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2.0 Ancient Near Eastern Background to the Old Testament


2.0 Ancient Near Eastern Background to the Old Testament ... the long-forgotten world of ancient Egypt and the ancient empires of Mesopotamia... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: 2.0 Ancient Near Eastern Background to the Old Testament

2.0 Ancient Near Eastern Background to the Old
  • BOT508 Introduction to the Old Testament

  • The nineteenth century rendered the service of
    rediscovering the long-forgotten world of ancient
    Egypt and the ancient empires of Mesopotamia. In
    consequence of these discoveries the Bible, once
    thought to be mankinds oldest book, has proved
    to be a relatively recent phenomenon.
  • Keel, Othmar, The Symbolism of the Bible World
    Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of
    Psalms, 7

  • We now see the Bible imbedded in a broad stream
    of traditions of the most diverse kind and
    provenance. Only when this rich environment has
    been systematically included in the study of the
    OT do OT conventionalities and originalities
    clearly emerge.
  • Keel, Othmar, The Symbolism of the Bible World
    Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of
    Psalms, 7

  • . . . the Oriental Renaissance. The
    transformation has been based fundamentally on
    archaeological data, but from archaeology it has
    naturally extended to literature, to religion, to
    art, and to the entire culture sphere. It has its
    beginning in April 1928, when a Syrian peasant,
    ploughing in his field, ran his share into the
    remains of an ancient tomb, and so discovered
    Ugarit . . . .
  • Mascati, Sabatino, The Face of the Ancient
    Orient A Panorama of Near Eastern Civilization
    in Pre-Classical Times, (1962), 3

  • In the Oriental Renaissance we may distinguish
    three archaeological key discoveries Ugarit,
    Mari and the Dead Sea Scrolls. In all three cases
    the discovery was made by chance . . . . In all
    three cases, the additions to our knowledge were
    revolutionary in their effect. . . .
  • Mascati, Sabatino, The Face of the Ancient
    Orient A Panorama of Near Eastern Civilization
    in Pre-Classical Times, (1962), 3-4

1. The OT the ANE
  • 1. Important Collection of Texts
  • 1.1 Byblos, Alalakh, Nuzi
  • Nuzi Speiser, et. al.
  • Two problems 1) Interpretation was Wrong! (role
    of house gods sistership contracts) 2) Nuzi
    custom not unique, but general Mesopotamian
    (childless wife and child bearing through slave)?

1. The OT the ANE
  • 1.2 Ugarit
  • Ugartic Israelite Religious studies
  • Ugaritic language
  • Poetry

1. The OT the ANE
  • 1.3 Mari (majority 1800-1760 BCE)?
  • Harran Abraham
  • Prophetic text
  • N.B. Malamat, Abraham, Prophecy at Mari, in The
    Place is Too Small for Us, 50-73.

1. The OT the ANE
  • 1.4 Ebla (3rd Millennium BCE, NW Syria)?
  • Historical Interest
  • 1.5 Amarna (Akhenaten)?
  • Israelite occupation conquest ??????

1. The OT the ANE
  • 2. Areas of Research
  • 2.1 Historiography
  • 2.2 Religion
  • 2.2.1 Hymns Prayers (Egyptian, Mesopotamian
  • 2.2.2 Myth, Ritual Magic
  • Babylonian creation epics, Atrahasis epic

1. The OT the ANE
  • 2.3 Law
  • 2.4 Covenant
  • 2.5 Wisdom
  • 2.6 Love Poetry
  • N.B. Walton, John H., Ancient Israelite
    Literature in Its Cultural Context, 1989.

1. The OT the ANE
  • 3. Collections of Pictures Texts in
  • 3.1 Gressmann (1926, 1927)?
  • 3.2 Pritchard (1969)?
  • 3.3 D. Winston Thomas
  • 3.4 SBL Writings from the Ancient World Series

1. The OT the ANE
  • 3.5 William W. Hallo, The Context of Scripture
  • 3.6 Othmar Keels Studies
  • See J. J. M. Roberts, The Ancient Near Eastern
    Environment, in Knight Tuckers The Hebrew
    Bible and Its Modern Interpreters, Chico
    Scholars Press, 1985, pp. 75-122

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • 1. Ancient Inscriptions
  • Inscriptional non inscriptional artifacts are
    the two major types of archaeological data for
    reconstructing ancient history.
  • Important areas of concern include political,
    economic, social and intellectual aspects of an
    ancient culture.

