Richard Horsley in his 2007 publication, Scribes, Visionaries, and the Politics of Second Temple Judea, alerts us to ancient Mesopotamian prophetic texts that have remarkable similarities to our well-known Book of Daniel. I find it most interesting to read these other texts in order to appreciate better the context and nature of our canonical book that has played a key role in New Testament literature and subsequent apocalyptic and millenarian beliefs.
Recall Daniel 11, that detailed prophecy of the king of the north moving against the king of the south and the king of the south rising up and the manipulation of powers by flatteries etc etc etc, all a detailed “prophecy” of the political struggles between the Seleucid (Syrian) and Ptolemaic (Egyptian) empires over the region of Judea. . . . Interestingly there is a remarkably similar (generically and stylistically) type of prophecy from Hellenistic Babylon, an Akkadian text known as the Dynastic Prophecy. It’s survives in a fragmented state, but we can see its striking similarity to the kind of text we read in Daniel 11:2-45 nonetheless. I have copied this from the text found on Scribd, apparently derived from publications by Grayson and Longman.
[…] me. […] me. […] left. […] great. […]
seed. […] he sees.
[…] a later day. […] will be overthrown. […]
will be annihilated. […] Assyria. […] silver (?) and […] will attack and […] Babylon, will attack and […] will be overthrown. […] will life up and […] will come/go […] will seize […] he will destroy […] will shroud […] he (=Nabonidus) will bring ex[tensive booty] into Babylon. […] he (= the Achaemenids/Elam) will decorate the Esagil and the Ezida . […] he will build the palace of Babylon. […] Nippur to Babylon. He will exercise kingship [for x year]s.
And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.
And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter.
And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.
And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.
Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Thus saith the word of the Lord. Genesis 11:1-9.
And so here we are today, speaking our language in our bit of real estate. It all sounds sort of cute, but a book that’s been around for a little while now jolted me by bringing to my attention what quite likely inspired the imagination of the author of this tale. Continue reading “God’s Mass Deportation Policy”
Have just visited some of the most spectacular museums and galleries, and one exhibit with the theme of the “myth and truths of Babylon” at the Pergamon Museum. Lower floor consists of displays of artefacts and reconstructions from ancient and medieval Mesopotamia – from Sumerian to Arabian arts and sciences (along with monuments from Pergamon); upper floor looks at the myth of Babylon through the ages up to modern times, and includes spectacular arts from medieval scripts right through to 20th century film.
By the way I do love these late night Berlin (or rather Lichtenberg) internet cafes (where I am right now ) that are more like mini-bars — beer, smoke, music, warm conversation noise — than anything like the functional but sterile internet cafes I know in Australia. Wonder if this is a more general European (East European??) thing?
But was struck by the displays that related to two or three biblical areas –
Babylonian medicine is often seen as remarkably advanced (surgery, diagnoses and remedies etc.) — but we also saw the evidence here that that apparent “science” was in league with “faith” of sorts. All those healing “sciences” were really only a part of a more comprehensive religious practice. The real goal of healing physically was to assist restoring the body in the right relationship with the deity who had, presumably, been offended, and so effected the disease in the first place. It reminded me of the healings of Jesus. After all, what is “forgiveness of sin” if not a restoration of a “right relationship with the deity”? In the context of this Museum exhibit, the healings of Jesus in the Bible are nothing more than an extension of ancient Mid/Near East medicine. Or at least just as “magical”.
Another biblical theme paralled at this exhibit was the myth (though on the “fact” floor) of the king — chosen by the deity etc, but especially noted as “a shepherd” of his people.
Do those who love the biblical myths really want to restore ancient Babylonian concepts of governance and medicine?
There was another feature I was going to mention here but it is getting late (takes a long time to master the subtle intracies of a European keyboard!) and I have a day of workshops tomorrow so it will have to wait.