In the story of the Universal Deluge it is said: In
the six hundredth year of Noahs life, in the second month, on the
seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the
great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. (1)
Five months later, according to the Book of Genesis, on the seventeenth
day of the seventh month, the ark rested upon Ararat.
In Egyptian religious belief Osiris was drowned on
the seventeenth day of the month Athyr. (2)
The fast for Tammuz, commemorating his descent into the netherworld, began
on the seventeenth of the month named for him.(3)
Although the similarity of the Babylonian and Biblical versions of the
story of the Deluge was repeatedly stressed, the significance of the number
seventeen in the story of Tammuz in relation to the same number in the
book of Genesis was not emphasized, or even noticed.
The feast of Saturnalia began always on the 17th
of December and with time, in imperial Rome, when it was celebrated
for three consecutive days, it began on the fifteenth and continued for
two more days, until the seventeenth.(4)
The connection between the number seventeen and the
Deluge is thus not confined to the Biblical, Babylonian, and Egyptian
sourceswe meet it also in Roman beliefs and practices. The significance
of the number seventeen in the mystery plays related to Osiris drowning
and in the festivities of Saturnalia is an indication that these memorials
were related to the Deluge.
- Genesis 7:11.
De Iside et Osiride, ch. 13; cf. also ch. 42. [The
coincidence of the Biblical date of the beginning of the Deluge with
the date of Osiris disappearance, or drowning, was noted by
the eighteenth-century scholar Jacob Bryant, who claimed, in addition,
that in both accounts the month was the second after the autumn equinox
(A New System or An Analysis of Ancient Mythology,
second edition [London, 1775], p. 334. Bryant also believed that in
this history of Osiris we have a memorial of the Patriarch and the
Deluge (ibid., p. 334, n. 76). The identity of the two
dates has been noted by several other authors, among them George St.
Clair. See his Creation Records Discovered in Egypt (London,
1898), p. 437. On the significance of the date seventeen in Egypt,
cf. Griffiths, Plutarchs De Iside et Osiride, p. 312.
Cf. H. E. Winlock, Origin of the Ancient Egyptian Calendar,
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 83 (1940),
p. 456 n.: Throughout Coptic and Arab times at least, the night
of June seventeenth was celebrated as the night of the Drop
when it was believed that a miraculous drop fell into the Nile, causing
it to rise. ].
to Langdon, In Babylonia the god Tammuz was said to have descended
to the lower world on the 18th of Tammuz and to have risen on the
28th of Kislev (December). (Babylonian Menologies and the
Semitic Calendars [London, 1935], p. 121). Originally the date
had been the seventeenth; but when the reckoning of time was
altered to the extent of making the day begin with sunrise instead
of with the approach of night (M. Jastrow, The Religion of
Babylonia and Assyria [Boston, 1898], p. 78), the 18th day of
the month began about twelve hours earlier and encroached upon the
daylight hours of the seventeenth day, which were now counted as part
of the eighteenth. According to rabbinical sources, the end of the
40 days of rain mentioned in the Genesis account came on the 27th
of Kislewthe very same day as the 28th of Kislev in the Babylonian
reckoning, when Tammuz is said to have risen.].
- [Macrobius, Saturnalia
I. 10. 2f. Cf. Cicero, Ad Atticum 13. 52. 1.]