their subsequent rescue from the Flood; and emphasis was purposely laid on the creation of the /niggilma/ because of the part it played in securing mankind's survival. Even so, we noted one striking parallel between the Sumerian Version and that of the Semitic Babylonians, in the reason both give for man's creation. But in the former there is no attempt to explain how the universe itself had come into being, and the existence of the earth is presupposed at the moment when Anu, Enlil, Enki, and Ninkharsagga undertake the creation of man.

The Semitic-Babylonian Version, on the other hand, is mainly occupied with events that led up to the acts of creation, and it concerns our problem to inquire how far those episodes were of Semitic and how far of Sumerian origin. A further question arises as to whether some strands of the narrative may not at one time have existed in Sumerian form independently of the Creation myth.


The statement is sometimes made that there is no reason to assume a Sumerian original for the Semitic-Babylonian Version, as recorded on "the Seven Tablets of Creation"; and this remark, though true of that version as a whole, needs some qualification. The composite nature of the poem has long been recognized, and an analysis of the text has shown that no less than five principal strands have been combined for its formation. These consist of (i) The Birth of the Gods; (ii) The Legend of Ea and Apsű; (iii) The principal Dragon Myth; (iv) The actual account of Creation; and (v) the Hymn to Marduk under his fifty titles.

The Assyrian commentaries to the Hymn, from which considerable portions of its text are restored, quote throughout a Sumerian original, and explain it word for word by the phrases of the Semitic Version; so that for one out of the Seven Tablets a Semitic origin is at once disproved. Moreover, the majority of the fifty titles, even in the forms in which they have reached us in the Semitic text, are demonstrably Sumerian, and since many of them celebrate details of their owner's creative work, a Sumerian original for other parts of the version is implied. Enlil and Ea are both represented as bestowing their own names upon Marduk, and we may assume that many of the fifty titles were originally borne by Enlil as a Sumerian Creator. Thus some portions of the actual account of Creation were probably derived from a Sumerian original in which "Father Enlil" figured as the hero.


For what then were the Semitic Babylonians themselves responsible? It seems to me that, in the "Seven Tablets", we may credit them with considerable ingenuity in the combination of existing myths, but not with their invention. The whole poem in its present form is a glorification of Marduk, the god of Babylon, who is to be given pre-eminent rank among the gods to correspond with the political position recently attained by his city. It would have been quite out of keeping with the national thought to make a break in the tradition, and such a course would not have served the purpose of the Babylonian priesthood, which was to obtain recognition of their claims by the older cult-centres in the country.

Hence they chose and combined the more important existing myths, only making such alterations as would fit them to their new hero. Babylon herself had won her position by her own exertions; and it would be a natural idea to give Marduk his opportunity of becoming Creator of the world as the result of successful conflict. A combination of the Dragon myth with the myth of Creation would have admirably served their purpose; and this is what we find in the Semitic poem. But even that combination may not have been their own invention; for, though, as we shall see, the idea of conflict had no part in the earlier forms of the Sumerian Creation myth, its combination with the Dragon /motif/ may have characterized the local Sumerian Version of Nippur.

How mechanical was the Babylonian redactors' method of glorifying Marduk is seen in their use of the description of Tiamat and her monster brood, whom Marduk is made to conquer. To impress the hearers of the poem with his prowess, this is repeated at length no less than four times, one god carrying the news of her revolt to another.


Direct proof of the manner in which the later redactors have been obliged to modify the original Sumerian Creation myth, in consequence of their incorporation of other elements, may be seen in the Sixth Tablet of the poem, where Marduk states the reason for man's creation. In the second lecture we noted how the very words of the principal Sumerian Creator were put into Marduk's mouth; but the rest of the Semitic god's speech finds no equivalent in the Sumerian Version and was evidently inserted in order to reconcile the narrative with its later ingredients. This will best be seen by printing the two passages in parallel columns



SUMERIAN VERSION SEMITIC VERSION


"The people will I cause to . . . "I will make man, that man may in their settlements, [. . .]. Cities . . . shall (man) build, I will create man who shall in their protection will I cause inhabit [. . .], him to rest, That he may lay the brick of our That the service of the gods may house in a clean spot, be established, and that [their] shrines [may be built]. That in a clean spot he may But I will alter the ways of the establish our . . . !" gods, and I will change [their paths]; Together shall they be oppressed, and unto evil shall [they . . .]!"


The welding of incongruous elements is very apparent in the Semitic Version. For the statement that man will be created in order that the gods may have worshippers is at once followed by the announcement that the gods themselves must be punished and their "ways" changed. In the Sumerian Version the gods are united and all are naturally regarded as worthy of man's worship. The Sumerian Creator makes no distinctions; he refers to "our houses", or temples, that shall be established. But in the later version divine conflict has been introduced, and the future head of the pantheon has conquered and humiliated the revolting deities. Their "ways" must therefore be altered before they are fit to receive the worship which was accorded them by right in the simpler Sumerian tradition. In spite of the epitomized character of the Sumerian Version, a comparison of these passages suggests very forcibly that the Semitic-Babylonian myth of Creation is based upon a simpler Sumerian story, which has been elaborated to reconcile it with the Dragon myth.


