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Exploring Genesis: The Bibles Ancient Traditions in Context

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Answer Biblical archaeology’s earliest questions in this FREE BAS eBook on the Book of Genesis. Download your copy today!

Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context

In this FREE eBook, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.

The esoteric stories and lost landscapes in the Book of Genesis present a great challenge for historians. Biblical scholars and archaeologists have nonetheless been able to provide cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Learn about early Biblical figures, cities and environments in the latest FREE Biblical Archaeology Society eBook.

The Creation story from Genesis explains how the world was formed and how humankind was created. Was this story heavily influenced by an ancient Babylonian Creation myth called Enuma Eliš? In “The Genesis of Genesis,” Victor Hurowitz explores this question. A text which describes the divine activities of the gods and the creation of man, Enuma Eliš includes many of the motifs found in the Biblical Creation story. To what extent is there a relationship between these two texts? In this comparative study, Hurowitz examines the similarities and differences between the Babylonian myth and the Biblical story and sets them in the historical context of the ancient Near East.

The story of Joseph in Genesis is well known. Sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph ended up in a prison in Egypt and there became known for his ability to interpret dreams. Summoned from the dungeon to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph shaved before approaching the ruler of Egypt. Most people in ancient Mesopotamia did not shave. Why, and what, did Joseph shave? In “Why Did Joseph Shave?” Lisbeth S. Fried examines Egyptian ideas of cleanliness and purity. These ideas may explain why Joseph had to appear hairless—and circumcised—before entering Pharaoh’s palace.

In the story of Abraham, we learn how one man was called by God to become the founding father of the Israelites in the land of Canaan. In Genesis, Abraham was said to have been born in Ur of the Chaldees. However, there were many places named Ur in antiquity. Where was Abraham’s Ur? Sir Leonard Woolley claimed to have found it at Tell el-Muqayyar, now called Ur, in southern Iraq. There, the British archaeologist unearthed evidence of royal burials, a ziggurat, several temples and hundreds of golden baubles, weapons and vessels. Did Woolley actually locate the patriarch’s native land, or was the famed excavator too eager to match the Biblical account with his archaeological site? In “Abraham’s Ur: Did Woolley Excavate the Wrong Place?” Molly Dewsnap Meinhardt describes Woolley’s excavations at Ur and the intrigue incited by his identification of Abraham’s birthplace.

Since Sir Leonard Woolley’s excavation of Ur in Iraq in the 1920s and 30s, his identification of the site as the birthplace of Abraham became one of the most popular theories for where the patriarch’s native land is located. The identification of Abraham’s birthplace received such widespread acceptance that Pope John Paul II planned to visit Iraq as part of his tour of Biblical sites to celebrate the new millennium. However, a careful reading of Biblical and ancient texts indicates that this Ur might not be the patriarch’s hometown after all. In “Abraham’s Ur: Is the Pope Going to the Wrong Place?” Hershel Shanks explores another popular theory for where Abraham was born: in Turkey.

Hershel Shanks’s review of the case for a northern Mesopotamian site as the home of the Biblical patriarch reopened the debate in the pages of Biblical Archaeology Review. In “Where Was Abraham’s Ur? The Case for the Babylonian City,” Alan R. Millard lists the many strengths of the traditional southern Babylonian location.

The articles in this eBook are a preview of the many Biblical stories and histories covered in Biblical Archaeology Review, Bible Review and Archaeology Odyssey.

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  • John says

    Reading all the comments here shows me the depth of confusion there is about the writings here. Any text taken out of its proper context is a pretext. By taking the Bible out of its context you can get it to support almost any wild and foolish idea. You need to put the Bible back in context in order to understand its truths. And what is the context. The New Testament emerged in the 2nd to the 4th century of the Roman Empire. You need to understand what was happening here in order to truly understand what the New Testament is about. The Torah and the “old Testament” emerged in the period of from the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish elite to the coming of the Greeks. This is the environment that led to the collection of the books that later were translated into Greek, Latin or English. Fail to understand this and you will not understand what you are reading.

  • Michael F. says

    The Bible from creation to the crowning of Solomon is a great cosmic myth which also combines Akkadian history retold as an Amorite text. It was all based on their myths and history from creation thru Abraham (Ishum) through Moses (Marduk) to David (Davika/Naram Sin.)

  • JOSEPH says

    Its the differences, not the commonalities, that made Genesis varied from all other ancient writings. Let not the simple, ancient form of writing confuse – these are apparently made for all generation’s understanding, a feat in itself.

    For the first time, Monotheism became ‘No other Gods’ – negating the head-bashing deities battling for supremacy; or even Mono-Sun Deity. For the first time, an order of creation appeared that introduced a new science that changed the universe. It became the E=MC2 of both humanity and history. The elite Greek minds were first to recognize the Hebrew superiority, with the first translation of the Septuagint Bible which aligned with Aristotle’s ‘First Course’.

    Beyond Darwin. Genesis’ Creation premise squashes the BBT, noting that Darkness [V2] emerging prior to Light [V3]; that life forms emerged in an order of protocol [Species]; and that Life emerged ‘after’ their sustenance provisions [critical light, separation of water & land, vegetation].

    Science. Genesis is also the first document that said the universe was finite [with an ‘In the beginning’], defining Infinite as that without ‘change’ [“I am the Lord I do not change”], and first to allude to the age of the Universe and the Earth, and their sizes: “And He separated the water from the land” – takes Billions of non-hour based years; and “Look now if you can account the stars” – that the universe size is unaccountable.

    Singularity. That a lone singular entity with no internal or external components cannot exist and cannot perform an action. That all emerged as a duality [Heaven & Earth, Darkness and Light; Day & Night; water & Land].

    That “Man & Women He Created Them” – originally a duality, then separated. This is correct:
    If a green marble produces a red marble, it means the green had to contain red. How else?

    That life forms were fully completed, and were yet not Alive, awaiting a trigger factor. Analogy is of a completed car that won’t move without an external trigger factor. How else?

    That Adam remains the first recorded ‘NAME’ of a speech endowed life form. Regardless if the story is seen as mythical.


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