The Garden of Eden as recast Mesopotamian Myth

by Walter R. Mattfeld
(Millbury, MA)

Some Liberal PhD scholars trained in biblical studies and ancient Mesopotamian myths understand that the Garden of Eden story is a Hebrew recast of Mesopotamian myths which explained how man came to be created and where, and how he acquired godly-forbidden knowledge but was denied immortality.


All this was figured out over 100 years ago and published (in 1887 by Professor A.H. Sayce of Oxford University). Man was created to care for the gods' city-gardens surrounded by a plain called edin in the Sumerian language. The gods had built cities to live in _before_ man's creation. The gods had bodies of flesh and could die if they did not eat food grown in their city-gardens watered by irrigation canals from the Euphrates and Tigris.

They tired of this work, it was back-breaking! So they created man to bear the back-breaking work in their gardens of edin! Man is portrayed in Sumerian art forms as working in their gardens in a state of nakedness like Adam.

The gods didn't want man at first to possess their knowledge, the Sumerian _me_ (pronounced may)the secret workings of Heaven and Earth including laws about good and evil, right and wrong. At Eridu in Sumer, next door to Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham lived and Ea was worshiped, a man (Adapa) is warned by his god
Ea "not to eat of food of death or he will die," prefiguring Yahweh's warning to Adam. Both men, Adapa and Adam, are blamed for losing out on obtaining immortality for themselves and for mankind.

The warning "don't eat" was given in (1) Eridu and recast by the Hebrews (Abraham?)as being given in the Garden of Eden. Thus Eridu is a pre-biblical prototype of Eden's garden. But Eridu is not exclusively the one location behind Eden's garden, there are other locations in the myths: (2) Nippur, where "Man" (the Igigi gods being called euphemistically "man") are expelled for an act of rebellion against Enlil the god of Nippur, recast at Adam rebelling and being expelled from Eden's garden; The Igigi at Eridu rebel against Enki/Ea and are expelled from that city-garden too and man is created to replace them as garden-laborers.

The Hebrews are refuting the Mesopotamian explanation of why man was created. He was made to be an agricultural slave, to toil in the gods' place in their gardens of edin, he will perform the back-breaking toil the gods object to. He will feed the gods this garden produce (dates and figs from the fruit-trees), for the gods will die if not fed. Man's labor in the gardens of edin frees the gods of agricultural toil for ever. For more info cf. www.bibleorigins.net

Comments for The Garden of Eden as recast Mesopotamian Myth

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Apr 15, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Eden Myth Review at Amazon.com
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

I want to express my thanks to Mr. Crossan for his review on my book, The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. His review was accepted on 08 April 2019 by Amazon and his review is displayed now around the world, at all the Amazon.com overseas locations, just a few: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc.

Apr 13, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
popularity NEW
by: Anonymous

I wonder if the popularity of your books may be increased if they were available in WorldCat from Inter-library Loan? It would only take one copy of each in one library.
Oh, I didn't know there was a e-book for just $10!:)
Amazon only has the print...

Apr 13, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Eden's Serpent (Slaying the Dragon)
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

Crossan correctly observed the absence in my bibliography of Batto's Slaying the Dragon in my Garden of Eden Myth book (2010). I did, however, cite Batto's work in another of my books, titled Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origins (2010). Self-published via LuLu.com. It would be much appreciated if Mr. Crossan would be so kind as to read that work and give a review on it at Amazon.com. Just google "lulu.com" and when the Lulu search screen appears, type in "mattfeld eden's serpent." When a screen appears showing the book's front cover, click on the tiny url under the cover saying "preview." The book will then open as an e-book for you to read for free (no cost to you). Eden's Serpent presents various scholarly opinions, 1854-2010, on the pre-biblical origins of Eden's serpent. The book also explores how, in the New Testament, Satan came to be identified with Eden's serpent. Illustrations are provided and an extensive bibliography listed. While some Mesopotamian myths portray man in the beginning as a forager, eating grass, like a wild animal, that is not the understanding of the Bible, which presents man as being a gardener, not a forager, in the beginning. However, some Mesopotamian myths do portray man as being made to be a gardener in the beginning (he is not portrayed as being a grass-eating forager). This is because the different Sumerian city-states created their own, differing accounts for man's origins which sometimes conflict with each other. So, it may be said that the biblical account is confirmed by man being in the beginning a gardener, AND Mesopotamian accounts being denied about his being a grass-eating forager! It can be quite confusing at times.

