BABYLONIAN RELIGION, CULTURE AND REFERENCES TO IT IN THE BIBLE

BABYLONIAN RELIGION


Babylonian god Nebo

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The Babylonian Pantheon arose out of a gradual amalgamation of the local deities of the early city states of Sumer and Akkad. And Babylonian mythology is mainly the projection into the heavenly sphere of the earthly fortunes of the early centres of civilization in the Euphrates valley. Babylonian religion, therefore, is largely a Sumerian, i.e. Mongolian product, no doubt modified by Semitic influence, yet to the last bearing the mark of its Mongolian origin in the very names of its gods and in the sacred dead languages in which they were addressed. The tutelary spirit of a locality extended his power with the political power of his adherents; when the citizens of one city entered into political relations with the citizens of another, popular imagination soon created the relation of father and son, brother and sister, or man and wife, between their respective gods.[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“The Babylonian Trinity of Anu, Bel, and Ea is the result of later speculation, dividing the divine power into that which rules in heaven, that which rules the earth, and that which rules under the earth. Ea was originally the god of Eridu on the Persian Gulf and therefore the god of the ocean and the waters below. Bel was originally the chief spirit (in Sumerian En-lil, the older designation of Bel, which is Semitic for "chief" or "lord") of Nippur, one of the oldest, possibly the oldest, centre of civilization after Eridu. Anu's local cult is as yet uncertain; Erech has been suggested; we know that Gudea erected a temple to him; he always remained a shadowy personality. Although nominal head of the Pantheon, he had in later days no temple dedicated to him except one, and that he shared with Hadad. Sin, the moon, was the god of Ur; Shamash, the sun, was the god of Larsa and Sippar; when the two towns of Girsu and Uruazaga were united into the one city of Lagash, the two respective local deities, Nin-Girsu and Bau, became man and wife, to whom Gudea brought wedding presents. |=|

“With the rise of Babylon and the political unification of the whole country under this metropolis, the city-god Marduk, whose name does not occur on any inscription previous to Hammurabi, leaps to the foreground. The Babylonian theologians not only gave him a place in the Pantheon, but in the Epos "Enuma Elish" it is related how as reward for overcoming the Dragon of Chaos, the great gods, his fathers, bestowed upon Marduk their own names and titles. Marduk gradually so outshone the other deities that these were looked upon as mere manifestations of Marduk, whose name became almost a synonym for God. And though Babylonians never quite reached monotheism, their ideas sometimes seem to come near it. Unlike the Assyrians, the Babylonians never possessed a female deity of such standing in the Pantheon as Ishtar of Ninive or Arbela. In the Second Empire,Nebo, the city-god of Borsippa, over against Babylon, rises into prominence and wins honours almost equal to those of Marduk, and the twin cities have two almost inseparable gods. Judging from the continual invocation of the gods in every conceivable detail of life, and the continual acknowledgment of dependence on them, and the anxious humble prayers that are still extant, the Babylonians were as a nation pre-eminent in piety.” |=|

Websites and Resources on Mesopotamia: Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu.com/Mesopotamia ; Mesopotamia University of Chicago site mesopotamia.lib.uchicago.edu; British Museum mesopotamia.co.uk ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Louvre louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_periode.jsp ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/toah ; University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology penn.museum/sites/iraq ; Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago uchicago.edu/museum/highlights/meso ; Iraq Museum Database oi.uchicago.edu/OI/IRAQ/dbfiles/Iraqdatabasehome ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; ABZU etana.org/abzubib; Oriental Institute Virtual Museum oi.uchicago.edu/virtualtour ; Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur oi.uchicago.edu/museum-exhibits ; Ancient Near Eastern Art Metropolitan Museum of Art www.metmuseum.org

Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory

Babylonian Society, Marriage and Economics


Everyday life in Babylon

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“It is impossible in this article to give an idea of the astounding culture which had developed in the Euphrates Valley, the cradle of civilization, even as early as 2300 B.C. A perusal of the article Hammurabi, and a careful reading of his code of laws will give us a clear insight in the Babylonian world of four thousand years ago. The ethical litany of the Shurpu tablets contains an examination of conscience more detailed than the so-called "Negative" confessions in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and fills us with admiration for the moral level of the Babylonian world. [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“Though polygamists, the Babylonians raised but one woman to the legal status of wife, and women possessed considerable rights and freedom of action. Marriage settlements protected the married, and the unmarried managed their own estates. On the other hand, they possessed an institution analogous to vestal virgins at Rome. These female votaries had a privileged position in Babylonian society; we know, however, of no such dire penalty for their unfaithfulness as the Roman law inflicted. A votary could even enter into nominal marriage, if she gave her husband a maid as Sarah gave Abraham. According to Law 110 of Hammurabi, however, "if a votary who dwells not in a cloister open a wine-house or enter a wine-house for drink, that female they shall burn". On the other hand (Law 127), "if a man has caused the finger to be pointed against a votary and has not justified it, they shall set that man before the judges and mark his forehead." The dark side of Babylonian society is seen in the strange enactment: "If the child of a courtesan or of a public woman come to know his father's house and despise his foster-parents and go to his father's house, they shall tear out his eyes." The repeated coupling of the words "votary or public woman" and the minute and indulgent legislation of which they are the objects make us fear that the virtue of chastity was not prized in Babylon. |=|

“Although originally only a provident, prosperous agricultural people, the Babylonians seem to have developed a great commercial talent; and well might some Assyrian Napoleon have referred to his Southern neighbours as "that nation of shopkeepers." In 1893 Dr. Hilprecht found 730 tablets twenty feet underground in a ruined building at Nippur, which proved to be the banking archives of the firm Nurashu and Sons, signed, sealed, and dated about 400 B.C. We also possess a deed of purchase by Manishtusu, King of Kish, some 4000 B.C., in archaic Babylonian, which in accuracy and minuteness of detail in moneys and values would compare well with a modern balance sheet that has passed the chartered accountants. Proofs are not lacking of the commercial talents of the Babylonians during the thirty-five centuries between these dates.” |=|

Babylonian Literature

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“Vast as is the material of Babylonian inscriptions, equally varied are their contents. The great majority no doubt of the 300,000 tablets hitherto unearthed deal with business matters rather than with matters literary; contracts, marriage settlements, cadastral surveys, commercial letters, orders for goods or acknowledgments of their receipt, official communications between magistrates and civil or military governors, names, titles, and dates on foundation stones, private correspondence, and so on. Still a fair percentage has a right to be strictly classed as "literature" or "belles-lettres". We must moreover constantly keep in mind that only about one-fifth of the total number of these tablets have been published and that any description of their literature must as yet be fragmentary and tentative. It is convenient to classify as follows: (1) the Epics; (2) the Psalm; (3) the Historical Narrative.” [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]


Tablet with a hymn to the goddess Nungal

Psalms: “This species of literature, which formerly seemed almost limited to the Hebrew race, had a luxurious growth on Babylonian soil. These songs to the gods or to some one god are indeed often either weird incantations or dreary litanies; and when after perusal of a good number of them one turns to the Hebrew Psalter, no fair-minded person will deny the almost immeasurable superiority of the latter. On the other hand, naught but unreasoning prejudice would trouble to deny the often touching beauty and nobility of thought in some of these productions of the instinctive piety of a noble race. It is natural moreover that the tone of some Babylonian psalms should strongly remind us of some songs of Israel, where every psalmist boasted that he had as forefather a Babylonian: Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees. Some of these psalms are written in Sumerian with Semitic Babylonian interlinear translations; others in Semitic Babylonian only. They show all sorts of technicalities in versification, parallelism, alliteration, and rhythm. There are acrostics and even double acrostics, the initial and final syllable of each line being the same. These psalms contain praise and supplication of the great gods, but, what is most remarkable, some of them are penitential psalms, the sinner mourning his sin and begging restoration to favour. Moreover, there are a great number of "lamentations" not over personal but over national calamities; and a Babylonian "prophet" wept over the fall of Nippur many centuries before Jeremias wrote his inspired songs of sorrow over the destruction of Jerusalem. Besides these there are numberless omen tablets, magical recipes for all sorts of ills, and rituals of temple service, but they belong to the history of religion and astrology rather than to that of literature.” |=|

