Light from the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion

Light from the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion

Light from the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion

Light from the Ancient Past: The Archeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion

Excerpt

The ancient Greeks felt themselves to be very modern and hence had a word ἐρU03B7αιογία which signified the discussion of antiquities. From this term is derived the English word "archeology" which means the scientific study of the material remains of the past.

Archeological interest existed even long before the time of the Greeks. In the seventh century B.C., Ashurbanipal of Assyria was proud of his ability to decipher the writing on ancient tablets, and sent his scribes far and wide to collect copies of early records and documents for his wonderful library at Nineveh. Nabonidus, who ruled at Babylon in the sixth century B.C., made exploratory soundings in the age-old ziggurat which loomed up at Ur, read the foundation records of its earlier builders, and carefully carried out restorations, giving due credit to his ancient predecessors in his own inscriptions. The daughter of Nabonidus, sister of the famous Belshazzar, shared the interest of her father and maintained a small museum in which objects of interest from earlier times were kept.

Unfortunately the "collection" of antiquities was undertaken all too often by persons of less disinterestedness, and untold treasures have been lost to scientific archeology through the depredations of robbers. An early story of papyrus-hunting, for example, concerns Setna-Khaemuast, the fifth and favorite son of Ramesses II. An account written probably in the reign of Ptolemy II tells how this young adventurer of the long ago braved the wrath of the spirits of the departed to enter the tomb of a certain prince. With this prince had been buried a magic roll of papyrus, whose possessor would know what is said by the birds as they fly and by the serpents as they crawl and would be able to enchant anything in heaven or earth. After incredible adventures Setna made away with the papyrus roll, only eventually to be driven to return it to the ghosts of the dead.

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