Predicting the Past in the Ancient Near East: Mantic Historiography in Ancient Mesopotamia, Judah, and the Mediterranean World. By MATTHEW NEUJAHR. Brown Judaic Studies, vol. 354. Providence: Brown Judaic Studies, 2012. Pp. xv + 300. $64.95. [Distributed by Society of Biblical Literature]
Predicting the Past began as a doctoral dissertation at Yale University under the guidance of John Collins. The focus of Neujahr's study is the use of vaticinium ex eventu in the ancient Near East. His research covers texts from the end of the second millennium B.C. until the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. These begin with the Akkadian texts which he identifies as ex eventu compositions, though others have referred to them as naru literature (Giiterbock), prophecies (Lambert and Grayson), apocalypses (Hallo), literary predictive texts (de Jong Ellis), or autobiographies with prophetic endings (Longman). He reviews these genre labels and tinds them wanting, preferring instead to refer to them as Akkadian ex eventu texts. He recognizes that these texts are associated with Mesopotamian mantic literature.
He presents the most extensive discussions of each of these Akkadian texts (Text A, Uruk Prophecy, Marduk Prophecy, Shulgi Prophecy, and the Dynastic Prophecy) since my Fictional Akkadian Autobiography (Eisenbrauns, 1993). In particular, he is at pains to point out the "historical location" (p. 118) of each of these texts as well as their function. He disagrees that these five texts constitute a single genre. He notes, for instance, that it is only the Marduk and Shulgi texts that are clearly first-person. He disputes my attempt to find hints of first-person speech in some of the broken beginnings as too speculative (though on pp. 20-21 in his discussion of Text A he allows that the broken 1. 4 of side one, column I, which ends with the signs -zu-nim-ma, suggests that it too might have had a first-person introduction). He believes that these five texts are united only by their use of ex eventu prophecy, and much of his book seeks to compare them to other examples from the broader Mediterranean world, particularly Judah.
As he does so, he clearly lays out his threefold purpose: "(1) on the simplest level, to demonstrate the tenuous connection between Judean apocalypses and the Akkadian ex eventu texts on questions of formal dependence; (2) to clarify the use of ex eventu prediction in texts produced by late Second Temple Judean scribes; and (3) to fully...