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Irving Finkel raspravlja o klinastom pismu

Irving Finkel raspravlja o klinastom pismu


Institut za istraživanje kreacije

2010. godine pojavile su se vijesti da je Irving Finkel, stručnjak za klinopis u Britanskom muzeju, preveo drevnu ploču koja opisuje Noah & rsquos Ark kao okruglu i izgrađenu od trske. 1 Sada, Finkel objavljuje knjigu o pronalasku, a vijesti ponovo potvrđuju umornu priču da su autori Biblije i rsquosa posudili babilonsku priču o potopu poput one na ovoj ploči i preinačili je u svoju "ldquostory" rdquo o Noi. 2 Vavilonska ili biblijska, okrugla ili pravokutna & mdashka priča o arci ostaje na površini?

Tableta Finkel određuje dvospratnu posudu u obliku diska promjera 220 stopa. Ovaj plutajući tanjurić navodno je napravljen od trske vezane gredama užadi i prekrivene bitumenom, a možda i prirodnom tvari nalik katranu i za hidroizolaciju. Ranije Ažuriranje nauke o stvaranju napomenuo da takva kadica s disketama teško da bi mogla biti plovidbena poput drvenog plovila nalik na teglenicu prikazanog u Bibliji. 3

Zatim je 2012. godine britanski povjesničar Bill Cooper objavio 1909. prijevod dr. Hermanna Hilprechta o vavilonskoj ploči od poplave koji datira prije Finkel & rsquos slučajnog pronalaska. 4 Dvije ploče se značajno razlikuju u detaljima, što ima implikacije i na knjigu Finkel & rsquos i na istinitost Biblije.

Prvo, priča o cilindričnoj ploči Finkel & rsquos nalikuje drugim nerealnim drevnim babilonskim mitologiziranim pričama. Pričaju priču o Atrahasisu, koje se zove Noa, ali prikazuju neostvarive Arke. Ovaj opisuje savršeno okrugli čamac od trske, ali tablica 11 Epa o Gilgamešu opisuje Kovčeg kao savršenu kocku. 5 Priča o Gilgamešu također dolazi iz Babilona, ​​a njene postojeće kopije vjerovatno predstavljaju kasnije, maštovitije prepričavanje izvorno historijskih događaja. Eksperimenti pokazuju da ni kocka ni disk nisu mogli obavljati posao plutanja solidnih godinu dana održavajući svoje stanovnike na životu, ali dizajn Genesis Ark & rsquos mogao je. 6

Za razliku od Finkel & rsquosa, otprilike 1850. pr. tablet, onaj koji je Cooper naveo, dobio je katalošku oznaku CBM 13532 [i] datira otprilike 2200. godine prije nove ere, ili ubrzo nakon samog potopa. & rdquo 7 U suštini ne predstavlja nerealne ili izmišljene detalje, a u stvari se ne razlikuje od glavni elementi izvještaja o Postanku.

Veza je jasna. Najstariji tablet zadržava najvišu kvalitetu informacija jer se čini da je napisan dok su stvarni preživjeli u Potopu još živjeli i mogli su brzo ugušiti netačne verzije poplava.

Ideja koju su biblijski autori posudili iz babilonskih mitova & mdashmade eksplicitna u naslovu knjige Finkel & rsquos Kovčeg prije Noe& mdashfails iz istog razloga. Navodno su Židovi koji su živjeli kao zarobljenici u Babilonu revidirali svoju povijest i uključili izvještaj o babilonskom potopu, ali da je to tako, njihovi bi ih suvremenici otpisali kao pisce beletristike, koji bi mogli pobiti svoje povijesno revizionističke kolege. Osim toga, zašto bi jevrejski izgnanici ikada htjeli usvojiti historijski identitet svojih brutalnih poganskih otmičara?

Realnost je obrnuta. Noah & rsquos Ark je bio prvi kovčeg i jedini pravi. Vavilonska i druge kulture i rsquo mračna sjećanja proizvela su maštovite verzije stvarnih događaja zapisanih u Svetom pismu.

Novinski izvještaji o okruglom kovčegu koji je izložen u Britanskom muzeju pokazuju da je interes za Noah & rsquos Ark i dalje snažan, a to će nesumnjivo pomoći u prodaji primjeraka knjige Finkel & rsquos. 8 I s nerazumnim prezirom koji svjetovna nauka ima prema Božjoj i Riječi, svaki prodati primjerak nesumnjivo će zavesti čitatelja da je izvještaj o Potopu u Postanku posuđen iz mita i da je sam po sebi mit.

No, ne bi li ova linija razmišljanja razotkrila cijelo Sveto pismo? Izaija, Ezekiel, Petar i Isus, na primjer, prihvatili su Noaha i njegovu Kovčeg oslobođenja po nominalnoj vrijednosti. 9

Raniji datum za Hilprechtovu ploču kombinira se s jedinstvenom izvodljivošću opisa Biblije i rsquos Arke kako bi se čvrsto uspostavila pravokutna arka iz Postanka, a ne okrugla arka, koja je prava. Genesis nudi jedini Ark račun koji pluta.


Napomena urednika: Otkako je ovaj članak objavljen, ICR je saznao da je prijevod Hilprechta & rsquos, prema njegovom vlastitom priznanju, uključivao glagole usredotočene na Bibliju koje nema na ploči. ICR stoga više ne zagovara da ova ploča ima apologetsku vrijednost od drugih priča o poplavi ispisanih klinastim pismom, poput Epa o Gilgamešu. Za standardni prijevod tableta CBM 13532 pogledajte Lambert, W. G. i A. R. Millard. 1999. Atra-Hasis: Vavilonska priča o potopu. Jezero Winona, IN: Eisenbrauns, 127.

  1. Irvine, C. Noah's Ark je bio kružni splav napravljen od trske, prema drevnoj ploči. The Telegraph. Objavljeno na telegraph.co.uk 2. januara 2010, pristupljeno 17. decembra 2013.
  2. Hills, S. Je li Noah's Ark bio okrugao? Naučnik kaže da je glinena ploča stara 3.700 godina otkrila da je čamac bio korakl napravljen od trske i bitumena. The Daily Mail. Objavljeno na dailymail.co.uk 15. decembra 2013, pristupljeno 17. decembra 2013.
  3. Thomas, B. Okrugla Nojeva arka? Ažuriranje nauke o stvaranju. Objavljeno na icr.org 15. januara 2010, pristupljeno 17. decembra 2013.
  4. Cooper, B. 2012. Autentičnost Knjige Postanka. Portsmouth, UK: Creation Science Movement.
  5. Veliki potop: Ep o Gilgameu i scaronu. Livius.Org. Objavljeno na livius.org 8. maja 2007, pristupljeno 18. decembra 2013.
  6. Woodmorappe, J. 1998. Noah & rsquos Ark: Studija izvodljivosti. Santee, CA: Institut za istraživanje kreacije.
  7. Morris, J. 2011. Genesis, Gilgamesh and a Early Flood Tablet. Djela i činjenice. 40 (11): 16.
  8. Menzie, N. Noah's Ark 'Original ' je bio okrugao, prema ploči staroj 4.000 godina u Britanskom muzeju. The Christian Post. Objavljeno na christianpost.com 27. januara 2014, pristupljeno 27. januara 2014.
  9. Na primjer, pogledajte Matej 24:38.

* Gospodin Thomas je pisac nauke na Institutu za istraživanje kreacije.


Irving Finkel: Čovjek koji je stvorila istorija


Darwin, Dumbledore, Engels, Gandalf, Santa. Kao i muškarci po kojima često nosi nadimak, 65-godišnjak ostavlja neizbrisiv trag u svojoj publici. Poznatiji pisci i polimatori prisustvovali su ZEE Jaipurskom književnom festivalu (JLF), ali malo njih potpiruje toplinu koju Irving Finkel čini. ID oznaka oko vrata mu se ljulja dok hodi na pozornici, ispaljujući topovske kugle povijesti u publiku očaranu svojom neukroćenom kosom i bradom, poput onih sa sitnicama u drevnim društvenim igrama.