Historical Narratives: “The Babylonians seemed to have possessed no ex professo historians, who, like a Herodotus, endeavoured to give a connected narrative of the past. We have to gather their history from the royal inscriptions on monuments and palace walls and state-cylinders, in which each sovereign records his great deeds in perpetuam rei memoriam. Whereas we fortunately possess an abundance of historical texts of the Assyrian kings, thanks to the discovery of Assurbanipal's library, we are as yet not so fortunate in the case of Babylonian kings; of the early Babylonian city-kings we have a number of shorter inscriptions on steles and boundary stones in true lapidary style and longer historical records in the great cylinder inscriptions of Gudea of Lagash. Whereas we possess considerable historical texts of Hammurabi, we possess but very little of his many successors on the Babylonian throne until the Second Babylonian Empire, when long historical texts tell us the doings of Nabopolassar, Nabuchodonosor, and Nabonidus. They are all of a pompous grandeur that palls a little on a Western mind, and their self-adulation comes strange to us. They are in the style which popular imagination is wont to attribute to the utterances of His Celestial Majesty, the Emperor of China. They invariably begin with a long homage to the gods, giving lengthy lists of deities, protectors of the sovereign and state, and end with imprecations on those who destroy, mutilate, or disregard the inscription. The Babylonian royal inscriptions, as far as at present known, are almost without exception peaceful in tone and matter. Their ever recurring themes are the erection, restoration, or adornment of temples and palaces, and the digging of canals. Even when at war, the Babylonian king thought it bad taste to refer to it in his monumental proclamations. No doubt the Babylonians must have despised Assyrian inscriptions as bloodthirsty screeds. Because the genius of Babylon was one of culture and peace; therefore, though a world-centre a thousand years before Ninive, it lasted more than a thousand years after Ninive was destroyed.

In addition to literature given after article Assyria: Boscawen, The First of Empires (2d ed., London, 1905); Bezold, Ninive und Babylon (Leipzig, 1903); Pinches, The Old Testament in the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia (London, 1903); Sayce, The Archaeology of the Cuneiform Inscriptions (London, 1907); Jastrow, Die Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens (Giessen, I, 1905; II, 1907); Radau, Early Babylonian History (New York, 1900); Lagrange, Historical Criticism and O.T. (London, 1906); Jeremias, Das Alte Testament in Lichte des alten Orients (Leipzig, 1906); Delitzsch, Babel und Bibel (Leipzig and Stuttgart, 1905) for a collection of texts with immediate bearing on O.T.; Winckler, Keilinschriftliches Textbuch zum Alten Testament (Leipzig, 1903).

Babylonian Epics

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The so called "Seven Tablets of Creation", because written on a series of seven very mutilated tablets in the Kouyunshik Library. Happily the lacunae can here and there be filled up by fragments of duplicates found elsewhere. Borrowing an expression from the early Teuton literature, this might be called the "saga of the primeval chaos". Assyrian scribes called it by its first words "Enuma Elish" (When on high) as the Jews called Genesis "Bereshith" (in the beginning). Although it contains an account of the world's origin, as above contrasted with the account given in the Bible, it is not so much a cosmogony as the story of the heroic deeds of the god Marduk, in his struggle with the Dragon of Chaos.


hymn to Marduk

"Though the youngest of the gods, Marduk is charged by them to fight Tiamtu and the gods on her side. He wins a glorious victory; he takes the tablets of fate from Kimgu, her husband; he splits open her skull, hews asunder the channels of her blood and makes the north wind carry it away to hidden places. He divides the corpse of the great Dragon and with one half makes a covering for the heavens and thus fixes the waters above the firmament. He then sets about fashioning the universe, and the stars, and the moon; he forms man. "Let me gather my blood and let me set up a man, let me make then men dwelling on the earth." When Marduk has finished his work, he is acclaimed by all the gods with joy and given fifty names. The gods are apparently eager to bestow their own titles upon him. The aim of the poem clearly is to explain how Marduk, the local god of as modern a city as Babylon, had displaced the deities of the older Babylonian cities, "the gods his fathers". |=| [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“The Adapa-Legend, a sort of "Paradise Lost", probably a standard work of Babylonian literature, as it is found not only in the Ninive library, but even among the Amarna tablets in Egypt. It relates how Adapa, the wise man or Atrachasis, the purveyor to the sanctuary of Ea, is deceived, through the envy of Ea. Anu, the Supreme God, invites him to Paradise, offers him the food and drink of immortality, but Adapa, mistakenly thinking it poison, refuses, and loses life everlasting. Anu scornfully says: "Take him and bring him back to his earth." |=|

