Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Myth of Adapa ( Adapa and the Food of Life) Explanation

The Myth of Adapa (also known as Adapa and the Food of Life) is the Mesopotamian story of the Fall of Man in that it explains why human beings are mortal. The God of wisdom, Ea, creates the first man, Adapa, and endows him with great intelligence and wisdom but not with immortality, and when immortality is offered Adapa by the great god Anu, Ea tricks Adapa into refusing the gift.

Though it is not expressed directly in the myth, Ea's reasoning in this seems similar to Yahweh's in the Genesis story from the Bible where, after Adam and Eve are cursed for eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Yahweh casts them out before they can also eat of the Tree of Life:
“Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever; Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden”(Genesis 3:22-23)
If Adam and Eve were immortal they would be on par with Yahweh and there would be a loss of status for the god; and this is Ea’s same reasoning in the Adapa myth. In the Genesis myth, man takes knowledge for himself by eating of the tree; in the Mesopotamian myth, the god Ea grants man knowledge in the process of creation. Knowing that Adapa is already wise, Ea (like Yahweh in the later story from Genesis) needs to keep the man in his place.

Adapa was the king of the City of Eridu and, the myth tells us, went fishing one day in the Persian Gulf when the south wind suddenly capsized his boat and hurled him into the sea. Furious at this, Adapa broke the wing of the south wind and for seven days the wind could not blow. The sky god Anu is angered by this and sends for Adapa to explain himself. Adapa receives counsel from Ea on how he should behave in the court of the gods. As Ea is Adapa's father-god and creator, Adapa trusts him to tell him the truth. But Ea fears that Anu is apt to offer Adapa the food and drink of eternal life and Ea is intent on making sure that Adapa does not accept the offer.

First Ea tells him that he should flatter the guardians of the gates, Tammuz and Gishida (two dying and reviving deities) by making it known that he remembers them, that he knows who they are. If Adapa does this then the guardians will let him pass without difficulty and will speak favorably of him to Anu. Once Adapa is in the presence of Anu, Ea further tells him, he should refuse any food or drink offered because it will be the food of Death and the drink of death which will be offered as punishment for Adapa breaking the wing of the south wind. However, Ea says, Adapa may accept oil to anoint himself and accept whatever clothing is offered.

Adapa does exactly as Ea suggests, respectfully honoring Tammuz and Gishida and refusing the food and drink offered by Anu (though anointing himself and accepting a robe). Anu, puzzled that the man should refuse the food and drink of life and the gift of immortality, sends Adapa back to earth where he must live out his life as a mortal. The tale would seem to conclude with Anu punishing Ea for deceiving Adapa, but as the third tablet is fragmentary, it is difficult to say with certainty.

An alternative interpretation of the myth claims that Ea is sincerely acting in the best interests of Adapa when he warns him against accepting food or drink from Anu because Ea earnestly believes that Anu will punish Adapa with death for breaking the wing of the south wind. This interpretation claims that Ea’s punishment at the end of the poem is not for deceiving Adapa but for warning him against Anu’s plans. Nowhere in the poem, however, does it state that Anu planned to kill Adapa, only that he was upset that the south wind was not blowing (that life on earth was not functioning as it should) and wanted Adapa to explain himself.

Reference: J.Mark, J. (2011, February 23rd). The Myth of Adapa. Retrieved October 31st, 2012, from Ancient Encyclopedia History:


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