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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Genesis 1:1-25 Is An Amalgam of Near Eastern Creation Myths

This Article covers Genesis 1:1-25 and compares it to older pre-existing Near Eastern creation myths of the universe and earth.

Using the principle that the greater civilization influences the lesser, this series of articles intends to falsify the claim that the Torah was given to moses by God and to show how syncretism(1) blended folklore(2) in the Ancient Near East and South-Southwest Asia as a result of the interconnectedness of the Ancients which was discussed in the first article of this series Interconnectedness of the Ancients(3).

This article begins with some historical background information intended to show that key elements of Hebrew scripture existed in several areas of the Near East and Southwest Asia prior to being Incorporated into scripture. Once the background information has been presented, it uses Genesis 1:1-25 as its point of reference. Because the focus of this article is the book of Genesis, it overlooks many similarities between the Egyptian(4), Mesopotamian(5) and Hindu(6) religions that are not incorporated into Judaism(7), and it overlooks aspects of the other religions that share concepts with Christianity(8) which came much later. It is my assertion that the more popular religions in the Near East borrowed from each other.

A list of Important Civilizations and events follows. I could not list all of the most important ones (such as the city-states) because I wanted to keep the article as short as possible. I tried to make a "snapshot" estimation of the positions of the largest civilizations to each other on the map. I recommend you scroll down and open the map at the bottom of the article in another window so you can reference it as you follow along. The map is meant to represent "initial conditions" of the LARGEST civilizations at the start of the second millennium and ignore the smaller nomadic, mountain and Arabian tribes present in the area. For example, the Persians lived in the mountains of Iran as early as 3000 BCE but they weren't organized to any significance.

* 8000 - 500 BCE - Vedic Religion in the Indus Valley
* 5000 - 300 BCE - Mesopotamia
* 4000 BCE - Estimation of the creation of the world as calculated according to Hebrew Scripture.(39)
* 4300-3300 BCE - Southern Levant, Canaan. The Ghassulian period created the basis of the Mediterranean economy which has characterised the area ever since. This region was also the natural battleground for the great powers of the region and subject to domination by adjacent empires, beginning with Egypt in the late 3rd millennium (3000-2000) BCE. Although Neanderthals (from 200,000 BCE) and Homo Sapiens Sapiens (from as early as 75,000 BCE) occupied the same territory for thousands of years, it can't be classified as a civilization.(11)
* 3650 - 1100 BCE - Minoans (9)
* 3500 - 2000 BCE Sumer
* 3100 BCE Egyptian and Sumerian Languages develop.(18)
* 3150 - 31 BCE - Egypt and their Myths
* 3000 - 1500 BCE - Indus Valley (10)
* 2400 - 612 BCE - Assyria
* 2350 BCE - Traditional date for the global flood
* 2300 - 2100 BCE - Akkadian
* 2300 - 1000 BCE - Indo-Iranians, Andronovo (12)
* 2250 BCE - Traditional date for the tower of Babel and the catalyst for the differentiation of all the languages of the world.
* 1959 - 1659 BCE Babylonia
* 1920 BCE - Traditional date for when Abraham was approached by God.
* 1750 - 1180 BCE - Hittites (13)
* 1700 - Enuma Elish created
* 1550 - 1060 BCE - Mycenaean (14)
* 1550 - 1450 BCE - Moses traditionally thought to have lived
* 1500 - Exodus?
* 1150 - 1020 BCE David traditionally believed to have lived.
* 900 BCE - According to the Documentary Hypothesis, thought to be when the Jawist scriptures were written.
* 700 BCE to 1935 CE - Persia until it became Iran. (15)

- During the Second Millennium, when Abraham showed up, the Near East was a busy place. Here is a proposed map of 1300 BCE I presume done by a historian of sorts.(17). In The Second Millennium Indo-Aryans migrated into the the Indus valley(19). They brought with them the Sanskrit language and the Vedas. The Hindus up until the the Buddha (between 500-400 BCE) were very ethnocentric and concerned with ritual cleanliness. Only the priests knew the scriptures, they were called Brahmins, and were the source of this ethnocentrism. Their culture was more pastoral, less violent. I mention this because I notice many similarities between Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity and because to get to Mesopotamia from the Indus Valley, it would only take a little over a month of traveling along the coast on a raft. There has been discussion for over a century about the Hindu Origin of the Abrahamic religions(42).

- The Agricultural revolution was already underway in Mesopotamia when scripture says the world was created and human beings had already spread all over the world, even to the Polynesian Islands.
- Commerce and exploration by sea was already underway by the time of the Global Flood. Sea worthy ships capable of carrying cargo already existed and probably could have carried a crew with enough supplies to last a little over a month (or up to 40 days).
- There were already a multitude of languages by the time the Tower of Babel was destroyed.

Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian explorer, set out to test his theory that South Americans had populated Polynesia using rafts(20). He was investigating reports from Spanish explorers to Peru that had been told legends about a "white race" that had been routed and escaped to the west on rafts. Heyerdahl theorized that they wound up in Polynesia and settled there. He made a raft to second millennium specifications which he named Kon-Tiki, set sail and after a 101 day, 4,300 mile (7,000 km) journey across the Pacific Ocean, Kon-Tiki smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Using Kon-Tiki's voyage as a baseline, 43 miles a day or roughly two miles an hour, comes out to about 1.5 knots an hour. To get from Oman to the Indus Valley which is 439 miles at 1.5 knots would be 12.19 days open ocean (

It would take a little over a month or up to 40 days to go from the Indus Valley to Mesopotamia.
Persian Gulf properties(21)
* Max length - 989 km
* Max width - 56km
* Average depth - 50m
* Max depth - 90m

Gulf of Oman(22)
* Width: ~230 mi (370 km),
* Length: ~340 mi (545 km) long.
It connects with the Persian Gulf through the shallow Strait of Hormuz.

It would take a little over a month or up to 40 days to go from the lower Red Sea to the upper red sea.
Red Sea Properties(23)
* Length: ~2,250 km (1,398.1 mi) - 79% of the eastern Red Sea with numerous coastal inlets
* Maximum Width: ~ 306–355 km (190–220 mi)– Massawa (Eritrea)
* Minimum Width: ~ 26–29 km (16–18 mi)- Bab el Mandeb Strait (Yemen)
* Average Width: ~ 280 km (174.0 mi)
* Average Depth: ~ 490 m (1,607.6 ft)
* Maximum Depth: ~2,211 m (7,253.9 ft)

And using the length of the Red Sea as a standard, and a ruler, you can see for yourself that the distance from the coast of Africa to the Indus Valley would take a little over a month or up to 40 days.

And by the same standard, to get from Mycenea to Canaan, would be 15-20 days.

A list of common themes in Near Eastern and South-Southwest Asian creation myths(24) follows.
1. Some Gods pre-exist, or self-create.

2. Creation is done by acting on some sort of primordial matter, in a state of chaos, which is often represented by the Sea. The Sea is big, uncertain, frightening, unmanageable, destructive and a source of chaos.

3. Creation is done through conflict, between god and chaos where chaos is represented as some sort of sea monster. The God kills the chaos monster uses the body of the monster to create the ordered cosmos. The God and the chaos monster exist before everything else. In the Old Testament in Job(25), a Leviathan(26) is discussed and it is a sea monster which God can and does overpower.

4. Creation is the result of a Sexual act. Gods in human form have sex and make other gods. Sometimes Gods have sex with Humans.This type of thing happens in Greek and Egyptian mythology. In the Enuma Elish(27,28), Gilgamesh was part God part human, and went on to be king. It turns out there was Historical Gilgamesh. Obviously the kings name was inserted in the story to Legitimate him. In the old testament we have mention of the Heroes of old (Nephilum)(29) that were the result of supernatural beings mating with human women.

5. Creation is the result of spoken word identifying and controlling the essence. It requires only a single god. In ancient languages, breath, wind and spirit were conveyed by single word. In Hebrew scriptures god spoke the universe into existence, breathing out a word giving it spirit, giving it life. In Greek, the Logos existed prior to all things and in Hindu, the God spoke the Universe into existence with the word AUM(33).

Egyptian Creation stories seem to be indigenous to a City or Region. They can be found in books about creation myths or online(41). Because of their age, they have been modified to fit the culture that used them and are frequently contradictory. The best known Mesopotamian creation story comes from the Enuma Elish(27,28) of which versions have been found in Canaan, and in modern day Iraq and was very well known in that area. Variations of portions have been found in many more places. Hindu Creation Stories come from the Vedas and were evidently a composite of pre-existing Indus Valley civilization and immigrant Central Asian people commonly known as the Aryans. Hindu scriptures (Vedas) are so old that they have been modified as they were used by groups and therefore are sometimes contradictory.

* 8000 - 500 BCE - Vedic Religion in the Indus Valley
* 3150 - 31 BCE - Egypt and their Myths
* 1700 - Enuma Elish created
* 1550 - 1450 BCE - Moses traditionally thought to have lived, creation of the the Torah.

GENESIS 1:1-25
* Egypt - Some Gods like Atum(30), Ptah(31), Amun(32) pre-existed.
-- Amun was believed to be not only king of the gods but also the divine essence found in all gods.
-- Amun is understood as “self-generated,” active in creation as the impulse of creative energy prompting the Ogdoad (a group of four pairs of gods and goddesses) into action.

