Jewish Zachariah Sitchin’s Fake News Satanic Ancient Astronauts Theory

~Michael Heiser’s Site, here preserved


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.


12 Planets in Sumerian Thought?

Does the cylinder seal above convey the fact that the Sumerians who fashioned it knew of 12 planets in our solar system? That’s what Zecharia Sitchin claims about the seal. But he’s wrong, and it isn’t difficult to demonstrate. All one has to do to agree with Sitchin here is (a) ignore what the seal says; (b) ignore what is known about Sumerian astronomy from cuneiform astronomical texts (all published, but in scholarly books); and ignore standard Sumerian iconography — artistic representations of stars. That’s all.


The cylinder seal is now in a museum in Berlin. It goes by the number “VA243”. Here’s an analysis of the seal in PDF.


The Anunnaki

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.

Watch the VIDEO below and then do the search at the link below (shown in the video) and see if what I’m saying is true. Mr. Sitchin was making it up when it comes to what he says about the Anunnaki. The evidence is waiting for you now. Don’t take my word for it.

Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature search for Anunnaki

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”).

anunna search ETCSL


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.


anunna results

5. Enjoy discovering for yourself that Sitchin is wrong!


The Nephilim


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’s Mistakes

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 Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar, 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.



Zecharia Sitchin’s Errors on “Elohim”

Zecharia Sitchin is Jewish. I would imagine that he speaks Hebrew. However, when it comes to biblical Hebrew, he apparently doesn’t know Hebrew grammar. Sound crazy? Think about it. You know English; you’re reading it now, and you speak it. But could you successfully diagram the sentences in this paragraph? Could you explain all the verb tenses? Could you give me the grammatical relationships of all the prepositional phrases to the verbs which they modify? Could you explain all the subject-verb relationships? I hope you get the point. Grammatical analysis — which is essential for correct translation — is not the same as being a speaker of the language. If there were no difference, we wouldn’t have English classes in middle school, high school, and college.

Let’s apply this to the Hebrew Bible and Sitchin’s comments about elohim. Contrary to what Sitchin says, elohim does *not* always mean “gods” (plural); the meaning of the term is to be determined by grammatical and contextual clues. Grammar is to language what your graphical internet browser is to the websites on the internet – it is the organizing vehicle that gives meaning to the data -bits of information. As you’ll see below through the PDFs and the videos, this is very easily demonstrated. Grammar dictates the formation of words, the relationship of words to each other, and the meaning of those words with respect to that arrangement. Without attention to the rules of grammar that have governed the languages of ancient texts, you can make the texts say anything.

The PDF files below illustrate (from the Hebrew) that elohim often refers to a “god” or “God” (proper name). Besides this evidence from the Hebrew Bible, I have also posted examples from ancient Mesopotamian texts (Akkadian) from the famous El-Amarna texts where the plural word for “gods” (‘ilanu) refers to a single person or god – just as in the case of Hebrew elohim. Why is Sitchin unaware of this material?

VIDEO: a video of me searching the Hebrew Bible with the LOGOS Bible software (version 7) for:

  • all occurrences of elohim in the Hebrew Bible;
  • all the places where elohim is the subject of a verb (generally)
  • all the places where elohim could legitimately be translated as a plural because of the verb form (i.e., all the places where elohim is the grammatical subject of a plural predicator); NOTE: I have written a peer-reviewed journal article on this construction, showing that, in all cases where elohim has plural predication something else in the grammatical context indicates that the singular God of Israel is still in view. The exception is where a pagan (non-Israelite) is speaking about “elohim” — in which case there may be plurality in view.
  • all the places in the Hebrew Bible where the word elohim is identified as Yahweh – the singular God of Israel – showing that elohim is singular for context reasons.

NOTE: The comparison of the verb searches show how seldom elohim takes a plural verb form, relative to its total uses as a grammatical subject of a verb.
PDFs accompanying Video 1
elohim in the Hebrew Bible: 2,600 occurrences
elohim as the subject of a verb (generally)
elohim as the subject of a plural verb form
elohim combined with the divine name YHWH to show elohim is singular in context


Genesis and Mesopotamia

Boldly Rushing into the 1880s

One of the great myths perpetuated by Zecharia Sitchin and those who promote his material is that the material of Genesis 1-11 (and other parts of the Bible) are “borrowed” from the Sumerians and Akkadians. This was the predominant view in biblical scholarship nearly 150 years ago, but the idea now has been abandoned. The reasons are several:

More is known today about Sumerian and Akkadian. These languages were just beginning to be deciphered and studied in the mid-to-late 19th century. Scholars today have a deeper knowledge of the linguistic disconnections between those languages and material in Genesis than ever before.

