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Excellent translations marred by apologetics in the commentary
on December 28, 2005
On the one hand, this book contains readable, scholarly translations of various Mesopotamian myths- "Enuma Elish", "Adapa and the South Wind", "The Slaying of the Lion", and several others. While I don't know Akkadian, the translations appear to be very thorough. In places where the text is missing, this is indicated by a gap, rather than simply ignored or even "filled in" as it is in many of the more popular (read: for the layman) translations of these myths.
On the other hand, as the author himself writes in his introduction, the purpose of this book is not primarily for those interested in Assyriology, but for the use of "the Old Testament scholar and the Christian minister." This dissapointed me, as this is not mentioned at all on the back cover, and I was expecting a book that would be accessible to an amateur Assyriology enthusiast like myself; what I got was essentially a translation followed by a Christian apologetic. As someone who also happens to be interested in the Near Eastern background of Hebrew thought, I was well aware of the biblical myth of the Leviathan and its connection to the Marduk-Tiamat combat motif found throughout Ancient Near Eastern literature. In his commentary to the Enuma Elish however, the author often goes to ridiculous lengths in order to remove this story from the Bible- the various biblical passages that refer to Yahweh slaying the Leviathan in the context of Creation are not to be taken at face value, he says; rather, they are mere metaphors for the story of the crossing of the Red Sea. The evidence used to support this point is typical apologetic wordplay and hocus-pocus: the author posits that because Egypt is identified poetically with the Leviathan in one instance, we should extend this poetic interpretation to ALL mentions of the Leviathan. In the instances where the Leviathan's status as a large animal cannot be denied even by the most acrobatic apologetics (as in Job 41), the author claims that it is a description of a crocodile, apparently interpreting the reference to it breathing fire as another "metaphor." The author refers to the opening chapters of Genesis as "free from all mythological references", and takes theological statements from the New Testament and retroactively assumes that the authors of the Old Testament shared the same theology. Sympathetic references to the doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy are found throughout the commentary, and the Babylonians' "crude" polytheism is constantly contrasted with the Bible's "philosophical" monotheism. In one instance where the author dares to suggest that the Bible is referencing a common superstition of the time (Job 3), he is quick to point out that this is Job (a non-Israelite) talking, not the Bible. He is apparently unable to entertain the idea that the Bible is a product of the world it was written in. Maybe this was considered a respectable academic position in the '40s, but not now.