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Death and the Garden : : An Examination of Original Immortality, Vegetarianism, and Animal Peace in the Hebrew Bible and Mesopotamia


The notion of a primeval paradise is often associated with the absence of death for both humans and animals. Humans are envisioned as immortal, both humans and animals are restricted to a vegetarian diet, and all live together in perfect peace. This dissertation is an examination of whether texts in Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible portray the initial created state as characterized by immortality, vegetarianism, and animal peace. In other words (using the familiar image from Gen 2-3), was there death in the garden? An analysis of the relevant texts indicates that such a view of the original created state is not present in Mesopotamian literature or the Hebrew Bible. Neither describe humans as created immortal, although in the Hebrew Bible the presence of the tree of life complicates the picture since it provides for the possibility of living forever. Neither restrict original human or animal diets to vegetation. And neither portray a time of perfect peace between humans and animals or among animals themselves. The level and nature of the conflict may change, but it was always present. Mesopotamian literature is studied first, followed by the Hebrew Bible. A general examination of the initial created state precedes the study of particular relevant texts and provides necessary background material. The texts are then extensively analyzed in their specifics and their context. The Mesopotamian texts include sections from The Gilgamesh Epic, Atrahasis, The Death of Bilgames, Enki and Ninhursaga, and Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta. The texts from the Hebrew Bible include Gen 1:28-30, 2-3, 6:1-4, 9:1 -7, and Isa 11:1-9. There is also an appendix on meat- eating in ancient Israel and an appendix on Greco-Roman literature relevant to original vegetarianism and animal peace

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