2 Contents Michaela Bauks, Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors Predrag Bukovec, Woher stammt Tobit 13 in der syrischen Fassung? Eine Relecture der These Lebrams zur Textgeschichte des Buches Tobit Ariel Feldman, Reading Exodus with Deuteronomy in 4QApocryphal Pentateuch A (4Q368 2) Alan Appelbaum, Why the Rabbis of the Yerushalmi Called R. Judah Nesiah a Great Man Book Reviews
3 Journal of Ancient Judaism Editors Maxine L. Grossman (Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies at the University of Maryland) Alex P. Jassen (Associate Professor of Early Judaism, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Minnesota) Armin Lange (Professor of Second Temple Judaism and Director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Vienna) The journal is peer reviewed by an advisory board of internationally renowned scholars, among them Adele Berlin (University of Maryland) Moshe Bernstein (Yeshiva University) Katell Berthelot (Centre de recherche français de Jérusalem and CNRS) George J. Brooke (University of Manchester) Beate Ego (University of Bochum) Esther Eshel (Bar Ilan University) Heinz-Josef Fabry (University of Bonn) Lester Grabbe (University of Hull) Ross S. Kraemer (Brown University) Robert A. Kraft (University of Pennsylvania) James L. Kugel (Bar Ilan University) Hayim Lapin (University of Maryland) Bernard M. Levinson (University of Minnesota) Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina) Carol L. Meyers (Duke University) Eric M. Meyers (Duke University) Hindy Najman (Yale University) Hillel Newman (University of Haifa) Vered Noam (Tel Aviv University) Lawrence H. Schiffman (Yeshiva University) Günter Stemberger (University of Vienna) Kristin De Troyer (University of St Andrews) Azzan Yadin (Rutgers University) Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
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5 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors Michaela Bauks (University of Koblenz-Landau) Interpretations of the trees in the Garden of Eden misunderstand their significance by focusing on sin or a theological fall. A tradition-historical approach to the motif of trees in ancient Near Eastern literature and imagery reveals their multivalent quality. Trees are connected with fertility and goddess devotion but also with the power and divine sanction given to kings and dynasties, and with the potency of sacred space, on which humans and the divine come together and meet. As cross-temporal motifs, trees are regularly associated with life-giving and blessing (a plant of rejuvenation; a tree of life); a connection of trees to knowledge and meaning appears as well, in wisdom literature, and in the book of 1 Enoch. Language of a world tree or cosmic tree, though useful conceptually, is a modern imposition on the ancient evidence. More evident from the ancient setting is the image of felling trees, which indicates the downfall of human leaders, especially kings, because of their hubris. Ultimately, sacred trees have an ambivalent value, as a source of both contestation and progress. A common understanding of the trees in the Garden of Eden emphasizes their connection to sin, misconduct, or at least the loss of a paradise. However, this view may be a significant misunderstanding of the text. The traditional perception of an apple tree, from which Eve took fruit and misled her husband which becomes an established motif in the history of art arises from a double misunderstanding. Neither the Hebrew original nor the Greek translation makes reference to an apple. The mention of an apple is a translation error, or at least a feisty concretization, filling out the gap in the biblical narrative concerning the species of the tree. The undefined fruit of the tree in the Hebrew text was identified as malus, apple in the Latin tradition, which seemed to be the suitable translation from the common Christian interpretation, because the apple is homonymous with malus, bad, evil or malum sin in Latin. 1 We might note that the lover in the love poems of the Song of Songs is compared with an apple tree (, the fragrant ), whose fruit is sweet to the palate (Cant 2:3; compare 2:5 and 4:16). In a free intertextual association of Genesis with other garden motifs, the image of Eve and the apple would thus symbolize the act of temptation. The word malus may also remind readers of the Latin translation of the paraphrase of the tree as tree of knowledge of good and evil. In Hebrew, knowledge of good and evil has not been understood in the sense of sin. The expression good and evil, treated linguistically, is a merism: a metaphor 1 Compare I. Cornelius, Some Pages from the Reception History of Genesis 3: The Visual Arts, JNSL 32 (1997): , 223. Journal of Ancient Judaism, 3. Jg., , ISSN Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, Göttingen
6 268 Michaela Bauks (and more specifically, a synecdoche) that expresses a totality by reference to the extremes of an opposition. 2 The knowledge of good and evil thus denotes all-embracing knowledge. But the tree of knowledge is not the only tree mentioned in the Eden narrative. At its beginning, three statements about trees can be found. 2:8 The LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east and placed the man there whom he had formed. 9 And the LORD God made all kinds of trees to sprout from the land, trees desirable 3 to look at, and good to eat; the tree of life was in the middle of the garden, and also the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 4 At first glance the coexistence of several trees is conspicuous; what remains unclear is precisely how many trees there are and which one is located in the middle of the garden. 