& quotPachisi je veliki izum vaše zemlje. Što je velika kompanija reproducirala za vrijeme britanskog Raja, & quot objašnjava autor Drevne društvene igre.

Taman kad se delegati nagnu i zagrizu laganu stanku, Finkel ih šokira onim što u tom trenutku izgleda kao zvučni udar.

& quotAO ENGLESKI je pocepao pravilnik i stvorio alternativu koja ne zahtijeva ni najmanji odgovor duše. Uzeli su dobro iz te igre, prepakirali je i uvezli u Indiju kao glupog, anodnog Luda. & Quot

Publika, od školaraca do starijih osoba, očarana je pažnjom.

& quot; Sad vidim Indijance kako igraju Ludoa, potpuno OBJAVLJIVO u vezi prokleto dobre igre koju su igrali njihovi preci, & quot; naglašava Finkel, mašući rukama. U njegovim očima je molba.

& quotAgar yeh humein history padhate toh kitna achcha hota, & quot šapće učenica zvučno klimnuvši prijatelju.

Ljuljanje brodaOn je u uredništvu časopisa Studije društvenih igara, ali Finkel je poznatiji kao Britanski muzej eminence grise o svemu klinasto pismo, najstarije pismo poznato čovječanstvu. Skoro 40 godina čitao je, preveo i sačuvao 1,30.000 glinenih ploča koje su nekad nazivale Sumersko, Akadsko, Babilonsko i Asirsko carstvo u Mezopotamiji (današnji Irak, Kuvajt i Sirija) i ndash kolijevku civilizacije.

Zbog toga je Finkel upoznat s otkrivenjima da su čuvari irka abrahamske vjere i za neke od njih porijeklo legendarnog mita o potopu. Mezopotamija nije imala jednu, već tri priče o poplavama koje su milenijum prethodile biblijskoj verziji: epove o Gilgamešu, Atrahazisu i Ziusudri.

"Najmučniji dešifrovanje bio je onaj o kojem sam napisao knjigu", kaže on u intervjuu nakon sesije, misleći na glinenu ploču veličine dlana koja je rođena Kovčeg prije Noe: Dešifriranje priče o potopu. Ovaj primamljivi zlatni rudnik informacija ne samo da opisuje životinje koje se u parovima odvode na korakl, već ima i posebna uputstva za izgradnju ogromnih naprava od 3600 kvadratnih metara.

Tableta, oštećena na poleđini, nema duplikate niti paralele, pa je Finkel mukotrpno istisnuo najviše iz svakog sloga i klina. & quotFascinantni detalji leže u oštećenim dijelovima, ali dobio sam djeliće o životinjama koje idu 2x2 & ndash što se nalazi u Starom zavjetu. Ovo nikada nije otkriveno ", kaže on glavom bez obzira.

Dječji gušt Irvinga Finkela, zajedno s animiranim sesijama lubanje na čudima klinastog pisma, može graničiti sa komičnim. Ali to je vrsta isporuke koju bi željeli više akademika. Previše zaokupljeni gravitacijom svojih otkrića ili teorija, često zaboravljaju da povijest može biti vožnja jednako radost koliko i ekvivalent gledanja kako se boja osuši. Finkel vas tjera da bacite budućnost u korist prošlosti. Još više kada se uživa u pričama o mezopotamskoj medicini i magiji i svojim temama doktorskog rada.

& quotOni su imali uroke, farmakopeje i aplikacije ulja za groznicu, bolove u trbuhu i rane. I testovi na trudnoću takođe. Zapisi koji datiraju iz prvog milenijuma prije nove ere pokazuju da su žene mokrile na mladicu ječma da vide da li je niknuo. Ako jeste, značilo je da su trudne. & quot

& quot. i da, testovi su bili izuzetno precizni, "kaže", sa sjajem u oku.

Dragi dnevničeGodine 2012. Londonski bishopsgate institut instalirao je projekat Veliki dnevnik. I time je još jedno pero dodano kapi Irvinga Finkela, asiriologa, filologa i autora: onog spasioca u dnevniku. Geneza ove priče je fantastična koliko i mitovi o porijeklu koje istražuje za život.

& quotDirektor polovne robe jednom mi je došao sa zbirkom od 76 tomova koja je pripadala Godfreyu Williamsu, britanskom vojniku koji služi u provinciji Sjeverozapadna granica, & quot; & quot; Proučavam natpise stare preko 4000 godina, pa sam se navikao na ideju da dokumenti izgledaju kao da nemaju ništa unutra. & quot

Čitajući Williamsov zbornik, Finkelu je sinulo da dnevnici, rijetko smatrani samostalnim historijskim resursima, otvaraju prozore koji drugi tekstovi ne mogu. Prikupio je skoro 2.000 dnevnika prije nego što se obratio Stefanu Dickersu, upravniku biblioteke i arhive u Bishopsgateu. Projekt, čiji su pokrovitelji Stephen Fry, engleski glumac Michael Palin i političar Boris Johnson, sada ima 6.000 dnevnika i mnogi od njih daju doprinose.

& quot; Zvanična istorija često ima plan, bilo nesvjestan ili namjeran. Ali u dnevnicima je istina zapisana bez filtera ", kaže on. & quotDetalji poput troškova života, kako je društvo funkcioniralo. i najvažnije, šta su ljudi osjećali. & quot

Obrasci migracijeFinkelova ljubav prema društvenim igrama i lični dnevnici su simbiotični, hraneći se njegovom potrebom da zna šta su stari radili u slobodno vrijeme. Sa 11 je čitao o 4.600 godina staroj Kraljevskoj igri Ura i nikada se nije osvrnuo. Danas, on ide u igru ​​Mezopotamije, kao i druge zaboravljene.

Vjerovalo se da je kraljevska igra Ur detronizirana backgammonom. Odnosno, sve dok Finkel nije naišao na indijsku vezu o kojoj uživa pričati.

"Čuo sam o antropolozima koji su dokumentirali živote Jevreja Cochin ili Pardesi nastanjenih u kibucu na sjeveru Jeruzalema. Pominjalo se igra koju su igrali, a koja je u skladu sa pravilima na glinenoj ploči koja datira iz 177. godine prije Krista, kako on prepričava.

Ovaj tablet je sadržavao najstariji set pravila igre na svijetu za Royal Game of Ur. Prilikom posjete stanovnici, Ruby Daniel, Finkel je odmotao dar života: otkriće da Jevreji Cochin održavaju igru ​​"#dead '" u životu Aasha.

"Što znači da su došli u Indiju iz Babilona nakon što ih je Nabukodonozor prognao", uzvikuje. & quotOva igra, Aasha, je živa tradicija. Migranti su to naučili svoju djecu i unuke, čineći to tačkom koju nikada neće zaboraviti. & Quot

Priča o Kraljevskoj igri Ur, Senet, pa čak chaupat a šah je priča o tome kako su igre preskočile granice, mutirajući u verzije koje prkose vremenu. Društvene igre, ističe Finkel, jednako su pokazatelji ljudskog napretka kao i tehnologija. Zbog toga je tokom drevne sesije društvenih igara u JLF -u postavio zahtjev:


Pravi Nojev kovčeg i#8211 dr. Irving Finkel*

Prije pet godina objavljena je vijest o tom premijeru, naučniku klinastog pisma dr. Irvingu Finkelu, zamjeniku

Čuvar Bliskog istoka u Britanskom muzeju preveo je novi zapis o drevnoj babilonskoj priči o poplavama na glinenoj ploči iz 1750. godine p.n.e. i pronašao upute za izradu okrugle arke. Na drevnom Bliskom istoku postoji više verzija mita o potopu. Jedan prikazuje Ziusudru, kralja Sumera, kao Nojevu figuru i nalazi se na jednoj ploči iz 17. stoljeća prije nove ere. iskopan u Nippuru u Iraku. Ep o Gilgamešu priča je o Utnapištimu koji je od boga Enki-Ea dobio zadatak da izgradi čamac koji će spasiti njegovu porodicu, zanatlije, biljke i životinje od potopa koji su drugi bogovi slali da unište čovječanstvo. Najstarije sačuvane Gilgameševe ploče datiraju iz 18. stoljeća prije nove ere. Akadska verzija dobila je ime po svom heroju, Atra-Hasisu, i nalazi se na fragmentima ploča koje također datiraju iz 18. stoljeća prije nove ere. Priča o poplavama na tabletu koju je nedavno preveo dr. Finkel je akadska Atra-Hasis verzija.

