The Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden

Since my book about the Adam and Eve story, The Mythology of Eden, is just coming out, I’ll devote some of my posts over the ensuing weeks and months to intriguing questions arising from that story. I’ll start here with the mythology behind the two sacred trees in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

In the ancient polytheistic world, where everything in nature was viewed as charged with the divine, trees held a special place. They are the largest living things on earth, and can outlast us all. They attract lightning, and their wood burns. They wither and renew themselves in an annual cycle, and produce edible fruit and nuts, thus representing the life principle and regeneration. They reach to the heavens as well as down into the netherworld, thus spanning and connecting the three planes of the cosmos (netherworld, earth, and heaven). As such, they are a conduit for accessing the upper and lower divine realms, and for transmitting divine power. As portals to the divine, naturally trees had an oracular role, giving people access to divinities and to divine knowledge. No wonder they are key symbols in myths! They are right at home in the Eden story.

Sacred trees were a key feature of ancient garden complexes in the ancient Near East. Initially in early agricultural societies, sacred garden precincts arose as the estate of the earth goddess (e.g., Innana) around her shrine or temple, for she generated food and life. To partake of the first fruits of the harvest was to partake of the goddess herself and of her divinity. Sacred trees and goddesses naturally became associated with each other. Thus, in Egypt the image of the tree goddess arose, who was depicted as immanent in the tree and dispensing food and water to deceased humans so they could be reborn (see image below, and notice the (raised) serpent). In Canaan and Israel, the main goddess, Asherah, was represented by either real trees or a fashioned wooden pole, called the asherah after her, and she was venerated in such symbolic form. The biblical writers of course opposed tree and goddess veneration, and sought to destroy it.


Serpents were often depicted in myths as lurking around the bottom of trees. This was partly because they are chthonic creatures that access the netherworld, just like the roots of the tree which they resemble. Moreover, ancient peoples believed that serpents had divine powers, and so they were used in divination, in casting spells, to cure illnesses, and in seeking wisdom. In fact, this “serpent power” was the very essence of the divine power or energy itself. (Think of The Force in Star Wars. I will treat the serpent in a separate upcoming post.) And it is this divine force for which the sacred tree is the conduit. As a result, sacred tree-goddess-serpent formed a kind of trinity, which the biblical writers opposed. In fact, it seems that most Israelites considered Asherah to be Yahweh’s wife, which the biblical authors found abhorrent, so they wanted to destroy this relationship and the goddess. (More about this divorce in an upcoming post.) So we can see why the author of the Eden story said not to partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Among other things, he was alluding to sacred tree and goddess veneration, and he wanted to show the audience that Yahweh is the sole legitimate source of divinity.

In our story, however, there are 2 sacred trees, not one. Why? In the ancient Near East, the quality of divinity had 2 elements: great wisdom and immortality. The two sacred trees in the Garden were associated with each of these. This explains the main attraction of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil to Eve: she desired wisdom (Gen. 3:6), and indeed received it through that tree (Gen. 3:7, 22). This also explains why Yahweh had to drive the humans from the Garden after having attained the godlike Knowledge of Good and Evil, because continued access to the Tree of Life would have rendered humans immortal and therefore essentially divine. The biblical author wanted to draw a line between the earthly and the divine, between humans and God. In the author’s view, we should have a relationship with the divinity/the divine, but not directly experience or partake of the divine directly.

The story does not specify the kinds of sacred trees or, therefore, what fruits (or nuts) grew on them. This is normal since the symbol is archetypal, but the ancient Israeli audience must have had something in mind based on their Israelite setting. Since (as I show in my book) the Eden story was in part anti-Canaanite polemic, my own suspicion is that the forbidden fruit was a grape. (The tradition of an apple is not faithfully based in the story and arose later in medieval Europe as a pun based on the similarity of the Latin words for apple (malum) and evil (malus).) This fits the characterization of the Promised Land as one rich in grapes and wine, as portrayed in the story of Moses sending spies to Canaan who brought back a large cluster of grapes as proof (Num. 13:1-14), as well as in the story of Noah’s drunkenness from the wine produced in his vineyard, leading to the curse on Canaan (Gen. 9:20-27). The Canaanite New Year’s festival, which the biblical authors opposed, featured drunken celebrations right in the vineyards, where the celebrants lived temporarily in huts constructed from verdant branches. (The holiday was later converted into the Feast of Booths associated with the Exodus.) And as in Dionysian celebrations, the inebriation itself was thought of as a divine force. (We still call alcoholic beverages “spirits.”) The forbidden fruit being a grape best fits the author’s anti-Canaanite polemic in the Eden story and beyond.

