Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 57:1 (March 2014) p. 147
A Reader of Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Sources for the Study of the Old Testament. By Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, xiv + 214 pp., $29.95 paper.
Michael Coogan has provided an excellent service to students of the literary, social, and commercial environments that both precede and accompany the compilation of the OT. His anthology includes a fairly comprehensive list of primarily extrabiblical texts recently discovered among the archeological finds of ANE societies extant from the third until the mid first millennium BC. He collates his own translations with the works of several other translators of nearly a dozen or more ANE scripts. He then organizes them according to period, genre, subject matter, region, and language. While generally allowing the texts to speak for themselves, he prefaces many of the entries with a brief synopsis of their content and background.
Many of the myths and epics, whether of Ugaritic, Hittite, Egyptian, Akkadian, or Sumerian origins (e.g. the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh epics), are drawn from the pre-Abraham era (i.e. the third millennium BC) and depict parallel creation and deluge accounts. While including alternate and highly embellished versions of almost all of the biblical narrative, they also add, in many cases, fascinating details. The vivid and terrifying descriptions of the all-enveloping and piercing blackness augmenting the burying shroud of storm clouds, the howling winds, and the persistently pounding downpour that ultimately swept away and extinguished every breath of life evokes emotions far more raw than the Noahic version. That these narratives were rationalized with polytheistic interpretations does not negate the factual possibility of some of their added incidentals. While even supporting a mythical rendition of the fall (p. 44), where the hope of attaining immortality through good works once existed, they fail, however, to acknowledge any sinful human culpability therein, for its loss.
The historiographic sources complement and affirm the accuracy of many of the biblical accounts, not only of numerous kings of Israel, Judah, and their surrounding nations, but also of many other officials and individuals (e.g. Shebna the scribe of 2 Kings 18, pp. 80–81). Coogan makes a fair effort at referencing parallel biblical citations in his footnotes. An index of biblical references with those citations is also provided. Of even potentially greater benefit would be a comprehensive index that included all of the biblical names and locations that were mentioned or alluded to within each of those citations. While a few may appear to be merely coincidental parallels (e.g. the comparison of a flattering letter to King Ashurbanipal [c. 640 BC]...
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