(D2-12) Ancient Near Eastern and Biblical Historical Myths and their History of Reception

The influence of Ancient Oriental historical myths is manifest in the Old Testament, whose authors were embedded in the widespread cultural traditions of the ancient Near East due to the manifold interdependencies of the various states.  Examples of this are the Old Testament ideology of war, the “ban-theorem“ (i.e. the religious ideology of obliterating autochthonous cultures), among other things, and the kingship ideology. It is particularly interesting to see how the traditions were advanced in the Levant.

The cultural transfer clearly took place on many different levels. On the one hand, the Judean state religion and the ideologies of war and kingship were closely connected to the Assyrian and Egyptian traditions, among others. On the state level, the influences can be analysed by comparing different official ancient Near Eastern king’s inscriptions and the Old Testament, and by also taking into account the results of archaeological research that play a role in this context.

On the other hand, the level of the family is not to be neglected. The wars and deportations brought about close contacts with other peoples and cultures, even outside the local elites. The influence of foreign cultures, on the one hand, resulted in the prohibition of contract marriages and intermarriage, which was an attempt to safeguard one’s own identity. Within the intermarriages that were nevertheless contracted, on the other hand, the mutual influence of local myth traditions certainly did take place.

Subproject: Receptions of New Assyrian Religious Concepts in the Jerusalem Temple Theology

Within the scope of religious legitimation of power, the kingship set up by state god Aššur constituted the main pillar of the new Assyrian state. It could also be deployed in the aggressive military policy of the new Assyrian empire, which was understood as a battle against chaos and in which the king acted as the gods’ deputy. Hardly any religious oppression can be noticed despite massive ideological propaganda.

The project investigates the effects that this religious concept of power had in the threatened small state of Judah, which was under Assyrian hegemony from approx. 740 to 640 B.C. The working hypothesis is that new Assyrian religious concepts were intensely received in Judah and made fruitful for their own discourse of power, as kingship was assigned a central role even in the small-state social systems of Israel/Judah during the "Staatszeit". Institutionally, the concept rested on the two pillars of palace and temple, and conceptually, this was legitimised and reflected in the Jerusalem temple theology (or Zion theology).

The sources of the project, firstly, are the official texts of the new Assyrian empire. In particular, the motives of power and religious ideas that appear in them will be considered here. Secondly, the pre-exilic and/or Zion theological psalms from the Old Testament will primarily be analysed. If possible, the results on both sides will be compared with the archaeological findings and the texts of the wider surroundings. The last step will be a comparison of the two groups of texts in order to determine possible parallels.