The Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Texts

The source book I used for this session is Ancient Near Eastern Texts James B. Pritchard, 1969, Princeton, which when I was a student we called ANET.

The Bible and Ancient Near Eastern T

Creation Stories

The first example is a Creation story from Egypt, in which the god Atum gives his ka to the creature he makes. The ka is his life or animating principle, rather like the ‘breath of God’ in Genesis chapter 1, given by God to Adam. The ka is symbolized by enfolding, protecting arms. We have an echo of this also in Genesis, in the Spirit of God hovering with protective wings, like a mother bird over a nest.

The second example is the story of Tiamat and Marduk, in Akkadian (later Babylonian)  mythology. The Akkadian Empire was in Mesopotamia, 3rd Millennium BC, modern Syria/Iraq/Iran, precursor of the Assyrian/Babylonian/Persian Empires, known in the Bible. Tiamat is the primordial ocean, a goddess slain by Marduk, a god of light. Remember that the Akkadian culture was based in the great Tigris/Euphrates river delta, so they experienced annual floods and the endless conflict between dry land and seawater.

Everything begins with a war of the gods. There are remnants of this story in the Bible, e.g. Isaiah 51:9 “Is it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who spears the dragon”, Psalm 74:14, “It is you who crushed the head of the whale.” In the Bible, Tiamat loses her personality, and is nothing more than the primordial ocean. This Creation story is full of violence, unlike the Biblical stories, which are full of peace and harmony.

Flood Story

ANET p.92-95 from The Epic of Gilgamesh (Aakkadian). Many echoes of the Genesis story.

Law Codes

ANET p.34 The Protestation of Guiltlessness (Egyptian). Many parallels to The Ten Commandments Ex 20

Love Poems // The Song of Songs

ANET p. 468, 469

Proverbs, Precepts and Psalms

ANET p.426, 427;

Cf. Ps 2:16-19, 3:9-10, 27-28; 5:1-23; Ecc 7:29-31; 9:2-9; 26:20; 28:2

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