But despite the author’s efforts, the veneration of sacred trees was not eliminated. This is to be expected since the symbol is a natural product of the human psyche. Indeed, official Israelite religion co-opted the symbol, sublimating its objectionable characteristics into an acceptable form, the menorah. Earlier, the seven-branched tree represented Asherah, as famously depicted on a 13th century BCE ewer discovered at Lachish (see image below).

There were many trees in the Garden, but we must recognize the meaning of sacred trees according to the symbolism they had in that culture. This is one case where, in order to understand the myth, we must see the trees for the forest, not as usual the other way around.


© Arthur George 2014

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18 Responses to The Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden

  1. One of the motifs I deal with in my book title _The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths_ (2010) is the subject of Eden’s two trees, the tree of knowledge of good and evil (which God said who’s fruit would cause death) and the tree of life (immortality to be obtained if its fruit is eaten). In Mesopotamian myth it is not a tree’s fruit that confers death and or immortality, it is bread. In agreement with earlier scholarship (1890-1930) I understand the Hebrews recast motifs found in the Adapa and the Southwind myth which explained for Mesopotamians how man lost at a chance at immortality for himself and mankind. The “bread of death” and the “bread of life” I understand were recast as fruit from trees. I see the author of Genesis as repudiating Mesopotamian and Canaanite beliefs about why man was created and denied immortality. Genesis is basically presenting a 180 degree inversion or about-face of these myths as penetratingly noted by the late Joseph Campbell (an expert on myths). The setting of Adapa and the Southwind Myth is two locations on the earth, at Eridu in ancient Sumer, and in heaven at the god Anu’s abode. Just 12 miles SW of Eridu lies Ur of the Chaldees, reputed home of Abraham. Perhaps Abraham was a polythesict originally who later recast the myths of nearby Eridu in the Adam and Eve story? A shrine dedicated to Enki/Ea was unearthed in Ur with a lovely carving showing this god on it. Ur’s king provided funds for Eridu’s temple, ziggurat and staff. The open grazing land surrounding Eridu and Ur was called in Sumerian the Edin, which some scholars have suggested is what is behind Genesis’ Eden.


  2. A typo error, Eridu is 12 miles SW of Ur. On a clear day Eridu’s ziggurat tower can be seen from Ur’s Ziggurat tower.


  3. Thanks, Walter, for your comment. Yes, in the Adapa myth there is the bread AND WATER of life, though not in reality those of death (Enki was lying in giving that name to the bread and water of life). Outside Adapa, in the myths there are sacred waters that support life, but I don’t recall bread (whether of life or death) coming up again in this sense, and would be grateful if you could point me to other examples. In such an agricultural civilization (Mesopotamia and elsewhere), the fruits of the ground (including of trees) have a tradition of being the product of the goddess (literally her body), and people consumed the first fruits to partake of her divinity. I agree with you that the biblical author was repudiating Mesopotamian and Canaanite (and Egyptian) beliefs in connection with the trees, but more in the case of the tree of knowledge of good and evil than the tree of life. Since the author allowed (initially) access to the tree of life but not to the tree of knowledge, the focus in Yahweh’s prohibition was on the question of accessing divinity to gain divine wisdom, not (at least initially) the question of immortality; having eternal life via the tree of life was OK so long as humans did not acquire godlike wisdom. Still, as I note in my book, both here and in the Mesopotamian myths the human protagonists gain (or already have) wisdom but founder on the other prong of divinity, immortality.

