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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. with the article hat-Tammuz', הִתִּמּוּז, the Tammuz, as if originally an appellative; Sept. ὁ Τάμμούζ ), a name of great obscurity, which occurs but once in the Scriptures: In the sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiachin, in the sixth month and on the fifth day of the month, the prophet Ezekiel, as he sat in his house surrounded by the elders of Judah, was transported in spirit to the far-distant Temple at Jerusalem. The hand of the Lord God was upon him, and led him "to the door of the gate of the house of Jehovah, which was towards the north; and behold there the women sitting, weeping for the Tammuz" (Ezekiel 8:14). Some translate the last clause (מְבִכּוֹת אֶתאּהִתִּמּוּז ) "causing the Tammuz to weep," and the influence which this rendering has upon the interpretation-will be see hereafter.
1. Etymological Signification of the Word. — If תִּמּוּז be a regularly formed Hebrew word, it must be derived either from a root נָמִז or תָּמִז (comp. the forms אִלּוּ, חִנּוּן ), which is not known to exist. To remedy this defect, Furst (Handwb. s.v.) invents a root, to which he gives the signification "to be strong, mighty, victorious," and; transitively, "to overpower, annihilate." It is to be regretted that this lexicographer cannot be contented to confess his ignorance of what is unknown. Rodiger (in Gesenius, Thesaur. s.v.) suggests the derivation from the root מָסִס = מָזִז; according to which תִּמּוּז is a contraction of תִּמְזוּז, and signifies a melting away, dissolution, departure, and so the ἀφανισμὸς Αδώνιδος, or disappearance of Adonis, which was mourned by the Phoenician women, and, after them, by the Greeks. But the etymology is unsound, and is evidently contrived so as to connect the name Tammuz with the general tradition regarding it. Mü hlau (new ed. of Gesenius's Lex.) refers to Delitzsch's elucidation (Stud. z. semit. Religionsgesch. 1, 35, 300 sq.) from the Babylonico-Assyrian form Duzu (for Dumuzi), signifying "sprouting of life."
2. Old Interpretations. — The ancient versions supply us with no help. The Sept., the Targum of Jonathan ben-Uzziel, the Peshito-Syriac, and the Arabic in Walton's Polyglot merely reproduce the Hebrew word. In the Targum of Jonathan on Genesis 8:5, "the tenth month" is translated "the month Tammuz." According to Castell (Lex. Sept.), tamuz is used in Arabic to denote "the heat of summer;" and Tammi is the name given to the Pharaoh who cruelly treated the Israelites. The Vulg. alone gives Adonis as a modern equivalent, and this rendering has been eagerly adopted by subsequent commentators with but few exceptions. It is at least as old, therefore, as Jerome, and the fact of his having adopted it shows that it must have embodied the most credible tradition. In his note upon the passage he adds that since, according to the Gentile fable, Adonis had been slain in the month of June, the Syrians give the name of Tammuz to this month, when they celebrate to him an anniversary solemnity, in which he is lamented by the women as dead, and, afterwards coming to life again, is celebrated with songs and praises. In another passage. (ad Paulinum, in Opp. 1, 102, ed. Basil. 1565)' he laments that Bethlehem was overshadowed by a grove of Tammuz, that is, of Adonis, and that "in the cave where the infant Christ once cried, the lover of Venus was bewailed." Cyril of Alexandria (in Oseam, in Opp. 3, 79, ed. Paris, 1638) and Theodoret (in Ezech.) give the same explanation, and are followed by the author of the Chronicon Paschale.