The Semitic poem itself also supplies evidence of the independent existence of the Dragon myth apart from the process of Creation, for the story of Ea and Apsű, which it incorporates, is merely the local Dragon myth of Eridu. Its inclusion in the story is again simply a tribute to Marduk; for though Ea, now become Marduk's father, could conquer Apsű, he was afraid of Tiamat, "and turned back".The original Eridu myth no doubt represented Enki as conquering the watery Abyss, which became his home; but there is nothing to connect this tradition with his early creative activities. We have long possessed part of another local version of the Dragon myth, which describes the conquest of a dragon by some deity other than Marduk; and the fight is there described as taking place, not before Creation, but at a time when men existed and cities had been built.

Men and gods were equally terrified at the monster's appearance, and it was to deliver the land from his clutches that one of the gods went out and slew him. Tradition delighted to dwell on the dragon's enormous size and terrible appearance. In this version he is described as fifty /bęru/ in length and one in height; his mouth measured six cubits and the circuit of his ears twelve; he dragged himself along in the water, which he lashed with his tail; and, when slain, his blood flowed for three years, three months, a day and a night. From this description we can see he was given the body of an enormous serpent.



A further version of the Dragon myth has now been identified on one of the tablets recovered during the recent excavations at Ashur, and in it the dragon is not entirely of serpent form, but is a true dragon with legs. Like the one just described, he is a male monster. The description occurs as part of a myth, of which the text is so badly preserved that only the contents of one column can be made out with any certainty. In it a god, whose name is wanting, announces the presence of the dragon: "In the water he lies and I [. . .]!" Thereupon a second god cries successively to Aruru, the mother- goddess, and to Pallil, another deity, for help in his predicament. And then follows the description of the dragon:


In the sea was the Serpent cre[ated]. Sixty /bęru/ is his length; Thirty /bęru/ high is his he[ad]. For half (a /bęru/) each stretches the surface of his ey[es]; For twenty /bęru/ go [his feet]. He devours fish, the creatures [of the sea], He devours birds, the creatures [of the heaven], He devours wild asses, the creatures [of the field], He devours men, to the peoples [he . . .].


The text here breaks off, at the moment when Pallil, whose help against the dragon had been invoked, begins to speak. Let us hope we shall recover the continuation of the narrative and learn what became of this carnivorous monster.


There are ample grounds, then, for assuming the independent existence of the Babylonian Dragon-myth, and though both the versions recovered have come to us in Semitic form, there is no doubt that the myth itself existed among the Sumerians. The dragon /motif/ is constantly recurring in descriptions of Sumerian temple-decoration, and the twin dragons of Ningishzida on Gudea's libation-vase, carved in green steatite and inlaid with shell, are a notable product of Sumerian art. The very names borne by Tiamat's brood of monsters in the "Seven Tablets" are stamped in most cases with their Sumerian descent, and Kingu, whom she appointed as her champion in place of Apsű, is equally Sumerian.

It would be strange indeed if the Sumerians had not evolved a Dragon myth, for the Dragon combat is the most obvious of nature myths and is found in most mythologies of Europe and the Near East. The trailing storm-clouds suggest his serpent form, his fiery tongue is seen in the forked lightning, and, though he may darken the world for a time, the Sun-god will always be victorious. In Egypt the myth of "the Overthrowing of Apep, the enemy of Ra" presents a close parallel to that of Tiamat; but of all Eastern mythologies that of the Chinese has inspired in art the most beautiful treatment of the Dragon, who, however, under his varied forms was for them essentially beneficent. Doubtless the Semites of Babylonia had their own versions of the Dragon combat, both before and after their arrival on the Euphrates, but the particular version which the priests of Babylon wove into their epic is not one of them.

We have thus traced four out of the five strands which form the Semitic-Babylonian poem of Creation to a Sumerian ancestry. And we now come back to the first of the strands, the Birth of the Gods, from which our discussion started. For if this too should prove to be Sumerian, it would help to fill in the gap in our Sumerian Creation myth, and might furnish us with some idea of the Sumerian view of "beginnings", which preceded the acts of creation by the great gods.

It will be remembered that the poem opens with the description of a time when heaven and earth did not exist, no field or marsh even had been created, and the universe consisted only of the primaeval water- gods, Apsű, Mummu, and Tiamat, whose waters were mingled together. Then follows the successive generation of two pairs of deities, Lakhmu and Lakhamu, and Anshar and Kishar, long ages separating the two generations from each other and from the birth of the great gods which subsequently takes place. In the summary of the myth which is given by Damascius the names of the various deities accurately correspond to those in the opening lines of the poem; but he makes some notable additions, as will be seen from the following table:


DAMASCUS "SEVEN TABLETS" I


{'Apason---Tauthe} Apsű---Tiamat | {Moumis} Mummu {Lakhos---Lakhe}[2] Lakhmu---Lakhamu {'Assoros---Kissare} Anshar---Kishar {'Anos, 'Illinos, 'Aos} Anu, [ ], Nudimmud (= Ea) {'Aos---Dauke} | {Belos}

[

In the passage of the poem which describes the birth of the great gods after the last pair of primaeval deities, mention is duly made of Anu and Nudimmud (the latter a title of Ea), corresponding to the {'Anos} and {'Aos} of Damascius; and there appears to be no reference to Enlil, the original of {'Illinos}. It is just possible that his name occurred at the end of one of the broken lines, and, if so, we should have a complete parallel to Damascius. But the traces are not in favour of the restoration; and the omission of Enlil's name from this part of the poem may be readily explained as a further tribute to Marduk, who definitely usurps his place throughout the subsequent narrative.

