A Historical Reading Of Genesis 11:1-9: The Sumerian Demise And Dispersion Under The Ur III Dynasty -- By: Paul T. Penley
Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 50:4 (Dec 2007)
Article: A Historical Reading Of Genesis 11:1-9: The Sumerian Demise And Dispersion Under The Ur III Dynasty
Author: Paul T. Penley
JETS 50:4 (December 2007) p. 693
A Historical Reading Of Genesis 11:1-9: The Sumerian Demise And Dispersion Under The Ur III Dynasty
Paul Penley is a Ph.D. candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015.
I. Available Options For Reading Genesis 11:1–9
Three options are available for approaching the question of historicity in Gen 11:1–9: ahistorical primeval event; agnostic historical event; and known historical event. A brief survey of each approach will provide the initial impetus for pursuing a reading of this pericope as known historical event, and the textual and archaeological evidence considered in the remainder of this article will ultimately identify this known historical event as the demise and dispersion of the last great Sumerian dynasty centered at Ur.
1. Ahistorical primeval event. Robert Davidson in his commentary on the neb text of Genesis 1–11 asserts, “It is only when we come to the story of Abraham in chapter 12 that we can claim with any certainty to be in touch with traditions which reflect something of the historical memory of the Hebrew people.”1 Davidson’s opinion reflects the approach to Genesis 1–11 where the narratives are couched in the guise of primeval events that do not correlate to actual history. Westermann also exemplifies this approach when he opts for reading Gen 11:1–9 through the lens of inaccessible primeval event. Even though he acknowledges that the mention of the historical Babylon “is more in accord with the historical etiologies in which the name of a place is often explained by a historical event,” he hypothesizes that “such an element shows that there are different stages in the growth of 11:1–9.”2 Speiser could also be placed in this category on account of the fact that he proposes pure literary dependence on tablet VI of the Enuma Elish.3 In his estimation the narrative is a reformulated Babylonian tradition and questions of historicity are therefore irrelevant.
The removal of a real historical referent from the narrative of Gen 11:1–9 signifies the major weakness of the ahistorical approach because multiple components of the narrative can be linked to known and even preserved
JETS 50:4 (December 2007) p. 694<...
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