Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East

Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East

In this readable, portable anthology, ancient Near Eastern laws and stories share parallel themes and issues with biblical stories. The volume has been completely revised in light of the ongoing discoveries of ancient Near Eastern texts....

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Title:Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East
Author:Victor H. Matthews
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Edition Language:English

Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East Reviews

  • Ste

    It's been a very useful source of information for the tour of the British Museum that I'm about to lead.

  • Rick Davis

    This is a good, albeit very selective, collection of documents from various civilizations in the Old Testament world. Everything in the book is interesting, and the translations are lively and easy to read. However, I don't think this book would escape the charge of parallelomania. The parallels drawn by the authors between the documents and the Biblical text are sometimes a huge stretch either chronologically, geographically, or just in terms of content.

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    First read in 2004.

  • Lu Tsun

    Great editing and translation. Very useful for research.

  • James Chappell

    This is a very simple but exhaustive reference book for parallels between the Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern religious and political literature.

  • Krystle

    Some of the parallels notated by the author did not make sense; otherwise, a fantastic resource.

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    Pro tip you can sound clever and original if you have access to a large body of hand me down knowledge and a green audience. Performing and entertaining for young people has made me intimately aware of this. Borrowing goes on all the time in Camp culture, Education, comedy, Music and the arts. It apparently was also true for the writers of the bible who borrowed much from the cultures around them both Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Stories in the Bible seem to reworkings of various Sumerian, and

    Pro tip you can sound clever and original if you have access to a large body of hand me down knowledge and a green audience. Performing and entertaining for young people has made me intimately aware of this. Borrowing goes on all the time in Camp culture, Education, comedy, Music and the arts. It apparently was also true for the writers of the bible who borrowed much from the cultures around them both Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Stories in the Bible seem to reworkings of various Sumerian, and Egyptian favorites. This is not bad in itself great artists often steal the good stuff but it brings into question the idea of a stand alone culture be it genius or divine inspiration.

    This is a source book on parallels (of which there are many) of middle eastern stories and laws and the good book. I knew about this fact in a bloodless abstract way but this source book puts some meat on the bare bones of this notion.

  • Neil Harmon

    This was a text book from a class, "Interpreting the Hebrew Bible I." This was a great book. It is not actually about the Bible but is about non-Biblical archeological finds that are from the same time and that sometimes mention some of the same people or events that occurred in the Bible. It is fascinating to read the account of King Cyrus of Persia telling the Israelites they could go back to Jerusalem and then read a stela (stone engraving) produced by King Cyrus discussing the same events.

    This was a text book from a class, "Interpreting the Hebrew Bible I." This was a great book. It is not actually about the Bible but is about non-Biblical archeological finds that are from the same time and that sometimes mention some of the same people or events that occurred in the Bible. It is fascinating to read the account of King Cyrus of Persia telling the Israelites they could go back to Jerusalem and then read a stela (stone engraving) produced by King Cyrus discussing the same events. IT is also interesting to compare the laws contained in the Bible with those of nearby civilizations. It was especially cool to read about one of these tablets and then literally bump into one (well brush it while walking down a narrow hallway) at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It reminds us that (at least in parts of the text) these were real historical people telling their story. Perhaps with a slant, but still, telling their truth. (it is especially interesting when one can read both side's account of an event)

  • Danny

    This is the type of book that is probably best used as a reference book, but worth reading through in its entirety. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the “parallels”, although in the majority of instances that word is used very loosely. As the authors make clear in their introduction: “There are genre parallels, motif parallels, social institution parallels, plot parallels, and parallels in historical events.”

    As you read through the text you will be treated to an introduction to each ancient

    This is the type of book that is probably best used as a reference book, but worth reading through in its entirety. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the “parallels”, although in the majority of instances that word is used very loosely. As the authors make clear in their introduction: “There are genre parallels, motif parallels, social institution parallels, plot parallels, and parallels in historical events.”

    As you read through the text you will be treated to an introduction to each ancient document that usually discusses it’s origin, date, and reason for its inclusion in the book. In addition to this, as you read through each selection you will be treated to referenced biblical texts for comparisons. Although the referenced biblical texts strewn throughout each ancient selection often seemed quite awkward when presented as parallels. I flipped open up the book randomly and pulled up an example of this. This particular ancient text reads as follows:

    “Then I will travel with you to safe harbor, Then we shall live together forever” pg229

    The parallel text is Psalm 94:19 which reads as follows: “In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.” KJV.

    As you can see, I was left scratching my head as to how this was a parallel, but others are slightly more applicable, dealing with similar topics(ie: food, life, oxen, etc.) as we see in the biblical texts.

    Now to the primary topic, the stories/texts themselves! Many of these stories are thematically similar(ie: laments, poems, stories about brothers, laws against crimes, stories about barren women, etc.) to the biblical narratives, but often strikingly different in actual content and intent. The most notable exception to this is the flood story of Gilgamesh. However, this is difficult to determine if this is due to a common tradition of a real event, a borrowed tradition from one culture to another, or something else entirely. As the authors themselves make clear: “Establishing the correct connection between related biblical and non-biblical traditions is never easy. Simple solutions are generally misleading solutions.” (Forward xiii).

    The most enjoyable parallels were those that demonstrated grammatical and stylistic similarities of the texts – it is a beautiful reminder that the Hebrew people were a real people, in the real world, who interacted with their cultural peers.

    That said, I learned quite a bit from this volume and I have accumulated a few pages of notes for further study.

  • Lisa

    Interesting collection of primary sources useful for understanding ancient history.

  • Christopher G.

    Archeology uncovers many artifacts from all of the societies that occupied Canaan and the surrounding regions. Victor Matthews and Don Benjamin have combed through these artifacts and selected the texts that are similar in some aspect to the Old Testament. These similarities include literature genre, events, documents, customs, laws, literary style, and people. Their compilation of these texts in Old Testament Parallels span the entire Old Testament from the narratives, psalms, wisdom, and

    Archeology uncovers many artifacts from all of the societies that occupied Canaan and the surrounding regions. Victor Matthews and Don Benjamin have combed through these artifacts and selected the texts that are similar in some aspect to the Old Testament. These similarities include literature genre, events, documents, customs, laws, literary style, and people. Their compilation of these texts in Old Testament Parallels span the entire Old Testament from the narratives, psalms, wisdom, and prophetic books and come from every region around Canaan including Egypt, Moab, Babylon, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Turkey, and Persia.

    The translations supplied in this book are very easy to read and do not contain archaic vocabulary or awkward sentence structures. When there are especially long translations the authors did a nice job of condensing the material without losing the impact of the parallel account and where able to keep the material flowing smoothly. Although each text contained notations for the parallel location in the Old Testament, there where very few instances where the authors expounded on the significance of the parallel.

    The authors stated on page xiii that they did not want to destroy the uniqueness of the Bible by overstating the similarities with the surrounding cultures; however, the more I read the book, the more I questioned the Bible's uniqueness. The Bible and its God, YHWH, are often presented and easily accepted as unique in western culture but when it is compared with other texts of similar culture, its content is not that unique after all. The presentation of this material must ultimately stress the uniqueness of the Bible’s message otherwise the similarities of content with other cultures may reduce the scriptures to another product of mankind.

    I gave the book three stars primarily due to the fact that the authors stated objective was not to destroy the uniqueness of the Bible and that is precisely what struck me in reading this book. The other drawback being the lack of assessment on the parallel accounts. If these guys study this material as much as it appears than I would have liked some input from them, even if it were a paragraph or two.

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