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Monday, April 27, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 1

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Comments: 16
So someone asked me to amalgamate all my information about Mesopotamian religions and early Judaism, and I thought it'd also be a neat way to re-write a couple of my previous blogs in a clearer, more defined manner.
So let's start with a map, because I find
it makes things so much easier to understand if you have a map to follow.



Notice how there is a bunch of countries arched around the top of the North Arabian Civilisation in a cresent shape, we actualy call that area 'The Fertile Cresent' in archeology.

It's useful to understand that the central large area known as the Northern Arabian Civilisation and all it's surrounding areas like the Arab Tribes, (where Mecca is, which is where Islam was eventualy developed from Judaism) The Arameans, Canaan and Mesopotamia all basicaly shared the same religion. Even the Iranian tribes far to the east, who would become the Persians, followed this same basic religious tradition. (which obviously suggests that they all have a common source inherited from earlier nomadic hunter/gather tribes)

In this polytheistic tradition, it's most important deity was the Creator Deity (usualy called 'El') and he was married to the Mother Goddess and between them they gave birth to the rest of the Pantheon, like a great big godly family. This would go on to inspire the Hellenistic (Greek and Roman) and Vedic (Hindu) pantheons.
Egypt was slightly different, their original creator deity (they had several different ones over the years) Atum was a hermaphrodite (hence his name meaning 'completeness'). The myth states that Atum ejaculated his semen into his mouth, impregnating himself, but starangely, rather than Atum being regarded as the most important deity in their pantheon, it was the sun god Ra who was regarded as the most important.
Eventualy Ra would be amalgamated with Horus and the first known monotheistic god 'Aten' would emerge.

Like all religion, Judaism developed (or you may say 'evolved') from an earlier religion, which in turn developed from an even earlier religion ect, ect. Each version of religion had it's own version of creation. The Judaistic version was developed from the version found in The Cresent. In historical Mesopotamia the gods were in the form of man. Man was created in the image of the gods because the gods themselves 'were' men, a notion that was kind of continued in monotheistic Judaism.
Before this version of deities, there are no anthropomorphic gods. We hear, instead, of the zi or 'spirit', a word properly signifying 'life' which manifested itself in the power of motion. All things that moved were possessed of life, and there was accordingly a 'life' or 'spirit' of the water as well as of man or beast. Sumerian theology, in fact, was still on the level of animism. Vestiges of the old animism can still be detected even in the later deistic cult, along with prayers to the 'human gods' we see an Assyrian prayer which invokes the mountains, the rivers and the winds, and from time to time we come across a worship of deified towns. It was the town itself that was divine, not the deity to whom its chief temple was dedicated.

This is suggestive of the worship of the land itself, a type of worship that goes back to the pre-Neolithic Revolution (advent of agriculture) worship of the Mother Goddess, who was quite often thought of as the land itself, or on a bigger scale, one might say the 'earth' or 'Mother Earth.' She was basicaly regarded as giving birth to the human race.

The Sumarian version of creation that would eventualu develop into the Judaistic version has several gods involved in it.

Following the 'casting of lots', heaven was ruled by 'Anu', earth by 'Enlil', and the sea by 'Enki'. Enlil assigned junior divines, lesser gods called the 'Igigi' to do farm labor and maintain the rivers and canals, but after forty years the lesser ones rebelled and refused to do hard labor. Instead of punishing the rebels, Enki, who is also the kind, wise counselor to the gods, suggested that humans be created to do the work instead. The mother goddess Mami is assigned the task of creating humans by shaping clay figurines mixed with the flesh and blood of the slain god Geshto-e, "a god who had intelligence". All the gods in turn spit upon the clay. After ten months, a specially made womb breaks open and humans are born.

It is Enki who warns the flood hero Utnapishtim (there are several ancient versions of this story where the name of the flood hero varies) that the gods plan to flood the earth and that he should build a boat.