Anu and Ea had both to be mentioned because of the parts they play in the Epic, but Enlil's only recorded appearance is in the final assembly of the gods, where he bestows his own name "the Lord of the World" upon Marduk. The evidence of Damascius suggests that Enlil's name was here retained, between those of Anu and Ea, in other versions of the poem. But the occurrence of the name in any version is in itself evidence of the antiquity of this strand of the narrative. It is a legitimate inference that the myth of the Birth of the Gods goes back to a time at least before the rise of Babylon, and is presumably of Sumerian origin.


Anu and Nudimmud are each mentioned for the first time at the beginning of a line, and the three lines following the reference to Nudimmud are entirely occupied with descriptions of his wisdom and power. It is also probable that the three preceding lines (ll. 14-16), all of which refer to Anu by name, were entirely occupied with his description. But it is only in ll. 13-16 that any reference to Enlil can have occurred, and the traces preserved of their second halves do not suggestion the restoration.




Further evidence of this may be seen in the fact that Anu, Enlil, and Ea (i.e. Enki), who are here created together, are the three great gods of the Sumerian Version of Creation; it is they who create mankind with the help of the goddess Ninkharsagga, and in the fuller version of that myth we should naturally expect to find some account of their own origin. The reference in Damascius to Marduk ({Belos}) as the son of Ea and Damkina ({Dauke}) is also of interest in this connexion, as it exhibits a goddess in close connexion with one of the three great gods, much as we find Ninkharsagga associated with them in the Sumerian Version. Before leaving the names, it may be added that, of the primaeval deities, Anshar and Kishar are obviously Sumerian in form.



It may be noted that the character of Apsű and Tiamat in this portion of the poem is quite at variance with their later actions. Their revolt at the ordered "way" of the gods was a necessary preliminary to the incorporation of the Dragon myths, in which Ea and Marduk are the heroes. Here they appear as entirely beneficent gods of the primaeval water, undisturbed by storms, in whose quiet depths the equally beneficent deities Lakhmu and Lakhamu, Anshar and Kishar, were generated.

This interpretation, by the way, suggests a more satisfactory restoration for the close of the ninth line of the poem than any that has yet been proposed. That line is usually taken to imply that the gods were created "in the midst of [heaven]", but I think the following rendering, in connexion with ll. 1-5, gives better sense:

When in the height heaven was not named, And the earth beneath did not bear a name, And the primaeval Apsű who begat them, And Mummu, and Tiamat who bore them all,-- Their waters were mingled together, . . . . . . . . . Then were created the gods in the midst of [their waters], Lakhmu and Lakhamu were called into being . . .



If the ninth line of the poem be restored as suggested, its account of the Birth of the Gods will be found to correspond accurately with the summary from Berossus, who, in explaining the myth, refers to the Babylonian belief that the universe consisted at first of moisture in which living creatures, such as he had already described, were generated. The primaeval waters are originally the source of life, not of destruction, and it is in them that the gods are born, as in Egyptian mythology; there Nu, the primaeval water-god from whom Ra was self-created, never ceased to be the Sun-god's supporter.

The change in the Babylonian conception was obviously introduced by the combination of the Dragon myth with that of Creation, a combination that in Egypt would never have been justified by the gentle Nile. From a study of some aspects of the names at the beginning of the Babylonian poem we have already seen reason to suspect that its version of the Birth of the Gods goes back to Sumerian times, and it is pertinent to ask whether we have any further evidence that in Sumerian belief water was the origin of all things.



For many years we have possessed a Sumerian myth of Creation, which has come to us on a late Babylonian tablet as the introductory section of an incantation. It is provided with a Semitic translation, and to judge from its record of the building of Babylon and Egasila, Marduk's temple, and its identification of Marduk himself with the Creator, it has clearly undergone some editing at the hands of the Babylonian priests. Moreover, the occurrence of various episodes out of their logical order, and the fact that the text records twice over the creation of swamps and marshes, reeds and trees or forests, animals and cities, indicate that two Sumerian myths have been combined.

Thus we have no guarantee that the other cities referred to by name in the text, Nippur, Erech, and Eridu, are mentioned in any significant connexion with each other.[1] Of the actual cause of Creation the text appears to give two versions also, one in its present form impersonal, and the other carried out by a god. But these two accounts are quite unlike the authorized version of Babylon, and we may confidently regard them as representing genuine Sumerian myths. The text resembles other early accounts of Creation by introducing its narrative with a series of negative statements, which serve to indicate the preceding non-existence of the world, as will be seen from the following extract:


No city had been created, no creature had been made, Nippur had not been created, Ekur had not been built, Erech had not been created, Eanna had not been built, Apsű had not been created, Eridu had not been built, Of the holy house, the house of the gods, the habitation had not been created. All lands were sea. At the time when a channel (was formed) in the midst of the sea, Then was Eridu created, Esagila built, etc.


