WHO WERE “ADAM” AND “EVE”?  (Posted 12 April 2011)

One of the major scenes in the novel The Last King of Babylon www.lastkingofbabylon.com is the performance of the AKITU festival when the entire Babylonian creation epic the ENUMA 'ALISH was recited out loud and acted out by actors and actresses supported by massive choirs and orchestras. 
Thus it is appropriate to discuss the Biblical account of creation here on this blogsite since it is mostly just a summary of the Babylonian account.  While certain elements of the Hebrew Bible account were based upon their “racial memory” of a “Garden of Eden” in southern Arabia, many other elements were borrowed directly from Mesopotamian sources (please refer to the essay on the location of “Eden”).  This is only natural since most of the Torah was being composed and/or re-edited during the time that most, if not all, Hebrew scholars were living in Babylon (i.e., during the time the story behind The Last King of Babylon was taking place).


The first issue we have to tackle is the idea that the entire universe and world was created in just six days.  This idea was generated by misinterpreting the first chapter of Genesis where it says the world was created in six “days,”, and then taking a literal interpretation of that misinterpretation.  It is not just fundamentalist Christians that make that mistake, but Muslims also.  This is only natural, however, since some of the sections of the Qur’an (misspelled as “Koran” in most English language accounts) dealing with the “creation” were lifted directly from the Biblical version in the early seventh century A.D.  However, the Qur’an hedges its bets.  In some places it does say that the whole world, including “Adam,” and the entire universe was created in six days (Qur’an 7:54, and 11:7, etc.).  While in other instances, sometimes even in the same sura, it says that mankind was created in evolutionary stages: “khalaqnakum thoma suwwarnakum” (we created you (pl.), then we fashioned you (pl.)(Qur’an 7:11).  Other examples of the concept of a longer evolution occur in the following verses:  “waqad khalaqakum atwaran” (He created you(pl.) in evolutionary stages)(Qur’an 71:14).   “wasawwarakum fa’ahsana suwarakum”  (He (Allah) formed you(pl.), then he improved your(pl.) form)(Qur’an 63:3), and “allahu allazi ga’ala lakum al’arvh qararan was-sama’a bina’an wasawwarakum fa’ahsana suwarakum” (and Allah is the one who hath made the earth for you (pl.) a dwelling place, and the sky a firmament, and he hath formed you (pl.) and then he improved your (pl.) forms”)(Qur’an 40:60).  And, also, “(allah) allazi khalaqaka fasawwaka fa’adalaka”)(Your noble Lord it is who created you (singular), then he smoothed out your rough edges, then he adjusted you.)(Qur’an 82:7). 

One might suppose that given these obvious contradictions in the Qur’anic texts regarding the process of mankind’s creation, the true believer could always say that all of this evolution, and improvement of mankind’s form, and the smoothing out of his rough edges, and adjustments, all took place during that last “day” of creation when mankind was created, but that requires a mind-boggling amount of mental gymnastics and a denial of natural processes (as well as a denial of what the texts actually say).

So, what the true believers do is ignore the verses supporting an evolutionary process, or willfully misinterpret them.


True believers in the Biblical account of “creation” make the same mistake as we shall soon see.  As in the Qur’an, there are hints of an evolutionary concept embedded within the text of the first chapter of Genesis.  This should not be terribly surprising.  Contrary to popular belief, Charles Darwin did not “invent” the theory of evolution.  Many non-western, pre-industrial cultures developed concepts akin to evolution believing that mankind emerged out of nature, was close to the animals, and was always a part OF nature, rather than being apart FROM nature as the “special” creation dogmas preach.
(See also Waters, Frank, The Book of the Hopi, the Babylonian creation epic tablet 6, and Joseph Campbell’s multi-volume Historical Atlas of World Mythologies). 

The early Gnostic Christians (1st-4th centuries A.D.) ridiculed those who took a literal, word-for-word interpretation of the scriptures, especially Genesis, because by so doing they missed entirely its deeper, allegorical meanings (Pagels, Elaine, "ADAM, EVE, and the SERPENT," 1988, p. 62).  One of the most glaring contradictions that these early writers referred to occurred in Genesis 3:3 and following, where God is quoted as saying that were “Adam” and “Eve” to eat of the tree that is in the midst of the Garden, or even so much as touch it, they would die.  Well, not only did both Adam and Eve “touch” the tree, they both actually ate of its fruit.  Guess what?  They didn’t die!  In fact they lived many hundreds of years afterwards and had many children (if one believes in the literal interpretation of the Genesis story).