The only exception to this uniformity is in the Syriac translation of Melito's Apology, edited by Dr. Cureton in his Spicilegiunz Syriacum. The date of the translation is unknown; the original, if genuine, must belong to the 2d century. The following is a literal rendering of the Syriac: "The sons of Phoenicia worshipped Balthi, the queen of Cyprus. For she loved Tamuzo, the son of Cuthar, the king of the Phoenicians, and forsook her kingdom and came and dwelt in Gebal, a fortress of the Phoenicians. And at that time she made all the villages (not Cyprians, as Dr. Cureton translates) subject to Cuthar the king. For, before Tamuzo, she had loved Ares and committed adultery with him, and Hephaestus, her husband, caught her and was jealous of her. And he (i.e. Ares) came and slew Tam'uzo on Lebanon while he made a hunting among the wild boars. And from that time Balthi remained in Gebal, and died in the city of Aphaca, where Tamuzo was buried" (p. 25 of the Syriac text). We have here very, clearly the Greek legend of Adonis reproduced with a single change of name. Whether this change is due to the translator, as is not improbable, or whether he found" Tammuz" in the original of Melito, it is impossible to say. Be this as it may, the tradition embodied in the passage quoted is probably as valuable as that in the same author which regards Serapis as the deification of Joseph. The Syriac lexicographer Bar- Bahlul (10th century) gives the legend as it had come down to his time. "Tomuzo was, as they say, a hunter, shepherd, and chaser of wild beasts; who, When Belathi loved him, took her away from her husband. And when her husband went forth to seek her, Tomuzo slew him. And. with regard to Tomuzo also, there met him in the desert a wild boar and slew him. And his father made for him a great lamentation and weeping in the month Tomuz and Belathi, his wife, she, too, made a lamentation and mourning over him. And this tradition was handed down among the heathen people during her lifetime and after her death, which same tradition the Jews received with the rest of the evil festivals of the people, and in that month Tomuz used to make for him a great feast. Tomuz also is the name of one of the months of the Syrians."
In the next century the legend assumes, for the first time, a different form in the hands of a Rabbinical commentator. Rabbi Solomon Isaaki (Rashi) has the following note on the passage in Ezekiel: "An image which the women made hot in the inside, and its eyes were of lead, and they melted by reason of the heat of the burning, and it seemed as if it wept; and they (the women) said, He asketh for offerings. Tammuz is a word signifying burning, as עִל דַּי חֲזֵה לְמֵזְיֵה (Daniel 3:19), and אִתּוּנָא אֵזֵה יִתַּירָה (Daniel 3:22)."‘ Instead of rendering "weeping for the Tammuz," he gives what appears to be the equivalent in French," faisantes pleurer l'dchauffd." It is clear, therefore, that Rashi regards Tammuz as an appellative derived from the Chaldee root אֲזָא, azd, "to make hot." It is equally clear that his etymology cannot be defended for an instant. In the 12th century (1161) Solomon ben-Abraham Parchon, in his Lexicon, compiled at Salerno from the works of Jehuda Chayug and Abulwalid Merwan ben-Gannach, has the following observations upon Tammuz: "It is the likeness of a reptile which they make upon the water, and the water is collected in it and flows through its holes, and it seems as if it wept. But the month called Tammuz is Persian, and so are all our months; none of them is from the sacred tongue.
Though they are written in the Scripture, they are Persian; but in the sacred tongue the first month, the second month," etc. At the close of this century we meet for the first time with an entirely new tradition repeated by R. David Kimchi, both in his Lexicon and in his Commentary, from the Moreh Nebuchim of Maimonides: "In the month Tammuz they made a feast of an idol, and the women came to gladden him; and some say that by crafty means they caused the water to come into the eyes of the idol which is called Tammuz, and it wept, as if it asked them to worship it. And some interpret Tammuz ‘ the burned one,' as if from Daniel 3, 19 (see above), i.e. they wept over him because he was burned; for they used to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, and the women used to weep over them.... But the Rab, the wise, the great, our Rabbi Moshe bar- Maimon, of blessed memory, has written that it is found written in one of the ancient idolatrous books that there was a man of the idolatrous prophets, and his name was Tammuz.' And he called to a certain king and commanded him to serve, the seven planets and the twelve signs. And that king put him to a violent death; and on the night of his death there weregathered together all the images from the ends of the earth to the Temple of Babel, to the golden image which was the image of the sun. Now this image was suspended between heaven and earth, and it fell down in the midst of the temple, and the images likewise (fell down) round about it, and it told them what had- befallen Tammuz the prophet. And the images all of them wept and lamented all the night; and, as it came to pass, in the morning all the images flew away to their own temples in the ends of the earth. And this was to them for an everlasting statute; at the beginning of the first day of the month Tammuz each year they lamented and wept over Tammuz. And some interpret Tammuz as the name of an animal, for they used to worship an image which they had, and the Targum of (the passage) ופגשו ציים את איים (Isaiah 34:14) is תמוזין בחתולין ויערערון .
