Sitchin Was Wrong
Zecharia Sitchin’s writings on the Anunnaki are concocted fables
by Michael S. Heiser
The work of Zecharia Sitchin was brought to my attention in 2001, shortly after I completed my book, The Facade. As a trained scholar in ancient Semitic languages with a lifelong interest in UFOs and paranormal phenomena, I was naturally enthused about Mr. Sitchin's studies, particularly since I had also heard he was a Sumerian scholar. I thought I had found a kindred spirit. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Zecharia Sitchin is not a scholar of ancient languages.
What he has written in his books could neither pass peer review nor is it informed by factual data from the primary sources. I have yet to find anyone with credentials or demonstrable expertise in Sumerian, Akkadian, or any of the other ancient Semitic languages who has positively assessed Mr. Sitchin's academic work.
The reader must realize that the substance of my disagreement is not due to "translation philosophy," as though Mr. Sitchin and I merely disagree over possible translations of certain words. When it comes to the Mesopotamian sources, what is at stake is the integrity of the cuneiform tablets themselves, along with the legacy of Sumer and Mesopotamian scribes. Very simply, the ancient Mesopotamians compiled their own dictionaries - we have them and they have been published since the mid-20th century.
The words Mr. Sitchin tells us refer to rocket ships have no such meanings according to the ancient Mesopotamians themselves. Likewise when Mr. Sitchin tells readers things like the Sumerians believed there were twelve planets, the Anunnaki were space travelers, Nibiru was the supposed 12th planet, etc., he is simply fabricating data. It isn't a question of how he translates texts; the issue is that these ideas don't exist in any cuneiform text at all. To persist in embracing Mr. Sitchin's views on this matter (and a host of others) amounts to rejecting the legacy of the ancient Sumerian and Akkadian scribes whose labors have come down to us from the ages. Put bluntly, is it more coherent to believe a Mesopotamian scribe's definition of a word, or Mr. Sitchin's?
Zecharia Sitchin's work in other texts, such as the Bible, is equally flawed. This site bears witness to the sorts of errors Sitchin makes in language analysis and translation with respect to the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
What I've said here is very straightforward. It would be quite easy to demonstrate that I am wrong. All one needs to do is produce texts that I say don't exist, and produce verification of Sitchin's translations by other experts (that's called peer review). Since I don't believe such evidence will be forthcoming, I wrote what follows as an open letter to Zecharia Sitchin in 2001. With Mr. Sitchin's passing, I now direct the letter (rewritten on Jan 1, 2011) to his followers and other ancient astronaut theorists whose views are, in many ways, based upon Sitchin's original work.
Dear Ancient Astronaut Enthusiast:
The intent of this letter is in the interest of research, not confrontation. In no way do I intend to impugn anyone's character. What I ask is that you provide answers and data to support your theories. Here are my questions / requests.
1. Can you please provide transcripts of Zecharia Sitchin's academic ancient language work? I would like to post this information on my website, and would gladly do so.
2. Can you explain why Sitchin's work on Genesis 1:26-27 overlooks so many obvious grammatical indications that the word elohim in that passage refers to a single deity (as demonstrated on this website)?
3. Can you explain why Zecharia Sitchin (or you in turn) have not included the comparative linguistic material from the Amarna texts that shows the Akkadian language also uses the plural word for "gods" to refer to a single deity or person (which of course undermines the argument that elohim must refer to a plurality of gods)?
4. Can you explain how the interpretation of the word "nephilim" as referring to "people of the fiery rockets" is at all viable in light of the rules of Hebrew morphology? In other words, can you bring forth a single ancient text where naphal has such a meaning?
5. Can you produce a single text that says the Anunnaki come from the planet Nibiru - or that Nibiru is a planet beyond Pluto? I assert that there are no such texts, and challenge you and your readers to study the occurrences of "Anunnaki" right here on this website. Here is a video where I show readers how to conduct a search online at the Electronic Corpus of Sumerian Literature website. There are 182 occurrences of the divine name Anunnaki. Please show me any evidence from the Sumerian texts themselves that the Anunnaki have any connection to Nibiru or a 12th planet (or any planet).
6. Can you explain why the alleged sun symbol on cylinder seal VA 243 is not the normal sun symbol or the symbol for the sun god Shamash?
