Monday, August 15, 2011


Bruce Louden, Homer's Odyssey and the Near East. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. vii, 356. ISBN 9780521768207. $99.00.

Reviewed by Jonathan L. Ready, Indiana University (

Version at BMCR home site


We do not possess much additional Greek material that in terms of date and/or narrative scope can be compared with the Iliad and Odyssey. To shed light on these otherwise singular texts, the comparatist can attend to the literatures of neighboring ancient Near Eastern cultures. Happily, this interpretative move is one that Homerists make regardless of their stance on Homeric poetry's place on the orality/literacy spectrum. Bruce Louden's proposal to investigate the (sub)genres of myth in the Odyssey by looking to their manifestations in ancient Near Eastern texts is, then, a sensible one. The result is an engaging book that furthers our understanding of the interactions between the Homeric and ancient Near Eastern traditions and teaches us a great deal about the Odyssey. It will be of use to all Homerists, especially those already involved in this comparative effort, and should encourage those who have yet to enter the comparative fray to do so. In the second half of his 2006 book, The Iliad: Structure, Myth, and Meaning (The Johns Hopkins UP), Louden reads the Iliad against the Hebrew Bible and Ugaritic myth. He now turns his comparatist's eye to the Odyssey. The majority of the book's thirteen chapters direct us to certain passages in the Hebrew Bible, and the following summary starts with those chapters. In the theoxenies of Genesis 18 and 19, Chapter 2 finds a partner for the theoxenic motif so prevalent in the Odyssey. Reading the Odyssey as a romance, Chapter 3 detects elucidating parallels in Genesis's account of Joseph. Chapter 4 aligns Helen's entertaining a disguised Odysseus in Troy during the war with Rahab's housing Joshua's spies. The chapter then goes on to assert that Jacob's wrestling with a god provides the most apt parallel for Menelaos' tussling with Proteus. Chapter 6 turns to Jacob's marriage to Rachel in considering the Odyssey's relationship to Argonautic myth. Chapter 7 usefully compares and contrasts Odysseus' travels and Jonah's travails. Chapter 10 argues that the episode on Thrinakia—their leader absent, Odysseus' men disobey his order not to eat Helios' cattle—should be compared with what unfolds at the foot of Mount Sinai—Moses absent, the Israelites construct an idol in violation of the second commandment. In Chapter 11, we learn that some of the negative characteristics assigned to the suitors appear in descriptions of impious men in, for example, 2 Kings, Psalms, and Proverbs. Louden makes uses of other ancient Near Eastern texts as well, above all Gilgamesh. Chapter 5 shows how Kalypso and Ishtar can be profitably juxtaposed, and Chapter 8 does the same for Polyphemos and Humbaba. Louden also discusses the New Testament. The title of Chapter 12, for instance, offers the following equation: "Odysseus and Jesus: The king returns, unrecognized and abused in his kingdom." I do not mean to give the impression that Louden didactically segregates the comparative material. Chapter 1 surveys divine councils in the Odyssey, the Ugaritic Aqhat and Kirta, Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, the Iliad, and the Babylonian Atrahasis. The first section of Chapter 5 brings together Odysseus, Genesis's Adam, andGilgamesh's Enkidu to argue that motifs associated with creation myths figure in the depiction of Odysseus on Kalypso's Ogygia. In exploring Odysseus' trip to the underworld, Chapter 9 ranges far and wide and showcases Louden's willingness to call on much later texts where appropriate: 1 Samuel, Aeneid 6, Plato's Republic (the allegory of the cave), Cicero's de Republica ("Scipio's Dream"), the Book of Revelation, and still others make an appearance. Chapter 13's comparative analysis of the deaths of Odysseus' crew, the Phaiakian sailors, and the suitors examines other episodes in which a divinity punishes or threatens to punish mortals' transgressions with death: the discussion draws on the Hebrew Bible (especially Exodus 32 and Genesis 18-19) but also looks at the Ugaritic Baal Cycle and the New Testament. Louden's comparative project thus tackles the major characters, episodes, and themes of the Odyssey. Throughout, Louden is solicitous of his readers, ensuring that we know the who, what, when, where, and why of the compared stories. Most Homerists will appreciate being told these basic facts about the ancient Near Eastern episodes, and such review aids Louden in presenting clearly the connections between the stories and their characters.

