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News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007  

Sounding the Trumpet for The Context of Scripture

One of the more popular new resources we released at the annual conferences of ETS and SBL was The Context of Scripture.

This is an impressive collection of Ancient Near Eastern documents which shed light on the historical, literary, and religious context in which the Hebrew Bible was written. Edited by William W. Hallo and published by Brill in three print volumes, The Context of Scripture contains English translations of Egyptian, Hittite, Akkadian, Sumerian, and western Semitic creation myths, king lists, court documents, poems, wisdom literature, etc. The contents include familiar works such as the Enuma Elish, Epic of Gilgamesh, Mesha Inscription, Cyrus Cylinder, etc., along with a vast amount of obscure material which would otherwise be inaccessible to most students.

Best of all, many of these documents contain cross-references to related Biblical passages. So, for example, if I'm reading God's instructions to Abraham in Genesis 15:9 to cut several animals in two and arrange the pieces opposite each other, I can click in the verse reference to select it, then choose Context of Scripture from the Resource palette. Immediately I'll be taken to a similar Hittite ritual; and as I click the Mark buttons to explore other references to Genesis 15:9, I'll find a discussion of similar kinds of "perpetuity" oaths. Being able to see such seemingly strange Old Testament practices in their cultural and religious context can give us a much clearer understanding of what's really going on.

Perhaps the best recommendation of The Context of Scripture I can give you comes from a long-time user who wrote us an e-mail shortly after we announced all the new releases:

I hope that the staff at OakTree will have a blog entry talking about "Context of Scripture".

In the news section on the website, I had totally ignored it since there was no description and it sounded quite basic. It wasn't until I saw the e-mailed newsletter and I realized it was the work edited by Hallo & Younger. (I have thought that the older Pritchard's ANET would have been nice in Accordance.)

Perhaps there are others like me who have passed over the mention of COS not realizing what it is.

OakTree should sound the trumpet for COS!

Consider the trumpet officially sounded!

The information below is about the books of this great module. Info is taken from the publisher's website: http://www.brill.nl/

The Context of Scripture illuminatingly presents the multi-faceted world of ancient writing that forms the colourful background to the literature of the Hebrew Bible. Designed as a thorough and durable reference work for all engaged in the study of the Bible and the Ancient Near East, and involving many of the world’s outstanding scholars in the field, it provides reliable access to a broad, balanced and representative collection of Ancient Near Eastern texts that have some bearing on the interpretation of the Bible. Translations of recently discovered texts are included, alongside new translations of better-known texts and in some cases the best existing translations of such texts.

The "first half of history" covers the interval between the invention of writing in Sumer and the floruit of classical Greece. During these two and a half millennia (ca. 3000-500 BCE), the Near East is the primary locus of written documentation, and thus the place where the emergence of humanity's achievements can be followed in detail. Two centuries of persistent exploration of the Near East have led to the recovery of much of this documentation, and the recovery continues at an unabated pace. The discoveries made in the field, and their interpretation in the scholarly literature, are brought to the attention of a wide public in three volumes, prepared by leading scholars in all the principal language areas of the ancient Near East.

The first volume to be published, Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, is devoted to "literary" texts - those responses to the world about them by which the creative minds of antiquity sought to come to terms with their environment, real or imaginary.

The second volume, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, is devoted to building and votive inscriptions, seals, weights, treaties, collections of laws, and other genres originally inscribed on durable mediums or in multiple copies for long-term survival. Many are royal inscriptions, and nearly all are crucial to the reconstruction of the history of the Biblical world.

The third volume incorporates "economic" texts - the unassuming records of daily life which nonetheless go far toward permitting the reconstruction of social, legal and commercial institutions that concerned the majority of humanity. Archival Documents from the Biblical World, provides a generous selection from the vast number of legal, commercial and private documents preserved from pre-classical antiquity. These courtcases, contracts, accounts and letters, so often slighted or underrepresented in older anthologies, throw a bright light on the daily life of ordinary human beings as recorded by their contemporaries. In addition, exhaustive indices to all three volumes identify and classify all proper names and many of the themes struck throughout the work. With this third Volume The Context of Scripture is completed.

All these canons, monuments and documents provide the context in which Biblical literature flowered. They have therefore been selected in part to illuminate the comparisons or contrasts with specific Biblical passages that have been identified in the scholarly literature. These passages are identified in each selection, and in the extensive bibliography provided. Other selections have been made to illustrate the range of the ancient documentation, or to highlight new discoveries. Elaborate indices are designed to call attention, not only to Biblical parallels, but to those among the ancient sources themselves.

This authoritative three-volume reference work is an invaluable research tool and essential reading for all those engaged in the study of the Hebrew Bible in its ancient Near Eastern context.

David, this had slipped by me, too. Ironically, I'm sitting here in my office with two of the three volumes in front of me. I own the first volume but the second two I have checked out from the library because they are so darn stinking expensive. But the Accordance set is a bargain. I've already submitted my order and look forward to being able to run searches directly on the texts.

I looked out of curiosity, and I believe it would be good for folks to know that the Accordance package for The Context of Scripture is $100 LESS than the Logos package.

Your next step should be to secure rights to add the three-volume Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (ed. J. M. Sasson), published by Scribners/MacMillan/Simon & Schuster.

I, too, was delighted to see this module available at AAR/SBL, and had to snatch one up on sight! BTW, another under-hyped module is Hebrew Ben Sira ...

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