Reading Akkadian Prayers and Hymns: An Introduction (Alan Lenzi, ed.; ANEM 3; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011) belongs in the library of every serious student of the Hebrew Bible and every serious student of the ancient Near East. ANEM 3 is an outstanding example of open access scholarship. In the future, all scholarship of significance will be available in searchable, electronic form; if not, it will fade into insignificance. Like ANEM 1 and ANEM 2, ANEM 3 was, and will soon be available again, for free download online (UPDATE: go here).
Scholars are known to succumb to a grave and debilitating disease: that of spending all their days reading each other rather than the texts and other artifacts that are supposed to be the objects of their research. In the blessed assurance that someone else knows more about a particular text than she does, a specialist will often say little or nothing about a text that has not been said before. “I and my secondary literature, tenured and blest, watching and waiting, looking above” (with apologies to Fanny Crosby).
It’s a shame. There is a pressing need for original-language editions of ancient texts with translation and commentary. Vast corpora of texts are out of reach to all but a few specialists. There are enormous quantities of texts in a dozen ancient languages which deserve to be presented to a larger public with the goal of allowing them to assume their rightful place within a larger corpus of ancient texts of interest to anyone who wishes to grasp the history of ideas and the course of human history over the long duration.
The present volume is meant to be a reader of Akkadian prayers and hymns for ancient Near Eastern, biblical, and classical scholars. It is not too much to say that one cannot be a serious student of the ancient Near East, the Hebrew Bible, or pre-classical Mediterranean antiquity without a working knowledge of (Sumerian and) Akkadian and of the field of Assyriology. Grounded, detailed knowledge of ancient cultures and ancient history can only be acquired by reading lots of texts, not in translation, but in the original languages. Again, culturally informed, close readings of ancient texts are only possible on the basis of intimate familiarity with the texts in the languages in which they were written.
Like many of the volumes in the Writings of the Ancient World series, but to a greater degree, ANEM 3 fills a need in that sense. The texts in this volume, in an original language edition with translation and commentary, and followed by translation, are with few exceptions not otherwise available in electronic, copy-and-paste, searchable form. It is easy to think of ways in which the proof of concept ANEM 3 embodies might be improved. Regardless, it represents a massive step forward in the right direction.
As soon as ANEM 3 is available once again for download, I will post a full review.