Enuma Elish, Knapp, Babel, Babylon
Jonathan D. Safren
yonsaf at beitberl.beitberl.ac.il
Tue Jan 19 08:06:22 EST 1999
Stephen Knapp wrote:
> Jonathan D. Safren wrote:
> > The Tower of Babel narrative does not presume any first-hand knowledge
> > of Babylon or of the temple-towers in Mesopotamia. It sounds more like
> > second-hand knowledge filtered down to the popular writer of Gen. 10.
> The stories don't preCLUDE first hand knowledge do they? What kind of
> filtering down process are you imagining?
Word of mouth, hearsay. "I met a stranger from a foreign land...." Same type of thing
Herodotus used in his Persian Wars decriptions of Mesopotamia.
> So far it seems to me the
> proposal requiring the least amount of conjecture to support it is that
> the story was written after the state of Babylon had already fallen.
> The closing imagery in the story seems to fit that situation.
The story has nothing to do with Babylonian history, but with the author's view of
Man's hubris and God's response to it. The Tower is only a symbol of Man's overweening
pride which leadeth him to a fall, and God's supreme power.
> > As for singling out Enuma Elish for polemic, this may have been the
> > literary polytheistic creation narrative best known to the Priestly
> > writer. Don't forget that Babylonian epic literature was known and read
> > in Canaan before the Israelite conquest.
> As I said before, I think it is a mistake to speak of "singling out" the
> Enuma Elish. The Genesis materials echo imagery of Babylonian cosmology
> from a variety of sources. J picks up on Atrahasis motifs at the least,
> and P builds on that from Enuma Elish.
Agreed. But I was talking about the Priestly narrative of Gen. 1 and not the final
redactor of Genesis, whoever he may have been.
> Both COULD have been influences
> during the period of monarchy, inasmuch as the literature existed, but
> we don't have as sure a basis for saying they were cultural influences
> then as we do for the time after the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah
> has occurred. The problem revolves around the basis and extent of
> cultural contact, not the question of the existence of the literature.
What do you call the 14th-century B.C.E. fragment of Gilgamesh from Megiddo, if not
"cultural influences"? Both the J and P versions of the Flood story, which presume
knowledge of a Babylonian flood story, whether Gilgamesh or Atrahasis, were written by
people well-educated in the classical literature of Mesopotamia, and such education
had existed long prior to the Israelite settlement of Canaan. Anyone who had attended
a decent scribal or temple school would have been expected to know his World Classics
and at least one foreign language. The 2 Kings narrative of Hezekiah's officials
requesting Rabshakeh to speak in Aramaic and not Judahite has at least this historical
basis. And the Deuteronomists knew their Vassal Treaty material.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
Beit Berl Post Office 44905
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