The Unchanging Heavens, Book 3 (The Daganu series)

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This confidence has been more and more scientifically confirmed as the disclosure of the circumstances and inter-relations of the Ancient East have allowed a thoroughly critical examination of similar cir- cumstances described in the Old Testament. It is a brilliant confirmation of his views that the learned scholar who accepted the suppositions of the school of historical criticism with the greatest consistency and had followed them out to the end, has now concluded, on the ground of a more vital knowledge of the Ancient East and of its contemporary history, that those sup- positions prove to be erroneous.

Our first two chapters, which were originally meant as an introduction, require a special preliminary notice. In my book Im Kampfe um Babel u. Bibel I have already fully and emphatically accepted the hypotheses of the mytho- logical form of presentation, and the mythological system, as developed by Winckler.

It had been explicitly pointed out by Winckler that a right knowledge of the " mythological " form of expression and of the conceptions of antiquity could exist equally well with the most perfect faith and with the most far- reaching scepticism in regard to the facts related. I have not as yet become aware of any contrary conclusion affecting the essence and bearing of facts, which bases its opposition on any- thing but misunderstanding. I see in the knowledge of the Ancient-Oriental mythological system the key to an etymology of Biblical literature ; but I must endeavour, in regard to it, to caution the reader against an over-estimation of this form and against finding a solution of facts in mythological ideas.

In order to make the system comprehensible, the Ancient-Oriental conception of the universe and its fundamental astral Panthe- istic system must be explained. The two introductory chapters are placed for the first time in connection with authentic documentary records.

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As a whole, I trust the book may serve not only to make known the essence of Biblical representations, but that it will further the understanding of its contents. Research has long enough laid most stress upon the investigation of tradition. But the essence of Biblical literature does not lie in the difference between Yahvist and Elohist, or in the critical investigation of Massora, Septuagint, Peshito, and so on.

We would in no way underestimate the value of these researches, we would rather emphasise their necessity and their great profit. But the meaning is more than the form. The service rendered by Oriental archaeology is to have directed investigation of the meaning on to new lines, and to have given an authoritative standard for its understanding. The arrangement of the book is simple. The Old Testament writings were originally treated in the order of Luther's Bible.

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The glossary part may be taken as Schrader redivivus ; it may serve the same purpose which Eberhard Schrader's K. Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament served in the introductory stages of the investigation of cuneiform writings. I trust the book may at least in some measure fulfil the great purpose which I have had in view.

Ever since the excitement caused by George Smith's announcement in the Daily Telegraph for 3rd December of his discovery among the cuneiform tablets in the British Museum of close parallels to the Bible stories of Creation and the Deluge, interest in the subject has been unflagging. After the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph, at their own expense, sent George Smith to Nineveh to recover, if possible, further fragments of the ancient Babylonian legends, little progress was made for several years.

George Smith published the results of his ex- ploration, combined with further researches in the British Museum hoards, as The Chaldean Genesis, a book still full of fascinating interest. The explorations since conducted by the University of Pennsylvania at the ancient site of Bel-worship in Nippur have been fully described by Professor Hilprecht in his splendid work entitled Explorations in Bible Lands, and in The Excavations in Assyria and Babylonia, Series D, vol.

The tablets procured by this expedition are regularly published with exquisite care and fidelity in a great Series A. The Deutsche Orientgesellschaft have spent years excavating Babylon and Asshur, the ancient capital of Assyria ; their wonderful results being continually reported in the Mitteilungen der Deutsche Orientgesellschaft zu Berlin.

They have also carried on explorations for many years at Susa, the ancient capital of Elam and Persia, as results of which the French Ministry of Education issue from time to time magnificent tomes of inscriptions, archaeological reports, and researches as Memoires de la Delega- tion en Perse. The British Museum is continually acquiring masses of fresh material, and the Trustees have already issued twenty-six volumes of Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets, etc.

The natives of Baby- lonia, having learnt the commercial value of the treasures hidden beneath the soil under their feet, annually send to Europe hundreds of tablets, eagerly bought by museums and private collectors. The Imperial Ottoman Museum at Con- stantinople is rapidly becoming a vast storehouse of Baby- lonian literature and archaeology, which will tax the powers of European scholars for years to come to arrange, classify, copy, and edit.

The enormous amount of such material available for the reconstruction of history in the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, pushing back our knowledge of human civilisation, and that of a very high order, beyond dates once assigned to the Flood or even to the creation of the World, requires in- cessant and concentrated labour on the part of many students. It is so vast that few men can have more than a knowledge of its existence, and every scholar has to make some definite branch of the subject his special study. There is, consequently, grave danger that even those whose knowledge of cuneiform is adequate may become so engrossed in one aspect as to miss a larger view of the whole.

In practice it is too often left to somewhat irresponsible persons to make the results of scholars available for the general public. There are many popular presentations available, but a thoroughly reliable handbook of Biblical archaeology has yet to be written. There are, however, now many means of following the progress of this wonderful new branch of knowledge. The publications above referred to are not easily appreciated without severe and prolonged study. But our own Society of Biblical Archaeology has taken a prominent position as an organ for research.

The Expository Times and the Interpreter keep a keen eye upon everything bearing upon the Bible. Most of the new commentaries embody the results of such research as seems to be most reliable. Eberhard Schrader, the Father of Assyriology in Germany, early compiled a most valuable handbook of Assyriological illustrations of the Old Testament, and his Die Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, which appeared in an English dress as The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the Old Testament, has been an invaluable text-book of its subject.

