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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More important than any commentary, 15 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Ancient Near East, Volume 1: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures: 001 (Princeton Studies on the Near East) (Paperback)
This and its companion volume 2 is a collection of academic translations of key ancient near and middle eastern texts which have a bearing on the Old Testament. It is supplemented by black and white photographs of key finds which are probably rather less useful, since colour images are now readily available.
The importance of reading primary ancient texts as opposed to commentaries that merely refer to them cannot be overemphasised. Even in fragmentary form - which some of these texts are - the poems, stories and treatises themselves draw us into their own cultural context. This is a much better position to evaluate them from than merely seeing them as objects to be mined for their bearing on Old Testament topics.
For example, most people who are aware of the Gilgamesh Epic - including many theology undergraduates - seem to believe that it is primarily a parallel to the story of Noah. In fact, reading it in either this or one of the other translations makes it clear that the story of Urnaptishan is largely incidental to Gilgamesh, which is about the quest for immortaliy.
Again, reading commentaries on Ecclesiastes might easily give the impression that the book is merely an example of Pessimism Literature. These two volumes contain the three texts which are generally referred to. Reading here, it becomes clear that the categorisation is an extremely loose one: the parallel texts stand in their own right, but they are largely dissimilar from Ecclesiastes.
Reading extra-Biblical primary texts - even in translation - is a discipline which is sadly missing both in the liberal-critical and evangelical schools of Biblical study. I cannot recommend these two volumes highly enough.
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Location: Marlcliff, Warwickshire, England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 108