Christianity Rests on Assyrian Ground

10/30/2010 5:49:00 PM
Please look closely at these three crosses! The first is a 6000 years old Ninurta cross next to the tree of life, the one in the middle is sitting on a church wall in Turabdin and the one to the far right is carved on the altar wall of the newly built St Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church in Paris. In the background is the Assyrian King Shamshi Adad V (823-811 BC) with Ninurta

Have you ever wondered why the Assyrians as a people are among the most devoted Christians? In fact, Christianity’s basic foundation is so deeply ingrained in our lives that we often have felt as one with our faith. But why is that?

The answer is simple but at the same time a surprise, we have had this same faith for more than six thousand years. When we became Christians we changed the name of various concepts, but continued to practice the same faith and beliefs about the creation of the universe. In other words, the basic ideology of Christianity is based on Assyrian and Sumerian belief, claims journalist Augin Kurt as he reflects on the relationship between Christianity and the religion of the ancient Assyrians.

“The Assyrians were monotheists before Christ and Christians after him, and the past therefore led on to the present without a break.”, according to Patricia Crone and Michael Cook in their book Hagarism from

1977.[1]

The Assyrians believed in the almighty god Ashur, who was formed by nine different characters. They also had the Trinity as the basis of their faith. According to ancient Assyrian belief, it was through the Trinity that the balance of the cosmos was maintained, i.e. through the father and mother in heaven together with the Assyrian king as their representative on earth. When the foundations of Christianity were established during the childhood of the new doctrine, the Assyrian representatives made sure that the Trinity was incorporated into the tenets of the Christian faith. Simo Parpola, Professor of Assyriology at the University of Helsinki, wrote the following on the origins of Trinity in his article Son of God[2]:

"Since the human king, in contrast to gods, was made of flesh and blood, his consubstantiality with god of course has to be understood spiritually: It did not reside in his physical but in his spiritual nature, that is, in his psyche or soul. He thus was an entity composed of both matter and divine essence. This sounds very like the doctrine of homoousios enunciated at the Council of Nicaea in 325, in which Jesus is said to be "of the same substance" as the Father. According to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the eponymous hero, a "perfect king," was two thirds god and one third man.

Ishtar, the divine mother of the king, was the wife of Ashur, the supreme god of the empire, defined in Assyrian sources as the “sum total of gods” and the only true god. Ashur was thus, by implication, the “heavenly father” of the king, while the latter was his “son” in human form. The Father-Mother-Son triad constituted by Ashur, Ishtar and the king reminds one of the Holy Trinity of Christianity, where the Son, according to Athanasius, is “the selfsame Godhead as the Father, but that Godhead manifested rather than immanent.”

In the same manner, the symbols of the four evangelists are directly taken from the most famous Assyrian symbol, the winged bull Lamassu, according to Parpola’s research. The Gospels are commonly ranged in the following order: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are in turn assigned the following symbols (in this exact order): man, lion, bull and eagle - all four creatures in the same order as in the Assyrian original. It may seem like a coincidence, but why was not for example a horse, a lamb or some other popular animal chosen as a symbol unless the intention was to continue the tradition of the ancient Assyrians? Today, only few people are aware of the link between the ancient Assyrian symbols and the current Christian symbols.

Parpola writes the following about the link between the winged bull and the Bible, as well as the Old and the New Testament:

"In the royal palace, the king lived in a sacred space designed and built after celestial patterns and guarded against the material world by deities and apotropaic figures stationed at its gates and buried in its foundations. Colossal supernatural beings in the shape of a bull, lion, eagle and man, symbolizing the four turning points, guarded its gates. These apotropaic colossi marked the palace as a sacred space and thus may be compared to the four guardians of the divine throne in Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:76, which later re-emerge as symbols of the four evangelists of the New Testament: Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (bull) and John (eagle)."

Another, at least equally interesting, symbol is the cross. A few years ago I was sitting in the living room of an acquaintance, turning some pages in a history book in German called Mesopotamia.[3] I cannot read German and therefore I was mostly looking at the pictures. There, I saw in several places images of clay tablets with the cross in various designs. The caption announced that they were tablets dating back to 4000 BC, i.e. 6000 years back in time. I was puzzled and curious about what our ancestors used the sign of the cross for. The day after, I wrote an e-mail to Professor Simo Parpola, who is the most renowned among all Assyriologists in the world. I wrote among other things the following:

In Turabdin, this kind of sign of the cross often recurs in churches and in church literature and this is surely no coincidence. It must be a direct legacy from our ancestors, just like the Trinity and the Evangelists’ symbols.

I would therefore like to ask you if you, as a scientist, have examined or studied the Sumerian crosses and what they stood for; the four cardinal points? the sun? the four elements?

Simo Parpola answered me the following:

The Assyrian King Shamshi Adad V (823-811 BC) with Ninurta's emblem, the cross, hanging over his chest. Photo: British Museum

Dear Augin,

In the Assyrian empire, the cross as an emblem belonged to the crown prince and his heavenly image, the savior god Ninurta/Nabû, who was elevated to his father’s right hand and omnipotence after his victory over death and the forces of evil and became the proprietor of the “book of life”.