Sve ove verzije Priče o potopu prethode biblijskoj verziji s jednim Bogom i Noom za hiljadu godina, što je činjenica koja je izazvala senzaciju 1872. godine, kada je asiriolog Britanskog muzeja George Smith objavio da je pronašao prvi klinasto izvješće o velikom potopu , za koji se sada zna da je 11. ploča Epa o Gilgamešu. Smith je svoje otkriće objavio u knjizi iz 1876 Haldejski izvještaj o Postanku, ključni svezak u povijesti asiriologije, iako je nekoliko njegovih prijevoda, doduše improviziranih rješenja za nedostajuće dijelove u izvorima (on je predložio da se Gilgameš treba čitati Izdubar), u međuvremenu ispravljeno.

Finkel je prošle godine objavio prijevod tableta Atra-Hasis godine Kovčeg prije Noe: Dešifriranje priče o potopu, fascinantna arheološka detektivska priča koja upravlja tim rijetkim podvigom prenošenja zaraznog entuzijazma svog autora zajedno sa naučnim podacima. Siguran sam da u tuđim rukama analiza klinastih ploča može poslužiti za suho čitanje, ali buka dr. Finkela zasija na svakoj snažno okrenutoj stranici.

Taj beskrajno obnovljiv izvor entuzijazma odigrao je ključnu ulogu u prijevodu okrugle ploče sa arkom. Doktor Finkel se prvi put susreo s malom klinastom pločom 1985. godine, kada je to bio jedan od nekoliko komada koje je Douglas Simmonds donio u Britanski muzej na stručnu procjenu. Douglasov otac Leonard bio je u Kraljevskim zračnim snagama nakon Drugog svjetskog rata i tokom svojih putovanja skupio je značajnu zbirku bliskoistočnih artefakata. Nakon Leonardove smrti, Douglas je istraživao objekte. Finkel mu je već pomogao s nekoliko cilindarskih pečata i glinenih ploča prije sudbonosnog susreta 1985. godine.

Kao jedan od rijetkih ljudi na svijetu koji može čitati klinopis iz vida, Finkel je uspio pročitati čiste prve stihove ploče: „Zid, zid! Zid od trske, zid od trske! Atra-Hasis ... ”Taj odlomak je poznat među asiriolozima kao početna linija Priče o poplavama Atra-Hasisa. Finkel je bio oduševljen tako rijetkim nalazom i zamolio ga je da zadrži ploču kako bi mogao prevesti cijelu stvar koja je prekrivena klinastim pismom sprijeda i straga, ali gospodin Simmonds nije se htio s njom rastati. Tek 2009. godine doktor Finkel je ugledao Douglasa Simmondsa Vavilon, mit i stvarnost izložba na kojoj se ovaj konačno složio da donese tablet na prijevod.

Šezdeset linija Ark Tableta ide u detalje bez presedana o dizajnu broda i materijalima koji se koriste u izgradnji. Nijedna druga tableta Atra-Hasis ne opisuje plovilo. Ovo je većina onoga što se nalazi na prednjoj strani tableta:

Zid, zid! Zid od trske, zid od trske!
Atra-Hasis, obrati pažnju na moj savjet,
Da možeš da živiš zauvek!
Uništite svoju kuću, napravite brod
Odbacite imovinu i spasite život!
Nacrtajte čamac koji ćete napraviti
Na kružnom planu
Neka joj dužina i širina budu jednaki,
Neka joj podna površina bude jedno polje, neka joj stranice budu jedno nindan visoko,
Video si kannu užad i aslu konopci/žurbe za [coracle prije!]
Dopustite nekome (drugom) da umjesto vas uvija listove i palmino vlakno!
Sigurno će potrošiti 14.430 (sutu)!”
„Postavio sam trideset rebara
Koje su bile jedna parsiktu-suda debela, deset nindan dugo
Postavio sam 3.600 stubova unutar nje
Koje su bile polovine (a parsiktu-suda) debela, pola a nindan visoko
Izgradio sam njene kabine iznad i ispod. "
“Podijelio sam jedan prst bitumena za njenu vanjsku stranu
Dodijelio sam joj jedan prst bitumena za unutrašnjost
Izlio sam (već) jedan prst bitumena u njenu kabinu
Učinio sam da se peći napune sa 28.800 (sutu) od kupru-bitumen
I sipao sam 3.600 (sutu) od ittu-unutar bitumena.
Bitumen nije izašao na površinu [lit. do mene]
(dakle) dodao sam pet prstiju masti,
Naredio sam da se peći napune ... u jednakoj meri
(Sa) drvetom tamariska (?) (I) stabljike (?)
… (= Dovršio sam smjesu).

Ove količine su ogromne, dovoljno užadi od vlakana palmi, drvenih rebara i nosača za izgradnju coracle površine 3.600 kvadratnih metara, gotovo dvije trećine veličine fudbalskog igrališta, sa zidovima visokim 20 stopa. Kad bi se ovdje opisana količina užadi stavila u jedan red, dosegla bi od Londona do Edinburga. Bitumenske posude bile su potrebne za vodonepropusnost broda čiji je trup ipak napravljen od užeta.

Stražnja strana tableta je oštećenija od prednje, nedostaju značajni komadići, ali ono što se tamo nastavlja raspravlja o primjeni bitumena, a zatim opisuje kako su Atra-Hasis i njegova porodica ušli na brod. U jednom pokretnom odlomku, Atra-Hasis se moli bogu Mjeseca Sinu da spriječi nadolazeću tragediju. Grehov odgovor uključuje redak koji će pogoditi svima koji su ikada čuli priču o Noi.

“Grijeh se sa svog prijestola zakleo na uništenje
I pustoš u (mračnom) danu [koji će doći]] ”
"Ali divlje životinje iz stepe [(…)]
Dva po dva brod je [ušao] ... ”

Naoružan ovim jedinstvenim opisom, dr. Finkel kontaktirao je stručnjake za drevne brodove kako bi provjerio mogu li konstruirati manju verziju arke. Projekt je snimljen za televizijski program pod nazivom Prava Noina arka koji je prvi put emitiran na britanskom Channel 4 prošlog rujna. Očigledno je emitovano kao Obnova Noine arke na kanalu National Geographic, ali sam to propustio. YouTube kanal Britanskog muzeja upravo je prije nekoliko dana objavio petominutni uvod u epizodu, što je bilo prvo što sam čuo za nju. Čini se da program trenutno nije dostupan na zahtjev s web stranice Channel 4 ili barem meni ne radi. Međutim, objavljen je na Vimeu i toplo vas pozivam da ga gledate dok gledate dobro.

Jednostavno rečeno, ova emisija ima sve: povijest Mezopotamije, pitanja u drevnom upravljanju gradskim vodama, Zigurat Ura, opasnosti vojne i ekološke, očaravajuća močvarna područja južnog Iraka, klinasto pismo i njihovo lasersko skeniranje, dizajn brodova, arheološka geologija, tradicionalni zanati , kako se od trske može napraviti NEVEROVATNA kuća, bitumenska drama, legende o poplavama i njihovo prenošenje iz Babilona u Judeju, stvarnost redovnih poplava u Plodnom polumjesecu, nekoliko izuzetnih brada i na kraju veliki stari okrugli čamac.