So, (fundamentalist Christians and Jews) are left with multiple dilemmas, that either God lied (not a good option if you want to be religious), or that he changed his mind (not a good option if you want to believe in an all-wise, all-knowing God), or that the “Holy Book” has no validity what-so-ever.  Another possible option is that an obvious contradiction was inserted into the Genesis story for the sole reason of warning people off of any sort of literal interpretation and to guide them to a more mystical, allegorical interpretation, as the Gnostics believed.

The Gnostic Christians do seem to have history and linguistics on their side.  The whole idea of “six days” of creation was an obvious summarization of the more ancient  Babylonian creation Epic called ENUMA 'ALISH, meaning “when upon high.”  This Babylonian creation epic (which was in turn borrowed from an even more ancient Sumerian version) was a much more detailed and elaborate mythology than was the Genesis account.  It contained not just a couple of brief chapters, but six entire “books,” or tablets, of Creation—each “book,” or tablet, representing a different stage in the process of creation, with a seventh tablet included as a wrap-up.  The Hebrew scribes merely condensed the six tablets of creation into “six days” of creation as a literary device having no correlation what-so-ever to our modern concept of “days.”  And then the 7th tablet “wrap-up” became God’s day of rest in the Genesis account—as if an all-powerful God would need a day of rest.

The mention of “days” in the Genesis account (and in some of the Qu’ranic accounts) raises some serious credibility issues for those who insist upon taking a literal word-for-word interpretation of the Bible (or Qu’ran).  In Genesis Chapter 1:14-19 we are told that God first created “lights” in the heavens on the 4th day.  These lights are then defined as being Stars, the Moon, and the Sun.  There are a couple of problems here.  First of all, if the Sun, and the other heavenly “lights” were not created until the 4th “day,” how could the other three “days” have ever been measured?  In other words, everything attributed to have happened in the first three “days” of “creation” were all lies because there were no first three “days.”  Without a Sun there could not have been any “days.”  The other problem occurs in verses 3-5 where it tells us that God created light, separated light from darkness, and created the day and the night—all on the first day.  Unfortunately, this is exactly what we are told he did on the fourth day.  So, is God lying to us when he tells us he did these things on the first day, or is he lying to us when he tells us he did it on the 4th day?  You can’t have it both ways, oh ye who insist upon the total infallibility of the Bible.

Actually, God didn’t lie, because God had nothing to do with the composition of the Book of Genesis.  These errors, unlike the tree of life contradiction, were unintentional and were scribal errors.  My guess is that the original Hebrew account had the lights, days, etc., created on the first day, and the verses 14-19 where these items are created on the 4th day were inserted by a copy scribe later—most likely during the so-called Babylonian “captivity,” and under the influence of the Babylonian account.  Unfortunately the copy scribe, or editor, apparently never checked to see if he was negating or contradicting something that was already there in the text in the earlier verses.

The reason I say that verses 14-19 were added during the time of the Babylonian “captivity” is because the ENUMA 'ALISH has the Sun and Moon and stars created during the 5th tablet, shortly before mankind is created.  The Hebrew/Jewish copy scribes would have been very familiar with the Babylonian account since it was acted out in minute detail each and every year during their New Year AKITU festival, and they could not have helped being influenced by it.


An additional problem with the six-day creation fantasy is the issue as to whether or not a “day” in our reckoning is the same as a “day” in God’s reckoning.  This issue was settled during the famous Scopes evolution trial in the 1920s; unfortunately, however, most fundamentalists appear to have missed the point and still continue to insist that the entire universe was created in six twenty-four hour periods.  Conservative Muslims also make the same mistake even though their own Qur’an leaves the door wide open for a different interpretation (meaning that the so-called “Islamic scholars” have universally accepted the fundamentalist Jewish and Christian interpretation of the creation myths).  In a prophetic account about the angels and human souls ascending to God on Judgment Day after the world has been turned to mush, Qur’an 70:4 says that the “Angels and Spirits will ascend to Allah in a day the duration of which is fifty thousand years.”  In other words, at least as far as the Qur’an is concerned, a “day” in God’s reckoning might be equal to fifty thousand or so of our years.  Or, to put it more bluntly, a “day” is an epoch, not a “day” in human terms. 