The new Dictionary of the Bible edited by Dr Hastings, and The Encyclopaedia Biblica edited by Professor Cheyne have given welcome aid in making the subject generally known. In such a progressive science, where fresh facts are brought to light almost daily, even such great works soon need supplementing. The third edition of Schrader was carried out by Professor H.

Zimmern and Professor H. Winckler, and was a revelation to most of its- readers. The additional matter was so great in amount that the book was practically rewritten. The recent science of Comparative Religion has forced on Biblical students the necessity of weighing the parallels to the Old and New Testaments to be found in other sacred books and the suggestions made by a knowledge of other religious beliefs. The intention to write an archaeological commentary on the Old Testament in the light of all this fresh knowledge and suggestion has undoubtedly been present to the minds of many scholars.

They have issued monographs on special points too numerous to catalogue here.

Full text of "The Old Testament in the light of the ancient East"

These might have served as prolegomena to the commentary. It has been the aim, and this work is the outcome of it, on the part of Dr Jeremias to produce such a view of the new treatment as should commend it to serious students and also free it from the reproach of capricious novelty. Meantime here is an excellent presentation of the sort of thing that is going on. Few can be tempted to suppose that all will stand the test of further research. Others will perceive that even while the author is writing down what he has gathered, some of the ground has already shifted under his feet. There are some who will hasten to point out the modifications necessary from their point of view.

It would be monstrously unfair to condemn such a work for the reason that it was not exact in every detail. Such an attempt had to be made, and it is very well done.

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The labour expended must have been all but overwhelming to contemplate, and it is a wonder that the author did not give up his work in despair. A number of opinions are here expressed which may seem novel and even repellent to English readers. They must examine the grounds set out, and, if these seem insufficient to warrant the conclusions drawn, let them suspend their judg- ment. Confirmation or refutation is near at hand.

Only one word of caution is needed. The opinions stated by Assyri- ologists, however eminent they may be as such, have no greater weight in subjects where they have no special application, than would be those of a botanist on Assyriology.

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  • It is not Assyriology which says this, that, or the other thing of the Bible. In the whole realm of Assyriology the Bible is not once named or referred to. The whole subject of Biblical indebtedness to Babylonian sources is not Assyriological. It is a matter of evidence, and can be weighed by anyone of sufficient acumen without any knowledge of cuneiform. Assyriologists may vouch for their facts, they have no special mandate to decide the application of them. The reader may well expect some explanation of the para- graphs touching upon astral religion and the ever-recurring motif: current literature abroad is much occupied by a dis- cussion of these things.

    Primarily, these forms are believed to have arisen in Babylonia, but, owing to the close contact of Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and parts of Asia Minor, due to commerce or war, they were widely held and early assimilated ; they appear in varied guises, and were greatly modified by native genius. At the first glance, the reader will see that this theory would account for much that has hitherto defied explanation, and will necessitate the modification not only of traditional views but of many modern theories. It will meet with sturdy opposition from orthodox theologians and higher critics alike.

    Unfortunately, an excessive amount of misrepre- sentation has been allowed to obscure the points at issue. It seems only fair that its exponents should be heard.

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    It may be confuted by argument based on fuller knowledge, but is not likely to be dismissed by ignorance expressed in contemptuous condemnation. Dr Jeremias has bestowed great pains on elaborating the theory and certainly presents it in a manner likely to command respect. His work is extremely valuable as a very full con- tribution to Biblical archaeology, and, whatever may be thought of his theory, we owe him our best thanks for making available rich stores of illustrative material for understanding the setting of the Old Testament. Very little can be added to this side of the work, and the book gives a wonderfully clear account of the enormous advance in our knowledge of contemporary thought. Instead of emerging from a condition of primitive life, and developing their civilisation and religion independently and in protest against barbarism and savagery, we see that on all hands Israel was in contact with advanced civilisation and must have found it extremely difficult to avoid high ideals of morality and religion.

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    It is difficult to see how Babylonian influence could have been kept at bay, and we may learn with some surprise how well worthy of adoption most of it must have been. The particular theory of astral religion which Dr Jeremias adopts is less objectionable than some which have been set out.

    It is all largely a matter of interpretation. The interpretation which he gives seems at present to fit the known facts very well, but we must suspend our judgment awhile yet. Naturally, no treatise expounding the astral religion and written by a native Babylonian has come down to us. We do not know that the inventors of this great system of astrological thought may not very well have lived before the age of writing.

    The astral form of religion may, on the other hand, be a late attempt to systematise religion and harmonise it with science, as then known and understood. Calendar motifs are often pointed out in Hugo Winckler's works as really ruling the development of religious ideas. This seems to be quite natural. Much will therefore depend upon the age to which the calendar motif in question has to be assigned.

    To all appearance the calendar, at least the inter- calation of the second Adar, etc.

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    This may have been a period of degeneracy, but we are not yet sure what was the extent of Babylonian knowledge of the calendar. Dr Jeremias may unconsciously claim too much for it.

    There is remarkably little, if any, trace of the astral theory in the Babylonian proper names. One may not be prepared to expect it there. Proper names are often very old, and the theory may have arisen long after the proper names were so well established that the habit of calling a child after some deceased relative would prevent any coining of fresh names. Even so, the attributes ascribed to the gods in proper names — and these are the surest indication of popular beliefs — are by no means easy to express ast rally. There is, further, considerable doubt about the application of mythological motifs.

    The reader may well think that ancient authors were reduced to a parlous state if they could not refer to a hero's crossing a river without becoming obsessed by a nibiru motif.