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • 2. Development of Writing
  • Pictographic forms Egyptian hieroglyphics
  • Syllabolgraphic forms with semantic
    determinatives Sumerian
  • Development of the Consonantal Alphabet -
  • Consonants Vowels Greek

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • 3. Three Writing Materials
  • Coloring ink on papyrus or astracon
  • Gouging on wax or clay
  • Carving on hard surface

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • 4. Languages
  • Semitic Eastern (Akkadian) and Western
    (specifically Northwestern Ugaritic,
    Phoenician/Hebrew, and Aramaic)?
  • Afro-Asiatic (or Hamito-Semitic)?
  • Indo-European Anatolia (principally Hittite and
    Luwian and Greek)
  • Sumerian

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • Lingua Franca
  • By Old Akkadian Period (2400 BCE) writing in
    Sumerian to expression Mesopotamian
  • By 2000 BCE Akkadian dominated
  • Until Aramaic takes over completely in the
    Persian Period.
  • Greek Latin
  • Multilingualism Bilingualism

2. Epigraphy the Bible
  • 5. Categories of Texts Found
  • Administrative texts
  • Epistolary texts
  • Ritual texts
  • Scientific texts
  • Historical texts
  • Belletristic works
  • Pardee, Dennis, Inscriptions Ancient
    Inscriptions, The Oxford Encyclopedia of
    Archaeology in the Near East, Volume 3, pp.

3. Iconography the Bible
  • 1. Definition of Iconography
  • "The study of artistic subject matter or content
    (as opposed to artistic techniques and styles).
    Iconography therefore strives to describe the
    appearance, development, and disappearance of
    certain motifs and compositions, or the
    substitution of one artistic form by another."

3. Iconography the Bible
  • 2. Biblical Research Iconography
  • 2.1 "A biblical text can explicitly describe a
    work of art, as e.g., the descriptions of
    drawings of Chaldean warriors in Ezek 2314."

3. Iconography the Bible
  • 2.2 "Descriptions can also be implicit. There are
    sound reasons for believing that Ezekiel was
    influenced by pictorial representations when
    describing the 4 living creatures supporting the
    sky (Ezekiel 1 . . . ."

3. Iconography the Bible
  • 2.3 "A text and a picture can independently deal
    with the same subject matter, as e.g., the
    appointment of an official or his being rewarded
    (Gen 313745 and several Egyptian tomb paintings
    of New Kingdom date. . . ."

3. Iconography the Bible
  • 3. Purpose of Studying Pictures
  • To see what we are reading about
  • Pictures tend to relate directly to the object,
    while words are symbolic . . . .
  • "Thus Josephus may claim, as for the cherubim
    themselves, no one can say or imagine what they
    looked like (Ant 8.73)."
  • This is especially true when dealing with
    people-made objects like the Ark.
  • Lachish Room in the Nineveh Palace
  • Keel, Othmar, "Iconography and the Bible," ABD
    CD-Rom edition

4. The Comparative Method
  • "To what end this toil and trouble in distant,
    inhospitable, and danger-ridden lands? Why all
    this expense in ransacking to their utmost depths
    the rubbish heaps of forgotten centuries, where
    we know neither treasures of gold nor silver
    exist? Why this zealous emulation on the part of
    the nations to secure the greatest possible
    number of mounds for excavation? And whence, too,
    that constantly increasing interest, that burning
    enthusiasm, born of generous sacrifice, now being
    bestowed on both sides of the Atlantic on the
    excavations of Babylonia and Assyria? One answer
    echoes to all these questions, - one answer,
    which, if not absolutely adequate, is yet largely
    the reason and consummation of it all the Bible."

4. The Comparative Method
  • 1. Friedrich Delitzsch, 1902ff., "Babel and
  • Babylonian ethics superior to that in the Bible
    when dealing with Creation the Flood.
  • "Sabbath" concept as coming from Babylonians
  • Babylonians knew monotheism via traveling

4. The Comparative Method
  • 2. Comparison with the Bible
  • "There is no doubt that the entire literature of
    the Old Testament, regardless of the age,
    character, or original function of its component
    elements, is made to conform with its overall
    theme the one God and his purposes, especially
    as they apply to man."

