An Open Letter to
(Note to readers - much of this will lack meaning if
you have not first read through my discussion of Sitchin's errors)
Introductory Comments for the Reader:
The work of Zecharia Sitchin was brought to my attention just over a year ago, 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, perhaps even a guide to navigating the possible intersection of my academic disciplines with ufology, a discipline unfairly ridiculed by the academic mainstream. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
What follows will no doubt trouble some readers. I have come to learn that Mr. Sitchin has an avid following, and so that is inevitable. Nevertheless, I feel it my responsibility as someone who has earned credentials in the languages, cultures, and history of antiquity to point out the errors in Mr. Sitchin's work. Indeed, this is the academic enterprise. I have yet to find anyone with credentials or demonstrable lay-expertise in Sumerian, Akkadian, or any of the other ancient Semitic languages who positively assesses 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. 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 mid-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 draws connections between Sumero-Mesopotamian gods and stories that simply do not exist in the literature (like insisting the Sumerians believed there were twelve planets and having the Anunnaki living on Nibiru, the supposed 12th planet), my argument with him is one that opposes such fabrications, not just one how words are translated. 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?
I do believe that Mr. Sitchin has done some kind of work in the ancient languages (though I have never seen academic credentials in the form of degrees or transcripts), but some of the mistakes he makes are at so basic a level of language knowledge that I sincerely doubt he knows ANY of the ancient languages he says he does. I'm guessing that with Hebrew, for example, Mr. Sitchin (being Jewish) can sight-read the language but doesn't understand ancient Biblical Hebrew grammar (much like many English readers don't have a real grasp of the mechanics of English grammar). I have seen little that convinces me that Mr. Sitchin knows any ancient languages, much less demonstrating that he is a language "expert". I say this because of Mr. Sitchin's linguistic mistakes (see below), and because he rarely interacts with scholarly articles pertaining to any linguistic material in the texts he uses. Unfortunately, there are even points he just makes up.
The reader should also know that I believe that the strange phenomena people have experienced in antiquity through the present day with respect to "UFOs" and "aliens" are real. The Facade offers an alternative paradigm to these phenomena, one that, contrary to Mr. Sitchin's reconstruction, CAN be defended (if the connections be legitimate) through ancient texts.
Dear Mr. Sitchin,
While the contents of this letter may constitute a challenge to your academic scholarship, the intent of this letter is more in the interest of research than confrontation. I recognize and appreciate your efforts toward understanding the ancient texts of Mesopotamia and the Hebrew Bible in more than a sterile, unimaginative way than characterizes most scholarship in this area. However, I find many of your positions to be curiously lacking in precisely the area which you (or perhaps mainly your followers) have claimed expertise - the languages of the ancient near east. At this point I can only conclude (perhaps ignorantly) that either you do not know the grammar of these languages, did not do enough research into the languages and therefore missed the points I have raised above on this website, or (hopefully not) do not want your readers to know what's going on in these ancient texts with respect to the grammar and structure of the languages. Toward clarifying why your work has overlooked some obvious linguistic issues, I would ask that you respond to the following questions:
1. Can you please provide transcripts of your academic language work, or an address to which I could write to obtain proof of your training in this area? I would like to post this information on my website, and would gladly do so.
2. Can you explain why your work on Genesis 1:26-27 overlooks so many obvious grammatical indications that Elohim in that passage refers to a single deity (as demonstrated above)?
3. Can you explain why you did not include 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?(as demonstrated above)?
4. Can you explain how your interpretation of the word "nephilim" is at all viable in light of its morphological impossibility?
5. Can you explain why you were unaware that Sumerian has no relative pronouns, thereby making the alleged "SHU.MU" etymology for Hebrew "shem" a totally bogus argument (as demonstrated above)? Why did you fabricate this form in light of Sumerian grammar?
6. Can you produce a single text that says the Anunnaki come from the planet Nibiru - or that Nibiru is a planet beyond Pluto?
7. 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?
8. Can you explain why your god=planet equivalencies do not match the listings of such matching in cuneiform astronomical texts?
9. Can you explain why many of your critical word meanings / translations of Sumerian and Mesopotamian words are not consistent with Mesopotamian cuneiform bilingual dictionaries?
10. Can you provide a coherent rationale in response to the logical problems presented by your understanding of the technology of the Annunaki:
How is it that the same gods who conquered deep space travel took several tries to genetically create humans?
How is it that these gods, with their fantastic space travel technology, gods who gave mankind the technology to build the pyramids and other fantastic structures, didn't have a better mechanism than MANUAL LABOR for mining the earth's gold?
How is it that the deep space travel capability of the Annunaki CONSISTED OF COMBUSTION ENGINES (the "fiery rockets")?
How is it that these gods who had mastered the forces of physics and biology could not make a synthetic equivalent to gold?
Thank you for taking the time to respond. I will of course post any responses on this site.
Michael S. Heiser
PhD candidate, Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison