The Story of the Fall of Babylon

Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon
Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon [Source: Wikipedia]
The following public domain article is now available on-line in PDF:

Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “From World Dominion to Subjection; The Story of the Fall of Babylon,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 49 (1917): 107-141.

From World Dominion to Subjection;

The Story of the Fall of Babylon

The romance connected with the power and the wonders of Nineveh and Babylon has for ages attracted the attention of the world, and this romance has, perhaps, been rather increased than diminished by the legendary nature of what has come down to us with regard to the realm of which Babylon was the capital. Surrounded, as it was, by the mystery with which tradition had invested it, hints of other wonders over and above those related by the historians naturally fired the student’s imagination. And that Babylonia was in very deed a country of wonders there can be no doubt. As everyone who has watched the progress of the Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia knows, the Persian Gulf region is, for Europeans, an inhospitable tract, parched, dry, and rainless in summer, and swampy, notwithstanding drainage (to a certain extent) by innumerable waterways, in winter. In the wet season, malaria reigns, and the stranger finds life altogether too burdensome. Babylonia’s fruitfulness in springtime, and later, is wonderful. It is one of the principal homes of the date-palm-that tree whose fruit both Babylonians and Europeans have always highly appreciated. Otherwise, however, the tract north of the Persian Gulf is a treeless plain, into which all timber which the people need has to be imported. Before the fierce heats of summer it is a land of corn and the fruits of the earth which are able to grow there, and it might become one of the granaries of the world.
Here, in this land of the Middle East, were located, of old, two races-the Sumerians and the Akkadians-non-Semites and Semites respectively; races suited to the soil, who became thoroughly acclimatized to their fruitful but sun-scorched country. Divided, in the beginning, like the Heptarchy in England, into several small states, a great nation ultimately arose by their gradual amalgamation under the military pressure and leadership of Babylon, and became the pioneer of ancient civilization in the Semitic East. The irrigation of their land had made the states of Babylonia great canal-diggers; the dearth of stone made them great users of brick in the constructions and buildings; and the bitumen-springs of Hit supplied them with a substitute for mortar (“slime”). The floods which inundate the country in the early spring, when the snows melt in the Armenian mountains, probably obliged the Babylonians to become geometricians, as they had to find and reinstate the boundaries of their plots. As agriculturists they were, in their day, probably unsurpassed, and they were among the earliest of great cattle-raisers and ass-breeders. Their literature was largely drawn upon by the Greeks and the Romans in the domain of sacred myth and history, and many thousands of documents testify to their knowledge and acuteness as lawyers, their inventiveness as writers and poets, and the wonders of their mythology and their religious system-their teachings in the domain of cosmology and theology. Their trying climate and the other disadvantages under which they laboured do not, therefore, seem to have impaired their energy as workers and as inventors, or their progress in war, art, literature, or such of the sciences as they were acquainted with, for besides agriculture it is probable that not only writing, but also astronomy, began in the Land of Shinar.

Click here to continue reading.

Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories (1915)

A tablet from the Atrahasis Epic - a Babylonian account of the Flood.
A tablet from the Atrahasis Epic – a Babylonian account of the Flood. [Source: Wikipedia]
The following public domain article is now available on-line in pdf:

Theophilus G. Pinches [1856-1934], “The Old and New Versions of the Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 47 (1915): 301-329.

The Old and New Versions of the Babylonian Creation and Flood Stories

Forty years have passed since the late George Smith published his Chaldean Account of Genesis, dedicated to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the great English pioneer of Assyriology. We all remember, or at least realize, what a sensation Smith’s discoveries made, especially the account of the Flood, which traversed the same ground, point by point, as the Hebrew version in Genesis. It was a triumph for our self-taught countryman, and we all know, moreover, to what it led-namely, the despatch of the enterprising Museum – official to the East, first for the Daily Telegraph, and later for the trustees of the British Museum. He was favoured with a fair amount of success, for he found a fragment which was at first supposed to fill a gap of the eleventh tablet of the Gilgames-series, which gives the story of the Flood in reality it was a portion of another version-as well as fragments of Creation-stories. His third and last trip to the nearer East, however, had fatal results, and he never saw his native land again. He had acquired, nevertheless, a large amount of chronological material, and Biblical scholars are his debtors for that as much as for his acquisitions in the realm of Babylonian tradition.

