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Kvanvig: The Apkallu are on the Borderline Between the Human and the Divine

“Our assumption is therefore that there existed two versions of the Adapa Myth in the Nineveh archives. Since the Nineveh fragments C and E follow fairly close to the Amarna text in fragment B where they overlap, we suppose, as quite commonly in scholarship (sic), that a story like fragment B was known to the Assyrian scholars.

At the same time they had received, or composed themselves, a different version of the outcome of the story: Adapa was not returned to the earth, but remained in heaven as the ultimate sign of divine wisdom.

We use this hypothesis as a backdrop for the following discussion of the relationship between the Adapa Myth and Bīt Mēseri, being aware of the possibility of other explanations of the close similarities between the texts.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroc bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroc apkallu remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The place where the connection between Bīt Mēseri and the Adapa Myth is most clear is in the fate of the seventh apkallu. According to Bīt Mēseri he is described as: utuabzu ša ana šamê ilū, “Utuabzu, who ascended to heaven” (I. 9).

In the subsequent list it is said about the same apkallu that he descended from heaven. In the myth an essential part of the plot is that Adapa, because of his interruption of the divine order by breaking the wing of the South Wind, had to ascend to Anu: a[n]a šamê īt[ellim]a, “he ascended to heaven,” repeated in the next line: ana šamê ina ēlišu, “when he ascended to heaven” (Amarna fragment B rev. 37-38).

As we have already seen, the final fate of Adapa, according to fragment B, was that he was sent back to the earth. So there are good reasons to assume that the fate of Adapa according this version of the myth is reflected in the seventh sage in Bīt Mēseri.

There are descriptions similar to the one of the seventh apkallu connected to all the apkallus in the list of Bīt Mēseri. The descriptions connected to the first seven are very brief; those connected to the next four are a bit longer, almost like a line from a story.

If we for the moment exclude the first apkallu, to whom we will return, the problem is that we do not know what these descriptions refer to. If we use the description of the seventh apkallu as a point of departure, especially the longer ones could in the same manner be allusions to stories known to the readers.

(Cf. V.A. Horowitz, “Tales of Two Sages—Towards an Image of the “Wise Man” in Akkadian Writings,” in Scribes, Sages, and Seers: The Sage in the Eastern Mediterranean World, ed. L.G. Perdue. Göttingen 2008, 64-94, 66.)

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed "genies," as they were long described, are now known to be apkallū, "bird-apkallū," in this case, mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing.  This apkallū makes the iconic gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin with the mullilu cone in his raised right hand, and the banduddu water bucket in his left hand.  There are three known types of apkallū: the human, with wings; the avian-headed, with wings, and the fish-apkallū, with carp skin draped over their heads.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

In Neo-Assyrian art these bird-headed “genies,” as they were long described, are now known to be apkallū, “bird-apkallū,” in this case, mixed-feature exorcists and creatures of protection created by the god Ea. They traditionally served as advisors to kings. Their association with sacred trees, as they are often portrayed, remains somewhat perplexing.
This apkallū makes the iconic gesture of exorcism and liberation of sin with the mullilu cone in his raised right hand, and the banduddu water bucket in his left hand.
There are three known types of apkallū: the human, with wings; the avian-headed, with wings, and the fish-apkallū, with carp skin draped over their heads.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lanpernas2/8606000868/

There is a common denominator in these allusions; they all tell about quite extraordinary events, demonstrating the power of the apkallus:

“14-15: Nungalpiriggaldim, the apkallu of Enmerkar, who brought down Ištar from heaven into the sanctuary;

16-17: Piriggalnungal, born in Kiš, who angered the god Iškur / Adad in heaven,

18-19: so he allowed neither rain nor growth in the land for three years;

20-23: Piriggalabzu, born in Adab / Utab, who hung his seal on a “goat-fish” and thereby angered the god Enki /Ea in the fresh water sea, so that a fuller struck him with his own seal;

24-25: the fourth, Lu-Nanna, two-thirds apkallu,

26-27: who expelled a dragon from É-Ninkiagnunna, the temple of Ištar and Šulgi;”

(Bīt Mēseri III, 14’-27’).

