Journal of Heresies

My search for truth in a world of deceit.

Location: United States

I have what is probably an insatiable desire to search out the answers to what may be impossible questions.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is Nanna/Suen, the Sumerian moon god, found in the Bible?

I have recently finished reading The Study of The Sumerian Moon God, Nanna/Suen by Mark Glenn Hall. My intent was to test the theory that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob could have at one time been Nanna/Suen. The reason for the study was based on the realization that the name YHVH does not appear in the genealogies until the generation of Moses, YHVH states in Ex 6:3 that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not know Him by the name YHVH, Abraham came from Ur to Haran (Sumerian cities and cultic centers for Nanna/Suen) before travelling to Canaan, and the festivals that YHVH instructs Israel to keep are very similar to those kept throughout Sumeria. Also, the moon and moon gods of Egypt were called Yah, and the mountain on which YHVH spoke to Moses was called Sinai (a word whose definition is not known, but bears some similarity to the name Suen).

Nanna/Suen was also at times called Asimbabbar. The author believes that these three names represent three separate gods whose characteristics were syncretized into one god during the Sargonic and Ur III periods. All three were always seen as the God of the Moon, and as one culture encountered or overtook another, similar gods, like the moon gods were worshipped as the same god. The name Suen is believed to represent a more Northerly and Westerley Semetic tradition, and the name Nanna is believed to represent the southern Mesopotamian Moon God. How much these gods and their associated cults may have compared is difficult to establish because of the lack of archeological materials prior to the Sargonic period. However, by the time of Abraham, the three names represented one god. There does appear to remain some interesting remnants of the early traditions by the manner distinction made that Suen is uniquely refered to as the youth, frisky calf, or young cowherd; whereas Nanna is uniquely portrayed espoused to the goddess Ningal.

Significant characteristics specific to the syncretized Nanna/Suen include: his association with the moon as well as the moons phases and moonlight; as the one who established the months and days (lunar calendar); as the one who went to the land of the dead (underworld) at the end of each month to decide their fates and returned again on the third day (the new moon); as the one who could renew life (vegetation and creatures); as overseer of the herds and flocks (although a couple other gods did this also); and, as the chief son of Enlil and (grandson) of An (the two highest gods worshipped in Sumeria); Nanna/Suen is often symbolized by the crescent moon or the calf/bull whose horns form the crescent shape. Nanna/Suen is also describe in ways common to most of the Sumerian gods such as lord, prince, god, father, and heroic warrior.

As far as characteristics are concerned, I do not feel that there is a significant correlation between those of YHVH and those of Nanna/Suen. YHVH is the ever-existing one, but Nanna/Suen has a father; YHVH is not associated with the light of the moon, but rather is the creator of the moon. The times when YHVH is depicted as a calf/bull, he appears to be angered by the action. He also says to not make an image of the sun, moon or stars to bow down to them. The difficulty of this comparison is the apparent re-writing of the book of Genesis to include the name of YHVH. If the name was added to the ancient stories, then what else has been altered to fit the YHVHist perspective? From the text we can ascertain that Judah and those Israelites who returned from the land after the Babylonian exile probably would agree with Genesis as we have received it. The prophets of that time proclaimed a very monotheistic YHVHist message and when the portion of exiles returned, they essentially avowed themselves to YHVH'ist monotheism (at least that is what the story depicts). However our oldest manuscripts of Genesis are fragments from the 1st century BC, and they aren't even in Hebrew. YHVH as presented in our Bible's doesn't resemble Nanna/Suen, but how did Abraham of Sumeria understand the God who gave him the covenant in relation to the rest of Mesopotamian religion? Did Abraham know YHVH by another name? Did YHVH speak to Abraham through another god/gods, or through other gods who weren't gods? Was this God who called Abraham unknown to the rest of the world? Yet, Genesis depicts YHVH as one who has communicated with His creation throughout history.

While reading, I was not only comparing the characteristics of Nanna/Suen with those of YHVH, but I was also watching for other ways in which the Sumerian moon god may have passed into the Biblical texts. In my previous post on the Shepherd Psalm, I noted the similarities between a Psalm to Nanna and the Biblical Psalm 23. The Hymn to Nanna/Suen with Prayers for King Susuen in which Nanna/Suen sires Susuen and appoints him prince for all his days also brought to mind the hymn in Isaiah 9 where YHVH establishes the government of peace on the throne of David. Unlike the Shepherd Pslams, what stood out to me for this fragmented Hymn was the relation of its overall theme with that of Isaiah 9 rather than the specific wording.

What stands out to me the most about the Moon God's persona are the many ways in which he resembles Yahshua and messiah related concepts. Nanna/Suen is the chief son of God, Yahshua is called the only begotten son of God (I can show that only begotten implies chief/favored, rather than the only child). Nanna is the light of heaven and earth, Yahshua is called the light of the world. Nanna is the cowherd/shepherd, Yahshua is called the good shepherd (also, like Suen, David is depicted as a shepherd boy who delights God). Nanna descends into the underworld to decide the fates of the dead and returns in three days, Yahshua died and rose again after three days and is given judgement over the dead. Nanna/Suen renews life, Yahshua is given power to resurrect and give life to the dead. Nanna/Suen is also credited with providing irrigation and rain, and Yahshua states that he gives living water/the water of life.

As stated earlier, one reason for this study was the importance of the moon in the festivals given by YHVH. However, the lunar calendar was followed by all of sumeria, and probably all of Mesopotamia, Regardless of which god was worshipped. For most of the gods there were daily morning and evening offerings, there were new moon festivals, festivals on the 7th and 15th days of every month, a first fruits festival in the first month and a seedtime/harvest festival in the 7th month. But, Nanna/Suen not only receives offerings during these festivals, but at firstfruits he is depicted as bringing his own firstfruit offering (by boat) to the temple of his father, Enlil. Also interesting to note is that the foods offered to Nanna/Suen would all be considered clean foods according to the Torah. I am not sure how the contents of these offerings compare to those of other Sumerian gods.

One dissimilarity of the Nanna/Suen cult is the fact that the priestess appears to hold the highest temple office, whereas Israel's highest temple authorities were male. although I am curious if Miriam the sister of Moses would have been viewed much like a priestess during the exodus.

In the Sumerian pantheon, Nanna/Suen is the son of Enlil(lord of the sky) the son of An(heaven). An is viewed as the most high god, but there was also believed to be a primordial god/goddess pair, Enki and Ninki (not to be confused with Enki (the lord of earth/water). But, most interestingly there is a little mentioned god named Haya, who was apparently considered the maternal grandfather of Nanna/Suen, and therefore of the same generation as An (the highest god in the Sumerian pantheon). Unfortunately, there is little information available regarding this god's attributes and role in the Sumerian understanding of the universe.

So, in conclusion, I don't believe that YHVH was once known as Nanna/Suen. I do feel that the Sumerian belief system is significant to understanding the Biblical stories from Creation through the sojourn in Egypt. As I stated in a previous post, Israel attempts to worship a calf god several times and in doing so calls down the wrath of YHVH; could this god have been Nanna/Suen? There are many similarities between Yahshua and Nanna/Suen. Is the messianic hope reflected in the Sumerian moon god? Could the prophecies of messiah be the remnants of Sumerian beliefs? Do some of the stories about Yahshua intentially borrow from the ancient worship of Nanna/Suen? If YHVH found the worship of the calf (Nanna/Suen?) abominable, then what does that say about the worship of the Nanna/Suen-like Messiah? And finally, we are still left with the question: By what name did Abraham know YHVH and how did his God fit into the theology of his time?