Though the two legends which Smith discovered were written in Semitic Babylonian-now known to be Akkadian-it was clear to all, from the names of the deities and other personages, that they were of non-Semitic or Sumerian origin. The Creation series, which seems to have been written on six tablets, later increased to seven, recorded how everything was at first created and brought forth by Tiawath,” the sea,” and Apsft, “the Deep” or “Ocean.” From these came an only son, named Mummu. Other primeval deities, however, were later regarded as the children of Tiawath-Laymu and Layamu: Ansar and Kisar, the host of heaven and the host of earth; and then came Anu, the god of the heavens (with, it may be supposed, his spouse Anatum). At this point the record breaks off, but Damascius supplies the wanting portion, namely, the information that the successors of Anu were lllinos (cuneiform Illila) and Aos (i.e., Ea or Aa). Of Illila, the god of the earth, the spouse was called Ninlila: and the spouse of Ea or Aa is given by Damascius as Dauke, the Dam-kina of the inscriptions. “And of Aos and Dauke,” adds Damascius, “was born a son called Belos, who, they say, is the fabricator of the world – the Creator.”

Click here to continue reading.

“The Greek Papyri” by George Milligan

George Milligan [1860-1934]
George Milligan [1860-1934]
The following public domain article is now available in PDF:

George Milligan [1860-1934], “The Greek Papyri – with special reference to their value for New Testament study,” Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 44 (1912): 62-78.

George Milligan was an noted biblical scholar in his day as this extract from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography makes clear:

It was a notable pioneering achievement for Milligan to issue, while still at Caputh, a standard commentary on St Paul’s epistles to the Thessalonians (1908), in which among other things he applied the new papyrological evidence to a re-examination of the Pauline grammar and vocabulary. He began his great work, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (1914–29), in collaboration with J. H. Moulton, and after the issue of part two in 1915 completed it single-handedly. Its comprehensiveness and accuracy provided a foundation for successors to build upon, while remaining readable and full of human interest.

I suspect that this lecture is little-known, but I hope that, like his other works, it will still prove of Interest today.

The Greek Papyri by George Milligan

The most significant fact in the modern study of the New Testament is the recognition that it has a history, and consequently that its several books can only be fully understood in connexion with their surroundings or the special circumstances that called them forth. Everything, therefore, that throws light on the outward conditions of the New Testament writers is of value. And it is just here that we are in a peculiarly favourable position to-day. In the past, archaeological discovery has been mainly concerned with the Old Testament, but now the light it sheds has been extended to the New Testament, and is largely derivable from the immense number of texts on stone, on earthen ware, and on papyrus which recent discoveries have brought within our reach.

It is only with the papyrus texts that we are at present concerned, and for their preservation we have to thank them marvellously dry climate of Egypt. The first finds were made at Gizeh as far back as 1778, but it was not until 1877, when several thousands of papyri were unearthed at Crocodilopolis, or Arsinöe, the ancient capital of the Fayûm district, that public interest was fully aroused. The work of exploration was afterwards extended to Tebtunis, Oxyrhynchus, and other likely sites, with the result that we have now thousands of these texts in our hands. Some were discovered in the ruins of old temples, others in the cartonnage of mummies; but the greater number were found in what were literally the dust or refuse heaps on the outskirts of the towns or villages. The old Egyptians, instead of burning their waste-papers, as is the custom amongst ourselves, were in the habit of tearing them up and throwing them out on these heaps, where, thanks to a covering of desert sand, they have lain in safety all these years.

Click here to continue reading.