5 The prohibition on human consumption of the fruit of a certain tree (2:16 17) concerns the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But the punishment for disregarding this prohibition is said to be death (2:17). The ensuing loss of life implies a reference to the tree of life (3:22 24). When the snake makes reference to the divine prohibition in its conversation with the woman, the woman understands this as a general reference to the tree in the center (3:3). Only at the end of the narrative, when it comes to the expulsion from the garden, does the tree of life also come into view. At this point, a narrative constellation seems to become discernible: Once the human being has eaten from the forbidden tree, it acquires a divine feature (3:22: The man is become as one of us, to know good and evil ; cf. 3:5). So that human beings do not become immortal by eating from the tree of life as well, God ultimately expels them from the garden (3:24). Andreas Michel explains the coexistence of the trees in 2:9 by reference to a syntactic peculiarity of the Hebrew, which he characterizes as a split coordination. Within this rhetorical treatment, both trees, the tree of life 2 Compare J. Krašovek, Der Merismus im Biblisch-Hebräischen und Nordwestsemitischen (BiOr 33; Rome: Biblical Institute, 1977), 102; H. N. Wallace, The Eden Narrative (HSM 32; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), ; in contrast, see H. Spieckermann, Ambivalenzen: Ermöglichte und verwirklichte Schöpfung in Gen 2 f., in Verbindungslinien: Festschrift für W. H. Schmidt (eds. A. Graupner, H. Delkurt, A. B. Ernst; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2000), , 367, who retains the qualifying meaning of the expression. 3 compare Prov 13:12 + tree of life; compare 3:18; 11:30; and 15:4; as well as D. Carr, The Politics of Textual Subversion: A Diachronic Perspective on the Garden of Eden Story, JBL 112 (1993): , 589; K. Schmid, Die Unteilbarkeit der Weisheit: Überlegungen zur sogenannten Paradieserzählung Gen 2 f. und ihre theologische Tendenz, ZAW 114 (2002): Translation: G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1 15 (WBC 1; Waco: Word Books, 1987), It should be noted that waw waw in the sense of as well, as or in sapiential language as waw adaequationis is to be understood comparatively (P. Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, part 3: Syntax [SubBib 14/2; Rome: Pontificio istituto Biblico, 1991], 174h with examples). Illustrative waw would be an option as well (see Davidson s Introductory Grammar - Syntax [ed. J. C. L. Gibson; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994], 37 with reference to Ps 74:11; 85:9 etc.).
7 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 269 and the tree of knowledge, stand in the center of the garden. Both are made to stand out from the other trees in the garden, mentioned at the beginning of 2:9, but each is in focus at different points in the narrative. The tree of knowledge (reprise v. 15) is more important in v. 9, and thus is emphasized in the narrative by its placement at the end of the verse, whereas the tree of life, which is named first, becomes meaningful only in Gen 3:22 23, i. e., at the end of the story. 6 This segmentation of focus finds its linguistic condensation in the adverbial phrase, which serves as a blocking clause in the text. 7 The two objects, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, are separated by a locative expression, which applies to both trees. The Greek translators seem not to have understood this Hebrew construction. They understood the locative phrase as a reference to the tree of life and treated the tree of knowledge as a second tree. By implication, they understood absolute divine knowledge to be precluded for human beings; what is available to them is no more than the knowledge of what is discernible of good and evil (Gen 2:9 LXX). 8 Other approaches to the diverse tree-designations in Gen 2:9 have arisen within the field of literary criticism. 9 Many exegetes have treated the tree of life as a later gloss, added to the original text, and have seen the tree of knowledge as original to the narrative; alternatively, some exegetes have reversed 6 For the phenomenon of the nominal clause with riving locative as a rule compare A. Michel, Theologie aus der Peripheri: Die gespaltene Koordination im Biblischen Hebräisch (BZAW 25; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1997), 1 22: The locative in einer längeren Aufzählung soll sich syntaktisch-semantisch nicht auf die ganze Kette der gereihten Glieder beziehen. Die Stellung des Lokativs am Satzende hätte demgegenüber den Nachteil, erheblich mehrdeutiger zu sein. Völlig unmöglich, weil in fehlleitender Weise eindeutig, wäre gar die Voranstellung des Lokativs vor alle drei direkten Objekte. (20) 7 Compare Michel, Theologie, , The extension τοῦ εἰδέναι γνωστὸν καλοῦ καὶ πονεροῦ ensures that it does not imply divine awareness, but rather a bounded knowledge of good and evil: the tree of knowing what is to be known of good and evil (S. Brayford, Genesis [SEPT; Leiden: Brill, 2007], 229); see J. W. Wevers, Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis (SCS 35; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993), 26 7; M. Rösel, Übersetzung als Vollendung der Auslegung: Studien zur Genesis-Septuaginta (BZAW 223; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1994), 63. Targum Onkelos supplements: and the tree of whose fruit they who eat know between good and evil. 9 Schmid, Unteilbarkeit, 31 32; furthermore idem, Loss of Immortality: Hermeneutical Aspects of Genesis 2 3 and Its Early Receptions, in Beyond Eden: The Biblical Story of Paradise (Genesis 2 3) and Its Reception History (eds. K. Schmid and C. Riedweg; FAT II/34; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2008), 58 78, 64. Gertz argues that the linguistic evidence does not solve the problem of ambiguity in Gen 3:3 the question of which of the trees in the center of the garden is forbidden and neither does it verify the originality of the phrase. However, it does render it linguistically possible and therefore rebuts the older claim of a doublet (J. C. Gertz, Von Adam zu Enosch: Überlegungen zur Entstehungsgeschichte von Genesis 2 4, in Gott und Mensch im Dialog: Festschrift fur Otto Kaiser zum 80. Geburstag [ed. M. Witte; BZAW 345/I, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004]: , 228; see P. Kübel, Metamorphosen der Paradieserzählung [OBO 231; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 2007], 88).