7. Can you explain why your god = planet equivalencies do not match the listings of such matching in cuneiform astronomical texts? I recently blogged on this issue and provided a recent scholarly article on the planets in Mesopotamian literature by experts in cuneiform as proof that Sitchin erred in this regard.
8. Can you explain why many of Sitchin's word meanings / translations of Sumerian and Mesopotamian words are not consistent with Mesopotamian cuneiform bilingual dictionaries, produced by Akkadian scribes?
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will of course post any responses on this site.
Michael S. Heiser, Ph.D., Hebrew and Semitic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Well, it took over a decade, but someone out there has published a response to my open letter. It's a poor response, but it's better than the one that never came from Sitchin, so he gets points for that. Here is the response and my inserted replies (double click on the sticky notes in the PDF).
Sitchin's Nibiru Hypothesis
Those familiar with either the writings of Zecharia Sitchin or the current internet rantings about “the return of Planet X” are likely familiar with the word “nibiru”. According to self-proclaimed ancient languages scholar Zecharia Sitchin, the Sumerians knew of an extra planet beyond Pluto. This extra planet was called Nibiru. Sitchin goes on to claim that Nibiru passes through our solar system every 3600 years. Some believers in Sitchin’s theory also refer to Nibiru as “Planet X”, the name given to a planet that is allegedly located within our solar system but beyond Pluto. Adherents to the “returning Planet X hypothesis” believe the return of this wandering planet will bring cataclysmic consequences to earth.
Is Sitchin correct – Is Nibiru a 12th planet that passes through our solar system every 3600 years? Did the Sumerians know this? Unfortunately for Sitchin and his followers, the answer to each of these questions is no. But how do I know? The cuneiform record in such texts as the one on the left, the astronomical text known as MUL.APIN (The "Plough Star").
Readers can click here for a summary paper I wrote on the word nibiru in cuneiform texts. What follows draws from that paper and, in the case of the video, demonstrates the accuracy of my contention that there isn't a single text in the entire cuneiform record that:
- Has nibiru as a planet beyond Pluto
- Connects nibiru with the Anunnaki
- Has nibiru cycling through our solar system every 3600 years
Searching for Nibiru in Cuneiform Texts
Here is a video that I created showing you where to find the leading dictionary of cuneiform words online (for free). Viewers can find that source and do what I do in the rest of the video: look up the entry for nibiru (spelled neberu in scholarly transliteration) and check to see if any of the above ideas are found in any Akkadian or Sumerian texts that mention nibiru. Spoiler: there aren't any -- but don't take my word for it. Look it up yourself.
Mr. Sitchin contends that the word "nephilim" means "those who came down from above" or "those who descended to earth" or "people of the fiery rockets" (see The Twelfth Planet, pp. vii, 128ff.).
These translations, of course, serve his purpose -- to see the Nephilim as ancient astronauts. As such it is hard to over-estimate the importance of Sitchin's work here - if he's wrong about the meaning of nephilim, much of his overall thesis falls.
Unfortunately for Sitchin, such translations are completely out of step with the Hebrew Bible. Sitchin makes a number of erroneous conclusions about the form and meaning of the word nephilim that I've addressed in this PDF document. What follows is a brief sketch.
Sitchin assumes "nephilim" comes from the Hebrew word "naphal" which usually means "to fall." He then forces the meaning "to come down" onto the word, creating his "to come down from above" translation. In the form we find it in the Hebrew Bible, if the word nephilim came from Hebrew naphal, it would not be spelled as we find it. The form nephilim cannot mean "fallen ones" (the spelling would then be nephulim). Likewise nephilim does not mean "those who fall" or "those who fall away" (that would be nophelim).
The only way in Hebrew to get nephilim from naphal by the rules of Hebrew morphology (word formation) would be to presume a noun spelled naphil and then pluralize it. I say "presume" since this noun does not exist in biblical Hebrew -- unless one counts Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33, the two occurrences of nephilim -- but that would then be assuming what one is trying to prove! However, in Aramaic the noun naphil(a) does exist. It means "giant," making it easy to see why the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) translated nephilim as gigantes ("giant"). Here is a screen shot (not good quality) of Aramaic naphil(a) from Morris Jastrow's Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (1903; page 923, or page 243 of 1061 of the online PDF of volume 2).
