On a Faraway Day Contents


Chapter Titles


1. The View from Here14. The Origin of the Pantheon
2. The Context of Revelation15. The Nippur Priesthood
3. The Radiocarbon Flood16. The Eclipse of Enlil
4. The Biblical Flood17. The Historical Context of Abraham
5. The Ruins of Mesopotamia18. The Call of Abraham
6. The Mesopotamian Flood19. The Semitic Pantheon
7. The Early High Civilisation20. Mesopotamian Sources in Genesis
8. The Flood in Context21. The Internal Structure of Genesis
9. The Babble at Babel22. The Origins of Toledoth Sources
10. The Origin of Literature23. The Names of God
11. The Sumerian Pantheon24. The Stories of Creation
12. The Gods in Hymns and Inscriptions25. Return to Eden
13. The Gods in Sumerian Literature

Chapter Summaries


1. The View from Here The interpretation of Genesis is polarised between Liberal and Fundamentalist theology, but both are flawed. The main vehicle of Liberal theology, the Documentary Hypothesis, cannot properly explain the similarities between Mesopotamian and Biblical texts. On the other hand, Fundamentalists do not adhere to a strictly literal interpretation of Genesis, as they claim. In the place of these approaches the author proposes a new convergence between Spiritual and Historical views of mans's relationship to God.

2. The Context of Revelation It is suggested that Adam, Noah and Abraham were real people who had an encounter with God. However, these revelations must be studied in their geographical and temporal contexts. This is done by an examination of the Mesopotamian context of Genesis, and by considering the major genealogies.

3. The Radiocarbon Flood In the past 30 years the reliability of radiocarbon dating has been greatly increased by using tree rings as a dating standard. This means that there is now a continuous record from human history back into the geological past. This record shows that there has not been a worldwide Flood in the past 40,000 years.

4. The Biblical Flood The Biblical record of the Flood is not treated as 100% literal, even by Creationists. Since a completely literal interpretation is not possible, we must understand the account of the Flood from the view point of Noah, who lived around 5000 BC and had a more limited conception of the Earth than modern Science.

5. The Ruins of Mesopotamia In order to put Genesis into its proper historical context, the literature and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia are reviewed.

6. The Mesopotamian Flood The record of the Flood in Mesopotamian literature and archaeology is examined. It is concluded that the Flood must pre-date Mesopotamian civilisation as we know it.

7. The Early High Civilisation Civilisation is intimately bound up with the development of cities, and this civilisation is examined from the point of view of three of the world's earliest cities: Eridu, Uruk and Kish. In particular, the development of temple architecture is examined.

8. The Flood in Context The environmental context of the Flood is examined, including the effect of sea-level and climate. These lines of evidence help to constrain the timing of the Flood. Evidence for the landing place of the Ark and evidence for a 'Lost Eden' are examined in Mesopotamian literature.

9. The Babble at Babel The story of the Tower of Babel is analysed for its literary origins and its historical context. It is concluded that the story describes the division of civilisation between Sumerian and Semitic peoples. This theme is continued in an examination of the Table of Nations, interpreted as a schematic description of the distribution of peoples in the ancient world.

10. The Origin of Literature The origin and early development of writing are described and the appearance of the world's earliest literature is examined.

11. The Sumerian Pantheon Traces of the 'True God' may be found in the Mesopotamian pantheon. However, the true revelation was corrupted by the rite of 'sacred marriage', which created a 'family tree' of gods.

12. The Gods in Hymns and Inscriptions The earliest royal inscriptions and hymns provide evidence for the existence of a supreme god or gods in the pantheon. These gods may reveal to us the identity of the True God in Sumerian religion.

13. The Gods in Sumerian Literature Sumerian myths and epics provide a corrupted view of history and theology, but they also give much detailed information about Sumerian culture. Evidence is examined for the identity and character of the supreme gods of the pantheon, which may reflect some of the character of the True God.

14. The Origin of the Pantheon Views of the gods by historians are examined. The Biblical revelation of God is set in a context of Mesopotamian history and is contrasted with the figure of the 'Mother goddess'.

15. The Nippur Priesthood It is argued that Nippur was the centre of worship for the True God, and that this revelation was preserved through the Third Millennium by the Nippur Priesthood.

16. The Eclipse of Enlil After the departure of Abraham from Mesopotamia, the true revelation was usurped by Marduk, god of Babylon, when this city rose to a position of dominance over the whole of Mesopotamia.

17. The Historical Context of Abraham Biblical and historical evidence are examined in order to put Abraham in his historical context. Biblical evidence is used to determine an approximate date for Abraham relative to the timing of the Exodus.

18. The Call of Abraham The call of Abraham shows the importance of Family Religion in the ancient world. However, this family religion must be placed in the context of the institution of temple worship of ancient Mesopotamia.

19. The Semitic Pantheon The gods of the Semitic peoples are examined in order to demonstrate that the God of Abraham was related to Mesopotamian rather than Canaanite or Amorite deities.

20. Mesopotamian sources in Genesis The close resemblances between the Biblical and Mesopotamian stoies of the a Flood and the creation suggest that some common sources underlie both traditions. These are discussed.

21. The Internal Structure of Genesis The 'toledoth' formula defines the fundamental structure of Genesis as a book. The meaning of these formulae are discussed and they are used to distinguish between genealogical and narrative sources.

22. The Origins of Toledoth Sources A comparison of material in the genealogical and narrative sources suggests that the latter are older. This approach gives some clues to the origin and meaning of the genealogies.

23. The Names of God The different names for God that are used in Genesis give important clues to the identity of the God of Genesis amongst the gods of Mesopotamia.

24. The Stories of Creation The story of creation in Genesis 1is examined from the point of view of its literary structure and the implications which this has for its meaning. It is argued that the six days of Genesis were days of revelation. The character of the first and second creations stories (Gen 1 & 2) are compared.

25. Return to Eden Parallels are drawn between the spiritual experience of Adam in the Garden of Eden and intense experiences of God in later human history. These parallels are used to understand the meaning of the story of the Garden and the Fall and the recovery of Mankind's destiny.