Separation and Monotheism
For all its power, the story of Dilmun is a relatively simple one of divine violation, punishment, and forgiveness. Conversely, the Hebraic Eden story, with the introduction of the human/divine relationship and of the concept of monotheism, presents a complex and subtle narrative.
In the Gilgamesh narrative the separation of animals, humans, and god(s) is already complete; in the Eden story we witness the process. At the outset, the three live in harmony. The only distinction is the issue of dominion -- in this universe created by God, God has dominion over humans, who in turn are given dominion over the animals. When humans violate this order by disobeying God, they are estranged from Paradise, and in short order acquire clothing, agriculture, and all the other trappings of civilization. The basic theme -- that civilization comes at a price and is not an unalloyed blessing -- is already present in the Gilgamesh narrative. In the Genesis tradition, the concept of monotheism raises uncomfortable issues about the nature of God and the relationship between God and humankind. Why does God place humans in Paradise, but "set them up" for failure? And if God is a loving divinity, why does he permit the serpent to entice Eve? These issues are implicit in the text, but the answers are not always clear. It is clear in the Eden narrative that human suffering is the result of disobedience to God's will, but many questions remain unresolved. Is all suffering the result of disobedience? One might get this impression from many of the narratives in Genesis, This view developed into the Jewish tradition of musar, the idea that when we suffer God is punishing us for disobedience (the base metaphor being that of God the Father lovingly punishing his errant children). This simplistic view is shattered in the Book of Job when Job suffers beyond any possible disobedience. Why does a good God allow bad things to exist? Could it be that the power that created this universe in which we humans live was not morally "good?" In medieval Europe several sects adopted this view, but it was considered heretical by the Roman Catholic church and vigorously (and bloodily) suppressed. The dominant view is that human suffering is a potentially temporary state. That is, a loving God will provide a savior. Humankind will have the opportunity to return to a God-like paradaisical state. This concept is central to all three of the world's monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Judaism and Islam look toward the savior's arrival in the future; Christianity believes that that savior has already appeared on earth in the form of Jesus Christ.
We noted in the discussion of Gilgamesh that one of the great paradoxes of human existence is that of the apparent disparity between a cyclical universe and a linear human existence (cf. Linearity and Circularity). Thus the world's three monotheistic religions see an ultimately circular pattern for humanity. Further, Christianity and Islam emphasize the possible circular return to God in a paradaisical life after death. Christianity in particular historically has put great emphasis on Heaven's opposite -- Hell as the eternal punishment of those who fail to take the opportunity for salvation.