Re: Genesis in cuneiform on tablets

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Thu Oct 03 2002 - 00:55:10 EDT

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    Hi Dick, you wrote:
    > Hi Peter you wrote:
    > >1. Writing was very common in Babylonia at least from the late 4th
    > >millennium BC onward. It was used for ordinary things, as well as for
    > >important ones. One wrote on clay tablets using cuneiform script
    > >(developing over time). This writing culture extended at least to the
    > >middle of the 1st millennium BC and as far west as the countries of the
    > >eastern Mediterranean. Cuneiform was readily understood in Egypt, as
    > >well (cf. the Tell-el-Amarna tablets of 1400 BC). Apparently, important
    > >people had their genealogies and other historical events written on
    > >tablets, which were then kept and copied as family documents. It would
    > >be surprising if the biblical patriarchs had not done so with their own
    > >genealogies and with the wonderful divine promises they had received.
    > >The reference to a "book" or "written record" ("sepher") in Gen.5:1
    > >states as much.
    > I would be surprised if a clay tablet version existed. Why lug clay
    > tablets all
    > over the desert for 40 years? Papyrus was light, portable, and in
    >vogue at the
    > time of the Exodus. Plus, where are they?
    > Dick Fischer - The Origins Solution -

    Wiseman suggests that Genesis was transmitted on clay tablets before
    Jacob moved to Egypt (cf. his Colophon in Gen.37:1-2a), and that from
    then on, presumably Egyptian writing customs obtained, i.e. papyrus. In
    striking contrast to Gen.1-36, there is no indication of systematic
    tablet characteristics (colophon etc.) in any other OT text. It may very
    well be that Moses, or even Joseph already, copied Jacob's tablet
    collection to papyrus (Wiseman didn't speculate on that). But archeology
    apparently confirms that clay tablets, not papyrus, were the ordinary
    writing substrate all over the Near East - apart from Egypt - until long
    after Moses' time.

    Where are they? Where are _any_ early OT originals or copies? As far as
    I know, the oldest copies of biblical material found until now are those
    from Qumran, dating to the 3rd century BC (the complete Isaiah scroll
    dating to 100 BC).

    As for the size of the Genesis tablet library, I don't think it would
    have been so much trouble for the patriarchs to have their important
    family documentation in their luggage. The patriarchs disposed of many
    animals for carrying things. The Hebrew text of Gen.1-36 comprises about
    1300 lines in the Kittel edition. How much that would correspond to in
    cuneiform in the Hebrew precursor languages, I don't know. I guess it
    might be about a similar number of lines. The tablets might not have
    amounted to more than a few kg, at most.


    Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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