The Epics of Sumer, Akkad, and Divine Religion
Some or most historical researchers of the ancient Near East or Middle East consider religion to be purely a product of humans. According to them, it started with the deification of the goddess Ishtar who had different names. They discovered her statues in various sizes scattered throughout the ancient civilizations of the Near East, spanning over 9000 years BC. They justified this religious beginning by saying that human society was dominated by a woman, in the form of the mother around whom the children would gather. These children knew only that they belonged to her. Therefore, according to them, the woman (the great mother Ishtar) was sanctified, and statues were made for her. After a period of time, when agriculture was discovered, the human society became patriarchal. After a period of time, when agriculture was discovered, the human society became patriarchal and began to settle, and families and homes were built. This resulted in the introduction of male gods into the temples, and this is how the religion was formed. Religion later evolved into Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions as well.
However, those who have built their theory based upon the ancient female statues forget that it can be easily refuted by the assertion that these statues were only made for the purpose of eroticism, and do not represent something sacred. Thus the existence of a sacred female, of whom a statue was made in a certain era, does not allow for the investigative researcher to conclude that every female statue that has been previously made represents her. This opinion (that ancient man built stimulation tools for the purpose of eroticism) does exist, and is proposed by some archaeologists.
Moreover, there are well-known archaeological texts that describe the goddess Ishtar or Inanna in Sumer and Akkad with the attributes of this temporal world that humans live in. As such, in the texts, she is not the mother, and not even a real female.
On the contrary, she is the temporal life. The king Tammuz refused to prostrate to her, as other kings had done, when he ascended the throne. Accordingly, she handed Tammuz (the faithful son) over to the demons to kill him:
Inanna [Ishtar] proceeds to the two Sumerian cities Umma and Badtibira whose two deities prostrate themselves before her and are thus saved from the clutches of the demons. She then arrives at the city of Kullab, whose tutelary deity is Dumuzi. The poem continues:
Dumuzi [Tammuz] put on a noble robe, he sat high on (his) seat
The demons seized him by his thighs . . . . .
The seven (demons) rush at him as at the side of a sick man
The shepherds play not the flute and pipe before him.
She (Inanna) fastened the eye upon him, the eye of death,
Spoke the word against him, the word of wrath,
Uttered the cry against him, the cry of guilt:
“As for him, carry him off.” (Kramer 1981, 164).
She is the temporal life to which Gilgamesh refused to submit when he ascended the throne and wore his crown:
[Gilgamesh] opened his mouth to speak,
[saying] to the Lady Ishtar:
. . . .
‘[Who is there] would take you in marriage?
[You, a frost that congeals no] ice,
a louvre-door [that] stays [not] breeze nor draught,
a palace that massacres . . . warriors,
‘an elephant which . . . its hoods,
bitumen that [stains the hands] of its bearer,
a waterskin that [cuts the hands] of its bearer,
limestone that [weakens] a wall of ashlar,
‘a battering ram that destroys [the walls of] the enemy,
a shoe that bites the foot of its owner!
What bridegroom of yours did endure for ever?
What brave warrior of yours went up [to the heavens?] (George 1999, 48-49).
All things considered, the hypothesis that the origin of religion is deification of the mother is just that—a mere hypothesis that is not based on solid or scientific proof. As such, I do not see a need for a detailed response.
Nevertheless, I do see it necessary to clarify the evidence and indicators of the Sumerian religion’s divine origin. This topic concerns proving that it is an antecedent, distorted, divine religion. At this point, we want to show that the Sumerians, who knew of ablution with water and knew about prayer, fasting, supplication, and invocation were a religious people, and their religion was divine. As such, the Sumerian epics and stories include unseen reports of future events, and these events took place after they had been circulated for thousands of years by the Sumerians.
