Posted by: religionthink | January 16, 2008

Exchanges And Influences: Thoughts On The Debate Of Common Motifs In Religious Literature.

Exchanges And Influences: Thoughts On The Debate Of Common Motifs In Religious Literature.


By A. D. Wayman

Within the past few weeks the author of this essay has been made aware of a few writings concerning biblical literature and the question of influence. One of the main goals of this essay will be to look at some of the issues concerning Ancient Near Eastern literature and possibly look at some ideas or beliefs concerning influence. It is important, while reading religious literature, that one realizes that there is no such thing as pure culture.

No matter how devoted one is to their religious beliefs or ideas, it still dose not change the obvious literary motifs that were exchanged and borrowed. It is interesting to note here that those with and agenda in favor of the religious aspect of the literature in question will minimize at times the cultural influences, while those who are against maximize the extent of the exchange. This at times, throws the lay person into turmoil due to inner conflict on how to handle such information and still value the writings or accounts as sacred. Also, on the other hand, those who delve into such research at times loose respect for the literature and fail to reflect on the spiritual contribution the texts convey. It is my personal belief that their needs to be a mix, or a compartmentalization, if you will, so that both aspects of the literature can be examined and appreciated.

It has been a personal rule of mine to notice literary motifs, symbols, writing styles, word usage, and other commonalities if they appear and then explore this commonality across the board. Some texts with the same motifs may have exchanged literary elements with each other, while others may have not. It is however important to view the commonality from all sides before jumping to conclusions. We see this issue in the field of biblical archeology, where at times some make biblical literature is made to t fit archeology while others make archeology fit the biblical literature. This web is compounded when those of both literal and metaphorical view points enter the debate. At times these results are due to the misunderstanding of the texts and how they were written. Looking a large variety of texts from a region at times can lay to rest some of these issues while compounding others. An example would be the contributions Ugaritic texts made to understanding Hebrew literature. While some questions were answered still many more were brought to the surface.

It has also been an important rule of mine to value the literature from a spiritual aspect. Whether it’s reading the Vedas, the Gita, or the Tanakh, one must realize that even though their may be apparent exchanges and borrowing these texts were literary productions of a people for a people. At times the motives for producing such texts may be skewed by our own modern day misconceptions about why they were written. It is also important to look at the contribution archeology makes to the literature, which at times dose not align to our traditional views on how the texts are read.

It is perfectly fine to note these issues and research them to better understand the context of the material. Different motifs, though borrowed, may have different spiritual implications to that particular society, which may be far different from the spiritual context of their neighbors. At times it is a common myth, that when such borrowing and exchanges are apparent, this some how makes the texts untrue or less relevant. However, this is not the case because such exchanges can be found globally, and the religious literature functions as it should for when the context or ideas of the literature no longer speaks to the culture it is converted to handle such issues.

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