    I don’t know of any Bible scholar who has suggested that Abraham wrote the Eden story (or anything else in the Hebrew Bible), whether as recast Mesopotamian myths or otherwise.

    The idea that the biblical Eden comes from the Sumerian “edin” meaning “steppe” is certainly intriguing and gained popularity in the mid-20th century and so I considered it, but the scholarly consensus now rejects the idea and I have “tabled” it pending any new evidence, for reasons that I cover in my book but are too lengthy to elaborate on here.

    Thanks again for your comments.


    • I am not saying Abraham “wrote” the Eden account found in Genesis, only that he might have been a possible source (via oral traditions). As regards the concept of bread of life, it occurs not only in the Adapa Myth, but also in a myth about the death and resurrection of Inanna of Uruk. Enki (Ea) sends two minor divinities into the underworld, they sprinkle the bread of life and water of life on Inanna’s dead body and revive her, she returns to the earth. So the myths reveal two locations for the bread of life, Anu’s heavenly abode, and Enki’s (Ea’s) earthly abode at Eridu, in Sumer.
      As regards the denial of wisdom or knowledge to man, Anu objects to the wisdom granted Adapa by Ea (Enki), while Ea objects to Adapa being granted immortality by being allowed to eat of the bread of life by Anu. In recasting these polytheistic motifs the Hebrew author eliminates two gods’ adversarial intents regarding man acquiring knowledge and immortality and ascribes all to one God, Yahweh. In Sumerian myths Enki who was recast by the Babylonians as Ea, was called ushumgal, “great serpent,” so a god in human form who talked and walked was recast as Eden’s serpent who opposed Yahweh who objected to man’s acquisition of knowledge. That is to say Anu who objected to Adapa’s acquisition of knowledge was recast as Yahweh having the said objection. Ea (Enki) who objected to man acquiring immortality by lying was recast as Yahweh objecting to man acquiring immortality. Two gods’ actions have been fused and assimilated to Yahweh in the recasting of the motifs. Adapa’s failure to attain immortality is because he obeyed Ea’s warning don’t eat, you will die. So again, Ea’s warning has been recast as Yahweh’s warning. Anu asks Adapa why didn’t you eat? Adapa replies my god said I would die. When the serpent asks Eve about eating, she replies she cannot eat of the tree of good and evil or she will die. In other words Adapa’s reply to Anu has been recast as Eve’s reply to the serpent. Ea brags of Adapa “I gave him wisdom and denied him immortality” which was recast as Yahweh allowing man to eat of the tree of Knowledge, but denying him the fruit of the tree of life and immortality. The motifs in the Adapa story are being recast by the Hebrew author and new characters created to replace the polytheistic characters (Anu and Ea, being recast as not only Yahweh, but Eden’s serpent as well).
      As regards edin and eden, I am aware that the association has fallen into disfavor with some scholars, but I find their reasoning flawed. How so? They trot out the word edinu found in a syllabary and claim this is a very rare word, so it is unlikely to have been known to the Hebrews. What these scholars failed to grasp was that edinu also exists in a more common form as edin, a Sumerian logogram _commonly used_ in place of the Babylonian word Seri, meaning plain or wilderness. Several scholars identified Enkidu and Shamhat of the Epic of Gilgamesh as being recast as Adam and Eve, what all universally failed to observe is that this epic at times substitutes seri with edin as a logogram. I understand that a cuneiform literate Yebusite at Jerusalem, knew this logogram and when telling this tale to his Israelite in-laws (grandchildren), they, in error, assumed edin was their Aramaic word ‘eden, meaning delightful, or place well-watered. This confusion of words across different cultures is called assonance. The loanword has been misheard, misunderstood, mispronounced, and given a false meaning. So, the scholarly nonsense that prevails today about ‘eden having nothing to do with edinu, is misdirected in my opinion. Genesis’ eden is the logoram edin in the Epic of Gilgamesh where Enkidu (Adam) was undone by Shamhat (Eve) at the orders of Sadu (recast as Yahweh). Edin’s naked man and naked woman (Enkidu and Shamhat) were recast as Eden’s naked man and woman (Adam and Eve). All this covered in my two books published in 2010, (1) Eden’s Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origin and (2) The Garden of Eden Myt5h: ITs Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. This is also available at my website You can also Google “mattfeld, edinu, eden, logogram.”