Notice that Jastrow actually gives us the form of the plural in Aramaic: nephilin (ending in "n" not "m" as Aramaic plurals do). It is most likely that nephilim is an Aramaic term imported into Hebrew during the final editing of the Hebrew Bible in Babylon (where Aramaic was the lingua franca) and then the ending was corrected to Hebrew rules of word formation. Both phenomena are known in the Hebrew Bible. The notes on this below are from the scholarly 2 volume work, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, by P. Jouon and T. Muraoka (Paragraph 90, sections c and d-a):
As noted above, Sitchin wants to argue the term nephilim means "those who CAME DOWN from heaven" so he can make the nephilim sound like ancient astronauts. Not only does this confuse two characters in the Genesis 6 episode (the sons of God and the nephilim are not the same; they are different groups; see below), but it is a translation impossibility with respect to biblical Hebrew grammar. The verb "to go down" in biblical Hebrew is not naphal; it is yarad. The verb naphal can mean something approximate to "came down" under one condition: it must occur in the Hiphil ("causative") stem in Hebrew grammar. If you know Hebrew, you know this is because the Hiphil stem adds either a prefixed letter to the verb and an a-class vowel (or both) in the verb conjugations, and any such occurrences in the Hebrew Bible are therefore not spelled "nephilim."
Lastly, I want to discuss what is still to me an amazing error in Sitchin's printed work. Granted, I do not believe Sitchin knows much about the ancient languages in which he claims expertise, but this error is especially shocking. Why? It shows Sitchin cannot tell the difference between Hebrew and Aramaic--and they both use the same alphabet.
In his book Stairway to Heaven, Sitchin quotes from a Dead Sea Scroll called the Genesis Apocryphon 110-112. In an effort to defend his idea that the nephilim and the sons of God are the same, he writes: "But as we examine the Hebrew original, we find it does not say 'watchers'; it says 'Nephilim'." The quotation shows that Sitchin did not know the Qumran text was written in Aramaic, not Hebrew, and he also mistranslated it, for the word "Watchers" is actually in the text he quotes AND has pictured in his book! To the right is an image of the transcription of the passage in Sitchin's book and a translation. Both come from The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition Vol. 1:Q1-4Q273 - Vol II: 4Q274-11Q31 CD , ed. by Florentino Garcia Martinez and , scrolls specialists (our text is in volume 1). The pink word is the word for "Watchers" and the yellow word is the word Sitchin notes in his quotation, "nephilim." Sitchin either did not know the word "Watchers" was indeed in the text, or left it out of his discussion. Since BOTH words appear in his transcription in his book, I'm not sure which is the case.
As I noted in my open letter to Zecharia Sitchin, I have challenged him and other ancient astronaut researchers to produce one line of one cuneiform text that demonstrates his ideas about the Anunnaki are really in the Sumerian texts. I want to see one line of one text that says things like the Anunnaki inhabit a planet or inhabit Nibiru, or that the term "Anunnaki" means "people of the fiery rockets, that sort of thing.
Now, I could drone on about Mr. Sitchin's bogus translations and understanding of the Anunnaki, but I thought of something much better. You don't need to take my word for any of this. The Sumerian texts are online in English translation and are searchable -- even by Sumerian word! I invite you -- no, I challenge you -- to click on the link below and watch me search the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature right before your eyes for the Sumerian word "Anunnaki." Here is a PDF file of the search results, but it's best if YOU do the search, since you will be able to click through the search results and get to English translations of the hits.
Do the search at the link below and see if what I'm saying is true. Mr. Sitchin is making it up when it comes to what he says about the Anunnaki. The evidence is waiting for you now:
NOTE on the above video and the search it shows: Some readers have been unable to replicate the search shown in the video. I don't know why that would be (maybe something under the hood at ETCSL), so here is another way to find all the occurrences of "Anunnaki" on that site>
1. Go to this URL (it's the "advanced search" from the front page).
2. Then at the top of that web page (see image below), type in "a-nun-na" (with the dashes, but not the quotation marks) next to "search for"; then select "lemma" from the next pull down menu (after the word "as").
3. Then click on the "search for" button.
4. This search will get you all occurrences of "Anunna" and "Anunnaki" (the former is the more common term; the latter is a transliteration when "anunna" also has the "ke" sign (see the "results" image below). To view an English translation of the results, click on "Tr" in the results page (see arrow in the image below). If there is no English, I think the occurrence is ONLY the name in a fragmentary text.
5. Enjoy discovering for yourself that Sitchin is wrong!
Copyright Michael S Heiser, 2001-2012, All Rights Reserved.
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