Scripture and Ancient Narrative Myth, Legend, Epic, and Histories Chronological Reading List?

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Liam | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Nov 5 2017 9:40 AM

I'd like to dive into the near eastern myths and also some of the classic literature. But I'd love it if there was a reading list of some kind that put together the Biblical Histories with the myths, legends, epics, and histories of the ancient near east, the classical literature, and other Jewish histories.

Maybe a reading plan in chronological order from the supposed date of the events described (1st) and then, if the events run parellel in time chronologically, listing them chronologically from the supposed date of composition (2nd). 

For example, a possible order of reading for the creation story in Genesis 1 would be:

  • Genesis 1
  • Near Eastern Creation Myths (from earliest composed to latest)
  • Classic literature's creation stories (I'm not well enough versed to know these)
  • Other Biblical Creation Accounts (Psalms)
  • Apocryphal Creation Stories (?)
  • Psuedapigraphical Creation Stories
  • Creation Stories from Josephus, Philo, and Rabbinic literature or even the obscure book of Jasher
  • Possibly even the later creation classic epics like Milton's Paradise Lost

Possibly also this would include Homer's Illiad somewhere in Genesis where it fits chronologically (maybe between 11 and 12?) and other things like this.

Has anyone ever seen a reading list that would cover such things at all? It would be massive I know..

Posts 1528
Ben | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 5 2017 12:48 PM

Sparks' book does a bit. 

"The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected."- G.K. Chesterton

Posts 52
Eduardo Espiritu | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 5 2017 1:08 PM

Old Testament Parallels (New Revised and Expanded Third Edition): Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East
Victor Harold Matthews
Published by Paulist Press (2007)
ISBN 10: 0809144352 ISBN 13: 9780809144358

"translation of the most important ancient Near East documents that share parallel themes and issues with biblical stories."

Here is the Logos search for his works:

Posts 2792
Beloved Amodeo | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Nov 5 2017 1:19 PM


Thanks, Ben for this recommendation. It does appear to fit the bill requested as well as possible. I include most of the preface from the 1st printing excluding acknowledgments. Hope you find this useful.


