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The Spiritual Origins of Islam

The pagan gods of the ancient world did not humbly submit after the Resurrection. They’ve continued in their rebellion. Maybe they figure they’ve got nothing to lose. Like Inanna in the Epic of Gilgamesh, who tried to destroy Uruk because she’d been rejected by the hero of the tale, they’re willing to destroy everything rather than let the Messiah return to establish His throne over a world restored to its intended glory.

Their first response to the Resurrection was to inspire the Roman government and Jewish religious authorities to try to crush the growing body of believers. By the fourth century AD, when it was clear that Christianity was not going away despite the persecution from Rome, the Fallen tried a different tactic. The empire of the storm-god, called Jupiter in the west and Zeus in the east (and both just newer names for the old Canaanite storm-god Baal), legalized the faith with Constantine’s Edict of Milan in AD 313. Then in 380, Christianity became the official state religion when Theodosius issued the Edict of Thessalonica. Once the Church became a path to wealth and political power, there was no shortage of men and women who chose the clergy as a career—but it wasn’t because they were interested in saving sinners from the fires of hell.

Making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire was a brilliant move. Corruption in the Church persists to this day and it infects all denominations. But that has only weakened the body of believers, not killed it; as of this writing, the followers of Jesus Christ still outnumber all other religions on the earth.

But the Enemy employed another stratagem, one that’s exploited the Church’s weakness and the dilution of the gospel since the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Let’s begin by tracking the activity of the pagan gods in the years after the Resurrection.

A rough outline of the spiritual history of the ancient Near East shows that there were at least two transfers of power in the pantheon. First, a primordial god of heaven was overthrown by his son, who was considered “the” god between about 3000 and 2000 BC.

Around the time that the Amorites emerged as the dominant people group in the Near East, “the” god, variously called Enlil, Dagan, and El (later Kronos to the Greeks and Saturn to the Romans), was replaced as king of the pantheon by the storm-god—except in Akkad and Sumer, where the city-god of Babylon, Marduk, occupied that place of honor.

However, the personal god of the founding dynasty of Babylon was the moon-god. Some scholars now believe that the Sumerian god Amurru was actually an epithet of the lunar deity, “god of the Amurru (Amorite) land.” A text only translated within the last ten years of this writing reveals that the moon-god, Sîn, was believed to preside over the Mesopotamian divine council at least some of the time. 

The nations led by these various deities fought with one another throughout the period of history covered by the Bible. Beginning around 1800 BC, the time of Abraham and Isaac, Marduk and his followers ruled Babylonia and Sumer, while Baal worshipers dominated western Mesopotamia (Canaan), followers of the sun-god controlled most of Egypt, and the moon-god was the chief deity of the nomadic tribes of the steppe and deserts of Syria and Arabia.

The fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire to the Medes and Persians in 539 BC was probably another rebuke of the moon-god by Yahweh, who revealed to the prophet Isaiah, about a hundred and fifty years earlier, His plan to use Cyrus to return the Jewish exiles to Jerusalem. The rise of the Persian Empire and its devotion to Ahura Mazda, possibly another aspect of Marduk, may have been that entity’s play to go solo by rebelling against the other rebel gods. Of course, God used it for His purposes, to free His people from Babylon and humble the moon-god. (Belshazzar’s feast was during the annual fall festival for Sîn, which coincided with Sukkot—the Feast of Tabernacles.)

But Marduk’s shot at glory didn’t last long; within two centuries, people of the storm-god, first the Greeks and then the Romans, pushed the Persian Empire back to Mesopotamia. And with the rise of Islam in the seventh century AD, Zoroastrianism faded into the background. 

This is admittedly speculation, an attempt to discern the history of the unseen realm from evidence in the natural. We have limited ability to see into the spirit realm. It does, however, fit recorded history. Before Christ, the Fallen fought amongst themselves as well as with God. After the Resurrection, it appears that they put aside some of their mutual distrust.

The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus apparently frustrated the plans of the moon-god to take over the empire of Nebuchadnezzar. But worship of the moon-god didn’t disappear with the Chaldean kingdom. The land south and southeast of Edom, around the north end of the Gulf of Aqaba, ancient Midian, was still moon-god territory. Tayma, the second home of Babylon’s last king, Nabonidus, was there, although it was no longer called Midian by his day.