It's also useful when talking about Judaism's transition from polytheistic to monotheistic to study the character of 'Lilith'.
Lilith appears to have started out as a Mesopotamian storm goddess associated with wind, night and the desert and married to the Semitic Pantheon's weather god 'Enlil' and was thought to be a bearer of disease, illness, and death who first appeared around 5000 years ago. Because of her relationship with Enlil who was considered 'father of the gods' in some forms of Semitic Mythology, she can also be considered as a Mother Goddess. (practicaly all wives of the heads of pantheons are considered thus)
What is interesting about Lilith is that during the transitional stages from Semitic polytheism to Semitic monotheism, we can actualy see the character of Lilith slowly change from a goddess to a demon.
About a thousand years later, (roughly 3700 years ago) she's associated with Gilgamesh who himself is described as two-thirds god and one-third human.
Lilith was a follower of the Great Mother Goddess Asherah. (so still associated with Mother Goddess worship) In 'The Epic of Gilgamesh', Gilgamesh was said to have destroyed a tree that was in a sacred grove dedicated to Asherah. Lilith ran into the desert in despair.
Hebrew cosmogony tells a story of 'Yahweh' creating Adam to marry a local Goddess-associated figure named Lilith. So according to this version from about about 3000 years ago, Lilith must have already existed, making her at least 'supernatural.'
Lilith is later depicted in the Talmud as created by God as a woman to be the first wife to Adam.
While Genesis 2:22 describes God's creation of Eve from Adam's rib, an earlier passage, 1:27, already indicates that a woman had already been made: 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.'
The Hebrew legends say that Lilith is eventualy banished from Adam and Yahweh's presence when she is discovered to be a 'demon' and interestingly still considered as a bearer of 'disease, illness and death' just like the earliest versions of her when she was considered as a goddess.
Another later version has her running away because, although God created them both the same way, Adam refused to treat her as an equal. The angels went after her but she refused to return unless she was treated as an equal and is then cursed by an angel to have one hundred of her children die every day. This is when Lilith is turned into a demon and accordingly, every day one hundred demons are said to perish.
It is supposedly after these events that Eve is created from one of Adam's ribs and becomes Adam's subservient wife.
From here on, Lilith is often considered to be the serpent in the Garden of Eden, bent on revenge and is also known as the 'screech owl' which is kinda like a vampiric figure.
The Book of Isaiah 34:14, says;
'The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.'

So, when we look at Lilith we can clearly see Judaism's association with an earlier polytheistic religion which Judaism was obviously inspired by and developed from.
8:06 pm - 16 comments - 6 Kudos - Report!
Comments
abdulalhazred wrote on May 3rd, 2009 11:00pm

Excellent! A spelling mistake or two but other than that its great.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 7th, 2009 11:51am

abdulalhazred wrote on May 3rd, 2009 at 10:00pm :

Excellent! A spelling mistake or two but other than that its great.

Cheers bud.
Yeah, spelling's always been a problem for me, but at least you got the meaning. ;)

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mamosa wrote on May 20th, 2009 4:36am

Sorry, bro. But you've got some hugely incorrect statements here.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 20th, 2009 8:37am

mamosa wrote on May 20th, 2009 at 3:36am :


Sorry, bro. But you've got some hugely incorrect statements here.

Care to point some out? After all, it'd be pretty hard to debate your point if you don't actualy make a point

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mamosa wrote on May 22nd, 2009 12:40am

Judaism was never polytheistic. Ever wonder why its called Abrahamic? It's because the religion started with Abraham.
Also, the Jewish god is not in the form of man...just the opposite.
And the Torah doesn't mention Lillith.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 22nd, 2009 10:31am

Judaism itself wasn't polytheistic, but developed from polytheistic beliefs. The Abrahamic flood myth and the myth that man was created from clay are both from earlier polytheistic beliefs and involve the water god Enki who warned a flood hero, 'Utnapishtim' of the flood in the Babylonian version (Epic of Gilgamesh) and 'Ziusudra' in the Sumerian version (Eridu Genesis), and told him to build a boat to save his family and livestock.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 22nd, 2009 10:32am

Abraham is a very shadowy figure, and it's hard to nail down a date for his lifetime. It ranges from him being born around 1812 BC to 1448 BC, if the latter date is accurate that puts Abraham's lifetime (he apparently lived for 175 years so he would have died around 1273 BC) in roughly the same era as Akhenaten's. (who died in 1336 BC) Historicaly, Atenism is the oldest known monotheistic religion, but we know that Abraham was the leader of a nomadic tribe and that around that time there were several nomadic tribes called the Habiru. I'm thinking that Abraham was probably the leader of one of these tribes and that later, the Atenist outcasts from Egypt joined up with the Habiru and influenced them enough for them to become monothistic.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 22nd, 2009 10:32am

Lillith is present in Jewish mythology. A Hebrew tradition exists in which an amulet is inscribed with the names of three angels (Senoy, Sansenoy, and Semangelof) and placed around the neck of newborn boys in order to protect them from Lillith until their circumcision. She's also mentioned in the Book of Isaiah 34:14, describing the desolation of Edom, which is the only occurrence of Lilith in the Hebrew Bible.

