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Category: The Gnostic Society Library

Selz: The Dream of Gudea

“Whereas the giants sent Mahway to Enoch for an interpretation of their dreams, in earliest parallels from Mesopotamia the deities undertake this task:

(“Thereupon] all the giants [and monsters! grew afraid 15 and called Mahway to them and the giants pleaded with him and sent him to Enoch 16 [the noted scribe]” (Q II:). Translation taken from the Book of Giants edition of The Gnostic Society Library.)

Cylinders of the Sumerian ruler Gudea with cuneiform texts, now in the Louvre.  Dated to 2125 BCE, they recount the Building of Ningursu’s temple in Sumerian. The cylinders were made by Gudea, ruler of Lagash, and excavated in 1877 during digs by Ernest de Sarzec beneath the Eninnu temple complex at Telloh (ancient Girsu).  The complete name of the temple complex was “E-Ninnu-Imdugud-babbara,” meaning “House Ninnu, the Flashing Thunderbird,” a reference to a thunderbird in the second dream that compelled Gudea to build the temple.  They are now in the permanent collection of the Louvre Museum. They are the largest cuneiform cylinders to-date, and they contain the longest known text written in the Sumerian language.  Labelled cylinders A and B, the cuneiform was intended to be read with the cylinders in a horizontal position with a perforation in the middle for mounting.  The text has been translated by Jeremy Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson and G. Zólyomi, available from The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford, 1998.  http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr217.htm Accession numbers MNB 1511 and MNB 1512.  Photo by Ramessos.  I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudea_cylinders

Cuneiform cylinders of the Sumerian ruler Gudea. Dated to 2125 BCE, they recount the Building of Ningursu’s temple. Made by Gudea, ruler of Lagash, and excavated in 1877 during digs by Ernest de Sarzec beneath the Eninnu temple complex at Telloh (ancient Girsu), the complete name of the temple complex was “E-Ninnu-Imdugud-babbara,” meaning “House Ninnu, the Flashing Thunderbird,” a reference to a thunderbird in the second dream that compelled Gudea to build the temple.
Now in the permanent collection of the Louvre Museum, the pair are the largest cuneiform cylinders ever recovered, and they contain the longest known Sumerian text. Anomalous shards recovered on the same site indicate that a third cylinder did not survive the ravages of time. Labelled Cylinders A and B, the cuneiform was intended to be read with the cylinders in a horizontal position with a perforation in the middle for mounting.
The text has been translated by Jeremy Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson and G. Zólyomi, available from The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, Oxford, 1998.
http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr217.htm
Accession numbers MNB 1511 and MNB 1512.
Photo by Ramessos.
I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gudea_cylinders

The Sumerian ruler Gudea had difficulties to understand the precise meaning of his dream and addresses the goddess Nanshe, firstly describing his visions:

“(4:8) Nanshe, mighty queen, lustration priestess, protecting genius, cherished goddess of mine, . . . You are the interpreter of dreams among the gods, you are the queen of all the lands, O mother, my matter today is a dream.

There was someone in my dream, enormous as the skies, enormous as the earth was he.

That one was a god as regards his head, he was the Thunderbird as regards his wings, and a floodstorm as regards his lower body. There was a lion lying on both his left and right side . . . (but) I did not understand what (exactly) he intended. Daylight rose for me on the horizon.

(4:23) (Then) there was a woman—whoever she might have been—she (the goddess Nissaba[k]) held in her hand a stylus of shining metal, on her knees there was a tablet (with) stars of heaven, and she was consulting it.

(5:2) Furthermore, there was a warrior who bent (his) arm holding a lapis lazuli plate on which he was setting the ground-plan of a house. He set before me a brand-new basket, a brand-new brick-mould was adjusted and he let the auspicious brick be in the mould for me.”

(The translation from Cylinder A follows D.O. Edzard, ed., Gudea and his Dynasty (RIME 3:1, Toronto: University of Toronto Press,1997), pp. 71-2. Emphases are mine, G.J.S.).

Using much the same words the goddess explains the dream:

“(5:12) My shepherd, I will interpret your dream for you from beginning to end: The person who you said was as enormous as the skies, enormous as the earth, who was a god as regards his head, who, as you said, was the Thunderbird as regards his wings, and who, as you said, was a floodstorm as regards his lower parts, at whose left and right a lion was lying—he was in fact my brother Ningirsu-k; he talked to you about the building of his shrine Eninnu.

