January 29, 2007

Creation in Mesopotamian Context

Over at Codex, Tyler Williams has started what promises to be an abnormally interesting series called "Ideas of Origins and Creation in Ancient Mesopotamia." His first post outlines the pitfalls of such a survey and discusses methodology. He also provides a very good Annotated Bibliography. He promises to follow this with posts on texts primarily from the Old Babylonian and Neo-Babylonian periods, taking up both the Sumerian and the Akkadian literature. Perhaps he will also discuss those few tablets from other periods as well. I think he is wise to present the texts in roughly chronological order using the date of the tablets rather than the various proposed dates of composition as his guide. The series will entail four posts and I am looking forward to the remaining three.

Tyler's decision to focus on Mesopotamian versions of the texts is also wise because, after all, that is where texts like Gilgamesh and the Enuma elish come from. But I find it interesting that some of these texts also show up outside of Mesopotamia proper. Bogazkoy, Emar, Ugarit and Megiddo have each yielded excerpts, fragments and "knock offs" of Gilgamesh. And Gilgamesh is known in Hurrain and Hittite as well as Akkadian.

As was frequently the case in Mesopotamia, these western Gilgamesh related tablets were often discovered in the context of scribal schools. Some were no doubt student exercises. I have often wondered, and this is purely speculative, if the pathway by which various themes from Mesopotamian literature found their way into the Hebrew Bible was via scribal training. The question of where and when only adds to the speculation but I will point out that if this was indeed the pathway, it could have well happened in Mesopotamia during the exile rather than before. Does anyone know of a scribe writing in neo-Babylonian cuneiform who appears to have a Hebrew name?

Posted by DuaneSmith at January 29, 2007 07:48 PM | Read more on Hebrew Bible |

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