Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

Over at the Huffington Post, Valerie Tarico interviews Dr. Tony Nugen about the ancient Sumerian origins of the Easter story. Here are the parallels with Sumerian story of Inanna:

Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead.

Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.

People were telling this story almost four thousand years before the death and resurrection of Jesus.

They also discuss the similarities between Jesus and Inanna’s husband, Dumuzi:

Dumuzi is the prototype of the non-aggressive, non-heroic male; he cries easily; he is the opposite of the warrior-god in the ancient pantheon. The summer month which corresponds to our month of July is named after him in both the Babylonian and Hebrew calendars, and during this month each year his followers, mostly women, mourn his death. From this myth we are talking about, and from a few other references, we also know that he is resurrected. But unlike Jesus, who dies and is resurrected once, he is imagined to die and be resurrected over and over, each year.

There are other major differences. However, there really are a lot of similarities between the personalities and the stories of Jesus and Dumuzi. They both are tortured and die violent deaths after being betrayed by a close friend, who accepts a bribe from his enemies. They both have a father who is a god and a mother who is human. Dumuzi’s father, the god Enki, also has many similarities to Yahweh, the father of Jesus.

What I find most interesting is that Dr. Tony Nugen is a Presbyterian minister and considers himself a Christian, even though he realizes the resurrection of Jesus is bunk:

I consider myself to be a Christian in a spiritual sense, not in a doctrinal sense. This means my Christianity is defined by values, spiritual practices, and faith rather than belief in a specific set of doctrinal agreements….

If the resurrection of Christ didn’t literally happen, that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether life now is worth living or how we live. From my vantage point, where values and practices are the heart of Christianity, the contradiction lies in people like our recent president who think it’s ok to practice torture and yet call themselves Christians….

From the standpoint of my Christianity, right-wing evangelical fundamentalism is really the opposite of what Christ was about. Those who subscribe to an intolerant, arrogant, inhumane form of Christianity are following a religion that is literally antichrist.

I wish there were more Christians like Dr. Nugen! I think we’d get along quite well.

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  • http://aniramzee.wordpress.com aniramzee

    To quote an unknown person; “I’m not saying there isn’t a god.I’m saying it would be great if there was one.” And yes, I do feel Christians lost their ideals a long time back,just like people of most other religions(including my own).I know a lot of atheists who are morally more sound than theists.Religion seems to have become a battle for power,and a quest to gain more followers through conversions.

  • Sock

    I agree with Daniel. If more Christians realized that they were not following the teachings of Christ, the world would be a better place.

  • Alex Guggenheim

    Another amusing post by Daniel. Daniel claims to wholly reject the notion of God yet claims that if believers only believed a way that satisfied him, then he and those believers would get along quite well. LOL

  • http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com Personal Failure

    Unfortunately, the bible is so big, and contains so much conflicting material, that really any viewpoint can be supported with at least one quote from it- especially if you get all interpretive about it.

  • 4Christopher

    you cannot be a christian and not believe in the resurrection

  • ungullible

    I agree – if more Christians were like this, the whole religion thing would be a non-issue for me. My in-laws probably match this description of Christianity (their definition of being Christian is to be “Christ-like” in behavior regardless of any other details of your creed), and there is zero conflict between our families.

    That said, I agree with 4Christopher that these people aren’t really Christian. They may call themselves such, but they have deviated so far from the mainstream and historical definition that I don’t really consider them as such. It seems to me that they are more accurately called deists, but they can’t quite bring themselves to lose the ceremonial baggage and community they’ve grown up with, so they are trying to maintain the best of both worlds.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Amazing how some can write what looks to be complete fiction and represent it as the truth .

    Inanna’s reason for visiting the underworld is unclear. The reason she gives to the gatekeeper of the underworld is that she wants to attend her brother-in-law Gud-gal-ana’s funeral rites. However, this may be a ruse; Inanna may have been intending to conquer the underworld.