The daylight that had risen for you on the horizon—that was your (personal) god Ningishzida-k: like daylight he will be able to rise for you from there.

The young woman coming forward, who did something with sheaves, who was holding a stylus of shining metal, had on her knees a tablet (with) stars, which she was consulting was in fact my sister Nissaba-k—she announced to you the bright star (auguring) the building of the House.

Furthermore, as for the warrior who bent his arm holding a lapis lazuli plate—he was Ninduba: he was engraving thereon in all details the ground-plan of the House.”

Certainly, the setting of this dream is very different from those of the Enoch tradition. We note, however, that the dreams in the Book of Giants also show a clear connection with the scribal art, especially the “Tablets of Heavens,” to the dreams as a message of God and also to the flood.

Black stone amulet against plague.  A quotation from the Akkadian Epic of Erra.  BM 118998, British Museum, Room 55.  Registration: 1928,0116.1.  Photo by Fae. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. You are free: to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work to remix – to adapt the work Under the following conditions: attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

Black stone amulet against plague.
A quotation from the Akkadian Epic of Erra.
BM 118998, British Museum, Room 55.
Registration: 1928,0116.1.
Photo by Fae.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The latter motif as found in the Book of Giants shows a clear connection to the story of the Erra Epic, where to Marduk’s horror, the deity of pestilence and destruction, Erra, decides to annihilate mankind and its foremost sanctuaries.

The reason for the annihilation of the world and the expression of a certain degree of hope looks very similar indeed. It is important to note that this text from the eight century BCE had a considerable audience as can be deduced from the over 35 tablets unearthed so far.

In many respects, the wording of the text and its attitude ask for elaborate comparison with the Jewish apocalyptical tradition, but this would be another article.”

(For an overview of Mesopotamian “apocalyptic motifs” see C. Wilcke, “Weltuntergang als Anfang: Theologische, anthropologische, politisch-historische und ästhetische Ebenen der Interpretation der Sintflutgeschichte im babylonischen Atram-hasīs-Epos,” in Weltende: Beiträge zur Kultur-und Religionswissenschaft (ed. A. Jones; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999), pp. 63-112.)

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 797-9.

Selz: An Excerpt from the Book of Giants

“The following excerpts of the reconstructed Book of Giants are taken from the edition of The Gnostic Society Library ([14 March 2010]) (MSS: 4Q203, 1Q23, 2Q26, 4Q530–532, 6Q8). This excerpt is from footnote 20 of Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages,” synopsized as Selz: On Giants.

The wicked angels, bringing both knowledge and havoc.

2 […] they knew the secrets of […] 3 [… si]n was great in the earth […] 4 […]

and they killed many […] 5 [… they begat] giants […] (1Q23 9+14+15)

The outcome of the demonic corruption was violence, perversion, and a brood of monstrous beings.

1 […] they defiled […] 2 [… they begot] giants and monsters […] 3 […] they begot, and, behold, all [the earth was corrupted . . . ] 4 [ . . . ] with its blood and by the hand of[…] 5 [giant’s ]which did not suffice for them and[…]6[…]and they were seeking to devour many [. . .] 7 [. . .] 8 [. . .] the monsters attacked it. (4Q531 2)

This is a photograph of the Great Isaiah Scroll, from the biblical scrolls recovered from Qumran.  It contains the entire known Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, probably written by an Essene scribe circa 2d century BCE.  The Israel Museum. Photo by Ardon Bar Hama. The original author, and the identity of the scribe, is not known.  This work is in the public domain in the US and those countries where a copyright term of 100 years plus the life of the author prevails.

This is a photograph of the Great Isaiah Scroll, from the biblical scrolls recovered from Qumran.
It contains the entire known Book of Isaiah in Hebrew, probably written by an Essene scribe circa 2d century BCE.
The Israel Museum. Photo by Ardon Bar Hama. The original author, and the identity of the scribe, is not known.
This work is in the public domain in the US and those countries where a copyright term of 100 years plus the life of the author prevails.

The giants became troubled by a series of dreams and visions. Mahway sees a tablet being immersed in water. When it emerges, all but three names have been washed away. The dream evidently symbolizes the destruction of all but Noah and his sons by the Flood. . . . The giants realize the futility of fighting against the forces of heaven. The first speaker may be Gilgamesh.