The web of connections that Louden weaves, or seeks to untangle, can be quite dense, and readers will have a greater appreciation for Louden's efforts if they are aware beforehand of two interpretative strategies that he often adopts. First, Louden routinely explores the different ways that a traditional episode can unfold. For instance, in addressing scenes of recognition in the Odyssey and in the story of Joseph, we need to be aware of the various shapes such scenes can take: "Are both parties ignorant of each other's identities, or just one? How long does it take before the other member learns the protagonist's identity? Does the scene take place before the protagonist has regained his identity, or after? Which family member takes part in the recognition scene?" (73; cf. 203). With these questions in mind, we can make precise, calibrated comparisons as we detect how specific scenes of recognition overlap and differ from one another. Second, Louden regularly details intersections at the level of individual motifs and/or at the level of the narratologist's story—the events of the tale extracted from their arrangement in the presentation of the tale and listed in chronological order.1 For instance, the discussion of Polyphemos and Humbaba finds thirteen points of contact, including "3. The monster's face is distinguished by some unusual physical feature. … 7. The hero wounds or slays the monster by stabbing it. 8. The hero despoils the monster of the item with which he is most closely identified (flocks, cedars). 9. The hero's defeat of the monster brings him fame" (184). This meticulous collating reveals the marked extent of the parallelism and at the same time allows for a nuanced comparison.

Louden's comparisons prove their worth in two ways. First, Louden reveals the Odyssey's connections with the literary artifacts of the ancient Near East when it comes to embedded and often quite extensive narrative structures. Second, that which the Homerist will perhaps most appreciate: Louden's analyses enhance our understanding of the Odyssey. Suppose we have an apparently peculiar detail in a given episode. If we find another or a similar version of that episode elsewhere, and if we find the same detail in this other account, then we have taken a significant step in explaining that detail's role in our original scene: it is a traditional and expected part of this sort of episode. Accordingly, Louden observes that Odysseus' kertomia directed at his father in Odyssey 24 "is closely paralleled in Joseph's treatment of his brothers in their recognition scene" (90). Alkinoos' seemingly abrupt and hasty offer of Nausikaa's hand in marriage to Odysseus "is just what happens…in the OT [Old Testament] betrothal type-scenes" (142). In prompting the suitors to abuse Odysseus, Athena resembles Exodus's Yahweh who increases Pharaoh's stubbornness in the face of the plagues (see 251-52). We ought not be perplexed when in Odyssey 20 Theoklymenos sees, among other disturbing signs, an eclipse and then predicts the suitors' deaths: "An eclipse is a standard feature in OT prophecies of the apocalyptic destruction of the Day of Judgment" (291-92). Such insights abound in this study.

What is more, Louden's book continues to refine the Homeric comparative project as a whole in three ways. First, the relationship Louden detects between the Hebrew Bible and the Odyssey is for the most part genealogical, not historical.2 He imagines some sort of common source used by, not direct, purposeful contact between, Greek and Israelite cultures (see, e.g., 11 and 121). But finding numerous and close connections between the Odyssey and Genesis, Louden hypothesizes "that the Odyssey, in some form, served as a model for individual parts of Genesis (particularly the myth of Joseph)" (324). Indeed—and this is the point I wish to stress—Louden reminds us that the transmission of motifs and tales was not solely westward: "Greek myth should be seen in a dialogic relation with Near Eastern myth, with influence running in both directions, during several different eras" (12). As another example of how Louden notes the possibility of movement eastward from Greece, I cite his speculation on a Greek origin for stories about a man wrestling a god (see 121). I hasten to add, however, that, although he ponders the matter in the book's Conclusion, Louden is not really concerned with the actual mechanisms of transmission. His exercise is a heuristic one: "the main reason I adduce OT myths is because their parallels provide a tool for our understanding and interpretation of Homeric epic" (11). Second, Louden reaffirms the value of comparing Homeric epic with non-epic literature from the ancient Near East. After all, the Hebrew Bible may contain elements associated with epic or even epic material but is not itself epic. Nonetheless, comparatists need not fear connecting the text with Homeric epic. If we insist on comparing Homeric poetry only with that which we precariously define as epic, we shall deny ourselves access to a wealth of useful data. Third, I return to a point mentioned above. Louden consistently notes when different versions of the same episode, myth, or story pattern do different things (see, e.g., 176). This flexibility in his analytical program is most welcome, for the comparatist should delve into the discrepancies along with the convergences.