Apr 13, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Christian denial of connections to myths. NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

The breaking through of the recognition of the myths in the Bible spoken of by Batto in Slaying is a long awaited correction. The denial of a connection was made by the early church fathers who insisted any apparent similarities were created by the devil to deceive. It has taken this long to undeceive ourselves of their mistaken ideas. Clearly, we need to be more vigorous in our skepticism, or it will take forever to find the truth.

Apr 13, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Slaying the Dragon & Ideas of History NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

I notice you didn't cite Slaying in your bibliography in Garden. It strongly supports your views on the continuity of tradition with original revisions by the Yahwist. I agree that the Bible continues the mythic traditions of many nations before and around them. However, I think there are important historical beliefs and data embedded in them. For example, it seems they thought there was a decline from foraging times to agricultural times, as Yahweh created the Garden of Eden and planted trees there before Adam tilled it, just as the Iggigi gods cultivated before humans. Have you read "The idea of history in the ancient Near East"?

Apr 08, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Its up NEW
by: Anonymous

Thank you for the review on Amazon.com of my book. I hope you found it useful and of some help.

Apr 08, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
it's up NEW
by: Anonymous

Thank you for your helpful book.

Apr 07, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
review NEW
by: Anonymous

yes, I'll let you know as I know how iffy publishing reviews can be. Once an author I criticized complained and they took one down without my knowledge... I am determined to carry through.

Apr 07, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Eden Book Review at Amazon?
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

Mr. Crossan can you advise me as to _when_ you will be posting your review of my book at Amazon.com? In recent visits today to Amazon.com I could find no review listed yet on The Garden of Eden: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths.

Elsewhere the Bible prizes man's obtaining the knowledge of God. The punishment of Eve and Adam for acquiring forbidden knowledge is puzzling. If Adam is made in God's image and God knows it is wrong to be naked, why does'nt Adam realize it is wrong to be naked? Admittedly Adam has NOT been made in God's Full Image, for he lacks something God has, the knowledge it is wrong to be naked. God is not presented as being naked, he is presented as being clothed. The Mesopotamian myths however, present man as naked, at first, unaware it is wrong to be naked as he wanders the Sumerian Edin hairy and naked, like a beast, without godly knowledge. Apparently Genesis' author was concerned to explain how man came to wear clothing, noting the rest of the Creation is without clothing and unashamed of their nakedness.

Apr 07, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Yahweh still a despot NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

Since Yahweh prohibits and punishes the pursuit of knowledge, I'm afraid he's still a despot.

Apr 07, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Francis Bacon & the prohibition of knowledge NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

Your book is something like Francis Bacon when he felt it necessary to combat the idea that the Bible prohibits the pursuit of knowledge.

Apr 07, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Review on Mattfeld's Eden Book
by: Anonymous

Thank you Mr. Crossan for your insightful review of my book, The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths (2010).

Were you successful in posting your review at Amazon.com?

You are correct, that a concern of mine in that book was the biblical explanation of man's sinful acts and behaviors.

For the Mesopotamians man was a sinner because he was made in the image of gods who were sinners, gods who indulged in acts of incest with their daughters, rape of women, lying, murders, warring with each other, envy, and spite. Man, made in the image of sinner gods, could be no better.

By contrast, the Bible presents God as ethical and man is presented as made in God's image, so God expects ethical behavior on man's part. Man is presented as responsible for his behavior he cannot blame a sinner-god for his behaviors.