The late 1920s saw the discovery of the Ugaritic cuneiform material. Ugaritic turned out to be far closer to biblical Hebrew than Akkadian or Sumerian, and the literature of Ugarit had closer parallels to biblical material.

The scholarship of the late 19th century was predisposed by anti-Semitism, and so many parallels put forth by scholars with anti-Semitic beliefs were contrived or exaggerated.

The logical question, then, was “what’s the alternative?” The answer is *not* that the Hebrew Bible was dictated from on high and is utterly unique. That is also a view that has proven to be untenable with the advance of modern scholarship.

The alternative is actually quite simple. No legitimate scholar in biblical studies disputes that there are similarities between the literature of Israel, Sumer, Akkad, Ugarit — and Egypt, and the Hittite civilization. The question is why the similarities exist. The answer held in great consensus today is that it is because all these civilizations shares a common cultural, linguistic, literary, and religious worldview. Because parts of the Hebrew Bible were composed or edited in Babylon during the exile, the possibility of some borrowing here and there exists, but it is done for fairly obvious reasons of theological polemic. In other words, The Hebrew Bible, as the latest literary creation among these civilizations, at times draws on each of them, not for worldview material (they already had a common pool of ideas), but to make deliberate, often antagonistic, theological statements about the beliefs of the other nations and their belief in the superiority of their God, Yahweh, compared to others.

Scholarship on “Panbabylonism”

The now antiquated notion that there is heavy borrowing by the authors of the Hebrew Bible of Mesopotamian material is referred to as “Panbabylonianism” by today’s scholars (it refers to seeing parallels and borrowings everywhere in the Old Testament). There have been a number of recent articles and books on this subject that are accessible to non-specialists. I’ve blogged about several of them on my PaleoBabble blog:

Is Zecharia Sitchin Anti-Semitic? (I don’t think for a minute he is, but his views on Genesis originate with anti-Semites)
The Bias of 19th Century German Biblical and Assyriological Scholarship (more on anti- Semitism in PanBabylonianism)
Is the Book of Genesis Plagiarized from Sumerian and Akkadian (Mesopotamian) Sources?
There are also several good resources for non-specialists on this issue that are a bit older. For example, in John Walton’s book 1990, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context, he quotes cuneiform scholar Alan Millard at length on this issue:



Sumerian Lexical Lists and Sitchin’s “Translations”

I have discussed this issue on my PaleoBabble blog, but wanted to summarize it here. Here’s an excerpt of my comments:

As noted above, the ancient Mesopotamian scribes created dictionaries. Lists of words are a common feature among the thousands of Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets which have been discovered by archaeologists. Many are just groupings of common words, while others represent an inventory of the word meanings of the languages used in Mesopotamia. These “lexical lists”, as scholars call them, were indispensable to the 19th century scholars who deciphered the Sumerian and Akkadian texts, for they were used to compile modern dictionaries of these languages. Today all major lexical texts have been published in the multi-volume set, Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon, begun by Benno Landsberger in the 1930s. It is indeed a rare instance where ancient dictionaries of a dead language form the core of the modern dictionaries used by scholars of today. Such is the case for the ancient languages of Sumer and Akkad. Sadly, Mr. Sitchin neglects these resources.

What is a Lexical List?

To learn more about lexical lists, click here. The important point in all this is that Sitchin’s translation of key terms, like Sumerian MU, conflict with the bilingual material of the lexical lists compiled by the Mesopotamian scribes themselves.

If you want to check the most up-to-date scholarly translations of Sumerian literature for evidence of Sitchin’s “translations,” or if you want to search a Sumerian word in these texts, go to the online Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) maintained by Oxford University. You can click on “Anunnaki” in the navigation pane on the left to watch a video of Dr. Heiser’s search for the term “Anunnaki” at the ETCSL website.

Ancient Astronauts & The Pictures on the Homepage

I wanted a place on the website to briefly address the pictures I use on the homepage. You can stop here if you don’t want real data, as opposed to what you’ll read from Zecharia Sitchin and other ancient astronaut promoters.

