Yale Babylonian Collection

Friedrich Delitzsch posed for this photograph only a few months after he gave his first popular lecture, titled Babel und Bibel, in Berlin in January 1902. To an audience of leading German intellectuals and leaders (including Kaiser Wilhelm)—the then well-respected Assyriologist proposed that Babylonian religion was older than and superior to the Israelite culture found in the Hebrew Bible. In a series of lectures, he proposed that biblical law, monotheism, the stories of Adam and Eve and the Good Samaritan—all had Babylonian origins. Even Jesus, Delitzsch proposed, was not Jewish, but Babylonian.

To modern readers, Delitzsch’s blatant anti-Semitism is obvious. Authors Bill Arnold and David Weisberg note that Delitzsch’s biases went largely uncondemned by his contemporaries. Delitzsch himself flatly denied any biases.