So today I enrolled in my course on ANE studies at SOAS University. I had a good read of Richard Hess and Dave Tsumura’s book ‘I studied inscriptions from before the flood’, including a rather interesting essay by assyriologist Wilf Lambert on the relationship between Genesis 1 and the Enuma Elish. It is interesting to see that the parallels between the two texts are not as strong as is often claimed, and indeed, despite some clear relationships (as with the division of the waters) there are not enough parallels to establish literary dependence of one on the other. Rather, Genesis shares parallels with all literature of the Near East.
It is likely for this reason that Irving Finkel, Lambert’s student (who is an atheist) does NOT cite Genesis 1 as one of his examples of Biblical texts with strong dependence on mesopotamian literature.
Also today I stumbled across this blog post, arguing against the use of ANE texts for biblical interpretation:
Its a good post, but still has some flaws. Yes, there were major differences between Babylon Egypt, Hattusa and Palestine, so we cannot take some random text from babylon or Egypt and assume it is relevant to the Bible. But with Ugarit it is a whole different kettle of fish. We know that Ugarit and Israel shared strong linguistic and cultural similarities. The Bible sometimes uses the same linguistic formulas as the Baal Cycle, often word for word, as in Isaiah 27:1, we also know from Israelite history that the Ancient Israelites had contacts with Canaanites religion. I therefore propose, in light of my reading today, that Ugarit and Phoenicia are more appropriate contexts to read the Bible in than babylon or Egypt, except, of course, when the parallels are simply overwhelming, as with the flood story.
What do you think about the ANE context of the Bible? Is it necessary?