Kovčeg prije Noe: Dešifriranje priče o potopu Irvinga Finkela - prikaz

S Scott Franklin, producent nadolazeće epopeje Russell Crowe Noah, ispravno je istaknuo, priča o potopu "vrlo je kratak odjeljak Biblije s puno praznina". Stoga nije iznenađujuće da su ljudi uvijek željeli da ih ispune. Rabini su tvrdili da su tajni podaci da je Noah bio toliko zaposlen da hrani životinje za koje je brinuo da nije spavao godinu dana. Biskup Ussher je u 17. stoljeću izračunao da se poplava dogodila 2349. godine prije nove ere. Ekspedicije se nastavljaju na obronke planine Ararat, u vječno optimističnoj potrazi za ostacima Kovčega. Čak i holivudski producenti vole insistirati na tome da su njihove elaboracije Postanja vjerne izvornoj naraciji. "Nismo zaista odstupili od Biblije", pohvalio se Franklin, "uprkos šestokrakim anđelima."

No, je li priča o potopu uopće bila izvorna za Bibliju? Znamo da nije. Ovo je prvi put postalo očigledno prije stoljeća i pol, u prostoriji iznad ureda tajnice u Britanskom muzeju. Tamo je 1872. George Smith, samouki asiriolog koji radi među hiljadama starih glinenih ploča donesenih u Bloomsbury iz Iraka, došao do senzacionalnog otkrića: verzije priče o poplavi napisane klinastim pismom. Toliko je bio zadivljen implikacijama svog otkrića da je odmah skočio na noge, potrčao po sobi i počeo se skidati. Njegovo uzbuđenje, za kršćansku elitu viktorijanske Britanije, djelovalo je tek blago precijenjeno. Kada je Smith predstavio svoje otkriće na javnom sastanku nedugo nakon toga, i Gladstone, tadašnji premijer, i nadbiskup Canterburyja bili su u publici. Svi koji su ga slušali shvatili su da se otvorio uzbudljiv - i pobožnom, blago alarmantan - pogled na istraživanje. "Vjerujem", kako je Gladstone primijetio proučavajući ambivalenciju, "bit će nam dopušteno da znamo mnogo više od naših predaka u pogledu rane istorije čovječanstva."

I tako se pokazalo. S godinama su se klinopisne ploče od poplava nastavile pojavljivati. Tri različite mezopotamske inkarnacije mita sada su identificirane, jedna je zabilježena na sumerskom, a dvije na akadskom. Postalo je jasno da je priča o univerzalnom potopu bila široko rasprostranjena u Mezopotamiji čitavih milenijum i pol prije nego što su nesrećni Judejci, poraženi u ranom 6. stoljeću prije nove ere od Nabukodonozora, odvučeni iz svojih pušačkih gradova u egzil, tamo da plaču pored babilonskih rijeka. Ljubaznošću Irvinga Finkela, Britanskog muzeja eminence grise studija klinastog pisma dolazi još jedan skup dokaz: ploča koja zapravo opisuje životinje koje ulaze u arku "dva po dva". I ne samo to, već nudi zapanjujuće precizne specifikacije o tome kako je najbolje izgraditi. Kovčeg, prema uputama tableta, trebao bi pravilno biti kružnog oblika, imati površinu od 3.600 metara i biti izrađen od biljnih vlakana. Svi oni koji žive na nivoima Somerseta možda bi htjeli to uzeti u obzir.

Iako, razočaravajuće, čini se da spontani striptiz nije bio odlika njegovog vlastitog nalaza, Finkelov izvještaj o tome kako je došao do tableta - prikazuje zagonetnog kolekcionara koji je svojedobno glumio Donut u dječjoj emisiji 1970 -ih Evo dolaze Double Deckers - iskrivljeno je i zabavno ispričano. Čak i tako, ne treba mu dugo da proširi fokus. Veći dio knjige tablet, zapravo, igra ulogu MacGuffina. Prava strast Finkela manje je priča o potopu nego scenarij u kojem je napisana. "Klinasto pismo!" rapsodijski izjavljuje. "Najstarije i najteže pismo na svijetu, daleko starije od bilo koje abecede, napisano od strane davno umrlih Sumera i Babilonaca više od 3.000 godina, a izumrlo je u doba Rimljana kao i svaki dinosaurus. Kakav izazov! Kakva avantura! "

Finkelovo uzbuđenje je potpuno razumljivo. Kako pokazuju i njegov i Smithov primjer, sposobnost dešifriranja klinastog pisma daje onima rijetkim nekolicini koji ih posjeduju opojnu privilegiju: mogućnost da dođu do izvanrednih otkrića u tekstovima koji su nepročitani milenijumima. Takav je Finkelov očaj da prenese onima koji nisu upućeni u sumerski ili akadski jezik koliko ovo može biti uzbudljivo da poseže za metaforom za metaforom. Nešifriranu glinenu ploču on opisuje kao krompir koji čeka da bude ubran, spužvu koju treba stisnuti što je moguće čvršće i bombu koja bi mogla ispasti svakog trenutka. Veliko postignuće njegove knjige je pokazati ne samo koliko mu je kao mladiću bilo teško da savlada klinasto pismo, već i koliko je trud njegovog učenika od tada bio bogato nagrađen. "Otišao bih tako daleko", izjavljuje u jednom trenutku, "s entuzijazmom preporučio asiriologiju kao način života". Možda bi i rabin bio oduševljen Talmudom.

Ne čudi stoga što bi Finkel trebao priznati snažan osjećaj suosjećanja sa drevnim prepisivačima čije je ploče čitav život posvetio čitavom ploči. Klinasto pismo, kako on poetično izjavljuje, "čarobni je most prema davno umrlom svijetu naseljenom prepoznatljivim suljudima". Ali teško je ne zapitati se da li možda Finkel možda pomalo gura tvrdnje o srodstvu. "A ti drevni narodi", piše on o Vaviloncima, "pišu svoje ploče, gledaju svoj svijet, puze između neba i zemlje ... poput nas." Pa - do određene tačke. Svakako je slučaj, kako ističe Finkel, da je Babilon bio metropola sa visokim zgradama, bankarima i imigrantima, ali se u isto vrijeme jako razlikovao od Londona ili New Yorka. Kraljstvo je bilo njegovo srce, sveštenici odjeveni u ribe odigrali su kultne rituale na svojim ulicama, a njegovi su učenjaci polagali pravo na naslijeđe koje seže do prvog oblikovanja svijeta od blata. Iznad svega, to je bio grad čiji su ljudi svjesno nastojali staviti ostatak čovječanstva u svoju sjenu. "Pojest će vašu žetvu i vašu hranu", kako je očajnički izrazio prorok Jeremiah. "Pojest će vam sinove i kćeri, pojest će vam stada i stada, pojest će vašu lozu i smokve, vaše utvrđene gradove u koje se vjerujete uništit će mačem."

Niko ko je prevezen u grad kao što je Vavilon nije mogao da se osjeća kao provincijalac. Ovo je zasigurno kontekst koji najbolje objašnjava biblijsko prisvajanje mezopotamskog mita o potopu. Finkel, slijedeći Knjigu Danilovu, ima razne judejske prognanike koji se podučavaju klinastim pismom nakon uvođenja u "trogodišnji nastavni program"-koji, iako savršeno vjerovatan, teško se hvata u koštac sa vjerovatnom dinamikom prijenosa. Judejci nisu bili studenti na nekom fakultetu Ivy League, već zbunjene i ogorčene žrtve agresije supersila.

