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Leonard,W.king - Legends of Babylon and Egipt Vol.2

Leonard,W.king - Legends of Babylon and Egipt Vol.2

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Published by John Proud

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Published by: John Proud on Nov 07, 2010
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In the first lecture we saw how, both in Babylonia and Egypt, recentdiscoveries had thrown light upon periods regarded as prehistoric, andhow we had lately recovered traditions concerning very early rulers bothin the Nile Valley and along the lower Euphrates. On the strength of thelatter discovery we noted the possibility that future excavation inBabylonia would lay bare stages of primitive culture similar to those wehave already recovered in Egyptian soil. Meanwhile the documents fromNippur had shown us what the early Sumerians themselves believedabout their own origin, and we traced in their tradition the gradualblending of history with legend and myth. We saw that the new DynasticList took us back in the legendary sequence at least to the beginning of the Post-diluvian period. Now one of the newly published literary textsfills in the gap beyond, for it gives us a Sumerian account of the historyof the world from the Creation to the Deluge, at about which point, aswe saw, the extant portions of the Dynastic List take up the story. Ipropose to devote my lecture to-day to this early version of the Floodand to the effect of its discovery upon some current theories.The Babylonian account of the Deluge, which was discovered byGeorge Smith in 1872 on tablets from the Royal Library at Nineveh, is,as you know, embedded in a long epic of twelve Books recounting theadventures of the Old Babylonian hero Gilgamesh. Towards the end of this composite tale, Gilgamesh, desiring immortality, crosses the Watersof Death in order to beg the secret from his ancestor Ut-napishtim, whoin the past had escaped the Deluge and had been granted immortalityby the gods. The Eleventh Tablet, or Book, of the epic contains theaccount of the Deluge which Ut-napishtim related to his kinsman
Gilgamesh. The close correspondence of this Babylonian story with thatcontained in Genesis is recognized by every one and need not detainus. You will remember that in some passages the accounts tally even inminute details, such, for example, as the device of sending out birds totest the abatement of the waters. It is true that in the Babylonian versiona dove, a swallow, and a raven are sent forth in that order, instead of araven and the dove three times. But such slight discrepancies onlyemphasize the general resemblance of the narratives.In any comparison it is usually admitted that two accounts have beencombined in the Hebrew narrative. I should like to point out that thisassumption may be made by any one, whatever his views may be withregard to the textual problems of the Hebrew Bible and the traditionalauthorship of the Pentateuch. And for our purpose at the moment it isimmaterial whether we identify the compiler of these Hebrew narrativeswith Moses himself, or with some later Jewish historian whose namehas not come down to us. Whoever he was, he has scrupulouslypreserved his two texts and, even when they differ, he has given eachas he found it. Thanks to this fact, any one by a careful examination of the narrative can disentangle the two versions for himself. He will findeach gives a consistent story. One of them appears to be simpler andmore primitive than the other, and I will refer to them as the earlier andthe later Hebrew Versions.[1] The Babylonian text in the Epic of Gilgamesh contains several peculiarities of each of the Hebrewversions, though the points of resemblance are more detailed in theearlier of the two.[1] In the combined account in Gen. vi. 5-ix. 17, if the followingpassages be marked in the margin or underlined, and then readconsecutively, it will be seen that they give a consistent and almostcomplete account of the Deluge: Gen. vi. 9-22; vii. 6, 11, 13-16 (down to"as God commanded him"), 17 (to "upon the earth"), 18-21, 24; viii. 1, 2(to "were stopped"), 3 (from "and after")-5, 13 (to "from off the earth"),14-19; and ix. 1-17. The marked passages represent the "later HebrewVersion." If the remaining passages be then read consecutively, theywill be seen to give a different version of the same events, though notso completely preserved as the other; these passages substantiallyrepresent the "earlier Hebrew Version". In commentaries on the Hebrewtext they are, of course, usually referred to under the convenientsymbols J and P, representing respectively the earlier and the later versions. For further details, see any of the modern commentaries on
Genesis, e.g. Driver, /Book of Genesis/, pp. 85 ff.; Skinner, /Genesis/,pp. 147 ff.; Ryle, /Genesis/, p. 96 f.Now the tablets from the Royal Library at Nineveh inscribed with theGilgamesh Epic do not date from an earlier period than the seventhcentury B.C. But archaeological evidence has long shown that thetraditions themselves were current during all periods of Babylonianhistory; for Gilgamesh and his half-human friend Enkidu were favouritesubjects for the seal-engraver, whether he lived in Sumerian times or under the Achaemenian kings of Persia. We have also, for some yearsnow, possessed two early fragments of the Deluge narrative, provingthat the story was known to the Semitic inhabitants of the country at thetime of Hammurabi's dynasty.[1] Our newly discovered text from Nippur was also written at about that period, probably before 2100 B.C. But thecomposition itself, apart from the tablet on which it is inscribed, must goback very much earlier than that. For instead of being composed inSemitic Babylonian, the text is in Sumerian, the language of the earliestknown inhabitants of Babylonia, whom the Semites eventuallydisplaced. This people, it is now recognized, were the originators of theBabylonian civilization, and we saw in the first lecture that, according totheir own traditions, they had occupied that country since the dawn of history.[1] The earlier of the two fragments is dated in the eleventh year of Ammizaduga, the tenth king of Hammurabi's dynasty, i.e. in 1967 B.C.;it was published by Scheil, /Recueil de travaux/, Vol. XX, pp. 55 ff. Herethe Deluge story does not form part of the Gilgamesh Epic, but isrecounted in the second tablet of a different work; its hero bears thename Atrakhasis, as in the variant version of the Deluge from theNineveh library. The other and smaller fragment, which must be datedby its script, was published by Hilprecht (/Babylonian Expedition/, seriesD, Vol. V, Fasc. 1, pp. 33 ff.), who assigned it to about the same period;but it is probably of a considerably later date. The most convenienttranslations of the legends that were known before the publication of theNippur texts are those given by Rogers, /Cuneiform Parallels to the OldTestament/ (Oxford, 1912), and Dhorme, /Choix de textes religieuxAssyro-Babyloniens/ (Paris, 1907).The Semites as a ruling race came later, though the occurrence of Semitic names in the Sumerian Dynastic List suggests very earlyinfiltration from Arabia. After a long struggle the immigrants succeeded

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