8 270 Michaela Bauks the status of the two trees. 10 A third approach has considered whether both trees might not be conceived as one and the same, merged in the center of the garden. 11 Through the approach of tradition history, we may be able to address the problem of the two trees. A traditio-historical comparison may be able to remedy the suspicion of literary disunity and competing motif-constellations by reconstructing an iconographic field connected to the field of literary motifs. This approach suggests new levels of signification for the paradise story, moving it away from its Augustinian heritage as a narration of the fall of mankind, while addressing its original ancient Near Eastern context. In so doing, it is methodologically appropriate to examine the iconographic evidence separate from that of the literary text before considering the significance of each. 1. Iconographic evidence In ancient Near Eastern art, trees were often stylized, by being drawn in composite form. Palm trees, terebinths, sycamores, pines, and cedars served as patterns for these artificial trees, which were sometimes fortified with lotus blossoms or pomegranates or provided with palmettes. 12 The interpretation of these composite trees varies from case to case, but research indicates the following basic structures for the interpretation: 10 Compare K. Budde, Die biblische Paradiesgeschichte (BZAW 60; Gießen: A. Töpelmann, 1932), 16 and H. Gressmann, Die Paradiessage, in Festgabe A. von Harnack (Tübingen: Mohr, 1921): 24 42, esp ), and H. Pfeiffer, Der Baum in der Mitte des Gartens: Zum überlieferungsgeschichtlichen Ursprung der Paradieserzählung (Gen 2,4b 3,24), Teil I: Analyse, ZAW 112 (2000): , 491, with nn , whereas Pfeiffer (referring to H. Holzinger, Genesis [KHC I; Tübingen: Mohr, 1898]) considers the tree of life to be the original. 11 See above, n. 5, for the illustrative waw. On the position of a single tree, see U. Winter, Der Lebensbaum im alten Testament und die Ikonographie des stilisierten Baumes in Kanaan/ Israel, in Das Kleid der Erde: Pflanzen in der Lebenswelt des alten Israel (eds. U. Neumann- Gorsolke and P. Riede; Stuttgart/Neukirchen-Vluyn: Calwer/Neukirchener Verlag, 2002), , 155; see Wallace, Eden, 102 3, : the association of the tree of life and the tree of knowledge which gives wisdom is a traditional feature of the story ; and T. N. D. Mettinger, The Eden Narrative: A Literary and Religio-historical Study of Genesis 2 3 (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 60: The tree of knowledge served as the test case; the tree of life was the potential reward if the humans passed the test. For the exegesis of Gen 2:9, see more extensively M. Bauks, Der Garten in Eden und seine Bäume: Ein Beitrag zur biblischen Symbolsprache, in Zur Kulturgeschichte der Botanik (ed. M. Bauks and M. F. Meyer; Trier: Universitätsverlag, 2012), 33 62, esp See M. Metzger, Der Weltenbaum in vorderorientalischer Bildtradition, in Unsere Welt, Gottes Schöpfung: Eberhard Wolfel zum 65. Geburstag am 16. April 1992 (eds. W. Härle, M. Marquardt and W. Nethöfel; Marburg: Elwert, 1992), 1 34, 2 3, for a discussion of the question of the art form of the palmette of palms, lilies, lotus or papyrus. Globe-cut trees, those cultivated in a spherical shape, were most likely broadleaf trees. A. Moortgat names a few examples of Assyrian glyptic from the 13 th and 12 th centuries B. C. E. that depict holy trees with caprids or hybrid creatures (ZA NF 13  77 concerning VAT 8740 and VAT 8697).
9 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors Trees as symbol of fertility Trees or certain parts of plants can symbolize fertility. A number of objects from the end of the second millennium B. C. E. 13 show a goddess in the Egyptian tradition standing on a lion and holding a snake and one or two plant stalks in her hands. The metaphorical language of the images reveals eroticism and opulence, together with fertility: the breasts, the distinctly marked pubic triangle, as well as the erect penis of the god Min in the Turin stela of the scribe Ramose (figure 1: CGT 50066; Deir el-medina: 19. Dyn.; Ramses II.), 14 which flank the naked goddess, provide broad hints. 15 The lion as an attribute animal as well as the coiffure are indications of the deified status of the figure. It is a fertility goddess of the Qudshu-Type, which was often worshiped together with a storm god. This type of goddess had a broad iconographic development in Canaanite culture, which begins with the goddess holding branches (e. g., Branch Goddess ) and sometimes can indicate a symbiosis between tree and branch (e. g., the Palestinian golden pendant from Tell el- Ajjul). 16 Alternatively the goddess may be replaced by a tree, which references the pubic triangle in its manner of representation, e. g., vascular painting from el-fara a). 17 All these examples have been interpreted in terms of an increasing identification of goddess and vegetal element. Recent research has pointed out the inappropriateness of making a hasty connection between fertility, tree- or cult-pole symbolism, and the representation of a goddess. 18 Identification of the goddess with the hinted references 13 See U. Winter, Frau und Göttin: Exegetische und ikonographische Studien zum weiblichen Gottesbild im Alten Israel und in dessen Umwelt (OBO 53; Fribourg [CH]/Göttingen: Universitätsverlag/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), See O. Keel, Schlangendarstellungen aus Palästina/Syrien, in Das Recht der Bilder gesehen zu werden: Drei Fallstudien zur Methode der Interpretation altorientalischer Bilder (ed. O. Keel; OBO 122; Fribourg: Universitätsverlag, 1992), , 243, illus. 211, and 203 with n. 439 (first publication by M. Tosi and A. Roccati, Stele e altre epigrafi di Deir el-medine n n , in Catalogo del Museo Egizio di Torino II/1; [Torino: Edizioni d Arte Fratelli Pozzo, 1972], 102 3). 