The ancient Near East; an anthology of texts and pictures.

by James Bennett Pritchard, 1909-

Book, 1958



Call number

BS1180 .P82


Publisher Unknown


"James Pritchard's classic anthologies of the ancient Near East have introduced generations of readers to texts essential for understanding the peoples and cultures of this important region. Now these two enduring works have been combined and integrated into one convenient and richly illustrated volume, with a new foreword that puts the tranlations in context. With more than 130 reading selections and 300 photographs of ancient art, architecture and artifacts, this volume provides a stimulating introduction to some of the most significant and widely studied texts of the ancient Near East, including the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Creation Epic (Enuma elish), the Code of Hammurabi, and the Baal Cycle. For students of history, religion, the Bible, archaeology, and anthropology, this anthology provides a wealth of material for understanding the ancient Near East."--Page 4 of cover.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member DavidCLDriedger
Probably the most significant text I have read for understanding the Hebrew Bible. How I was not forced to read this in seminary is beyond me.
LibraryThing member keylawk
Among scholars, the "collection" of texts and plates by Pritchard is well-regarded. We who know nothing of what stones and bones have been found must take this anthology as properly mustered. However, the "translations" are not obviously so genuine. The Preface to the 1958 Edition acknowledges that
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the purpose is to expand the sources for the history of the Near East by the recent archeological augmentations. Writings of Egyptians, Syrians, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and other peoples "have been recovered, deciphered, and reliably understood." [xxix] This compendium casts the last in doubt--the translations are dubious and the understandings, especially when set against Pritchard's citations to the Tanach, and with a troubling inability to grasp folk wisdom, the class and gender struggles, and the self-servicing function of priesthoods and self-serving kings, causes one to wonder.

For example, "The Story of Two Brothers" is introduced "This folk tale tells how a conscientious young man was falsely accused of a proposal of adultery by the wife of his elder brother...". While the story does exhibit a "general similarity"--in almost no ways other than adultery--to the story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife [un-named!]. I find it impossible to grasp how a translator could characterize this young brother as "conscientious". The story relates that he had the "strength of a god in him", and was able to speak with cows in his care, but when falsely accused of adultery, his immediate response is to self-castrate, with a sharpened reed. [14] And as entertaining as the story is, it is also filled with invocations and rituals to deities--water miracles, striking the hands, smearing with dust, and prayers to named gods. It is surely a mischaracterization of this "folk tale" to suggest it was merely of entertainment value. It carries an express overt threat to lusty women and robs brothers of the joy of sharing a wife!

Archeology reveals the evidence of extensive networks of prosperous women engaged in textile arts [plate 32, polymastia] and providing sex to worshipers in beautiful garden temples. The editor appears to join the phalanx of men who treat every priestess of Isis or Ishtar as a "prostitute"--instead of a holy person. This is twisted, since in fact most men acknowledge that Ishrar was the goddess of love and fertility. [43, ff, hymn to Ishtar in temple of Eanna 39n35, Plate 131 showing goddess worshiped by small adoring man; nude Eve standing on lion [power] between Life and Death figures, plate 129; ]

Females ruled the Arab tribes for centuries--acknowledged here in a footnote: "The female rulers of Arab tribes attested in cuneiform documents from Tiglath-pileser III to Ashurbanipal, and perhaps Nabonidus." [265, fn 5.]
The work exposes its own judgments in ignoring the real theme of genitalia behind their depictions, throughout the editorial choices. For example, Gibeon, known to Scripture as having a "high place of worship" and where the Tabernacle was held (1 Kings 3:3), here all of that archeology and history is ignored for a look at a dried "pool". The excavations and water channeling at el-Jib invoke the technologies and even lost prosperity of ancient Petra.

Obviously, Pritchard does not attempt to provide detailed analysis of this trove of documents. He does track a "biblical" relevance, showing for example, the "earliest reference to Israel" in the stela erected for the victory of Mer-ne-Ptah. [328, dated 1230 BC].

This collection documents the use of "Amen" in so many prayers, to this day. The worship of Amen-hotep, and the similarity of hymns to his god. Hymn to the Aton, and Psalm 104 "has often been noted". [324] Why do the Abrahamic religions close their prayers with the same appeal to an ancient Egyptian deity?
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