Hell's Pre-Christian Origins: Hell-fire, Dragons, Serpents, and Resurrections
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14 July 2000
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My interests here are in determining the pre-Christian origins of the religious motifs found in the the book of Revelation.
Revelations' motifs were not hatched out of thin air by its narrator, he is drawing from earlier religious concepts and giving them a new meaning.
Lambert has pointed out that his studies have indicated that the Mesopotamians were of a mind to re-interpret and transform older myths into newer religious concepts. It would appear that the Hebrews, Jews and Christians weren't doing anything new in their transformation of the earlier ancient myths:
"The authors of ancient cosmologies were essentially compilers. Their originality was expressed in new combinations of old themes, and in new twists to old ideas. Sheer invention was not part of their craft."
(p. 107, W.G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis,: , in Richard S. Hess and David T. Tsumura, Eds., I Studied Inscriptions From Before the Flood, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1994)
Mention is made in Revelation of a "lake of fire" (Rev 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8) set aside for the ungodly and the Devil (Serpent). My studies of Mesopotamian myths have failed to identify the above motifs in their notions of the underworld. It is a different case, however, with the Egyptian and Greek myths.
Mesopotamian myths make no mention of a "lake of fire" or a body of water that is fiery in the underworld. In the below quote Ningishzida is a Sumerian tree/serpent deity who can assume various forms, a serpent-dragon or human.
Ningishzida's journey to the underworld, portrays him with hands and neck bound by a demon, who is about to sail upon a barge on a river leading to the underworld. Ningishzida's sister, addressing him as "Damu" pleads to board the craft with her brother. He attempts to dissuade her, telling her he goes against his will bound by a demon. He notes that there is no water in the river of the underworld, which seems strange as the boat he is on is using a river to get to the underworld. There is no mention here of "rivers of fire" like Greek myths or a "lake of fire" as in Egyptian myths.
Nigishzida speaks to his sister:
"The river of the nether world produces no water, no water is drunk from it. (1 ms. adds: Why should you sail?) The fields of the nether world produce no grain, no flour is eaten from it. (1 ms. adds: Why should you sail?) The sheep of the nether world produce no wool, no cloth is woven from it. "
(Ningishzida's Journey to the Underworld.
Greek myths also fail to mention a "lake of fire," but they do mention a "fiery river" of the underworld, evidently a branch of the river Styx. This river is called Pyriphlegthon meaning "flaming with fire," sometimes shortened to Phlegethon meaning "the flaming."
"Pyriphlegethon, that is, flaming with fire, the name of one of the rivers of the lower world."
(p. 631. "Pyriphlegethon." William Smith. A Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography. London. John Murray. 1875)
"Phlegethon, i.e., the flaming, a river in the lower world, in whose channel flowed flames instead of water."
(p. 567. "Phlegethon." William Smith. A Classical Dictionary of Biography, Mythology, and Geography. London. John Murray. 1875)
The Trojan hero Aeneas in Virgil's work The Aeneid (written to honor Augustus Caesar in the first century B.C.) witnesses Hell's fiery waters and the eternal torture of the damned by Hell's keepers:
"From his vantage point, Aeneas can see Phlegethon's rushing, fiery current, which churns the white-hot boulders in the moat. The fiery Tisiphone, wearing a bloody mantle, guards the unyielding gate from atop an iron tower. The sounds of dragging chains, grating iron, and savage lashings do not drown out the groans and cries of the prisoners, beyond the fortress's three ring of walls." (p. 69. Alan E. Bernstein. The Formation of Hell, Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. 1993. Cornell University Press. Ithaca & London)
Note: The Greeks settled in southern Italy and Sicily by the 6th century B.C. calling the area Magnia Grecia meaning "Greater Greece" so they would have probably witnessed the "rivers of fire" coming forth from the Mount Etna volcano especially at night and imagined the Underworld to have "rivers of fire" too as later appears in Virgil's Aeneid dedicated to Augustus Caesar. Below, pictures of a lava flow from Mount Etna in the late evening capturing the "fiery-glow." More photos can be found at the following url from which these came: http://www.decadevolcano.net/photos/etna0501_3.htm
Wilkinson noted that the Egyptian Lake of Fire contained the bodies of the damned, and pictures exist of their darkened bodies floating in its fiery waters. Please click here for a picture of the dead floating in the lake of fire as found on an ancient papyrus.