3 [… I am a] giant, and by the mighty strength of my arm and my own great strength 4 [ . . . any]one mortal, and I have made war against them; but I am not [ . . . ] able to stand against them, for my opponents 6 [ . . . ] reside in [Heav]en, and they dwell in the holy places.

And not 7 [. . . they] are stronger than I. 8 [. . .] of the wild beast has come, and the wild man they call [me]. 9 [ . . . ] Then Ohya said to him, I have been forced to have a dream [ . . . ] the sleep of my eyes [vanished], to let me see a vision. Now I know that on [. . .] 11–12[. . .] Gilgamesh [. . .] (4Q531 1)

[From] Ohya’s dream vision . . .

1 concerns the death of our souls [ . . . ] and all his comrades, [and Oh]ya told them what Gilgamesh said to him 2[. . .] and it was said [. . .] “concerning [. . .] the leader has cursed the potentates” 3 and the giants were glad at his words. Then he turned and left [. . .] (4Q530 II)

More [ill-foreboding] dreams afflict the giants. . . . Someone suggests that Enoch be found to interpret the vision.

[ . . . to Enoch] the noted scribe, and he will interpret for us 12 the dream. Thereupon his fellow Ohya declared and said to the giants, 13 I too had a dream this night, O giants, and, behold, the Ruler of Heaven came down to earth 14 [ . . . ] and such is the end of the dream.

[Thereupon] all the giants [and monsters! grew afraid 15 and called Mahway. He came to them and the giants pleaded with him and sent him to Enoch 16 [the noted scribe].

They said to him, Go […] to you that 17 […] you have heard his voice. And he said to him, He will [. . . and] interpret the dreams [. . .] III:3 [. . .] how long the giants have to live. [. . .] (4Q530 II–III)

After a cosmic journey Mahway comes to Enoch and makes his request.

3 [ . . . he mounted up in the air] 4 like strong winds, and flew with his hands like ea[gles . . . he left behind] 5 the inhabited world and passed over Desolation, the great desert [ . . . ] 6 and Enoch saw him and hailed him, and Mahway said to him [. . .] 7 hither and thither a second time to Mahway [. . .

The giants await 8 your words, and all the monsters of the earth. If [. . .] has been carried [. . .] 9 from the days of […] their […] and they will be added […] 10 […] we would know from you their meaning [ . . . ] 11 [ . . . two hundred tr]ees that from heaven [came down . . . ] (4Q530 III)

[Then,] Enoch sends back a tablet with its grim message of judgment, but with hope for repentance.”

(With this text, compare Genesis 6:1–2, 4. See further L.T. Stuckenbruck, The Book of Giants from Qumran: Texts, Translation, and Commentary (TSAJ 63; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1997) and K. Beyer, Die aramäischen Texte vom Toten Meer: samt den Inschriften aus Palästina, dem Testament Levi aus der Kairoer Genisa, der Fastenrolle und den alten talmudischen Zitaten: Aramaistische Einleitung, Text, Übersetzung, Deutung, Grammatik/ Wörterbuch, deutsch-aramäische Wortliste, Register (2 vols. and Ergänzungsband; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1984/1994/2004), 1:225–258 (1 Enoch), 258–268 (Book of Giants), Ergänzungsband: 117–118 (1 Enoch), 119–124 (Book of Giants), 2:153–155 (1 Enoch), 155–162 (Book of Giants).

We note that Beyer postulates a Jewish Old Palestinian language for these earliest Enoch fragments (ibid., 1:229). He understands these fragments as an early translation from a Hebrew original. Especially important is É. Puech, Qumran Grotte 4.XXII: Textes araméns, première partie: 4Q529–549 (DJD XXXI; Oxford: Clarendon, 2001).”

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 782-4.

Selz: On Giants

“Dating back to the late nineteenth century and the so-called Babel-Bible dispute, the relation of the biblical traditions, especially those concerning the paradise narrative, the flood-story, and the (antediluvian) patriarchs, to the Mesopotamian world received much interest (see below).

(For an overview over this politically remarkable dispute and the involvement of the German emperor Wilhelm II see R.G. Lehmann, Friedrich Delitzsch und der Babel-Bibel-Streit (OBO 133; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 1989).