But in most copies תמוזין is written with two Yavs." The book of the ancient idolaters from which Maimonides quotes is the now celebrated work on the agriculture of the Nabathseans, to which reference will be made hereafter. Ben-Melech gives no help, and Abendana merely quotes the explanations given by Rashi and Kimchi. 3. Modern Opinions. — The tradition recorded by Jerome, which identifies Tammuz with Adonis, has been followed by most subsequent commentators; among others, by Vatablus, Castellio, Cornelius a Lapide, Osiander, Caspar Sanctius, Lavater, Villalpandus, Selden, Simonis, Calmet, and, in later times, bv J. D. Michaelis, Gesenius, Ben-Zeb, Rosenmiuller, Maurer, Ewald, Havernick, Hitzig, and Movers. Luther and others regarded Tammuz as a name of Bacchus. That Tammuz was the Egyptian Osiris, and that his worship was introduced into Jerusalem from Egypt, was held by Calvin, Piscator, Junius, Leusden, and Pfeiffer. This view depends chiefly upon a false etymology proposed by Kircher, which connects the word Tammuz with the Coptic tamut, to hide, and so makes it signify the hidden or concealed one; and therefore Osiris, the Egyptian king slain by Typho, whose loss was commanded by Isis to be yearly lamented in Egypt. The women weeping for Tammuz are in this case, according to Junius, the priestesses of Isis. The Egyptian origin of the name Tammuz has also been defended by a reference to the god Amuz, mentioned by Plutarch and Herodotus, who is identical with Osiris. There is good reason, however, to believe that Amuz is a mistake for Amun. That something corresponding to Tammuz is found in Egyptian proper names as they appear in Greek cannot be denied. Ταμώς, an Egyptian, appears in Thucydides (8, 31) as a Persian officer, in Xenophon (Anab. 1, 4, 2) as an admiral. The Egyptian pilot who heard the mysterious voice bidding him proclaim "Great Pan is dead" was called Θαμούς (Plutarch, Je Dect. Oraf. 17). The names of the Egyptian kings, Θούμμωσις, Τέθμωσις, and Θμῶσις, mentioned by Manetho (Josephus, Cont. Revelation 1, 14, 15), have in turn been compared with Tammuz; but, unless some more certain evidence be brought forward than is found in these apparent resemblances, there is little reason to conclude that the worship of Tammuz was of Egyptian origin.
The identification of Tammuz with an idolatrous prophet, which has already been given in a quotation from Maimonides, who himself quotes from the Agriculture of the Nabathceans, has been recently revived by Prof. Cholson, of St. Petersburg (Ueber Tammuz, etc; [St. Petersb. 1860]). An Arab writer of the 10th century, En-Nedim, in his book called Fihrist el-'Ulum, says (quoting from Abu Sa'id Wahb ben-Ibrahim) that in the middle of the month Tammuz a feast is held in honor of the god T'uiz. The women bewailed him because his lord slew him and ground his bones in a mill, and scattered them to the winds. In consequence of this the women ate nothing, during the feast, that had been ground in a mill (Chwolson, Die Ssabier, etc., 2, 27). Prof. Chwolson regards Ta'uiz as a corruption of Tammuz; but the most important passage, in his eyes, is from the old Babylonian book called the Agriculture of the Nabathceans, to which he attributes a-fabulous antiquity. It was written, he maintains, by one Qfitam1, towards the end of the 14th century B.C., and was translated into Arabic by a descendant of the ancient Chaldeans, whose name was Ibn- Washiyyah. As Prof. Chwolson's theory has been strongly attacked, and as the chief materials upon which it is founded are not yet before the public, it would be equally premature to take him as an authority, or to pronounce positively against his hypothesis, though, judging from present evidence, we are inclined to be more than skeptical as to its truth. Quit'ami then, in that dim antiquity from which he speaks to us, tells the same story of the prophet Tammuz as has already been given in the quotation, from Kimchi. It was read in the temples after prayers to an audience who wept and wailed; and so great was the magic influence of the tale that Quit'ami himself, though incredulous of its truth, was unable to restrain his tears. A part, he thought, might be true, but it referred to an event so far removed by time from the age in which he lived that he was compelled to be skeptical on many points. His translator, Ibn-Washiyyah, adds that Tammuz belonged neither to the Chaldaeans nor to the Canaanites, nor to the Hebrews nor to the Assyrians, but to the ancient people of Janban. This last, Chwolson conjectures, may