Mesopotamian Civilization and the Origins of the New Testament

Mesopotamian Civilization and the Origins of the New Testament by Robin Baker 2022

About the Author
Robin Baker is Emeritus Professor of Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Winchester and a Fellow of University College London. He took his BA at the University of London and his PhD at the University of East Anglia. He has also studied at the University of Helsinki and at Stanford University. He was Deputy Director-General of the British Council from 2002 to 2005. As a writer, he loves discovering insights that have been hidden for a very long time in surprising places, and finding the words to do justice to their brilliance.

About the Book
In this ground-breaking study, Robin Baker investigates the contribution ancient Mesopotamian theology made to the origins of Christianity. Drawing on a formidable range of primary sources, Baker’s conclusions challenge the widely held opinion that the theological imprint of Babylonia and Assyria on the New Testament is minimal, and what Mesopotamian legacy it contains was mediated by the Hebrew Bible and ancient Jewish sources. After evaluating and substantially supplementing previous research on this mediation, Baker demonstrates significant direct Mesopotamian influence on the New Testament presentation of Jesus and particularly the character of his kingship. He also identifies likely channels of transmission. Baker documents substantial differences among New Testament authors in borrowing Mesopotamian conceptions to formulate their Christology. This monograph is an essential resource for specialists and students of the New Testament as well as for scholars interested in religious transmission in the ancient Near East and the afterlife of Mesopotamian culture.

Summary of Preface
Jeremiah uses the phrase hêkal YHWH ‘Yahweh’s temple’ three times in denouncing their confidence. The repetition both caricatures an incanationaltation and morbidly parodies the Trisagion of Isaiah’s vision of Yahweh’s temple. The phrase is one of many contributions Mesopotamia made to the Bible. In 2 Timothy 2:20 the ‘great house’ is a metaphor for the Church.

The New Testament presents David’s seed as the source of everlasting life, the cosmic hêkāl. We will see that the ‘great house’ has cast its shadows across the pages of the New Testament. This monograph seeks to identify and evaluate the four primary male gods of Mesopotamian culture. The Pan-Babylonists lacked rigour and their claims were often wildly intemperate.

The spectre of Pan-Babylonism in particular has impeded the developurablement of an informed debate concerning Mesopotamian legacy. The traumatic history does not confer the authority to dismiss sound evidence out of hand. To argue otherwise is to abstract Israel’s cult and culture, and the New Testament, artificially from the intellectual landscape in which they developed. This monograph seeks to contribute to the debate.

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