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4/27/2010

Influence Of The Civilization Of Sumer On The Bible's First Author, "J", The Jahwist

Sumer is the oldest recorded civilization known on earth. It existed for over 3000 years between the mid-5th millennium and the early 2nd millennium BC. In other words, it existed long before the time of David and Solomon, when "J" first began to write down the national history and legends that would afford Israel the respect it desired among the other civilizations of the world.

The Sumerian King List, written in the Sumeric language and dating back to the early 2nd millennium BC, has interesting features which could have influenced "J" in conceiving a story that included pre-flood patriarchs who lived many hundreds of years.

The List of Kings mentions a flood. It begins with eight successive kings who reigned before the flood for a period of time covering 241,000 years. Kings lived long enough to rule for the shortest reign of 18,600 years to the longest reign of 43,200 years. The extraordinary length of the lives of the kings began to get smaller and smaller as the record drew up to the time when this list was written. In other words as the list drew up to the time of recent history that could be reasonable remembered or checked, the length of the king's lives were written more reasonably, in the single and double digits. It was easier to create legends that took place in the distant past as they were more difficult to question.

It was common for the ancients to ascribe god-like attributes to human beings while they were living and even more when they were dead. In this List of Kings the earlier names may not have even really existed. Flooding was an important fact of life in the lowlands of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and flooding would be a natural component to include in making up this list. All I'm saying is that humans with very long lives, a flood, gods in heaven, mother-gods with son-gods, war in heaven between good and evil deities, animal sacrifice and gods who care how we live our lives and who expect appeasement of their wrath were all well established ideas and beliefs existing in the world before the first pages of what has become known as the Bible were written. Could Genesis be based on contemporary legends, a need for a respectable national history and some factual stories thrown in to boot?

Here are some links for further study if you wish:
List of Kings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumerian_King_List
Sumer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumer

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