In a work of such scope, one will inevitably find a few things with which to quibble. Not every proposed parallel will command assent. For instance, I cannot see my way to connecting Jacob's sons' "use of deception, having the Hivites circumcised to incapacitate them" with "the Greeks sacking Troy by deception and trickery with the Trojan Horse" (103). Granted, Louden labels it "a rough parallel" and in the next sentence writes, "Jacob's sons not only have the element of surprise, as do the Greeks, but the Hivites are already incapacitated, unlike the Trojan warriors." In other words, Louden is aware of the differences between the scenes. In this case, however, the "roughness" of the parallel may render it too tenuous a match. I felt only once that the argument suffered from a lack of engagement with previous scholarship. Louden contends, "The destruction of the suitors is required as a form of societal justice" (315; cf. 300). I would have enjoyed seeing Louden explicitly address here the idea found elsewhere in Homeric scholarship that the Odyssey feels compelled to work vigorously to depict the suitors as deserving of death.3 These are minor bumps along an otherwise exceptionally pleasant journey. Louden has performed a great service with his thorough comparative undertaking.


1.   Louden's use of this reading procedure will be familiar to fans of his two previous books on Homeric epic. In addition to the 2006 book mentioned above, Hopkins UP also published Louden's The Odyssey: Structure, Narration, and Meaning in 1999.
2.   On genealogical versus historical comparative methods, see Gregory Nagy, "The Epic Hero," in John Miles Foley, ed., A Companion to Ancient Epic (Blackwell Publishing 2005), 71-89 at 72.
3.   See esp. William G. Thalmann, The Swineherd and the Bow: Representations of Class in the "Odyssey" (Cornell UP 1998): see, e.g., 127-28, 177, and 179. To be sure, Thalmann's book is noted in Louden's bibliography.


  1. Dr Ready is no doubt a fine Homeric scholar, but not one in a position to assess Louden's latest offering in the field of Hellenosemitica. The vacuity of his piece, coupled with the flimsiness of his quibbles, tells the sorry tale of an author who has nothing to contribute on a rather technical matter but blistering and rhetorical conceits. Dr Ready should really have exercised his brains ; for even someone not really conversant with the ancient Near East could have noticed the issues which mar this book. I shall mention here, in order of increasing gravity, a) the absence of first-hand philological knowledge in any of the Levantine and Mesopotamian languages from whose scriptures comparanda are excerpted, so much so that seldom, if ever, do we find translitterated words and snippets from these tongues (verbal scholarship is obviously not Louden's forte) ; b) the very inadequate engagement with critical literature (why bother at all with the ANET now that we have Hallo and Younger's much more extensive and fresh The Context of Scripture, and why stick to its comments [pp. 60 note 11, 62 note 14, 63 note 16], instead of those to be found in more technical sources ? how comes that the Epic of Gilgamesh is quoted not after George's magnificent edition-cum-translation and commentary, but from Dalley's 1991 version, which is far less complete in terms of textual contents and rests on an antiquated constitutio textus ? how is it possible that one crucial passage from the Baal Cycle has been taken not from one of the authoritative translations which appeared before Smith and Pitard's 2009 commentated edition of the relevant tablet of this narrative, especially Wyatt's Religious Texts From Ugarit², but from a 1995 contribution to a Festschrift [p. 296], unless Louden found this text there and nowhere else ? why were books such as J. P. Brown's Israel and Hellas, Sarah Morris's Daidalos and the Origin of Greek Art, R. D. Griffith's Mummy Wheat. Egyptian Influence on the Homeric View of the Afterlife and the Eleusinian Mysteries, or my own Le motif de la paire d'amis héroïques à prolongements homophiles. Perspectives odysséennes et proche-orientales, either omitted or relegated to the bibliography, despite their wealth of relevant learning ? granted, Homer's Odyssey and the Near East attempts something very different from these works, but this was no reason to decline to learn from one's predecessors) ; and c) Louden's model for discovering influences between the Odyssean tradition(s) and those behind some of the Levantine masterpieces, especially Genesis and Exodus in the Hebrew Bible, is a crude attempt at marshalling a very complex evidence which, I am afraid, will persuade no one within Biblical studies ; claims such as his stand and fall with the demonstrations provided, something which the book does not deliver, being little more than a series of vignettes uncluttered with erudition and which illustrate the intuitions of the author's instead of proving them to have some point. This is not to say that this interesting work is a failure ; the reviewer should simply have perceived that, as a piece of scholarship, it fails to impress both on the Homeric and the Near Eastern sides, being too much of an elementary kind for a book which regularly makes sweeping claims.

