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The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (Phoenix Books) Paperback – September 15, 1963
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First the good points. Heidel wrote this book in order to appeal to a wide audience rather than just students of Akkadian, so there is no cuneiform or transcripted Akkadian, just the English translation. He introduces us to the background and then takes us through the Epic of Gilgamesh. Further chapters very carefully contrast parts of the Gilgamesh and other Mesopotamian literature to the stories of the bible. Heidel concentrates on the view of death and the afterlife and the Mesopotamiam Flood stories versus Noah. I found it very interesting if somewhat heavy going at times as I'm not a student in this field, and just familiarising myself with this type of literature. Luckily, Heidel was extremely careful to present a well annotated and referenced book so that readers can check up on each detail for themselves.
However, there is one problem: the whole look of this book is off-putting. Written in double-spaced, small Arial font, it looks like a research paper that has inexplicably been wrapped in a glossy cover. It's not easy on the eye at all and I found the presentation quite distracting. Also, compared to some of the more recent translations, (eg Stephanie Dalley)this particular translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh is not very reader friendly as the English is very old fashioned.
Overall I would say that the content will appeal to a wide range of readers, but the overall look of the book could do with a bit of an overhaul.
That being said, there are some very good things about this book which make it worthwhile. Heidel does an excellent job of informing the reader of what the source is for each part of the translation, as well as for the related material that he presents. His sections on 'Death and the Afterlife', and 'The Story Of The Flood' where he compares the Mesopotamian works with those of the Old Testament are much better than the discussion given with the Foster translation in my opinion. In addition, Rivkah Scharf Kluger uses Heidel's translation for most of her work presented in "The Archetypal Significance of Gilgamesh", which give those interested in a large amount of discussion all based on the same translation.
One last comment on the book itself is that the typeface used is rather small, and not very easy on the eyes.
I thought that this was a wonderful story, and a worthwhile read if you've ever read anything by Homer or even the Bible, because this is the root of it all. The story is sad, erotic and wonderful all at the same time, and i highly recommend it for any age reader.
Heidel demonstrates keen erudition in analyzing these stories. He regularly references relevant source material (almost all of it primary) and provides cogent arguments for both the similarities and differences amongst particular points in the accounts examined.
I do have one main disagreement however and that is Heidel displays a patent bias in favor of the Abrahamic God. One example is his explanation of the intent behind the Babylonian flood as being due to the "caprice of the Gods" while the Genesis account was due to "the one omnipotent God" dispensing perfect justice. Anyone looking at this more objectively can clearly see that either account can be viewed as either capricious or justified depending on your viewpoint. Here Heidel lets his personal viewpoint color what could have been a more objective examination of what the ancient Babylonians may have really thought (and argued about).
I recommend this book for anyone interested in studying Ancient Near Eastern cultures.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the seminal scholarly translations of the Gilgamesh Epic. Although there have been more recent, I preferred the Heidel to the version I read in college.Published 12 months ago by Marjory H.
The Epic of Gilgamesh--the earliest discovered literary work of man--consisting of twelve cunieform tablets written four to five thousand years ago in the days of... Read morePublished on October 19, 2013 by DH Koester