Pljačkajući babilonsko naslijeđe, odmah su odali počast njegovom kulturnom prestižu i priključili ga svojim ciljevima. Kao što su kršćani i muslimani naknadno transformirali biblijsku figuru Noe u predodlikovanje vlastitih teodikija, tako su i Judejci mitove o svojim babilonskim gospodarima pretvorili u nešto što će završiti kao Židovi. U Mezopotamiji, gdje je bio običaj podizanja zgrada nad ostacima sravnjenih ruševina, drevna prošlost doslovno je pružila temelje novim hramovima. Na sličan način, njegove legende napravljene su da služe samo mitologizaciji Židova. Neki detalji ploče za poplavu koju je otkrio Finkel - na primjer, životinje koje idu po dvoje - kanibalizirani su drugi - specifikacije mjerenja arke i detalji da je veliki brod bio okrugao - nisu. Ovo je za mene prava fascinacija njegovim otkrićem: svjetlo koje baca na to kako je prezreni i poraženi narod odnio pobjedu nad svojim osvajačima tako izvanrednu da se na nju sada sjeća Russell Crowe.


Recenzija: Irving Finkel ’s Kovčeg prije Noe

Autor Patrick Hunt –

The Atrahasis Flood Tablet Prvi put sam vidio u uredu Irvinga Finkela u Britanskom muzeju prije nekoliko godina prije nego što je ova knjiga objavljena djelovala je poput mnogih drugih u muzejskim galerijama, klinaste glinene ploče koju je lako držati u ruci. Ali ovaj je bio drugačiji na nekoliko načina nakon što ga je Finkel počeo prevoditi s klinastog pisma, s pravom uživajući u svojim otkrićima. Kao prvo, opisao je okruglu arku izgrađenu za veliku poplavu – poput divovske korakle –, a drugo zapanjujuće otkriće bila je jedna fraza koju je oduševljeni Finkel ponovio sa zabavljenim intenzitetom: životinje su se okupile u zvjerinjak kako bi bile zaštićene iz potopa trebali ući u arku “dva za dva ”, tačno kako je rečeno u biblijskom izvještaju. To su zabilježili izraelski prepisivači prije više hiljada godina, ali su zapisani naizgled tisućljećima kasnije od ovog drugog ranijeg mezopotamskog izvještaja preda mnom u glini. Mem “dva po dva ” potječe iz biblijske priče o Noi, rekao mi je Finkel i pokazao kako se pažljivo ponavljaju neki vitalni detalji, potpuno logično ako želite replicirati vrstu iz haploidne DNK.

Nepretenciozna klinopisna ploča koja je lansirala ovu čudesnu knjigu dugačka je samo šezdeset redova i mjeri kompaktnih 11,5 x 6,0 cm (4,3 x 2,3 inča), zapisanih prije gotovo 4000 godina, otprilike 1900-1700 godina prije nove ere na književnom vavilonskom (u osnovi akadskom) jeziku. Vrlo pragmatično govori o tome kako izgraditi Kovčeg, opisujući lokalne materijale, uključujući žurbu, užad, bitumen i tamarisko drvo, te kružne dimenzije, poput njegovog promjera od 70 metara ili 22 londonska dvospratna autobusa do kraja. Tako Finkelov prijevod “nove ’ Atrahasis Ark Tablet prikazuje “Super Coracle ” s baznom površinom od 3600 četvornih metara i božanski podijeljenim planom boga Enkija koji će biti izvučen u krug (kippatu na akadskom) na tlu.

Neki od “novih ” detalja iznesenih na ovom posebnom Atrahasis tabletu (postoje i drugi) su fascinantni. Na primjer, među brojnim životinjama koje treba ukrcati na spisak se nalazi 44 vrste zmija, 19 vrsta pasa, 13 vrsta insekata s tri dodane vrste skakavaca po veličini, 16 vrsta ličinki, 5 vrsta guštera, 3 vrste šakala, 11 vrsta škorpiona i 20 vrsta lavova, svi oni odražavaju istinski mezopotamski svijet tog doba. Možda je jedan zapanjujući životinjski žanr to što će se isporučiti 23 svinje, što je intrigantno s obzirom na kasnije vjerske zabrane.

Pisanje Finkela je odlično. Evo primjera iz prvog poglavlja:

Otkrića Georgea Smitha dovela su do nelagode u više od jedne četvrtine. Bilo je jednostavno bizarno da je bliski rođak Svetog pisma proizašao iz tako primitivnog, varvarskog svijeta kroz tako nevjerojatan medij, da se beskompromisno utisnuo u javnu svijest. Kako su Noa i njegova arka mogli biti poznati i važni Asircima plemenitog Asnappera i Babiloncima ludog, strašnog Nabukodonozora? Zabrinuti ljudi preko vrtnih ograda i crkvenih klupa tražili su odgovore na važna pitanja. Smith, writing soberly in 1875, ducked none of them, unanswerable though they were. Two questions that have presented themselves at the outset have echoed ever since:

Which flood translation was older? When and how did the transmission of the flood tradition take place?

The first has long been answered: cuneiform flood literature is by a millennium the older of the two, however one dates the biblical text – still a difficult problem. As for the second, this book offers a new answer…”

Finkel also convincingly relates – seemingly as a pioneer – how the exiled Jews in their Babylonian Captivity in the late seventh to sixth centuries BCE heard the Flood story and their scribes eventually acquired cuneiform reading skills to absorb and recycle the scribal details for their own Torah, to be handed down as the familiar Genesis 6-9 story of Noah.

It’s very hard to stop reading when one writes like this.

Finkel is a great storyteller, savoring details with wit and verve, and his droll sense of humor catches the reader immediately, from describing the early training of a budding cuneiform scholar to the antics of George Smith, a pioneer cuneiform Assyriologist in this very museum and thus a predecessor of Finkel more than a century ago. As patient as he is meticulous (without being boring) Finkel takes the history of the Noah story back to a time much earlier than its familiar Hebrew account. He has spent enough time in the field to know rural reedy coracles still cross the Euphrates into the present time, and from his many translations of texts – he can unlock cuneiform and read it as quickly as most authors read the New York Review of Books – can also make the dimensions and philology of this literary ark version easily accessible.

Les Croniques de Burgues. Gonzales d’Hinojosa Jean Coulain, translator. France before 1407 (Image courtesy of British Library)

Finkel also gives early on in the book to anyone interested a compelling basic introduction to cuneiform writing from the origin of wedge-shaped signs to the Mesopotamian syllabaries and how Sumerian differed from later Akkadian, the precursor to many cognate Semitic languages such as Babylonian, Assyrian, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Hebrew and even Arabic that subsequently evolved however differently.

I was in Istanbul this past spring and saw in many of its old bazaars various Safavid Persian, Mughal and Ottoman hand-painted illuminations of the Flood story. Animals of all kinds peeked from windows under turbanned mariners of a bearded old sage and his three sons (like the aged Noah and his sons Shem, Japheth and Ham) the ships were often gilded and floated on the waves en route to a salvific destiny. The tale also regales Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the great Abrahamic faiths. But the pre-Abrahamic story of the Flood and its savior – however told or depicted – belongs to the world, not just to any one people or religion. In this case the Flood epic precedes the later religions of the fierce desert, going back to Sumeria, to Gilgamesh’s Utnapishtim and the Akkadian of the Early Bronze Age more than four thousand years ago as well as the Babylonian of about the time of Hammurabi, as Finkel tells better than anyone with the Atrahasis Tablet.

I assigned Finkel’s new book to a Stanford University class this past quarter on Mesopotamia, and the class agreed it was a keeper, extremely well-written and full of irony. If an academic can write a page-turner, this is it.

Irving Finkel in his office at the British Museum with the new Atrahasis Tablet (Photo P. Hunt 2013)


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This was a very interesting book about a very interesting subject. Irving Finkel has tried to explain the history of the well known story about Noah's Ark based upon his studies in Cuneiform and ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets. It is no doubt that Dr Finkel is a world expert on the subject.

