The Pan-Babylonian Approach to the Hebrew Bible by Ancient Astronaut Theorists: Still Dead After All These Years

I’ve blogged before about “Pan-Babylonianism” — the idea that the content of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is basically plagiarized from Babylonian (more widely, Sumero-Mesopotamian) material. No serious biblical studies scholar or Assyriologist believes this today, but this approach became a majority paradigm in the late 1800s and early 1900s in the wake of two events: (1) the decipherment of cuneiform and (2) Friedrich Delitzsch’s “Babel und Bible” lectures delivered in 1902 to the Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft attended by Kaisar Wilhelm II and his staff. In other words, anyone (like Zecharia Sitchin) who supposed or still supposes this approach is novel or cutting edge or “research the mainstream cannot cope with” is behind the curve by 100 years.

The death pf Pan-Babylonianism actually came shortly after it’s rise to prominence due to the famous German scholar Hermann Gunkel’s classic rebuttal-essay, Babylonien und Israel (1903). Gunkel was *not* an evangelical or fundamentalist. He is well know to many people in that crowd as a “liberal” scholar. Regardless of labels, his famous work initiated the lethal injection to Pan-Babylonianism.

Gunkel’s important work is now available in a new English translation. Readers can read a review here, as well as get information for ordering this new work. Bear in mind this is a scholarly work; it is not light reading.The review alludes to an earlier translations of Gunkel’s work by published in 1904 by John Joseph McVey. That earlier translation is available online for free here.

6 thoughts on “The Pan-Babylonian Approach to the Hebrew Bible by Ancient Astronaut Theorists: Still Dead After All These Years

  1. Thank you for highlighting this. I certainly was under the impression that this was still current, although I don’t pay any attention to OT studies (one has to draw the line somewhere, or drown from sheer volume).

  2. I’d like to mention that I’ve been skimming/following your stuff for a decent amount of time. Like many others I’ve read Sitchin and believed a lot of what he was spreading. It took me a while to actually acknowledge your work. In the long run the only beneficial thing I have received from Sitchin’s “theories” is the knowledge of your sites. Without Sitchin’s “theories” I probably would have never come across your work which is quite odd to say the least. Anyways not only have you helped me in realizing that Sitchin is wrong but you have also shown me a “wider” view regarding the Bible in general. The information that you provide has been very helpful and I plan on following your work as time progresses. Thanks.

    • you’re welcome. I just wish more scholars would care (at least a couple). I don’t actually devote much time to Sitchin. It got boring pretty fast, but I know it’s a service.

  3. after reading Gunkel; amateurs like me realizes that sumerians people were distinct from the semites whom appeared to have adapted to the babylonians mainly because of trades .. we learn that after the exile israelites abandoned hebrew in favour of the arameic language..
    Gunkel belives that some religious sumerian traditions may have been imported in Judaism but
    he himself these beliefs on creation and deluge may have been simply or similar.

    accounts of the flood were reported around the world

    it is kind of cool to know that this debate is 100 years old MSH,

    • it’s not much of a debate now, but it was “the thing” in the late 19th, early 20th century. Ugarit changed that permanently.

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