Most of what scholars know about the pre-Islamic gods of northwestern Arabia, the area closest to the kingdom of Judah, comes from inscriptions found at Tayma and the other major oases in northern Arabia, Dumah and Dedan (Al-Ula). All three were strategically located along caravan routes connected to the spice trade between southern Arabia, Mesopotamia, and the Mediterranean world.

Getting a handle on the rest of the gods of Arabia between the fall of Babylon and the rise of Islam in the early seventh century AD is a challenge. Trying to pin down precise one-to-one correlations across times, places, and tribes is an exercise in frustration. For our purposes, the best approach is to draw some general conclusions.

It appears there were several deities that were most prominent throughout Arabia, although they were worshiped under different names. The other oases in northern Arabia, Dedan and Dumah, worshiped a pantheon headed by Attarshamain, the “queen of heaven.” The name of the goddess is a composite: Attar + shamain (“Attar of the skies”); in other words, she was the Canaanite Astarte, Babylonian Ishtar, and the ancient Sumerian goddess Inanna by a slightly different name.

Dedan, seventy miles southwest of Tayma, was the center of a tribal confederacy that included the powerful Qedarites, a tribe named for Kedar, son of Ishmael. Attarshamain, represented by the planet Venus, was part of an astral triad with Nuhā and Rudāʾu, the sun-god and moon-god.

In southern Arabia, modern-day Yemen and Oman, over one hundred deities have been attested but only one was worshiped throughout the region—the war-god Athtar, who was the male aspect of the dualistic Canaanite god/dess Astarte/Attar. Other important south Arabian gods included the moon-god Syn or Sayin (a variant of Sîn); Wadd, another name for the moon-god; the sun-goddess Shams (variant of Shamash, the sun-god); ʿAmm (“paternal uncle”), a god whose name suggests ancestor worship; and a trio of goddesses named al-Lāt (“the goddess”), al-ʿUzzā (“the most powerful”), and Manāt. Scholars are divided on the origins of those three, other than to note that they appear to have been brought to Arabia in the second century BC.

We’re painting with a broad brush here. To draw a general conclusion: As we look at the religions of Arabia in the eleven hundred years or so between the fall of Babylon in 539 BC and the rise of Islam in the 620s AD, the deities who survived were the old Mesopotamian astral triad—sun, moon, and Venus—and the male aspect of Astarte, the war-god Athtar. To add to the confusion, Astarte and Athtar may have been worshiped as separate entities as early as the ninth century BC, with the male war-god identity linked to Moab’s national deity, the war-god Chemosh.

But there is one more conclusion we can draw that seems solidly grounded in history: While the worship of Jesus Christ spread widely in the centuries after the Resurrection, reaching as far east as China and as far west as Britain, there is one land frequently mentioned in the Bible where Christianity never gained a firm foothold—Arabia.

Extrapolating from that bit of history, we offer this theory: The gods of the ancient world, stunned and alarmed by the Resurrection, withdrew, like the unclean spirit of Matthew 12:43–45, to a waterless place—Arabia.

And there they planned their counterstrike.

