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on July 21, 1999
The book is not intended for students of Akkadian as there is no cuneiform or transcripted Akkadian. Everything is in translation. The book centers around the Enuma Elish (the biggest creation account), but has many other smaller creation legends. There is a synopsis of the Elish as well as various theories about its dating, composition, etc. There is also a lengthy (58 page) article showing parallels to the Old Testament creation account. The author does a good job of being objective, but leans toward showing the uniqueness of the Genesis account and contrasts it quite a bit against the remaining semitic literature.
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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.
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VINE VOICEon December 5, 2009
To say that this is not the most exciting book I've ever read would be a vast understatement; when I was only 30 pages from the end, I put it down for two weeks because I just didn't care enough to go on.

The premise sounds interesting enough: this is a collection of Babylonian creation stories in translation, accompanied by "a detailed examination of the Babylonian creation accounts in their relation to our Old Testament literature". The creation stories themselves were certainly worth reading, if a bit repetitive and dry at times. But the comparison to the Old Testament was not at all what I had expected. I had mistakenly supposed that the focus would be on similarities between the Babylonian and Biblical accounts, and I find that unexpected connections between different cultures are always interesting to read about. Unfortunately, though, the emphasis here was mostly on differences. We would be presented with some details from the Babylonian story, followed by some details from the Biblical story, and told how the two were different. This was repeated several times, and it just didn't make for an engaging narrative.

There was some discussion at the end of structural similarities, but this had too much of a Christian emphasis to really appeal to me. One of the "problems" with the theory that the Bible might have been influenced by the Babylonian Enuma Elish was that this might contradict the doctrine of divine inspiration which "is, of course, indisputably taught in Scripture". So, Heidel explained how the concept divine inspiration could be understood in a way that would allow this influence. I'm just not concerned with reconciling history with the Bible; I wanted to know the historical facts on their own.

I don't mean to say that this is a bad book, just that I don't fit into its intended audience. If I had read the introduction rather than only the back cover before purchasing the book, I would have seen that it was intended for the "Old Testament scholar and the Christian minister". These are the people who might care most about preserving traditional views of the Bible in the light of fairly recently-discovered Near Eastern texts, and I'm just not one of them. Anyone who's interested more in the Near Eastern texts themselves can probably find a more appropriate and more recent book; this one is almost sixty years old. I don't know of any alternatives to recommend, but I can't recommend this one.
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on June 27, 2013
Don't ask this book to be more than it is. While it would have well to be able to find this out without having to read the preface, "this little study is intended primarily not for the professional Assyriologist but rather for the Old Testament scholar and the Christian minister." (p. v, Phoenix edition) And for the layman simply interested in easy access to non-Scriptural creation accounts for comparative purposes, I might add.

I am not competent to say whether sixty years of subsequent research would significantly change some of the background and commentary provided, but I am open to the possibility that this might well be the case. The fact that the distinnguished University of Chicago Press finds reason to keep it in print seems worth noting, however.
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on September 17, 2011
At first the book seems droll and boring, but when you really get into it, it leaves you with some deep thinking queries about who we are and where we came from.
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on October 16, 2015
Just getting into this book. Look like a good read.
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