be the Shemitic name given to the gigantic Cushite aborigines of Chaldea, whom the Shemitic Nabathaeans found when they first came into the country, and from whom they adopted certain elements of their worship. Thus Tammuz, or Tammuzi, belongs to a religious epoch in Babylonia which preceded the Shemitic (id. Ueberreste d. altbabyl. Lit. p. 19). Ibn-Washiyyah says, moreover, that all the Sabians of his time, both those of Babylonia and of Harran, wept and wailed for Tammuz in the month which was named after him, but that none of them preserved ally tradition of the origin of the worship. This fact alone appears to militate strongly against the truth of Ibn-Washiyyah's story as to the manner in which he discovered the works he professed to translate. It has been due to Prof. Chwolson's reputation to give in brief the substance of his explanation of Tammuz; but it must be confessed that he throws little light upon the obscurity of the subject.
It seems perfectly clear from what has been said that the name Tammuz affords no clue to the identification of the deity whom it designated. The slight hint given by the prophet of the nature of the worship and worshippers of Tammuz has been sufficient to connect them with the yearly mourning for Adonis by the Syrian damsels. Beyond this we can attach no special weight to the explanation of Jerome. It is a conjecture, and nothing more, and does not appear to represent any tradition. All that can be said, therefore, is that it is not impossible that Tammuz may be a name of Adonis, the sun-god, but that there is nothing to prove it. It is true, however, that the name of Adonis does occur in Phoenician inscriptions (אָדוֹנַי, see Gesenius, Monum. Paen. 2, 400), and the coincidences of the ancient notices above and the mode of worship detailed below with the language of Ezekiel afford the most plausible interpretation hitherto offered.
4. Ceremonies of the Cultus. — There was a temple at Amathus, in Cyprus, shared by Adonis and Aphrodite (Pausan. 9:41, 2); and the worship of Adonis is said to have come from Cyprus to Athens in the time of the Persian war (Apollodor. 3, 14,4; Pausan. 2, 20,5; Ovid, Metam. 10:725; Philostr. Apoll. 7:32; Plutarch, Alcib. c. 18; Athen. 15:672; Aristoph. Pax, 420). But the town of Byblos, in Phcenicia, was the headquarters of the Adonis worship (Hamaker, Miscell. Pheanic. p. 125). The feast in his honor was celebrated each year in the temple of Aphrodite (said to have been founded by Kinyras, the reputed father of Adonis) on the Lebanon (Lucian, De Dea Syra, § 6) with rites partly sorrowful, partly joyful. The emperor Julian was present at Antioch when the same festival was held (Amm. Marc. 22:9, 13). It lasted seven days (20, 1), the period of mourning among the Jews (Sirach 22:12; Genesis 1:10; 1 Samuel 31:13; Judith 16:24), the Egyptians (Heliodor. Eth. 7:11), and the Syrians (Lucian, De Dea Syra, § 52), and began with the disappearance (ἀφανισμός ) of Adonis. Then followed the search (ζήτησις ) made by the women after him. His body was represented by a wooden image placed in the so-called "gardens of Adonis" (Ἀδώνιδος κῆποι ), which were earthenware vessels filled with mould, and planted with wheat, barley, lettuce, and fennel. They were exposed by the women to the heat of the sun at the house-doors or in the "Porches of Adonis," and the withering of the plants was regarded as symbolical of the slaughter of the youth by the fire-god Mars. In one of these gardens Adonis was found again, whence the fable says he was slain by the boar in the lettuce (ἀφάκη = Aphaca?), and was there found by Aphrodite. The finding again (εὕρεσις ) was the commencement of a wake, accompanied by all the usages which in the East attend such a ceremony-prostitution, cutting off the hair (comp. Leviticus 19:28-29; Leviticus 21:5; Deuteronomy 14:1), cutting the breast with knives (Jeremiah 16:6), and playing on pipes (comp. Matthew 9:23). The image of Adonis was then washed and anointed with spices placed in a coffin on a bier, and the wound made by the boar was shown on the figure. The people sat on the ground round the bier, with their clothes rent (comp. Ep. of Jeremiah 31, 32), and the women howled and cried aloud. The whole terminated with a sacrifice for the dead, and the burial of the figure of Adonis (see Movers, Phonizier, I, 7). According to Lucian, some of the inhabitants of Byblos maintained that the Egyptian Osiris was buried among them, and that the mourning and orgies were' in honor of him, and not of Adonis (De Dea Syra, § 7).