In other words, once one takes off his/her religious dogma blinders, forgets the idea that the Biblical “days” really mean “days” instead of epochs of endless time, one can see a view of creation that is not far removed from modern evolutionary science.  First, according to the Genesis account, there was nothing but “Tohu” and “Bohu” (Hebrew words for chaos and without form).  And, then God said “let there be light.” (Genesis 1 v. 3).  Modern cosmologists say “let there be the big bang,” which they describe as being an explosion of intense radiation and light (Kaku, Michio, Parallel Worlds, 2006, p. 45, 51, 55, 382).  Genesis 1, verses 6-10 then have to do with the formation of the earth, the development of land masses and oceans, etc.—all of which science tells us had to take place before life could appear.  Then, on the 3rd “day,” or epoch, God began the creation of plant life.  Then, if we skip those unfortunate verses 14-19 pertaining to the 4th “day,” we see in verse 20, the beginning of the 5th “day,” or epoch, during which “moving creatures” began to come forth from out of the waters, then birds began to appear in the skies.  Finally, after all manner of creatures have developed and appeared on land, in the air, and in the waters, we are ready for the last stage of creation.  In the 6th and final epoch, or “day,” mankind is created.

When one forgets the literal interpretation of “days” and reads these passages without the religious dogma blinders on, what one sees is pretty much a summary of what evolutionary science tells us.  First you have the big bang explosion of light, then you have the formation of the stars and galaxies, then the planets.  Next, at least on our planet, you have the formation of the continents and the oceans, then gradually you have the appearance of life.  Note that the Genesis account has plant life appearing first (which would be necessary for the production of oxygen—a prerequisite for the animate life forms that currently inhabit the surface of the earth), then you have “moving creatures” coming up out of the waters, then the birds, and then finally mankind.  The Biblical sequence of events is identical to that which evolutionary science gives us.  The only real discrepancy is over how long each of these “days” were.

The Babylonian ENUMA 'ALISH creation epic follows the same pattern with the major acts of creation that relate to the earth taking place in tablet five.  The creation of mankind does not appear until the 6th and next-to-last tablet—corresponding to the 6th “day” of the Genesis account.  It is interesting to note that in both the Genesis account, and the Babylonian ENUMA 'ALISH, the epochs of astral and geologic history take up the greater portions of creation time, with the creation of mankind coming in only at the very tail end of the creation process—again mirroring what we know from modern evolutionary science (as confirmed by carbon dating, potassium-argon dating, the study of geologic layers, comparative DNA etc.).


When one reads the ENUMA 'ALISH and then reads the Genesis account of creation, it seems  obvious that the latter reads like a summary of the former.  However, embedded within the Hebrew Genesis account of the creation of mankind there are some other elements, such as the location of the alleged “Garden of Eden,” that reflect Hebrew tribal legends, rather than Mesopotamian ones.  We should be aware of all of these threads and influences as we read a work like Genesis. 

One of the best examples of part allegory, part tribal tradition, part authentic history, is found in the Genesis account of the Adam and Eve story.  The traditional interpretation is that “Adam” and “Eve” were the “first man” and “first woman” respectively, that they were real flesh and blood people, and that they were single individuals.  However, when I read those passages from a linguistic background, I see something quite different.  The word “adam” in Hebrew simply means “earth,” “soil,” and “dirt.”  It is also used in Hebrew to refer to ALL mankind, not just a single individual.  The word “Eve,” which in Hebrew is HAWAH and in Arabic is HIWA', is virtually identical (in linguistic form) to the word for “life” (HAYAH in Arabic, and HAYY(im) in Hebrew) on the one hand, and on the other with the proto-Semitic word for “snake” HAYYA. 

The Masoretic Text (MT) of the Hebrew Bible, which is the only ancient Hebrew source we have for this tale, and is the Hebrew version our English translations are based upon, uses the term "nahas" for the serpent.  I do believe that this was a replacement for the earlier Semitic term HAYYA which is used in the Qur’anic account of the “Adam” and “Eve” story.  I am supported in this contention not only by logic and linguistics, but by an entry in the Gesenius Hebrew/English lexicon of the Old Testament page 295.  I do believe that the reason the older term HAYYA was replaced had more to do with the development of an antipathy to “snakes” by the evolving religion of Judaism than it did with any linguistic or literary reason.  Therefore they (the writers of the Genesis account) wanted to break that connection between “life” and “Eve” on the one hand, and the “snake” on the other hand—in order to be able to make the “snake” out to be the evil one.