The “Alien” Elongated Skulls

I’ve blogged about these skulls over at PaleoBabble. The picture on the site is a facsimile of the elongated skulls you’ll see promoted on ancient astronaut sites — but the one I use comes from a medical supply company. That alone should tell you something. Yes,. Virginia, real scientists are aware of these skulls and don’t think they are anything alien at all. For the company’s website and a couple scholarly articles from peer-reviewed journals about those “alien” alongated Peruvian skulls. click here to go to my post.

Related links on my PaleoBabble blog:

UFOs in Medieval and Renaissance Art?

I’m not an art historian, but Diego Cuoghi is. He’s taken a careful and lengthy look at the artwork promoted by Matthew Hurley and others to promote the idea that a range of artists were putting flying saucers in their works. Nope.

Qumran Scroll: Fragmentary Text of 4QAmram

The manuscript remains pictured on the homepage of the website is an Aramaic fragment of the book of Enoch (1 Enoch 6:4-8) known as 4Q201, fragment 1, col. iii (=4QEnocha aramaic). It’s significance is that it is one of the few Aramaic texts from Qumran that mention giants. It also distinguishes the giants from the Watchers, 1 Enoch’s term for the “sons of God” of Genesis 6:1-4. Sitchin equates the two groups, whereas the ancient texts do not.

Another Dead Sea scroll text about the same subject (the Genesis 6 story of the sons of God/Watchers and their offspring, the nephilim, is called the Genesis Apocryphon. Sitchin quotes from this text in his book Stairway to Heaven, on pages 110-112. In an effort to defend his idea that the nephilim and the sons of God are the same. As I discuss on the “Nephilim” page on this website, he mistranslates this text and fails to notice it is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew.

Cylinder Seal VA243

This cylinder seal is discussed in detail on this site. It does not show 12 planets, as Sitchin claims.


SHU.MU = Rocketships?

Zecharia Sitchin and others who parrot his work insist that there are rocket ships in the Sumerian texts. Not so.

Sumerian Dictionaries

As I note elsewhere on this website, the ancient Mesopotamian scribes created their own dictionaries. Lists of words are a common feature among the thousands of Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets which have been discovered by archaeologists. Many are just groupings of common words, while others represent an inventory of the word meanings of the languages used in Mesopotamia. These “lexical lists”, as scholars call them, were indispensable to the 19th century scholars who deciphered the Sumerian and Akkadian texts, for they were used to compile modern dictionaries of these languages. Today all major lexical texts have been published in the multi-volume set, Materials for the Sumerian Lexicon, begun by Benno Landsberger in the 1930s. It is indeed a rare instance where ancient dictionaries of a dead language form the core of the modern dictionaries used by scholars of today. Such is the case for the ancient languages of Sumer and Akkad. Mr. Sitchin avoids these resources, which explains why his “translations” are so odd.

The Meaning of Sumerian “MU”

On pages 140-143 of The 12th Planet, we read that Mr. Sitchin defines the Sumerian MU as “an oval-topped, conical object,” and “that which rises straight.” Mr. Sitchin cites no Sumerian dictionary for these meanings. A check of the dictionaries contained in Sumerian grammars and the online Sumerian dictionary reveal no such word meanings. But why trust modern scholars when we can check with the Mesopotamian scribes themselves?

In his technical but stimulating study of Sumerian and Mesopotamian terminology for the cosmos, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, Mesopotamian scholar W. Horowitz lays out the meaning of the Sumerian word “MU” directly as the Mesopotamian lexical lists have it. In discussing the meaning of the Akkadian word “shamu,” in his book, Horowitz gathered all the lexical list data for that word. What follows below is his layout. Note that the word “MU” in the left-hand (Sumerian) was among the cuneiform dictionary entries for “shamu.” A discussion of the meanings follows the entries. Briefly, “shamu” in Akkadian here means “heaven” (or part of the sky/heavens) or perhaps “rain.” According to the scribal tablets themselves, the meaning is not “that which rises straight,” or “conical object” (i.e., “rocket ship”). This is the verdict of the scribes themselves, not this writer. The red explanatory insertions are my own:



The Meaning of SHU.MU (shumu)

Mr. Sitchin goes on to claim (p. 143) that the Sumerian syllable MU was adopted into Semitic languages as “SHU-MU,” which he translates as “that which is a MU” (by implication, “that which is a rocket ship”). Allegedly, “SHU-MU” then morphed into Akkadian shamu and Biblical Hebrew shem. We will consider the Akkadian word first, and then the Hebrew word.