“(d) Ishtar's descent into Hades, here and there bearing a surprising resemblance to well-known lines of Dante's Inferno. The goddess of Erech goes:
“To the land whence no one ever returneth,
To the house of gloom where dwelleth Irkalla,
To the house which one enters but nevermore leaveth,
On the way where there is no retracing of footsteps,
To the house which one enters, and daylight all ceases.” |=|

“On an Amarna tablet we find a description ghostly and graphic of a feast, a fight, and a wedding in hell. Likewise fragments of legendary stories about the earliest Babylonian kings have come down to us. One of the most remarkable is that in which Sargon of Akkad, born of a vestal maiden of high degree, is exposed by his mother in a basket of bulrushes and pitch floating on the waters of the Euphrates; he is found by a water carrier and brought up as a gardener. This story cannot but remind us of Moses' birth. |=|

Babylonian Gilgamesh

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The great national epos of Gilgamesh, which probably had in Babylonian literature some such place as the Odyssey or the Aeneid amongst the Greeks and Romans. It consists of twelve chapters or cantos. It opens with the words Sha nagbo imuru (He who saw everything). The number of extant tablets is considerable, but unfortunately they are all very fragmentary and with exception of the eleventh chapter the text is very imperfect and shows as yet huge lacunae. Gilgamesh was King of Erech the Walled. [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]


Gilgamesh

“When the story begins, the city and the temples are in a ruinous state. Some great calamity has fallen upon them. Erech has been besieged for three years, till Bel and Ishtar interest themselves in its behalf. Gilgamesh has yearned for a companion, and the goddess Arurn makes Ea-bani, the warrior; "covered with hair was all his body and he had tresses like a woman, his hair grew thick as corn; though a man, he lives amongst the beasts of the field". They entice him into the city of Erech by the charms of a woman called Samuhat; he lives there and becomes a fast friend of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh and Ea-bani set out in quest of adventure, travel through forests, and arrive at the palace of a great queen. Gilgamesh cuts off the head of Humbabe, the Elamite king. Ishtar the goddess falls in love with him and asks him in marriage. But Gilgamesh scornfully reminds her of her treatment of former lovers. Ishtar in anger returns to heaven and revenges herself by sending a divine bull against Gilgamesh and Ea-bani. This animal is overcome and slain to the great joy of the city of Erech. Warning dreams are sent to Gilgamesh and his friend Ea-bani dies, and Gilgamesh sets out on a far journey, to bring his friend back from the underworld. |=|

“After endless adventures our hero reaches in a ship the waters of death and converses with Pir-napistum, the Babylonian Noe, who tells him the story of the flood, which fills up the eleventh chapter of some 330 lines, referred to above. Pir-napistum gives to Gilgamesh the plant of rejuvenescence but he loses it again on his way back to Erech. In the last chapter Gilgamesh succeeds in calling up the spirit of Ea-bani, who gives a vivid portrayal of life after death "where the worm devoureth those who had sinned in their heart, but where the blessed lying upon a couch, drink pure water". Though weird in the extreme and to our eyes a mixture of the grotesque with the sublime, this epos contains descriptive passages of unmistakable power. A few lines as example: "At the break of dawn in the morning there arose from the foundation of heaven a dark cloud. The Storm god thundered within it and Nebo and Marduk went before it. Then went the heralds over mountain and plain. Uragala dragged the anchors loose, the Annunak raised their torches, with their flashing they lighted the earth. The roar of the Storm god reached to the heavens and everything bright turned into darkness." |=|

