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Lecture 2. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Biblical Religion in Context

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Lecture 2. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Biblical Religion in Context

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

In this lecture, the Hebrew Bible is understood against the background of Ancient Near Eastern culture. Drawing from and critiquing the work of Yehezkel Kaufmann, the lecture compares the religion of the Hebrew Bible with the cultures of the Ancient Near East. Two models of development are discussed: an evolutionary model of development in which the Hebrew Bible is continuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture and a revolutionary model of development in which the Israelite religion is radically discontinuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture. At stake in this debate is whether the religion of the Hebrew Bible is really the religion of ancient Israel.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Bible as a Product of Religious and Cultural Revolution
08:16 - Chapter 2. Kaufman's Characterization of Pagan Religion
22:16 - Chapter 3. Kaufman's Characterization of One Sovereign God
35:13 - Chapter 4. Continuity or Radical Break?

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

Lecture 3. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Genesis 1-4 in Context

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

In the first of a series of lectures on the book of Genesis, the basic elements of biblical monotheism are compared with Ancient Near Eastern texts to show a non-mythological, non-theogonic conception of the deity, a new conception of the purpose and meaning of human life, nature, magic and myth, sin and evil, ethics (including the universal moral law) and history. The two creation stories are explored and the work of Nahum Sarna is introduced.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Creation Story in Enuma Elish
12:44 - Chapter 2. The Creation Stories in Genesis
28:30 - Chapter 3. Creation as God Imposing Order on the World
38:17 - Allusion to and Resonances of Ancient Near Eastern Themes

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.
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02. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Biblical Religion in Context

Overview

In this lecture, the Hebrew Bible is understood against the background of Ancient Near Eastern culture. Drawing from and critiquing the work of Yehezkel Kaufmann, the lecture compares the religion of the Hebrew Bible with the cultures of the Ancient Near East. Two models of development are discussed: an evolutionary model of development in which the Hebrew Bible is continuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture and a revolutionary model of development in which the Israelite religion is radically discontinuous with Ancient Near Eastern culture. At stake in this debate is whether the religion of the Hebrew Bible is really the religion of ancient Israel.

Assignment

Bible: Introduction to Genesis (JSB pp. 8-11); Gen 1-4

Pritchard, James, ed. The Deluge, The Creation Epic, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In The Ancient Near East,Volume 1. pp. 28-75

Kaufmann, Yehezkel. The Religion of Israel. New York: Schocken, 1972. pp. 21-121

Lesson 2: Biblical Creation Traditions in their Ancient Near Eastern Context | Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Introduction - The Mesopotamian Creation Myth Enūma Eliš
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University
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03. The Hebrew Bible in Its Ancient Near Eastern Setting: Genesis 1-4 in Context

Overview

In the first of a series of lectures on the book of Genesis, the basic elements of biblical monotheism are compared with Ancient Near Eastern texts to show a non-mythological, non-theogonic conception of the deity, a new conception of the purpose and meaning of human life, nature, magic and myth, sin and evil, ethics (including the universal moral law) and history. The two creation stories are explored and the work of Nahum Sarna is introduced.

Assignment

Bible: Introduction to Genesis (JSB pp. 8-11); Gen 1-4

Pritchard, James, ed. The Deluge, The Creation Epic, and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In The Ancient Near East,Volume 1. pp. 28-75

Kaufmann, Yehezkel. The Religion of Israel. New York: Schocken, 1972. pp. 21-121

Lesson 7: Biblical Law Literature in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context, Part II | Lecture 2

Lecture 2: Casuistic and Apodictic Law: A Comparative Look
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University
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Lesson 7: Biblical Law Literature in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context, Part II | Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Casuistic and Apodictic Law in the Bible
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University

Lesson 6: Biblical Law Literature in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context, Part I | Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Ancient Near Eastern Law
Part I
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University

Lesson 9: Biblical Wisdom in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context | Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Biblical Wisdom Literature and Comparative Study
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University

The Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"): Its Roots in Ancient Near Eastern Mythology

The archeological discoveries concerning the Ancient Near East in the 19th and 20th centuries reveal to us the spiritual and cultural heritage of all of the inhabitants of the area, including the Isrealites. [...]

...one of the major consequences of these finds is the light that they have shed on the background and the origin of the materials in the Bible. [...]

We now see that the traditions in the Bible did not come out of a vacuum. [...]