Here we have the definite statement that before Creation all the world was sea. And it is important to note that the primaeval water is not personified; the ordinary Sumerian word for "sea" is employed, which the Semitic translator has faithfully rendered in his version of the text. The reference to a channel in the sea, as the cause of Creation, seems at first sight a little obscure; but the word implies a "drain" or "water-channel", not a current of the sea itself, and the reference may be explained as suggested by the drainage of a flood- area.

No doubt the phrase was elaborated in the original myth, and it is possible that what appears to be a second version of Creation later on in the text is really part of the more detailed narrative of the first myth. There the Creator himself is named. He is the Sumerian god Gilimma, and in the Semitic translation Marduk's name is substituted. To the following couplet, which describes Gilimma's method of creation, is appended a further extract from a later portion of the text, there evidently displaced, giving additional details of the Creator's work:


Gilimma bound reeds in the face of the waters, He formed soil and poured it out beside the reeds. [He] filled in a dike by the side of the sea, [He . . .] a swamp, he formed a marsh. [. . .], he brought into existence, [Reeds he form]ed, trees he created.



Here the Sumerian Creator is pictured as forming dry land from the primaeval water in much the same way as the early cultivator in the Euphrates Valley procured the rich fields for his crops. The existence of the earth is here not really presupposed. All the world was sea until the god created land out of the waters by the only practical method that was possible in Mesopotamia.


In another Sumerian myth, which has been recovered on one of the early tablets from Nippur, we have a rather different picture of beginnings. For there, though water is the source of life, the existence of the land is presupposed. But it is bare and desolate, as in the Mesopotamian season of "low water". The underlying idea is suggestive of a period when some progress in systematic irrigation had already been made, and the filling of the dry canals and subsequent irrigation of the parched ground by the rising flood of Enki was not dreaded but eagerly desired. The myth is only one of several that have been combined to form the introductory sections of an incantation; but in all of them Enki, the god of the deep water, plays the leading part, though associated with different consorts.

The incantation is directed against various diseases, and the recitation of the closing mythical section was evidently intended to enlist the aid of special gods in combating them. The creation of these deities is recited under set formulae in a sort of refrain, and the divine name assigned to each bears a magical connexion with the sickness he or she is intended to dispel.



We have already noted examples of a similar use of myth in magic, which was common to both Egypt and Babylonia; and to illustrate its employment against disease, as in the Nippur document, it will suffice to cite a well-known magical cure for the toothache which was adopted in Babylon. There toothache was believed to be caused by the gnawing of a worm in the gum, and a myth was used in the incantation to relieve it. The worm's origin is traced from Anu, the god of heaven, through a descending scale of creation; Anu, the heavens, the earth, rivers, canals and marshes are represented as each giving rise to the next in order, until finally the marshes produce the worm.

The myth then relates how the worm, on being offered tempting food by Ea in answer to her prayer, asked to be allowed to drink the blood of the teeth, and the incantation closes by invoking the curse of Ea because of the worm's misguided choice. It is clear that power over the worm was obtained by a recital of her creation and of her subsequent ingratitude, which led to her present occupation and the curse under which she laboured. When the myth and invocation had been recited three times over the proper mixture of beer, a plant, and oil, and the mixture had been applied to the offending tooth, the worm would fall under the spell of the curse and the patient would at once gain relief. The example is instructive, as the connexion of ideas is quite clear. In the Nippur document the recital of the creation of the eight deities evidently ensured their presence, and a demonstration of the mystic bond between their names and the corresponding diseases rendered the working of their powers effective. Our knowledge of a good many other myths is due solely to their magical employment.



Perhaps the most interesting section of the new text is one in which divine instructions are given in the use of plants, the fruit or roots of which may be eaten. Here Usmű, a messenger from Enki, God of the Deep, names eight such plants by Enki's orders, thereby determining the character of each. As Professor Jastrow has pointed out, the passage forcibly recalls the story from Berossus, concerning the mythical creature Oannes, who came up from the Erythraean Sea, where it borders upon Babylonia, to instruct mankind in all things, including "seeds and the gathering of fruits".

But the only part of the text that concerns us here is the introductory section, where the life-giving flood, by which the dry fields are irrigated, is pictured as following the union of the water-deities, Enki and Ninella. Professor Jastrow is right in emphasizing the complete absence of any conflict in this Sumerian myth of beginnings; but, as with the other Sumerian Versions we have examined, it seems to me there is no need to seek its origin elsewhere than in the Euphrates Valley.


Even in later periods, when the Sumerian myths of Creation had been superseded by that of Babylon, the Euphrates never ceased to be regarded as the source of life and the creator of all things. And this is well brought out in the following introductory lines of a Semitic incantation, of which we possess two Neo-Babylonian copies:


O thou River, who didst create all things, When the great gods dug thee out, They set prosperity upon thy banks, Within thee Ea, King of the Deep, created his dwelling. The Flood they sent not before thou wert!


