Israel and Babylon: The Babylonian Influence on Israelite Religion

By Hermann Gunkel and K.C. Hanson

A new translation of Hermann Gunkel’s classic contribution to the debate over the influence of ancient Babylonian culture on the Old Testament.

ISBN: 9780227173671


Friedrich Delitzsch’s famous “Babel and Bible” lecture of 1902 argued that many Old Testament writings, including the stories of the Creation and the Deluge, were borrowings from more ancient Babylonian tales. These claims provoked much heated discussion throughout the world of biblical studies in Europe and North America, including this response by the noted Old Testament scholar and pioneer of form criticism Hermann Gunkel.

Originally published in 1903, this searing critique of Delitzsch provides an alternative analysis of the relationship between ancient Israel and Babylon. In K.C. Hanson’s revised edition, Gunkel’s original work is freshly translated, and includes a new foreword, notes, bibliographies and indexes. The new translation is a result of Hanson’s enduring interest in Gunkel’s writing and the deficits in the original translation, most notably the misconstrued meanings of some German idioms and the addition of the previous translator’s personal views.

Although Hanson is careful to place Gunkel’s work in the context of the historical debate, Israel and Babylon remains an important contribution to the literature on the relationship of Mesopotamia and ancient Israel, and this new version will be invaluable to students and scholars in the field of Mesopotamian and biblical studies.

Additional information

Dimensions203 × 127 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) succeeded Carl Cornill in 1920 to the coveted Chair of Old Testament at the University of Halle. Among his major works are Introduction to the Psalms, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton and his monumental Commentary on Genesis.

K.C. Hanson, editor and translator, is editor-in-chief at Wipf and Stock Publishers. He is the co-author of Palestine in the Time of Jesus, 2nd Ed. (with Douglas E. Oakman).


List of Illustrations
Foreword by K.C. Hanson

1. Delitzsch, Babylon, and the Bible
2. The Broad Reach of Babylonian Civilization
3. Babylonian Influences and Delitzsch’s Misinterpretations
4. Babylonian Influences on Israelite Culture
5. Babylonian Influences on Israelite Religion
6. Revelation in Israel

Index of Ancient Documents
Index of Ancient Names
Index of Authors


Endorsements and Reviews

Hermann Gunkel was one of the ‘greats’ of modern Biblical scholarship … Written in the context of the famous ‘Babel-Bible’ debate of the beginning of the twentieth century, this book, in a lively, even passionate way, raises some important questions about how to compare cultures and assess their relationships to each other – questions that have not lost their value more than a century later. We must be grateful, therefore, to K.C. Hanson for bringing Gunkel’s book back into print in a revised translation with helpful introduction, notes, and up-dated bibliography.
Peter Machinist, Harvard University

Hanson’s new translation and edition of Gunkel’s classic response to the Delitzsch’s views of the Babel-Bible controversy is a welcome addition to the growing works on the relationship of Mesopotamia and Israel in antiquity. The new edition of Gunkel’s work places in historical context the sometimes overly strong reaction against Delitzsch, headed in part by Gunkel. Hanson has provided scholars a great service in this edition, as he has composed an excellent Foreword that contains a contemporary evaluation of Delitzsch’s claims, as well as a solid review of the comparative method used today to investigate Mesopotamian and Israelite connections. Hanson deserves thanks from those of us in the field of Mesopotamian and Biblical studies.
Mark W. Chavalas, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

K.C. Hanson’s new translation of Israel and Babylon is a mostly welcomed contribution to the academic community of students and scholars working in the fields of Old Testament and ANE comparative studies. K.C. Hanson has significantly enhanced the readability of the text by revising the translation, adding the original Hebrew words, and providing helpful editorial footnotes. This new English edition of Israel and Babylon is furnished by foreword, bibliography, and indexes of ancient documents, ancient names and modern authors.
Igal German, in Theological Book Review, Vol 23, No 2

Besides correcting the syntactical and stylistic deficiencies of the original English translation, Hanson’s main concern is to promote the enduring relevance of Gunkel’s scholarship. Given the accessibility of his translation, the helpful organization of references, and the concise contextualization in his foreword, he has certainly met this goal. … We must thank Hanson for bringing back one of the great figures of OT scholarship, and we must thank Gunkel for reminding us that comparative study which exchanges the virtues of balance, honesty, and literary competence for the vice of public renown is detrimental for the state of scholarship and the life of the Church.
Samuel Hildebrandt, University of Edinburgh, in The Expository Times, Vol 125, No 6