There is a lot of information in the book and I learned a lot but the approach to the subject was to in great detail penetrate old Sumerian and Babylonian languages and their written form, Cuneiform. There are large parts of this book that gets very technical and for a serious student in those languages is is probably of great value. My interest was more toward the story itself and of course there are a lot to learn here but it takes some time since you have to go through a lot of Cuneiform discussions.

Dr Finkel tell us how the Ark was constructed, what it looked like and who went on board. There is also a discussion where it ended it's voyage. He is comparing old Babylonian and Assyrian records with the Bible and even the Koran. It is very clear that the story is far older than what is presented in the Bible.

Dr Finkel is also one of those really enjoyable English scholars that lets his fine sense of humor be presented in the book.

But after having more or less proven when the story was created, how the Ark was constructed etc. there are still a lot of questions. If we accept the story of the Ark as a real event, we must also accept that some god told Noah to build it and collect all the animals. If there are no gods, it all falls apart since how would Noah know about the storm so far in advance that he had time to construct, build and man the Ark?

Dr Finkel does not state that the story about Noah's Ark is an historical proven fact, just that the story is very old and that if it is true the Ark would have looked like he describes.

This is far from the last book on the subject but if it interests you read it. It is well wort doing that.


Dr Irving Finkel specialises in reading and writing Cuneiform, an ancient language written on clay tablets.

In 1985 a man came into his office at the British Museum and showed Irving a palm-sized clay tablet from Ancient Babylon.

It told the story of a Babylonian God telling a man that the world was about to be flooded and that he should build a giant boat, to save him and his family.

The God was instructing the man to bring animals aboard too, in pairs.

Irving realised that this was the story of Noah and his Ark, predating the account in the Bible by thousands of years.

He began a detective hunt to find out what became of the Babylonian Ark - and where it might have come to rest.

Dodatne informacije

The Ark Before Noah is published by Hodder

Dr Irving Finkel is in Australia as a guest of Sydney University's Nicholson Museum, the Australian Institute of Archaeology, and the Near Eastern Archaeology Foundation


THE JAGER FILE: On Jewish Civilization

A British Museum scholar offers a Darwinian explanation for Judaism's survival.

On the way to work from his home in south London, Dr. Irving Finkel often finds himself sitting on a bus reading the Hebrew Bible while surrounded by black church ladies studying their Bibles. "If they only knew what I was thinking," he muses.

Unlike his fellow passengers, what the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian Inscriptions at the British Museum is thinking is that the Bible is not the literal word of God, but that it was crystallized during the sixth-century B.C.E. Babylonian exile by a displaced people from Judea who had lost their country, whose deity was invisible, abstract, and unforgiving, and whose monotheism had gone wobbly. Their decision to create "scripture," something that had never before been attempted, saved the refugees' civilization and enshrined their religious identity. The result was Judaism.

Finkel outlined his thesis in a late-February talk at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Jerusalem entitled "New Light on the Babylonian Exile." He is in the midst of writing a book on the subject, and an American literary agent stands ready to help place it.

Barefoot, with his flowing white beard and long white hair offset by a tee-shirt and black jeans—which is how I found him when we sat down for this interview—Finkel looks more like an ancient Hebrew prophet than a buttoned-down London librarian.

Your job has an interesting designation.

Yes, people think an Assistant Keeper must work for the zoo. It's actually a 19th-century title.

What languages do you work in?

I read the ancient languages of Iraq: Sumerian and Babylonian in cuneiform script. They are written on clay tablets that were uncovered in British Museum excavations in the 1800's. We have roughly 130,000 fragments, some as small as your miniature tape recorder. The clay came from the river banks of the Tigris and Euphrates. They were perfect for making clear inscriptions. Miraculously, they survive in the ground unless deliberately destroyed.

What we have in our collection is a potpourri of fascinating material like the Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as what amount to grocery lists.

How did you get interested in cuneiform?

Well, I always wanted to work at the British Museum and to study a difficult language. My plan was to study Egyptian hieroglyphics at the University of Birmingham, but the professor upped and died after just a day of classes. It was suggested that I switch tracks.

Just how many scholars alive today can do what you do?

All the people who can read cuneiform can fit into this living room.

Between 3200 B.C.E and the 2nd century C.E. In the meantime, the Semitic alphabet came into being in Canaan around 1000 B.C.E., and for a millennium the two forms existed side by side.

Only a handful of people, people in power, could read or write in cuneiform, while the Semitic alphabet was easier to learn and could be written in ink on leather and wood.

There is a misconception that cuneiform—and hieroglyphics—are primitive forms of communications. In fact, they preserve sophisticated languages capable of complex ideas, imagery, and even irony.

Have you ever visited Iraq?

I'm afraid that "Finkel" is too Jewish a name. Under Saddam Hussein and even before, visitors had to prove they were not Jewish in order to visit.

When were the ancient Judeans in Babylon?

It started during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar in the early-6th century B.C.E. To hear the Bible tell it, everything regarding Nebuchadnezzar centered on the Jews. But from Nebuchadnezzar's vantage point, Judea was a minor though bothersome state strategically placed between Mesopotamia and Egypt. In 597 B.C.E, well before the Temple's destruction, he looted gold from the Temple and took King Jehoiakin captive to Babylon.

And when the Temple was destroyed in 586 B.C.E. and the city razed and the people sent to Babylon, what made their exile so different from the expulsion of the Northern Kingdom's population by the Assyrians a century and a half earlier?

The Assyrians deported the Israelites en masse, and the tribes then disappeared from history. But Nebuchadnezzar took mainly the intelligentsia, with the intention of acculturating them—of getting them to be "Babylonianized"—so that, once reeducated, they might be reinstated back home. All this is detailed in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel.

I've tried to visualize what happened with these displaced Judeans. Some were, let's say, ultra-Orthodox, fiercely loyal to tradition some were proto-Zionists who starting in 538 would return to Israel under the decree of Cyrus. There were also those who became so acculturated that they would stick around forever, all the way until the rise of the modern Ba'ath party. And there were those who would marry out and disappear.

You might be describing New York or London.

That's right. I start with the idea that, fundamentally, people are no different today from what they were in ancient times. The human mind is the same, and so is the range of human intelligence and behavior.

My own approach is not to adumbrate the study of ancient religion in a way that makes it seem irretrievable and remote, but to think of it as the same as contemporary religions but with some differences. Humanity is unchanging.

Where does that lead you with regard to Jewish life?

The Judeans had been ripped out of their surroundings and dumped in a huge, complex, bewildering urban capital: the greatest city in the Near East. This people, the Judeans, were at a point of transition. They had a unique monotheistic tradition in which nobody could see God. All the other ancient gods could be seen once an effigy was created, the god came to inhabit the space created for him. By contrast, not only was the God of the displaced Judeans invisible, He was unforgiving and He was interested only in men.

That last bit helps explain the pattern of wobbly monotheism reflected in the biblical narrative. Women were not served functionally by the austere male deity, and were therefore attracted to house gods. I believe the whole trouble confronted by the biblical prophets had to do with women—for instance, Jezebel's bringing in the cult of Baal. The sense we get from the prophets is of sexual betrayal, the betrayed party being God.

The exile challenged the Judeans to refine their ideas about their single God. Thinking of God as an elusive abstraction did not serve to maintain cohesion. To complicate matters further, there were local theologians in Babylon who were also arguing for one god: their patron deity was Marduk, and they held that all the other gods were but manifestations of his powers. We have cuneiform records encapsulating this dispute among Babylonian theologians.

As a single god, Marduk contributed to the insecurity of Jewish belief. The great fear was that the Judean flock would succumb to idol worship or to marrying out, or both. If that happened, the population would disappear just like the Northern Israelites in Assyria. This threat engendered the need for the biblical text to be finished, in order to solidify the Judeans' belief in their superior understanding of monotheism. What was needed was a theology.

