I have a new book that was released recently. It is called Adam and Eve: Questioning the Historicity of Biblical Human Origins. This book discusses the Genesis creation account and looks at whether we can determine if there was a historical Adam and Eve or not. Spoiler Alert: no.
Not only does it take a historical-critical approach to the first four chapters of Genesis, it also analyzes the story as compared to other ancient Near Eastern traditions. The reader will discover the common motifs in Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Ugaritic texts, the language of royalty read into the stories, and why knowing the descendants of the “first” man and woman helps us know the true origins of the Israelite people.
The book is free for today (August 19) only, so act fast! Here is an excerpt (annotations have been removed):
Mesopotamia carries many images in their religious texts that help create transparency with the Genesis account. One of the direct parallels is the flood story of Gilgamesh and Utnapishtim, which is a near-verbatim copy of the Noah flood myth in Genesis. This includes the building of a giant boat and bringing animals on board. On Tablet XI, col i:7-40 it reads “Take specimens of every living thing on board. Make the ark square with a roof like the dome of the heavens.” This can be seen in Genesis 6:19-7:9 and, in col. iii:96-144 to col iv:145-98, there is another Genesis flood parallel.
The ark ran aground on Mt. Nisir…It reminded grounded for six days…
I released a raven, which saw that the flood had subsided. It ate, circled,
and flew away…I prepared an altar there on the mountaintop. I set out my
sacred vessels; I kindled a sacred fire of reed, cedar, and myrtle. The divine
assembly smelled the aroma. They swarmed like flies around the sacrifice.
Ishtar arrived and removed her necklace of lapis-lazuli, saying: ‘By my
necklace, I swear, I shall never forget these days…’
These passages are all seen in the flood story of Noah, in Genesis chapters six through eight. Moreover, it makes sense that these stories come from Mesopotamia rather than Israel or Canaan. It makes sense because of, namely, the flooding. Greeks named the region “Mesopotamia” because it means “in the middle of rivers,” which was a floodplain. Those specific rivers are the Tigris and Euphrates. These two rivers are also specifically mentioned in Genesis 2:10-14.
The “Enuma Elish” story, dating to around the seventh century BCE, has influences from the Code of Hammurapi (the “more correct” spelling of Hammurabi) that made Babylon one of the most important cities in Mesopotamia. This is important because Hammurapi was written in the 18th century BCE, “Enuma Elish” was drafted in the seventh century BCE, and the Israelites went into exile in the sixth century BCE in Babylon. Since the sixth century is also when the P author, who composed the first creation story, wrote, added into, and edited the other five books of the Pentateuch, it makes sense that these myths would play a dominant part of the Genesis account.
For instance, at VI:5-8 and 23-42, the author writes “These aborigines will do the divine assembly’s work. These savages will set the divine assembly free.” A typical Near Eastern myth was that humanity was created to free the gods of their job to maintain the planet. So it makes sense then that, at Genesis 1:26-27, it reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’”
However, it does not stop there; the gods also create, or “build,” humanity out of other things. Similar to the Egyptian myths, it is done out of bodily fluids and parts. “I will knead blood and bone into a savage, ‘Aborigine’ will be its name…’ Ea formed the aborigines from Kingu’s blood, Marduk set the aborigines to work. Ea emancipated the divine assembly, the wise created the aborigines.” So here we have a creation of humanity through the construction of preexisting material, a divine assembly, and a liberation from earthly duties to maintain the planet and care for it.”
Contrasting this to the Gilgamesh Epic, more influences can be found that made their way into the Genesis narrative. In the Gilgamesh story, the nobles of Uruk (modern day Iraq) ask the gods of Mesopotamia for someone that is equal in strength to Gilgamesh. They ask this because Gilgamesh is an oppressive ruler. The other, lesser, gods ask Aruru who “…washed her hands, pinched off clay and cast it on the steppe, [On the step]pe she created valiant Enkindu.” This is yet another parallel of someone being created from clay from a supreme deity, just like in the second Genesis creation account.
Furthering this point, later in the Gilgamesh Epic, Enkindu is spotted by some hunters and they report this to Gilgamesh. In turn, Gilgamesh sends out a Wise Woman to meet with Enkindu. The two have intercourse “for six days and seven nights” and, afterward, the animals that had considered him one of them are frightened and keep their distance from him. “Enkindu became weak, unable to run as before, But his mind was filled with a new wisdom…”
Wisdom is represented as a woman in a lot of ancient Near Eastern myths, including the myths of the Israelites. Just see Proverbs 8:1-11, “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand…” It is also important to note the significance of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was likely a warning against people considering the worship of neighboring cultures’ deities as the tree was used to represent the Akkadian goddess Asherah or, more correctly, fertility. This can be seen in ancient engravings that show fertility goddesses, like Ras Shama from ancient Ugarit, standing in front of a tree and holding serpents. So, in this instance, it makes sense that Enkindu would be given wisdom from having a week-long sexual encounter with the Wise Woman.
Following all this, the Wise Woman then proceeds to assist Enkindu as he makes his transformation. “She took some of her own clothes and dressed Enkindu…” This is a parallel of Genesis 3:7 and 21; “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves…And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” Once again, these parallels are too strong to brush aside as coincidental, especially with what we have discovered already.
When we look at another story, those of Atrahasis, we see more mentions of divine assemblies (“Today, you are ‘Mother of the Divine Assembly.’” I:233-40). We also see the molding of humans from clay (“Ea-Enki and Nintu-Mami entered their birthing room, she summoned her midwives, he worked her clay.” I:250-59). We see even more in the tales of Adapa, again with divine assemblies (“Adapa, come join the divine assembly.”). Also, like Genesis, there is food that provides eternal life (“Eat our life-giving bread. Drink our life-giving water. You, mortal, will become immortal…But Adapa replied: ‘Ea my divine patron, told me: “Do not eat their bread or drink their water.”’”).