    The garments are each representations of powerful mes she possesses. Perhaps Inanna’s garments, unsuitable for a funeral, along with Inanna’s haughty behaviour make Ereshkigal suspicious

    Following Ereshkigal’s instructions, the gatekeeper tells Inanna she may enter the first gate of the underworld, but she must hand over her lapis lazuli measuring rod. She asks why and is told ‘It is just the ways of the Underworld’. She obliges and passes through. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, each removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey, thus stripping her of her power.

    the afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook.”

    whereas the blog author dishonestly extrapolates to these claims :

    sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die.

    as pathetic an attempt as the claim of some anti-theists of similarities of mithra and Jesus

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Not even good fiction Daniel Florien. I await your next comic book version ancient history or mythology with enthusiasm .

  • http://www.redconfetti.com/ redconfetti

    The root of my athiesm is the fear based doctrine and the attitudes and actions of those which claim to be ‘Christian’.

    I’ve known that this perspective is truer, and I still strongly oppose what all religions have become now that I have opened myself up to understanding the deeper spiritual truths these religions originally intended to transmit to the people.

  • http://looking-closely.blogspot.com Rachel Rev

    The problem I have with those like Dr. Nugent who identify as Christian and think like this is that they are the reason I am still in the church and why I still identify as Christian. I come so very close to leaving all together, finding more solidarity with the skeptics and former faithful than I do among even the liberal “believers” in my tradition. And then I read something like this that makes me think, “Yeah, I can remain in this tradition. There’s room for me here.” But, as you suggested, Daniel, there aren’t enough Dr. Nugents out there. And they certainly aren’t in the pulpits or pews of any churches I attend. So reading something like this interview, for me, just delays the inevitable.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    COMPARE :

    http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/section1/tr141.htm

    Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead.

  • http://dissonanced.wordpress.com/ Greg

    I am amazed at how much time you spend criticizing other people’s beliefs. Are you not able to to just ignore them?

  • http://www.rakeback4e.com/ Pete

    The money makes world go around…

  • http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com Rhology

    Ho hum, another day, another “Jesus is a copycat” story. What’s wrong – did you get tired of defending the lame and tattered Mithras/Isis/Adonis/Zeitgeist crap that atheists usually throw out there?

  • http://r.yuwie.com/oceansnsunsets/ ocean

    Interesting blog, thanks for sharing. Ocean

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    Great post, Daniel. This is the type of stuff that first drew me to your blog.

    I’ve never researched the similarities/differences between the resurrection stories of Jesus and other ancient mythologies, but I’m sure it would make for an interesting study.

    What I find most interesting is that Dr. Tony Nugen is a Presbyterian minister and considers himself a Christian, even though he realizes the resurrection of Jesus is bunk:

    I consider myself to be a Christian in a spiritual sense, not in a doctrinal sense. This means my Christianity is defined by values, spiritual practices, and faith rather than belief in a specific set of doctrinal agreements….

    If the resurrection of Christ didn’t literally happen, that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether life now is worth living or how we live. From my vantage point, where values and practices are the heart of Christianity, the contradiction lies in people like our recent president who think it’s ok to practice torture and yet call themselves Christians….

    From the standpoint of my Christianity, right-wing evangelical fundamentalism is really the opposite of what Christ was about. Those who subscribe to an intolerant, arrogant, inhumane form of Christianity are following a religion that is literally antichrist.

    I wish there were more Christians like Dr. Nugen! I think we’d get along quite well.

    First, does he actually deny or affirm the resurrection as an event in history? Or, is he fudging and simply dodging the question? I suspect the latter, but if he clearly denies it as a historical event elsewhere, I’d be happy to be wrong.

    I wish there were more Christians like Dr. Nugen! I think we’d get along quite well.

    More Christians that deny the resurrection? Or more Christians who resist right-winged evangelical-fundamentalism?

    I’m definitely among the latter group.

