The Ancient Near Eastern Texts brings together the most important historical, legal, mythological, liturgical, and secular texts of the ancient Near East, with the purpose of providing a rich contextual base for understanding the people, cultures, and literature of the Old Testament. A scholar of religious thought and biblical archaeology, James Pritchard recruited the foremost linguists, historians, and archaeologists to select and translate the texts. The goal, in his words, was "a better understanding of the likenesses and differences which existed between Israel and the surrounding cultures."
Before the ANET—as it is fondly referred to—students of the Old Testament were disposed to search out scattered books and journals in various languages to find what this essential resource offers: invaluable documents, in one place and in one language. As one reviewer put it, "This great volume is one of the most notable to have appeared in the field of Old Testament scholarship this century."
Pritchard's ANET, a standard reference for those examining the cultural setting of the Bible, contains translations of many important inscriptions which shed light on otherwise mysterious Bible customs. Included are such things as the Epic of Gilgamesh (containing our oldest Flood parallels), the Nuzi Texts (which, among others, help us understand the life of Jacob), various ancient law codes which have parallels to the biblical code, an early Palestinian ostraka, a wide selection of Egyptian and Akkadian oracles and prophecies, and even a Sumerian lullaby.
James Bennett Pritchard (1909–1997) was an American archaeologist who excavated in Israel, Canaan, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. He received his PhD and taught Religious Thought at the University of Pennsylvania, and was the first curator of Biblical Archaeology at the university’s museum. His last major excavation was at Sarafand, Lebanon (1969–1974), which revealed the ancient Phoenician city of Sarepta. It was the first time a major Phoenician city situated in the Phoenician heartland had been fully excavated. He was President of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1972–1973, and the recipient in December 1983 of the institute’s prestigious Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement. His major focus throughout his career concerned the relation between material remains and written texts within the context of biblical studies. Pritchard served as editor and consultant to the American Philosophical Society, the American Oriental Society, the National Geographic Society, and the Archaeological Institute of America.