Babylonian Prayers to Marduk. By Takayoshi Oshima. Orientalische Religionen in der Antike, vol. 7. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Pp. xviii + 483, 37 pits. 119 [euro].
Recent years have witnessed a reinvigoration of the study of Mesopotamian religious practices through the lens of cuneiform devotional literature. Although the book under review is a revised version of the author's doctoral dissertation (Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2003), one of the express aims of the work in its current form is to reach a broad audience, including those working in theology, biblical studies, and the comparative study of religions. This "study of the history of the ancient belief in Marduk, the god of Babylon based on an analysis of Akkadian prayers to him" has a central interest in Marduk's "role as the divine saviour of mankind" (p. vii).
A cursory introduction clarifies the corpus under consideration, Akkadian prayers to Marduk, and sketches the interrelationships among these prayers, the religious elites responsible for the Marduk cult in Babylon, and the major Akkadian compositions that shed light on the deity, especially the famous literary works ludlul bel nemeqi and enuma elis. Expressly excluded from consideration are the prayers to Marduk found embedded within royal inscriptions. The introduction concludes with a short bibliographic survey of studies on Marduk.
But what do we know about Marduk's cult center, divine family, origins, place in the cuneiform god lists, iconography, mythology (relationships with Asalluhi, Ningirsu/Ninurta, and Assur), and representation in esoteric scholarly writings? It would have been impractical to treat all of these topics in detail, but as it stands the introduction leaves readers with little sense of what is known about Marduk, though, to be fair, chapter 2 does cover some of this territory. Such background would have provided a useful matrix in which to appreciate what the devotional literature in particular contributes to this overall picture. A sketch of the chronological and geographic range of the sources would have helped here as well, both to account for why so many "Babylonian" prayers to Marduk are found in Assyria (a trivial point for specialist readers but likely a source of some confusion for the wider audience the author hopes to reach) and to create a framework in which to raise questions about the contexts in which this devotional literature circulated: for example, did prayers to Marduk resonate...