"...fire was also an important element in the Egyptian concept of the underworld, often in ways strikingly similar to the medieval Christian conception of hell. According to the Coffin Texts and other works, the underworld contained fiery rivers and lakes as well as fire demons (identified by fire signs on their heads) which threatened the wicked. Representations of the fiery lakes of the fifth "hour" of the Amduat depict them in the form of the standard pool or lake hieroglyph, but with flame-red "water" lines, and surrounded on all four sides by fire signs which not only identify the blazing nature of the lakes, but also feed them through the graphic "dripping" of their flames. In a similiar manner, in a scene from the funerary Book of Gates, the damned are subjected to the fiery breath of a huge serpent..."
(p.161. "Brazier." Richard H. Wilkinson. Reading Egyptian Art, A Hieroglyphic Guide to Ancient Painting and Sculpture.1992. Thames & Hudson. London)
Muller notes scenes of the damned being tortured in the underworld. They are hacked up with knives, consumed in flames erupting from a great underworld serpent or dragon, dragon in Greek means "great serpent" (fig.187. p.179. W. Max Muller. The Mythology of All Races, Egyptian. Vol. XII. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1918) placed in fiery pits, their bodies or "shades" float in underworld an river, the subterranean Nile (fig. 188. p. 180), or consigned to "a lake of fire" after judgement (fig. 186. p.179).
Bernstein's scholarly work on the origins of Hell, notes that the Egyptian damned are placed in fiery pits, hacked up, burnt by fiery serpents, or placed in a lake of fire, but, this is NOT an eternal punishment, each day brings a new round of destruction for the newly dead, quite contrary to the Christian notion of the damned enduring Hell fire for all eternity.
"However horrible the suffering of these victims, their punishment is not eternal. The dismemberment and burning lead to quick destruction. Each night, Re or Osiris consumes the enemies collected the previous day."
(Alan E. Bernstein. Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca & London. Cornell University Press. 1993)
Perhaps early Christians dwelling in Egypt picked up the Egyptian and Greek themes and transformed the "fiery" rivers and "fiery" lake/sea/pool into a "lake of fire"?
The motif of judgements of the dead appear in both Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greek myths. The big difference is that only the Egyptian myths have the notion of a reward of a blissful life along the fruit tree-laden banks of a heavenly freshwater Nile while the Mesopotamians see only a dismal life for eternity in a dark and dusty underworld for the righteous and unrighteous (cf. p. 279, illustration of "The field of reeds" E. A. Wallis Budge. The Dwellers on the Nile. N.Y. Dover Publications. , 1977).
Greek myths later embrace the notion of Elysian fields for the righteous dead.
The Christian myths mirror the Egyptian paradise to a degree, the saved will, like the righteous Egyptians, wander the banks of a great freshwater river called the water of life, that issues from under God's throne in Jerusalem, empting into the Dead Sea, and will partake of the fruits on its trees lining its banks (Rev 22:2).
Budge (an Egyptologist) points out Christian indebtedness to Egyptian themes of the underworld:
"All the available evidence goes to show that whilst the Hebrew conception of Leviathan was of Babylonian origin that of a hell of fire was borrowed from Egypt. Similarly, the seven-headed dragon and beast of the book of Revelation, like the seven-headed basilisk serpent mentioned in Pistis Sophia, have their origin in the seven-headed serpent which is mentioned in the Pyramid texts."
(p. 279. Vol.1. E.A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York. Dover Pub. Inc.  1969).
Not noted by Budge, is the appearance of seven-headed serpents and serpent-dragons in Mesopotamian art forms.
The god Ningirsu is portrayed slaying a seven-headed fiery dragon-serpent called a Mushmahhu (cf. p. 165. fig. 135. Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. University of Austin Press. 1992). Heidel shows two gods slaying a fiery seven-headed serpent-dragon on a cylinder seal and a Sumerian seven-headed serpent on a mace head (cf. figs. 15 and 16. Alexander Heidel. The Babylonian Genesis, the Story of Creation. Universtity of Chicago Press. [1942, 1951], reprint 1993)
I note that in Revelation an angel appears with a chain to bind the great serpent (Dragon, Satan, the Devil) in the underworld for a period of time (Rev 20:1-3).
