Correlating The Texts of Ancient Literature with the Old Testament -- By: David P. Livingston

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: Correlating The Texts of Ancient Literature with the Old Testament
Author: David P. Livingston

Correlating The Texts of Ancient Literature with the Old Testament

David P. Livingston

What is the proper relationship of the literature (texts) of the Ancient Near East (ANE) with the Old Testament?. The literature I speak of are the Gilgamesh Epic, the Sumerian and Babylonian King Lists, Hammurabi’s Code, and many others.

Much scholarship has been invested in Old Testament studies, as well as in other ANE documents. However, in recent decades, three premises have controlled the thinking of most scholars, preventing them from making proper correlations.

The Usual Way

These three premises are:

1. That the Bible contains much “myth” and legend, especially the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

2. That the Israelites developed their religion using the religions of their neighbors.

3. That the Old Testament and, especially the Pentateuch, was written during the time of the kingdom, or later, and had spurious authors.

There is a presupposition which has hindered Old Testament research for over 150 years. It is that Israel’s religion, and thus the Bible, evolved, or is a revision (or improvement) of earlier religious systems to suit the purposes of the biblical writers. We are referring to the Wellhausen documentary hyposthesis.

Recent ANE research is still burdened with this presupposition. The modern approach deprecates this historicity of the Old Testament, submerging both it and the ancient epics and myths in a fog of unrealism, thus precluding any proper historical understanding. When attempts at correlations are made, some scholars still try to compare what to them are the “myths” of Scripture with the myths of the extra-biblical texts.

Therefore, we will not examine the Wellhausen documentary hypothesis which has dominated so much of Bblical studies. The theory has been shown to be deficient and unsupported by even the slightest evidence, so that it is not worth using for research.

Proper correlation will only be found when scholars stop treating the Bible as “myth.” Secondly, scholars need to recognize extra-Biblical ancient texts for what they are. Generally speaking, they are written authority for divine kingship. ANE texts should not be considered as “beautiful literature.” Many of the ancient texts, especially the epics and religious texts, are full of sex, gore, competition for power, deification of man, and many other activities inherent in voluptuous divine king absolutism. Their true intent must be discerned before attempting to relate them to the Old Testament.

A Better Way

The premise of many Biblical scholars is that t...

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