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958Re: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree

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  • walter mattfeld
    Apr 1, 2006
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      Dear Trudy,
      This morning I "chanced" across a quote from 1898 identifying Eden's "tree of life" with the Palm-tree found in neo-Assyrian bas-reliefs from one of my articles identifying Eridu's city-garden as one of several edenic prototypes:
      "The seaport of primitive Chaldea was Eridu, "the good city", now Abu-Shahrein, which stood near the mouth of the Euphrates. In its neighborhood was a garden, 'a holy place', wherein grew a sacred palm-tree -the tree of life- whose roots of bright lapis lazuli were planted in the cosmic abyss, whose position marked the center of the world...This tree of life is frequently represented in Assyrian sculptures..." (p. 643. A. H. Sayce. "Eden." James Hastings. A Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 1. T. & T. Clark. Edinburgh. 1898)

      -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      "This Eridu, as we shall see farther on, was the blessed city, or Paradise, wherein was the tree of life, and which was watered by the twin streams of the Tigris and the Euphrates.." (p. 43. Theophilus G. Pinches. The Old Testament In the Light of the Historical Records and Legends of Assyria and Babylonia. London. The Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge. 1908)

      If interested, cf. the below url for more information:


      http://www.bibleorigins.net/EdenDatePalmGardenIraqHrouda.html



      Regards, Walter

      Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

      mattfeld12@...

      www.bibleorigins.net




      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Trudy Kawami
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Friday, March 31, 2006 10:11 PM
      Subject: RE: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree


      Thanks, Walter. I had been trying to find the text that included the term, but the best I can do is Frazier's Golden Bough which is a triffle "late" for the ANE. Hopefully someone can come up with something more timely.
      Trudy Kawami

      ________________________________

      From: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com on behalf of walter mattfeld
      Sent: Fri 3/31/2006 8:46 PM
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree


      Dear Trudy,

      Were you seeking a statement from Parpola explaining "why" he identified the Assyrian tree with "the tree of life" ? If so, then I can understand your frustration. I too have been trying to "nail down" an actual quotation from some ancient Assyrian text specifically calling the Assyrian tree "the tree of life." I have not been successful. I am an acknowledged amateur, so my knowledge is somewhat limited on this subject, perhaps Robert Whiting could help us here ?

      What little I have been able to piece together is that beginning with the late 19th century CE and into the early 20th century CE, a number of scholars "identified" trees appearing on ANE cylinder seals and in bas-reliefs as "sacred trees". However some scholars -with no ancient text to support them- took the "leap" and suggested these "sacred" trees were perhaps a "Tree of Life" as in Genesis. Thus an identity was forged, the Assyrian "sacred" tree became the proto-typical "tree of life." Not all scholars of course have made this "leap", some stuck to their guns and insisted on referring to these images as "sacred trees" or simply "trees" primarily because no ancient text accompanying the tree images identified them as "a tree of life."

      Parapola's mention of Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadrezzar's dream of a great tree, being the king himself (Daniel 4:10-22), is interesting, Parapola suggesting the Assyrian stylized palm tree with vine tendrils might be a symbol of the king . Elsewhere in the Bible such imagery (similar to Daniel's) appears again, Ezekiel metaphorically likens Pharaoh to a great Cedar tree towering over all the other Cedars in the garden of God (Ez 31:1-18) and verse 16 suggests the Cedars who envy Pharaoh will themselves descend into sheol, so apparently minor kings are likened to Cedar trees as well ? Psalms metaphorically speaks of "the righteous flourishing like a palm-tree which will grow like a Cedar of Lebanon", planted in the house of the Lord, bringing forth fruit to an old age (Ps 92:12-14).

      If memory serves me rightly, images of the gods were at times carved from the wood of trees in Mesopotamia, so perhaps an association of a tree with a god is possible if the wooden statute later inhabited by a god's spirit is in what was formerly a tree? I recall here the asherah, believed to be variously: a goddess, a tree, a pole or a pillar.

      I have not been successful in finding an ancient text from the ANE specifically calling any tree "a tree of knowledge of good and evil," nor have I found anywhere a text from the ANE specifically identifying a tree as "the tree of life". In Mesopotamian belief (The Adapa story) immortality is bestowed on man via the eating of the "bread of life" and drinking the "water of life", not consuming a tree's fruit as in Genesis.