4. The Comparative Method
  • ". . . no comparisons between Babylonian and
    Biblical traditions can be undertaken without
    constant awareness of the polarity of the
    Babylonian and Israelite cosmic views, and of the
    profound effect this contrast had in the
    religious and cultural development within each
  • Jacob J. Finkelstein, "Bible and Babel A
    Comparative Study of the Hebrew and Babylonian
    Religious Spirit"

4. The Comparative Method
  • 3. The Comparative Methodology
  • The Comparative Method is interdependent with the
    Historical/Literary Methodologies that developed
    in the 19th Century.
  • Units of Comparison should be "geographical
    neighbors and historical contemporaries"
  • The problems with "patterns" and the "myth and
    ritual school."

4. The Comparative Method
  • "Comparison with extra-biblical material should
    be brought into play only when a properly
    executed inner-biblical analysis does not produce
    satisfactory results."
  • ". . . when linguistic aspects provide but
    unclear and difficult hints toward the
    explanation of textual cruxes one should not
    depend on the forced testimony of assumed
    external parallels, ferreted out by the
    comparative method. Rather, the elucidation of
    difficult terms and ideas must be achieved from
    the biblical books themselves, since they are the
    only reliable first-hand evidence

4. The Comparative Method
  • which mirrors, albeit fragmentarily, the
    conceptual horizon of ancient Israel and the
    linguistic and literary modes in which it found
    its expression. For this reason, internal
    parallels are of greater help than external ones
    their identification can be achieved in a more
    systematic fashion than the pinpointing of
    similarities in extra-biblical sources."

4. The Comparative Method
  • "It demands an interdisciplinary and synoptic
    grasp, thus requiring the co-operation of experts
    in diverse areas philology, literature,
    folklore, theology, sociology, history, and the
    history of ideas."
  • Shemaryahu Talmon, "The "Comparative Method" in
    Biblical Interpretation-Principles and Problems"

4. The Comparative Method
  • 4. Ten Important Principles of Comparative
    Studies Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought
    and the Old Testament, 26-7
  • 1. Both similarities and differences must be
  • 2. Similarities may suggest a common cultural
    heritage or cognitive environment rather than
  • 3. It is not uncommon to find similarities at the
    surface but differences at the conceptual level
    and vice versa.
  • 4. All elements must be understood in their own
    context as accurately as possible before
    cross-cultural comparisons are made.
  • 5. Proximity in time, geography, and sheres of
    cultural contact all increase the possibility of
    interaction leading to influence.

4. The Comparative Method
  • 6. A case for literary borrowing requires
    identification of likely channels of
  • 7. The significance of differences between two
    pieces of literature is minimized if the works
    are not the same genre.
  • 8. Similar functions may be preformed by
    different genres in different cultures.
  • 9. When literary or cultural elements are
    borrowed they may in turn be transformed into
    something quite different by those who borrowed
  • 10. A single culture will rarely be monolithic,
    either in a contemporary cross-section or in
    consideration of a passage of time.

5. The Problem of History
  • 1. Multiple Meanings
  • 1.1 "Geschichte, or the academic discipline of
  • 1.2 "Historie, or less formal narrative history
  • 1.3 "Storie, which may contain may mythic and
    folkloric elements, but nevertheless aims at a
    connected account of the past."
  • W. Dever, What did the Bible Writers Know When
    did they Know it?, 5

5. The Problem of History
  • 2. Multiple Meanings
  • 2.1 Political history, the history of great
    public figures and institutions
  • 2.2 Intellectual history, the history of
    formative ideas
  • 2.3 Socio-economic history, the history of social
    and economic structures
  • 2.4 Technological history, the history of things
    and their use
  • 2.5 Art history, the history of aesthetics

5. The Problem of History
  • 2.6 Ideological history, the histor of how
    certain concepts, specifically ethnic and
    religious, have shaped culture
  • 2.7 Natural history, the history of the
    environment and the natural world
  • 2.8 perhaps a culture history, or total history.

6. Problems with the History of Religions
  • Parallel Mania
  • Causal Fallacies
  • What kind of dependence is involved?
  • Critical Scholarship and the Dating of Texts
  • The Problem of Ex-eventu vaticinus
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