* Hindu - The God Vishnu was pre-existant, grew a lotus flower from his belly and from that was born the God Brahma who created the other Gods.

* Mesopotamia - Enuma Elish begins with three uncreated Gods, the God Apsu, his consort Tiamat, and Mummu.

* Jewish - God pre-existed or was self-created
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

* The Universe and Earth were created by the Gods acting on some primordial matter, in a state of chaos. Common representations of Evil were the dark, chaos, and the sea because of its unmanageable nature, it potential for destruction, the fact that salt water wasn't drinkable and the Hebrews weren't sea faring people so they didn't understand the fundamental characteristics of the sea. Breath, wind and spirit were conveyed by a single word.

* Egyptian - Amun created the Ogdoad and they were the agents of creation. The Ogdoad existed initially as entities within the primordial sea.
-- Before creation Nun (Primordial chaotic waters) already existed as a principle of chaos.

* Hindu - The Golden Seed incubated on the waters of chaos

* Mesopotamian - Tiamat is a body of water, the bitter sea waters that support the earth.
-- Like the waters of the abyss, Tiamat is formless and exerts power without purpose.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

* Egyptian- Ptah was worshiped from the early dynastic era, but his role as the patron of artisans (for example, carpenters, woodworkers) came later. Ptah creates by speaking a word, giving spirit to a divine idea and “breathing” it into being.

* Hindu - Some Hindus believe that the universe created from Sound. The sound was AUM(33). Each letter is the sound of a God. It is the sound of the three foundational gods, the Trimurti(40), ("The Great Trinity" Brahma(34), Shiva(35) and Vishnu(36)) as One. Three gods make up one which is similar to the Christian idea of the Trinity. In reading the Vedas, ancient Hindu scripture, it is customary to start with the word AUM and end with the world AUM. Similar to the Christian word and usage of Amen. Sound is very important to the Hindu gods. Similar to Logos, it regulates moral order, ritual, morality. Sound and Ritual ceremony was connected to the cosmic structure, morality and moral activity. The Vedas(37), were a collections of prayers, wisdom literature (but not stories like the Old Testament) that could only be handled by Brahmin(38) (Priests) and were thought to be lethal to non-priests. The ears of a non-priest would burn if they came in contact with their sounds. In the beginning, it was considered heresy to try to capture the Vedas in writing, however, the influx of outsiders and the potential for their corruption caused someone to write them down. The Vedas were not written down until around 600 BCE and not translated into English until the 18th or 19th centuries.

3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

And now we have the ordering and organization of things which follows closely the order or creation in the Enuma Elish.
4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness.

5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

* Egyptian - A few myths cover this in different ways. Geb and Nut were separated to make the earth and the sky.

* Hindu - They have few myths that cover this it different ways. The golden egg separated and each have half made the the earth and the sky. Or one of the Gods bodies was sacrificed (concept similar to Mesopotamian god that was killed to make people and the Christ that was sacrificed for the benefit of humans) and divided up to make the earth, cosmos and people.

* Mesopotamian - Finally, Marduk smashes Tiamat’s (waters of Chaos) head and splits her body in two to form the heavens and earth.
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water."

7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.

8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Egyptian - In the midst of Nun, Atum stood on the Benben, a primeval pyramidical hill that arose out of the waters
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so.

10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.

At this point (Genesis 11-25) God created the rest of the vegetation, animals, sun, moon, and Man. The Hebrew scriptures diverge with the Egyptian and Mesopotamian gods and their more violent, less nurturing natures. The Hebrew God is more like the Hindu gods in that he is more part of the creation, has created the cosmos for humans, however the Hebrew god is not as much a part of creation as the Hindu Gods.

Myths are a reflection of the culture they belong to. The remarkable thing about the Indus Valley Civilizations are the lack of weapons relative to Mesopotamia and Egypt. They seem to be a more peaceful people. In the Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths man is created as lowly, flawed, subservient and savage by design. The creation of Humans will be covered in the next article.

In Job, Isaiah and Psalms there are characteristic elements of the conflict type of Creation story embedded. Since there is evidence of water-borne trade starting around 4000 BCE, It seems that sailors saw whales and relayed information about them that made their way into creation myths. The description in Job is similar to characteristics of commercial whaling. The description in Isaiah and Psalm 74:14 is more similar to creation myths, and Psalm 104:26 seems to describe a whale.

* Book of Job 3:8 "May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan "; NIV

* Book of Job 41

* Isaiah 27:1: "In that day,
the LORD will punish with his sword,
his fierce, great and powerful sword,
Leviathan the gliding serpent,
Leviathan the coiling serpent;
he will slay the monster of the sea." NIV

* Psalms 74:14: It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert. NIV

* Psalms 104:26: 26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. NIV

This brings us to the creation of Man in Genesis 1:26.
To be continued......

