The Garden of Eden in Comparative Studies

The following records either predate the Biblical records by hundreds of years or are contemporary with them during their creation. The Garden of Eden is similar to many stories which existed before it was created. These stories often feature creator gods and storm gods, the first humans which give way to the race, and punishments from the gods upon those humans. The similarities shed light upon the environment from which the Biblical Genesis narrative blossomed.

The 7 day creation story itself leading up to the Garden of Eden narrative is extremely similar to the Egyptian mythology, such as the Egyptian primeval mountain and the Biblical firmament [1].
“In all of the Egyptian Creation myths, following the appearance of the first light the Creator god caused a mountain to emerge out of the primeval waters. This mountain by its nature, was a solid physical entity, a firmament, and according to Egyptian view, it separated the primeval waters into waters above and waters below.” [3].
Genesis 1:6-7 says, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.”

Ptah, the “Self-Created One” of the triad of Memphis, created the universe with his tongue (speech) or heart, which is extremely similar to the Biblical YHWH [2]. The Theben creation story says that light came into being before day and so does the Biblical story.
A passage from the hymn to Amen reads:
“[The one (i.e. Amen)] that came into being in the first time when there was no god [yet] created, when you [Amen-Re] opened your eyes to see with them and everybody became illuminated by means of the glances of your eyes, when the day had not yet come into being.”
Genesis 1:3 reads, “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

The Egyptian Coffin Text 76 creation story says this about the creation of the Nile,
“This god [Shu] is tying the land together for my father Atum, and drawing together the Great flood for him”,
which is very similar to the Genesis narrative about the river out of Eden. The creation sequence of vegetation before the sun is included in both the Egyptian and Biblical accounts [3].

Man being made in God’s image is in both the Egyptian and Biblical records.
The Instruction Book for Merikare reads,
“Well tended is mankind — God’s cattle.
He made the sky and earth for their sake.
He subdued the water monster.
He made breath for their noses to live.
They are his images, who came from his body.”

This is similar to Genesis 1:27 which reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Man’s dominion over the animals and the difficulties of childbirth due to disobedience are echoed in both accounts. The story of Eve being taken from Adam’s rib is eerily similar to the Epic of Enki and Ninhursag:
“My brother, what hurts thee?”
“[My] rib [hurts me]”.
ANET, 41.
Ninti, who’s name has a double-meaning, “Lady of the Rib” and “Lady Who Makes Life” cures Enki’s rib in a similar fashion to how Eve cures the pain of Adam’s loneliness. The story of Adam and YHWH is similar to the Mesopotamian story of Adappa and Anu. The story of Adapa breaking the wings of the wind through a curse and angering the chief god is also similar to YHWH cursing the serpent and “clipping” its wings to make it commute on its belly. The “loss of wings” theme can be seen in the story of Prometheus too, who losses his flights after angering Zeus for stealing his food and giving it to the humans and then also giving them fire, resulting in them having higher knowledge.

The creation of Adam from clay can be related to the story of Khnum, who makes humanity from a potter’s wheel. Another story this can be related to is in an Akkadian epic where the first human is created from blood and clay. Adam if made from dust is comparable to Atum made from dust. Some ancient rabbis believed Adam was split down the middle and Eve was taken from one of the sides. This is similar to the Zoroastrian cosmology where Ahura Mazda creates the primal human being and the evil god tries to kill it, resulting in it splitting down the middle and giving way to all of humanity. This is also similar to the Greek story of Zeus creating the first humans and splitting them to give way to all the humans [6]. Although not a human, the Zoroastrian primordial bovine Gavaevodata, the progenitor of all beneficent animal life, is made from mud.

Mashya and Mashyana, the first man and woman in Zoroastrian literature.

The story of Shu becoming Osiris in the form of grain and planting himself eastward of the Nile in Heliopolis, where Egyptian tradition places the Tree of Life, bears resemblance to the story of YWHW planting a garden in eastward in Eden where Biblical tradition places the Tree of Life.

The story of the 4 rivers out of Eden is eerily similar to the 4 rivers out of the Nile. Where the Nile splits into two sets of two to the north and the south. The Egyptians had a practice of building gardens for the gods, and one of the famous ones was that of Akhentaten. Akhenaten and his wife reportedly walked naked through this garden, as well as gave out awards to dignitaries while naked. Akhenaten and both his wives were also kicked out of their country [4], similar to Adam and Eve being banished from Eden. Iusaaset is the feminine counterpart to Atum and is associated with a tree like Adam’s Eve. Adam and Eve have also long been likened to the Greek Attis (the Phrygian god of vegetation) and Cybele (the Mother of All Gods).

The cunning serpent of the Bible shares similarities with “the Egyptian God Set, who took the serpent form of Aphophis, enemy of Re”. Re is shown in the form of a cat bruising the head of the serpent while in the Bible, God predicts the woman will bruise the head of the serpent. The Tree of Good and Evil and the Tree of Knowledge are similar in nature to the Egyptian gods Shu and Tefnut. Both Adam and Atum are given instructions about what to do with the fruit of the true of morality; Adam is told not to eat it and Atum is told to eat it.

There are several Egyptian images showing Re next to a tree with Aphophis coiled around it, which is very similar to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. This is also similar to the story of Inanna and the Huluppu Tree, where a “serpent who could not be charmed” sits at the base. This contrasts the Biblical serpent who charms Eve into eating the fruit. The Epic of Enki and Ninhursag also contains a story of forbidden fruit which results in Enki almost dying. There is also the story of Gilgamesh and his journey through a garden in order to retrieve the root of a plant which would grant Enki his life back, of which Gilgamesh is successful in retrieving, but he leaves it on the shore as he swims in the water and a snake slithers by and steals it, and Gilgamesh’s chance of saving Enki.

The Assyrian/Babylonian Tree of Life (c.2500BC)

There are parallels to other cultures which have been identified practically throughout the entire Bible, such as parallels to the story of Cain killing Abel to Set and Osiris, Noah and Gilgamesh, Samson and Hercules, Jacob’s Ladder to Egyptian funerary rituals, etc…. This article is specifically for the Garden of Eden, and so here is where I stop for now.

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