Was the story of Adam and Eve from Book of Genesis influenced by the Sumerian story of Enki and Ninti?

On Wikipedia page about Ninti we can read:

Some scholars suggest that this served as the basis for the story of Eve created from Adam's rib in the Book of Genesis.

Also based on this article seems it is.

Can you elaborate what are the main clues which proves that theory? Or what evidence goes against it (if you think it isn't)?

If it's more likely, then Adam would refer to Enki and Eve to Ninti?


4 Answers 4


This idea based on the Sumerian myth known as Enki and Ninhursag (see ANET, pp. 37-41) keeps popping up, especially in popular literature and on the internet. Kramer, however, did give credence to it, as mentioned by the blogger to whom you linked (see Kramer's History Begins at Sumer, pp. 143-44).

To make a long story short, the god Enki out of curiosity eats 8 plants in the paradise of Dilmun (cf. Eve eating the forbidden fruit), which the goddess Ninhursag considers a mortal sin, so she causes 8 of Enki's body parts (including his rib) to suffer, and he is on the brink of death. Enlil takes up Enki's cause and persuades Ninhursag to relent, and so various deities then come to heal each of Enki's body parts. The one who heals his rib is the goddess Ninti, whose name means both "lady of the rib," and "lady who makes live," which serves as a pun. Thus is established a possible parallel between Ninti and Eve, who was created from Adam's rib (in Hebrew tsela) and whose name in Hebrew (hawwa) connotes life (thus Eve was called "the mother of all the living" in Genesis 3:20). The pun doesn't work in Hebrew since the words for rib and life differ, but I'm not sure the biblical writer knew about it or, if he did, cared. (Having said that, it looks like the biblical writer made his own pun, because the Hebrew word for rib, tsela, can also connote "stumbling," so although Eve was ostensibly created to be Adam's helper (Gen. 2:18), she proved to be his stumbling block.)

There are obvious parallels here, which have gotten many people excited, but proving a direct influence has proved elusive, and I know of no biblical scholars (whether faith-based or secular) who maintain that there is any such direct influence, because the usual scholarly criteria for proving intertextual influence are not strongly met here; but this remains a reasonable possibility. More generally, many prevalent ancient Near Eastern mythological motifs do show up in the Hebrew Bible, so it is clear to me that biblical Palestine shared a common cultural (including mythological) context with the broader ancient Near East.

  • Also worth mentioning that the mythological origin of the Hebrews was "Ur of the Chaldees" in Sumeria, from when Abraham, after knocking over idols, fled.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 20:28
  • @DukeZhou Also, that the Chaldeans didn't arrive on the scene until, at earliest, the 11th Century BC, which would have been well after Abraham.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 15:26

I find myself agreeing with Arthur George: The connection is indeed tenuous, as to Enki and Ninti being recast as Adam and Eve in the Bible, based on Professor Kramer's suggestion. I have written two books on the subject in 2010, available at Amazon.com on the internet, (1) Eden's Serpent: Its Mesopotamian Origin, and (2) The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. My research, based on the findings of PhD scholars, 1850-2010, understands that biblical Eden is a recast of ancient Sumer's EDIN, a desert-like wilderness waste that is today's Iraq. Apparently the Hebrew word Eden means "delight" and the Hebrews, mishearing the Sumerian word EDIN, mistakenly equated it with their Eden. The bible's Adam and Eve are understood to be a composite of several mythical characters found in various Mesopotamian accounts about the EDIN. Adam is (1) Enkidu, (2) Adapa/Adaba, and (3) Dumuzi/Tammuz, while Eve is principally (1) Shamhat, and (2) Inanna/Ishtar, her patron goddess. EDIN's gods and goddesses have been recast as Eden's god, Yahweh-Elohim. Ningishzida and Tammuz have been recast as the Cherubbim. Eden's serpent is a recast of several Sumerian gods, living in the EDIN, who bore the epiteth usumgal, meaning "great serpent or "great dragon," a mythical beast with four legs, two horns, two wings, serpentine body and tail, and poisonous teeth. The creators of man in Sumerian myths are several gods and goddesses. Among them Enlil of Nippur is called an Usumgal. Enki of Eridu is also called an usumgal. Ningishzida and Dumuzi who offered Adapa/Adaba what he thought was the bread of death, were also called usumgal. That is to say, in some myth the god who owns the city-garden in EDIN is a human, with legs and arms and a voice to speak, but this god is called an usumgal as an epiteth to inspire fear and respect from sinner-man, fearing the usumgals's poisonous bite. My website, www.bibleorigins.net also covers this subject in more depth. Why are the Hebrews refuting the Sumerian account of man's creation in EDIN? The Sumerians understood the gods participated in all the vices of mankind: murder, rape, incest with daughters, sex with animals, homosexual sex, lying, oath-breaking, etc. Man, made in the image of sinner-gods was a sinner. The Hebrews rejected this notion. Their god lived in a place called EDEN , not EDIN, he was not a sinner-god, he was righteous, ethical and just, and man, made in his image was expected to behave in a similar manner. The gods of Sumer made man to care for their fruit tree gardens in the EDIN. He was to be a gardening slave, alleviating the gods of toil for their food, The gods had bodies of flesh and could die of starvation if having no food to eat. So their city-gardens in the EDIN were created for for them to eat from, BEFORE man was later created, and became their gardening slave.


Sadly most of the recast here are based on somebody's wild theories without referring to the translation from the thousands of ancient tablets of sumerian, akkadian, assyrian and babylonian. Hebrew bible is known to copy from babylonian, during the hebrew in captivity.

  • In addition to the Babylonian captivity, the origin of the Hebrews in the Old Testament is Chaldea in ancient Sumeria, so the connection may be older.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Dec 26, 2019 at 20:30

The problem with the analysis of Eden vs Edin is using English words that look and sound similar. In doing so, the leap of a Hebrew translation from Sumerian assumes it sounds and looks the same therefore a mistake was made. No linguistic expert uses such methodology. Eden from the word Hebrew means pleasure or delight. Edin in Sumerian meant the plains. The words did not look alike as they do in English and they mean completely different things.

Dating ancient languages is also a guessing game. Radiometric dating is very unreliable and evidence of the two languages being developed hundreds of years apart are scant. Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian and Hebrew all started around the same time as referenced by many other credible scholars such as Livingston,Aalders and Harrison. In order to make the myth narrative work for secularist, they must paint a picture of time in language evolution to support their theories. Only the Hebrew Bible gives us the first explanation of confounding languages.

The Hebrew account also acknowledges the differing cultures that came after the flood account. From there came worshiping of idols along with rapidly changing cultures. The ancient Sumerian accounts give no such history and placate their stories on the environment making various half gods while never addressing the fall of man due to sin. The Hebrew Bible is loaded with prophecies come true while ancient texts of other religions claim no such authority.


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