    However, I’m not necessarily a part of the former.

    Paul clearly says that if the resurrection did not happen, then our faith is in vain — strong, strong words. And hence the pushback from classical Christians to the more “despiritualized” groups.

    For me, belief in the resurrection is just that — belief — just like the rest of my faith is.

    Let me try to say this as simply and briefly as I can — because I have to get work done today :)

    There is a big difference between the following two statements.

    “The resurrection of Jesus is a historical event and actually did happen in human history.”

    “I believe the resurrection of Jesus actually did happen, and I believe in the hope that the resurrection represents.”

    I affirm the latter, which probably puts me somewhere between Dr. Nugen and classical Christianity.

    That said, I share the concerns of many people here who are concerned about the intolerance from the right, even though I don’t dwell on that during my posts. However, I think it’s possible for atheists and Christians to co-exist in society without requiring Christians to give up their beliefs — because believing in the resurrection, for example, does not at all require a posture of intolerance. Because from my perspective, that intolerance does not derive from Jesus, the stories told about him, or the apostolic witness to him. And that is the point at which Dr. Nugen’s words resonate most with me.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Oh ? how much does your own conscious weigh ?

    When you say the word “Exist ” i take it you mean like YOU exist?

    Where were you 1o,ooo years ago ? where will you be 1o,ooo years from now ?

    Show me your “existence “.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Wow ,argumentum ad verecundiam . If some alleged scholar , took common practices of today , and compared them with myths from the past to suggest copy cat of religions , when the religious text does not support the practices of today , its as stupid as this fiction the author called the Ianna story .

  • LRA

    Oh, ok then. You think that Christianity poofed into existence, fully formed and completely original.

    *laughs*

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    SAD :(

    In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions and to avoid information and interpretations which contradict prior beliefs. It is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference, or as a form of selection bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study or disconfirmation of an alternative hypothesis.

    Confirmation bias is of interest in the teaching of critical thinking, as the skill is misused if rigorous critical scrutiny is applied only to evidence challenging a preconceived idea but not to evidence supporting it-wiki

  • LRA

    Oh ok- because you christians *never* exhibit confirmation bias!

    *laughs again*

  • boomSLANG

    Previously, I said:

    “If you feel up to the challenge, please explain how asking for evidence from someone who insists that invisible, conscious beings exist, is a ‘lie’.”

    Unless/unless I hear otherwise, I suppose the following are the intended answers that Joe gives(note, each one a *question*, not an answer)…..

    Joe: “Oh ? how much does your own conscious weigh ?”

    The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms) To my knowledge, there is no scientific substantiation that “consciousness” can exist independently of the human brain.

    Joe: “When you say the word ‘Exist’ i take it you mean like YOU exist?”

    Yes.

    “Where were you 1o,ooo years ago ?”

    Nowhere—the same “place” that you were.

    Joe: “where will you be 1o,ooo years from now ?”

    (see previous answer)

    “Show me your ‘existence’.

    I have a policy that I don’t give my home address out on public forums. I can assure that I exist—but for sake of argument, let’s say that I don’t exist.

    Okay; done……now, how exactly does my non-existence validate the existence of invisible, conscious, creator-beings???

  • Francesc

    I’m so naïve… i thought for a moment that you were explaining a problem most christians have facing the real world: confirmation bias

    (ok, LRA came first)

  • boomSLANG

    correction on previous post—should have been “Until/unless”..etc.

    Stupid invisible gremlins!

  • DarkMatter

    True christians always speak the “truth” according to what they know in part, they have “Trinity God” to guide them to seperate the chaffs from the wheat.

    They call it the “Mind Of Christ”.

  • LRA

    Oh, and BTW scholars DO look to the past influences of today’s culture. Case in point- we look at the Ancient Greeks as the founders of Western Civilization.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    So lets recap . Any mythological deity prior to today’s Christianity that ever went to the “big city ” is a template ..

