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The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (Phoenix Books) Paperback – September 15, 1963

3.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Cuneiform records made some three thousand years ago are the basis for this essay on the ideas of death and the afterlife and the story of the flood which were current among the ancient people of the Tigro-Euphrates Valley.

About the Author

Alexander Heidel was at the time of his death in 1955 on the research staff of the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 269 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 2nd edition (September 15, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226323986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226323985
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ellen Whyte on October 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was interested in this book as I had heard a lot about the influence of Mesopotamian literature on the Ancient Greek and Egyptian civilisations as well as some parts of the bible.
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.
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This is the second translation of the Gilgamesh epic that I have read recently, the other being translated by Benjamin R. Foster. Each of them has their strong points, but overall I prefer the Foster translation. The Foster translation is much more recent(2001), and benefits from additional pieces of the epic being found. The Heidel translation is from 1946 and for that reason has more gaps than the Foster translation. Heidel also translates the racier portions of the epic into Latin rather than English which is troublesome for non-scholars.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I read Gilgamesh after I read the Iliad and they Oddyssey, and now i see where Homer got most of his ideas. I sat down with the notion that Gilgamesh would be a hard read; that it would take me forever to finish. However, it turns out that the actual epic is only a 100 pages, and version i got was filled with other poems that corresponded with the epic.
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.
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I thought it was going to be quite more explicable, neverthleess there only real Parellel is the flood story. That's it. The only good thing about this book is that you have the Babylonian and Assyrian versions of the Giglamesh Epic Poem, Otherwise it's just a good cover, Should have listen to my dad, never judge a book by its cover.
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Format: Paperback
Heidel's comparison of the Gilgamesh Epic with the Tanakh (and a few elements of the New Testament as well) is a scholarly summation derived from much serious academic research into Ancient Near Eastern studies. He breaks up the work into four parts: 1) A translation and explanation of the Gilgamesh Epic, 2) Translations and brief discussions of related stories and myths such as "Ishtar's Descent to the Underworld" & "The Atrahasis Epic", 3) A comparison of Hebrew & Babylonian views on death & the afterlife, and 4) A comparison of the Flood accounts between those two cultures.
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.
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