Biblical References to the Babylonians

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“(1) The first passage referring to Babylonia is Gen., x, 8-10: "Chus begat Nemrod, and the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and Arach and Achad and Chalanne in the land of Sennaar." The great historical value of these genealogies in Genesis has been acknowledged by scholars of all schools; these genealogies are, however, not of persons, but of tribes, which is obvious from such a bold metaphor as: "Chanaan begat Sidon, his first born" (v, 15). But in many instances the names are those of actual persons whose personal names became designations of the tribes, just as in known instances of Scottish and Irish clans or Arab tribes. Chus begat Nemrod. Chus was not a Semite, according to the Biblical account, and it is remarkable that recent discoveries all seem to point to the fact that the original civilization of Babylonia was non-Semitic and the Semitic element only gradually displaced the aborigines and adopted their culture. It must be noted, also, that in v. 22 Assur is described as a son of Sem, though in v. 11 Assur comes out of the land of Sennaar. [Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“This exactly represents the fact that Assyria was purely Semitic where Babylonia was not. Some see in Chus a designation of the city of Kish, mentioned above amongst the cities of early Babylonia, and certainly one of its most ancient towns. Nemrod, on this supposition, would be none else than Nin-marad, or Lord of Marad, which was a daughter-city of Kish. Gilgamesh, whom mythology transformed into a Babylonian Hercules, whose fortunes are described in the Gilgamesh-epos, would then be the person designated by the Biblical Nemrod. Others again see in Nemrod an intentional corruption of Amarudu, the Akkadian for Marduk, whom the Babylonians worshiped as the great God, and who, perhaps, was the deified ancestor of their city. This corruption would be parallel to Nisroch (IV Kings, xix, 37) for Assuraku, and Nibhaz (IV Kings, xvii, 31) for Abahazu, or Abed Nego for Abdnebo. The description of "stout hunter" or hero-entrapper would fit in well with the role ascribed to the god Marduk, who entrapped the monster Tiamtu in his net. Both Biblical instances, IV Kings, xvii, 31, and xix, 37, however, are very doubtful, and Nisroch has recently found a more probable explanation. |=|

“(2) "The beginning of his kingdom was Babylon and Arach and Achad and Calanne". These cities of Northern Babylonia are probably enumerated inversely to the order of their antiquity; so that Nippur (Calanne) is the most ancient, and Babylon the most modern. Recent excavations have shown that Nippur dates far back beyond the Sargonid age (3800 B.C.) and Nippur is mentioned on the fifth tablet of the Babylonian Creation-story. |=|


Abraham, pointing his finger, is described in the Bible as a Babylonian from Ur

“(4) Next to be mentioned is the account of the battle of the four kings against five near the Dead Sea (Gen., xiv). Sennaar mentioned in v. 1 is the Sumer of the Babylonian inscriptions, and Amraphel is identified by most scholars with the great Hammurabi, the sixth King of Babylon. The initial gutteral of the king's name being a soft one, and the Babylonians being given to dropping their H's, the name actually occurs in cuneiform inscriptions as Ammurapi. The absence of the final l arises from the fact that the sign pi was misread bil or perhaps ilu, the sign of deification, or complement of the name, being omitted. There is no philological difficulty in this identification, but the chronological difficulty (viz., of Hammurabi being vassal of Chedorlaomer) has led others to identify Amraphel with Hammurabi's father Sin-muballit, whose name is ideographically written Amar-Pal. Arioch, King of Pontus (Pontus is St. Jerome's unfortunate guess to identify Ellazar) is none else but Rim-Sin, King of Larsa (Ellazar of A. V.), whose name was Eri-Aku, and who was defeated and dethroned by the King of Babylon, whether Hammurabi or Sin-muballit; and if the former, then this occurred in the thirty-first year of his reign, the year of the land of Emutbalu, Eri-Aku bearing the title of King of Larsa and Father of Emutbalu. The name Chedorlahomer has apparently, though not quite certainly, been found on two tablets together with the names Eriaku and Tudhula, which latter king is evidently "Thadal, king of the Nations". The Hebrew word goyim, "nations", is a clerical error for Gutium or Guti, a neighbouring state which plays an important role throughout Babylonian history. Of Kudur-lahgumal, King of the Land of Elam, it is said that he "descended on", and "exercised sovereignty in Babylon the city of Kar-Duniash". We have documentary evidence that Eriaku's father Kudurmabug, King of Elam, and after him Hammurabi of Babylon, claimed authority over Palestine the land of Martu. This Biblical passage, therefore, which was once described as bristling with impossibilities, has so far only received confirmation from Babylonian documents. |=|