Budge noted that in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, that a great serpent, called Apep (Greek: Apophis), which dwelt in the underworld (It was the enemy of Osiris, the god of the resurrection, and it sought to destroy men's souls) is to be fettered in chains, abused, and then his body is to be destroyed finally by fire (cf. Vol.1. pp.324-5. "Ra and Apep." E. A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. New York. Dover Publications. , reprint 1969).
"...the deceased says: 'I have brought fetters to thee, O Ra, and Apep has fallen because thou hast drawn them tight. The gods of the South, and of the North, of the West and of the East have fastened chains upon him, and they have fastened him with fetters; the god Rekes hath overthrown him, and the god Hertit hath put him in chains."
(Vol. 1. p. 325. Budge)
"He (Apep) is given over to the fire which obtains mastery over him...his bones are burnt with the fire...may his soul, and body, and spirit...nevermore exist."
(Vol.1. pp. 270-271. Budge. Gods of the Egyptians)
Greek myths mention a serpent-man called Typhon who is overcome and consigned to the depths of the underworld by a victorius Zeus. Perhaps the Christian imagery of Satan as a man and a serpent, to some degree, recalls the Greek myths?
"Typhon or Typhoeus:
"A monster of the primitive world, who is described sometimes as a destructive hurricane, and sometimes a fire-breathing giant. According to Homer, he was concealed in the earth in the country of the Arimi...In Hesiod, Typhon and Typhoeus are two distinct beings. Typhon is represented as the son of Typhoeus, and a fearful hurricane...Typhoeus...is called the youngest son of Tartarus and Gaea...He is described as a monster with 100 heads, fearful eyes, and terrible voices, who wanted to acquire the sovereignty of the gods and men, but, after a fearful struggle, was subdued by Zeus with a thunderbolt. He begot the winds, whence he is called the father of the harpies...he was buried in Tartarus, under Mount Aetna...Typhoeus was identified with Set, who typified the power of darkness, who slew Osiris."
(p. 1622. "Typhon or Typhoeus." Harry Thurston Peck. Harper's Dictionary of Classical Literature and Antiquities. New York. American Book Company. 1896, reprint 1923)
Perhaps Satan as a great serpent being chained in the underworld or "bottomless pit/abyss" (Rev 20:1-3) is drawing from the Typhon and Apophis imagery? As for the pit being bottomless or a great abyss, Greek myths mention that the underworld of Tartarus is as far removed from the earth's surface as is heaven. Perhaps Greek imagery is being borrowed here?
"Tartarus. According to the earliest Greek views, a dark abyss, which lay below the surface of the earth as the earth is from the heavens...it served as the prison of the dethroned Cronus and of the conquered Titans...In later times its significance altered, and it came to mean the lower regions as the place of damnation, in which the wicked who had been condemned by the judges of the world below suffered endless torments."
(p. 613. "Tartarus." Oskar Seyffert. The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Religion, Literature and Art. New York. Gramercy Books. , reprint 1995. ISBN 0-517-12311-8)
The Book of Revelation notes that a thousand years (a millennium) must pass after the first resurrection, then comes a second resurrection. The only myth remotely similar to this notion of a "thousand years wait" for souls in the underworld is from Plato:
"Plato mentioned in his myth of Er, that "...souls come to a place of judgement in a meadow on the earth's surface, and, after a thousand years' journeying, for the good souls through the sky and for the wicked beneath the earth, they move on again..."
(p. 46. M. R. Wright. Cosmology in Antiquity. London. Routledge. 1995)
Virgil, evidently influenced by Plato, mentions a thousand year waiting period in the underworld:
"After death, some ingrained evil remains, which must be purged by punishment through wind, water and fire. Each of us must undergo our own treatment as spirits, until at last we are sent to Elysium, where in the fulness of time, when the last stain of sin is gone, a few of us become ethereal fire. All the rest, after a cycle of a thousand years, are called by the god to Lethe to prepare for rebirth."