In two of the cases it is said that this power angered the gods: Pririggalnungal angered Adad and Piriggalabzu angered Ea. In these cases there is an analogy to the Adapa Myth.

Adapa was equipped with the power of speech, so when he cursed the South Wind, the curse became reality, the wing was broken, and the Wind was paralyzed. This interruption of the divine order angered Anu in heaven, which was the reason why Adapa had to ascend to heaven to appease him.

There is, accordingly, something ambiguous in this power. The apkallu exist on the borderline between the human and the divine. They can overstep this line and trespass into the realm of the divine, and thus anger the gods.

On the other hand, this is not purely negative; if so it would hardly have been included in the text; the power reveals the fearless and courageous nature of the apkallus, certainly necessary when they shall fight the terrifying demons.”

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 123-5.

Kvanvig: Introducing Ahiqar

“The figures in the next list of ten are generally designated ummanu, which is the common designation for a scholar of high reputation. There are one or perhaps two exceptions.

The first figure of the second list, Nungalpiriggal, is designated apkallu. This might be a reflection of a tradition, since this figure is also designated apkallu in Bīt Mēseri.

The second case is trickier. I.L. Finkel claims to see the Sumerian signs nun.me, equivalent to Akkadian apkallu, also connected to Sinliqunninni, the next figure, who operated during the reign of Gilgamesh.

It might be that this is also a reflection of tradition, since the next two figures in Bīt Mēseri are designated apkallu as well. The reason for this inconsistency could be that there existed a tradition where the number seven was fixed to the apkallus, while the different authors could not deny that there had been other apkallus beside these.

Library of Ashurbanipal / The Flood Tablet / The Gilgamesh Tablet<br /> Date 15 July 2010<br /> Current location: British Museum wikidata:Q6373<br /> Source/Photographer Fæ (Own work)<br /> Other versions File:British Museum Flood Tablet 1.jpg<br /> British Museum reference K.3375<br /> Detailed description:<br /> Part of a clay tablet, upper right corner, 2 columns of inscription on either side, 49 and 51 lines + 45 and 49 lines, Neo-Assyrian, Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet 11, story of the Flood. ~ Description extract from BM record.<br /> Location Room 55

<br /> https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library_of_Ashurbanipal_The_Flood_Tablet.jpg

Library of Ashurbanipal / The Flood Tablet / The Gilgamesh Tablet
Date 15 July 2010
Current location: British Museum wikidata:Q6373
Source/Photographer Fæ (Own work)
Other versions File:British Museum Flood Tablet 1.jpg
British Museum reference K.3375
Detailed description:
Part of a clay tablet, upper right corner, 2 columns of inscription on either side, 49 and 51 lines + 45 and 49 lines, Neo-Assyrian, Epic of Gilgamesh, tablet 11, story of the Flood. ~ Description extract from BM record.
Location Room 55


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Library_of_Ashurbanipal_The_Flood_Tablet.jpg

Sinliqunninni is a famous scholar; in the Catalogue of Texts and Authors he is listed as the author of the Epic of Gilgamesh (VI, 10).

(Cf. W.G. Lambert, “A Catalogue of Texts and Authors,” JCS 16 (1962): 59-77, 67.)

The names of most postdiluvian scholars are well-known from incipits, colophons, and in the Catalogue of Texts and Authors. They are regarded as famous scholars responsible for “scientific” works.

The name of the first, however, Nungalpiriggal, seems to be pure fiction. Previously the sign pirig was understood as a word for “lion,” thus indicating the figure’s monstrous appearance. In a commentary to diagnostic omens, however, the sign is explained as Akkadian nūru, “light.” The name would thus mean “great prince, great light.”