15 I. Cornelius, The Many Faces of the Goddess: The Iconography of the Syro-Palestinian Goddesses Anat, Astarte, Qedeshet, and Asherah, c B. C. E. (OBO 204; Fribourg [CH]/Göttingen: Universitätsverlag/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004), 123 (BM EA 191), 104 (bibliography), 123 (BM EA 191). The inscription of the lower register has an inscription kšt nbt pt Ke(d)eshet, lady of heaven, presenting a goddess of the Qudshu-type, sometimes identified with Asherah. See J. A. Hadley, The Cult of Asherah in Ancient Israel and Judah: Evidence for a Hebrew Goddess (Cambridge: University Press, 2000), 46 49, , which has been called into question (see Cornelius, Many Faces, 91, 95). 16 O. Keel and C. Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses and Images of God in Ancient Israel (trans. T. H. Trapp; Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1998), 26 28, (+ bibliography). 17 Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, 72; see Winter, Frau, with illus. 451; Schroer, Bilder, 40 with illus See the critique of C. Frevel, Aschera und der Ausschließlichkeitsanspruch YHWHs (BBB 94/2; Weinheim: Beltz, 1995), , and the replica of O. Keel, Goddesses and Trees, New Moon and Yahweh: Ancient Near Eastern Art and the Hebrew Bible (JSOTSup 261; Sheffield:
10 272 Michaela Bauks Figure 1: Turin stela of the scribe Ramose (CGT 50066; Deir el-medina: 19 th dyn.; Ramses II); source: O. Keel, Schlangendarstellungen aus Palästina/Syrien, in Das Recht der Bilder gesehen zu werden: Drei Fallstudien zur Methode der Interpretation altorientalischer Bilder (ed. O. Keel; OBO 122; Fribourg [CH]: Universitätsverlag, 1992), (243, illus. 211).
11 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 273 to an Asherah (goddess or cult-pole) in the Hebrew Bible 19 is problematic, especially given the general absence of epigraphic pointers toward a decisive identification. 20 Disputation similarly surrounds the claim that the stylized tree with caprids took the place of the goddess in the first millennium, as evidenced by Pithos A from Kuntillet Ajrud (8 th cent.; figure 2). 21 The jug painting has been treated as significant, despite its possibly coincidental composition of motifs. 22 Here again the lion appears as an attribute animal, together with caprids, who flank a very stylized tree with lotus leaves. This may reflect a typical image composition of fertility-symbolism, possibly hinting at a substituted goddess, complemented by an attached single motif. A blessing formula, which accompanies the composition, mentions the Israelite god YHWH and his Asherah. 23 Understandably, some scholars have treated this evidence as a reference to a fertility goddess or a numinous power of blessing who was worshiped beside the god of Israel in the 8 th century B. C. E. 24 However, it is also possible that the entire composition of the Pithos developed gradually, so that an original, coherent image-intention cannot be assumed. It is possible that the drawings at hand, as well as a few Palestinian findings with female il- Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 16 55; and idem, Die Geschichte Jerusalems und die Entstehung des Monotheismus, part I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007), See Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, ; and, critically, Frevel, Aschera, For a critique, compare S. A. Wiggins, Of Asherahs and Trees: Some Methodological Questions, JANER 1 (2001): But Keel, Goddesses and Trees, 37 38, points out that even in the Egyptian context (see below) the existing names remain ambiguous, which makes identification with a specific goddess impossible. 21 For the illustration, see Schroer, Bilder, 38; 513 with illus. 10 (first publication by P. Beck, The Drawings of Horvat Teiman [Kuntillet Ajrud], Tel Aviv 9 (1982): 3 68, spec. 7 fig. 4). The image motif of a tree with caprids is older: see also Metzger, Weltenbaum, 13 19; Winter, Frau, , with several iconographic examples from the 3 rd millennium forward. For a thorough description of the image composition on both pithoi, compare Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, (+ bibliography); for a rejection of the goddess-symbol interpretation, see J. Jeremias and F. Hartenstein, JHWH und seine Aschera : Offizielle Religion und Volksreligion zur Zeit der klassischen Propheten, in Religionsgeschichte Israels: Formale und materiale Aspekte (eds. B. Janowski and M. Köckert; VWGT 15; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlag, 1999), , They advocate an abstract interpretation in the sense of Lebens- und Nahrungsfülle sowie übernatürlicher Schönheit in the context of royal cult (100). 22 Compare Jeremias and Hartenstein, JHWH und seine Aschera, 88 89; see also P. Beck, The Drawings from Horvat Teiman (Kuntillet Ajrud), Tel Aviv 9 (1982): However the lion is usually associated with goddesses of the Qudshu-type (often holding a lotus and snake in the hand), who are not identifiable in any definite way with Asherah; see Frevel, Aschera, , (with bibliography); Cornelius, Faces of Goddesses, 45 48, 78 79, 83 84, (catalogue). 24 E. g., S. Ackerman, Under Every Green Tree: Popular Religion in Sixth-Century Judah (HSM 46; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992), 190, who connects Gen 2 3 with tree-iconography and the Ashera-polemic in biblical texts: terebinths are frequently mentioned in conjunction with the fertility cult practiced under sacred trees (Hos 4:12 13 ). This should further confirm the association of the goddess Asherah with sacred trees. Finally, I might note Genesis 2 3, for it has been suggested that the character of Eve in that story mimics in some respects the goddess Asherah. If so, then the role of the tree of life/tree of knowledge in that story is significant.