Here the river as creator is sharply distinguished from the Flood; and we may conclude that the water of the Euphrates Valley impressed the early Sumerians, as later the Semites, with its creative as well as with its destructive power. The reappearance of the fertile soil, after the receding inundation, doubtless suggested the idea of creation out of water, and the stream's slow but automatic fall would furnish a model for the age-long evolution of primaeval deities.

When a god's active and artificial creation of the earth must be portrayed, it would have been natural for the primitive Sumerian to picture the Creator working as he himself would work when he reclaimed a field from flood. We are thus shown the old Sumerian god Gilimma piling reed-bundles in the water and heaping up soil beside them, till the ground within his dikes dries off and produces luxuriant vegetation. But here there is a hint of struggle in the process, and we perceive in it the myth-redactor's opportunity to weave in the Dragon /motif/. No such excuse is afforded by the other Sumerian myth, which pictures the life-producing inundation as the gift of the two deities of the Deep and the product of their union.


But in their other aspect the rivers of Mesopotamia could be terrible; and the Dragon /motif/ itself, on the Tigris and Euphrates, drew its imagery as much from flood as from storm. When therefore a single deity must be made to appear, not only as Creator, but also as the champion of his divine allies and the conqueror of other gods, it was inevitable that the myths attaching to the waters under their two aspects should be combined.

This may already have taken place at Nippur, when Enlil became the head of the pantheon; but the existence of his myth is conjectural. In a later age we can trace the process in the light of history and of existing texts. There Marduk, identified wholly as the Sun-god, conquers the once featureless primaeval water, which in the process of redaction has now become the Dragon of flood and storm.


Thus the dualism which is so characteristic a feature of the Semitic- Babylonian system, though absent from the earliest Sumerian ideas of Creation, was inherent in the nature of the local rivers, whose varied aspects gave rise to or coloured separate myths. Its presence in the later mythology may be traced as a reflection of political development, at first probably among the warring cities of Sumer, but certainly later in the Semitic triumph at Babylon. It was but to be expected that the conqueror, whether Sumerian or Semite, should represent his own god's victory as the establishment of order out of chaos.

But this would be particularly in harmony with the character of the Semitic Babylonians of the First Dynasty, whose genius for method and organization produced alike Hammurabi's Code of Laws and the straight streets of the capital.


We have thus been able to trace the various strands of the Semitic- Babylonian poem of Creation to Sumerian origins; and in the second lecture we arrived at a very similar conclusion with regard to the Semitic-Babylonian Version of the Deluge preserved in the Epic of Gilgamesh. We there saw that the literary structure of the Sumerian Version, in which Creation and Deluge are combined, must have survived under some form into the Neo-Babylonian period, since it was reproduced by Berossus. And we noted the fact that the same arrangement in Genesis did not therefore prove that the Hebrew accounts go back directly to early Sumerian originals.

In fact, the structural resemblance presented by Genesis can only be regarded as an additional proof that the Sumerian originals continued to be studied and translated by the Semitic priesthood, although they had long been superseded officially by their later descendants, the Semitic epics. A detailed comparison of the Creation and Deluge narratives in the various versions at once discloses the fact that the connexion between those of the Semitic Babylonians and the Hebrews is far closer and more striking than that which can be traced when the latter are placed beside the Sumerian originals. We may therefore regard it as certain that the Hebrews derived their knowledge of Sumerian tradition, not directly from the Sumerians themselves, but through Semitic channels from Babylon.


It will be unnecessary here to go in detail through the points of resemblance that are admitted to exist between the Hebrew account of Creation in the first chapter of Genesis and that preserved in the "Seven Tablets". It will suffice to emphasize two of them, which gain in significance through our newly acquired knowledge of early Sumerian beliefs. It must be admitted that, on first reading the poem, one is struck more by the differences than by the parallels; but that is due to the polytheistic basis of the poem, which attracts attention when compared with the severe and dignified monotheism of the Hebrew writer.

And if allowance be made for the change in theological standpoint, the material points of resemblance are seen to be very marked. The outline or general course of events is the same. In both we have an abyss of waters at the beginning denoted by almost the same Semitic word, the Hebrew /tehôm/, translated "the deep" in Gen. i. 2, being the equivalent of the Semitic-Babylonian /Tiamat/, the monster of storm and flood who presents so striking a contrast to the Sumerian primaeval water.

The second act of Creation in the Hebrew narrative is that of a "firmament", which divided the waters under it from those above. But this, as we have seen, has no parallel in the early Sumerian conception until it was combined with the Dragon combat in the form in which we find it in the Babylonian poem. There the body of Tiamat is divided by Marduk, and from one half of her he constructs a covering or dome for heaven, that is to say a "firmament", to keep her upper waters in place. These will suffice as text passages, since they serve to point out quite clearly the Semitic source to which all the other detailed points of Hebrew resemblance may be traced.


In the case of the Deluge traditions, so conclusive a demonstration is not possible, since we have no similar criterion to apply. And on one point, as we saw, the Hebrew Versions preserve an original Sumerian strand of the narrative that was not woven into the Gilgamesh Epic, where there is no parallel to the piety of Noah. But from the detailed description that was given in the second lecture, it will have been noted that the Sumerian account is on the whole far simpler and more primitive than the other versions.

