Genesis as Critique of History
• What did the early people themselves think?
– Genesis as a basis of knowing what some early
peoples thought of civilization
• Inequality of men and women is unnatural
• Labor over/against nature is unnatural
• War is unnatural
• Explanation: the results of sin (i.e., separation
from God, nature, and each other)
The People v. Gilgamesh
• Gilgamesh does not leave a girl to her mother(?)
• The daughter of the warrior, the bride of the young man,
• the gods kept hearing their complaints, so
• the gods of the heavens implored the Lord of Uruk [Anu]
• "You have indeed brought into being a mighty wild
bull, head raised!
• "There is no rival who can raise a weapon against
• "His fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his
Separation of ruler and ruled
• 1) Hunter-gatherers -- no kings
• 2) Early hoe agriculture -- warrior leaders kept
in check by community (elders)
– Who were the heads of the Iroquois nation?
• 3) Civilization: rulers as powers over the
– Religion: People are slaves of the gods
– Versus earlier animism: “walking with God in the
The goddess created him
• and (the gods) called out to [goddess] Aruru:
• "it was you, Aruru, who created mankind(?),
• now create a zikru [opponent] to it/him.
• Let him be equal to his (Gilgamesh's) stormy
• let them be a match for each other so that Uruk
may find peace!"
Creation of Enkidu
• Aruru washed her hands, she pinched off some clay,
and threw it into the wilderness.
• In the wildness(?) she created valiant Enkidu,
• born of Silence, endowed with strength by Ninurta.
• His whole body was shaggy with hair,
• he had a full head of hair like a woman,
• his locks billowed in profusion like Ashnan.
• He knew neither people nor settled living,
• but wore a garment like Sumukan.
• He ate grasses with the gazelles,
• and jostled at the watering hole with the
• as with animals, his thirst was slaked with
• Who created humans--God or Goddess?
• Role of women in early agricultural societies
– The women in hunter-gatherer society were the
specialists of the plants
• Sharp gender hierarchy of civilization develops
Historical Meaning of Gilgamesh
• King as powerful, but oppressive ruler
• The “savior”: Enkidu Who/what is he?
– An “animal man”
• Agricultural people recognize freedom of people
who live close to animal, natural world
– Warrior herders to liberate agriculturalists?
• What is the point of view of early hearers of Gilgamesh?
– Compare with the point of view of Genesis
– Who are the good/bad people in each story?
Who is to blame?
• Genesis: the herders (Abel) are good; the
agriculturalists (Cain) are evil
– Is this the bias of herders?
• Gilgamesh: the herders (Enkidu) are good; the
agriculturalists suffer (evil) from their own king
– Agrees with the Bible on who is to blame!
• Difference between them:
– Bible: agriculturalists in general are to blame
– Gilgamesh: no, its our king, not us, ordinary peasants;
he oppresses us as well.
How is Enkidu captured?
• Q: What is the historical significance of the narrative?
The task of womankind
• “Shamhat unclutched her bosom, exposed her
• and he took in her voluptuousness.
• She was not restrained, but took his energy.
• She spread out her robe and he lay upon her,
• she performed for the primitive the task of
• His lust groaned over her;
• for six days and seven nights Enkidu stayed
• and had intercourse with the harlot [also
• until he was sated with her charms.
Meaning of sex
• Why so much sex in Gilgamesh?
• Religious nature of sex act in early agricultural
• “Hieros Gamos” (sacred marriage)
• Who seduced Enkidu? Prostitute or priestess?
• What is the result of this?
Enkidu becomes civilized
• But when he turned his attention to his
• the gazelles saw Enkidu and darted off,
• the wild animals distanced themselves from
• =Separation from nature (and animist religion)
Love-hate relation to civilization
• Herders are the natural enemies of agricultural
• But peasants admire their freedom
– Radically different social conditions
• Herders are attracted by (seduced by!) the luxury,
advantages of the cities
– Material conditions, technology
• Power of the men: physical powers: physical force, war,
– Beautiful women of the city
• Power of the women: sexual/psychological powers
Separation from God(s)
• “The hearts of the Great Gods moved them to
inflict the Flood.”
