Dr Marjo Korpel and Professor Emeritus J.C. de Moor claim to have found the evidence on Ugaritic clay tablets of a 13th-century BCE story about the gods who lived on the slopes of Mount Ararat, in modern-day Turkey, in the 'vineyard of the great gods', identified with the Garden of Eden.
The top god was El the creator god and amongst the lesser gods in the pantheon or Elohim (children of El) were Adam and his wife. El is, of course, the Hebrew, Christian and Muslim god whom Arabic speakers still call Allah.
Being gods, Adam and his wife had access to the Tree of Life in the vineyard by which they maintained their immortality.
But one of the Elohim, Horon, wanted to replace El as top god (note how these male gods had human emotions, ambitions and jealousies) so El threw him down the mountain. Horon then transformed himself into a serpent which poisoned the Tree of Life, turning it into a Tree of Death and shrouding Earth in a poison fog. El then sent Adam to fight Horon and restore the Tree of Life but Horon bit Adam with his poison fangs and made him mortal.
At this point the sun goddess intervened, gave Adam a 'good-natured-woman' and invented procreation so they could live on through their children and their children's children. The other Elohim got together and forced Horon to uproot the Tree of Death so life on Earth was saved by the sun goddess but Adam and his children lost their immortality.
In this version, there was no original sin by Adam & Eve. The first sin, and the reason death entered the world, was the rebellion by Horon. 13th-century BCE Canaanites didn't regard themselves as the cause of all woes and unworthy sinners who needed to beg constantly for forgiveness. That means of social control was invented later to enable the Canaanite despots who ruled over the emerging Hebrew states in Canaan to rule through guilt and fear, something enthusiastically adopted by the failing Roman state in the 2nd-century CE and still relied on by the priests, imams and rabbis of the three Abrahamic religions, who sell the magic needed to provide this salvation for the problem they invented.
The other interesting aspect to this myth is that the roll of Mount Ararat in the tale and the shrouding of Earth in a poison fog. Conflate that myth with a flood myth which the Hebrews later picked up during the Babylonian exile and it's easy to see where the tale of Noah and the Ark came from and why the Ark ended up back in the Garden of Eden on the slopes of Mount Ararat. Elements of two different origin myths often become garbled with oral traditions as tales become merged and elaborated.
So, to Muslims, Jews and Christians, if this myth instead of the Adam and Eve and the Noah myths had been incorporated into the early Hebrew Bible, how do you think your religion, with its belief in original sin and the need for forgiveness and redemption would have developed in a pantheon where death was brought into the world by a rebellious god who committed the original sin?
Of course, this myth, like all the Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, etc, etc, myths is just that, just like the Hebrew origin myth that was based on it. Why is the Hebrew myth in the Bible any better or any more plausible than this one, or indeed any of the others?
Marjo Korpel and Johannes C. de Moor have published their findings in a (very expensive) book, Adam, Eve, and the Devil: A New Beginning. In this book, these biblical scholars propose a whole new basis for reinterpreting the Old Testament. It's difficult to see how the Christian belief in the need for forgiveness and redemption and the need to achieve that by 'accepting Jesus' and in which a blood sacrifice was necessary to enable it, can survive a revision which says gods, not man, were the sinners and the first man tried to reverse the effects of this sin.
What a state to get into when your life is based on a muddle over origin myths at best, and a deliberate distortion of them at worst.
Thanks to Facebook user Femia Jantzen for drawing my attention to this work.