Dr Samuel Chen
Associate Faculty Member; Research Fellow in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Wolfson College
Faculty / College Address:
My research deals with the following areas related to ancient Mesopotamia and biblical Israel: intellectual, literary, political and religious history; historiography; history of interpretation; mythology; political and religious ideologies; wisdom literature; and cultural and intellectual exchanges.
In my recent research I focus on the conceptual, literary and socio-political processes through which ancient Mesopotamian and biblical traditions related to the origins of the world or early world history developed. The beginning or early stages of the world were considered vitally important for intellectual and social reasons in the ancient Near East. Understanding how early world history was conceived and represented in ancient Mesopotamia and biblical Israel will shed light on how historical consciousness was achieved as well as how early world history was constructed for the establishment of identity, power, wisdom and control in ancient Near Eastern societies.
My monograph, a revised version of the first volume of my D.Phil. thesis, tackles the development of ancient Mesopotamian flood traditions as one of the best documented examples illustrating the continuities and changes in Mesopotamian intellectual, linguistic, literary, political and religious history over the course of two and a half millennia (ca. 2500 B.C.–A.D. 100). The monograph traces not only the origins and early development of the primeval flood catastrophe motif and its mythological and chronographic representations but also the complex transmission history of the motif and representations in different strands of Sumerian and Babylonian traditions, such as the Instructions of Šuruppak, the Sumerian King List, and Sumerian and Babylonian traditions related to Gilgameš.
My research in Assyriology has contributed to two major scholarly on-line resources: the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk) and the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (http://cdli.ucla.edu).
- Development of understanding of early world history in ancient Mesopotamia and Israel
- Transmission and composition history of Mesopotamian literature related to the Flood
- Evolution of the Babylonian Gilgameš epic
- Interaction between ancient Mesopotamian mythological and chronographic traditions
- Conception of time in the ancient Near East
- Cultural memory and the construction of political legitimacy during the early Isin dynasty (2017–1896 B.C.)
- The economic nature of wisdom in the Book of Proverbs
- Historical Consciousness and Historiography
- Ancient Mesopotamian and Biblical Historiography
- Biblical Hebrew
- History of Civilisation
- Sumerian, Babylonian and Biblical Texts Related to Early World History
- Historical and Historiographical Research
- The Primeval Flood Catastrophe: Origins and Early Developments in Sumerian and Babylonian Traditions. Oxford Oriental Monographs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Articles in Edited Volumes:
- “Major Literary Traditions Involved in the Making of Mesopotamian Flood Traditions.” In Opening Heaven’s Floodgates: The Genesis Flood Narrative, Its Contexts and Reception, ed. Jason M. Silverman, 159–208. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2013.
- "Gilgamesh Traditions and the Development of Wisdom Literature in Ancient Mesopotamia.' In Is There a Wisdom Tradition? New Prospects in Israelite Wisdom Studies, ed. Mark Sneed. Ancient Israel and Its Literature. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature. (forthcoming)
- “The Flood Motif as a Stylistic and Temporal Device in Sumerian Literary Traditions.” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions. 12 (2012): 158–89.
Works in Progress:
- “The Economic Nature of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs”
- “Reflections on Human Destiny and Representations of Biblical Figures: A Comparative Study on the Testament of Abraham (Recension A) and Qohelet”
- “The Use of Negation in Mesopotamian and Biblical Myths of Origins”
- “The Making of Prehistory in Ancient Mesopotamian Traditions”
- “Dating the Flood Myth in Ancient Near Eastern Chronographic and Calendric Traditions”
- “Comparative Studies of the Mesopotamian and Biblical Flood Stories and the Comparative Methods”
- “Conception of Time in Ancient Mesopotamia: A Preliminary Report