      • Thanks, Walter, for this comment. You raise many points, such that I can’t address all of them in a single bite-sized reply, so I’ll do so in a few separate replies, starting with your first point above about the bread of life.

        I assume that you are referring to the Sumerian myth known as The Descent of Inanna and also the subsequent Descent of Ishtar (in Akkadian). I checked but do not see “bread of life” in the translations I have. Samuel Kramer translates it as “food of life” (first in ANET and later in Inanna), and Stephanie Dalley calls it a “plant of life” (Myths from Mesopotamia, p. 161, n. 13). Who are you relying on for “bread of life” as a translation?

        In any event, in the later Semitic version, The Descent of Ishtar, she is administered no food, bread, plant, etc., but only the water of life. The absence of any such food in this later version that is closer to Israel geographically and chronologically makes it harder to conclude that bread of life (assuming it was bread) in the earlier Sumerian myth was the source of the forbidden fruit in the Eden story.

        This leaves only the bread of life in the Adapa myth (assuming that translation is correct). But the context is that of one character providing hospitality to another, at home, using prepared (processed) food. To my mind, it is a stretch to make this the source of the fruit in the Eden story when the motif of fruit from a sacred tree was an ubiquitous in all ancient times throughout the ancient Near East, and when a fruit makes good mythological sense in terms of the symbolism and established traditions (as explained in Chapter 6 of my book). It is, after all, a fruit in the story, so it is more sensible to look for fruit as precedent. Applying Occam’s Razor, I think this simpler solution (which works) is best, rather that reaching for something more complicated and (to an Israelite) obscure.


      • This is to address the question about the Sumerian word edin and Akkadian (includes Babylonian) word tseru. The Bible scholars, linguists, and Assyriologists have not missed anything here. They all recognize that, while Akkadian utilized cuneiform for the writing system, the actual words being pronounced, spoken and understood, were the separate Akkadian words known to the speakers written in Akkadian cuneiform, not the Sumerian equivalents (translations). Thus, while the original Sumerian logogram for Sumerian edin was in some loose sense the derivation for the Akkadian written word for steppe, everyone wrote, read, and pronounced the Akkadian word for steppe, tseru (see last paragraph below).

        This situation reminds me of an apt anecdote: A Roman walks into a bar and to the bartender, holds up his hand with two fingers in a V (like our peace sign) and says, “Five beers please!” Today we read, pronounce, and understand the Roman number sign V simply as “five,” never thinking that in the dead language of Latin it was really “quinque.” Much the same goes for Sumerian edin and Akkadian tseru.

        As for the word edinu, the only appearance of it is in the vocabulary where it appears to have been created by the scribes as a loan word. It is unattested anywhere in Akkadian texts (as shown in the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary), so based on the state of the evidence so far the word appears to have been quite literally a dead letter. Without any actual appearances of the word, it is not possible to make any argument for linkage with Eden even based on assonance. As for any potential actual etymological link, linguists point out that there can’t be any strict etymological connection between “edin” and Eden on various technical linguistic grounds. The Hebrew word “Eden” begins with an ayin consonant, but neither Sumerian edin nor the Akkadian loanword edinu have an ayin in the root, thus indicating that there is no connection Hebrew Eden or even with the West Semitic root ʿdn. The Akkadian cuneiform “spelling” (which is syllabic/phonetic) of edinu is e-di-in. The e-sign can stand for aleph+e, but never ayin+e. Akkadian (and East Semitic in general) as well as Sumerian lack the ayin consonant. In the view of the linguists, it is therefore highly unlikely that a word without ayin would get borrowed into Semitic with an ayin appearing as the initial consonant. As mentioned in my book, we have a good Semitic root (the above-mentioned ʿdn) attested in multiple Semitic languages and in contexts that fit the Eden story, so it is much safer and better to prefer this derivation rather than Sumerian edin or Akkadian edinu (which as noted above was never used in any Akkadian texts so far as we know). If Sumerian words were making their way into Western Semitic languages in the manner that some have proposed for edin, we would expect to find lots of examples of Sumerian words popping up in Western Semitic languages, but no such phenomenon occurred. So it is highly doubtful that Sumerian edin is a lone exception. Sumerian was a dead language long before the Hebrew Bible was written. Although knowledge of Sumerian was preserved in narrow scribal circles through the Late Bronze Age, the evidence of this knowledge being preserved in Syria-Palestine dries up before the Iron Age, probably as a result of the Bronze Age Collapse.


