hamsterbait....It is quite clear that there was an older mythology at work. The parallels between the Eden narrative and the Mesopotamian stories of Adapa and Enkidu are quite robust. But the evidence is clearest in the case of the goddess Asherah (the consort of El, later the consort of Yahweh), whose fingerprints are all over the story. Asherah was the mother of all the gods and lived with El in his tent located at the source of the Euphratres and Tigris where the twin deeps meet. She was associated with healing and life and worked together with the god Horon who had ophidian attributes (he could cure snakebite and he would deliver serpents to his bride's family as a bride price). In Phoenicia, she was called Chawat "Serpent (Lady)", the same name as Hebrew chawwah "Eve" (which actually derives from a root meaning "serpent"), and she was associated with trees and specifically the tree of life. Her cult object was a sacred tree or pole, and different aspects of the sacred tree cult and Asherah reverence had resonances with the Eden narrative. The eating of the fruit of sacred trees was strictly forbidden. Devotees who seek healing would place their clothes onto the cult object or sacred tree (effectively clothing the tree). In one healing spell, she heals someone by reviving him through breathing her breath into him as a creative act: "Restored by the breath of Asherah the Great Lady, [from clay] may you be molded". In another, Horon goes to the abode of El and Asherah to obtain a cure for snakebite by cutting some twigs from the tree of death. According to 2 Kings, there was a sacred pole (asherah) in the Temple, along with the Nehushtan (the bronze serpent that Moses made and placed on a pole) and the sacred women wove clothes for Asherah. In the reforms of Hezekiah, the bronze serpent was removed from the Temple and destroyed, along with the asherah poles. The later reforms of Josiah similarly removed a restored sacred pole from the Temple and destroyed it with fire. The Temple, as the abode of Yahweh, was viewed as parallel to his heavenly abode (= Eden and "paradise" in later Jewish tradition), and the eviction of Asherah and the serpent image from the Temple bears some similarities with the plot of the Eden narrative.
Adam and Eve should have scuppered God'sWIll before the breezy part of day
Thanks for that, Leo-
Unfortunately I don't have any books with that information, so it was very helpful. I also think that the whole idea of a subterranean water, forced back to reveal the dry land, reveals a link to the egyptian idea of Ra taking his subterranean river journey and fighting the snake of the abyss (Leviathan in later jewish)
Just like the Egyptian God YHWH rides across the heavens, only in a chariot - not a boat (though did earlier myths use a boat too? Remember how the tribe of Gad is asked why they stopped traveling in boats?)
Even the four cardinal virtues, seems an idea taken from the egyptians, who took the organs representing these and put them in canopic jars with an image of the creature symbolising that quality.
I am convinced ( and there is prolly literature out there already) that the mesapotamian legends brought to egypt were then filtered over centuries by the egyptian religions.
I have a quite different impression of the relationship between Egyptian and early Mesopotamian religion. The connection seems to be much more tenuous than the connection between the latter and Levantine, Hittite, and even Greek mythology. In such cases, it is quite clear that Sumerian, Akkadian, and Assyrian ideas found their way into new settings. But I seriously doubt that that there was much influence on Egyptian religion (at least until the first millennium BC, I think), which developed locally from a very different soil. I have an article somewhere on the surprisingly little archaeological evidence of contact between the two civilizations in the third millennium BC. The Sumerians talked about their contacts with Syria, Bahrein, Iran, and possibly the Indus Valley, but not Egypt; they looked more east than west. External influence is much more robust in the middle of the second millennium with respect to Hyksos incursion into Egypt and the local adoption and syncretism of Canaanite gods (such as Elat/Asherah, Rephesh, Baal, etc.) into the Egyptian pantheon. Baal especially was identified with Seth, the traditional enemy of the native Egyptian power (as invested in Horus and manifested in the pharaohs). As might be expected, there was mutual influence on Levantine religion during the New Kingdom -- I recall there was an Egyptian temple located in Bronze Age Jerusalem, and there was another located at Beth-Shan. There are many signs of Egyptian influence (particularly in the sapiential tradition and in poetic texts) but I find the Mesopotamian parallels to be much more impressive, and the Canaanite/Phoenician/Ugaritic parallels the closest most of all. Your mention of the theme of Yahweh riding across the heavens is a good example of this. The OT texts mentioning this place Yahweh more in the role of a storm/rain god rather than the sun, e.g. he rides on the clouds, with the rain clouds as his chariot, his voice is thunder and his arrows are lightnings, etc. The motifs in some cases are extremely close with what is found in Canaanite myths about Baal, the Cloud Rider. And the parallels are similarly robust with analogous Mesopotamian, Hittite, and Greek deities (e.g. Enlil, Teshub, Zeus), whereas the Egyptian pantheon was not organized in a similar way, possibly reflecting the fact that life on the Nile was less dependent on rain than on the river itself.
The parallels with the Eden narrative that I mentioned are Canaanite (those pertaining to Asherah, the sacred tree, and serpents) and Mesopotamian (the myths of Adapa and Enkidu, among others). I don't know of any good Egyptian parallels to the Eden narrative. And the connection with Mesopotamia and the land to the north is very strong in the early chapters of Genesis as a whole (e.g. the location of Eden near the source of the Euphrates and Tigris, the link between the antediluvian patriarchs and the pre-Flood portion of the Sumerian King List, the possible link between Enoch and Enmeduranki, the very robust connection between the Flood narrative and Mesopotamian versions, Ararat as the resting place of the ark, the Mesopotamian setting of Nimrod and the Babel narrative, the link between the names of the early post-Flood patriarchs and towns in Upper Mesopotamia, Ur and Haran as the settings of the beginning of the Abraham cycle, the absence of Egypt in the Chedorlaomer/Amraphel/Tidal narrative, Haran as the setting of the Laban narrative, etc.). In contrast, before we reach the Joseph narrative at the end of Genesis (which has parallels with the Egyptian Tale to Two Brothers, and which obviously attempts to add local color), the only substantial Egyptian connection is the story of Abraham's visit to Egypt, which was related only in the vaguest terms with no local color, and the story itself was retold twice more in Genesis in different narrative settings.
I think the strongest case for Egyptian influence is to be made with respect to the Levite priesthood, on the one hand, and some later literary influence on texts like Psalm 104 and Proverbs. Also in the latter half of the Iron Age, royal Yahwism was increasingly solarized in an assimilation to Egyptian royal ideology, in directions away from the older Canaanite model (which looked to the storm god as the source of royal authority and not the sun god, cf. Psalm 29 and the "Davidic" Psalm 18 for an archaic Canaanite-type model).
Leo - this will keep me going for a long time - so many leads!!
So can I take it that you think the legends the hebrews took with them into egypt, were less heavily influenced by egyptian ideas than I am speculating?
My view is that the Jews borrowed myths and fairy stories from whatever cutural milieu they shared at the time. Hence the Noah story becomes part of their holy books some time after the captivity.
For instance, what I said about canopic jars. Is there any evidence that the mesapotamians divided the human soul up in the same way? All the jews did when portraying these qualities was to replace the unclean creatures with those acceptable to their code. Is this an adoption of Egyptian ideas spliced onto previously held ideas?
(PS - even the fact that Asherah is shown as living in a TENT with El must indicate its pre city dweller origin)
I think the principles of Levi Strauss - "The Raw and the Cooked" could give useful clues in how to deconstruct these myths into the primitive forms, as found among Amazonian tribes and African Bushmen. I dream of having the time to do it!