I think I’ll go out on a limb and label this journalistic paleobabble. The press release breathlessly proclaims:
Archaeologists working in Turkey have unearthed an Assyrian tablet dating to around 670 BCE that “could have served as a model for the biblical description of God’s covenant with the Israelites.” What this fascinating discovery suggests, of course, is that the Bible tale of a divine pact does not represent “history” or a “factual” event, but is instead a fictional rewrite, borrowing or plagiarism of this older Assyrian treaty.
Wow. An Assyrian tablet from the 7th century BC that could have served as a structural model for the biblical law covenant? Really? Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps.
Folks, there’s already been a pile of comparative literary-critical work done in this area with many other ancient Near Eastern covenants recovered from cuneiform tablets (Akkadian, Hittite). Here’s a sample. There are whole books written on this subject.
The fact is that biblical covenants follow known covenant patterns precisely because the biblical writers weren’t morons. Think of this sort of genre criticism/comparison this way. If you hired a lawyer who wrote up a legal brief, presented it to the court, and then the judge said, after reading it, “Is your lawyer a doofus? Doesn’t he know how these things are written?” you’d probably better fire him/her. In other words, there was a *proper* way in literary terms to write a covenant. Trained scribes know that sort of thing. And that doesn’t speak to time of origin, either. It is well known that earlier documents of the Hebrew Bible were edited and put into final form during the Babylonian exile. That means that trained scribes fashioned the final form with literary skill. Larry, Moe, and Curly weren’t the ones doing it. They weren’t numbskulls who asked “hey, now that we decided to write a covenant, what should we put in it? I sure wish we had an Assyrian tablet to copy from.” They were trained in proper form, knew what they wanted to write about their covenant with their god, and did so.
It wasn’t rocket science, and this discovery covers old ground. Just more sensationalistic paleobabble from where I sit.