The snake has always been a longstanding symbol for life, fertility, and regeneration in the Ancient World and most pre-industrial, non-Judeo-Christian societies (Campbell, Joseph, 1984 Vol. II part 3, p. 254, and page 378).  The snake represents fertility because of its phallic shape, and it represents life and regeneration because when it sheds its skin each year it appears to be born anew, or “resurrected” if you will.  The snake’s movement as it weaves and waves through the grass, or sand, is also associated with the wavy lines of water—and water has always been recognized as being a life-giving substance (Jacobsen, Thorkild, The Treasures of Darkness,  1976, p. 111).  Because of this, the symbol for water in all of the early pictographic scripts was a wavy line in imitation of a snake in motion.  This wavy line was called "mayim," meaning water, in northwest Semitic, and eventually the symbol evolved in our letter “M/m.” 

The snake acquired a negative image in some cultures because of its forked tongue resembling the flames of a fire, and of course, because of its bite which could “burn” one even unto death.  Somewhere in the cultural evolutionary line of Hebrews to Israelites to “Jews,” they developed that antipathy for snakes.  Whatever the reason, the Yahweh-worshiping writers of the Bible felt compelled to divest “snake” of its positive qualities and so it became a symbol for evil in their Biblical stories.  That left them with a problem, however.  Their original word for snake "hayya" was just too close for their tastes to “life” "hayah/hayyim" and “Eve” "hiwa’/hawah," all being derived from the same root.  Therefore, they had to come up with a new word for “snake,” a word that had negative, not positive, connotations in their language.  The word they chose was "nahas," which originally carried the meaning of “bad luck,” “misfortune,” and “to be retrograde.”

The original “Garden of Eden” and “Adam” and “Eve” story would have been such a wonderful play on words with “life,” “snake,” and “Eve,” all being the same word—except for minor differences in the vowel pronunciations.  Nonetheless, even with "nahas" being used instead of "hayya" for “snake,” we still have a nice play on words between “life” and “Eve” in the Hebrew version of Genesis.  In other words, the joke is on all of those who insist upon taking a literal interpretation of the Genesis account, rather than an allegorical interpretation while enjoying the humor at the same time—as was originally intended.

“Adam” was intended as a stand-in for, or even as a “personification” of, the earth as well as all mankind, based on the meaning of the word in Hebrew, and “Eve” was a stand-in for, or “personification of” all life, based on the meaning of the word in Hebrew.  And, guess what?  That is exactly what the Bible itself says—even in the king James English translation!  Genesis 3:20 says that “Adam called his wife’s name “Eve,” because she was “the mother of all living.”  It doesn’t say that she was just the mother of human beings, it says she was the mother of ALL LIVING, meaning in Hebrew, all living things, all living creatures, or all life—because that’s what her name "hawah" means in Hebrew (i.e., the life force causative factor, the bringer forth of life into being).  There is no escape from that fact—except willful ignorance.


Okay, so now what about the “rib” thing?

Taking the “rib” story at face value turns the Genesis story into nothing more than a silly, childish joke.  It takes a beautiful piece of literature and turns it into a travesty.  Actually, the “rib” story originally was another play on words—but one that was missed entirely not just by the translators of our English Bibles, but by the ancient writers and editors of the Hebrew Bible itself.  As is the case with so many of our other Biblical stories, the “rib” story entered our Book of Genesis via the older Mesopotamian myths.  The rib story first began in the Sumerian Enki and Ninhursag myth (which probably came from earlier Dilmun myths).  Enki, the son of the supreme God AN fell ill because of some fertility plants he ate.  (Actually, these plants made him pregnant but because he was male he couldn’t give birth, so he just got sick).  Because of this illness, one of Enki’s ribs (the Sumerian word for rib is “ti”) began to die, as did some of his other body parts.  In order to heal Enki’s ailing body parts, Ninhursag, the original fertility goddess, created out of Enki’s body eight additional goddesses—one for each of Enki’s ailing body parts.  The goddess that was created for the healing of Enki’s rib, and created from his rib, was named "nin-ti," meaning “lady of the rib.”  The word "ti" in Sumerian also meant “to live,” or “to make live,” in addition to “rib.”  Therefore, the goddess nin-ti was "the lady of the rib," and "the lady who makes live.”  The whole thing was a play on words in the Sumerian (ENKI AND NINHURSAG  on www.gatewaytobabylon.com).  Unfortunately, the play on words was totally lost in the Hebrew translation of this myth embedded in the Genesis “Adam” and “Eve” account because “rib” in Hebrew is VHELA’ and “to make live” was HAWWAH which became HAWAH the name of “Eve,” the mother of all life. 