  4. Click on this url and scroll down for the eden, edinu , edin logogram controversy in depth:


    • As regards your claim that the logogram edin was _never_ pronounced eden/edin but tseru, I have grave doubts. We have no one alive from that remote age to attest to that scholarly guess or hunch. That a cuneiform literate Jerusalemite did not know the logogram edin was to always be pronounced tseru is also no more than another scholarly guess or hunch. So I stick with logogram edin becoming Hebrew ‘eden in the recasting of the Enkidu and Shamhat story. The parallels are too numerous to be ignored and dismissed as achetypes. Enkidu’s companions are herbivore animals (wild cattle and gazelles), he roams naked edin/tseru with them. He meets a naked woman who is brought to him by the hunter, as god brings a naked Eve to Adam in Eden. Enkidu gives up his animal companions for Shamhat’s companionship like Adam did for Eve. He learns from her in edin/tseru it is wrong to be naked when they clothe themselves before leaving edin/tseru to dwell at Uruk (renedered by the Sumerian logogram Unug, which I understand became Enoch in the land of Nod, east of Eden). For me, Adam is a recast of Enkidu and Eve a recast of Shamhat. That their story unfolded in a place called edin/tseru explains why Adam and Eve’s encounter is in a place called Eden.


      • Thanks, Walter, for your further comment. This is to address your point that the pronunciation of tseru is only a guess, which you believe leaves room for pronouncing it as the Sumerian edin and for Israelite scribes to adopt the latter. Actually there is no guesswork here. While Sumerian edin and Akkadian tseru were translations of each other (as stated in a famous Sumerian-Akkadian dictionary called Syllabary B), each was written in its own version of cuneiform, so the words were written somewhat differently in each language (i.e., the signs differed). Written Akkadian was a syllabic (phonetic) language, meaning that the cuneiform components of a word represented phonetic sounds so that the word could be pronounced as specified by the writing. Thus, tseru is an exact transliteration in Latin letters of the phonetic Akkadian script, and it faithfully renders the Akkadian pronunciation. So, students learning Akkadian cuneiform learn the sound values for various cuneiform signs that make up words, standard values that we find in any Akkadian grammar textbook such as Huehnergard’s; they are not in doubt. This is also why the entries for Akkadian words in our Akkadian-English lexicons such as the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary are listed according to such transliterations; the editors of CAD know what the sound values in Akkadian are. Thus, when we turn, for example, to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the tablets of which were inscribed in Akkadian (not Sumerian), the Assyrians, Babylonians, etc., would have read and pronounced tseru and not edin, which means there is no reason to conclude that a Jerusalemite reading that story would have derived “Eden” from it.