It is only in the Babylonian Epic, for example, that the later Hebrew writer finds material from which to construct the ark, while the sweet savour of Ut-napishtim's sacrifice, and possibly his sending forth of the birds, though reproduced in the earlier Hebrew Version, find no parallels in the Sumerian account. As to the general character of the Flood, there is no direct reference to rain in the Sumerian Version, though its presence is probably implied in the storm. The heavy rain of the Babylonian Epic has been increased to forty days of rain in the earlier Hebrew Version, which would be suitable to a country where local rain was the sole cause of flood. But the later Hebrew writer's addition of "the fountains of the deep" to "the windows of heaven" certainly suggests a more intimate knowledge of Mesopotamia, where some contributary cause other than local rain must be sought for the sudden and overwhelming catastrophes of which the rivers are capable.


Thus, viewed from a purely literary standpoint, we are now enabled to trace back to a primitive age the ancestry of the traditions, which, under a very different aspect, eventually found their way into Hebrew literature. And in the process we may note the changes they underwent as they passed from one race to another. The result of such literary analysis and comparison, so far from discrediting the narratives in Genesis, throws into still stronger relief the moral grandeur of the Hebrew text.


We come then to the question, at what periods and by what process did the Hebrews become acquainted with Babylonian ideas? The tendency of the purely literary school of critics has been to explain the process by the direct use of Babylonian documents wholly within exilic times. If the Creation and Deluge narratives stood alone, a case might perhaps be made out for confining Babylonian influence to this late period. It is true that during the Captivity the Jews were directly exposed to such influence. They had the life and civilization of their captors immediately before their eyes, and it would have been only natural for the more learned among the Hebrew scribes and priests to interest themselves in the ancient literature of their new home.

And any previous familiarity with the myths of Babylonia would undoubtedly have been increased by actual residence in the country. We may perhaps see a result of such acquaintance with Babylonian literature, after Jehoiachin's deportation,, in an interesting literary parallel that has been pointed out between Ezek. xiv. 12-20 and a speech in the Babylonian account of the Deluge in the Gilgamesh Epic, XI, ll. 180- 194. The passage in Ezekiel occurs within chaps. i-xxiv, which correspond to the prophet's first period and consist in the main of his utterances in exile before the fall of Jerusalem.

It forms, in fact, the introduction to the prophet's announcement of the coming of "four sore judgements upon Jerusalem", from which there "shall be left a remnant that shall be carried forth". But in consequence, here and there, of traces of a later point of view, it is generally admitted that many of the chapters in this section may have been considerably amplified and altered by Ezekiel himself in the course of writing. And if we may regard the literary parallel that has been pointed out as anything more than fortuitous, it is open to us to assume that chap. xiv may have been worked up by Ezekiel many years after his prophetic call at Tel-abib.



In the passage of the Babylonian Epic, Enlil had already sent the Flood and had destroyed the good with the wicked. Ea thereupon remonstrates with him, and he urges that in future the sinner only should be made to suffer for his sin; and, instead of again causing a flood, let there be discrimination in the divine punishments sent on men or lands. While the flood made the escape of the deserving impossible, other forms of punishment would affect the guilty only. In Ezekiel the subject is the same, but the point of view is different.

The land the prophet has in his mind in verse 13 is evidently Judah, and his desire is to explain why it will suffer although not all its inhabitants deserved to share its fate. The discrimination, which Ea urges, Ezekiel asserts will be made; but the sinner must bear his own sin, and the righteous, however eminent, can only save themselves by their righteousness. The general principle propounded in the Epic is here applied to a special case. But the parallelism between the passages lies not only in the general principle but also in the literary setting. This will best be brought out by printing the passages in parallel columns.


Gilg. Epic, XI, 180-194 Ezek. xiv. 12-20


Ea opened his mouth and spake, And the word of the Lord came He said to the warrior Enlil; unto me, saying, Thou director of the gods! O Son of man, when a land sinneth warrior! against me by committing a Why didst thou not take counsel trespass, and I stretch out but didst cause a flood? mine hand upon it, and break On the transgressor lay his the staff of the bread transgression! thereof, and send /famine/ Be merciful, so that (all) be not upon it, and cut off from it destroyed! Have patience, so man and beast; though these that (all) be not [cut off]! three men, Noah, Daniel, and Instead of causing a flood, Job, were in it, they should Let /lions/ come and diminish deliver but their own souls by mankind! their righteousness, saith the Instead of causing a flood, Lord God.

Let /leopards/ come and If I cause /noisome beasts/ to diminish mankind! pass through the land, and Instead of causing a flood, they spoil it, so that it be Let /famine/ be caused and let it desolate, that no man may pass smite the land! through because of the beasts; Instead of causing a flood, though these three men were in Let the /Plague-god/ come and it, as I live, saith the Lord [slay] mankind! God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate. Or if I bring a /sword/ upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off from it man and beast; though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. Or if I send a /pestilence/ into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast; though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.



It will be seen that, of the four kinds of divine punishment mentioned, three accurately correspond in both compositions. Famine and pestilence occur in both, while the lions and leopards of the Epic find an equivalent in "noisome beasts". The sword is not referred to in the Epic, but as this had already threatened Jerusalem at the time of the prophecy's utterance its inclusion by Ezekiel was inevitable.