“(5) According to Gen., xi, 28 and 31, Abraham was a Babylonian from the city of Ur. It is remarkable that the name Abu ramu (Honored Father) occurs in the eponym lists for 677 B.C., and Abe ramu, a similar name, on a contract-tablet in the reign of Apil-Sin, thus showing that Abram was a Babylonian name in use long before and after the date of the Patriarch. His father removed from Ur to Harran, from the old centre of the Moon-cult to the new. Talmudic tradition makes Terah an idolater, and his religion may have had to do with his emigration. No excavations have as yet taken place at Harran, and Abraham's ancestry remains obscure. Aberamu of Apil-Sin's reign had a son Sha-Amurri, which fact shows the early intercourse between Babylonia and the Amorite land, or Palestine. In Chanaan Abraham remained within the sphere of Babylonian language and influence, or perhaps even authority. Several centuries later, when Palestine was no longer part of the Babylonian Empire, Abd-Hiba, the King of Jerusalem, in his intercourse with his over-lord of Egypt, wrote neither his own language nor that of Pharao, but Babylonian, the universal language of the day. Even when passing into Egypt, Abraham remained under Semitic rule, for the Hyksos reigned there. |=|

“(6) Considering that the progenitor of the Hebrew race was a Babylonian, and that Babylonian culture remained paramount in Western Asia for more than 1000 years, the most astounding feature of the Hebrew Scriptures is the almost complete absence of Babylonian religious ideas, the more so as Babylonian religion, though Oriental polytheism, possessed a refinement, a nobility of thought, and a piety, which are often admirable.

Babylon, Creation, Garden of Eden and the Great Flood

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:“The Babylonian account of creation, though often compared with the Biblical one, differs from it on main and essential points for it contains no direct statement of the Creation of the world: Tiamtu and Apsu, the watery waste and the abyss wedded together, beget the universe; Marduk, the conqueror of chaos, shapes and orders all things; but this is the mythological garb of evolution as opposed to creation. It does not make the Deity the first and only cause of the existence of all things; the gods themselves are but the outcome of pre-existent, apparently eternal, forces; they are not cause, but effect. It makes the present world the outcome of a great war; it is the story of Resistance and Struggle, which is the exact opposite of the Biblical account. It does not arrange the things created into groups or classes, which is one of the main features of the story in Genesis. The work of creation is not divided into a number of days -- the principal literary characteristic of the Biblical account.[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]


Galzu Enji warns Noah about the flood


“The Babylonian mythology possesses something analogous to the biblical Garden of Eden. But though they apparently possessed the word Edina, not only as meaning "the Plain", but as a geographical name, their garden of delight is placed in Eridu, where "a dark vine grew; it was made a glorious place, planted beside the abyss. In the glorious house, which is like a forest, its shadow extends; no man enters its midst. In its interior is the Sun-god Tammuz. Between the mouths of the rivers, which are on both sides." This passage bears a striking analogy to Gen., ii, 8-17. The Babylonians, however, seem to have possessed no account of the Fall. It seems likely that the name of Ea, or Ya, or Aa, the oldest god of the Babylonian Pantheon, is connected with the name Jahve, Jahu, or Ja, of the Old Testament. Professor Delitzsch recently claimed to have found the name Jahve-ilu on a Babylonian tablet, but the reading has been strongly disputed by other scholars. |=|

