Biblical Archaeology Review 11:3, May/June 1985

Books in Brief

The Symbolism of the Biblical World

Othmar Keel, translated by Timothy J. Mallet (New York: Crossroads, 1985) 422 pp., $29.50

Scholars argue about the age of the earliest parts of the Bible but even accepting the earliest dates proposed by responsible scholars, the Bible, as Othmar Keel graphically demonstrates, is only a chronological halfway house between us and the high culture of the ancient Near East.

The languages and literatures of these pre-Biblical cultures have already revealed some of the hidden roots of Biblical culture. Archaeology continues to expose the artifacts and even structures of those earlier societies.

In The Symbolism of the Biblical World, now translated from the German, Keel makes a new contribution. He has assembled an impressive collection of 556 well-documented illustrations, accompanied by commentary, analysis and Biblical references (chiefly to Psalms) that demonstrate the extent to which the Biblical authors borrowed symbols from these earlier cultures.

The paintings, reliefs, statues, seals and other artifacts Keel has collected, all reproduced in line drawings, are classified thematically, thus enabling the Bible student as well as the scholar to go beyond the historical perspective into the conceptual and symbolic zones of the ancient Near Eastern psyche that nourished Biblical imagery.

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