(Virgil, The Aeneid, vi. 734-751, in K.W. Gransden. The Aeneid. Cambridge University Press.1990)
Bernstein on the thousand years wait:
"Judges of souls send the unjust downward to the left, scarred by the evidence of all their deeds on their backs. The just are sent upward to the right, marked with a sign of approval...The souls returning to the meadow have completed an afterlife consisting of ten century-long lives after death for a total of a thousand years. During each century the souls received retribution for their previous life, whether good or evil...The cycle of ten centuries makes it possible for the majority of sins to be compensated by ten repetitions of the appropriate punishment...Every thousand years the souls within the earth are tested, as a part of their ascent, by passing through a mouthlike opening. If the soul is one of the incurably wicked..., the mouth bellows and soul is denied return. When the alarm sounds, "savage men of fiery aspect" seize the souls and flay their skin and card their flesh with thorns..."
(p. 59. "Plato." Bernstein)
Did the early Christians adapt the "thousand year wait" in the underworld for souls into a delayed second resurrection? Did they transform the notion of souls turning into ethereal fire into a fiery consumation of the unrighteous?
Bernstein notes Plato's understanding that souls are immortal and will either enjoy an eternity of bliss or punishment:
"Plato makes the same argument in the Phaedo (107c-d). A soul that dies cannot pay for the evil it has wrought, and so the mortality of the soul...would be a boon to the wicked, who would escape with lighter punishments than they deserve. Justice, therefore, demands the immortality of the soul; and the immortality of the soul makes eternal punishment possible. It seems, then, that Plato is the earliest author to state categorically that the fate of the extremely wicked is eternal punishment."
(p. 61. "Plato." Bernstein)
"Plato explicitly states that the punishments of the incurable, which last forever, are of no benefit to them...The eternal punishment of the incurable deters the curable as they serve their time in Tartarus in the process of renewal."
(p. 57. "Plato." Alan E. Bernstein. The Formation of Hell, Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Cornell University Press. Ithaca & London. 1993. ISBN 0-8014-2893-9)
"These themes, then, are certainly clear in Plato: the soul is immortal; it is judged for the character it acquires during its life in the body; it can be rewarded or punished after death. The rewards of the blessed and the punishment of the incurably wicked endure forever."
(p. 58. Bernstein. 1993)
It would appear that the Christian notion of the damned suffering torment for all eternity is drawing from post-Platonic notions, probably via various sects of a Hellenized Judaism, as the Jewish Apocryha preserves a notion of eternal punishment for the wicked:
The writers of Maccabees and Paul also share the notion of a heavenly reward for those who endure life's trials. Eleazar and his sons are regarded as athletes who win a crown, for their loyalty to God (4 Macc 17:8-18 RSV). The enemy, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, is to be punished after death, in eternal fire with eternal tortures (4 Macc. 12:11-12 RSV), similar notions appear in the Book of Revelation (Rev 20:10).
4 Maccabees 12:11-12 (RSV)
"You profane tyrant...justice has laid up for you intense and ETERNAL FIRES AND TORTURES AND THESE THROUGHOUT ALL TIME WILL NEVER LET YOU GO."
(Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger, editors. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)
Rev 20:10 (RSV)
"...the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were, AND THEY WILL BE TORMENTED DAY AND NIGHT FOR EVER AND EVER."
Revelation associates the name of Babylon with the seven-headed beast, which is given power by a dragon (Satan, the Devil, 'the serpent") the whore rides. While many have correctly pointed out that Rome is being alluded to because of her fame for being a city founded on 7 hills, the imagery of a dragon associated with the name Babylon, is drawing upon Babylonian myths.
In Babylonian art forms the supreme god of Babylon, Marduk, is frequently portrayed in association with a dragon. Sometimes he is portrayed as sitting on a throne over the beast's back, its legs in a striding motion, recalling Ezekiel's statement about God's throne being "mobile" from the Cherubim beasts moving under it. At other times the dragon is shown seated at Marduk's feet (Marduk standing). Scholars understand that Marduk's presence is alluded to via symbols associated with him. Thus his spade or shovel, called a maru, appearing on an altar, or a dragon upon an altar, being adored by a worshipper on some seals, alludes to the worship of Marduk (and his invisible presence).