Nimrod and the Goddess

Nimrod was born in the second generation after the flood. His father was Cush, son of Ham, son
of Noah. In Sumerian history, the second king of Uruk after the flood was named Enmerkar, son
of Mesh-ki-ang-gasher.
The Hebrews, doing what they loved to do with language, transformed Enmer—the consonants
N-M-R (remember, no vowels in ancient Hebrew)—into Nimrod, which makes it sound like
marad, the Hebrew word for “rebel”.
As we mentioned in an earlier article in this series, an epic poem called Enmerkar and the Lord
of Aratta from around the time of Abraham, circa 2000 B.C., preserves the basic details of the
Tower of Babel story.
We don’t know exactly where Aratta was, but guesses range from northern Iran to Armenia.
(Which would be interesting. Not only is Armenia located near the center of an ancient kingdom
called Urartu, which may be a cognate for Aratta, it’s where Noah landed his boat—the
mountains of Ararat. So Nimrod/Enmerkar may have been intimidating his cousins who settled
close to where their great-grandfather landed the ark.)  Wherever it was, Enmerkar muscled this
neighboring kingdom to compel them to send building materials for a couple of projects near and
dear to his heart.
The poem refers to Enmerkar’s capital city, Uruk, as the “great mountain”. This is intriguing,
since Uruk, like most of Sumer, sits in an alluvial plain where there are precisely no mountains
whatsoever. Uruk was home to two of the chief gods of the Sumerian pantheon, Anu, the sky
god, and Inanna, his granddaughter, the goddess of war and sex. And by “sex,” we mean the
carnal, extramarital kind.
While Anu was pretty much retired, having handed over his duties as head of the pantheon to
Enlil, Inanna played a very active role in Sumerian society. For example, scholars have translated
ritual texts for innkeepers to pray to Innana, asking her to guarantee that their bordellos turn a
profit.
Apparently, the conflict between Enmerkar and the king of Aratta, whose name, we learn from a
separate epic, was Ensuhkeshdanna, was a dispute over who was Inanna’s favorite. One of the
building projects Enmerkar wanted to tackle was a magnificent temple to Inanna, the E-ana
(“House of Heaven”). He wanted Aratta to supply the raw materials. Apparently, this wasn’t only
because there isn’t much in the way of timber, jewels, or precious metal in the plains of Sumer,
but because Enmerkar wanted the lord of Aratta to submit and acknowledge that he was Inanna’s
chosen one. And so Enmerkar prayed to Inanna:
“My sister, let Aratta fashion gold and silver skillfully on my behalf for Unug [Uruk].
Let them cut the flawless lapis lazuli from the blocks, let them …… the translucence of
the flawless lapis lazuli ……. …… build a holy mountain in Unug. Let Aratta build a
temple brought down from heaven — your place of worship, the Shrine E-ana; let Aratta
skillfully fashion the interior of the holy jipar, your abode; may I, the radiant youth, may
I be embraced there by you. Let Aratta submit beneath the yoke for Unug on my
behalf.” 1

Notice that Inanna’s temple was, like Uruk, compared to a holy mountain. And given the type of
goddess Inanna was, the embrace Enmerkar wanted was more than just—ahem—a figure of
speech.

 

 

 

The Burney Relief at the British Museum is a terra cotta plaque dated to 1800-1750 B.C. It’s
believed to represent the goddess Inanna, also known as Ishtar, and later as Astarte of the Bible.
To be honest, some of the messages between Enmerkar and Ensuhkeshdanna about Inanna were
the kind of locker room talk that got Donald Trump into trouble during the 2016 presidential
campaign. But I digress.

Well… no. Let’s continue with the digression for a minute. We should stop for a brief look at
Inanna’s role in human history. The goddess has been known by many names through the ages:
Inanna in Sumer, Ishtar in Babylon, Astarte in Canaan, Atargatis in Syria, Aphrodite in Greece,
and Venus across the Roman world. Let’s just say the image we were taught of Aphrodite/Venus
in high school mythology class was way off.
Since we’d like to keep this a family-friendly article, we won’t dig too deeply into the history
and characteristics of Inanna. Scholars don’t completely agree on the details, but it’s safe to say
the goddess wasn’t a girl you’d bring home to meet your mother.
In fact, she wasn’t always a girl, period. You see, while Inanna was definitely the goddess with
the mostest when it came to sex appeal, she was also androgynous. She was sometimes shown
with masculine features like a beard. On one tablet (although from much later, in the first
millennium B.C., almost three thousand years after Nimrod), Inanna says, “When I sit in the
alehouse, I am a woman, and I am an exuberant young man.” 2 Her cult followers included