So the "Jews" did something to prevent a replay of the Assyrian outcome. What they did was to produce the Bible, a work that practically screams out that it was written by humans.

Remember, the Judeans arrived already literate. They had with them the chronicles of their kings trunk-loads of scrolls. They wove these into a narrative, while the missing bits—meaning, from the start of humanity until the point where their historical records began—they took from the local tradition and bent to fit ethical Jewish ideas.

You're referring to parallels between the Bible's flood story and the Epic of Gilgamesh?

No, not parallels. The flood story in Genesis basically overlaps with the Babylonian story. The two are interdependent, cut from the same cloth. What I mean is that the Judean intelligentsia knew Babylon's folk tales, but gave them a Jewish twist. The same holds for the similarity between the baby-in-the-bulrushes story of Moses and the story of the Assyrian king Sargon, whose mother also placed him in a reed basket.

And the rest of the Judean sources?

The whole narrative of scripture was simple and lucid: begat, begat, begat. It's like a phone book. The idea was to connect your beautiful and eligible daughter to a genealogy intended to maintain cohesion and identity.

Nothing was composed in Babylonia they already had the foundation. But existing scripture was crafted to demonstrate that God is present. He moves the chess pieces. You get a canonization of religious identity. Monotheism is streamlined.

So Judaism as we know it was born in Babylon as a direct consequence of the exile. This experience created the Jewish people, and eventually also set the pattern for Christianity and Islam.

You are describing the evolutionary development of Jewish civilization.

What I am offering is a form of Darwinism that transforms disparate phenomena into a continuum. I am saying that the exile was responsible for Judaism. That the Judeans behaved in the way we would have expected them to behave, based on what we know about how Jews in New York or London behaved upon their arrival millennia later.

Even the intellectual approach of the Talmud is a product of the larger Babylonian culture, reflecting three generations of learning during the period of exile. The rabbinic method of taking innocuous sentences and getting them to demonstrate just about anything reflects a specific heritage of learning. We find similar intellectual exercises in Babylonian cuneiform that illuminate otherwise obscure statements. There are linguistic similarities there is the idea of the alphabet having numerical value (gematria) there is the idea that statements can have double meanings, leading to a particular form of textual analysis. In cuneiform, each syllable has multiple meanings, so there has to be a mechanism for explanation. Thus the Judean scholars molded Babylonian concepts to the needs of their own tradition.

How do your ideas fit with those of other scholars on this period?

Frankly, I have distilled my thesis simply on the strength of my own knowledge of the Bible coupled with a lifetime acquaintance with the cuneiform sources that are relevant to the whole issue. In writing my book, I have decided simply to present my argument as a logical and lucid explanation that accommodates the diverse issues that make up the whole problem. Consequently I have turned my back on the mountains of existing writing and theorizing on different aspects of the phenomenon. As far as I know, no one has proposed this larger idea before, and I have no interest in defending it or contrasting it with other schools of thought or argument to me it is simply correct.


“I’ve had a lot of unpleasant substances thrown at me in public for undermining the Bible.” – Author Irving Finkel discusses The Ark Before Noah

WHAT: “In ‘The Ark Before Noah‘, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000-year-old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah’s Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel’s enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum – the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet – the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to be of quite extraordinary importance. Not only does it date from about 1850 BC, but it is a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood, a myth from ancient Mesopotamia revealing among other things, instructions for building a large boat to survive a flood. But Dr Finkel’s pioneering work didn’t stop there. Through another series of enthralling discoveries he has been able to decode the story of the Flood in ways which offer unanticipated revelations to readers of ‘The Ark Before Noah‘.”

WHO: Irving Finkel is a British philologist and Assyriologist. He is currently the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages and cultures in the Department of the Middle East in the British Museum, where he specialises in cuneiform inscriptions on tablets of clay from ancient Mesopotamia.

Well, in this case there was no possible alternative because the subject matter of this book concerns the literary narrative which existed and must have existed prior to the biblical narrative that everybody knows by heart and everybody takes for granted with Noah in the lead role.

But also if you want to give a lecture or write a book or command attention, it is always beneficial to start from a point that people know about. So, if we’d called it ‘The Ark of Utnapushtim’, no-one would have had any idea who that was and sales might have been even more modest than they are at the moment. So it wasn’t a commercial reason but simply a logical reason whereas I was taught many centuries ago that the sensible approach is to take one point and make it three times in different ways and hope that somewhere it will sink into people’s minds, so anybody who saw the cover was urged or prompted to pick it up, would know that it was something to do with Noah which isn’t a bad start.

There is a description of your illustrious Victorian predecessor at the British Museum, George Smith, discovering the first Ark tablet and going momentarily mad with excitement, stripping off his clothes and charging around the room. What would make you pull a George Smith? What discovery could you imagine would have you leaping around in your underpants?

Well I’ve made a few discoveries since I got here but this tablet with its specific – Ark Before Noah tablet – with its contents was after Smith’s accomplishment, in some ways a close second because you had the situation everybody knows, the biblical story, and there have been all sorts of theories about every single aspect of the bible and lots of discussions about what the Ark was like, whether it was like it was described in the Hebrew text, whether it was this, whether it was that but nobody to my knowledge has ever articulated the possibility that it was a circular craft like a coracle. So that was a pretty sort of head-smacking staggering discovery, it really shocked me and agitated me to the point that I loosened my tie and I rather think I might have taken my jacket off, I left it at that, you know you don’t want to excite too much attention among the younger women in the department, I always try to behave in a gentlemanly fashion.

One of the interesting comparative points about shall we say the number one big discovery George Smith, and number two, much less significant but in the same bag following 100 and so years later by me, is that when Smith discovered the flood tablet everybody knew their bible inside out, especially the beginning chapters but I mean everybody read the bible, it underpinned literature, political reference, it was just on everybody’s lips all the novels in the world refer to the bible. That was a scenario in which the discovery was of volcanic significance and when Smith made the discovery he was encouraged, or whatever, to make a public statement in front of a whole committee of worthies including the Archbishop of Canterbury who are not generally renowned for their interests in Assyriology, I think the Prime Minister was also there which is even less than easy to parallel from modern times but the fact is, it made a fantastic impact on the world.

It made a fantastic impact on Smith, who I think had an epileptic fit because the description that he jumped out, dropped the tablet on the table and held his hands and made funny noises and in fact started to disrobe himself, these separate features of behaviour are extremes of epileptic reaction, not necessarily all in a bunch, but I have a feeling that when he actually sat there reading this clay tablet, discovering what was practically speaking holy writ, appear on the surface of a piece of Weetabix, it set off in his bosom and uncontrollable explosion. So the thing is, to answer your question specifically, I thought finding this round thing was a pretty amazing discovery and went about saying you’ll never guess what I found out, but the milieu in which I operate the algae-ridden swimming pool in which one attempts to do breaststroke, is a whole different situation because familiarity with the Bible is minimal to the point that people under a certain age, I would randomly say 30, have a deep-seated and eradicable confusion between things which are in the Bible and things which come from Hollywood, they simply don’t know the difference and lots of people are not sure whether the Noah story isn’t the creation of Walt Disney and so forth and so forth.

So I was in the situation that having made what was really quite a serious discovery in the whole mass of the biblical world and Assyriological world. I had to hold people down, slap them on both cheeks and say “This is important because…” And then they would wake up and say “Oh yes, that sounds quite interesting”. So that is a major, major contrast and it underpins all Assyriology because you could find an inscription with a completely new tablet, a new king, a new this, a new date, a new word for chariot pommel or something but it doesn’t shake the world and there are relatively few things that you can find within the Assyriological world which should command a wider response but the one with this had to be coaxed and publicised and lots of interviews and lots of newspaper things and eventually people say, “Oh how marvellous, how interesting, how wonderful…” and some of them bought the book but it didn’t have a matching effect reverberating throughout the world except this modest paperback available from all good book stores is actually being translated into other languages including French and American and Russian and Polish and Japanese and Armenian and Chinese is nearly done. So the anti-gospel according to me is being disseminated on a wider scale than it might otherwise have been entirely in the English version.

