Religious Studies - One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative...

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One Hundred Fifty Years of Comparative Studies On Genesis 1-11:An Overview by Richard HessSummary by Frederic IssidThe Earliest EvidenceThe first attempt to compare the Hebrew text of Genesis 1 to 11 with historic documents from the ancient Near East apparently date from the Hellenistic Period (323 to 146 BCE). Jewish and other scholars of this period were interested in comparing and synchronizing the early biblical text with those containing mythologies and other stories of the non-Jewish world. The non-biblical text were originally written in cuneiform (earliest known form of written expression) but were later translated to Greek by Berossus, so Jewish scholars could have access for comparison with biblical texts. Berossus’ history of Babylon (first city built after the flood) provides two versions of the origin of the world: (1) by water alone (Babylonian tradition) and by water and darkness (as the Bible). Berossus is the primary source of comparisons for all later commentators.The Nineteenth-Century DiscoveriesIn the last half of the 19thcentury, thousands of cuneiform tablets were discovered which helped comparing text from the Hebrew sources to those form Babylonian. There were some points of comparison, for example the flood story written of tablets dating from 660 BCE but which according to George Smith provides accounts that probably dates from much earlier period. Smith believed that with adequate archeological search they might provide other comparative stories. He was right, three years later two tablets dealing with the Babylonian account of Creation were discovered. In an article, Smith wrote that the earlier part of the Book of Genesis copied from the primitive accounts omitted some points written in the cuneiform tablets (e.g. origin of evil, fall of angels,..)Comparative Studies before World War IIn 1895, Gunkel with the help of Zimmern compared systematically Babylonian creation myth and the Giglamesh’s Flood accounts to Genesis 1-11. He argued that Genesis 1-11 dependeds extensively on Babylonian mythology. With the discovery of the cuneiform literature like Gilgamesh Epic, interest emerged in comparative studies with Genesis 1-11 that provided fruitful results in the early decades of the 20thcentury. In addition to the Flood and the Creation accounts there were studies of comparing the kings list of Babylonians and Assyrians with the genealogies of Genesis 4,5,10 and11.

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Term
Winter
Professor
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Tags
Religious Studies, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, bible, Babylonia, Cuneiform script

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