[b-hebrew] Tehom: Divine or Not Divine?

JAMES CHRISTIAN READ JCR128 at student.apu.ac.uk
Wed Jul 12 14:31:51 EDT 2006


Yitzhak:
Isaiah 51 shows that the Israelites were not ignorant of
the myths relating Tehom as the sea dragon that the
God destroyed and cut up.
END QUOTE

JCR: Your whole line of reasoning is based on your 
interpretation of Isaiah 51 is correct and this in itself 
lies on the assumption that your assumptions about the 
Tehom/Tiamat relationship are correct. Surely you must 
see how this is circular reasoning at its most evident.
There is absolutely no internal unambiguous references 
that divinise Tehom whatsoever in the Tanakh. Reading 
the text at face value could only ever lead the reader 
to believe that Tehom is referring to the body of 
water which the context evidently points to.

Yitzhak:
Again, I am not saying the reference is to the Babylonian
Tiamat, but rather to the Canaanite counterpart Tehom.
END QUOTE

JCR: Do you have any evidence of a Canaanite goddess 
named Tehom? If not, this is merely speculation based 
on non verifiable assumptions.

Yitzhak:
 It is like me making
a reference to Snow White.  
END QUOTE

JCR: No it isn't. It's like making a reference to white 
snow in a foreign language in a context which makes it 
clear that we are talking about the physical entity of 
white snow and then a textual critic coming along and 
trying to prove this foreign text was an adaptation 
of Walt Disney's classic.

Yitzhak:
 The reading of the Creation
account should not be seen simply as reading a historical
narrative, but of attempting to discover the differences
between the Genesis creation narrative and the then
accepted creation narrative.
END QUOTE

JCR: Surely you acknowledge that your notions of 'then 
accepted creation narrative' can never be considered 
more than theoretical postulation at best. It is 
therefore necessary to analyse the text at face value 
and use the context to understand the meaning of the 
term. Using such a method it is plain to see that the 
Genesis account is doing nothing more than referencing 
an innate body of water. What we need to not lose sight 
of is that Tiamat was named after the body of water, 
*not* the other way around.

Yitzhak:
Besides the obvious similar structure between the two
verses, noted by the initial two or three words, there are
also the two verbs mxrbt and mxcbt.  (The x may be a
different one in each root, though.  I need to check that part).
The parallelism Rahab = Tanin is clear.  But in light of the
similarity in form and structure between these two
parallelisms, we are also justified for looking for a
connection between 9b and 10a.  Are Yam and Tehom
Rabbah also references to the dragon? 
END QUOTE

JCR: No! Yam and Tehom are parallels just as Rahab and 
the dragon are parallels. It is clear that Isaiah is 
talking about bodies of water and nothing more. 
Isaiah himself spoke greatly about the destruction of 
lifeless idols. To suggest that he would then contradict 
himself by claiming that Yam and Tehom were once living 
deities is to take these references out of their larger 
context in the extreme.

When we have to go to such great lengths to prove a 
connection it is usually good indication that no such 
connection exists.

I have listened to your arguments and at best the only 
connection between Tiamat and Tehom that I can see is 
that they are possible cognates that both originally 
named the same concept of a body of primordial water. 
We have proof that this concept was divinised in 
Babylonian texts but none in Hebrew texts. The 
coincidence that Tiamat was depicted as being split in 
two to form the waters above and the waters below may 
well be a mythological embellishment based on an oral 
creation tradition that dates back as far as Adam 
himself, who spoke face to face with his creator.


James C. Read
UK

















es is to take these references out of their larger 
context in the extreme.

When we have to go to such great lengths to prove a 
connection it is usually good indication that no such 
connection exists.

I have listened to your arguments and at best the only 
connection between Tiamat and Tehom that I can see is 
that they are possible cognates that both originally 
named the same concept of a body of primordial water. 
We have proof that this concept was divinised in 
Babylonian texts but none in Hebrew texts. The 
coincidence that Tiamat was depicted as being split in 
two to form the waters above and the waters below may 




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