Moreover, the fact that Noah should be named in the refrain, as the first of the three proverbial examples of righteousness, shows that Ezekiel had the Deluge in his mind, and increases the significance of the underlying parallel between his argument and that of the Babylonian poet. It may be added that Ezekiel has thrown his prophecy into poetical form, and the metre of the two passages in the Babylonian and Hebrew is, as Dr. Daiches points out, not dissimilar.


It may of course be urged that wild beasts, famine, and pestilence are such obvious forms of divine punishment that their enumeration by both writers is merely due to chance. But the parallelism should be considered with the other possible points of connexion, namely, the fact that each writer is dealing with discrimination in divine punishments of a wholesale character, and that while the one is inspired by the Babylonian tradition of the Flood, the other takes the hero of the Hebrew Flood story as the first of his selected types of righteousness. It is possible that Ezekiel may have heard the Babylonian Version recited after his arrival on the Chebar.

And assuming that some form of the story had long been a cherished tradition of the Hebrews themselves, we could understand his intense interest in finding it confirmed by the Babylonians, who would show him where their Flood had taken place. To a man of his temperament, the one passage in the Babylonian poem that would have made a special appeal would have been that quoted above, where the poet urges that divine vengeance should be combined with mercy, and that all, righteous and wicked alike, should not again be destroyed. A problem continually in Ezekiel's thoughts was this very question of wholesale divine punishment, as exemplified in the case of Judah; and it would not have been unlikely that the literary structure of the Babylonian extract may have influenced the form in which he embodied his own conclusions.


But even if we regard this suggestion as unproved or improbable, Ezekiel's reference to Noah surely presupposes that at least some version of the Flood story was familiar to the Hebrews before the Captivity. And this conclusion is confirmed by other Babylonian parallels in the early chapters of Genesis, in which oral tradition rather than documentary borrowing must have played the leading part. Thus Babylonian parallels may be cited for many features in the story of Paradise, though no equivalent of the story itself has been recovered.

In the legend of Adapa, for example, wisdom and immortality are the prerogative of the gods, and the winning of immortality by man is bound up with eating the Food of Life and drinking the Water of Life; here too man is left with the gift of wisdom, but immortality is withheld. And the association of winged guardians with the Sacred Tree in Babylonian art is at least suggestive of the Cherubim and the Tree of Life. The very side of Eden has now been identified in Southern Babylonia by means of an old boundary-stone acquired by the British Museum a year or two ago.



But I need not now detain you by going over this familiar ground. Such possible echoes from Babylon seem to suggest pre-exilic influence rather than late borrowing, and they surely justify us in inquiring to what periods of direct or indirect contact, earlier than the Captivity, the resemblances between Hebrew and Babylonian ideas may be traced. One point, which we may regard as definitely settled by our new material, is that these stories of the Creation and of the early history of the world were not of Semitic origin.

It is no longer possible to regard the Hebrew and Babylonian Versions as descended from common Semitic originals. For we have now recovered some of those originals, and they are not Semitic but Sumerian. The question thus resolves itself into an inquiry as to periods during which the Hebrews may have come into direct or indirect contact with Babylonia.


There are three pre-exilic periods at which it has been suggested the Hebrews, or the ancestors of the race, may have acquired a knowledge of Babylonian traditions. The earliest of these is the age of the patriarchs, the traditional ancestors of the Hebrew nation. The second period is that of the settlement in Canaan, which we may put from 1200 B.C. to the establishment of David's kingdom at about 1000 B.C. The third period is that of the later Judaean monarch, from 734 B.C. to 586 B.C., the date of the fall of Jerusalem; and in this last period there are two reigns of special importance in this connexion, those of Ahaz (734-720 B.C.) and Manasseh (693-638 B.C.).


With regard to the earliest of these periods, those who support the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch may quite consistently assume that Abraham heard the legends in Ur of the Chaldees. And a simple retention of the traditional view seems to me a far preferable attitude to any elaborate attempt at rationalizing it. It is admitted that Arabia was the cradle of the Semitic race; and the most natural line of advance from Arabia to Aram and thence to Palestine would be up the Euphrates Valley.

Some writers therefore assume that nomad tribes, personified in the traditional figure of Abraham, may have camped for a time in the neighbourhood of Ur and Babylon; and that they may have carried the Babylonian stories with them in their wanderings, and continued to preserve them during their long subsequent history. But, even granting that such nomads would have taken any interest in traditions of settled folk, this view hardly commends itself. For stories received from foreign sources become more and more transformed in the course of centuries. The vivid Babylonian colouring of the Genesis narratives cannot be reconciled with this explanation of their source.



A far greater number of writers hold that it was after their arrival in Palestine that the Hebrew patriarchs came into contact with Babylonian culture. It is true that from an early period Syria was the scene of Babylonian invasions, and in the first lecture we noted some newly recovered evidence upon this point. Moreover, the dynasty to which Hammurabi belonged came originally from the north-eastern border of Canaan and Hammurabi himself exercised authority in the west. Thus a plausible case could be made out by exponents of this theory, especially as many parallels were noted between the Mosaic legislation and that contained in Hammurabi's Code.