Does Akkadian shamu come from Sitchin’s “SHU-MU”? Does Sumerian even have a word that means “that which is a MU”? Contrary to Mr. Sitchin, Akkadian shamu does NOT derive from SHU-MU, nor does shamu mean “that which is a MU.”

First, Mr. Sitchin’s translation of shu-mu presupposes that “SHU-” is what’s called in grammar a “relative pronoun” (the classification of pronouns in all languages that mean: “that which”). Mr. Sitchin is apparently unaware of Sumerian grammar at this point, because the Sumerian language does not have a class of pronouns that are relative pronouns! One need only consult a Sumerian grammar to find this out, such as John L. Hayes, A Manual of Sumerian Grammar (p.88).

Second, there are no texts in Sumerian and Akkadian that have “rocket” or “fiery rocket” or “cone shaped” for shumu. See for yourself. Here is a video of me searching through the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary and the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary for “shumu” to see if it is a rocket ship. These tools are the elite lexicons for Akkadian and Sumerian available to scholars in the fields today — and they are free online.

The Meaning of “ME”

To begin his argument, Sitchin quotes the following lines from an unnamed text (p. 130; why doesn’t he give sources?). The text is most likely from the Descent of Inanna:

She (Inanna) placed the SHU.GAR.RA on her her head.

She arranged the dark locks of hair across her forehead.

She tied the small lapis beads around her neck.

Let the double strand of beads fall to her breast,

And wrapped the royal robe (PALA) around her body.

Although the word “ME” is not in this text, Sitchin insists that the SHU.GAR.RA is a space helmet. The object is surely some type of headgear, as is evident from the statuary Sitchin reproduces in his book (p. 132). That it involves SPACE TRAVEL is a fabrication, based on some presumed connection between it and a passage he quotes on page 136, which describes the ME that Enlil fastens to Inanna’s body, objects which Inanna wears for her journeys in the “Boat of Heaven” (and so, for Sitchin, space gear or a space suit). Enlil announces to her:

You have lifted the ME

You have tied the ME to your hands

You have gathered the ME

You have attached the ME to your breast

O Queen of all the ME, O radiant light

Who with her hands grasps the seven ME

Where’s the space travel part? That comes with Sitchin’s interpretation of the “Boat of Heaven” in which Inanna rides – the MU. Inanna TAKES the ME’s with her on her trip in the MU. Naturally, Sitchin’s interpretation of the above depends on whether the MU is a flying craft, which even the Mesopotamians would deny (see above).

The word ME in other Sumerian texts describing Inanna’s journey wearing the SHU.GAR.RA is used dozens of times for objects that are NOT worn. Specifically, the famous text Inanna and Enki deals with Inanna’s desire to “possess the ME” of Enki. In this work, ME can refer to: (a) abstract ideas, like rulership, godship, shepherdship, priestess-ship, the throne of kingship, dishonesty, kissing, extinguishing fire, etc.; (b) activities, such as love-making, prostitution, slander, plunder, writing, leather-working, arguing, mat-weaving, and washing; and (c) concrete objects, like a black dress, hair, a sheepfold, descendants, etc.

This data is what leads scholars to define “ME” as either “cultural norms (which can be stored like concrete objects) or banners that represent these objects or ideas” (see “Inanna and Enki,” pp. 518ff. in The Context of Scripture, vol 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, ed. W. Hallo and K. L. Younger; Brill, 2000). What would love-making have to do with flying in a spaceship? Hair? Washing? Etc.! In all, there are 94 “ME’s” in the above text, NONE of which have any clear connection to flight.

For more specific study of the word “ME”, see:

Gertrud Farber, Der Mythos “Inanna und Enki” unter besonderer Berucksichtigung der Liste der ME, Studia Pohl 10 (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1973)

Gertrud Farber, “ME” in Real-lexikon der Assyriologie

Richard Averbeck, The Cylinders of Gudea, pp. 417-433 in The Context of Scripture, vol 2: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, ed. W. Hallo and K. L. Younger (Brill, 2000)



Open Letter

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


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