Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns.

Author:Foster, Benjamin R.
Position:Book review

Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns. Ancient Near East Monographs, vol. 3. Edited by ALAN LENZI. Atlanta: SOCIETY OF BIBLICAL LITERATURE. 2011. Pp. 542. $69.95 (paper). [May be downloaded free at]

Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns is a manual intended primarily for students in Religious Studies programs and divinity schools who have some knowledge of Akkadian and who seek to enhance their skills by reading Akkadian religious literature. This is a departure from the traditional teaching methods of Assyriology, which usually take up royal inscriptions for straightforwardness and narrative poetry for student satisfaction at the beginning levels of instruction. The. work .opens with a broad introduction that discusses such matters as the meaning of religion, prayer. and hymn. mostly from the perspectives of biblical scholarship, and historical approaches to the human engagement with the transcendent. It then turns .to Mesopotamian categories, such as the ShullIa. ikribli, and Tanzitu, and their cultural setting, offering a careful presentation of what these words might mean, how Assyriologists have used them, and their usefulness for a modern typology. Finally, the introduction takes up the comparative method and asks to what extent and in what ways Mesopotamian compositions can be useful for scholars of the Hebrew Bible. Comparative suggestions were an important goal of the contributors, but this reviewer was unable to judge this aspect of the book.

The core of Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns is a presentation of twenty-nine Akkadian compositions of widely varying length and difficulty, four Old Babylonian and the rest Standard Babylonian. Each text is given a brief introduction that explains the deity addressed and the structure of the composition, a working bibliography for further study, then the text in transliteration, with a word-by-word commentary to assist the student in achieving a basic grammatical and lexical understanding of it. Then there is a translation and a cuneiform text. The commentaries are self-contained rather than cumulative, so one can begin with any text one wishes. The editors stress repeatedly that this reading is only at the introductory level and that serious work must take the student further to the original publications, if not the original manuscripts, and more widely in Assyriology than the dictionaries and a few standard anthologies of...

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