    Any mythological deity prior to todays christianity that was ever arrested by soldiers , escorted by guards , had people of authority hanging around them in near vicinity, is a template ..

    Any mythological deity prior to today’s Christianity that ever took of clothes or jewelry willingly or were stripped of cloths or had their hat inadvertently fall off is a template

    Any mythological deity prior to today’s Christianity that ever was hung out on a rock or hanged , or put on a stake {sic (hook) displayed in any way on any contrivance is a template.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    JOE :

    “evidence ” is something a corporeal entity thinks a hypothetical incorporeal creator of reality should produce . A corporeal entity thinks thus that “things ” even concepts ? qualia ? all should fall within the parameters of their own 2 dimensional thinking , expectations .

    They seek evidence and use terms “exist” when they themselves can provide same of their own

    _____________________________________

    Unless/unless I hear otherwise, I suppose the following are the intended answers that Joe gives(note, each one a *question*, not an answer)…..

    Joe: “Oh ? how much does your own conscious weigh ?”

    The average human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms) To my knowledge, there is no scientific substantiation that “consciousness” can exist independently of the human brain.
    ___________________________________

    So , you concede that whatever it is that you claim is “you ” is just chemical reactions , a physical, empirical , a process or sum . Self awareness introspection are out of your control and only mere determined reactions . You refute your own existence .

    ______________________________________
    >
    Joe: “When you say the word ‘Exist’ i take it you mean like YOU exist?”

    Yes.

    “Where were you 1o,ooo years ago ?”

    Nowhere—the same “place” that you were.

    ________________________________
    JOE

    You concede your own presumed existence is temporally challenged , yet expect a hypothetical creator of the reality you reside to fall within the bounds of your own observation .

    Joe: “where will you be 1o,ooo years from now ?”

    (see previous answer)

    “Show me your ‘existence’.

    I have a policy that I don’t give my home address out on public forums. I can assure that I exist—but for sake of argument, let’s say that I don’t exist.

    Okay; done……now, how exactly does my non-existence validate the existence of invisible, conscious, creator-beings???

    _________________________________

    JOE

    Your premise is flawed

  • http://billpost.blogspot.com/ Bill

    @joe55a

    Joe – you are clearly passionate about your beliefs. Please take a minute and explain to us non-believers exactly what your religious/spiritual beliefs are. (Are you christian? If so what variety?) Then please take a few minute to explain to us why your beliefs are right/true?

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a
  • LRA

    He wants you to go on his blog because if you defeat him, he can just erase your comments.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Theres no reply button here . I would never delete a comment . Just made that blog to expedite comments and take a discussion towards the merits or lack thereof God , existence etc deeper metaphysics ,cosmological , ontological, faith , empiricism, knowledge w/e.

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    Had the blog said , there are some similarities as:

    Inanna went to possibly conquer the underworld :

    Jesus went to conquer death via the cross , death and resurrection

    As well as a mention of 3 days etc , yea some similarities .

    But when the real story is changed to this degree to make it fit , isn’t honest and creates ignored conflict.

    Lets say for instance , he had used “hook ” instead of stake .

    But here it becomes problematic and non sequitur .

    Is the fact that Ianna was hung on a hook, a template for Jesus history or story(Christianity) , or a template for the common justice /sentencing practice of the Romans and other cultures ?

    Anyways , I enjoyed the discussion , you all seem pretty polite , but am having some difficulties replying to the posts I want . I had to reply 3 times to one and none went through . I have had wordpress for some time , but rarely used it , im sure its probably pilot error on my part .

    I will be here if anyone wants to tell me about future blogs here or discuss there . Thanks

    http://joe55a.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/reasonable-faith/

  • http://r.yuwie.com/christianvsatheist/ joe55a

    LRA wrote :

    He wants you to go on his blog because if you defeat him, he can just erase your comments.

    Joe:

    I’m surprised you have the courage to get out of bed LRA , considering , what might , maybe, would’ve.


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