I’ve been working on re-translating the Barton Cylinder, which includes a Sumerian creation myth, for the past month. Sixty hours of dedicated work per week and I am still only two-thirds done, if that tells you anything about the complexity of the work involved.
I found a great number of what I consider to be “sloppy” translations done to date, so I thought I should look at it further – and I am glad that I did. It will all become part of my upcoming book – “Our Governments Talk to Extraterrestrials, and They Have For Over 70 Years” – and this is the final chapter to be included in it. So I am working as fast as I can to get it done.
The Barton Cylinder is a clay cylinder with Sumerian writing on it, dating to the mid to late 3rd millennium BC, which is now in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.
The cylinder is inscribed with a Sumerian cuneiform mythological text, and it was found at the site of Nippur in 1889 during excavations conducted by the University of Pennsylvania. The cylinder takes its name from George Barton, who was the first to publish a transcription and translation of the text in 1918 in “Miscellaneous Babylonian Inscriptions”. Samuel Noah Kramer referred to it as The Nippur Cylinder and suggested it may date as far back as 2500 BC. From the sign choices employed and the terms themselves I believe that it was rewritten in 2500 or so but from much earlier materials. It references the earliest days, and the time prior to the Sumerians moving into the land between the rivers – so it’s the Origin story of the Sumerians themselves as well. It was probably originally recorded about 5500 BC, in my experience.
One of the lines that I worked on nearly gave me a heart attack when I read the translation. Could this represent evidence of plagiarism on the part of the Biblical scholars?
George Aaron Barton (12 November 1859 – 28 June 1942) was a Canadian author, Episcopal clergyman, and professor of Semitic languages and the history of religion. And he himself, in reference to his translation of this cylinder seal, believed that it was the source for some of the Biblical material written many thousands of years later. Barton goes so far as to suggest that several concepts within the text were later recycled in the much later biblical Book of Genesis. Barton also finds reference to the tree of life in the text, from which he claimed: “As it stands the passage seems to imply a knowledge on the part of the Babylonians of a story kindred to that of Genesis (Genesis 2:9) “.
Most of the lines relate historical events, but some are simply “wisdom” text type entries, offering advice and suggestions on how to live and enjoy an upright life. These are similar to the sayings found in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs of the Old Testament. And the rest relate to the creation or origin of the Sumerian people and the creation of hybrid human-alien beings, but I must save most of that for the book.
I’m interested in the truth more than sensationalism, so rather than putting this out as some type of evidence that the Bible authors knew the Sumerian texts and used parts of them for their books, in all fairness I am pointing out the opposite – because the truth is that the evidence shows this as resembling an amusing wisdom statement and not the origin of the Serpent and Eve in the tree of the Garden of Eden.
Here is my actual source work, for you to examine and test as you wish. The Univ. of Pennsylvania has an online website with their Sumerian Dictionary project available to all, as does UCLA and Oxford, who offer their contributions to the total.
This is the line 10 from Side A of the Cylinder text, in Sumerian:
10. muš dam te esz2-mu-gin7
And this is the “official” translation done by the scholars (the en: indicates their translation into “english”)
en: like …
So, that’s all they got from those six symbols of information. Sure. A meaning of “like …”, and nothing further. Well, they probably had the heart attack I got at first, and decided to back off and say nothing at all about the line. Apparently they decided to omit it from our knowledge, to create yet another “nothing to see here, move along” moment. But that’s not science, which should be, above all and foremost, about the truth. And here is that truth, in my own translation:
There are six symbols, and the definitions of each of them I have taken from the Univ. of Penn, Oxford and UCLA publications themselves. All of these are peer-reviewed definitions.
The note of “Ed IIIa” means that the definition comes from the period of Sumerian history that dates to the time of the suspected date of writing. Because if you accept meanings that were applied much later in time, you will not only be inaccurate but can be prosecuted for creating a timeline mismatch.
muš ED IIIa, = “snake”.
dam ED IIIa, = “spouse”.
te as gal5 ED IIIa, = “a policeman; a demon”.
eš2 = eše2 & še3 (same sign for both).
še3 ED IIIa, = “to call by name”.
eš2 ED IIIa, = “rope, thong, string”
mu as geš ED IIIa, = “tree; wood; a description of animals”.
mu ED IIIa, = “name; line of text; son” [lineage, ancestry, bloodline].
gin7 = dim2 (same sign for both).
dim2 ED IIIa, = “to create, fashion, make, to bring forth”.
At first glance I took this as:
SERPENT + SPOUSE + A DEMON it was called + TREE + TO CREATE – BRING FORTH
And since this is a “creation” text, we can assume that the “to create, make, bring forth” indicates children, and especially since we have the optional meaning of name, line of text and son, which indicates lineage, ancestry, bloodline – the “lines of text” are mentions of actions accomplished by ancestors or living relatives. These deeds would become a future “line” in a text.
So Barton thought it represented a source for the later Bible story, and here we have the wise and cunning serpent, the tree, the spouse (Eve) and a creation (child) who might represent a “demon” or bad seed. Like Cain?
The reason I bring up Cain is that in Louis Ginzberg’s “The Legends of the Jews” it relates that the angel Samael, who is the great Satan, appeared to Eve after she and Adam had been expelled from the Garden of Eden. He came in the form of the serpent, and … well, you know the kind of things the world’s second human and a fallen angel in serpent form get up to.
But here’s what I have found with experience: there is no such thing as an ‘accidental’ influence when it comes to society- simply unexpected ones. Thus the possibility that this mention in texts that were extant at the time may have “influenced” the later (by many thousands of years) Biblical events of Genesis is fairly plausible. But it does not signify a “theft” of another authors work.
I should mention that, to the Sumerians, there were no demons. Demons are a Christian and Judaic term somewhat in align with the Jinn of Arabic mythology. To the Sumerians these were spirits, ghosts, phantoms, etc., the type of beings that could be called up by a trained person and questioned. Like the famous Witch of Endor did in the Old Testament.
The Sumerians, as did the later Greeks, had their sky, atmosphere or upper regions, but not the “heaven” term that is understood today. And their “deities”, far from the Christian sense, were simply “sky beings” or “sky gods” if you will.
But we can see why Barton, an Episcopal Minister but in his early life a Minister of the Quaker religion, might have added the term “demon” to the Sumerian Dictionary project.
And here’s why that line does not equate to the Biblical Eden serpent idea, and what I believe is actually meant by it.
For the Serpent’s wife: your children will be like the Ghost in the Tree.
Thus this is a simple wisdom-type statement of advice, from an early Sumerian scribe.
In other words, if you marry an evil or vicious person, a poisonous person we might say, then the children that you have together, rather than being memorialized on seals and on historical monuments, will be like Spirits in the Trees – scaring the little ones, but without the power to accomplish
anything of substance themselves. They will not put brick upon brick, nor lead armies into battle – but will remain deplorable bullies, like their father.
They will perhaps be remembered, but in an infamous rather than famous way. If you marry a powerful but evil person, don’t expect your children to be anything like a paragon of virtue – garbage in – garbage out, as we say in modern times.
Truth is not about “fairness”, nor is about being sensitive to the “feelings” and “faith” of others – unless it conforms to the evidence. But whenever we do run across something that was obviously sidelined by traditional scholars who feared the consequences of revealing that truth, we should go as far as we can towards righting that wrong.
I believe that the Bible does not need to be “protected” by our translators. Just read.
Your own thoughts and comments are certainly appreciated.