A Brief Annotated Bibliography on Greek Parallels and the Primary History
(Genesis- 2 Kings)
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.
Note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive presentation of the
literature on the said subject, just a VERY BRIEF, "in-a-nutshell,"
introduction to the literature.
M.L. West. Hesiod, Theogony. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1966 reprint 1997.
ISBN 0-19-814169-6 pp.458. [Edited with Prolegomena and Commentary]
West dates Hesiod to between 730-700 BCE (p.45).
West surmises that some of the themes found in Hesiod are ultimately of
Akkadian (Babylonian/Mesopotamian) origin, transmitted through Hurrian
channels to Ugarit (pp.18-31) suggesting like C.H. Gordon that the Minoans
at Ugarit (ca. 1400-1200 BCE) picked up the motifs there and reworked them.
Cyrus Herzl Gordon & Gary A. Rendsburg. The Bible and the Ancient Near East.
W.W. Norton & Co. New York & London. 4th edition. 1953, 1958, 1965, 1997.
ISBN 0-393-31689-0 pbk pp.345. (For Greek Parallels with the Hebrew Bible
see chapter VII. "Homer and the Ancient East," pp.95-108)
C.H. Gordon. The Common Background of Greek and Hebrew Civilizations. New
For numerous parallels between Homer and biblical corpora, see Cyrus H.
Gordon, "Homer and the Bible," Hebrew Union College Annual 26, 1955. pp.
43-108, published in monograph form as Homer and Bible. Ventor, New Jersey,
Gordon argues that the Minoan A is Semitic, not Greek, and that the
Philistines spoke a Semitic language (p.96 The Bible and the Ancient Near
East, note #3 cf. C.H. Gordon, Evidence for the Minoan Language, Ventor, New
Jersey. 1966.). Note, most scholars disagree, and believe Minoan A must be
Indo-European. Gordon argues that the Bible suggests that the Israelites had
no problems talking to Philistines, nowhere does the bible suggest
translators are needed. Recent articles in BAR note that inscriptions found
in Philistine cities reveal a Semitic language being spoken, closely akin to
Hebrew. It has peculiarities though that sets it apart from Hebrew and
Edomite. Scholars theorize that the Philistines must have eventually
acculturated themselves after several centuries and adopted the Semitic
language, one inscription on a pottery sherd is discussed from Ashdod just
before Nebuchadrezzar in 604 BCE destroyed it (pp.64-5, 'A Philistine
Ostracon From Ashdod', Lawrence E. Stager, "The Fury of Babylon, Ashkelon
and the Archaeology of Destruction,"pp.56-69,76-7; Biblical Archaeology
Review. Jan./Feb. 1996. Vol. 22, No. 1) :
"Of more interest to the epigraphist...is the script in which it is
inscribed...The script of this ostracon from the late Philistine stratum
before the city's fall to Nebuchadrezzar is neither Phoenician nor Aramaic.
It stands very close to Hebrew, and is obviously derived from Hebrew. It
also shares many traits with Edomite, a script derived from Hebrew. However,
it shows distinctive typological characteristics and must be given its own
name as a local or national script...I shall call the script
Neo-Philistine...The fact that the Philistine script and orthography of this
period stem from Hebrew- and not Phoenician- is surprising. It points to a
period of strong Israelite cultural influence on- and most likely domination
of- the Philistines. The era of the United Monarchy of David and Solomon
provides the appropriate context for the borrowing. This is the period when,
according to Biblical accounts, Israel excercised hegemony over the
Philistine city-states." (p.65, Stager)
Sara Mandell & David Noel Freedman. The Relationship Between Herodotus'
History and Primary History. Atlanta, Georgia. Scholars Press. 1993. ISBN
1-55540-838-9 hdbk pp. 204.
Freedman coined the term 'Primary History' to refer to Genesis-2 Kings.
Freedman and Mandell conclude that there are numerous parallels, noting that
Ezra and Herodotus are near contemporaries. He notes that Herodotus suggests
he actually passed through Palestine in his travels and thus he may have
become acquainted with Ezra's redactional work. If he was not familar with
Ezra's work, then he concludes both men's work is a reflection of general
literary ideas/concepts/motifs prevailing during the course of the 5th
century BCE :
"The numerous correspondences suggest that if Herodotus did not know
anything about Primary History, then the respective works reflect the same
climate of opinion to an astonishing and almost unbelievable extent.