Plato argued that the Greeks religious beliefs were wrong to attribute evil acts to the gods, showing them raping women, indulging in acts of homosexuality, incest, unfaithful to wives, conniving, liars, murderers. Instead, Plato insisted that the Gods should be portrayed as being only virtuous and ethical, the gods' virtues were to be emulated by mankind, for Plato. I deal with this issue in my second book, also published in 2010, titled Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origin. Again, I explore the Mesopotamian explanations for why man is a sinner and contrast this with the Bible's explanation. I also noted that in the New Testament, a new figure emerges, associated with evil: SATAN, Prince of Demons, Ruler of the World, Enemy of God, the slayer of righteous Christians. I trace this New Testament concept back to Plato, and his successors, who laid blame for evil in the world on the Demons, excusing the gods of being evil. You may want to read that book available at Amazon.com, too.

Apr 06, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
there is no word for obedience in Hebrew NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

Luckily, this morning I heard Rabbi Sacks speak and so I just posted my review:

"...there's no Hebrew word for obedience..."- Jonathan Henry Sacks.

Mr. Sacks said that the scriptures are comprised of arguments between God and heroes and that, even though the Bible is full of commandments, there is no Hebrew word for obedience. Walter Mattfeld shows that the writers of the Old Testament criticized and even inverted traditional Mesopotamian concepts. In their beliefs the gods were unethical and humans were slavishly obedient slaves. The Old Testament writers reversed these ideas to make their God virtuous and their heroes ethical free men, boldly exercising responsibility. He calls this "the shift of blame from God to man."

He finds the origins of this shift in the competition between herders and farmers. I suspect it is more likely that the Bible was influenced by the presocratic Greek Xenophanes, who shared this concern about the immorality of the gods. Mattfeld says that would contradict his chronology for the writing of the Old Testament. He demonstrates by numerous examples that the Hebrew myth of the Garden of Eden originated from Mesopotamian myths, that were radically revised, making for this shift.

Parallels include the burdensome toil of agriculture of the Iggigi gods, a time when humans lived naked and closer to nature, a time before humans practiced agriculture, and forbidden knowledge. Mattfeld succeeds at showing the numerous parallels proving Hebrew borrowing from the Mespotamian myths along with the scholarly specialists supporting his views. The idea of history was transformed from the Mesopotamian to the Hebrew in Genesis, leading into our modern secular views of history. This book is a rigorous study on the continuity of traditions from Mespotamia to the Bible.

Apr 05, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
History within the theological historiography NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

I'll give you at least a brief review but I am not confident I can do very well. I am in my sixties and have been an agnostic all my life so I am in agreement with the secular interpretation. I just think that we underestimated the historical abilities of people before Herodotus so I tend to agree with Van Seters that we are dealing with their historiography. Thank you for the ref to Batto. I'll check him out.

Apr 05, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Eden: Foraging vs Gardening
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

Crossen may have an interest in the works of Bernard F. Batto, former Associate Professor of Religion at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana. Batto noted that Genesis portrays Eden as a desirable fruit-tree garden set aside for man's enjoyment, Hebrew 'eden meaning "delightful." He noted however the Mesopotamian myths about the Sumerian Edin portray it as desert-like, barren and inhospitable. Man is a beast, hairy and naked, with other naked hairy beasts for companions as noted by a Babylonian historian called Berossus, who wrote a history of Babylonia for the Selecuid Greks in the 4th century BC. Berossus portrays man as being a forager, his life in the Edin, is tough, man eats grass, drinks water at watering holes. Not an enviable life for man. Then the gods take man from the Edin and have care for their fruit-tree gardens in their Sumerian cities, set aside to feed the gods originally, not man. Man is an after thought, to be a gardening slave, doing work objectionable to the gods. See Mythmaking in the Biblical Tradition, Slaying the Dragon. 1992. Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. I would much appreciate it if Mr. Crossen, after reading my book, would be so kind as to write a review on it, at Amazon.com as no reviews exist for it over the past 9 years of its existence.

Apr 05, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
John Van Seters
by: Laurence Crossen

John Van Seters, in his book, Prologue to History, The Yahwist as Historian in Genesis, says, "For the primeval history of Genesis 2-11,I have argued that the Yahwist had access to both eastern and western antiquarian traditions." (p.330). I agree.

