Let’s look a little more closely at the parallels between the Judean literature (canonical and pseudepigraphical) and that of Mesopotamia to see what might have been going between them. It’s one thing to say that we can see signs of Mesopotamian written records in Judean writings but a critical question to ask is by what means, how, the one came in contact with and influenced the other. That is the particular question Seth Sanders explores in chapter 5 of From Adapa to Enoch. I will highlight a few of the points he raises.
Esarhaddon Inspires Yahweh
Here is an adaptation of the chart from pages 171-172:
Vassal Treaty of Esarhaddon
|You shall not hear or conceal any, … word which is not seemly nor good to Ashurbanipal, the great crown prince designate, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, your lord, either from the mouth of his enemy or from the mouth of his ally, or from the mouth of his brothers, his uncles, his cousins, his family, members of his father’s line,
|Prophets or diviners
(2) If there should arise in your midst a prophet or oneiromancer who provides a sign or portent, (3) and should the sign or portent – concerning which he had spoken to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) so that we may worship them” – come true: (4) Do not heed the oracles of that prophet or that oneiromancer … (6) And that prophet or that oneiromancer shall be put to death, for he fomented conspiracy against Yahweh …
or from the mouth of your brothers, your sons, your daughters,
(7) If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own self,
|Prophets or diviners
or from the mouth of a prophet, an ecstatic, a diviner, or from the mouth of any human being who exists; you shall come and report (it) to Ashurbanipal, the great crown prince designate, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria … VTE § 10
|Incitement to rebellion punished by instant death
If anyone speaks rebellion and insurrection to you, to kill … Ashurbanipal the [great prince] designate, son of Esarhaddon, …
|Incitement to apostasy punished by instant death
entices you secretly, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” – whom neither you nor your fathers have known … –
Did the author of the Deuteronomy passage have a copy of the vassal treaty before him? It is unlikely. It does not appear so. Deuteronomy is evidently not a translation at any rate.
Were these simply ancient Near Eastern clichés? Furthermore, while the Hebrew-Assyrian parallels have long been assumed to derive from historical contact, questions remain about the social and physical locations of contact, especially if the thesis of literary translation is unsustainable. A convincing account requires a plausible, well-documented mode of transmission.
Examining whole parallel passages side by side in light of known patterns of textual transmission in the ancient Near East suggests that rather than cuneiform and papyrus, the relationship between the two texts can most plausibly be explained by memory transmission, based on the oral performance of the curses in a ceremony of the sort required in VTE. (p. 173)
From pages 174-175: Continue reading “Questions re the Mesopotamian Influence in the Hebrew Bible”