Some readers may be aware of claims in this regard popularized on the internet. The idea is actually fairly old, but in recent years has gained steam via the work of a credentialed Assyriologist, Simo Parpola. A few years ago I had the role of soliciting papers for an Israelite Religion section of one of the annual scholarly conferences I attend. I asked Dr. John Hilber, a friend and an Old Testament scholar, to write a paper critiquing Parpola’s work. John has a strong background in Assyriology, as his dissertation was in Assyrian prophecy and its connections to the Old Testament. While working on my divine council bibliography today, I came across my copy of that paper (it is unpublished). Readers should note that I have a number of hand-scribbled notes in the margins that will likely not be decipherable. In any event, John’s critique is worth a read. In short, Parpola is using kabbalistic ideas as a filter for his Assyriology. Not a good idea.
Hilber Monotheism in Neo-Assyrian Religion An Appraisal
A much longer critique was published by long-time professor of Akkadian and Sumerian at Johns Hokpins University, Jerrold Cooper:
Yeah, a lot of Parallelomania from Parpola! Another good example to add in my list of examples.
Besides the flawed scholarship you point out, the lack of the concept of transcendence among all the ANE gods makes these syncretism claims look ridiculous to me.
That’s an interesting take.
The lack of the concept of transcendence is an interesting point but it shouldn’t be a major consideration. It can be strongly argued that descriptions of Yahoweh don’t really develop into transcendence until past the “Pentateuch”. Throughout much of the OT, Yahoweh is depicted as the greatest of gods but not a transcendent one. He still, for instance, has to fight Behemoth and Rahab. Transcendence developed later such as in “Revelation” where, as I remember, Yahoweh does not engage in battle with the Dragon.
Personally, I think categories like immanence and transcendence were ALWAYS both operative in the minds of the biblical writers. I think their bifurcation and “development” are way overdone. For example, in early poetry you get Yahweh living “above the waters” (can’t get much more transcendent than that) but also appearing with his people anthropomorphically (or in other ways).
Glad that you posted the Hilber critique of Dr. Parpola’s assyrian trinitarian theory. I read it very quickly and thought that he made some very good points. The main flaw of Dr. Parpola’s theory is that “assyrian religion” was almost certainly a much wider topic than he was giving it credit for. I got the impression from this critique that Parpola was depicting the assyrian religion rather monomythically. From the quoted passages, I would say that there were theological camps developing monotheism and others that were still solidly polytheistic. Any claim to an assyrian Trinity might be correct but, then, many religions have their trinities. Trinities tend to be functional developments rather than mythic derivatives. It should also be noted that the Trinity was a christian rather than judaic development and, so, unlikely to have come directly from assyrianism.
On the other hand, I feel that Dr. Hilbert overplayed his critique such as his composite name syncretism argument. Some religions chose to develop composite gods others did not. Even Judaism did that when they chose to composite El and Yahoweh.
So, I’ll side with no derivation of the christian Trinity from any assyrian trinity (e.g., Bel, Istar, Nabu) but it was an interesting read nevertheless.
I think composite deities and “blended polemic” are related but different things. Granted, it’s a nuance that really pertains to how we look back on the received text, but I still say it’s an important one.
I think you make some good points about both Parpola and Hilber. I’d be interested to hear what you thought of Cooper’s lengthier essay.
Do you know of any papers or articles critiquing or explaining Delitzsch’ view of Yahweh in the ancient (Assyrian?) texts.
yes – https://drmsh.com/?p=7425