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Reading that yummy Bible encyclopedia I got, I learned of an… - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
August 3rd, 2003
10:25 am

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Reading that yummy Bible encyclopedia I got, I learned of an interesting hypothesis about the word "tehom" used in Genesis 1:2 (the King James translation renders it "the deep"; bear in mind that the Hebrew is not quite that). I bring a free translation of part of the entry:
Tehom is used in the Bible in three senses:
1. In contexts of genesis, it denotes "primordial sea" (see Psalms 104:6);
2. in poetry and prophesy, where there remain traces of ancient traditions of God's war with primordial sea monsters who defied him, tehom appears as one of several aliases to yam (Hebrew for 'sea'), who is the rebel leader (see Isaiah 51:10, Habakkuk 3:8-10, and Psalms 33:7). In Ugaritic literature, too, tehom appears alongside yam, but usually in the dual number THMTM (equivalent to the Hebrew tehomotayim);
3. tehom also denotes "subterranean water" (Hebrew: mey tehom), usually in contrast with heavens/skies (shamayim), as in Genesis 7:11, 8:2, 49:25; Psalms 104:6; Proverbs 3:20.

There is a known equivalent to the word tehom in Akkadic literature, which serves the first two senses mentioned above: the Mesopotamian goddess Ti'amat (תִאַמַת) is the deified form of the monstrous primordial sea; whereas the noun ti'amtu (or tâmtu) is the common term for "sea, ocean". The Babylonian story of genesis, the Enuma Elish, mentions that Mardukh, the Mesopotamian storm god, defeats Ti'amat in combat, and creates the world out of her corpse divided in two [as in the separation of water from water in Genesis 1:6-7 --Ijon].

Additional evidence of the kinship of Mesopotamian Ti'amat and Biblical Tehom may be found in the following facts:
1. The name tehom, despite having a masculine form, sometimes appears alongside feminine verbs [verbs and nouns must 'agree' in gender in Hebrew --Ijon], as in Genesis 7:11, 49:25, and others.
2. It never appears after the definite article (ה"א הידיעה), like personal pronouns (see Ezekiel 26:19, 31:16 for instance; and compare על פני תהום to על פני המים in
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Reading <a href="http://www.livejournal.com/talkread.bml?journal=ijon&itemid=60357">that yummy Bible encyclopedia</a> I got, I learned of an interesting hypothesis about the word "<i>tehom</i>" used in <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:2</a> (the King James translation renders it "the deep"; bear in mind that the Hebrew is not quite that). I bring a free translation of part of the entry:<blockquote><i>Tehom</i> is used in the Bible in three senses:
1. In contexts of genesis, it denotes "primordial sea" (see <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa104.html">Psalms 104:6</a>);
2. in poetry and prophesy, where there remain traces of ancient traditions of God's war with primordial sea monsters who defied him, <i>tehom</i> appears as one of several aliases to <i>yam</i> (Hebrew for 'sea'), who is the rebel leader (see <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Isa/Isa051.html">Isaiah 51:10</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Hab/Hab003.html">Habakkuk 3:8-10</a>, and <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa033.html">Psalms 33:7</a>). In Ugaritic literature, too, <i>tehom</i> appears alongside <i>yam</i>, but usually in the dual number THMTM (equivalent to the Hebrew <i>tehomotayim</i>);
3. <i>tehom</i> also denotes "subterranean water" (Hebrew: <i>mey tehom</i>), usually in contrast with heavens/skies (<i>shamayim</i>), as in Genesis <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen007.html">7:11</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen008.html">8:2</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen049.html">49:25</a>; <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Psa/Psa104.html">Psalms 104:6</a>; <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Pro/Pro003.html">Proverbs 3:20</a>.

There is a known equivalent to the word <i>tehom</i> in Akkadic literature, which serves the first two senses mentioned above: the Mesopotamian goddess Ti'amat (תִאַמַת) is the deified form of the monstrous primordial sea; whereas the noun ti'amtu (or t&acirc;mtu) is the common term for "sea, ocean". The Babylonian story of genesis, the <i>Enuma Elish</i>, mentions that Mardukh, the Mesopotamian storm god, defeats Ti'amat in combat, and creates the world out of her corpse divided in two [as in the separation of water from water in <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:6-7</a> --Ijon].

Additional evidence of the kinship of Mesopotamian Ti'amat and Biblical Tehom may be found in the following facts:
1. The name <i>tehom</i>, despite having a masculine form, sometimes appears alongside feminine verbs [verbs and nouns must 'agree' in gender in Hebrew --Ijon], as in Genesis <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen007.html">7:11</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen049.html">49:25</a>, and others.
2. It never appears after the definite article (ה"א הידיעה), like personal pronouns (see Ezekiel <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Eze/Eze026.html">26:19</a>, <a href="http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Eze/Eze031.html">31:16</a> for instance; and compare על פני תהום to על פני <b>ה</b>מים in <a href=""http://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/Gen/Gen001.html">Genesis 1:2</a> (in English it is lost, because KJV has "the deep".</blockquote>The now-almost-obvious link between <i>tehom</i> and Ti'amat never occurred to me. And I did know the name Ti'amat: I first encountered it thirteen years ago, perusing the pages of the AD&D <b>Monster Manual</b> (ahem).

I just <i>love</i> the comparative study of Biblical and Mesopotamian myths. I am tempted to try to study Akkadic, but I must prioritize ferociously, and Akkadic just can't make it, for now.

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From:mousa
Date:August 3rd, 2003 05:33 am (UTC)
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My Bible teacher in my previous year at school was very much into showing us how big was the influence of mediterranean cultures on the content of Genesis. She showed us many connections between words, motifs and even whole stories in Genesis to the stories and myths of the mesopotamian cultures. Fascinating. Among other stuff, we also learned about the connection between the word Tehom and the goddess Tiamat. Apparetnly, some people hold the theory that whoever wrote the Bible used stories and motifs that were already familiar to the people in that area, and changed them in order for them to fit to his idea of monotheism.
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From:ukelele
Date:August 3rd, 2003 06:06 am (UTC)
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Gilgamesh....*happy sigh*
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From:shapirac
Date:August 3rd, 2003 09:16 am (UTC)

Tiamat

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She is also a main character of Pilevin's "Generation P", star of many scenes on the border between reality and drugged hallucinations.

I've named my Permenantly unstable Linux server after her.
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From:ijon
Date:September 1st, 2003 03:12 am (UTC)

Re: Tiamat

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Now look what you've done!

I'm halfway through Generation P... It's amusing.
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From:kakapo
Date:August 4th, 2003 05:29 am (UTC)

Shin.

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This is a good opportunity to highly recommend Shin Shifra's panoramic course. I think she runs it every year.
She's a good lecturer (though tends to repeat herself), her translations from both Sumerian and Akkadic are outstanding, and the course is filled with comparisons between Mesopotamian myths and the bible, stories of authors and poets who were influenced by those myths (Alterman and Aloni are the ones I can recall now), and her very opinionated anger, regarding the way schools teach the Bible these days.

two by-the-ways:
1. Am Oved have just published this.
2. You do know about the תנינים הגדולים, right?
From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 15th, 2003 11:46 pm (UTC)

Re: Shin.

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where does Shin teach? I'm reading 'In Those Distant Days' and enjoying it alot.
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From:ijon
Date:October 20th, 2003 03:58 pm (UTC)

Re: Shin.

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At TAU.
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From:wildernesscat
Date:August 4th, 2003 06:16 am (UTC)

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When you get to the Akkadic stuff, give me a call. I might be interested (at least to get to know your sources).
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