The Babylonian Dialogue between a Master and his Slave—A New Literary Analysis

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This article discusses a Babylonian dialogue between a master and his slave, known among scholars as 'The Dialogue of Pessimism'. The article seeks to contribute to the understanding of this work, its meaning and messages, on the basis of a new study of its literary features. The article includes a transliteration and a new translation into Hebrew, followed by a brief discussion of the date and formation of the Dialogue. The greater part of the article examines the work's character and underlying intent through literary analysis. The article reviews in detail the influence of Mesopotamian literature in general and Mesopotamian wisdom literature in particular on the Dialogue, revealing its ironic and inverted use of citations from the canonical literature. Subsequently, the article takes up cases of double meaning in the Dialogue, and examines the central importance of ironic inversion. The literary analysis reveals that we are dealing with a cynical work, though not necessarily a lighthearted or amusing one, which mocks all values and conventional social orders, and draws an entirely nihilistic conclusion. In addition, it is suggested that one of the editions of the Dialogue was censored, and omits one of its most provocative lines in order to soften its extremely skeptical message
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)99-130
JournalShnaton - An Annual for Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies
StatePublished - 2008


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