Although a dragon is associated with Babylon's god, Marduk, it is NOT represented in art forms as 7-headed. Canaanite myths found at ancient Ugarit, a port in northern Syria (which came to an end ca. 1175 BCE) mention the stormcloud and thunder god Baal, alternately, his sister Anat (Baal-Hadad or Baal of Sephon), defeating a 7-headed serpent of the sea called Lotan (p. 50. line 39. "The Palace of Baal." J.C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T & T Clark, Ltd. , 1978), which has been compared to Yahweh-Elohim's defeat of a great sea-serpent called Leviathan (Job 41:1; Ps 74:14; 104:26; Isa 27:1).
Gibson (Anat claiming victory over a seven-headed sea serpent on Baal's behalf):
"What foe rises against Baal, what enemy against the rider of the clouds? Did I not destroy Yam [Sea] the darling of El, did I not make an end of Nahar [River] the great god? Was not the dragon [Tanin]captured and vanquished? I did destroy the wriggling serpent [Lotan], the tyrant with seven [sebet] heads [rasm]..."
Revelation describes Rome as a 7-headed beast arising from the sea, the same place were dwelt the 7-headed Leviathan (Rev 13:1) but this beast has a body like a leopard, feet of a bear and lion's mouth; the dragon gives power to the beast (Rev 13:2-4), as noted earlier, above, dragon in Greek means "great serpent," thus the 7-headed beast of sea still retains a faint connection to the great 7-headed sea serpent, enemy of the gods and mankind, of the Canaanite and later Hebrew myths (in Babylonian myths, Marduk defeated Tiamat, the salt-sea, in the form of a horned and winged dragon). Later verses portray the beast as scarlet or red (the dragon associated with Marduk was also portrayed as red), and the harlot that rides it, is said to be seated upon "many waters," interpreted as many peoples and nations (Rev 17:15), perhaps drawing upon Egyptian and Assyrian imagery when their kings boasted of their invading armies being like flood waters irresistably overcoming the lands of their enemies (cf. Jer 6:22-23).
Something that has intrigued me is the historical origins behind the myth of a "Christ in Hell" concept. I suspect it is merely an "updating" of a very old Sumerian myth, in which Tammuz, the bridegroom, becomes the surrogate in hell for his bride, Ishtar (Inanna in Sumerian). There are of course a few new twists. Tammuz (Dumuzi to use the Sumerian form) is an unwilling surrogate for his wife while Christ as the bridegroom, willing lays down his life for his bride, the Church, rescuing mankind from the power of death.
In a variant version, Ishtar/Inanna, before making her descent into the underworld through its seven gates, tells her servant that if after 3 days and 3 nights she is not back, that her father is to be alerted of this so that he can arrange her return to life and escape from the underworld. After the alotted period passes her father, Ea is petitioned, he sends a male-god surrogate, Asusnamir, who secures his daughter's freedom. Her dead body, hanging from a stake or nail, is sprinkled with the "water of life," and she is restored back to life to ascend out of hell and be reunited in heaven with her father (cf. pp. 47-49, "Innana's Descent into Hell," Fred Gladstone Bratton. Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East. New York, Barnes & Noble, , 1993, ISBN 1-56619-439-3. Note: other myths make Inanna the daughter of Anu who dwells in heaven, Ea dwelling in the watery abyss called the Apsu).
Another variation has Tammuz allowed to be released from Hell for six months each year, while his sister Geshtinanna, becomes his surrogate in the Underworld. Some scholars understand her name to mean "the vine-stock" from which grapes and wine are produced, and so she is a "fore-runner" of Christ, "the true vine," whose blood is the blood of the grape (cf. pp. 61-62. "Dying Gods of Fertility." Thorkild Jacobsen. The Treasures of Darkness, A History of Mesopotamian Religion. New Haven. Yale University Press.1976. ISBN 0-300-01844-4).
As Ishtar/Innana passed each gate in hell she lost articles of clothing until she was naked when brought before her sister, Ereshkigal, who ruled the underworld. This nudity motif probably lies behind Christianity's portrayal of sinners as naked in hell, as opposed to the clothed righteous who dwell in heaven with their father (Inanna being restored her clothes at each of the gates in the course of her ascent).
