On The Origin Of The Primitive Historical Traditions Of The Hebrews -- By: George H. Whittemore

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 040:159 (Jul 1883)
Article: On The Origin Of The Primitive Historical Traditions Of The Hebrews
Author: George H. Whittemore

On The Origin Of The Primitive Historical Traditions Of The Hebrews1

George H. Whittemore

Since the books of the Old Testament began to be subjected to the universally valid principles of scientific investigation, and the connections of the oldest civilized peoples to be traced, the inquiry after the origin of the accounts found in the first nine chapters of Genesis relating to the primitive history of mankind has been repeatedly agitated. Resemblances to these materials, some of them quite striking, can be numerously cited in the literatures and traditions of other nations. At first it was the myths and traditions of the classical nations that were adduced for comparison. Afterwards, when the Indian-Iranian literature was unfolded, it disclosed surprising points of contact with some at least of those biblical traditions, which were regarded as all the more important on account of the high estimate of the antiquity of these literatures, and the strong belief in an original connection between the Indo-germanic and Semitic languages and peoples. These presuppositions have been relinquished, to a great extent, in consequence of the more thorough investigations of the last decade; and simultaneously, through the advancing disinterment and decipherment of the cuneiform memorials, there has been opened to view a primitive Semitic civilization and literature which far surpasses in age not merely the classical and Aryan, but also the oldest biblical writings.

It was long ago known, from the extant fragments of Berosus, that the Babylonians had an account of the flood

remarkably agreeing with the biblical one, although its great age was not yet known, and many considered it an imitation of that in the Bible. All uncertainty upon that subject ceased after G. Smith, in the year 1872, discovered upon a tablet from the library of Sardanapalus, the cuneiform account of the flood, forming an episode of a great epic (called after Izdubar), which must have already assumed written form in Babylonia about the year 2000 b.c. When, then, the same explorer believed he had discovered, upon other tablets of mythological purport, the old Babylonian parallels to the histories of creation, paradise and the fall, including also the tower of Babel, and after he had given in his Chaldaean Genesis a preliminary sketch of their contents, the view quickly spread not only within, but also outside of the circle of Assyriologists, that the entire material of the primitive histories of the Hebrews had its origin in Chaldaea, where, under the influence of a civilized people not Semitic (Sumeric-Akkadian), it impressed itself upon the Semites. What this position y...

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