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C O U R S E 
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Emory University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
From the Bible to the Sumerian King List
Notes taken on March 30, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
the Bible presents a nice and neat genealogical line extending from Abraham
Abraham's son is called Isaac
Isaac is the father of Jacob
Jacob undergoes a name change to Israel
Jacob/Israel is the father of twelve sons who represent the twelve tribes of the whole nation
Jacob and his family go down to Egypt
during the days of Joseph there
they do fairly well
then Egypt begins to oppress Israel
they make their escape under the leadership of Moses
Moses is descended of Levi, one of Jacob's twelve sons
he's joined by his sister Miriam
and his brother Aaron
Aaron's line is awarded the role of prestigious high priests
Moses passes the mantel onto Joshua who brings Israel into the promised land
Joshua dies
a series of Judges appear
govern Israel and save them from their enemies
each is from a different clan or tribe from Israel
the Judges are eventually eclipsed by Saul, Israel's first king
Saul proves to be the wrong person for the job
eventually replaced by David
after the death of David's son Solomon, his successor
Israel is split into two
the Davidic kings rule only in the southern part called Judah
the myriad of rulers and their dynasties in the northern part don't have a unified dynasty
so this is one simply story from Abraham down to the final kings of Judah and Israel
we have to distinguish between what is a story which Biblical authors may have been creating to present Israel in a certain way
we have to ask: are Moses and Miriam really brother and sister
or do Moses and Miriam represent separate traditions which the Biblical authors brought together in order to affirm
if this is the case, than the Biblical narrative is even more impressive achievement than one would otherwise suppose
we also have to ask:
why would the Biblical authors weave these stories together in the way they did
how do their efforts in this regard relate to the experience of Israel's defeat and loss of sovereignty
Sumerian King List
presents the names and reigns of Mesopotamian rulers from prehistory to 1730 BCE
they have a concept of a flood myth
rules before the flood enjoy fantastically long life spans
the authors have aligned all the rulers into a sequence
even in cases when kings reign simultaneously
if one king reigned at the same time as another in another city, the authors would say that one reigned before the other
the most likely reason for this is simply because there is a concept of kingship and kingship is unified and it cannot be held by two kings at the same time
Torkild Jacobsen: "Sumerian King List" (1939)
"The author of the King List worked on the theory that Babylonia was and always had been a single kingdom. Within the country the capital could change from one city to another, but there was never more than one king at a time."
it's not that kingship is passed from one place to another
but Babylonia is a single kingdom
the unifying thread is monarchic power
a unity of history seen from the perspective of the throne, of monarchic power
when we come to the Biblical stories we see that it does not focus on monarchic power
monarchic power is place far back in history
after the patriarchs and Exodus and Joshua and Judges
what unifies the history is this God which becomes the God of Israel and Israel itself, this people who has a special relationship with this god
it's more a unity of family, nation and their God in contrast to kingship and monarchic power that you have in the Sumerian King List