Semitic Literary Notes -- By: A. A. Berle

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 051:202 (Apr 1894)
Article: Semitic Literary Notes
Author: A. A. Berle

Semitic Literary Notes

A. A. Berle.

Boston, Mass.

Ninth International Congress Of Orientalists.

The transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists have just come to hand, in two huge, bulky volumes, literally packed with information from all departments of Oriental study and research. The Semitic section devoted to Assyriology is particularly interesting and valuable, as may be seen from the list of papers presented.

Among these was a “New Version of the Creation Story,” by Theo. G. Pinches; one on “Die Indentität der Ältesten Babylonischen und Ægyptischen Göttergenealogie und der Babylonische Ursprung der Ægyptischen Kultur,” from the pen of Dr. Fritz Hommel; and one of especial interest on “The Origin of Primary Civilizations,” by Mr. J. S. Stuart-Glennie. Professor Sayce was the presiding officer, and his inaugural address was an exhaustive review of the rise and development of Assyriological science, together with suggestions as to the weaknesses of the present methods, and some important modifications needed in the current methods of study for the largest and most successful prosecution of Assyriological research. It was an address of great interest and was characteristic of its author.

Dr. Sayce points out what is a very important fact, that the primary work of the Assyriologist is still that of the decipherer. He deprecates discussions about Assyrian sounds while there are so many texts undeciphered, and so much room for inquiry and scientific conjecture as to the more fundamental questions of text. Pure questions of phonology and philology, he suggests, may well be laid aside while there is so much and so manifest ignorance about the Assyrian syntax and idiom. In sustaining this position, Professor Sayce makes the assertion, and one which we think more or less borne out by the facts, that the Assyrian translations of twenty years ago are not very far behind those of to-day, and that the textual work of the newer scholars, who have come into the study with so many advantages which did not lie at hand for the earlier generation of scholars, does not show the advance and superiority which, from the great increase of interest and material, we should be warranted in expecting. George Smith’s renderings of the Creation and Deluge texts, for example, present no more or greater difficulties than those of the latest translators.

All this is the result, so the president of the conference goes on to say, of the “attempt to create a philology of Assyrian before the work of decipherment is concluded.” We cannot but think that this complaint is a just one,

though why there should not be efforts ...

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