The early chapters of Genesis, Genesis 1 through 11 owe a great deal to Ancient Near Eastern mythology. The creation story in Genesis 1 draws upon the Babylonian epic known as Enuma Elish. The story of the first human pair in the Garden of Eden, which is in Genesis 2 and 3 has clear affinities with the Epic of Gilgamesh, that's a Babylonian and Assyrian epic in which a hero embarks on this exhausting search for immortality. The story of Noah and the flood, which occurs in Genesis 6 through 9 is simply an Israelite version of an older flood story that we have found copies of: a Mesopotamian story called the Epic of Atrahasis [and] a flood story that we also have incorporated in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Biblical traditions have roots that stretch deep into earlier times and out into surrounding lands and traditions, and the parallels between the biblical stories and Ancient Near Eastern stories that they parallel has been the subject of intense study.

One quick example. We have a Sumerian story about the third millennium BCE. It's the story of Ziusudra, and it's very similar to the Genesis flood story of Noah. In both of these stories, the Sumerian and the Israelite story, you have a flood that is the result of a deliberate divine decision; one individual is chosen to be rescued; that individual is given very specific instructions on building a boat; he is given instructions about who to bring on board; the flood comes and exterminates all living things; the boat comes to rest on a mountaintop; the hero sends out birds to reconnoiter the land; when he comes out of the ark he offers a sacrifice to the god--the same narrative elements are in these two stories. It's just wonderful when you read them side by side. So what is of great significance though is not simply that the biblical writer is retelling a story that clearly went around everywhere in ancient Mesopotamia; they were transforming the story so that it became a vehicle for the expression of their own values and their own views. In the Mesopotamian stories, for example, the gods act capriciously, the gods act on a whim. In fact, in one of the stories, the gods say, 'Oh, people, they're so noisy, I can't sleep, let's wipe them all out.' That's the rationale. There's no moral scruple. They destroy these helpless but stoic humans who are chafing under their tyrannical and unjust and uncaring rule. In the biblical story, when the Israelites told the story, they modified it. It's God's uncompromising ethical standards that lead him to bring the flood in an act of divine justice. He's punishing the evil corruption of human beings that he has so lovingly created and whose degradation he can't bear to witness. So it's saying something different. It's providing a very different message.
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Lesson 3: Biblical Flood Story in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context | Lecture 1

Lecture 1: Introduction
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University

Lesson 9: Biblical Wisdom in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context | Lecture 4

Lecture 4: The Biblical “Words of the Wise” and Egyptian Instructions of Amenemope – Parallels
Dr. Nili Samet - Bar-Ilan University
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Lecture 10. Biblical Law: The Three Legal Corpora of JE (Exodus), P (Leviticus and Numbers) and D

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

This lecture introduces biblical law in a comparative approach that identifies similarities and differences between Israelite law and other Ancient Near Eastern legal traditions, such as the Code of Hammurabi. Distinctive features of Israelite law are explained as flowing from the claim of divine authorship.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Initiation of God's Laws, Rules and Ordinances at Sinai
03:38 - Chapter 2. The Decalogues
11:42 - Chapter 3. Biblical Law in Comparison with Ancient Near East Legal Collections
29:58 - Chapter 4. Radical, Characteristic Features of Israelite Law
40:17 - Chapter 5. Reversing the Code: Sanctity of Human Life

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

Lecture 4. Doublets and Contradictions, Seams and Sources

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

This lecture continues the discussion on Genesis, including the familiar accounts of Cain and Abel, the Flood and Noahide covenant. The story of Cain and Abel expresses the notion of the God-endowed sanctity of human life and a universal moral law governing the world. Examination of the contradictions and doublets in the flood story leads to a discussion of the complex composition and authorship of the Pentateuch. These features as well as anachronisms challenge traditional religious convictions of Moses as the author of the first five books of the Bible.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Taming of Enkidu in The Epic of Gilgamesh
05:44 - The Story of Enkidu as Parallel to the Second Story of Creation in Genesis
21:29 - Major Themes in the Story of Cain and Abel
24:02 - Comparing Mesopotamian, Semitic and Israelite Flood Stories
35:32 - Contradictions and Doublets in the Flood Story in Genesis 6-9
42:42 - Implications of the Repetitions and Contradictions throughout the Bible

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

Lecture 8. Exodus: From Egypt to Sinai (Exodus 5-24, 32; Numbers)

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

This lecture traces the account of the Exodus (and the origin of the Passover festival as a historicization of older nature festivals) and Israel's liberation from bondage under Pharaoh. The story reaches its climax with the covenant concluded between God and Israel through Moses at Sinai. Drawing heavily on the work of Jon Levenson, the lecture examines Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the Sinaitic covenant and describes the divine-human relationship (an intersection of law and love) that the covenant seeks to express.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Passover as a Historicization of Earlier Ritual Practices
06:51 - Chapter 2. The Exodus as a Paradigm for Collective Salvation
19:59 - Chapter 3. The Mosaic Covenant between God and Israel at Sinai
39:15 - Chapter 4. Patience with the Israelites: Towards the Promised Land

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.
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Ancient Israelite Cosmology and the Ancient Near East

This video responds to Younker and Davison's article, The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome, and argues that the authors of the Hebrew Bible believed in a solid firmament retaining a heavenly ocean.