  2. As a sample of Louden's insensitivity to details, I shall mention p. 305 : within a discussion of Athena's function qua vengeful deity in the plot of the Odyssey, a parallel is drawn between Iliad XXII 185, wherein Zeus allows her to act as she pleases towards Hector, and the Epic of Aqhat (not "The Aqhat" Louden, ut semper), CTA 1.18.18 (actually 18-19), in which the high god El ('Ilu) concedes his irate daughter Anat ('Anatu) the same liberty vis-à-vis Aqhat ('Aqhatu). There is not much in common between these two lines, despite all appearances and pace Louden who speaks of "a similar remark", once they are properly replaced in their context, viz. the whole speeches of the elder divinities (Il. XXII 183-185 ~ CTA. 1.16-19) : Zeus gives in with what looks like casual flippancy to the common feeling of the gods voiced by Athena, whereas 'Ilu merely tries to deflect from himself 'Anatu's selfish and unreasonable wrath (see Pardee, whose translation "lay hold of what you desire, carry out what you wish" is quoted by Louden, in The Context of Scripture, I, 348 note 58, against, e.g., B. Margalit, The Ugaritic Poem of Aqht, p. 322, according to whom 'Ilu "tries to mitigate the severity of the punishment to be meted out to Aqht by Anat" ; on the divine psychology adumbrated here, cf., e.g., Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit², 278-279 note 129). The real parallel, not a merely superficial one, was actually of a literal quality ; it stands between Il. XXII 183-184 OU NU TI THUMÔI / PROPHRONI MUTHEOMAI, and CTA I.18.18 d it b kbdk tsk, "seize what is in your bosom", since we find here the bodily seat of the psychic entity, our metaphorical 'heart' = THUMOS ~ kbd (litterally 'liver', cf. G. Del Olmo Lete & J. Sanmartin, A Dictionary of the Ugaritic Language in the Alphabetic Tradition, I, 424-425 ; A. Rahmouni, Divine Epithets in the Ugaritic Alphabetic Texts, 4 note 4 ; I. K. H. Halayqa, A Comparative Lexicon of Ugaritic and Canaanite, 182-183). In other words, obsessed by Athena's martial role in the economy of the Odyssey, Louden has been too ready to pray on the first locus similis at hand, however superficial.

