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delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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What god?
delirium happy
I've just been doing a little research on Sumerian religion, with specific reference to biblical parallels. Most sources seem to agree that the biblical accounts of the creation and of the flood are pretty much lifted from their Sumerian equivalents. They also tend to agree that the early characters of the Old Testament (Adam, Noah, etc) would not have been Jews. If they existed at all then they certainly would not have worshiped Yhwh and would almost certainly have had polytheistic beliefs. The Judaeo-Christian God was almost certainly originally a member of a pantheon, but what god, from what pantheon is unclear -- a Sumerian god is a very definite possibility.

I find all this sort of stuff very interesting. I have the Sumerian Mythology FAQ (thought for today: what is the difference between a religion and a mythology?) earmarked for future reading.

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Just out of interest, have you read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.. it's got a fair chunk of Sumerian and Judeo-Christian stuff in it, whilst discussing viral ideas and such like.. admittedly it does take things a little too far, but it's pretty good for a view on the subject, mixed with lots of wanton viloence in a possible-future sci-fi setting...

Yep. I figured that it being in my interests list might give it away :)

It was partly memories from it that inspired me to go looking things up -- wanting to know which parts were fact and which were fiction.

You expect me to check things? Pshaw! Not going to happen ;-)

On the contary, they're not lifted: they show fundamental differences, Adam and Noah may not have been Jews because the concept "Jew" didn't exist until Abraham (you can hardly be one of Abraham's kids if you're born before him after all), but the bible is quite clear on their worship of Yahweh and their monotheism (well, it's quite clear on Noah's monotheism and there's no talk of 'other gods' at Adam's time).

I would take the closeness of account, for example in the flood, as evidence that it was an actual historical event: but of course some years later you don't want the story of that event to pointed eludicdate that you're worshipping the wrong god, a little adaption is required. Of course I think that adaption occured on the Sumerian side (why? For me, in light of the rest of the Christian faith and it's reality, but there may be better reasons: I know bascially nothing about Sumerian).


That logic only makes sense if you hold the Bible as an infallible source though, which I don't. Other than the Bible, I have seen no evidence whatsoever that the concept of monotheism existed prior to Abraham, whereas I believe that even the Bible acknowledges that there were at least other polytheistic beliefs around in the early days of the Old Testament (making no implication as to their correctness or otherwise here -- just noting that the beliefs existed).

Persoanlly, if I were Christian I think I'd be more inclined to believe that many of the events of Genesis are either allegory or things that were written about well after the event and hence contain much that isn't factual. There is much geological evidence to suggest that the whole of the world did not flood. Even if the story of the flood is based upon real events (and I agree that it probably was (I believe that the Tigris, the Euphrates and the Dead Sea have all been postulated as possible flood locations)) then it is most likely not entirely true. I also find it likely that Noah was not a real person, but a character created to provide a more meaningful aspect to the event than "well, there was this flood, but it was a while ago, and nobody knows much about it really". And if you conclude that Noah did not actually exist, at least not in the literal form present in the Bible, then the queestion of his religious beliefs becomes somewhat unnecessary.

I'm by no means an expert, but I'm fairly sure that the Sumerian religions predate the first recolection of the flood in Judaeo-Christian writings by quite some way. If we are presuming that there was a genuine flood which both religions are referencing then it follows that it ocurred before it was recounted in Sumerian religion. This means that there was a fairly lengthy time period between the event happening, and it being written about in the bible. Now, as someone who isn't going to take the Bible as true purely on faith, this means to me that there was a large period of time, and consecutive oral recoountings during which the tale could, and most probably would have changed. This implies to me that the older (sumerian) account is more likely to be more accurate, although I wouldn't put a great deal of faith in either of them as historical accounts.

I haven't checked dictionaries, but I think of mythology as a component part of a religion. The religion is the totality of the ways in which its followers relate to the Divine (or whatever concept fulfils the same function in their system); the mythology is the stories that shape some of those ways of relating. Because stories are so fundamental to human culture, the mythology often outlives the religion.

So by your definition the Bible, for example, would be Christian mythology, and together with things like church services and prayer would make up the Christian religion?

I've never thought of it like that before. In my mind, mythology implies myth implies not true. I've never actually checked a dictionary either though.

Yes, your first paragraph is exactly how I look at it.

I don't think of "myth" as meaning "not true" when it's used in the technical sense, although it does often have that meaning colloquially. I do think that the truth of a myth needs to be judged by different criteria than the truth of a scientific hypothesis - e.g. consistency with the general principles of the religion, general consistency with any other myths in the same cycle (without descending to nitpicking detail, though), consistency with the experiences of followers of that religion, etc.

Check out Egyptian religion too, sweetie. Did you know that the Jewish Passover is based on the Egyptian Feast of Sekhmet? :)

Ooooh, I didn't know that. I'll take a look. Thanks hun.

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