12 274 Michaela Bauks Figure 2: Pithos A from Kuntillet Ajrud (8 th cent.); source: S. Schroer, In Israel gab es Bilder: Nachrichten von darstellender Kunst im Alten Testament (OBO 44; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987), 513 with illus. 10. lustrations, might reflect not a divine character but rather an image of female worshippers. 25 Other aspects of tree-symbolism, beyond fertility, are also relevant. This is especially evident in the plant-related depictions connected to goddesses in the Egyptian mortuary cult, especially since the New Empire. In this context, we find evidence for the motif of the tree-goddess 26 in connection with different female gods (for example Nut, 27 Isis, Hathor, 28 and others), 25 Compare T. Frymer-Kensky, In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth (New York: Ballantine, 1992), ; I. Cornelius, In Search of the Goddess in Ancient Palestinian Iconography, in Israel zwischen den Mächten: Festschrift Für Stefan Timm zum 65. Geburtstag (eds. M. Pietsch and F. Hartenstein; Münster: LIT, 2009), 77 98, and following. 26 O. Keel, Ägyptische Baumgöttinnen, in: idem, Das Recht der Bilder gesehen zu werden (OBO 122; Fribourg [CH]/Göttingen: Universitätsverlag/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), N. Billing, Writing an Image: The Formulation of the Tree Goddess Motif in the Book of the Dead, Ch. 59, SAK 32 (2004): See R. Moftah, Die uralte Sykomore und andere Erscheinungsformen der Hathor, ZÄS 92 (1965):
13 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 275 who were often associated with garden scenes as a symbol of nutritive or regenerating aspects within the decoration of tombs. Specific tree representations (e. g., sycamores 29 and date trees 30 ), which symbolize a fertile garden landscape, join stylized and less specifically identifiable tree representations. Occasionally they hint at a personification of a divine power by anthropomorphic attributes like an arm, female breast or the like, which in the context of the mortuary cult sustain the dead in the hereafter in particular ways (e. g., tomb of Thutomosis III.; 18 th dyn.). 31 According to a representation in the tomb of Sennedjem (18 th dyn.; figure 3), 32 the sky goddess Nut the Great is herself depicted as a tree goddess, who gives food and water to secure the journey to the hereafter (cf. TB 59). Thus the plant symbolism attached to female goddesses could be used in different ways: in the ancient Near East in the sense of eroticism and fertility, in Egypt in the sense of nutrition and continuous supply Trees as symbol of King s rule and Power to Bless A second important aspect of tree symbolism relates to kingship. On a cultstand from Taanach (9 th cent. B. C. E.; figure 4), 34 the motif of a stylized tree flanked by caprids is found. This image composition has been interpreted as evidence for a goddess fertility cult. 35 But in this case the motif is extended, with the presence of two lions, pictured frontally in a rather aggressive pose. 29 See C. Leitz, Art. nht Sykomore, in Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen, Bd. 4 (ed. C. Leitz; OLA 114; Leuven: Peeters, 2002), , : with the same hieroglyphic spelling but a different determinative, nht can designate protection and can be attributed to goddesses. 30 See the examples in C. Leitz, Art. nht Sykomore, I. Gamer-Wallert, Art. Baum, heiliger, in Lexikon der Ägyptologie (7 vols.; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1975), ; see also, with more detail, Keel, Baumgöttinnen, 63 64, In the opinion of J. Krispenz, Wie viele Bäume braucht das Paradies? Erwägungen zu Gen II 4B-III 24, VT 54 (2004): , this idea has found its expression in Gen See Keel, Baumgöttinnen, 124, with illus. 77 (drawn by H. Keel-Leu); and 84, with n. 268 (bibliography); first publication by W. Westendorf, Das Alte Ägypten (Baden-Baden 1968), Frymer-Kensky brings the Egyptian closer to the Persian tradition. She interprets the pillar figurines found in Jerusalem and Samaria not as goddesses of fertility (dea nutrix; compare Winter, Frau, 107 9; Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, 325; Keel, Die Geschichte Jerusalems, 481), but as a symbol of fertility, a kind of tangible prayer for fertility and nourishment, which she also sees in the tree imagery in the tomb of Thutmoses III (In the Wake, 160); but Keel and Uehlinger are sceptical of any traditio-historical connection between the Egyptian and the Palestinian objects because of the temporal distance between them (Gods, Goddesses, ). 34 Schroer, Bilder, 514, illus. 13 and Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, 179, illus. 184; first publication by K. Galling, Biblisches Reallexikon (HAT I/1; Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, ), 191, illus. 45,3. 35 R. Hestrin, The Lachisch Ewer and the Ashera, IEJ 37 (1987): ; cf. Frymer-Kensky, In the Wake, 160; a more careful view is found in Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, ; see also the critique of Frevel, Aschera,
14 276 Michaela Bauks Figure 3: tomb of Sennedjem (18 th dyn., Thebes West); source: O. Keel, Baumgöttinnen, 124, with illus. 77 (drawn by H. Keel-Leu). Figure 4: cult-stand from Ta anach (9 th cent. B. C. E.); source: Keel and Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, 179, illus The lion as an attribute animal has already been mentioned above (see illus. 1), but this cult-stand appears to offer a rather different representation. The whole ensemble consists of four registers: The lower part shows a female figure, lacking any definite, visible divine attributes. The flanking lions are neither depicted as animals upon which the divinity stands nor as animals conquered by a goddess ( mistress of wilderness ). 36 Rather, they face the viewer in 36 Similarly, see Keel, Goddesses and Trees, 41; compare W. Zwickel, Die Kultständer aus Taanach, in Taanach / Tell Ta annek: 100 Jahre Forschungen zur Archäologie, zur Geschichte,