Mar 31, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
history in Homer NEW
by: Laurence Crossen

There's a good video out on YouTube about the Sea Peoples called "The Sea Peoples and the Late Bronze Age Collapse." I think we can find a lot of real history in just a line or two before Herodotus. For example, Homer said the Greeks raided Egypt after the Trojan War, and this may refer to the Sea Peoples.

Mar 31, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Historiography before Herodotus
by: Laurence Crossen

Actually, I suspect that, for thousands of years, humankind remembered, in their historiography, that they had once been foragers. Also, they remembered that life was better when they were foragers. Admittedly, the accounts we have, in Atrahasis and Genesis, aren't entirely consistent with this. They do have a number of elements that are extraordinarily consistent with this interpretation. Also, this may not have been an idea the Hebrews felt necessary to invert to conceive of their God as ideal. While they do till the soil, Adam & Eve are portrayed, in other ways, as like foragers. They may have been horticulturalists as foraging and agriculture are not mutually exclusive extremes. They are naked and their life is not only not miserable, but blessed with abundance and free from the cares or worries of agriculturalists. If the Mesopotamian myths are more amenable to this interpretation in some ways then it is understandable if something was forgotten in the rewriting.

If anyone can share any sources for this interpretation I would be indebted to them.

Mar 31, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Decline from Foraging to Agriculture Reply NEW
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

Laurence Clark Crossen noted that he had bought my book and had read it. I thank him for this purchase and welcome any comments he may have on it. The date of his comment, March 05, 2019, just happens to have been my 76th Birthday! My first comment on the Garden of Eden was while living at Millbury, Massachusetts (near Worcester). As of 2011 I am now living at Orange Park, Florida, near Jacksonville.

Mar 31, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
From Forager to Agriculturalist?
by: Walter R. Mattfeld

The question was posed as to whether or not the Garden of Eden account is recalling man kind's transition from foraging for food to becoming a settled agriculturalist. While several scholars have suggested this is so, I do not embrace this idea. Why? Genesis has man being created to care for God's garden, made before man's creation. Man is then created, and told he may eat of the garden's fruit trees with the exception of one tree. Genesis does not portray as a forager in the beginning who turns to agriculture. The Mesopotamian myths differ. Some portray man as a wild animal, a beast, naked and hairy, wandering the Sumerian edin with other beasts. He is portrayed as a forager, foraging for grass to eat with other beasts (antelope and wild cattle in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Enkidu and Shamhat being recast as Adam and Eve in Genesis). Then the gods change their minds, they take man, the naked hairy beast, from his herbivore companions and have him care for their fruit tree gardens in the edin. It when man gives up wild naked beasts as his companions that he learns from the gods he now serves as a gardener, that it is wrong to be naked, and he dons clothing like a god wears. He eats what the gods eat, like human-processed bread, and human-processed alcoholic drink, beer and wine. He becomes like a god, knowing of good and evil. Genesis is reputing, to some degree, the Mesopotamian portrayal of man's transformation from a naked herbivore beast of edin to a being a god's gardener in Eden.

Mar 05, 2019
Rating
starstarstarstarstar
Decline from foraging to agriculture
by: Laurence Clark Crossen

Do you think the account includes a oral tradition remembering as transition from foraging to agriculture? Are you aware of Mark Nathan Cohen's work on agriculture involving a decline in human health? I just bought your book.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to The Garden of Eden Comments and Questions Forum..

SAMUEL the SEER 

Now Available in Print & eBook on Amazon!!

Click to Buy Now on Amazon

POPULAR TOPICS

Learn more about these popular topics below. The Bible is full of fascinating stories, characters and mysteries!

King David of Israel

The Tower of Babel

The Book of Isaiah

The Sons of Noah

BIBLE MAPS

Explore the land of the Old Testament! View these maps of the Bible.

Map of Palestine

Map of Ancient Mesopotamia

Old Testament Map

MORE OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE MAPS

The Battle of Jericho