Dumuzi/Tammuz, the shepherd god, in Sumerian myths, was later portrayed as a gate-keeper of Heaven's gate. Access to the father of the gods, Anu, for mankind was available only through Dumuzi's intercession, he personally bringing men before the supreme god and seeking Anu's favor upon the human petitioners. Perhaps the notion of Christ passing on the keys to heaven and hell (?) to Peter are new twists to this ancient myth? I understand that the early Christians have merely "reworked and updated" the ancient Mesopotamian resurrection myths, Christ replacing Dumuzi/Tammuz/Asusunamir and the Church replacing as the bride, Inanna/Ishtar.
Not all in antiquity, however, feared punishment after death, the Roman writer Lucretius, mirrors _my own understanding and "belief"_ on this issue:
"The Roman philosopher and poet Titus Lucretius Carus (99-55 B.C.) rejected the invisible terrors of future judgement which Critias and Polybius considered crucial to a society's discipline. These tales, he believed, chain the human mind in slavery to superstition; imagination is self-delusion. The correct understanding of how this world is related to the next, what happens after death, will liberate humankind from the crippling fears imposed by religion. There is no future judgement and, in the sense intended by the Orphics, Plato, and (later) Virgil, there is no transmigration of the soul.
In On the Nature of Things, he explains why these ideas are misconceptions. For Lucretius, as for his teachers, Epicurus and Ennius, nature is a constant flux of material particles he called semina, "seeds" (1.59), which come together for a time to constitute a body if the particles are densely packed or a soul if they are rarefied. At death, these combinations end, the particles scatter, and in the constant flux of matter, they form new bonds as each seed is recycled. The former union of body and soul which make up a human being ends. The recycled particles continue to exist, but no conscious person remains (3.847-61). These cycles go on independently of the gods (1.158). Punishment after death, therefore is impossible. The tales about the underworld, postmortem judgement and punishment, gorgonian monsters, and chained Titans are mere figments of the imagination. Worse, these beliefs, Lucretius claimed, are based on guilt and the fear of death, which emotions are exploited by priests to ensure adherence to their cults, respect for their authority, and patronage of their shrines. This popular religion, what Lucretius calls "the old religions" (6.62), as fostered by priestly conspiracy, breeds fear and oppresses humankind (1.63-65)."
(p. 111. "Lucretius." Bernstein)
Some of the concepts as found in the book of Revelation suggest mythic themes were being borrowed by the early Christians from the myths of Canaan, Mesopotamia, Egypt, as well as Hellenistic Greece, creatively transforming and re-interpreting them with "new twists," to paraphrase Lambert's observation.
The Old Testament or Hebrew Bible knows NOTHING of an eternal damnation of sinners in a lake of fire. This notion does however appear in the so-called "inter-testamental era," circa 330 B.C. to 100 A.D. in various Jewish writings called the Pseudepigraphia and Apocrypha. I suspect that Hellenistic Greek notions of an underworld filled with fiery rivers and lakes came to be accepted by some Hellenized Jewish individuals, or sects, from which a Hellenized Christianity later emerged.
The Greeks who settled settled in Sicily and southern Italy by the 6th century B.C. would have seen the "firey rivers" or lava flows at night flowing down the sides of the Mount Etna volcano (and maybe even Mount Vesuivius). These fiery rivers of lava coming from under the earth probably caused them to imagine a fiery river as existing in the underworld which they called Pyriphlegethon, that is, "flaming with fire."
A "Hellenized Religion" is by definition a blend of Hellenized Greek metaphysical concepts with other Ancient Near Eastern beliefs. The "Books of Apocrypha" found in some Christian Bibles mention how some Jews, including priests, accepted Hellenized Greek concepts and tried to change the Jewish faith by accepting Greek beliefs into the Temple at Jerusalem. This movement was resisted by the Maccabees, who sought to restore Judaism to its pre-Hellenistic Greek teachings (cf. the Book of 1st Maccabees for the story).