The figure at the tenth place in the Uruk text is of special significance. Therefore the text devotes a special commentary to him: at the time of the king Aššurahiddina, Aba’enlidari was ummânū, [šá lū] ah-la-MI-muú i-qab-bu-ú a-hu-‘u-qa-a-ri, “whom the Arameans call Ahiqar” (rev. line 20).

Aba’enlidari is known as the ancestor of the wisdom tradition in Nippur. In the Uruk tablet he is made the same person as one of Sennacherib’s counselors. The author of the Uruk tablet obviously knew that there existed Aramaic traditions about a great wise man at Sennacherib’s court and made the connection to Aba’enlidari.

A novel about Ahiqar, written in Aramaic, together with a series of his proverbs, was found in Upper Egypt, in Elephantine.

Prior to this discovery, extracts from this book were known. Ahiqar is also known in the Jewish book of Tobit (1:22; 14:10).

(For a thorough analysis of both the proverbs and the novel of Ahiqar, cf. I. Kottsieper, “The Aramaic Tradition: Ahiqar,” in Scribes, Sages, and Seers: The Sage in the Eastern Mediterranean World, ed. L.G. Perdue. Göttingen 2008, 109-24.)

In the Elephantine Ahiqar story he is described in the following way:

“Are you] the wise scribe and the lord of good counsel,

who [was a righteous] man [and b]y whose counsel all of Assyria was guided?

(Elephantine Ahiqar story iii, 42-3).

He is also described as “the great Ahiqar” (iii, 60).

(Text in A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. Oxford 1923, 204f., 213f.)

Helge Kvanvig, Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic: An Intertextual Reading, Brill, 2011, pp. 111-3.

Footnote 55 on the Use of the Name Iao

“On the use of the name Iao in the magic of the age of syncretism there is an abundance of material. Most of the older examples have been collected by W. von Baudissin, Studien zur Semitischen Religionsgeschichte, vol. 1 (Leipzig, 1876), 179-254. The passage from Yesirah is not referred to by Baudissin, nor did R. Reitzenstein make use of it in his treatment of the Book Yesirah, for which he assumes an ultimately Hellenistic origin reaching back to the second century; his arguments are based on a comparative study of letter-mysticism in late antiquity; see Reitzenstein, Poimandres (Leipzig, 1904), 291.

As an historian with a broad perspective, Reitzenstein perhaps had a clearer view than many other Jewish scholars, who often regarded the Book Yesirah as if it were suspended in a vacuum in the midst of the history of religions. It should also be noted, in this connection, that in the Coptic Pistis Sophia, chap. 136, Iao appears in a similar context: Jesus calls out his name as he turns toward the four corners of the world.

The sealing of the six directions of space by means of the permutations of Iao corresponds to the idea that this name is the master of the four directions of the world, that is, the master of the cosmos. Cf. the material assembled by Erik Peterson, Heis Theos (Göttingen, 1926), 306-307. Peterson’s interpretation of the magical name Arbathiao as “the four Iao” is, however, utterly unconvincing. The magical name is nothing other than a syncretistic transcription of the Tetragrammaton as “the tetrad [of the four letters of the name YHWH upon which is based the name] of Iao.”

This is proven by the corresponding form Tetrasya, which we find in the Hebrew writings of the Hekhaloth and which was still unknown to Peterson; cf. my Major Trends, 56, 363. The terminology employed in the Yesirah for these three directions of space is also very ancient: the phrase “above and below, in front and behind, right and left” is used in exactly the same manner in Akkadian, and is evidently also behind the wording of the Mishnah Hagigah 2:1 (first century), where “in front” and “behind” are to be understood spatially.

This usage was no longer understood by the amoraim, and was in any case transferred from the spatial to the temporal, as S. E. Löwenstamm, “On an Alleged Gnostic Element in Mishnah Hagiga II, 1″ (in Hebrew) in M. Haram (ed.), Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume (Jerusalem, 1960), 112-121, has shown, drawing upon Akkadian material. His explanations furnished additional linguistic evidence in support of the antiquity of the Book Yesirah, although precisely the passage under consideration here escaped his attention.”

–Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, 1987, pp. 33-4

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