15 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 277 a quite aggressive manner, serving the function of guard animals. This figure thus may represent a woman or worshipper, presented on the bottom stage of a holy district. The next register allows an interpretation of the lions as guard animals. Lions, sphinxes, and other hybrid beings are often positioned at the entrances to palaces or temples to serve an apotropaic function, protecting the temple or palace from hostile attacks. The tree of life in the next upper register symbolizes benedictory mediation, in the sense of the fertility and wealth that are to be defended, and not of a goddess of fertility for instance. This wealth derives from the deity symbolized in the uppermost register. An attribute animal, not clearly identifiable as a bull or a horse, stands underneath the winged sun between two volute capitals and caprids at a sacred space, which could belong to a weather god (Baal-type) worshiped as a king-god. 37 The iconography of this cult-stand has been interpreted as a sacred space in a temple with different levels. If this interpretation is right, then the image composition provides another understanding of holy trees: they no longer imply a goddess, who guarantees the fertility of vegetation, but instead reflect a concept of space, which traces the series of steps into the sanctuary of a king-god. 38 The underlying royal cultic concept can also be identified in parallels in Neo-Assyrian palaces of the first millennium. Palace entrances are marked by very impressive hybrid creatures, the so-called genii, which are composed of human heads, lion-claws, bull-bodies and eagle feathers. The Neo-Assyrian palace reliefs consist of a symbolism of power in a very compromised way, which hints at the important position of the human king. The reliefs include large numbers of stylized trees (Nimrud; Assurnasirpal II., British Museum ANE ), 39 on which hybrid creatures (this time with bird heads) carry out ritual acts. In the left hand the creatures hold an unidentifiable vessel; with the right hand they touch a date tree bearing a sort of cone, reminiscent of the fruit of a conifer. The cone is not compatible with the date tree, which for its part is surrounded by additional palms or stylized palmettes. 40 Assyriologists have supposed that this imagery represents a nazu den Fundobjekten und zu den Keilschrifttexten (ed. S. Kreuzer; WAS 5; Wien/Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2006), The peculiar hand position of the female figure renders this interpretation less than convincing; see Frevel, Aschera, 831, with n. 426; Jeremias and Hartenstein, JHWH und seine Aschera, The identification of the animal remains uncertain; it could also, theoretically, point toward the goddess-symbolism of Anat or Astarte (the horse). 38 Jeremias and Hartenstein, JHWH und seine Aschera, 95 96, with reference to P. Beck, The Cult-Stands from Taanach: Aspects of Iconographic Tradition of Early Iron Age Cult Objects in Palestine, in From Nomadism to Monarchy (eds. J. Finkelstein and N. Na aman; Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1994), The assignment of the sanctuary to a certain deity remains uncertain; see Frevel, Aschera, , , for a variety of suggestions (+ bibliography). 39 Cf. M. Giovino, The Assyrian Sacred Tree: A History of Interpretations (OBO 230; Fribourg [CH]/Göttingen, 2007), pl For the common attempts to treat this as a network of irrigation canals, and as a wellordered date palm orchard (E. Porada), compare B. N. Porter, The Meaning of the Assyr-
16 278 Michaela Bauks tive practice of artificial insemination of the bisexual type of palm, to increase its potential for economic profit. Two observations speak against a mere profane interpretation: On the one hand such expansive date groves were unknown for climatic reasons in this region of Assyria (present-day northern Iraq). The image motif therefore might be imported from the Babylonian culture, situated in the south, and thus might be understood in a metaphoric sense. 41 On the other hand the images provide evidence for mythical thinking, in the presence of the guardian creatures, which do not, for example, represent human gardeners. The symbolism here is one of abundance and blessing, marked by the stylized trees and their nurturing mythical creatures. 42 The bird-headed creatures are Apkallus, the so-called sages of primitive times, minor divinities as the protectors and providers of agricultural abundance, and by extension, as the bestowers of the secure and abundant life that agricultural success provides. 43 A similar form of depiction within the palaces shows the Assyrian King Assurnasirpal II, followed by genies (this time with human heads and crowns made from horns; figure 5; British Museum ANE ) 44 at a stylized tree, over which the wing-sun is soaring. It thus becomes apparent that: Compositionally, also, the organizing principles are clear: axial symmetry governs the placement of the tree at the center; the repetition of figures on either side maintains the axis and absolute balance. The priority of figures moves in to the center and then up: from the genii at the far sides, to the king in his role as maintainer, to the central tree, and then to the god in the winged disk, set precisely on the axis. 45 As on the cult-stand of Taanach, the winged sun symbolizes the deity of the kingdom. Here it is the main God Assur, whose successful benedictory power 46 ian Tree Image: Iconographic Evidence, in Trees, Kings, and Politics: Studies in Assyrian Iconography (ed. B. N. Porter; OBO 197; Fribourg [CH]/Göttingen: Universitätsverlag/Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003), 21 28, Compare B. N. Porter, Sacred Trees and Date Palms. The Royal Persona of Assurnasirpal II, in Trees, Kings, and Politics, 11 20, esp ; the highly stylized date palm tree is an emblem of agricultural abundance as a divine gift (18). 42 U. Seidl and W. Sallaberger, Der Heilige Baum, AfO 51 (2006): The authors prefer to construe the holy trees as a cultic pole, which has an apotropaic effect and evokes the protection of life; it is identified literarily with the function of the gatekeeper (sum. gi urigallu) in rituals. 43 Porter, Meaning of the Assyrian Tree Image, 25; compare J. Black and A. Green, eds., Gods, Demons, and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary (Austin: University Press, 1992), ; B. Foster, Wisdom and the Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia, Or 43 (1974): Porter, The Meaning of the Assyrian Tree Image,, 7 fig. 2; cf. Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, pl I. Winter, The Program of the Throneroom of Assurnasirpal II, in Essays on Near Eastern Art and Archaeology in Honor of Charles Kyrle Wilkinson (eds. P. O. Harper and H. Pittman; New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983), 15 32, Porter, Meaning of the Assyrian Tree Image,
