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Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature

ISBN: 9781441253422



The Hebrew Bible represents no mere collection of books but a stunning array of literary genres. To fully illuminate the history and culture of the Old Testament, it is necessary to compare these ancient writings to similar texts written concurrently by Israel’s neighbors.

Beginning with an overview of the important literary archives of the ancient Near East, Sparks provides exhaustive references to the ancient literary counterparts to the Hebrew Bible’s major genres. Surveying the ancient writings found throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Palestine, Sparks provides a brief summary of each text discussed, translating brief portions and linking them to literarily similar biblical passages. Exploring over 30 genres—wisdom, hymns, love poetry, rituals, prophecy, apocalyptic, novella, epic legend, myth, genealogy, history, law, treaty, epigraphic materials, and others—it offers an exemplary guide to the fertile literary environment from which the canonical writings sprung. Rich with bibliographic material, this invaluable catalog enables the reader to locate not only the published texts in their original ancient languages but to find suitable English translations and commentary bearing on these ancient texts. A number of helpful indexes round out this outstanding resource. Providing students with a thorough introduction to the literature of the ancient Near East--and time-pressed scholars with an admirably up-to-date research tool—it will become a syllabus standard for a myriad of courses.

The Logos Bible Software edition of this volume is designed to encourage and stimulate your study and understanding of Scripture. Biblical passages link directly to your English translations and original-language texts, and important theological concepts link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. In addition, you can perform powerful searches by topic and find what other authors, scholars, and theologians have to say about the Word of God.

Resource Experts
  • Provides an overview and introduction to comparative Near Eastern literature
  • Discusses various forms and styles of comparative literature
  • Aims to be useful to both the initiated and uninitiated student
  • Near Eastern Archives and Libraries
  • Wisdom Literature
  • Hymns, Prayers, and Laments
  • Love Poetry (and Related Texts)
  • Rituals and Incantations
  • Intermediary Texts: Omens and Prophecies
  • Apocalyptic and Related Texts
  • Tales and Novellas
  • Epics and Legends
  • Myth
  • Genealogies, King Lists, and Related Texts
  • Historiography and Royal Inscriptions
  • Law Codes
  • Treaty and Covenant
  • Epigraphic Sources from Syria-Palestine and Its Environs
For generations, specialists have begged for a book that would convey the literary richness of the ancient Near East to students of the Bible and of the classics. Kent Sparks—s handy reference guide is now here to fill that need: elegant in presentation, judicious in contents, with precise summaries of opinions, and helpful bibliographically.

Jack M. Sasson, Vanderbilt University

Students and scholars of every level will save days of catalog and preparation time for any one project just by having this ready to hand.

—Daniel Fleming, New York University

In addition to being highly conversant with ancient Near Eastern studies, the discussions show familiarity with contemporary theory in several fields outside of the biblical and ancient Near Eastern fields. The book thus constitutes a companion work to collections of translations of ancient Near Eastern texts . . . and a helpful aid for comparative study in general. . . . This is the sort of book that all scholars of Hebrew Bible should have in their libraries. In this day and age, it is difficult for those involved in comparative research to be equally conversant with all aspects of comparative study. For those who are not engaged in comparative research, this work gives ready access to current research in various biblical genres and their ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian literary counterparts. Whether one works in comparative research or not, this book will undoubtedly provide needed coverage. For teaching purposes, itI will also serve as a great aid. Thanks to this book, ancient Near Eastern texts have never been so accessible for biblical studies. Since this is such a helpful book for both students and professors, one may hope that the author will issue revised editions of this work for decades to come.

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures

Sparks’s fifteen chapters provide a genre-based discussion of ancient Near Eastern texts that in some way contributes to the study of the world, the literature, and the text of the Hebrew Bible. . . . While the primary audience for Sparks’s book is students, it will also serve as a helpful reference guide for biblical scholars.

Old Testament Abstracts

This is the fullest collection sui generis to date. . . . The book is illustrated with a number of maps and charts. The exposition is lucid and clear. The book is a good reference guide for the serious student of biblical literature. Academic libraries of institutions with programs in Bible studies, comparative religion, and comparative literature will be the primary address for this book. I recommend it for the reference shelf both for undergraduate and for graduate students.

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

  • Title: Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature
  • Authors: Kenton L. Sparks
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Pages: 608

Kenton L. Sparks is professor of biblical studies at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. His previous books include Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible and God’s Word in Human Words.


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  1. Hyangjin Park
  2. Raymond Sevilla