But it is now generally recognized that the features common to both the Hebrew and the Babylonian legal systems may be paralleled to-day in the Semitic East and elsewhere, and cannot therefore be cited as evidence of cultural contact. Thus the hypothesis that the Hebrew patriarchs were subjects of Babylon in Palestine is not required as an explanation of the facts; and our first period still stands or falls by the question of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, which must be decided on quite other grounds. Those who do not accept the traditional view will probably be content to rule this first period out.



During the second period, that of the settlement in Canaan, the Hebrews came into contact with a people who had used the Babylonian language as the common medium of communication throughout the Near East. It is an interesting fact that among the numerous letters found at Tell el-Amarna were two texts of quite a different character. These were legends, both in the form of school exercises, which had been written out for practice in the Babylonian tongue. One of them was the legend of Adapa, in which we noted just now a distant resemblance to the Hebrew story of Paradise. It seems to me we are here standing on rather firmer ground; and provisionally we might place the beginning of our process after the time of Hebrew contact with the Canaanites.


Under the earlier Hebrew monarchy there was no fresh influx of Babylonian culture into Palestine. That does not occur till our last main period, the later Judaean monarchy, when, in consequence of the westward advance of Assyria, the civilization of Babylon was once more carried among the petty Syrian states. Israel was first drawn into the circle of Assyrian influence, when Arab fought as the ally of Benhadad of Damascus at the battle of Karkar in 854 B.C.; and from that date onward the nation was menaced by the invading power. In 734 B.C., at the invitation of Ahaz of Judah, Tiglath-Pileser IV definitely intervened in the affairs of Israel. For Ahaz purchased his help against the allied armies of Israel and Syria in the Syro-Ephraimitish war.

Tiglath-pileser threw his forces against Damascus and Israel, and Ahaz became his vassal. To this period, when Ahaz, like Panammu II, "ran at the wheel of his lord, the king of Assyria", we may ascribe the first marked invasion of Assyrian influence over Judah. Traces of it may be seen in the altar which Ahaz caused to be erected in Jerusalem after the pattern of the Assyrian altar at Damascus.We saw in the first lecture, in the monuments we have recovered of Panammu I and of Bar-rekub, how the life of another small Syrian state was inevitably changed and thrown into new channels by the presence of Tiglath-pileser and his armies in the West.




Hezekiah's resistance checked the action of Assyrian influence on Judah for a time. But it was intensified under his son Manasseh, when Judah again became tributary to Assyria, and in the house of the Lord altars were built to all the host of heaven. Towards the close of his long reign Manasseh himself was summoned by Ashur-bani-pal to Babylon. So when in the year 586 B.C. the Jewish exiles came to Babylon they could not have found in its mythology an entirely new and unfamiliar subject. They must have recognized several of its stories as akin to those they had assimilated and now regarded as their own. And this would naturally have inclined them to further study and comparison.


The answer I have outlined to this problem is the one that appears to me most probable, but I do not suggest that it is the only possible one that can be given. What I do suggest is that the Hebrews must have gained some acquaintance with the legends of Babylon in pre-exilic times. And it depends on our reading of the evidence into which of the three main periods the beginning of the process may be traced.


So much, then, for the influence of Babylon. We have seen that no similar problem arises with regard to the legends of Egypt. At first sight this may seem strange, for Egypt lay nearer than Babylon to Palestine, and political and commercial intercourse was at least as close. We have already noted how Egypt influenced Semitic art, and how she offered an ideal, on the material side of her existence, which was readily adopted by her smaller neighbours.

Moreover, the Joseph traditions in Genesis give a remarkably accurate picture of ancient Egyptian life; and even the Egyptian proper names embedded in that narrative may be paralleled with native Egyptian names than that to which the traditions refer. Why then is it that the actual myths and legends of Egypt concerning the origin of the world and its civilization should have failed to impress the Hebrew mind, which, on the other hand, was so responsive to those of Babylon?


One obvious answer would be, that it was Nebuchadnezzar II, and not Necho, who carried the Jews captive. And we may readily admit that the Captivity must have tended to perpetuate and intensify the effects of any Babylonian influence that may have previously been felt. But I think there is a wider and in that sense a better answer than that.


I do not propose to embark at this late hour on what ethnologists know as the "Hamitic" problem. But it is a fact that many striking parallels to Egyptian religious belief and practice have been traced among races of the Sudan and East Africa. These are perhaps in part to be explained as the result of contact and cultural inheritance. But at the same time they are evidence of an African, but non-Negroid, substratum in the religion of ancient Egypt.

In spite of his proto- Semitic strain, the ancient Egyptian himself never became a Semite. The Nile Valley, at any rate until the Moslem conquest, was stronger than its invaders; it received and moulded them to its own ideal. This quality was shared in some degree by the Euphrates Valley. But Babylonia was not endowed with Egypt's isolation; she was always open on the south and west to the Arabian nomad, who at a far earlier period sealed her Semitic type.


To such racial division and affinity I think we may confidently trace the influence exerted by Egypt and Babylon respectively upon Hebrew tradition.








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