Delitzsch’s hypotheses were sharply criticised by Christian and Jewish theologians of the time and soon became a political issue. Finally the emperor was even requested to make a public profession of his faith.)

From a modern scholarly point of view, much of what has been written in this period is obsolete and related to anti-biblical or apologetic motivations. Therefore, we encounter often a general warning against a naïve comparative attitude which is certainly in place.

Courtesy of The Blake Archive and the Cincinnati Museum, William Blake's

Courtesy of The Blake Archive and the Cincinnati Museum, William Blake’s “Enoch Walked with God.”
Executed sometime between 1780-85 CE, this illustration is Cincinnati Museum Accession Number 1977.214.
“As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the University of Rochester, the continuing support of the Library of Congress, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.”
https://blakearchive.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/publication-announcement-thel-copy-n-and-enoch-walked-with-god/

(Cf. R. Liwak, “Bibel und Babel: Wider die theologische und religionsgeschichtliche Naivität,” BTZ 2 (1989): pp. 206-33. An extensive bibliography of “Articles by Jewish Writers on the Babel-Bibel Controversy” is published in Y. Shavit and M. Eran, eds., The Hebrew Bible Reborn: From Holy Scripture to the Book of Books: A History of Biblical Culture and the Battles over the Bible in Modern Judaism (trans. C. Naor; SJ 38; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007), pp. 531-66).

If in the following paragraphs we refer to various Mesopotamian materials, we are fully aware of this warning. We do not intend to establish literal dependencies, but would rather draw attention to some parallels with selected Mesopotamian motifs.

This seal appears to portray the translation of King Etana at upper left. I am not sure where this seal is held. If you can assist, please do.

This seal appears to portray the translation of King Etana at upper left.
I am not sure where this seal is held. If you can assist, please do.

We will neither address the question of a common Near Eastern origin of such motifs, nor will we attempt to reconstruct the ways of transmission in the necessary detail. The latter were certainly manifold, and that orality played a major role is very likely but, of course, hard to prove.

The most important contributions concerning the relationship between Berossos, the Sumerian King list, and the biblical patriarchs as well as the connected literary motifs are presently those of R. Borger, J.C. VanderKam, H. Kvanvig and A.A. Orlov. I shall return to them later.

(Cf. G.P. Verbrugghe and J.M. Wickersham, Berossos and Manetho, Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

(R. Borger, “Die Beschwörungsserie Bīt Mēseri und die Himmelfahrt Henochs,” JNES 33 (1974): pp. 183-96; for an abbreviated English version see idem, “The Incantation Series Bīt Mēseri and Enoch’s Ascension to Heaven,” in I Studied Inscriptions from Before the Flood: Ancient Near Eastern, Literary, and Linguistic Approaches to Genesis 1-11 (ed. R.S. Hess and D.T. Tsumura; Sources for Biblical and Theological Study 4, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1994), pp. 224-33.)

(J.C. VanderKam, Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition (CBQMS 16; Washington: Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1984).

The discovery of the Qumran manuscripts put 1 Enoch in the centre of these discussions and their connections to the related Jewish-Hellenistic texts and to Mesopotamian forerunners have been widely discussed.

Titled

Titled “The Nephilim,” the artist is said to be unknown.
http://doctorwoodhead.com/days-noah-corruption-demonic-activity-part/

The Qumran manuscripts of the Book of Giants mention the hero Gilgamesh among the Giants who were offspring of the evil (fallen) angels who had intercourse with human females.

(The following excerpts of the reconstructed Book of Giants are taken from the edition of The Gnostic Society Library (MSS: 4Q203, 1Q23, 2Q26, 4Q530–532, 6Q8). Editorial note: A long excerpt from the Book of Giants is reproduced here.)

Starting from this fact, I attempt to show that not only did the generally late Mesopotamian traditions about the primeval sages and related matters form a background for the mythical imagery of the Enochic system of thought, but that the much earlier epic traditions about the kings Gilgamesh and Etana should also be considered.

We might not be able to avoid some of the traps of this sort of intertextual studies, however, we are by all means entitled to look after the pre- and the post-texts, especially if we remember that any reading implies a recreation of new texts.

To put it metaphorically, texts are not stable entities but living beings undergoing all sort of philological and interpretative changes.”

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 781-4.

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