"Snapshot" of Ancient Civilizations in the second millennium (2000 - 1000 BCE)

Land and Sea routes between the Civilizations

Quick Reference to material in the sources. For the Quick References, Wikipedia is used liberally because while academics don't consider Wikipedia definitive or acceptable as a source they do consider it generally good enough for quick reference. Please do not confuse quick references with the sources. The sources are where the majority of information came from.

1. Syncretism
2. Folklore
3. interconnectedness of the Ancients
4. Ancient Egypt
5. Mesopotamia

6. Hinduism
7. Judaism
8. Christianity
9. Minoans
10. Indus Valley Civilization

11. Southern Levant
12. Indo-Iranians
13. Hittites
14. Myceneans
15. Persia

16. Abraham
17. Eastern Hemisphere 1300BCE
18. List of Languages by first written accounts.
19. Indo-Aryan Migration
20. Thor Heyerdahl; Kon-Tiki

21. Persian Gulf
22. Gulf of Oman
23. Red Sea
24. Common Themes in Creation Myths
25. Job

26. Leviathan
27. Enuma Elish
28. Enuma Elish Text
29. Nephilum
30. Atum

31. Ptah
32. Amun
33. AUM
34. Brahma
35. Shiva

36. Vishnu
37. Vedas
38. Brahmin
39. Blue Letter Bible Chrono-Genealogical Table
40. Trimurti

41. Egyptian Myths
42. Hindu Origins of Abrahamic Religions

1. Human Prehistory and First Civilizations, The Teaching Company
2. Great World Religions: The Religions of India, The Teaching Company
3. Great World Religions: Hinduism (2nd Edition), The Teaching Company
4. Religion in the Ancient Mediterranean World, The Teaching Company
5. Ancient Near Eastern Mythology, The Teaching Company

6. The Book of Genesis, The Teaching Company
7. Great Figures of the Old Testament, The Teaching Company.
8. History 4A_ The Ancient Mediterranean World - Fall 2007, University of Berkeley
8. The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers
9. Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality, 2nd Edition, The Teaching Company


Joseph Campbell books on Amazon
The Early History of God, Mark Smith

Ancient Ships
* Maritime history - Wikipedia, the free encyclop...
* ancient ships
* Archaeology team helps find oldest deep-sea shipwrecks HarvardScience
* Ancient Egypt: Ships and Boats
* Ancient Phoenician Ships, Boats and Sea Trade
* early ways of navigating sea

Whale information
* Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) - Office of Protected Resources - NOAA Fisheries

* Monsoon African Connections: An ... - Google Bo...
* 538bc monsoon

Ancient History
* Ancient history
* First dynasty of Egypt - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ancient Prehistory
* archaeology, anthropology, social studies, general knowledge
* Evolution of Modern Humans: Early Modern Homo sapiens
* Hominid Species

* Novelty Seeking Study
* NOVELTY SEEKING e-Review of Tourism Research

Interconnectedness of the Ancients
* Early Modern Homo sapiens
* Prisoners Dilemma
* Sea Level
* Monsoon Winds
* Ancient Sea Exploration

* Second Millenium shipwreck
* Whales Arabian Gulf
* Whales Turkey and Greece
* Whales Coast of Oman
* Leviathan

* Syncretism
* Creation Myths

Foundational Study, recommended reading

- Influence: Science and Practice (4th Edition) by Cialdini, Robert
- Persuasion: Theory and Research (Current Communication) by O'Keefe, Daniel J.
- How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn
- Innumeracy : Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Social Consequences by John Allen Paulos
- Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (Popular Science) by Martin Gardener
- Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
- Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought by David H. Fischer
- Conquering Deception by Nance, Jef
- General Psychology course from Berkeley
- Self and Society by John P Hewitt
- How We Know What Isn't So by Gilovich, Thomas

- Evidence that Demands a Verdict Vol. 1 by Josh McDowell
- Evidence that Demands a Verdict Vol. 2 by Josh McDowell
- More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell
- Biblical Errancy: A Reference Guide by C. Dennis McKinsey
- Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures by Joe Nickell
- Mysterious Realms: Probing Paranormal, Historical, and Forensic Enigmas by Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer

- Folklore in the Old Testament by Frazer by James George
- Gospel Fictions by Helms, Randel
- Holy Writ as Oral Lit : The Bible as Folklore by Dundes, Alan
- Old Testament Parallels (Fully Expanded and Revised) by Victor H. Matthews and Don C. Benjamin
- Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis

- The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein
- The Bible with Sources Revealed by Friedman, Richard E.
- The Early History of God: Yahweh and the Other Deities in Ancient Israel by Mark S. Smith
- The Historical Jesus & the Mythical Christ by Massey, Gerald
- The Secret Origins of the Bible by Tim Callahan
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