Ptolemy II who ruled Egypt (285-246 B.C.) was successful in conquering Judah in the 3rd century B.C. and he carried off into capitivity to Egypt, thousands of Jews, many of whom came to settle in his capital at Alexandria. Most probably via these Hellenistic Greeks and their myths of fiery underworld rivers, as well as the local Egyptians and their myths of lakes of fire for the damned of Osiris, a "Hellenized and somewhat Egyptianized" Judaism emerged with a concept of a fiery torment for sinners which would later emerge in Christianity's teachings of hell-fire for the unrighteous. Jews in Egypt were frequent pilgrim visitors to Jerusalem and its Temple and via these pilgrims the local Palestinian Jewry would come into contact with notions of a fiery fate for the unfaithful.
It is my understanding Christianity is a Hellenized form of Judaism. Please click here for my article on the "New Testament's Non-Hebraic, Hellenistic Greek Presuppositions."
I received an interesting query from a reader and thought viewers might have an interest in my reply:
"...I am very intrigued by the implications of the anunnaki/igigi being linked to the biblical reference of how "the sons of God went in to the daughters of man" (early in Genesis)--as well as the rebellion of Lucifer and his angels (the war in heaven described by Revelations)--and the somewhat bizarre ideas in the so-called Book of Enoch. Have you any research that might contribute to understanding these biblical references?"
My research has not directly addressed the questions you have posed, however I would make the following proposals:
(1) Genesis' "sons of God" who had sex with women may be recollecting Mesopotamian myths of gods dwelling on the earth in cities they built for themselves and having sex with mortals. Inanna/Ishtar has sex with mortal men for example (she offers herself to Gilgamesh), Gilgamesh is 1/2 god, 1/2 mortal who's father is human and mother a goddess.
(2) The Bible's "rebellion" of lower-ranking gods (Satan and his Demons in the New Testament) may recollect the "rebellion" of the junior gods, the Igigi on the earth against the senior gods, the Anunnaki. Enlil and Enki are both Anunnaki and both faced rebellions by the Igigi at Nippur and Eridu. The Igigi objected to the onerous labor in the Anunnaki's earthly gardens and the fact that they had no REST from agricultural toil as enjoyed by the Anunnaki. Enlil in one myth is the _instigator_ of the Flood sent to destroy mankind, after the Flood he blesses its survivor Utnapishtim of Shuruppak. Enki warned Utnapishtim of the Flood and to build a huge boat to save self, family and animals. In the Bible Yahweh instigates the Flood, warns Noah to build a boat, and blesses him after the Flood. That is to say the two senior gods (Anunnaki) Enlil and Enki _have been fused together_and_become_Yahweh. The lesser gods who rebelled against Enlil and Enki have been recast as Satan and his Demons, who's domain now is rule of the earth according to the New Testament. In the Mesopotamian myths the gods, the Anunnaki and Igigi, dwelt _on the earth_ in cities they had built for themselves BEFORE man's creation. Man was created to replace the Igigi. Man's purpose in life was to be an agricultural slave/servant of the gods, he would do the backbreaking toil in their earthly gardens of eden/edin, giving the Igigi gods an eternal rest from toil. Man would FEED the gods (Anunnaki and Igigi) this garden-raised food in the temples and shrines. Genesis DENIES this Mesopotamian understanding of why man was made and placed in a god's garden.
Please click here for my article titled "Why a NAKED Adam in Eden?" Please click here for my article on "The Pre-biblical Origins of Eden's Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and Tree of Life". Please click here for the "Pre-biblical Origins of Eden's Serpent."
Alan E. Bernstein. Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca & London. Cornell University Press. 1993.
Jeremy Black and Anthony Green. Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary. University of Austin Press. 1992.
Fred Gladstone Bratton. Myths and Legends of the Ancient Near East. New York, Barnes & Noble, , 1993.
E.A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. [2 vols.]. New York. Dover Publications. , 1969.
E.A. Wallis Budge. The Dwellers on the Nile. New York. Dover Publications. , 1977.
Raymond Faulkner and Ogden Goelet. The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Going Forth by Day. San Francisco. Chronicle Books.1994.
J.C. L. Gibson. Canaanite Myths and Legends. Edinburgh. T & T Clark, Ltd. , 1978.
K.W. Gransden. The Aeneid. Cambridge University Press. 1990.
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