The foundations of all three major religions are built on ancient source material that has woven their way through history. While ancient history and mythology may not appeal to everyone, the ancient history of the middle east unlocks the truth. Most people when thinking of the history of the middle east often think of the biblical accounts as actual history scholars and archeologists have been decoding vast libraries of information left on tablets and unearthing buried cities from the sand. Within these writings are familiar stories. In part one of this discussion on the mythology we will take a look at the story of Atrahasis.
Before we can begin the story a little background about area. The map below is a general idea of the regions and that existed within the fertile crescent between roughly 2600 BCE to 600 BCE. That’s a really long time ago and while a few places may be familiar most of these cities and civilizations have been either lost or transformed as states and cultures were lost through wars and migrations which have remained constant in this region through most of modern history.
The story of Atrahasis which we will be discussing is the Akkadian account of the story and was recorded in Akkadian Cuneiform around 1650 BCE. The story existed long before it throughout different cultures in the same region and the hero of the story has been known by many different names. As this tale accounts for the creation of mankind to through story of the great flood. In a comparison of time, the story of Atrahasis recorded in Akkadian dates to roughly 1650 BCE while the account of Noah may first appear in the Torah after it’s creation around the 5th or 6th century BCE. That is a span of over a thousand years between the story we will examine and the biblical story known today.
The story of Atrahasis begins before the creation of man. The Great Gods (Annunaki) had created a race of lesser gods called the Igigi. The Great Gods sent the Igigi down to Earth to work the land including digging out the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. After 3600 years the Igigi rose up and rebelled against the Annunaki saying, “Every single one of us gods declared war. We have to put [ a stop] to the digging. The load is excessive, it is killing us. The work is too hard, the trouble too much. Every single one of us gods has agreed to complain to Enlil.”
Now, Enlil is not the eldest god in the pantheon but he’s the guy in charge. The Annunaki come together and discuss the complaints of the Igigi. Anu, the father god and sky god, agrees with the Igigi stating that they have been complaining for a long time and their burden is too heavy. As a solution the Annunaki decide to create primeval man to carry the burden of performing the gods work on Earth. Mami, the midwife to the gods was asked to be the creator of man.
Enki, the god of the primordial waters and earth declared, “On the first, seventh, and fifteenth of the month, I shall make a purification by washing. Then one god should be slaughtered, and the gods can be purified by immersion. Nintu shall mix clay. With his flesh and his blood. Then a god and a man will be mixed together in clay. Let us hear the drumbeat forever after, Let a ghost come into existence from god’s flesh, Let her proclaim it as his living sign, and let the ghost exist so as not to forget (the slain god). ”
Ilawela, the god of intelligence is sacrificed to be made one with mankind. The god and the clay are mixed together and Mami, the Midwife of the gods separated the clay into 14 balls creating 7 men and 7 women and the first humans were created.
The earth might be older than 6000 years after all?
- A god dying for mankind. Check
- Father, son, holy ghost theme. Check.
- Intelligence theme in man’s creation. Check.
From the onset of the story we can observe several ideas that are new as well as some common themes that were introduced into the Torah in it’s inception yet altered. Although there are authors who wish to construe the Annunaki as our alien overlords, this is a classic creation story. The notion that man was created from clay/mud can also be seen when Prometheus creates man from mud, as well as many other gods from China, Egypt, the Inca, Hawaii, as well as the Qur’an and the the Bible/Torah where in Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”. The theme of this message is not special. If it’s origin is the middle east during an early Sumero-Akkadian period it makes sense that clay would be the chosen medium as clay was a resource that was not only in abundance in the region but sustained life as it was used to create structures, vessels for food storage, beer, and to write the nearly unmeasurable amount of records kept within this culture.
The other major points of this first portion of Antrahasis are nearly opposite the story of the creation story attributed to Yahweh. Instead of mankind created and given a beautiful garden in which to live men and women are created equally to tend to the earth for the gods. I personally find it interesting that the creation of women and their subjugation as a result of altering a story to make women come forth from a man was a cultural shift that occurred during the 1000 year period between the when the story of Antrahasis and the Torah were recorded. This shift in the belief that the first woman was created from a man has persisted for two and a half millennia and continues to cause the suppression of women but I digress…
In the story of Atrahasis we see the common theme regarding the sacrifice of a god. This story is perhaps made more interesting by the fact that the god which is sacrificed is the god of intelligence, Ilawela. Although the story does not go into detail regarding the decision to choose the god of intelligence to sacrifice as the blood in which to create humankind. Intelligence is a central theme in creation of man. The Torah has infused intelligence into man using a fruit instead of a god. Although the bible mentions the Eloheim which gives evidence of polytheism another god can’t be sacrificed to push the monotheistic worship of one god. The story had to be altered. In doing so, humans become intelligent and that is in turn used against man in introducing the concept of sin.
This is just portion of this ancient story. I have not gone in great depth into any one concept but rather point out some of the foundations used in the creation of biblical mythology that existed long before the Torah. Before these myths were sealed within stone tablets they were communicated through countless generations like a game of telephone. Yet in the preservation of these stories we see how cultures took these stories and changed them to fit within their own culture. They are foundations. Literalists from Judeo-Christian faiths are perpetuating the same pagan belief’s from the middle east that have existed for at least 5000 years and counting.