  3. I must also point out that Louden's way of drawing comparisons between the Odyssey and the ANE masterpieces often ignores glaring differences even when, it would seem, they outweigh the resemblances. On 62-63, he would have us believe that the Odyssean references to the Phoenicians / Sidonians are on a par with the treatment the Tale of Sinuhe reserves to the Asiatic people the hero mingles with, in that both the Greeks and the Egyptians "defined themselves in opposition" (63) with these neighbors. Now, the Greeks of Homer conceive the Phoenicians as their, not quite fair, competitors in the international trade of goods and ATURMATA and, willy-nilly, the agents of the established sea power in the Eastern Mediterranean (I. Winter, "Homer's Phoenicians : History, Historiography, or Literary Trope ?", in J. B. Carter & S. Morris (edd.), The Ages of Homer. A Tribute to E. T. Vermeule, 247-271 at 247-249, 255-264) ; on the other hand, the Egyptians of the Middle and New Kindoms predominantly consider "Asia" - or, rather, the partially overlapping Levantine areas which they know as Djahy (D3hy), Kharu (H3rw), Naharin (N3h3ryn3), Retenu (Rtnw), etc - to be the peripheral land meant par excellence for booty, conquest and economical pressure. Ideologically speaking, they envisioned the Asiatics abroad, '3mw.t (K. Meurer, Nubier in Ägypten bis zum Beginn des Neuen Reiches. Zur Bedeutung der Stele Berlin 14753, 131-135) as the antithesis of their civilisation, therefore people meant for being the victims of Pharaoh's military might (D. B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, 71-97 ; it is revealing that the verb most commonly found with '3mw.t in Egyptian inscriptions happens to be hwj, 'hit, strike, smite'). We are faced in both cases with self-identification through the blackening of the Other ; but the Egyptian case and the Homeric one are very unlike in essence, not merely in degree. So unlike, actually, that the whole point of Louden's comparison seems to me to vanish.

  4. As further proof that Louden is not to be relied upon, I may adduce p. 2 : "creation myth, depicting the creation of mortals, gods, or the earth, as in the Enuma Elish, the Sumerian Enki and Ninmah, the Babylonian Adapa, Genesis 1-6: 4, Hesiod's Works and Days (47-174), Ovid's Metamorphoses (1.5-88), Milton's Paradise Lost (5-6), and the like". The myth (for want of a better label) 'Enki and Ninmah', apud The Context of Scripture, I, 516-518 (J. Klein) = W. H. P. Römer, in Texte aus der Umwelt des Alten Testament III. 3, 386-401 = S. N. Kramer & J. Maier, Myths of Enki, the Crafty God, 31-37 = J. Bottéro & S. N. Kramer, Lorsque les dieux faisaient l'homme. Mythologie mésopotamienne, 188-198 = T. Jacobsen, The Harps That Once. Sumerian Poetry in Translation, 151-166, does not really belong in this list, since the creation of mankind (lines 1-43) is but a preliminary to the core of the narrative (44-139), viz. the feast during which a drunk and unhappy Ninmah challenges an inebriated Enki to better the life of the crippled men she will fashion. Sumerologists are fond of regarding this myth as made of two originally independent stories, 1-43 being also known as 'Nammu and Enki' (cf. the rich study by H. Sauren in M. E. Cohen, D. C. Snell & D. B. Weisberg (edd.), The Tablet and the Scroll. Near Eastern Studies in Honor of W. W. Hallo, 199-208, especially 203 sqq.), but the remarks of A. Westenholz in W. Horowitz, U. Gabby & F. Vukosavovic (edd.), A Woman of Valor. Jerusalem Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honor of J. G. Westenholz, 201-204 at 201-202 note 2 shall be borne in mind ; in any case, the point of the whole composition is the exaltation of Enki, the ever-resourceful, against a mother goddess (e.g. Bottéro & Kramer, 197-198), a trait 'Enki and Ninmah' share with other myths about this god (Kramer & Maier, 20). Given the level of Louden's ANE erudition, it is tempting to speculate that the unqualified inclusion of 'Enki and Ninmah' in his list of creation myths owes something to his sources (the title of the chapter of Jacobsen's anthology where our myth can be read is "The Birth of Man").