Indeed, perhaps their religion was distorted during some periods—but it is a divine religion. This is similar to how the people of Mecca were people of a distorted Abrahamic Hanafi religion and worshipped and sanctified idols, or how the Salafis or Wahhabis today worship an idol and are inheritors of the old idol worshippers in Mecca. They say they are Muslims, yet they worship a big idol that they believe exists in the sky but not on the earth. This idol has two hands with fingers, two feet and two eyes. Certainly, the issue of distorting the divine religion has existed in the past, and it still exists.
If we return to the inception of divine religion, we find that Adam brought the first divine religion to the earth, and it included stories of his faithful sons who would come after him. Naturally, the people were supposed to memorize these stories, narrate them, and pass them on.
The stories and epics of the Sumerians, at times, are only narrations of these sacred and inherited stories. This can be seen in the detailed Sumerian narration of the story of the Flood, which existed long before the Torah:
The First “Noah”
That the Biblical deluge story is not original with the Hebrew redactors of the Bible has been known from the time of the discovery and deciphering of the eleventh tablet of the Babylonian “Epic of Gilgamesh” by the British Museum’s George Smith. The Babylonian deluge myth itself, however, is of Sumerian origin. In 1914 Arno Poebel published a fragment consisting of the lower third of a six-column Sumerian tablet in the Nippur collection of the University Museum, the contents of which are devoted in large part to the story of the flood. This fragment still remains unique and unduplicated … Badly broken as the text is, these passages are nevertheless of significance … They include a number of revealing statements concerning the creation of man, the origin of kingship, and the existence of at least five antediluvian cities (Kramer 1981, 148).
Perhaps they are distorted stories at times—especially when examined from the perspective of other religions—as a result of the passage of time and human nature muddled with temptation entering these stories. However, can something that is distorted be completely devoid of the truth?!
Have we asked ourselves: Where did the legacy of Adam and Noah go?!
Where was this legacy at the time of the Sumerians or Akkadians?!
And what happened to the legacy of divine religion that existed before the flood?!
It does not stand to reason that Noah and those who accompanied him would be concerned with delivering goats and cows, yet would not deliver the divine religion from Adam pbuh before writing began. Mankind after Noah pbuh—represented by the Sumerians and Akkadians, followed by the Babylonians and Assyrians—must have conveyed the legacy of Adam, Noah, and the highest holy examples—though it was through distorted stories transmitted over generations—just as they conveyed the history of kings, farmers, and craftsmen. Therefore, the conclusion is that the Sumerian religion is the religion of Adam and Noah, perhaps distorted at times by the deification of anything that can be deified, such as the temporal life and righteous people.
An example of this distortion, found in ancient artifacts, is the attempted distortion of the Epic of Gilgamesh. This demonstrates two points:
First: that the Epic of Gilgamesh is a religious text, since no one would care to distort a literary text.
Second: that the text of the Epic of Gilgamesh that we have today is definitely not free of distortion.
Taha Baqir says:
Perhaps the strangest thing to be found recently by archaeologists in the archaeological site known as Sultantepe in southern Turkey, near Harran, were sections of the epic and a strange letter forged by an old scribe in the second century BC. This letter was ascribed to the hero Gilgamesh and addressed to an ancient king. Gilgamesh requests that he send gemstones in order to make a talisman for his friend Enkidu. It was to weigh as much as thirty minas.
When comparing these original and various pieces with the text of Nineveh, they appear as valuable information. Not only do they bridge the gaps, but they also unequivocally show that the Poem [Epic] of Gilgamesh did not exist at the time of the Assyrians. This is proof that the legend evolved throughout generations. In other words, the writers did not copy the old text in a literal and honest manner. Rather, they added, omitted, and distorted. This is what affirmed the spread of the (albeit wrong) idea that the East never was and never will be strong and stable (Virolleaud 1949, 124. Translated from French to Arabic to English).
If there have been deliberate attempts to distort written texts, then what about texts narrated orally, before the era of writing? Certainly they were subject to even more distortion. When they were written down in the first writing era, they were written in their distorted form. Therefore, we can definitively conclude that the stories of the Flood, Dumuzi, and Gilgamesh, as well as others stories of Sumerian-Akkadian origin, were not written in the form circulated by narrators before the writing era.