I recently picked up a book on the Sumerians entitled “The Sumerians: Their History, Culture & Character” by Noah Samuel Kramer.
One of the reasons why I decided to start reading this obscure book was that I had heard of the Sumerians, however had known absolutely nothing about them except that they were an ancient civilization that inhabited some area of the Middle East. Secondly, I feel that by coming to understand the sociological, religious, cultural, historical etc, impact of a major civilization particularly (although not limited to) in this region, it would help me to gain a more holistic view and understanding of the context and environment within which our forefathers and the Jewish religion were surrounded. Tracking the paths of history from beginning to end, from near and far, can allow one to view the entire process as one complex organism and allows for greater understanding of the influences and stimuli that characterize who we are today. The Jewish religion primarily lays claim to a Divine influence and transmission of text and tradition, and these observations are in no way an attempt to overlook that, however, how we choose to transmit this knowledge through particular language, practice and concepts can not be assumed to be impervious to external influence (even if it is merely the external husk alone). For myself, this is an attempt to contextualize – therefore one of my aims is also to create a timeline of Jewish History parallel to these ancient civilizations.
I will begin by giving an overview of some interesting aspects of the Sumerian culture as found in Kramer’s “The Sumerians” (1971), and hope to continue by noting any Jewish parallels of biblical references as well. This should not be assumed to be comprehensive and authoritative, rather an introduction.