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mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 6:40pm

1st, those Jewish myths are only present in the Jewish heterodoxists (is that even a word?)
2nd, really, according to Judaism (talking REAL Judaism, as in the Orthodox) amulets and superstitious vessels of power are strictly not allowed, as that is a form of idol worship.
And your assumption is that Abraham was later rather than earlier...which coul be wrong. I am not saying it is this way as I have no proof, but it could be the other way around from how you described it.
And the flood was Noah. I've read Gilgamesh (translation obviously) and Utnapishtim and Noah are not necessarily the same person. In many cultures there were myths and stories of floods. Especially near Egypt because where the two rivers meet, and the NIle itself, floods were a big worry. But other than the flood, Gilgamesh and Noah differ greatly.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 2nd, 2009 11:38am

mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:40pm :


1st, those Jewish myths are only present in the Jewish heterodoxists (is that even a word?)

Yes, it's in the Urban Dictionary 'Heterodoxist; A person who discriminates against people with different standards of orthodoxy.'

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 2nd, 2009 11:39am

mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:40pm :

2nd, really, according to Judaism (talking REAL Judaism, as in the Orthodox) amulets and superstitious vessels of power are strictly not allowed, as that is a form of idol worship.

Nevertheless, the tradition still exists.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 2nd, 2009 11:39am

mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:40pm :

And your assumption is that Abraham was later rather than earlier...which coul be wrong. I am not saying it is this way as I have no proof, but it could be the other way around from how you described it.

Well it's all to do with your line of thought really. It could work either way I suppose, but I personaly think my version of a later Abraham just fits in better with known history.

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 3rd, 2009 9:14am

mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:40pm :

And the flood was Noah. I've read Gilgamesh (translation obviously) and Utnapishtim and Noah are not necessarily the same person. In many cultures there were myths and stories of floods. Especially near Egypt because where the two rivers meet, and the NIle itself, floods were a big worry. But other than the flood, Gilgamesh and Noah differ greatly.


You may find this interesting;
http://www.noahs-ark-flood.com/parallels.htm
It lists all the parallels between the flood myths, some of them are almost word for word copies. For instance;
"I opened the window" Gilgamesh XI,135
"Noah opened the window of the ark" Genesis 8:6
"The dove went out and returned" Gilgamesh XI,147
"sent forth the dove and the dove came back to him" Genesis 8:10b-11
"I sent forth a raven" Gilgamesh XI,152
"Noah... sent forth a raven" Genesis 8:7
"The gods smelled the sweet savor" Gilgamesh XI,160
"And the Lord smelled the sweet savor..." Genesis 8:21

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SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 3rd, 2009 12:00pm

"On Mount Nisir the boat grounded" Gilgamesh XI,140
"the ark came to rest upon the mountains" Genesis 8:4
"The cattle of the field, the beast of the plain" Gilgamesh XI,85
"clean animals and of animals that are not clean" Genesis 7:8
"into the ship all my family and relatives" Gilgamesh XI,84
"Go into the ark, you and all your household" Genesis 7:1
"pitch I poured into the inside" Gilgamesh XI,66
"cover it inside and out with pitch" Genesis 6:14
"And offered a sacrifice" Gilgamesh XI,155
"offered burnt offerings on the altar" Genesis 8:20
"I shall remember these days and never forget" Gilgamesh XI,165
"I shall remember my covenant...I may remember" Genesis 9:15-16
"he touched our foreheads to bless us" Gilgamesh XI,192
"And God blessed Noah" Genesis 9:1

Need I go on?

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Holy Katana wrote on Nov 6th, 2009 8:46am

Wow, this was really interesting. I already knew from Wikipedia-surfing about the earlier Semitic religions, but I knew nothing about their creation myth, and I didn't know exactly how those religions tied into Judaism. All in all, a great read. I'll definitely read the rest of your blogs, and I look forward to your book.

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Fassa Albrecht wrote on Sep 27th, 2010 8:53pm

This is one of the best blogs I've read in a long time.

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