17 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 279 Figure 5: North western palace of Ashurnasirpal II. at Nimrud/Kalhu (9 th cent. B. C. E.); source: B. N. Porter, The Meaning of the Assyrian Tree Image: Iconographic Evidence, in B. N. Porter, Trees, Kings, and Politics: Studies in Assyrian Iconography (OBO 197; Fribourg [CH]: Universitätsverlag, 2003), 7, fig. 2 (extract) and protection of the world order 47 are expressed in the tree-motif. The stereometry of the scene as well as the gesture of the King, who is not fertilizing the tree but is being ritually cleansed in his function by the genies, 48 implies a new sense for the picture: it now relates to the presentation of the King, his benediction, and the power that he receives from his god and that he himself represents. The image of cosmic fertility here is politicized. It is not the tree as a cultic symbol that stands in the centre, but similar to the cult stand from Taanach the divinized solar disk, which is carried on the stylized tree or cult pole. 49 The trees quite evidently depict numinous symbols of power; they may represent the presence of a deity, precisely a goddess, or they may point to the beneficent kingship. The first form of depiction has a cosmic dimension, the second a social dimension. 47 See also S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (SAA X; Helsinki: University Press, 1993), xxi xxii; see idem, The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy, JNES 52 (1993): See Seidl and Sallaberger, Baum, Seidl speaks of a Fächervolutenpfosten (= fan-shaped volute-pole) as an ursprünglich kunstvoll aus Schilf geknüpftem Kultmittel, das rituell eingesetzt wird. Er gewährt Mensch und Tier magischen Schutz und bietet dem Sonnengott einen Erscheinungsplatz ( Baum, 60).
18 280 Michaela Bauks 1.3. Trees as marker of a holy place In a third conception, the trees stand as markers of a holy place, a place where God and humans meet. 50 In other cultures, holy groves or certain common tree species are dedicated to gods. 51 Greek sources in particular identify holy groves of olives, pines and cypresses, and oak, laurel, or fruit trees, which were planted and enclosed (Temenos) outside the cities as late as the classical period and which served as sites for cultic rituals. 52 Iconographic and literary evidence comments on trees whose roots extend into the deep and constitute the hub of the world (Omphalos). 53 With regard to the cultures of the ancient Near East, we find mention of the so-called world tree. Gardens, furthermore, represent a sacred space and may be imbued with a sacral character. In them the existing world is shown en miniature in an ideal way or is paradigmatically recreated. The Assyrian temple garden from Nineveh (BM ; 7 th century B. C. E.; figure 6) 54 serve as a model iconographically: it reflects that the garden was functional, but also the idea of the garden as symbol of life. 55 More controversial is the connection of these images to the Pardes or Paradeisos, or Persian vegetable garden, which was laid out in the style of an exotic, fenced in tree- and wildlife park and initially used for royal hunting. 56 At least in the reception of Greek authors like Herodotus, Xenophon, and oth- 50 See I. Kottsieper, Bäume als Kultort, in Das Kleid der Erde: Pflanzen in der Lebenswelt des alten Israel (eds. U. Neumann-Gorsolke and P. Riede; Stuttgart/Neukirchen-Vluyn: Calwer/Neukirchener Verlag, 2002), On Greek cult-groves and holy trees documented since pre-classical times (e. g., the palm tree near the altar of Apollo on Delos [Od f.]; the Athena-sanctuary in the land of the Phaiakians [Od ff.]; or the sacred place of Aphrodite [Saph , frag. 2]), compare M. Carroll-Spiellecke, Griechische Gärten, in Der Garten von der Antike bis zum Mittelalter (ed. idem; KAW 57; Mainz: Zabern, 1992), , Caroll-Spiellecke, Griechische Gärten, 163, with some examples. 53 See J.-P. Vernant, Myth and Thought among the Greeks (London: Routledge 1983), 146: The omphalos is a protuberance in the ground or an ovoid stone which is associated with the earth and is occasionally styled ge, and it represents at one and the same time a central point, a tomb, and a storehouse of souls and of life. Within the Adyton of the Apollosanctuary of Delphi, the site from which the Pythia received their oracles, there is a central cult-pole in the form of a stone. See G. Gruben, Griechische Tempel und Heiligtümer (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, ), 68; V. Rosenberger, Griechische Orakel: Eine Einführung (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001), , for the mythological reference to Delphi as the center of the world. 54 Keel, Die Geschichte Jerusalems, 328 with illus. 232; first publication by R. D. Barnett and W. Forman, Assyrische Palastreliefs (Prag: ARTIA, 1959), illus See I. Cornelius, Paradise Motifs in the Eschatology of the Minor Prophets and the Iconography of the Ancient Near East, JNSL 14 (1988): 41 83, See T. S. Kawami, Antike persische Gärten, in Der Garten von der Antike bis zum Mittelalter (ed. M. Carroll-Spiellecke; KAW 57; Mainz: Zabern, 1992), 81 99, 93 96; see also J. N. Bremmer, Paradise: From Persia, via Greece, into the Septuagint, in Paradise Interpreted: Representations of Biblical Paradise in Judaism and Christianity (ed. G. P. Luittikhuizen; TBN 2; Leiden: Brill, 1999), 1 20; see 1 5 for the semantic derivations.