  5. On page 168 of your book the Mythology of Eden, you state that figs were not grown in Mesopotamia: “The fig, however, did not grow in Mesopotamia, where Eden was located, which may make the date palm the better candidate to the extent the story is faithfully derived from Mesopotamian mythology.” Your source cited is a 1997 English translation of a German text published in 1901 by Herman Gunkel. The problem? Your souce errs! If memory serves me rightly Gunkel was citing Herodotus on there being no figs grown in Mesopotamia. Figs were indeed grown in Mesopotamia and appear under their Sumerian and Akkadian (Babylonian) names, as foods offered to the gods in their temples.
    Some examples, emphasis mine in CAPITALS:
    “The text successively deals…(3) fruit (dates of various qualities; FIGS, grapes, grapes, raisins…” (p. 128. Jean Bottero. Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia. University of Chicago Press. 2001)
    “Just as important to the farmer was the shadow cast by the date palm. This allowed more tender plants, such as fruit trees, pomegranates, FIGS, apples, and even vines to grow in its shade.” (p. 53. “Agriculture” Harriet Crawford. Sumer and the Sumerians. 2d edition. Cambridge University Press. 2004)
    “Gardens such as these were organized according to the principal of ‘storeys’, on analogy with the levels of a multilevel building. The upper storey comprised the date palms themselves, the tallest trees in the garden and those which provided shade for everything growing beneath them; the middle storey comprised fruit trees of varying types…the lowest story comprised cultivated plots of cereals, vegetables, legumes or a combination of all three…Deliveries of dates were often included with those of other fruits, most probably grown within the same garden or plantation (Sumerian kiri, Akkadian kirum) area. Thus pomegranates (Sumerian nurma, Akkadian nurmu, lurimtu) FIGS, Sumerian pes(se), Akkadian titti), apples (Sumerian hashur, Akkadian hashuru) and grapes (Sumerian gestin, Akkadian karanu) all seem to have been inter-cropped with date palms (Postgate 1987:122).” (pp. 69-70. “Agriculture and Diet.” D. T. Potts. Mesopotamian Civilization, The Material Foundations. Ithaca, New York. Cornell University Press. 1997)
    Your observation (p. 168) that Hebrew peri refers to a fig in Proverbs 27:18, would seem to reinforce the notion tat the fig leaves Adam and Eve covered themselves in after eating the fruit, is on target. “Since J mentioned fig leaves in the story and peri is used to refer to a fig in Proverbs 27:18, however, this remains a possibility. My own research notes that some Rabbis thought it was a fig Adam and Eve consumed on the basis of the fig leaves being used to cover their nakedness.
    So, in antiquity fig trees grew in the protective shadow of date palms, hence for me why these two trees are near each other in the Edenic account. While Genesis does not identify the tree of life, it does state it is protected by Cherubim (Ge 3:24) and elsewhere in the Bible we are told the Temple of Solomon was adorned with images of cherubim next to palm trees. The fruit of -palm trees is of course dates. See 1 Kings 6:32, 35 and Ezekiel 41:18, 20 for the descriptions of cherubim and palm trees. Ergo, the mystery is solved. The trees grew next to each other in the Sumerian city-gardens of the gods surrounded by the Sumerian edin, and were eaten by the gods and by man.
    The gods had to eat earthly food or die. They created man to care for their gardens and feed them the harvest, hence the reason Adam is created to care for Yahweh’s garden in Eden. The Hebrews recast the Mesopotamian myths.


    • Thanks, Walter, for your observations. While Gunkel did cf. Herodotus (1:193) he was really relying on Dillman and his bibliography on the point. The contrary sources you mention indicate that the fig trees would have been subsidiary to the date palm, which makes it unlikely that they were sacred trees either in Mesopotamia or in the Eden story (if the influence was from Mesopotamia). The Mesopotamian iconography typically shows date palms as the sacred trees. So even if fig trees grew in ancient Mesopotamia it doesn’t matter in terms of my analysis. In my book I focus on what is the forbidden fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil since that’s the one that Adam and Eve ate from and had an effect on them. That the fig tree was subsidiary to the date palm in Mesopotamia, however, suggests to me that the tree of life would not be a fig either (assuming again Mesopotamian influence here) because Yahweh embraces the tree of life as his tree and so it could not be considered subsidiary to another tree, especially since in the Eden story after the transgression Yahweh would not let Adam and Eve go near the tree of life yet they dressed themselves in fig leaves. I do, however, like your idea that the fig may have stood in the shade of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which coincides with Adam and Eve immediately finding the fig leaves and with the descriptions of Bottero and Crawford.