Early in my graduate study at the University of North Carolina, I found myself wishing for an introductory survey of the comparative literature that was valuable for readers of the Hebrew Bible. At that time, in 1990, my search for such a book yielded only one survey volume, and it was too brief—and sometimes too influenced by theological fundamentalism—to be of use for serious biblical research. Meanwhile, my appreciation for the comparative value of Near Eastern literature was stirred again and again by my studies with John Van Seters and Jack Sasson, two scholars who, in their respective ways, have made extensive use of Near Eastern materials when reading the Hebrew Bible. Not long after I completed my terminal degree, I approached John Kutsko, then of Hendrickson Publishers, with a proposal to write the book that I had wished for during my graduate work.
This project was originally conceived to fill two roles for readers of the Hebrew Bible: to introduce important comparative texts from the ancient Near East, and to outline the import of these ancient texts for the study of Israelite literature. As most projects do, this one has taken much longer, and become much larger, than originally planned. The project has morphed into two different books, each addressing one side of the comparative equation. This book provides an overview and introduction to the comparative Near Eastern literature, and the second volume—now in an advanced state of preparation—will examine the Hebrew Bible in this comparative literary context. For this reason, insofar as possible, I have refrained from campaigning for my unique generic judgments about the Hebrew Bible in the present volume. The generic parallels that I have highlighted are of a general nature and should be self-evident to most scholars, regardless of their theoretical stripe. If there is a clear exception to this rule, it would be in the discussion of love poetry, where I offer a preliminary suggestion for how one ought to read the Hebrew Song of Songs.
I would like to offer a few cautions, directions, and explanations to readers of this volume. First, although the presentation of so many texts might create the impression that this survey of the Near Eastern literature is “complete,” it should be remembered that “complete” is a relative term, particularly in this case. I have indeed attempted to include the most important comparative exemplars from the ancient Near East, but many thousands of texts have been unearthed from Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, and only a small fraction of these are actually treated in the chapters that follow. In this regard, we should note that Giovanni Pettinato reports that some 300,000 unpublished cuneiform tablets are presently stashed in the basement of the National Museum in Baghdad, Iraq, and this only adds to the thousands of unpublished texts presently housed in museums all over the world.
Second, I would caution readers against the illusion that reading a single chapter, such as the chapter on “History and Historiography,” adequately introduces the genre. As I have studied the various genres, it has become more and more apparent that genres are like religions—“to know one is to know none.” So, for instance, ancient historiography cannot be appreciated apart from a good grounding in myths, novels, folktales, genealogies, king lists, and archives, among others. It is by acquiring good familiarity with the full range of ancient literature that we begin to appreciate any one genre very well.
Third, readers should be aware that the entries in this volume vary significantly with respect to the materials that they cover. Some entries treat a single ancient text that was written at one historical point in time, while other entries cover a whole range of related texts from a long historical period. Such differences are dictated mainly by pragmatic concerns.
Fourth, in a related matter, I would point out that the order of the chapters in the book, as well as the arrangement of the individual entries in each chapter, follow a certain logic that is not immediately visible to readers. The chapter order gives priority to those genres that provide basic conceptual features for understanding the others. So, for instance, I find that a background in archives and libraries (ch. 1) and in scribal wisdom (ch. 2) is basic for appreciating the other genres in the volume. Scribal wisdom then leads organically into discussions of hymns, prayers, laments, love poetry, omens, apocalyptic, and priestly wisdom, thus accounting roughly for the order of the first seven chapters. At the same time, there was logic working in another direction. Because historiography tends to draw upon many types of source material, it was important to cover the narrative and chronographic genres that are used by historians before looking at historiography itself. This is why tales, epics, myths, and genealogies/king lists are where they are in the book. As for the arrangement within the chapters, the tendency is to move from Mesopotamia, to Egypt, and then to Syria/Palestine and Hatti. This is primarily because the vast majority of comparative exemplars come from Mesopotamia and Egypt. However, when one of the represented civilizations was much more important than the others regarding the genre in question (e.g., Egypt and novellas; Hatti and treaties), then I began with that civilization. This said, it is clear that chronology is also an important factor in the arrangement of the materials.
Fifth, the references and bibliographies in the volume require a word of explanation. Sources are cited using only the author’s last name. When necessary, a page number accompanies the reference [e.g., (Lambert, 253)], and a date of publication is also provided when more than one work is cited for that author [e.g., (Lambert 1984, 253)]. If the reader wishes to consult the complete bibliographic reference, he/she should first consult the bibliography for the entry in question. If the source does not appear there, the reader should consult the general bibliography at the end of the chapter and then, this failing, the list of abbreviations and basic sources provided at the beginning of the volume.
Sixth, readers should be aware that some of the translations in this volume have been “modernized,” a necessity given that many of the translations—such as those in ANET—are older and followed punctuation conventions that are different than in our own day.
Seventh, I should provide a word of explanation for certain variations in the “tone” of this volume, given that the book vacillates to some extent between bookish and less bookish sorts of discourse. I have always envisioned this project as a tool for both the initiated and the uninitiated, but this decision has required that my rhetoric take a simpler turn in certain instances, particularly in the theoretical introduction. Although the rhetoric of the introduction may seem sophomoric at times when judged from an informed scholarly perspective, I believe that it offers theoretical insights that will be valuable even for seasoned biblical scholars. One result of this rhetorical effort is that the book serves not only as a resource volume for scholars and graduate students but also as a textbook. I presently use it at Eastern University in a three-semester-hour class entitled, “The Genres of the Hebrew Bible,” where students read it alongside the primary sources from the ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible. Each week of class requires reading a chapter of this book as background (for Monday class), selected readings from primary Near Eastern sources (for Wednesday), and then appropriate readings from the Bible (for Friday). I have found that the sixteen chapters fit nicely into standard sixteen-week semesters, but this format will obviously need to be adjusted for the vagaries of different institutional calendars. The overall responses from students, and the pedagogical effects, have been very positive. I find that students come away from the class with a better sense of the Hebrew Bible than they might receive in standard introductions to the corpus.
In the interest of improving future editions of this book, I would invite those who use it to contact me for any of the following purposes: (1) To inform me of important resources or publications that I may have overlooked; (2) To inform me of new resources and publications; (3) To point out substantive errors that appear in any of the book’s entries; (4) To point out where my treatment of a text (or texts) seems to leave out or unduly neglect important interpretive issues; or (5) To alert me to interesting parallels between the Hebrew Bible and ANE that have been overlooked. Any comments along these lines will be deeply appreciated and thoughtfully considered.
Several important publications have reached me too late to incorporate into my discussions and bibliographies. These include the following: J. Black, G. Cunningham, E. Robson, and G. Zólyomi, The Literature of Ancient Sumer (Oxford: University Press, 2005), F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, J. J. M. Roberts, C. L. Seow, and R. E. Whitaker, Hebrew Inscriptions: Texts from the Biblical Period of the Monarchy with Concordance (New Haven; London: Yale, 2004), and B. R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature (3d ed.; Bethesda, MD: CDL Press, 2005). All of these volumes are very nicely done and should be duly noted by readers.

Sparks, K. L. (2005). Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature (pp. xiii–xvi). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Meanwhile, Jesus kept on growing wiser and more mature, and in favor with God and his fellow man.

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Posts 1239
Liam | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 6 2017 6:37 PM

These look good! Thank you all for these! The Ancient Literature Tool is also excellent for this. 

I was also hoping for something that included the classics in the list. Unfortunately as far as I can tell the Ancient Lit tool doesn't touch the classic greek and roman literature. Does anyone know of a way to look up the supposed date of the historical event behind the narrative in the big titles of classical literature?

It seems that apart from doing extensive research myself and meticulously fitting each work in in it's appropriate time slot that nothing exists as a reference for this. 

Posts 11433
DMB | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 7 2017 12:23 PM 

I was impressed with two words: staggering, and untranslated (needing ANET or COS). It’s quicker to do a CitedBy on COS, linked to the Bible text.  I also include ANET in the CitedBy, but more time consuming, since attaches to ANET's index.

"God will save his fallen angels and their broken wings He'll mend."

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