The Sumerian Dilmun: an Eden Precursor
The Mother Goddess Ninhursag creates a garden; it initially lacks water, which the sun god causes to rise up out of the earth. Ninhursag gives birth, and through her offspring eight plants are created. The god Enki eats the plants. Ninhursag curses him to die by causing eight body parts to fail, then leaves (apparently because she feels she will relent if she sees him suffering). Ninhursag is enjoined to return (exactly how is not known, as part of the text is damaged). She gives parthenogenetic birth to eight goddesses, who heal Enki.
The Paradaisical Garden
Many cultures around the world have a tradition of a paradaisical garden. Further, Dilmun is a divine garden; no humans intrude. In and of itself, the motif of a garden does not establish a direct link between the Dilmun tradition and the Eden tradition, but there is further evidence of a connection.
Watering the Arid Waste
Watering from below is realistic imagery for the marshlands of southern Mesopotamia, but is not realistic for Israel. Also, the word translated in the King James text as mist (“there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground”) is a hapax legomenon, a word that occurs only once in an entire corpus. Sometimes, hapax legomena are indicative of borrowing from another language.
The Dilmun story repeatedly stresses the ease of birth. In Genesis, God declares Eve's punishment after banishment from Eden is that "In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." While the sorrow could refer to the children being born into original sin, by the earliest extant commentaries Hebrew scholars understood the passage to refer to painful childbirth. By implication, then, childbirth in Eden would have been painless. (Your translation follows this gloss of the Hebrew.)
Non-Hebraic NounsThe nouns Eden and Eve are not originally Hebrew. Eden is attested to in the cuneiform writing of Mesopotamia, where it meant “fertile plain;” the origin and meaning of Eve are not known, but because the word is similar to the Hebrew verb "to live," it is so explicated in Genesis. Further, while adam is common in Semitic languages with the meaning of “man,” the word is first attested to in cuneiform with the meaning of “village dweller.”
In the Dilmun tradition, one of the eight goddesses created to heal Enki is named Ninti. In Sumerian the name has two meanings:
1) She who gives life (with -ti as
2) The woman of the rib (with -ti as a noun)
Thus the single name in Sumerian explains two features of the Hebraic Eve.