Why the gods destroyed humans
• “In those days the world teemed, the people
multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull,
and the great god was aroused by the
clamour. Enlil heard the clamour and he said
to the gods in council, ‘The uproar of mankind
is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible
by reason of the babel.’ So the gods agreed to
Why the flood? Why evil to Humans?
• Question 1: why is there evil (=harm to
• Enlil and Ea: two gods, one who does evil, one
who does good (to humans)
• Question 2: why did Enlil want to destroy
The Flood: Genesis
• “And now God found that earth was full of men’s
iniquities, and that the whole frame of their
thought was set continually on evil; and he
repented of having made men on the earth at all.
• “So, smitten with grief to the depths of his heart,
he said, I will blot out mankind, my creature,
from the face of the earth, and with mankind all
the beasts and the creeping things and all that
flies through the air; I repent of having made
them. Only on Noe did God look with favor.”
(Genesis 6: 5-9)
God is not to blame (in Genesis)
• Where does evil come from in the Bible?
– 1) the sin of Eve, and then of Adam
– 2) The serpent-tempter (why a snake?)
• God is not to blame
– (Later) theology of the serpent: a fallen angel who
rebels against God takes this form to speak to Eve
– But why a snake?
– But in Gilgamesh, (a) God is to blame
– So the Bible story responds to the older story that
Bible’s story of the flood
• 1) Problem of monotheism: why the flood,
why harm to humans?
– Because of an evil god?
– Because of … ??
• 2) What is the difference between making
noise and committing “iniquities”?
– Ethical monotheism v anthropomorphic
Cause of death?
• 1) Gilgamesh falls asleep
– Ordinary human weakness: not ethical
– The snake eats the fruit that gives immortality
• 2) Eve and then Adam disobey a command of
– Wilful act of defiance: immorality:
– perspective of ethical monotheism
Evolution of religion
• 1) Animism
• 2) “Anthropomorphic polytheism”
• 3) ethical monotheism
– 120,000 BCE to present (Paleolithic: Old Stone
– Gilgamesh: 2700 BCE (Bronze Age)
– Hebrew Bible: 1000-500 BCE (Iron Age)
Oneness with Nature/God
• Religion of hunter-gatherers: animism
– Divine in nature
– Harmony of divine and human
– Cave paintings: Spodek 31
• Why deep in caves?
– See Venus figurine: Spodek 30
– Cave as uterus of world; Earth Mother (Gaia)
– Shamanism: humans participate in creation
• =Oneness of humans with “God”
– Genesis: Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of
“Natural” (kinship) society
• Technological dependence on independent
– Animals (hunting, men)
– Plants (gathering, women)
• Kinship as natural unity of people
• Religion of nature – animism
– Not passive, active: participation with/in divine
Shamash and Hammurabi
• Which is which? (Spodek, 59)
• Gods look like kings (and vice versa)
• Separation of ruler from ruled
• Separation of divine from human
• God-given laws cement human divisions
– Rich and poor
– Men and women
Threefold approach to society
• Relation to nature – technology
• Relation between people – social structure
• Belief system – form of consciousness
• Harmony between these levels (normally)
Historical “fall” (summary)
• On technological level
– from dependence on independent nature
– to control over nature
• On social level
– from family-based, egalitarian society
– to class-based, male dominant society
– rulers are all powerful
• On consciousness level
– Animist oneness > Gods/priests are all powerful
Hierarchy: human and divine
• A: Beliefs (consciousness)
– Gods rule over nature, over humans
– King/priest as mediator between gods and people
• B: Social relations:
– Kings (wealthy landowners) rule over peasants
• Does A cause B, or does B cause A?
Which level is most important?
• New consciousness? (historical idealism)
– G.W.F. Hegel
• New practical relations (to nature and to
society)? (historical materialism)
– Karl Marx (Spodek 60)
• Which approach best explains the rise of the new
religion of anthropomorphic polytheism?
– 1) technological and social changes come first
(historical materialism: mechanistic causality)
– 2) people first change their ideas about religion and
the gods, and then social changes follow (historical
idealism: teleological perspective)