Friday, June 12, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Sourcing creation

Now there are two problems with thinking that the Jews copied their Genesis story from a copy of Enuma Elish in the libraries of either Ashurbanipal or Nebuchadnetsar.
One is the modern idea of what a library is.
A lot of nations nowadays have free circulating libraries where people can go, check out books, take them home, read them, and be influenced by them. 
Two hundred years ago, libraries were a cross between this and a bookstore.  The proprietors charged a subscription and the people who paid could come see the latest publications.  The proprietors could use the subscription to pay printing costs for works they felt were important.  Also writers could go around and convince patrons to pay a subscription directly to the writer to pay these costs.  In the first case the profit over and above the printing costs belonged to the shop owner.  In the second the profit went to the writer.  The only way to access material for free was to have the run of the library belonging to a rich person or a minister.  This situation is amply documented in novels written from about 1780 through about 1820 CE and in diaries like that of Fanny Burney.
Before the printing press, people had to pay for a monk or somebody else to make a hand-written copy of a work that was desired for a library.  This is more the scenario of royal libraries and also the Alexandrian library whose destruction was such a catastrophe.  You had to have access to the royal library to read what was in it.
First you have to tell me how Jews got access to the royal libraries.  If you’re thinking that Ezra could have done it, keep reading.
Because the other problem is reading the material once you get to it.
The classic material of Mesopotamia was written in cuneiform from the first use of that writing form up until about 100 CE.  Cuneiform training was restricted to the upper classes, and the only way to join the upper classes was by marriage if you weren’t born into them.
Jews of the Babylonian Captivity served in the military.  Some of them were scribes.  But they wrote Aramaic, the language of Nabonidus, who conquered Babylon and went on to conquer Assyria and its empire.  Not cuneiform.
So the Jews didn’t have access to Enuma Elish, or Gilgamesh, or the Kings list, or Hammurabi’s Code, or anything else written in cuneiform, not when the ancestors of the patriarchs were still living in Mesopotamia, and not during the Babylonian Captivity.  I’ll come back to this again many posts from now.
How hard could it be?  Go.  Read.  I’ll be here when you get back.
Leonard King’s “Easy” Cuneiform Inscriptions
Friedrich Delitzsch’s Assyrian Grammar
That’s one urban legend down and about 60 more to go.
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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