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The Legend of Adapa


Extract from Historical Genesis a book by Dick Fischer

There is one historical person who, although swathed in myth, very well may have been Adam of the Bible. That man is the legendary Adapa. Several fragments of the "Legend of Adapa" were taken from the Library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC) at Ninevah. One also was found in the Egyptian archives of Amenophis III and IV of the fourteenth century BC. Although versions of the Adapa myth have been found in Akkadian, Canaanitish-Babylonian, Assyrian and Amorite, none have been found in Sumerian. 

According to Akkadian legend, Ea created Adapa an exemplary man, endowed with "superhuman wisdom," but not eternal life. A fishing accident angered Adapa, who broke the wing of the south wind, and was summoned to heaven to appear before Anu. Ea warned Adapa not to eat a certain food or drink any water that would be offered to him. A cautious Adapa shuns the food and water of life, whereby he would have acquired eternal life. 

A fragment of one record of the Adapa legend rests in the Pierpont Morgan Library. Inscribed in Amorite, a Semitic language, this is part of the translation:

In those days, in those years, the sage, the man of Eridu,
Ea, made him like a “riddi” (rabbi?) among men;
A sage, whose command no one could oppose;
The mighty one, the Atra-hasis of the Anunaki, is he;
Blameless, clean of hands, anointer, observer of laws.
With the bakers, he does the baking;
With the bakers of Eridu, he does the baking. 

Adam of the Bible and Adapa were both “created” human sons of God (god). According to the legend, Adapa was a sage, a profoundly wise man, in Eridu. Adapa prepared the altar table. Daily while Ea slept in his chamber Adapa guarded the sanctuary. 

Regarded as a prophet or seer, Adapa had been priest of the temple of Ea at Eridu. He is described as "blameless," "clean of hands," "anointer and observer of laws." Could that also describe Adam, the first type of Christ? Also, Adam was taken from the ground; in the Hebrew: 'adam from 'adamah. How close phonetically is 'adamah to Adapa?

Could it be only coincidence that Adam was told "by the sweat of his face" he would eat "bread," and Adapa was a baker by trade; or that Adapa was deprived of eternal life by not eating or drinking the "food or water of life," while Adam was cut off from eating the fruit of the "tree of life"? In another version, Adapa was given vast understanding “that he might give names to all ‘concepts’ in the earth.” And Adam was tasked to name the “creatures” of the earth. God gave Adam a coat of skin after the Fall, and Anu gave Adapa a garment after he rejected the bread of life. 

When father-god Anu summons Adapa to appear he is warned by Ea that two departed gods guard the gate. These are Tammuz and Gazzida – two cult figures who mysteriously departed and became elevated to god status. Ea instructs Adapa how to get by the “guards.”. He is “soiled” and “sackcloth” put upon him. Ea explains what will be asked at the gate of Anu:

O man. For whom art thou become like this?
O Adapa, for whom art thou clad in sackcloth

Adapa is told to reply: “In our land two gods have disappeared and I have been brought to this plight.” Finally at the gate of heaven Adapa is questioned, “Who are the two gods who have disappeared in the land?” When Adapa, who feigns not knowing to whom he is speaking, replies, “They are Tammuz and Gizzida,” the two laugh and give him entry.

The custom of donning “sackcloth and ashes” continued throughout Jewish history. In Ezek. 4:3: “… there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.” Yet this ritual is rooted in Akkadian lore and tied to the legendary Adapa.

Translation of archaic names and places from Akkadian and Sumerian into English can be difficult, and Sayce argued the name should have been translated “Adamu” on the strength of the character pa which may have the value of mu. A principle that governed the transcription of names and words was the selection of characters to express their sounds which also harmonized with their sense. The last syllable of a name like Ada-mu would be represented by an ideograph which not only had the phonetic value of mu, but also signified “man.” 

Henceforward, therefore we must transcribe the name of 
the first man of Babylonian tradition, not A-da-pa, but A-da-mu. 

In Sumerian, adam signified generically “animal” and specifically “man.” When Rim-Amum was king, a list of slaves was called adam-bi. The second king on the Assyian kinglist was “Adamu.” In tablets recovered at Tello, Adamu was used as a proper name. The title, "the Son of God," oftentimes designating Sumerian royalty, was recorded on a seal stamp. It contained a likeness of a seated man who was called "Adamu." This title is identical to that used of Adam in Luke 3:38 where the genealogy of Christ originates with "Adam, the son of God."

Even though the Adapa legend has no Sumerian counterpart, in literary Sumerian, the contrast "town and country" is commonly expressed by uru and 'adam, literally "town and pasture.” The connection with 'adam taken from the "ground" in Genesis is mirrored with 'adam and pasture land in Sumerian.

Did Adam's Fall affect following generations? These two lines are part of one Adapa fragment:

[...] what ill he has brought upon mankind,
[And] the disease that he brought upon the bodies of men ... 

From the Apocrypha, this Jewish tradition of the Fall is also reflected in II Esdras 7:48:

O Adam, what have you done?
For though it was you who sinned,
the fall was not yours alone,
but ours also who are your descendants. 

Westermann concludes that in this text Adam is not understood as a "representative of mankind created by God, but as an historical individual whose `Fall' was passed on through him to his descendants." 

Why was this man Adapa or Adamu written about in various Semitic languages and ignored completely in Sumerian literature? Adapa/Adamu was neither king nor god. Yet he was regarded as a man of extreme importance to the Semites. He was one of their own. “None could annul his command; he excelled in wisdom, and the Annunaki gods had given him his name.” Do we know that name today as “Adam”?



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7/28/2016 8:18:02 AM
The below url is the English translation of the Sumerian account of Adapa and the Southwind myth (circa 2000-1600 BC)
9/13/2015 11:56:38 AM
This article on Adapa errs. There are _two_ Sumerian versions of the Babylonian/Akkadian Adapa and the Southwind myth. They were discovered in the 1980s and have been recently (2014) published in French, in a leading German Journal. It is available on the internet as a PDF download upon payment of Royalties to the German Publishing House (I paid $42.00). Not being able to read French I had a translation made of the myth for me into English and I am in the process of posting this English rendering to the internet. The journal: Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie und vorderasiatische Archaologie. Vol. 104. Issue 1 (June 2014). Author: Antoine Cavigneaux (of the University of Geneva). "Une version sumerienne de la legend d'Adapa (Textes de Tell Haddad X). pp. 1-41." Discovered in the 1980s at Tell Haddad/Meturan, two Sumerian copies were found written in Sumerian. The publisher to whom royalties are to be paid is Walter De Gruyter, GmbH. The Sumerian renders Akkadian Adapa as Adaba. Ea is rendered as Enki, Anu is rendered as An, Gishzida is rendered as NIngishzida, Tammuz is rendered as Dumuzi. Because of certain grammatical errors in the text it is surmised that an Akkadian scribe wrote these two Sumerian versions. Mention is made of the land of Edin being restored by the gods after the flood, how the gods restore the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, how man is given a leader or king, temples are rebuilt and the feeding of the gods resumes, specifically bread. Then, after all this, appears the Adaba account and his cursing of the southwind, followed by his return to the earth and a goddess appointed to heal man of disese borne winds. I can be contacted at (Walter R. Mattfeld)