On the other hand, since the period in which the various text traditions
were flourishing and that in which Vorlage of the Masoretic text was
'stabilized' coincides exactly with that of the Alexandrian Grammarians who
are traditionally dated from the 3rd century BCE through the 1st century CE,
it is both possible and likely that coincidences in the two works reflect
the hand of the same Hellenistic redactor or group of redactors. This is
more than suggested by the notable concurence of at least four different but
mutually corresponding architectonic bases in Herodotus' History and Primary
History (as received in the Massoretic Text) respectively.
Since the probability that both works could accidentally be divided
respectively into sections of four, one, and four; four and five; five four;
six and three, is rather small, it is likely that the totality of these
divisions is the work of Grammarians. This does not exclude an earlier set
of divisions, based on the coincidence of major pericopes than on book
divisions as such that may have been put in place by Herodotus and the final
redactor of Primary History respectively." (pp.176-7, Mandell & Freedman)
"We soon concluded, however, that even if Ezra and Herodotus had worked in
an environment in which the same intellectual climate of opinion had
prevailed, this alone could not account for the numerous points of
correspondence between the two works. There are some very specific
correlations that we simply could not charge to a commonality of
thought...Despite the mounting evidence, we were somewhat hesitant to
dismiss the possibility that all we had was an impressive coincidence. We
were in a quandry because Primary History was the result of four centuries
of redactional activity ( from the work of the late 10th century Yahwistic
Redactor through that of the 6th century exilic redactor, the second
Deuteronomistic Historian) before Ezra reordered it during the 5th century,
whereas Herodotus' History, which was also the result of repeated
redactional activity, was only redacted by Herodotus himself." (pp.x-xi,
"Preface," Mandell & Freedman)
Joseph Blenkinsopp. The Pentateuch, An Introduction to the First Five Books
of the Bible. New York & London. Doubleday. 1992. ISBN 0-385-41207-X hdbk
Blenkinsopp favors a 5th century Primary History by Ezra as a redactor,
acknowledging he incorporated earlier Pre-Exilic oral and written sources.
He cites works by Van Seters and Whybray who note Greek concepts/motifs of
the 7th-5th centuries appearing in the Primary History (pp.37-42) as well
Manetho and Berossos of the 3rd century BCE (p.43). He suspects Hasmonean
editing (pp.48-51). Blenkinsopp and A.T. Olmstead (A History of Persia.
University of Chicago Press. 1948) both understand Ezra was sent by the
Persians to secure Judah/Yehud for the Crown (p.240 Blenkinsopp; pp.
Jan Wim Wesselius. The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus' Histories a Blueprint for the First Books of the Bible. JSOT 345. Sheffield Press. 2002.
Argues Herodotus' framework underlies the Primary History.
Flemming A.J. Nielsen: The Tragedy in History. Herodotus and the
Deuteronomistic History, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament.S 251, CIS 4), Sheffield 1997.
Charles Penglase. Greek Myths and Mesopotamia, Parallels and Influence in
the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. London & New York. Routledge. 1994, 1997. ISBN
0-415-15706-4 pbk pp.278.
Penglase argues Mesopotamian concepts underlie some Greek notions in Homer
and Hesiod (8th/7th century BCE), picked up during a period of intense
interaction -coastal trade with the Levant- of the early first millenium,
about the 9th century BCE :
"Mesopotamian religious and mythological material could have reached Greece
at earlier periods, but the influence apparent in these works seems to be a
result of contacts in the period of intensive interaction in the first
millenium BC, beginning in the middle of the 9th century BC. The Late
Mycenaean time before the end of the 12th century has also been suggested by
some as a time of influence, owing to the extensive contacts between
Mycenean Greece and the Near East at this time." (p.241, Penglase)
Walter Burkert. The Oientalizing Revolution- The Near Eastern Influence in
the Early Archaic Age. Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England. Harvard
University Press. 1992, 1995. ISBN 0-674-64364-X pbk pp. 225.
Burkert notes Greece was in contact with the Levant since Bronze Age times,
and through trade ports probably picked up Mesopotamian motifs which entered
the Homeric literature of the 8/7th centuries BCE.
Simon Hornblower, Editor. Greek Historiography. Oxford. Clarendon Press.