  5. Some examples, now, of Louden's heavy-handed or crude (if not outright naive) handling of ANE materials. P. 142, à propos of Odyssey VII 18-45, we are told that "(...) the scene is (...) similar to an episode in 1 Samuel. Saul and his attendants, looking for some donkeys, meet girls drawing water who give them directions and information about how to find a seer (1 Sam. 9:11–14)." Trouble is, the biblical scene has nothing distinctive, since the helpful role played by maiden around waterholes in Old Testament narratives is a clearly traditional theme (cf. Genesis 24: 13 qq., 29: 2-14) related to the duties discharged by Canaanite women (D. T. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel, 271-272), and does not mirror closely the Odyssean episode. Furthermore, the Israelite maiden do not provide Saul and his group with "precise directions and information" ; they simply confirm that the seer is in town and advice the party to hurry up and see him as soon as they arrive. P. 229 : "Moses' encounter with Yahweh atop the mountain, depicted in Exodus 25–31, is a mixture of two of the mythic types analyzed in Chapter 9, anabasis and the vision. Moses’ ascent up the mountain, literally an anabasis in the Septuagint (Exod. 24:1 (..)), is like an approach to heaven (cf. Propp 2006: 300, “When Moses climbs the mountain, he approaches Heaven itself ”), where he receives an adapted form of the vision, Yahweh himself his otherworldly guide" : the pivotal remark "like an approach to Heaven" as well as the precision "otherwordly guide" are both very tendentious, man-made temples and high places such as mountains being in free variation within ANE texts and iconography as the places of worship, qua symbolic representations of the cosmic mountain (see S. W. Holloway, 'What Ship Goes There : The Flood Narratives in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis Considered in Light of Ancient Near Eastern Temple Ideology', Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 103, 1991, 328-355 at 329-333) or, at the very least, places dear to the gods ('holy mountains' : W. Vogel, The Cultic Motif in the Book of Daniel, 20-34).

  6. On 125, the sentence "the four fountains on Ogygia (Od. 5.70–1) offer an unexpected parallel to Eden’s four rivers (Gen. 2:10–14)" comes with the footnote "I am unable to find a previous commentator who has noted this parallel". Louden did not search with enough energy, for Carl Fries, 'Babylonische und Griechische Mythologie', Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum, Geschichte und deutsche Literatur und für Pädagogik 9, 1902, 689-707, wrote at 691 that "in anderer Form erscheint das Vierstromland als Paradies im Alten Testament. "Und es ging aus von Eden ein Strom, zu wässern den Garten, und theilete sich daselbst in vier Hauptwasser" (Genes. 2, 15). Die Frage nach den vier Flussnamen Gihon, Pison, Hiddekel und Phrat kann hier nicht erörtert werden". P. 131 : "like Ishtar with Gilgamesh, the queen of Sheba enters the story because of Solomon’s fame, “The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame and came to test him” (1 Kgs. 10:1; cf. 2 Chr. 9:1). Where Ishtar responds to Gilgamesh’s prowess against Humbaba and his physical beauty, the queen of Sheba is prompted by accounts of Solomon’s wisdom." One more superficial parallel : Ishtar "responds" to nothing but her lust at the sight of a bathing Gilgamesh (Standard Version, VI, 1-9), and his prowess or social status qua, respectively, the slayer of Humbaba/Huwawa and the king of Uruk, counts for naught in her very bold offer. It has rightly been called a reversal of proper etiquette/expected roles (R. Harris, Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia: The Gilgamesh Epic and Other Ancient Literature, 125-126) and may well have been no acceptable proposition at all (T. Abusch, 'Ishtar's Proposal and Gilgamesh's Refusal : An Interpretation of The Gilgamesh Epic, Tablet 6, Lines 1-79', History of Religions 26, 1986, 143-187). Furthermore, the episode starring the queen of Sheba is not nearly as pivotal in the narrative economy of the book of Kings as as in the S.V. the scene where Ishtar offers herself only to be scorned (see N. H. Walls, Desire, Discord and Death. Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Myth, 34-49 ; S. Ackerman, When Heroes Love. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David, 146-148)