Is that how you see it, the ‘anti-gospel’?

Not at all, it’s a kind of joke. I mean I’ve had a lot of unpleasant substances thrown at me in public for undermining the Bible and this kind of nonsense but my argument is that it’s nothing to do with that whatsoever because the flood story clearly originated in Mesopotamia because of the landscape, the geology the geography, the history, the riverine nature of their landscape. There is no question that it comes out of that part of the world. There’s no question that the literary structure, the literary creation went from the Babylonian forerunner into the biblical narrative in the Book of Genesis. There seems to be no doubt about it, but it’s not pinching words from God or undercutting the clergy, the simple response to people who in fact have threatened me with tar and feathers and what have you is this, have you ever tried to write a detective story? Have you ever tried to write a piece of fiction? Have you ever tried to invent a plot that no-one has invented before? It is practically speaking impossible and all literature is derivative in some measure or other and the question is whether it’s derivative in the modern world, whether it’s derivative surreptitiously, accidentally or unwittingly but it’s true, you cannot create from nothing a whole new thing and the same applies to the narratives in the bible, they were borrowed from here and there and the crucial point, intellectually and from a religious point of view is that they were used to tell different messages.

So, if you hear a really good story about a chap who has a week to save the world and the clock’s going tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, this is a deep-seated irresistible format which Hollywood has embraced like with its teeth and ever since and the Babylonian story that one bloke wakes up one morning with the responsibility for the world, what the hell are they going to do to save all the world, is a brilliant story because everybody thinks, Thank God it wasn’t me. This is it and then the philosophical writers who produce the text of Genesis took the bones of the narrative and used it for a totally different theological philosophical principle. So that obviates the charge of me underpinning the bible, it’s just a recycling of literary ideas which of course there is a finite number.

You talk in the book about how the day to day work of an Assyriologist is the mundane existence of life and getting along in the world. You’re probably the nearest thing to somebody who has actually walked the streets of ancient Babylon and encountered the people. Were they like us? Did they think like us? Could we relate to them, could they relate to us? Do we share something universal or are they – without having green heads with things sticking out of them – alien to us?

Well, this is a really deep and significant question. In fact, I’ve come to conclude at my stage of stuff, without sounding pompous, this is really one of the most important questions and it’s my conviction that the human race has never altered from the time when it really emerged and classifiable as homo sapiens that the components are there and that in the whole history of the evolution of our society, the changes, which are wrought, are so-called civilising if you like, but they are cosmetic and the entity which is the human being is unchanged. So, to be specific, the writing looks like from another planet and so when you first encounter this stuff you reinforce the idea that these people are remote from us in every single possible way, they are so far back you can’t even see them with a telescope and they are therefore behind us in evolution.

Now, the danger of this argument is the built-in conception that there is improvement as part of evolution which governs the convictions for the people who think they lead the world, that we are at the apogee of the human race, that we are more intelligent, more educated, more practical, more wise than anybody who came before. In fact, all the evidence that I can see would suggest just the opposite, that that is by no means the truth and the people in Babylonia in the second millennium were, in my estimation, the sort of thing is, a Babylonian comes in the room now wearing Babylonian clothes and probably smelling of what they had for breakfast and I don’t know what, sits down in the chair and you think – God, what zoo did this person comes from. Or maybe it was a sophisticated merchant expensive clothes and a hooker under his belt and what have you, you think, Oh how am I going to talk to this person?

A what under their belt?

A hooker, you know a sort of…

…Shisha pipe.

Yes, not a young woman. So the thing is, the person inside…

Did they have hookers?

Well actually they didn’t, it’s a good point, it’s an acronisym but for poetic purposes. They could have had hookers. But the point is if you read their literature and you read their letters and you read their so-called real documents, you find that the person, the individuals who write these tablets are familiar to us because they tell the truth and they lie and they wheedle and they’re hypocritical and they’re convinced and they’re faithful and they’re adulterers and they’re fearful and they’re brave and they’re, I don’t know, they drink, they don’t drink, they have all the contrasts which make up the complexity of a normal human being in their lies, so they are frightened of disease, they’re frightened of sterility, they’re frightened of dying, they worry about the Gods like hell when they’re ill, when they’re dying but otherwise they don’t think about them more than is absolutely necessary, they do offerings in the cult.

You know, sometimes people have a deeply religious experience, some people think this is a waste of time but I’ve got to do it. Some people do it because their fathers did it. It’s all the same in my opinion. And if you can zoom in into their houses, these things would be all the same and we can see them showing off, we can see them being clever. There are two things that make me feel this most particularly. One is sarcasm in letters, “Am I your brother or am I not your brother?” Another are all these kind of Italianate gangster sayings in letters, “I sent the material already where’s the gold, where’s the gold?” Or “Dear so and so, bless your footprints and your grandmother’s footprints too. Funny that you should have written because it was only yesterday that the messenger went off with your bag of gold so you should get it.” So, in other words, the cheque-in-the-post phenomenon that underpins industry and business in this world is not a novel thing either.

And there are many, many, many subtle points which on their own if you take one, a person might say, “yeah well you never know, it’s an accident text, you never know what they’re really thinking, you never know what they’re really thinking but when you have them all together mixed up in your mind, you kind of do know what they’re really thinking.”

I think what combats this understanding, or at least my understanding, in this direction is a conviction that we are the apogee and then before us were the Victorians who primarily thought about sexual intercourse, and then before the Victorians were the Romans who primarily thought about underfloor heating and toilets, and before them are gorillas. But you know the Victorians were like us in every way, they were stilted about this and this and this but you know in a household how they were, and it doesn’t change because there is no moment when all of a sudden all people evolve, they don’t. Now I think from a political point of view you could argue that we’re going backwards.

How are the studies of cuneiform and the ancient literature of the region being shaped in the post-Saddam era?

Well, the post-Saddam era is something whose full nature it won’t be possible to understand until more time has gone by. There was massive destruction archaeologically then Sadam Hussein, theoretically so to speak, modelled himself on the great kings of Assyria. There are posters of him in his chariot like Nebuchadnezzar or Ashurbanipal hunting lions or shooting arrows at the enemy. And he, on placards and other media, tried to give the impression in this childlike way that he stepped into or out of their own great history and stood on the shoulders of giants.

So the massive destruction and cruelty and waste to which Iraq has been subjected is obviously common knowledge. In terms of cuneiform studies, cuneiform research, the first thing is that although we have a very large collection of tablets in the British museum from the 19th century and there are many other collections like the Louvre and the Met and Berlin where there are holdings of these resources even if you put all those together, the material which is in the museums of Iraq, but more importantly still under the ground in Iraq, is of uncountable volume because when you have an ancient culture which lasted for about 3,000 years with the literature written on clay, it’s not that one city here and one city over there had a bit of writing, literacy was universal and there must be tablets under the ground everywhere in the country by their millions.

So when you take a long term view, that resource is yet to be rescued or rather excavated long before there is any question of how to deal with it. So within Iraq now the antiquities departments in universities are climbing to their feet, students are doing research learning to read, learning archaeology, we have a programme here where Iraqis come twice a year. Groups of them for the latest up-to-date training in scientific techniques of excavation and so forth. So we do what we can to nurture this but there is an upcoming number of young persons including people who can read cuneiform script who will, in due course, have their own students and hopefully when things become more peaceful, the harvesting can begin of this unimaginable richness.

This interview is being published in several parts. In the coming parts Dr Finkel will be talking about the sheer volume of ancient material written thousands of years ago in cuneiform on clay tablets still to be translated His period as President of The Coracle Society The time he built a half-sized replica of the Ark described in his discovery The best source for the best bitumen and Whether Noah had a beard.

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