However, even with the loss of the wonderful and humorous plays on words in these original creation myths, when we step back and look at the “rib” story from the stand point of a symbolic interpretation, while bearing in mind the real meanings of the words “Adam” and “Eve,” here is what we get:  “Adam,” in its (his) meaning as “earth,” “soil,” and “dirt,” essentially gave birth to “Eve” in its (her) meaning as “life,” “living creature,” and “to cause to live.”  Or, in other words, the life, or the life-giving processes (eve/"hawah") evolved out of the basic elements of the earth (adam).

All of this is yet another indication that the original writers of the book of Genesis knew what they were doing (in spite of their occasional gaffes), and that they had no intention of letting their readers take a literal interpretation of their text.  The names “Adam” and “Eve” were chosen precisely because the authors of the book of Genesis wanted their readers to look beyond the superficial surface meaning of the stories in order to find the greater implied truths behind the text.  But, then again, the authors of the book of Genesis probably assumed that their readers would be familiar with Semitic languages—or at least pre-diaspora Hebrew.


Another interesting twist to the creation-of-man story comes from the Babylonian version of the ENUMA 'ALISH again.  When Marduk, the king of the Babylonian gods, decides in tablet six that he wants to create mankind he says: “I will take blood and fashion bone.  I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name.”  What is interesting here is that Marduk creates mankind out of blood.  The pan Semitic (Hebrew, Arabic, Akkadian, etc.) word for blood is "dam," which is etymologically connected with the Hebrew “A-dam.”  While the Babylonian version used the word "awilum" for mankind, the Hebrews opted for using the word a-dam in order to increase the richness of the puns they were making off of the creation story.  This gives us a linguistic connection not only with the “earth,” and “soil,” but also with “blood.”  The Hebrew word adom (derived from “Adam”) meant “red” which makes sense since blood (dam) is red.  Interestingly, blood also has a “coppery” taste (and copper is reddish in color), and mud and clay also have a similar “red” or “coppery” taste ("nahas" in Hebrew came to mean “copper” as well as “snake”).  Perhaps this is why mankind was created out of clay in the Mesopotamian and Biblical creation myths.  On the other hand, the Babylonians and their Akkadian and Sumerian predecessors, having no building stone in their country, made all of their buildings, houses, idols, and icons, out of clay, so it was natural for them to assume (in their myths) that mankind was also made out of clay.  This concept was then passed down to the writers of the Book of Genesis.

In another Mesopotamian creation myth embedded in the Enki and Ninhursag epic, Enki, the God of the Earth (Hebrew adam), and the God of the Fresh Water had his mother, Nammu, talk a couple of womb goddesses into pinching off a bit of clay from the ABZU (the deep fresh water ocean that surrounds the world) from which Enki had previously engendered himself.  Nammu then put limbs onto this bit of clay and thus gave birth to mankind.  This myth is the origin of the Christian myths about “Adam” being created out of “clay,” and also helps to explain the Genesis account of the “gods” creating mankind “in our own image,” since mankind was created from the same substance as was the god Enki in the old Mesopotamian myths. 

One final interesting side note, while the “Adam” and “Eve” of the Genesis creation account were intended to be thought of as symbols, rather than as individual persons, the term “Adam” did eventually come to be used as a name by Semitic-speaking peoples.  In the Assyrian king lists, there is a long list of “kings” that ruled the progenitors of the Assyrians called “The Kings who lived in Tents.”  These kings “ruled” for several centuries prior to the appearance of the Akkadian king Sargon I (C. 2300 B.C.).  The name of the second “king” on this list of semi-nomadic “tent” kings was one “Adamu,” or “Adam.”  This “Adamu” was preceded by one “Tudiya,” meaning “my beloved David,” a name that had become popular among West-Semitic-speakers by 2500 B.C. as evidenced by the Ebla tablets.

To sum up, we (the inheritors of the Judeo-Christian culture) must come to recognize that the Genesis account of creation was constructed on many layers.  There is the mystical and allegorical layer of mankind’s separation from the God-spirit, or the “river” that runs through an allegorical “Eden,” and the “river” that serves as the source for the four “rivers” mentioned in the Genesis account—and is connected with Enki, the God of the Earth and of the Fresh Waters of the old Mesopotamian myths.  Then there is a mythological representation of the process of evolution as represented by several epochs, or “days,” of evolution/creation, and then, finally, there are the beautiful, and humorous, plays on words with “Adam,” “blood,” “Eve,” “Life/rib,” and “snake.”

So, who were “Adam” and “Eve”?  Everything and everyone—on this planet at least.  www.lastkingofbabylon.com


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