The following essay from 101 Myths of the Bible provides a useful
overview of recommended reading for persons interested in learning more
about the Bible and the ancient Near East. In addition, you might want to
look at the bibliography from The
Moses Mystery for additional reading suggestions. On the
Links page, you will find a number of recommended
web sites with further information about biblical and Near eastern studies.
Bibliographical Essay from 101 Myths of the Bible
The suggested reference works that follow are intended for the casual
reader who wants to further explore some of the issues and ideas
raised in this book. Most of the items mentioned should be available
in book stores or good libraries.
The best general reference on the Documentary Hypothesis is Richard
Elliot Friedmans Who Wrote the Bible? (Summit Books),
which goes into the history and evolution of the J, E, P and D
sources and shows how they influenced the writing of the first five
books of the bible. The appendix has a useful chart that separates
the biblical verses by source and also includes a bibliography of
major scholarly works on biblical history. The same author has also
recently published The Hidden Book in the Bible (Harper San
Francisco), which extracts the J text out of the Torah and presents
it as a continuous narrative. He also traces what he believes to be
the J source through several other books of the bible. Although this
extended view of J has not yet received general acceptance among
scholars, Friedman is a highly respected scholar in the field of
source criticism and his views carry some weight.
There are also numerous scholarly commentaries on each book of the
bible and several of the commentaries discuss the role of the J, E, P
and D sources on the first five books. One of the better reference
works in this area is the Anchor Bible, which consists of a
separate volume for each book of the bible, with translation and
commentary by a leading scholar on the volume in question.
Bible dictionaries provide a good way to get fast information on a
particular person or topic. One of the best is the seven volume Anchor
Bible Dictionary, which contains many scholarly commentaries by
leading experts in biblical studies. Released only a few years ago,
it not only contains some of the latest information on archaeological
sites in the Near East but in many areas of study summarizes the
competing views of several scholars on a particular topic. It also
has the advantage of being separately released on CD-Rom.
Other useful bible dictionaries include the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary,
edited by Paul C. Achtmeier in conjunction with the Society of
Biblical Literature, one of the leading organizations for biblical
scholars, and the Harpers Bible Dictionary edited by
Madeleine S. and J. Lane Miller.
The cybernetic age has ushered in several computerized bible study
packages, offering side-by-side multiple translations and the option
to instantaneously search for all verses containing particular words
or phrases. In addition, many of these bible study packages offer
integrated reference works, including Strongs word concordance,
Hebrew and Greek dictionaries with definitions, bible dictionaries
and a bible Atlas. One particularly helpful package is QuickVerse
from Parsons Technology, usually available in any well-stocked
For the study of Near Eastern mythology, a good general introductory
work is Mythologies of the Ancient World (Anchor, Doubleday),
edited and with an introduction by Samuel Noah Kramer, a leading
expert in Near Eastern texts. Each region is assigned to a particular
expert and the writer provides an overview and analysis of the
relevant myths. Kramer, himself, did the section on Sumer and Akkad.
There are also several beautifully illustrated general mythological
encyclopaedias that do the same thing. Among them are Mythology;
An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Rizzoli), edited by Richard
Cavendish; the New LaRousse Encyclopedia of Mytholgy (Putnam), Egyptian
Mythology (Paul Hamlyn) and Near Eastern Mythology
(Hamlyn) by John Gray.
For those who prefer to read the ancient texts rather than a summary,
the chief reference work is Ancient Near Texts Relating to the Old Testament
(Princeton), edited by James B. Pritchard. It is a mammoth collection
of ancient Near Eastern documents from several nations and contains
modest introductions to the material. He also produced a companion
volume called The Ancient Near East in Pictures (Princeton).
It is unlikely you will find the complete version of either book
outside of a library, but there is a heavily abridged version in two
paperback volumes that can be obtained in book stores.
For a translation of Babylonian Creation and Flood myths, you might
want to read two works by Alexander Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and
Old Testament Parallels (University of Chicago Press) and The
Babylonian Genesis (University of Chicago Press). For a good look
at some Egyptian Creation texts, see Genesis in Egypt (Van
Siclen) in the Yale Egyptological Studies series. The only
substantial text setting forth Egypts Osiris mythological cycle
is provided by the classical writer Plutarch, in his Isis and Osiris.
It is usually summarized in most texts about Egyptian myths but the
Loeb Classical Library has the complete text in both English and
Greek in Volume 5 of their edition of Plutarchs Moralia.
There are also several collections of ancient Egyptian literature
that provide a translation of The Contendings of Horus and Set,
including The Literature of Ancient Egypt (Yale University
Press) edited by William Kelly Simpson and Ancient Egyptian Literature,
Vol II (University of California Press) by Miriam Lichtheim.
Several classical historians have written about ancient Egypt,
including Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch and Josephus (in his Antiquities.)
For a modern general history of Egypt, Sir Alan Gardiners Egypt
of the Pharaohs (Oxford University Press), written in 1961, has
become somewhat of a classic and more recently A History of
Ancient Egypt (Blackwell) by Nicolas Grimal, published in 1994,
provides an updated overview.
For a general survey of Mesopotamia, a good starting point would be
Sumer and the Sumerians (Cambridge University Press) by Harriet
Crawford and Babylon (Thames and Hudson) by Joan Oates. Also
see the beautifully illustrated Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and
the Ancient Near East (Facts on File) by Michael Roaf.
For an overview of other areas of the Near East you might want to
look at The Sea Peoples; Warriors of the Ancient Mediterranean
(Thames and Hudson) by N. K. Sandars; The Secret of the Hittites
(Schocken Books) by C. W. Ceram; Ugarit and the Old Testament (Erdmans)
by Peter C. Craigie; and The Phoenicians; The Purple Empire of
the Ancient World (William Morrow) by Gerhard Herm.
For a detailed scholarly analysis of the ancient Near East, there is
probably no better source than the multi-volume Cambridge Ancient
History. Each volume covers a particular time frame and covers the
politics, culture, religion and history of Egypt, Mesopotamia,
Canaan, Syria, Greece and Anatolia (approximately ancient Turkey.)
Finally, for a challenge to traditional views about the origins of
biblical civilization, I recommend my own The Moses Mystery
(Birch Lane Press), reprinted as The Bible Myth (Citadel). It
opposes the biblical idea that Israel evolved over many centuries out
of a nomadic Semitic culture in Mesopotamia and Canaan. Instead, I
argue that Israelites emerged suddenly in fourteenth century BC
Egypt, as followers of the religious monotheism of Pharaoh Akhenaten
and they left Egypt in the violent aftermath of the counter-revolution.
The book also compares the bibles Patriarchal history with
Egyptian mythological cycles and shows the parallels between the two.
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