Studies in Bible and Feminist Criticism

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky | Go to book overview

3 / Israel and the Ancient Near East:
New Perspectives on the Flood

1979

The publication of a Babylonian flood story (Gilgamesh tablet XI) in 1872 and of a creation story (Enuma Elish) several years later made it inevitable that attempts would be made to analyze the biblical tradition in the light of the new material coming from Babylon. The Bible could not be studied in isolation once material became available from the surrounding cultures with unmistakable similarities to biblical motifs and biblical stories. The initial discoveries therefore immediately focused the attention of biblical scholarship on these comparisons, and led to the great “Bible and Babel” debate begun by Friedrich Delitzsch. Delitzsch published three lectures on this topic in which he claimed that everything valuable in the Bible was derived from Babylon. His motivation seems to have been more theological than scholarly, and reaction to his ideas was prompt and severe.1

The emotional upheaval caused by the discoveries from Babylon has long since subsided. However, the ongoing Assyriological investigations continue to be a focus for biblical studies which provide new illumination of key biblical ideas and concepts. The approach of most biblicistAssyriologists today is to assume an organic connection between the Babylonian and biblical material and to attempt to use the Near Eastern texts as a key to providing new insights into the meaning of the Bible. Today I wish to call your attention to this type of approach by studying a topic that has become a classic for this kind of comparison, the case of the flood. I will review the material that I have already published in biblical journals (“The Atrahasis epic and Its Significance for Our Understanding of Genesis 1–9,” Biblical Archeologist 40 (1977): 147–55; “What the Babylonian Flood Stories Can and Cannot Teach Us about the Genesis Flood,” Biblical Archaeology Review IV (1978):32–41) and

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