Comparing: Ancient Near East / Hebrew Bible

Ancient Near Eastern Literature and the Hebrew Bible

Classical and Near Eastern parallels have been used to illuminate the biblical text for as long as there have been biblical studies. Already according to Philo Judaeus, writing in Greek and living in the shadow of the great Greek library of Alexandria in the first half century of the Common Era, Abraham "becomes a speculative philosopher," a role-model for the sect of Jewish ascetics that he described as Therapeutae. Nine centuries later, Saadiah Gaon, likewise born in Egypt but living in the equally stimulating atmosphere of Abbasid Baghdad, freely employed his knowledge of Arabic to solve cruces of Biblical Hebrew. But it again took almost another millennium before biblical names, words, and themes, were to be juxtaposed, not just to those of the contemporary world, but to those long lost to sight and mind in the buried cities of the past.

... the combination of an intertextual and a contextual approach to biblical literature holds out the promise that this millennial corpus will continue to yield new meanings on all levels: the meaning that it holds for ourselves in our own contemporary context, the meanings it has held for readers, worshippers, artists and others in the two millennia and more since the close of the canon; the meaning that it held for its own authors and the audiences of their times; and finally the meanings that it held when it was part of an earlier literary corpus.