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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

I have seen suggestions that the following reflects Mespotamian myths about
Tiamat:

Psalm 74

12 But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power; you broke the heads of
the monster in the
     waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan and gave him as food to
the creatures of the
     desert.

Tom Izbicki



At 08:51 PM 4/26/2001 -0400, you wrote:
>In a message dated 4/26/01 6:59:27 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
>[log in to unmask] writes:
>
>
>>        For anyone who might be interested in the (very) early possible
>>origins of this motif, Prof. Otmar Keel has suggested that imagery in
>>Revelations, et al. probably derives from the Mesopotamian Lahamu, a
>>guardian spirit/creature with the body of either a bull or lion, the face
>>(or faces, up to 4) of a man, and eagle wings.  The protectiuve and
>>divine qualities of this creature(s) may have been the inspiration for
>>the Old Testament imagery in Ezekiel, then translated into the New
>>Testament.  The one composit creature dividing into four may account for
>>the variations of the textual description in the earlier literature.
>>
>>        For what it's worth,
>>        Stephanie
>
>
>Stephanie,
>
>This is something I've heard about a lot, but only in a very general
>way--that many images in the older parts of the OT are reworkings of images
>from even older Mesopotamian (especially Sumerian?) texts. About the only
>concrete example that's widely mentioned is the derivation of the story of
>Noah and the Flood from the Sumerian story of King Ziusudra and the Flood. It
>does indeed seem to me that the OT story is simply the Sumerian story altered
>by the addition of a moral...that the Flood was sent to punish human
>wickedness.
>
>Now I can add Lahamu to the list. But is this a generally Mesopotamian figure
>or specifically Assyrian? I've seen the Assyrian stone carvings of winged
>bulls with human faces (Metropolitan Museum) and, as you say, they seem to be
>guardian figures. But I don't recall seeing that figure often or elsewhere.
>Winged lions with human faces are the sphinxes, seen in Egyptian art and in
>Greek art (where they're traced to the story of Oedipus and the sphinx). I
>don't recall Mesopotamian winged lions.
>
>The Sumerians, or perhaps the Elamites, seem to have developed the composite
>beast that combines parts of one creature with parts of another. And as the
>Bible says Abraham came from Ur (a Sumerian city), I'd suspect the early
>Hebrews would be familiar with Sumerian myths and Sumerian art, or might
>actually have branched off from the Sumerian ethnic and cultural
>mainstream.
>There's a Jewish folk-tale--I don't know the source--that Abraham, as a small
>boy in Ur, is taught to worship Sumerian "idols" as gods. He breaks an idol
>to show that it actually has no power (and can't punish him for breaking it).
>
>This of course is taking us back to a period well before the middle ages. But
>if one begins thinking about iconology--the manner in which an image
>develops--one really has to go back to the beginning. So many links, of
>course, are always missing. In this case, Ezekiel was a prophet at the time
>of the Babylonian Exile--he actually lived in Babylon or had been taken
>there. So he could have seen Babylonian guardian figures of Lahamu, and we
>don't need to assume he knew the Assyrian figures. As for John the Divine, he
>so often refers to OT imagery that I'm convinced he was thinking of Ezekiel's
>vision, and maybe looked back no farther than that.
>
>pat sloane

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