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Biblical Text in Mesopotamian Context


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilizations (track Assyriology/Hebrew and Aramaic Studies), with differential requirements. It is open to exchange and study abroad students who meet the requirements. If in doubt, please contact the instructor.

Required knowledge to take this course: Knowledge of Akkadian and/or Hebrew.


Since George Smith’s dramatic discovery of the Flood Tablet in 1872, many parallels have been noted between Mesopotamian texts and the Hebrew Bible. In this seminar we will explore some of these parallels, reading comparable passages from select biblical and Mesopotamian texts. Readings will include texts from many genres, including poetry, law, historiography, and wisdom literature. We will investigate the compositional contexts of these texts and the scribal cultures in which they originate to try to determine the nature of the relationship between them. In doing so, we will come to a deeper appreciation of the broader cultural and textual context in which much of the Hebrew Bible was written. Equally, by comparing parallel biblical and Mesopotamian texts we will gain a more profound sense of where and why the Bible differs from its Mesopotamian analogues.

Course objectives

  • Understand ancient Near Eastern scribal culture and the nature of textual production

  • Understand the points of contact between biblical and Mesopotamian textual production

  • Develop Hebrew and Akkadian philological skills

  • Get a better sense of the Hebrew Bible in comparative perspective

This research seminar contributes to the achievement of learning outcomes 4a and 4c (to give and write a clear and well-argued oral and written presentation on a research topic in accordance with academic standards) of the study programme Classics and Ancient Civilizations.


The timetable is available on the MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations website and the Research MA Classics and Ancient Civilizations website.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours:

  • Seminar meetings: (13 x 2h) = 26 hours

  • Preparation for classes: (13 x 5h) = 65 hours

  • Supplementary readings: (13 x 2h) 26 hours

  • Research paper (6,000 words): 163 hours

Assessment method


  • 55% research paper. The requirements for MA and ResMA students are differentiated: ResMA students are expected to write an original research paper; MA students may write an overview of the history and state of scholarship on a given question.

  • 10% oral presentation. This will be an initial presentation of each student’s proposed paper topic for development with the group.

  • 35% participation in and preparation for seminar meetings.


The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the overall grade is unsatisfactory, the paper may be revised following consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

Students will first deliver a provisional outline of their proposed papers for review with the instructor. Upon completion of the paper, students will be invited to discuss their grades with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for providing course materials.

Reading list

A list of scheduled readings will be provided at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.


Dr. Jonathan Valk