      Yet I see some possible "parallels". In the Mesopotamian myths, some of the gods dwelt on the earth in cities they had made for themselves. The Anunnaki gods made the Igigi gods labor in their city-gardens which possessed fruit-trees, date-palms, fig trees, and vegetables. Then the Igigi objected to the working conditions and the gods made man to toil in the city-gardens to raise the food and feed it to them in temples. When one eats a fruit for the first time one is "acquiring knowledge" of what the fruit tastes like, how can it be useful (a main meal, a dessert, a snack), ergo eating of a fruit tree bestows a type of knowledge to its eater. The Mesopotamian gods surprisingly despite being described in texts as "immortal", were in fact NOT immortal. They could and were slain by each other in myths. They had fleshly bodies. They could go hungry and starve to death. The food they ate was raised on the earth in their city-gardens, not in hea! v en. The gods enjoyed their immortality only if (1) they were not slain by their fellow gods, and (2) if they had a continuous supply of earthy food to eat provided by man from the gods' earthly city-gardens. In other words the gods HAD TO EAT in oder to maintain life, their "immortal lives". That's why Yahweh DEMANDS he be fed twice a day by his priests, like the Mesopotamian gods, he TOO must eat to stay alive. Its all rather silly isn't it ? If one has immortality and cannot die there should be no need to eat as the act of eating is a requirement to stay alive or starve to death. There should be then NO REASON for the feeding of Yahweh, except that the Hebrews are following along in the beliefs of the ANE world. So, in a sense, the fruit from a tree grown in a gods' earthly city-garden would indeed be a "TREE OF LIFE" because fruits were part of the gods' diets, that they ate inorder to stay alive and be "immortal".

      I have concluded that the Hebrew's notion of a "tree of knowledge of good and evil" and "of life" is their unique contribution to the ANE myths, based on a reworking of earlier Mesopotamian myths, cf. the following urls if interested:

      http://www.bibleorigins.net/EdensTreeofKnowledgeLife.html

      http://www.bibleorigins.net/FleshlyResurrection.html

      Regards, Walter
      Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
      mattfeld12@...
      www.bibleorigins.net

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Trudy Kawami
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Friday, March 31, 2006 5:17 PM
      Subject: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree


      Being properly admonished by Robert Whiting, I have now gone through
      Simo Parpola's 1993 "The Assyrian Tree of Life..." in JNES, as well as
      more of his, and other scholars,' writing on the same theme. Herewith is
      my reaction:

      As an art historian I had trouble with his first sentence: "A stylized
      tree with obvious religious significance already occurs as an art motif
      in fourth-millennium Mesopotamia..." No image is provided and no
      explanation, however brief, of what is "obvious" -ly religious about the
      image. By the end of this sentence the writer is already in the Indus
      Valley with a very hefty typological footnote to underscore this spread.
      The second sentence introduced the concept of the "Tree of Life" -
      without explaining where this concept comes from-and ends with Buddhist
      art. Alas, the "Tree of Life" does not occur in Buddhist art though the
      Tree of Enlightenment, and of course the Bodhi tree, does. But Parpola
      is not interested in the specific trees or cultures or their ideas about
      the tree images, but only the ideal forms that can fit into his abstract
      system. He puts "sacred trees" carefully carved 6 ft high in royal
      buildings and 1" high trees quickly cut w/ a wheel into a cylinder seal
      into the same category (his Appendix A) when art historical method
      requires that function, patron, craftsman and material all be considered
      as part of the context of the work. He does not care about the
      individual works of art, the very basis of art historical research. The
      fact that nearly all the illustrations are line drawings, not
      photographs, is telling. Art historians do not discuss Rembrandt's
      brushwork using other people's etchings of Rembrandt's paintings. They
      base their discussion on the painting itself.

      The explication of Parpola's theory of the tree does not explain
      anything about the Assyrian image; it just cloaks it in mystery, the
      very opposite of the goal of scholarship. The result tells us more about
      Parpola than the Assyrians. In an ironic twist, another article on the
      same topic appeared 30 pages before the Parpola article: Barbara N.
      Porter's "Sacred Trees, Date Palms, and the Royal Persona of
      Ashurnasirpal II. Porter is specific and concrete; she gives us insights
      into a remarkable historical figure, the development of Neo-Assyrian
      state ideology, and the complex relationship between Assyria & Babylonia
      in the 9th century BCE, not to mention practical information about date
      palms.

      Parpola's theories clearly resonate in this New Age when even pop stars
      study the Kabbalah. However, this tells us more about ourselves than the
      ancient Assyrians.

      Trudy S. Kawami





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