Memory is a funny thing. I recently was completely convinced that the story of Gilgamesh, which I had read many years earlier, contained a goddess throwing a rib into a forest to create a person, the wild man Enkidu.
When I went back to look at it, thanks to someone requesting the exact wording, I found that it was, in fact, not a rib. In Gilgamesh, a goddess throws a rock (lump of clay) into a forest to create a person.
“When Anu in the sky heard this, he said to Aruru, great goddess of creation that she is: “You created humans; create again in the image of Gilgamesh and let this imitation be as quick in heart and as strong in arm so that these counterforces might first engage, then disengage, and finally let Uruk’s children live in peace.”
Hearing that, Aruru thought of Anu. Then she wet her creative fingers, fashioned a rock, and tossed it as far as she could into the woods.
Thus she fathered Enkidu, a forester, and gave birth in terror and in fright without a single cry of pain, bringing forth another likeness of Ninurta, god of war.”
The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the first known complete stories. The 12 clay tablets in cuneiform script describe the adventures of the historical King of Uruk who lived around 2750 and 2500 BCE.
The Gilgamesh story we have comes from the collection of a 7th century Assyrian king named Ashurbanipal. The original Assyrian version was copied from a composition in Old Babylonian times, based on legends and stories from older Sumerian sources. Sumer was in southern Mesopotamia the geographical area that is today called Iraq. The city of Uruk was on the Euphrates River. (Source: History Dept, University of Texas)
The rib story seems to come from a different Sumerian tale. This is still an earlier pagan source for the Bible story I read as a boy. Gilgamesh does, however, contain the flood myth with Noah (here named Utnapishtim taken from the earlier and more detailed story of Atrahasis), the ark, and other familiar elements.
Getting back to the rib, here is the quote from the ancient story, ENKI AND NINHURSAG:
“What hurts you most, dearest? ‘ My rib hurts me.’ ‘ To the goddess Nin-ti, the Lady of the Rib and the One who makes Live, I have given birth for you to set your rib free.’
As soon as Ninhursag uttered the last sentence, Enki felt no pain or ache, revitalised and stronger than ever. Indeed, as if he himself had been reborn in the close embrace of Ninhursag.”
How old is this story? I’m still searching for that answer. Clues: There was (according to one historical time line of milk) a temple of Ninhursag in the Sumerian city of Tell al-Ubaid in 3,000-2,500 BCE. Confirmed by a copper bull in the British Art Museum from Tell al-Ubaid, “around 2,600″ BCE. Also, according to the New World Encyclopedia, Ninhursag’s symbol, the omega (Ω), is depicted in art from around 3,000 BCE.
“Some commentators see the Bible’s Eve as related to Nin-ti, Ninhursag daughter known as the “Lady of the Rib.”
It is exiting to be able to reach back to stories that may be 5,000 years old, to meet the earth goddess Ninhursag who was the omega! As well, to find the origin of the “Greek” omega symbol, which is not generally known. The omega was most likely a stylized womb. Using the birth symbol as the last letter of the Greek alphabet is so Ouroboros.
It find it no stretch of the imagination that these ancient two stories merged and became the story of the creation of Eve though multiple oral re-telling over 1000 or more years..
… one of the great pleasures of studying Sumerian myths is exactly to trace resemblances and parallels between Sumerian and Biblical motifs. Sumerians could not have influenced the Hebrews directly, for they had ceased to exist long before the Hebrew people came into existence. But there is little doubt that the Sumerians deeply influenced the Canaanites, who preceded the Hebrews in the land later known as Palestine’ (Kramer, Samuel Noah, History Begins at Sumer, The Pennsylvania University Press,1981:142). Some comparisons with the Bible paradise story that are described in this myth
1) the idea of a divine paradise comes from Dilmun, the land of immortals situated in southwestern Persia. It is the same Dilmun that, later, the Babylonians, the Semitic people who conquered the Sumerians, located their home of the immortals. There is a good indication that the Biblical paradise, which is described as a garden planted eastward in Eden, from whose waters flow the four world rivers including the Tigris and the Euphrates, may have been originally identical with Dilmun;…
4) most remarkably, this myth provides an explanation for one of the most puzzling motifs in the Biblical paradise story – the famous passage describing the fashioning of Eve, the mother of all living, from the rib of Adam.
Why a rib instead of another organ to fashion the woman whose name Eve means according to the Bible, ‘she who makes live’? If we look at the Sumerian myth, we see that when Enki gets ill, cursed by Ninhursag, one of his body parts that start dying is the rib. The Sumerian word for rib is ‘ti’ . To heal each o Enki’s dying body parts, Ninhursag gives birth to eight goddesses. The goddess created for the healing of Enki’s rib is called ‘Nin-ti’, ‘the lady of the rib’. But the Sumerian word ‘ti’ also means ‘to make live’. The name ‘Nin-ti’ may therefore mean ‘the lady who makes live’ as well as ‘the lady of the rib’.
Thus, a very ancient literary pun was carried over and perpetuated in the Bible, but without its original meaning, because the Hebrew word for ‘rib’ and that for ‘who makes live’ have nothing in common. Moreover, it is Ninhursag who gives her life essence to heal Enki, who is then reborn from her (Kramer, Samuel Noah, History Begins at Sumer, The Pennsylvania University Press, Philadelphia, 143-144).
via Enki and Ninhursag – www.GatewaysToBabylon.com.
Agreement on wikipedia:
Ninti (Lady Rib), is also a pun on Lady Life, a title of Ninhursag herself.
Here is confirmation in the form of the same text in a PDF from Professor Stephen Hagen at Kennesaw Sate University shows that birth was given out of a rib in this story.
For my satisfaction, I’d like to know the location and I’d like to see images of the actual tablets, the shards of pottery or whatever upon which ENKI AND NINHURSAG and Gilgamesh are written. What is the source of professor Kramer’s translations of these myths? A transliteration, a word for word into English would be ideal. Anyone?
The Archaeological Evidence for Gilgamesh, according to SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London), is the following:
The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh is preserved on three groups of manuscripts (clay tablets), which give an account of the poem at different stages in its evolution, from the eighteenth century BC to the first millennium BC.
So far eleven pieces of Old Babylonian versions of the epic are extant, and eighteen pieces are known from later in the second millennium (Middle Babylonian and other intermediate manuscripts). If these twenty-nine fragments were all that had survived we would not be able today to give an accurate account of the poem’s narrative and plot. Fortunately we have 184 fragments from the first millennium (count at January 2003). These come from ancient libraries in Assyria, most notably the library of the seventh-century king, Ashurbanipal, and from slightly later collections of tablets found in Babylonia, chiefly at Babylon and Uruk.
You can see how the different sources for the same story fit together in transliterations of the 12 tablets at this link.
If the Sumerians did deeply influence the Canaanites, who preceded the Hebrews, yet Christians still consider the older Hebrew version of the Genesis story to be correct.
I was led to believe the Bible’s account of creation in the Old Testament sprang forth complete from divine inspiration.
According to Jewish tradition the Torah was revealed to Moses in 1312 BCE at Mount Sinai. … the Torah is accepted by Christianity as part of the Bible, comprising the first five books of the Old Testament. – wiki
(The Torah could not have come to Moses all at once, however, since the book of Deuteronomy describes his death.)
Regarding the parallels of the creation myths, you can believe they are due to coincidence, or that the Genesis story, including the rib, is a distorted retelling (without mention of the sources) of several different stories 1,000 years older, written between 2750 and 2500 BCE.
In the second case, claims of divine authorship are debunked.