The cross symbolized Ninurta/Nabûs omnipotence as pāqid kiššati, “ruler of the world”, but also his eternity and glory, for it is often depicted in the form of the Maltese Cross, inside the winged sun disk.

Without doubt, this symbolism of the cross, along with many other Assyrian symbols and religious beliefs such as the tree of life, were later adapted by Christianity, which in fact grew on Assyrian ground. A good part of the Assyrian perceptions dates of course back to the Sumerian period.

For details, see my articles and essays. [4]

Sincerely,

Simo Parpola

Parpola’s response was a total surprise, especially if you compare the description of the cross bearer, the son of God, Ninurta, with the description of God’s son Jesus in the Creed; “the savior god Ninurta/Nabû, who was elevated to his father's right hand and omnipotence after his victory over death and the forces of evil. It sure sounds familiar. We say about Jesus in the Christian creed; on the third day he rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of his Father, God almighty“.

Parpola also writes the following about Ninurta in his article Son of God:

"The Ninurta myth is known in numerous versions, but in its essence it is a story of the victory of light over the forces of darkness and death. In all its versions, Ninurta, the son of the divine king, sets out from his celestial home to fight the evil forces that threaten his father’s kingdom. He proceeds against the “mountain” or the “foreign land,” meets the enemy, defeats it and then returns in triumph to his celestial home, where he is blessed by his father and mother. Exalted at their side, Ninurta becomes an omnipotent cosmic accountant of men’s fates."

The cross was thus the emblem of Ninurta. Even today Christians signify the cross as the sign of victory, but there are few linking its significance with Ninurta’s victory over the forces of evil. Not even the Assyrians themselves have been taught this relationship by their scholars. The Christian Assyrian history is full of examples of denial of the pre-Christian era, described as pagan.

But our pre-Christian ancestors were actually no pagans. They believed in an omnipotent god in the same way as the Hebrews did. The Assyrian god Ashur however appeared as nine different characters - all bound together by the love goddess Ishtar. So when the apostle John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8), it has long been an established truth for the Assyrians, who had spread their ideology to every corner of the empire.

About this and many other things around the holy tree of life among the Assyrians, can be read in a longer article by Benjamin Daniali (also inspired by Simo Parpola) on the following link: http://www.assyriatimes.com/engine/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3426. There he explains the numerical system of the different characters of Ashur. Here are some quotations from the article:

"The body of the Assyrian Tree is constructed by nine great gods, all of whom are Ashur’s powers. And Ashur, the creator of himself and the universe is the Almighty God, unseen but existent, Ashur is the source of all manifest divine powers. Ashur could not be known directly neither by human nor even by gods, all of whom he created. His nature is not fully comprehendible, but Ashur is the “sum total” of all gods.

Concerning the connection between Ashur and the Jewish God, Daniali writes the following:

"And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Exodus 3:13)

And Lord replies that His name is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (Hebrew here written from left to right: היהא רשא היהא). How close the name phonetically could be between Ashur and “Asher”? I strongly believe the three Hebrew letters “Aleph”, “Shin”, “Resh” (רשא) could also be pronounced as “Ashur” as the same case implies to the modern Assyrian language” [5]. In the English translation of the Bible, God’s name is completely distorted, while the Assyrian translator has merged the second and third part of the name (see footnote 5). AHYH is also interpreted by some theologians as HUYU, i.e. He who is. In that case, the original meaning may well be: He who is Ashur.

“He is the same God, the God of Assyria, of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. His name is Ashur, and hence the monotheistic religion of Assyria”, as Benjamin Daniali wrote. He further calculates the sophisticated balance and the sum of the god Ashur’s different characters in the numeric tree, which was the heart of the Assyrian faith and beliefs about the creation of the universe.

For those interested, the article is highly recommended.

Please visit Benjamin's Tree of Life website to see more of his work and more of the findings.

  1. Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), p. 57. On the conversion of Syria and Mesopotamia to Christianity
  2. Simo Parpola: Sons of God - The ideology of Assyrian Kingship. Archaeology Odissy Archives, December 1999.
  3. Eva Strommenger: Fünf Jahrtausende Mesopotamien, Hirmer verlag, München 1962
  4. "Son of God", Archaeology Odyssey 2/5 (1999), 16-27; "Monotheism in Ancient Assyria" i Barbara Porter (ed.), One God or Many? Concepts of Divinity in the Ancient World (Transactions of the Casco Bay Assyriological Institute 1, 2000), 165-209; “Mesopotamian Precursors of the Hymn of the Pearl,” in R.M. Whiting (ed.), Mythology and Mythologies. Melammu Symposia 2 (Helsinki), 181-193; "The Assyrian Tree of Life", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 52/3 (1993), 185, 188-189 och 204-205; Letters from Assyrian Scholars, Part II: Commentary (Alter Orient und Alter Testament 5/2, 1983), 330-331. See also Amar Annus, The God Ninurta in the Mythology and Royal Ideology of Ancient Mesopotamia (Helsinki 2003).
  5. Common English translation: God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (2 Exodus 3:14).
    In the Assyrian translation AHYH ASHRAHYH 􀃌􀃘ܗܐ􀃻􀃼ܐ 􀃌􀃘ܗܐ (Syriac Bible 63DC, United bible Societies, 1979 London)