      • As to “why” Genesis’ narrator chose a fig to be the forbidden fruit, the only thing I can think of is that in Canaan/Palestine fig trees were very commonly grown as a source of food by almost everyone, whereas date palms were much less so. A biblical passage has the envoy of the Assyrian king telling the besieged Jerusalemites to surrender and they will be taken to Assyria and enjoy life, with everyone under his own vine and fig tree (2 Kings 18:31-32). “Everyman dwells under his vine and fig tree” in Judah and Israel in Solomon’s days ( 1 Kings 4:25). The principal fruit tree of Lower Mesopotamia is the date palm. So perhaps two “principal” fruit trees, the fig of Canaan and the date palm of Mesopotamia were singled out for the story? In the Adapa myth it is bread of death and bread of life, which explain why man is denied immortality. I agree with scholars who understand motifs associated with Adapa were recast and assimilated to Adam and Eve, noting that the bread of life and death may have been recalled in Yahweh’s statement that Adam will eat BREAD by the sweat of his face (Genesis 3:19). So the Adapa bread motif was preserved in Genesis, but recast in a different context. Why? The Mesopotamian myth about Inanna (called the lady of edin in Nippur texts) relates that she ate of a cedar/pine tree (pine nuts?) to acquire sexual knowledge, so perhaps Genesis’ narrator knew of a tree conferring knowledge if eaten in Babylonian myth, while writing Genesis in the Babylonian Exile circa 562-560 BC? I reject the Documentary Hypothesis of Genesis’ origins, dating it 562-560 BC in Babylonia, in the Exile. See my website for the details.


  6. My source for _bread of life_ being sprinkled on Innana/Ishtar is Professor Thorkild Jacobsen (p. 220. The Harps that Once… Sumerian Poetry in Translation. Yale University Press. 1987). He translates:
    “They will offer you [the river at its high water] may you not accept it. They will offer you the field when in grain; may you not accept it. Say to her “Give us the slab of tainted meat hanging from the peg!” Throw on it one the grass of life, one the water of life, and may Innana rise!”
    I am _extrapolating_ here from the Jacobsen’s translation. Enki has warned his servants to refuse any food or drink offered to them in the underworld, for if they partake of either, they will remain there. The two items enumerated are a field of grain and water from a underworld river. To revive Inanna they sprinkle on her dead body (“slab of tainted meat”) two items from the world of the living, grass of life and water of life. I understand grass of life to be an allusion to the underworld’s field of grain, grain fields resembling somewhat grass-fields. Ergo, I extrapolate bread of life being sprinkled on Inanna with water of life, and from the Adapa myth we know Ea (Enki) was a baker of bread fed to his god, and that fields of grain must have existed at Eridu to make bread from.


  7. As regards the Edenic Tree of Knowledge of good and evil, after eating of it, Adam and Eve become aware of their nakedness. Apparently nakedness is seen as “evil” for adults. Later, they engage in sex and have Cain and Able. In Mesopotamian myth knowledge is acquired by the act of eating. Inanna/Ishtar, portrayed as a maiden, tells her brother Utu the sun-god, “let us descend to the earth and eat of herbs and cedar trees, so I can acquire knowledge of how to perform my conjugal duties with my new husband Dumuzi.” Cedar as also been translated as Pine, and in Near Eastern cuisine Pine Nuts are served as a food garnish in many dishes. So, by eating pine nuts (?) Inanna acquires sexual knowledge. Commentators on this passage have noted the parallel with Eve and Eden’s fruit. One of the trees appearing with Inanna/Ishtar on cylinder seals is a pine tree.


  8. Pingback: What others think about the tree of knowledge of good and evil – Messiah For All

  9. Eric Le Corne de Nantes says:

    I would like to add something to your very interesting discussion.
    1. Pine pollen is known to have the highest testosteron level of all Earth’s flora
    2. Pomegranate is recognised as an afrodisiacum.
    3. The many beautifull depictions op cultivar trees in Assyrian bas reliefs are to my humble opinion pomegranates and they are often being ‘dusted’ with pine pollen.
    Isn’t this a clear indication that sexual arousal was the key element in the whole Eden and forbidden trees tale?


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