1994. ISBN 0-19-815072-5 pbk pp.286.
Some note is made of parallels between the Hebrew Bible's Primary History
and the earliest Greek historians, Hecataeus and Herodotus (pp.7-21,
"Introduction," Hornblower). He points out that Herodotus' work does not
exhibit Book-divisions, noting this a 4th century BCE phenomenon. Could it
be that Ezra's 5th century BCE Primary History preceeded the Greeks, or was
his work later divided up by redactors into "books" following the Greek
"Book-divisions will recur in the Introduction, and deserve a word to
themselves. They are a fourth-century phenomenon, though an argument has
been made for an unfulfilled 'pentadic' plan (two matching five-book slices,
cp. the 'decades' or ten-book slices of Livy) underlying the eight books of
Thucydides' unfinished work of the fifth century. But there are, for
Thucydides, none of the compositional cetainties which entitle us to say
that the thirty books of Tacitus' Annals and Histories were conceived as a
unity of 18+12 books, and represent five hexads or six-book building
blocks." (p.16, Hornblower)
"It is then an important truth that the two great concerns of the Homeric
epic, the past of individual men and the past of the cities of men, are
still reflected in later Greek historiography. It is, in fact, not just the
manner (see my chapters below, p.148) but the matter of Herodotus and
Thucydides that looks back to Homer...If the Homeric poems took their shape
in the 7th century, they precede by only one century and a half the first
prose historian with any claim to that title, Hecataeus of Miletus. It may
seem bold to claim this for Hecataeus, but as Peter Derow puts it below
(p.73), he was the first to 'identify the past as a field of study'. This is
a good place to say that I am concerned in this Introduction with Greek
Historiography, not with Jewish or other claims to primacy over Greek; and
the same goes for the other contributions to this volume. That is not to
deny the chronological priority over Greece of the source (10th century BC
?) of the 6th century 'Deuteronomist' author of some of the early narrative
parts of the Old Testament...But although Jews and Greeks reacted in similar
ways to the Persian presence which overshadowed them both, it is not
plausible to postulate direct influence, in either direction, before the
fifth century BC at the earliest." (pp.12-13, Hornblower)
It is of interest to note the Primary History is a PROSE HISTORY, and the
earliest Greek PROSE HISTORIAN is Hecataeus of Miletus, flourished twoard
the end of the 6th century BCE, he having planned the Ionian revolt of
500-494 BCE (p.671, "Hecataeus," Simon Hornblower & Antony Spawforth.
The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press. 1996.
ISBN 0-19-866172-X hdbk pp.1640)
Ezra arrived in Jerusalem ca. 458 BCE with his version of the Torah, which
is PROSE as well.
M.L. West. The East Face of Helicon, West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry
and Myth. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1997. ISBN 0-19-815042-3 hdbk pp. 662.
The parallels between Greek works (Homer and Hesiod) and the Old
Testament are so numerous that this book ranks as my favorite on the
subject. West, accepting the JEDP paradigm, posits that the parallels must be
accounted for as a borrowing by the Greeks of Levantine concepts some time
during the early 1st millenium BCE, probably in the course of the the
9th-7th centuries BCE via the Phoenicians :
"Between the 9th and 7th centuries Phoenician appears to have been a general
second language in Cilicia and Cappadocia. To some extent Greek must have
become something of a linga franca in the Eastern Mediterranean and Levant
in the same period.In areas were two languages are current, it is sometimes the case that there are poets who compose in both. This leads to transference of themes from one
national tradition to another." (p.607, West)
West then gives examples of recent times, of skilled singers and oral story
tellers in Turkey, Afganistan and the Balkans who compose in multiple
languages their works.
West notes that a difficulty exists in establishing priorities of concepts
and "who is borrowing from who" in regards to the parallels existing in the
Hebrew Bible and Greek works, in that scholars have posited the Hebrew Bible
has undergone constant redactions from 1000 BCE through the 2nd century BCE-
"Hardly any part of the Old Testament consists of pure pre-exilic material
untouched by later revisions and additions. A high proportion of the whole,
therefore, is of later date, at least in its present form, than Homer and
other Greek poets with whom we are concerned in this inquiry. Some of it is
no earlier than the 3rd or early 2nd century. So how much use is it to us ?
To what extent do these later writings preserve older ideas and material ?"
After giving examples, West concludes that Pre-Exilic concepts can be
ferreted out of the later redactions (p. 97).