Video Footnotes:


**Corrections: I mispronounced a pointing of the labial ב in the opening reading. Also, since taking a course in old Babylonian, I recognize I mispronounced 'sh' as 's' in the Babylonian word for sky.

New Patreon:

Randall W. Younker and Richard M. Davidson, “The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome: Another Look at the Hebrew רָקִיעַ RĀQIA‘,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 1 (Andrews University Press, 2011): (opens PDF)


Music:
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Creative Commons 3.0:
Send for the Horses

YouTube audio library, Creative Commons 3.0:
Arabian Nightfall

CO.AG Music (Creative Commons 3.0)
Digital Dreaming


Solid State Sound and Vision

Dr. John Walton, Job, Lecture 5, Job and the Ancient Near East

Biblical eLearning ( presents:
Dr. John Walton (Ph.D. Hebrew Union College) has taught for many years at Wheaton College after twenty years on the faculty of Moody Bible Institute. He has published major commentaries on Genesis and Job in the NIVAC series. His Old Testament textbook, A Survey of the Old Testament, is used in colleges across the country. He has also shaped the thinking of Christians in the area of ancient Near Eastern backgrounds in his IVP Background Commentary and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary and more recently his books: Lost World of Scripture (IVP), Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Eisenbrauns), Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Baker) and many others.

How to Study the Bible with Ancient Near Eastern Texts: The "Eridu Genesis" and the Book of Genesis

Study with David at BiblicalCulture.org:

Contact David:

Want to take your studies to a new level? Become a Scripturist!

Donate to BiblicalCulture.org:

Rabbi Dr. David Moster is the director of BiblicalCulture.org. His research specialties are in Tanakh/Old Testament and Biblical Interpretation. He is the author of Etrog: How a Chinese Fruit Became a Jewish Symbol and lives in Yonkers, NY with his wife and two children.

Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005):

William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., editors, The Context of Scripture: Canonical Compositions, Monumental Inscriptions, and Archival Documents from the Biblical World (Leiden: Brill, 2003): or

James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton: Princeton University, 1950):

Thorkild Jacobsen, The Eridu Genesis, Journal of Biblical Literature Vol. 100, No. 4 (Dec., 1981), pp. 513-529:

Arno Poebel, Historical and Grammatical Texts Volume 5 of Publications of the Babylonian Section (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1914):


The Eridu Genesis:

Lecture 1. The Parts of the Whole

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

This lecture provides an introduction to the literature of the Hebrew Bible and its structure and contents. Common misconceptions about the Bible are dispelled: the Bible is a library of books from diverse times and places rather than a single, unified book; biblical narratives contain complex themes and realistic characters and are not pious parables about saintly persons; the Bible is a literarily sophisticated narrative not for children; the Bible is an account of the odyssey of a people rather than a book of theology; and finally, the Bible was written by many human contributors with diverse perspectives and viewpoints.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible and Its Radical Ideas
16:10 - Chapter 2. Common Myths about the Bible
29:33 - Chapter 3. An Overview of the Structure of the Bible
40:17 - Chapter 4. Course Organization

Complete course materials are available at the Yale Online website: online.yale.edu


This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

Lecture 6. Biblical Narrative: The Stories of the Patriarchs (Genesis 12-36)

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) (RLST 145) with Christine Hayes

This lecture continues with a review of scholarly views on the historical accuracy of the Bible. The narratives of the patriarchs and matriarchs are introduced and the covenant between Abraham and God--which ultimately leads to the formation of a nation--is explained. Central themes of the patriarchal stories include: God's call to Abraham, God's promise of a blessed and fruitful nation, threats to this promise (including the story of the binding of Isaac for sacrifice). Finally, after a significant character transformation, the third patriarch Jacob becomes Yisrael (he who struggles with God).

00:00 - Chapter 1. Scholarly Opinion on the Historical Accuracy of the Bible
13:05 - Chapter 2. Divine Command and Divine Promise: Truths Freed from the Burden of Historicity
20:06 - Chapter 3. The Covenant between God and Abraham
25:38 - Chapter 4. The Story of Isaac
39:12 - chapter 5. Jacob the Trickster

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website:

This course was recorded in Fall 2006.

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