“The greatest similarity between Hebrew and Babylonian records is in their accounts of the Flood. Pir-napistum, the Babylonian Noe, commanded by Ea, builds a ship and transfers hither his family, the beasts of the field, and the sons of the artificers, and he shuts the door. Six days and nights the wind blew, the flood overwhelmed the land. The seventh day the storm ceased; quieted, the sea shrank back; all mankind had turned to corruption. The ship stopped at the land of Nisir. Pir-napistum sends out first a dove, which returns; then a swallow, and it returns, then a raven, and it does not return. He leaves the ship, pours out a libation, makes an offering on the peak of the mountain. "The gods smelled a savour, the gods smelled a sweet savour, the gods gathered like flies over the sacrificer." No one reading the Babylonian account of the Flood can deny its intimate connection with the narrative in Genesis, yet the former is so intimately bound up with Babylonian mythology, that the inspired character of the Hebrew account is the better appreciated by the contrast.” |=|

Babylonians and the Tower of Babel

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:““(3) The next Biblical passage which requires mention is that dealing with the Tower of Babel (Gen., xi, 1-9). This narrative, though couched in the terms of Oriental folklore, yet expresses not merely a moral lesson, but refers to some historical fact in the dim past. There was perhaps in the ancient world no spot on all the earth where such a variety of tongues and dialects was heard as in Babylonia, where Akkadians, Sumerians, and Amorites, Elamites, Kassites, Sutites, Qutites, and perhaps Hittites met and left their mark on the language; where Assyrian or Semitic Babylonian itself only very gradually displaced the older non-Semitic tongue, and where for many centuries the people were at least bilingual. It was the spot where Turanian, Semitic, and Indo-Germanic met. Yet there remained in the national consciousness the memory that the first settlers in the Babylonian plain spoke one language. "They removed from the East", as the Bible says and all recent research suggests. When we read, "The earth was of one tongue", we need not take this word in its widest sense, for the same word is often translated "the land".[Source: J.P. Arendzen, transcribed by Rev. Richard Giroux, Catholic Encyclopedia |=|]

“Philology may or may not prove the unity of all human speech, and man's descent from a single set of parents seems to postulate original unity of language; but in any case the Bible does not here seem to refer to this, and the Bible account itself suggests that a vast variety of tongues existed previous to the foundations of Babylon. We need but refer to Gen., x, 5, 21, 31: "In their kindreds and tongues and countries and nations"; and Gen., x, 10, where Babylon is represented as almost coeval with Arach, Achad, and Calanne, and posterior to Gomer, Magog, Elam, Arphaxad, so that the original division of languages cannot first have taken place at Babel. What historical fact lies behind the account of the building of the Tower of Babel is difficult to ascertain. Of course any real attempt to reach heaven by a tower is out of the question. The mountains of Elam were too close by, to tell them that a few yards more or less were of no importance to get in touch with the sky. But the wish to have a rallying-point in the plain is only too natural. It is a striking fact that most Babylonian cities possessed a ziggurrat (a stage, or temple-tower), and these bore very significant Sumerian names, as, for instance, at Nippur, Dur-anki, "Link of heaven and earth" -- "the summit of which reaches unto heaven, and the foundation of which is laid in the bright deep"; or, at Babylon, Esagila, "House of the High Head", the more ancient designation of which was Etemenanki, "House of the Foundation of Heaven and Earth"; or Ezida, at Borsippa, by its more ancient designation Euriminianki, or "House of the Seven Spheres of Heaven and Earth". |=|


Tower of Babel


“The remains of Ezida, at present Birs Nimrud, are traditionally pointed out as the Tower of Babel; whether rightly, is impossible to say; Esagila, in Babylon itself, has as good, if not a better, claim. We have no record of the building of the city and tower being interrupted by any such catastrophe as a confusion of languages; but that such an interruption because of diversity of speech of the townspeople took place, is not impossible. In any case it can only have been an interruption, though perhaps of many centuries, for Babylon increased and prospered for many centuries after the period referred to in Genesis. The history of the city of Babylon before the Amorite dynasty is an absolute blank, and we have no facts to fill up the fifteen centuries of its existence previous to that date. The etymology given for the name Babel in Gen., xi, 9, is not the historic meaning of the word, which, as given above is Kadungir, Bab-Ilu, or "God's Gate". The derivation in Genesis rests upon the similarity of sound with a word formed from the root balal, "to stammer", or "be confused". |=|

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Mesopotamia sourcebooks.fordham.edu , National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, especially Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1991 and Marion Steinmann, Smithsonian, December 1988, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, BBC, Encyclopædia Britannica, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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