Bible Review 18:1, February 2002

Babel und Bibel und Bias

How anti-Semitism distorted Friedrich Delitzsch’s scholarship

By Bill T. ArnoldDavid B. Weisberg

Bible scholars don’t often become famous. And they certainly don’t do it overnight. But that’s what Friedrich Delitzsch did, 100 years ago. Already known among scholars as a leading Semitist and historian, Delitzsch had published the standard dictionary of Akkadian (the Assyrian-Babylonian language), a grammar of Akkadian and a book on the Babylonian creation myths. But on January 13, 1902, amid the dazzling surroundings of Berlin’s famed Music Academy, the 51-year-old German scholar gave a lecture on Babylonia and the Bible that was so controversial the speaker became an overnight sensation. His impressive audience included not only the German intelligentsia but also the German emperor. Kaiser Wilhelm II was so impressed with Delitzsch’s lecture that he invited him to repeat it for the empress two weeks later at the royal palace.

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