On Reading Near Eastern Texts

By blog standards, this is a delayed reaction but Charles Halton offers four important tips for the use of Ancient Near Eastern material. He focuses on the use of this material by Biblical scholars but his tips apply as well to classicists. Here’s a sample from Charles’ third tip,

Understand ANE texts on their own terms. Ancient peoples viewed authorship, literature, and even the universe itself, in ways that are in many respects profoundly different than we do. In order to understand these texts properly, and concomitantly to responsibly employ these ideas in inter-disciplinary studies, we shouldn’t read modern perceptions into them.

Give his whole post a read. You will be rewarded but not as much as you will if you follow his advice.
My own advice to Biblical scholars and classicists would be to read Ancient Near Eastern texts for their sake. Forget about the Bible or Homer as much as you can. Don’t even think of these ancient texts as “background material.” Read Gilgamesh or Enuma Elish or Šumma Izbu or Kurtu or The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor or whatever as you would the Bible or Homer. If something clicks with a Biblical or classical text be pleased that it does. If nothing clicks, be pleased with (or applauded by) the ancient near eastern text that you have read.