Cover image for Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East: The Reflexes of Celestial Science in Ancient Mesopotamian, Ugaritic, and Israelite Narrative By Jeffrey Cooley

Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East

The Reflexes of Celestial Science in Ancient Mesopotamian, Ugaritic, and Israelite Narrative

Jeffrey Cooley

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ISBN: 978-1-57506-262-4

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History, Archaeology, and Culture of the Levant

Poetic Astronomy in the Ancient Near East

The Reflexes of Celestial Science in Ancient Mesopotamian, Ugaritic, and Israelite Narrative

Jeffrey Cooley

Modern science historians have typically treated the sciences of the ancient Near East as separate from historical and cultural considerations. At the same time, biblical scholars, dominated by theological concerns, have historically understood the Israelite god as separate from the natural world. Cooley’s study, bringing to bear contemporary models of science history on the one hand and biblical studies on the other hand, seeks to bridge a gap created by 20th-century scholarship in our understanding of ancient Near Eastern cultures by investigating the ways in which ancient authors incorporated their cultures’ celestial speculation in narrative.

 

  • Description
  • Table of Contents
Modern science historians have typically treated the sciences of the ancient Near East as separate from historical and cultural considerations. At the same time, biblical scholars, dominated by theological concerns, have historically understood the Israelite god as separate from the natural world. Cooley’s study, bringing to bear contemporary models of science history on the one hand and biblical studies on the other hand, seeks to bridge a gap created by 20th-century scholarship in our understanding of ancient Near Eastern cultures by investigating the ways in which ancient authors incorporated their cultures’ celestial speculation in narrative.

In the literature of ancient Iraq, celestial divination is displayed quite prominently in important works such as Enuma Eliš and Erra and Išum. In ancient Ugarit as well, the sky was observed for devotional reasons, and astral deities play important roles in stories such as the Baal Cycle and Shahar and Shalim. Even though the veneration of astral deities was rejected by biblical authors, in the literature of ancient Israel the Sun, Moon, and stars are often depicted as active, conscious agents. In texts such as Genesis 1, Joshua 10, Judges 5, and Job 38, these celestial characters, these “sons of God,” are living, dynamic members of Yahweh’s royal entourage, willfully performing courtly, martial, and calendrical roles for their sovereign.

The synthesis offered by this book, the first of its kind since the demise of the pan-Babylonianist school more than a century ago, is about ancient science in ancient Near Eastern literature.

Preface and Acknowledgments

Abbreviations

Chapter 1. The Study of Ancient Near Eastern Celestial Science and Literature

1.1 Introduction

1.2. Pan-Babylonianism

1.3. Understanding Mesopotamian Astronomy

1.4. The Problem in Assyriology

1.5. The Problem in Biblical Studies

1.6. The Problem in Ugaritology

1.7. Bridging the Gap

1.8. Celestial Science in Ancient Near Eastern Literature

Appendix 1.1: Definitions of Important Terms Used in This Study

Chapter 2. Celestial Science in Mesopotamia

2.1. Introduction

2.2. Pre–Old Babylonian Celestial Sciences

2.3. Celestial Divination Material

2.4. Celestial Divination Supportive Material: Didactic and Practical Tools

2.5. Celestial Divination Interpretive Material

2.6. Miscellaneous Celestial-Science Material

2.7. Summary History of Mesopotamian Astronomy

Chapter 3. Celestial Science in Mesopotamian Literature

3.1. Introduction

3.2. Divination

3.3. Catasterisms and Other Celestial Aetia

3.4. Miscellaneous

3.5. Conclusion

Chapter 4. Celestial Science at Ugarit and in Ugaritic Literature

4.1. The Celestial Sciences at Ugarit

4.2. The Celestial Sciences in Ugaritic Literature

Appendix 4.1: Interpretations of the Baal Cycle

Appendix 4.2: Gaster’s Interpretation of the Aqhat Text

Appendix 4.3: Interpretations of KTU 1.23

Chapter 5. Celestial Science in Ancient Israel

5.1. Introduction

5.2. Celestial Terminology in the Hebrew Bible

5.3. Astral Religion

5.4. Celestial Divination

5.5. The Calendars of the Hebrew Bible

5.6. Celestial Science in Ancient Israel: Conclusion

Chapter 6. Celestial Science in Ancient Israelite Literature

6.1. Introduction

6.2. Celestial Agents, Astral Religion, and Calendar

6.3. Joshua 10

6.4. Judges 5

6.5. The Shadow on the Steps of Ahaz

6.6. Genesis 1:14–18

6.7. The Stars in Job

6.8. Conclusion

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Bibliography

Indexes

Index of Authors

Index of Scripture

Index of Ancient Near Eastern Names and Sources

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