19 Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors 281 Figure 6: Assyrian temple garden from Nineveh (BM ; 7 th century B. C. E.); source: O. Keel, Die Geschichte Jerusalems, 328 with illus ers, Persian kings came to be portrayed as royal gardeners, with the garden much like Neo-Assyrian temple gardens imagined as a holy space. 57 Traditio-historically the images of holy trees can be described as timetranscending motifs of ancient Near Eastern pictorial art (A. Moortgat), 58 images that are documented in different epochs and across regions. Whatever innate meaning they bear is ambiguous, and they are subjected to processes of transformation across time and culture. 59 Common to all the different examples is the thematic reference to divine life-giving and guarantee of blessing. 2. Tree of Life, world tree and other sacred trees in the biblical and extrabiblical literature Much attention has been paid to the concept of sacred trees in the sense of a world tree or cosmic tree, as well as in the category of a tree of life. Here we encounter a problem of terminology: these terms are not native in ancient 57 P. Briant, Histoire de l Empire Perse: De Cyrus à Alexandre (Paris: Fayard, 1996). He argues for a mythical understanding of royal gardens (244 50; with text samples), as well as for an expanded meaning for the vegetable garden (456 58; with text samples). 58 Cf. A. Moortgat, Tammuz: Der Unsterblichkeitsglaube in der Altorientalischen Bildkunst (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1949), See Jeremias and Hartenstein, JHWH und seine Aschera, 110.
20 282 Michaela Bauks Near Eastern languages. Both world tree and cosmic tree are modern coinages, unlike tree of life, which can be deduced terminologically from several literary contexts. In academic research the terms also have been used in the context of political power, sustenance, and life-increase, as well as in matters of life and death. 60 Therefore it is not unproblematic to frame discussion using these terms, however well they may be disseminated; for this reason scholars have repeatedly suggested avoiding these terms and speaking instead of a sacred or cultic tree Literary parallels to the tree of life Life : prevention of death or rejuvenation? A plant of life (šamme balāṭi) appears in the medical texts of Mesopotamia. 62 Mythical narrations, too, speak of a plant of life or rather a plant of rejuvenation, whose basic substance remains secret. 63 In the myth of Innana s journey to the netherworld, the plant and water of life lead to the resuscitation of the goddess and enable her to return from the netherworld to her mundane realm. 64 The term also appears in a series of Mesopotamian names for kings and, in an allegorized form, for kingdom descriptions in Neo-Assyrian royal inscriptions. 65 The Epic of Gilgamesh (tab. XI) deals with that king of Uruk s vain quest for immortality. In the context of his search he meets the immortal human Utnapishtim, who advises him to bring out the plant of rejuvenation from the 60 V. Haas, Geschichte der hethitischen Religion (HdO 15, Leiden: Brill, 1994), 147 identifies the tree of life and the world tree with each other. 61 Compare H. Genge, Zum Lebensbaum in den Keilschriftkulturen, AcOr 33 (1971): , 334; Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, Compare M. Stol, Art. Pflanzenkunde B, in Reallexikon für Assyriologie (16 vols.; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2005): , with reference to a description in DADP 33, Rs. 12, and K. Watanabe, Lebensspendende und todbringende Substanzen in Altmesopotamien, BagM 25 (1994): , , The question of whether kiškanu-trees also belong in this context is controversial; see Wallace, Eden, 106 n. 15; and Genge, Lebensbaum, , who distinguishes between evidence for the world-tree and that for the tree of life. Similarly, see Giovino, Assyrian Sacred Tree, , who regards them as cultic trees, which appear as decoration, together with guardian gods in mythical places like the doorway of apsû or a sacred grove. 63 See K. Watanabe, Substanzen, , who brings up evidence for a herb of life (sum. ú.nam.ti.la/akk. balāṭu) separate from the herb of childbirth (šamme šá a-la-di); e. g. Etana- Epic, l Genge also names several examples that he distinguishes as strictly separate from the tree of life ( Lebensbaum, ). 64 Innana s journey to the netherworld, l. 66; 224; 252; 280, and Adapa-Myth, l (food and waters of life). For more intertextual references cf. G. Selz, Texts, Textual Bilinguism and the Evolution of Mesopotamian Hermeneutics, in Between Text and Text: The Hermeneutics of Intertextuality in Ancient Cultures and Their Afterlife in Medieval and Modern Times (eds. M. Bauks, A. Lange, and W. Horowitz, JAJSup 6; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013), 47 65, spec See Watanabe, Substanzen,