Friday, July 01, 2005

Tammuz; The Pagan God

Next week Thursday and Friday are Rosh Chodesh for the month of Tammuz. Now, it is well known that the names of the months of the English calendar that we use have origins from ancient Rome. Some have the names of famous emperors, like July which is named after Julius Caesar and August which is named after Augustus. Some months are named after gods. Like January which comes from Janus, the two-faced sky god and March which comes from Mars, the god of war.

So it should not strike any learned Jew as surprising that a number of months in the Jewish calendar are likewise taken from Pagan sources as well, especially as it is obvious that we no longer use any of the names of months found in Tanach. Most of the modern Jewish months are borrowed from the Babylonian names, some of which follow the names of gods (and some of which are derived from even older sources). But here I'm going to focus on just one month, Tammuz.

I like Wikipedia, so here's what it has to say about the issue:

"In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as an Akkadian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Ishtar and the parallel of the Syrian Adonis who was drawn into the Greek pantheon. The name "Tammuz" seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid. The later standard Sumerian form, Dumu-zid, in turn became Dumuzi in Akkadian. Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day "funeral" for the god that was observed even at the very door of the Temple in Jerusalem, to the horror of the reformer Ezekiel:

"Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto to me, 'Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these." — Ezekiel 8.14-15"

That was some good information about the history of the name, but let's go to to get more information about the myth itself and why such a god would be so honored with a month of its own:

TAMMUZ: Akkadian God of Vegetation and Agriculture who regulates the seasons and symbolises Death and Rebirth in nature. Somewhat reluctantly, it appears.

Every summer, when his powers are strongest, when the flowers are blooming and the harvests are looking great, he collapses from heat exhaustion and dies. His soul flees to the Underworld where it's nice and cool, leaving the world's vegetation to fend for itself.

The resulting desolation causes much misery as plants decay and winter sets in. So his mourning wife Ishtar nips down to the nether regions to rescue him. Which is such a complicated and arduous task that it always takes six months and by the time they reappear, spring is right on schedule.

So as we see even in Tanach, people mourned his death each year since it was signified the end of spring. Alrighty then. While some Jews might have issue with such Jewish borrowing and might even deny it entirely (I saw one place where they claimed that Tammuz is Aramaic for "heating up." Patently false though, Dumuzi is Akkadian for "rightful son") Tanach itself speaks against them because in the only time it uses the term Tammuz is in reference to a pagan deity.

A last point I'd like to acknowledge is the matter of the mourning. Isn't it curious that a month of mourning which was popular throughout the ancient Near East (from Sumer and Babylon to the Aegean) is the same month used by Judaism for mourning in Judaism? Sure, there may be good historical reasons why we fast on the 17th of Tammuz and then go into the time of the Three Weeks, but would it have been as big an annual commemoration had there not already been such a precedent of mourning during that time period?


Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Great post! For some reason i was under the impression that Dumuzi was his Sumerian name.

Ishtar was one tough you-know-what. There are at least two different myths about her storming the Underworld, where she threatens Ereshkigal (Queen of the Dead) that if she doesn't get her way, she's "release the dead to eat the living" — it's like an ancient Middle-Eastern Zombie movie!

Interesting how the Greek deity of vegetative death/rebirth is female (Persephone) while the Mesopotamian one is male.

And what do you mean, it is obvious that we no longer use any of the names of months found in Tanach ? Speak for yourself! ;-)

Orthoprax said...


"For some reason i was under the impression that Dumuzi was his Sumerian name."

Well "Dumu-zid" is awfully similar.

"And what do you mean, it is obvious that we no longer use any of the names of months found in Tanach ? Speak for yourself! ;-)"

Hehe. Well alright. But that line should have been restated, we still use _some_ of the names found in Tanach but a number of them have been replaced. Like Bul, Aviv, Ziv, and Ethanim.

Anonymous said...

So what this only proves the devil tried to copy what God was planning to do by the womb of a woman in the plan of Salvation (redemption).
God told that serpent that one born of a woman would crush his head but all Satan would do was bruise our Messiah Jesus heel as in satan you are under his feet.
On the other hand I believe the Shroud is real because the devil does not want proof that Jesus really Resurrected bodily from the dead. That would not help help the devil;s kingdom at all!

Leon Judah-Jones said...

Great and informative post... It also proves that Gentiles aren't they only ones trying to mix bitter and sweet...we often try and ridicule 'Christians' about the using pagan, names, traditions and practices with a Hebrew Yisraelite Meshiach and his 'religion' (they don't even see that a 'Jesus' as Yisraelite Meshiach is an impossible, but this post definitely adds to truth that we need to remove the 'leaven'
from our eye, before we try to remove anyone else's!
Rabbinic authority is afraid of unleavened ministry but it's time we return to Torah first... rabbi second.... This of course was one of the things that the misunderstood Rabbi Yeshua taught and was persecuted for, that and using the Name of Ha Shem!