  7. Now for a modicum of bibliography. P. 62, cf. 65 : Potiphar's Wife motif, whose earliest attestations are in the Tale of the Two Brothers and in Genesis 39, receives one footnote (15 on 62) deploying the (here not very rewarding) Reading the Fractures of Genesis by Carr ; see rather M. López Salvá, 'El tema de Putifar en la literatura arcaica y clásica griega en su relación con la del Próximo Oriente', Cuadernos de Filología Clásica 1, 1994, 77-112 (79-83 on Joseph and the wife of his master), and S. T. Hollis (the editor of the Egyptian narrative referred to above), 'The Woman in Ancient Examples of the Potiphar's Wife Motif, K 2111', in P. L. Day (ed.), Gender and Difference in Ancient Israel, 28-42. P. 96 : few will listen to a lecture on the role of dreams in the ANE literatures by a scholar who did not open one of the recent monographs on oniromancy and dream as a literary device (R. K. Gnuse, Dreams and Dream Reports in the Writings of Josephus. A Traditio-Historical Analysis, 34-128 ; S. B. Noegel,  Nocturnal Ciphers. The Allusive Language of Dreams in the Ancient Near East ; A. Mouton, Rêves hittites. Contribution à une histoire et une anthropologie du rêve en Anatolie ancienne). Pp. 98 sqq. : nothing whatsoever is said about the trickster in Mesopotamia and the Levant (cf. at least D. A. Nicholas, The Trickster Revisited. Deception as a Motif in the Pentateuch, 8-33), not even the name of the Mesopotamian trickster extraordinaire, Enki (see, e.g., 'Enki and Ninhursag', lines 148-186, apud P. Attinger, Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und Vorderasiatische Archäologie 74, 1984, 1-51 at 20-23 ; for a deconstructionistic interpretation, go to K. Dickson, 'Enki and Ninhursag : The Trickster in Paradise', Journal of Near Eastern Studies 66, 2007, 1-32). The conclusion Louden voices on 102 "the characteristics inherited from their trickster progenitors, a willingness to use deception, a wiliness with words, to which the physical analogy is wrestling, are precisely the qualities that enable Odysseus and Joseph to manage the postponed recognition scenes to which they subject their relatives" is thus very flat.

  8. P. 24 : once he has quoted Job 1: 6-8, Louden writes, justly enough, that "OT myth’s emerging monotheism forces alterations on the traditional epic triangle. While Satan clearly occupies the function of the wrathful god, Yahweh’s position suggests a combination of both the sky father and the mentor god". I would have welcomed a reference or three on the similitudes between Zeus and Yahweh ; see J. P. Brown, ''Yahweh, Zeus, Jupiter : The High Gods and the Elements', Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 106, 1994, 175-197, (the Greco-Roman god of the bright sky mirrors the Hebrew god of the dark sky insofar as both control the meteorological elements [179 sqq.] and share some striking lexemes relating to the climate), and C. López-Ruiz, When the Gods Were Born. Greek Cosmogonies and the Near East, 148-151 (on Zeus and Yahweh in their demiourgic functions). P. 43 : when Louden analoges the wrath of Athena, 'Anatu and Yahweh ("her graphic, violent intent resembles the traditions of Anat (...). The Homeric Athena has much in common with Anat. OT myth’s conception of a wrathful Yahweh has similarly graphic passages (e.g., Jer. 46: 10 ; Isa. 34: 2–4, 6)", 42-43), it would have been commendable to remind the reader that, among these three deities, only Yahweh passes judgement on his people and the other nations (J. L. Crenshaw, 'YHWH Seba'ôt Shemô : A Form-Critical Analysis', Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 81, 1969, 156-175 at 156-167 ; M. Kensky, Trying Man, Trying God. The Divine Courtroom in Early Jewish and Christian Literature, 13-61). Violent and sensual, 'Anatu is seldom, if ever, concerned with innocence and guilt (Walls, The Goddess Anat in Ugaritic Myth, 161-215 passim), while it would be very uncritical to envision the Odyssey, and Athena's part in its plot, as a demonstration of divine justice (J. S. Clay, The Wrath of Athena. Gods and Men in the Odyssey, 232-239).


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