eunuchs and transvestites, and she was apparently the first in history to make a practice of sex
reassignment:
She [changes] the right side (male) into the left side (female),
She [changes] the left side into the right side,
She [turns] a man into a woman,
She [turns] a woman into a man
She ador[ns] a man as a woman,
She ador[ns] a woman as a man. 3
It’s wonderfully ironic. The 21st century progressive ideal of gender fluidity was personified
more than five thousand years ago by the Sumerian goddess Inanna, a woman who craved sex
and fighting as much (or more) than men, taking on all comers in love and war, and better than
men at both. Her personality is celebrated by modern scholars as complex and courageous,
transcending traditional gender roles, turning Inanna into an icon of independent
man/woman/other-hood.
There is an ongoing debate among scholars as to whether the priesthood of Inanna was involved
in ritual sex. The concept of divine marriage was common in ancient Mesopotamia, but generally
the participants were a god and his consort. It appears that the rituals were intended to please the
god so he’d be receptive to the requests from a city or kingdom under his protection.
However, as a harimtu, which may mean “temple prostitute” or may have simply referred to a
single woman, Inanna herself participated in the rite with a king. And since she was the dominant
partner in the ritual coupling, gender roles might not have been as clearly defined as we would
assume.
From a Christian perspective, however, Inanna isn’t complex at all. She’s a bad Hollywood
screenwriter’s idea of a 15-year-old boy’s fantasy woman. Inanna is selfish, ruled by her
passions, and destructive when she doesn’t get her way. The Sumerian hero Gilgamesh, who
ruled Uruk two generations after Enmerkar, is remembered partly for rejecting Inanna. As he
pointed out in the story, every one of the men in her life suffered horrible consequences—for
example, Dumuzi the Shepherd, who ruled as a king in Bad-Tibara, the second city in Sumer to
exercise kingship after Eridu.
In the myth, even though Inanna married Dumuzi, she was happy to throw him under the bus
when demons tried to drag her younger son, Lulal, down to the netherworld. At Inanna’s urging,
the demons spared Lulal and took Dumuzi instead. Dumuzi’s sister pleaded for him, so Inanna
agreed to allow her to take his place for half the year, thus making Dumuzi the first of many
“dying and rising gods” in the ancient Near East.
More than two thousand years later, one of the abominations God showed the prophet Ezekiel
was women at the entrance of the north gate of the Temple weeping for Dumuzi, called Tammuz
in the Bible.
Well, for his impudence at daring to remind Inanna about the fate of Dumuzi, and the other fools
who’d succumbed to the charms of the wild goddess, she flew up to heaven in a rage and
demanded that her father, the sky god Anu, unleash the Bull of Heaven on Gilgamesh. That

didn’t go well for the Bull of Heaven, but sadly for Gilgamesh, his best friend Enkidu was killed
by the gods as punishment for spoiling Inanna’s revenge.
We share all of this with you to make a point: This is the deity Enmerkar/Nimrod wanted to make
the patron goddess of his city, Uruk. Could it be that veneration of the violent, sex-crazed,
gender-bending Inanna was responsible for Yahweh’s decision to stop Nimrod’s artificial holy
mountain?
Well, no, probably not. Inanna has enjoyed a very long run near the top of the Most Popular
Deities list. And why not? Selling humans on the concept of sex as worship is easy.
Looking at the values of our modern society, it’s no stretch to say that Inanna is the spirit of the
age. Gender fluidity is the flavor of the month among progressives in the West. The values of
Inanna—immediate gratification and sex with whoever, whenever—are considered more open-
minded, tolerant, and loving than the virtues of chastity, fidelity, and faithfulness introduced by
Yahweh long after Inanna was first worshiped as the Queen of Heaven.
Of course, this means the so-called progressive ideas about gender and sexual morality promoted
by academia and the mainstream media are actually REgressive! The enlightened think they’re
on the cutting edge, breaking new ground and smashing old paradigms, when in fact they’re just
setting the calendar back to more than a thousand years before Abraham.
If Yahweh had genuinely intervened to put a stop to the cult of Inanna, she would be long
forgotten. Instead, as the Queen of Heaven. mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, her cult has
continued for thousands of years. She became Aphrodite and Venus of the classical era, and was
eventually Christianized and venerated as the Virgin Mary.
But the transgression of Nimrod was much more serious than worshiping Inanna. He tried to
expand and upgrade the home of the god Enki, the abzu—the abyss—to create a dwelling place
for the gods on Earth.
For more on that story, see our earlier article, “ The Tower of Babel: Abode of the Gods. ”

1 Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G. “Enmerkar
and the Lord of Aratta,” The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
(http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.1.8.2.3#), retrieved 12/17/16.
2 Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G. “A cir-
namcub to Inana (Inana I),” The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
(http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/cgi-bin/etcsl.cgi?text=t.4.07.9&charenc=j#), retrieved 12/17/16.
3 Sjoberg, A.W. “In-nin Sa-gur-ra: A Hymn to the Goddess Inanna,” Zeitschrift fur Assyriologie
65, no. 2 (1976), p. 225.