This is in accordance with the legend of Osiris as told by Plutarch (De Is. et Os.). Lucian further relates that on the same day on which the women of Byblos every year mourned for Adonis, the inhabitants of Alexandria sent them a letter, enclosed in a vessel which was wrapped in rushes or papyrus, announcing that Adonis was found. The vessel was cast into the sea, and carried by the current to Byblos (Procopius on Isaiah 18). It is called by Lucian βυβλίνην κεφαλήν, and is said to have traversed the distance between Alexandria and Byblos in seven days. Another marvel related by the same narrator is that of the River Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim), which flows down from the Lebanon, arid once a year was tinged with blood, which, according to the legend, came from the wounds of Adonis (comp. Milton, Par. Lost, 1, 460); but a rationalist of Byblos gave him a different explanation, how that the soil of the Lebanon was naturally very red-colored, and was carried down into the river by violent winds, and so gave a bloody tinge to the water; and to this day, says. Porter (Handbook, p. 187), "after every storm that breaks upon the brow of Lebanon the Adonis still ‘ runs purple to the sea.' The rushing waters tear from the banks red soil enough to give them a ruddy tinge, which poetical fancy, aided by popular credulity, converted into the blood of Thammuz." The time at which these rites of Adonis were celebrated is a subject of much dispute. It is not so important with regard to the passage in Ezekiel, for there does not appear to be any reason for supposing that tile time of the prophet's vision was coincident with the time at which Tammuz was worshipped.. Movers, who maintained the contrary, endeavored to prove that the celebration was in the late autumn, the end of the Syrian year, and corresponded with the time of the autumnal equinox. He relies chiefly for his conclusion on the account given by Ammianus Marcellirius (22, 9,13) of the Feast of Adonis, which was held at Antioch when the emperor Julian entered the city. It is clear, from a letter of the emperor's (Ep. Jul. 52), that he was in Antioch before Aug. 1, and his entry may therefore have taken place in July, the Tammuz of the Syrian year. This time agrees, moreover, with the explanation of the symbolical meaning of the rites given by Ammianus Marcellinus (22, 9,15) that they were a token of the fruits cut down in their prime. Now at Aleppo (Russell, Aleppo, 1, 72) the harvest is all over before the end of June, and we may fairly conclude that the same was the case at Antioch. Add to this that in Hebrew astronomical works תקופת תמוז, tekuphath Tammuz, is the "summer solstice;" and it seems more reasonable to conclude that the Adonis feast of the Phoenicians and Syrians was celebrated rather as the summer solstice than as the autumnal equinox. At this time the sun begins to descend among the wintry signs (Kenrick, Phonicia, p. 310),
See, in addition to the above literature, and that cited under ADONIS, Simonis, De Significatione Thammuz (Hal. 1744); Meursii Adonia, in Gronov. Thesaur. 7:208 sq.; Mercersb. Review, Jan. 1860; Christian Remembrancer, April, 1861.