|Recent Translations of Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Choosing reliable translations of ancient Near Eastern texts is not as simple as doing the same for Greek and Latin texts. Most ancient Near Eastern texts are written in languages that were only rediscovered in the last two centuries and have only gradually come to be well understood. The texts themselves were usually discovered in fragmentary form and had to be reconstructed from fragments found at different sites; it can take decades (if ever) before the entire text is discovered. As a result, older translations are frequently less complete than newer ones and are based on a less advanced understanding of the languages in which the texts are written. The more recent a translation, the more likely it is to be correct, but what makes a translation sufficiently recent to be considered reliable varies from language to language. For example, translations of Egyptian texts from the early 20th century are generally considered reliable, but translations of Akkadian texts from prior to the 1950’s are less so.
Below is a bibliography of up-to-date anthologies of texts in the various languages of the ancient Near East (excluding the Hebrew Bible) – Egyptian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hittite, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and related northwest Semitic languages. There also exist many fine translations of individual works in each language, but these are too numerous to list here A bibliography of such translations up to ca. 2004 is found in Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature (Peabody MA: Hendrickson, 2005) (JANES BS1184 .S63 2005). See pp. xv-xvi for exceptions. Of course, faculty can also be asked for recommendations.
Naturally, different translators often interpret, or at least render, the same passage differently. When the precise meaning of a passage is important for a point you are making, it is advisable to consult two or more translations to see whether or not scholars agree on the meaning.
The following collections combine texts in several languages (Akkadian, Sumerian, Egyptian, Hittite, Ugaritic, Aramaic, Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages, and South Arabic)
J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET) (3d edition, 1969). Most of the translations in this classic volume were first prepared for the 1950 edition, and whenever a more recent translation is available, that is preferable. See particularly the next item.
W.W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, eds., The Context of Scripture (COS). 3 vols. (Leiden and New York: Brill, 1997-2002). JANES BS1180.C66 1997
A cross-index indicating which texts were published in both ANET and COS is available at http://www.bombaxo.com/cosanet.html and at
http://www.bombaxo.com/cosanet.html.Note that it follows the order of COS, so to check if a text in ANET is also found in COS one has to read each section of the index.
Martha T. Roth, Law Collections from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, with a contribution by Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. (2nd ed., 1997)
Prophets and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East, by Marti Nissinen, with C. L. Seow and Robert K. Ritner (2003)
Ancient Aramaic and Hebrew Letters, by James M. Lindenberger (1994; 2nd ed., 2003)
The multi-volume series Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia publishes up-to-date texts and editions of the Sumerian and Akkadian royal inscriptions. For a list of what has been published to date, see http://www.franklin.library.upenn.edu/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?Search_Arg=royal+inscriptions+of+mesopotamia&Search_Code=TALL&PID=SmyGb8JiKVnC9xAcM5auOtthcezL3&SEQ=20090630105445&CNT=50&HIST=1 .
S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia (1989) (Museum library, BL1620.M98 1989)
Benjamin R. Foster, Before the Muses: An Anthology of Akkadian Literature. 2nd ed. Potomac, MD: CDL Press, 1996. Museum Library, PJ3951.B44 1996
Mesopotamian Chronicles, by Jean-Jacques Glassner (2004)
A steady stream of texts found at Neo-Assyrian sites is published, with translations, in the series State Archives of Assyria, published by the University of Helsinki. For a list of the volumes that have appeared to date see http://www.helsinki.fi/science/saa/saa.html#Published.
The literature of ancient Sumer, translated and introduced by Jeremy Black ... [et al.]. New York : Oxford University Press, 2004. VPL PJ4083 .L5 2004
The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL), http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/
(" a project of the University of Oxford, comprises a selection of nearly 400 literary compositions recorded on sources which come from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and date to the late third and early second millennia BCE. The corpus contains Sumerian texts in transliteration, English prose translations and bibliographical information for each composition. The transliterations and the translations can be searched, browsed and read online using the tools of the website.")
Piotr Michalowski, Letters from Early Mesopotamia (1993)
Epics of Sumerian Kings: The Matter of Aratta, by Herman Vanstiphout (2003)
James Henry Breasted, Ancient records of Egypt; historical documents from the earliest times to the Persian conquest… (5 vols.). Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1906-07. VPL 932D B742
M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature (3 vols.)
W. Kelly Simpson, ed. The Literature of Ancient Egypt. 3d edition (Yale University Press, 2003)
Edward F. Wente, Letters from Ancient Egypt (1990)
William J. Murnane, Texts from the Amarna Period in Egypt (1995)
Susan Tower Hollis, Hymns, Prayers, and Songs : An Anthology of Ancient Egyptian Lyric
Poetry (1995). Museum and CAJS PJ1945 .H95 1995
Texts from the Pyramid Age, by Nigel C. Strudwick (2005)
Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, by James P. Allen (2005)
Kenneth A. Kitchen, Ramesside Inscriptions. Translations (4 volumes to date).
Harry A. Hoffner, Jr. Hittite Myths (1990)
Gary M. Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts (1999). VPL and Museum KL4712.2 .A4 1999
Hittite Prayers, by Itamar Singer (2002)
Mark S. Smith et al. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry (1997) JANES and Museum PJ4150.Z95
Ritual and Cult at Ugarit, by Dennis Pardee (2002)
Hebrew inscriptions: texts from the biblical period of the monarchy with concordance, ed. F.W. Dobbs-Allsop et al. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2005. VPL PJ5034.4 .H43 2005
Shmuel Ahituv, Echoes from the Past. Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period. Jerusalem: Carta, 2008.
Though mainly Hebrew inscriptions, it includes Edomite, Ammonite, Moabite and "Philistine" inscriptions and the "Book of Balaam" from Tell Der Alla and the Tel Dan Aramaic Inscription. Each inscription is transcribed, translated and annotated, and is shown in photographs and/or drawings.
Surveys of ANE texts pertinent to the Bible
John H. Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989). CAJS BS1171.2 .W35 1989
Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, eds., Readings from the ancient Near East: primary sources for Old Testament study (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002). VPL BL1060 .R42 2002.
Kenton L Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2005. JANES: BS1184 .S63 2005
Survey of ANE Literature and Cultures
Jack M. Sasson, ed., Civilizations of the Ancient Near East (CANE). 4 vols. (Ref DS57 .C55 1995; also in Museum library)
Sabatino Moscati, The Face of the Ancient Orient (1962; DS56.M563.1962; another copy in Museum library) and Ancient Semitic Civilizations (1957; 930 M853; also in Museum library, GN547.M613.1960). These are handy and are concise, and basically reliable, though much less up to date than CANE.
Donald Redford, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt (2001). Available on-line via the library’s website. Hard copies in JANES and Museum Library Reference Section, DT58.O94 2001).