Biblical Studies Hittites
by
Billie Jean Collins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0075

Introduction

The Hittites are a civilization that ruled in Anatolia (the peninsula now occupied by the modern nation of Turkey) in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1670–1180 BCE). In the 14th and 13th centuries, the Hittite kings controlled an empire that extended from the western coast of Anatolia to northern Syria, making them one of the superpowers of the ancient Near Eastern world. Speakers of the earliest attested Indo-European language, their libraries and archives have preserved thousands of documents—recorded on clay tablets using the cuneiform script—of political, historical, and religious significance. After the collapse of the Hittite state, small kingdoms in southern Anatolia and northern Syria that were once subject to the Hittite kings continued many of their traditions. Because of this legacy, these independent Iron Age kingdoms continued to be referred to as “Hittite” by their neighbors; in scholarly literature they are referred to as “Neo-Hittites.” Prior to their rediscovery at the beginning of the 20th century, the Hittites were known only through biblical references, which, among other things, listed them among the Canaanite tribes of Palestine. The nature of the connection of these biblical “Hittites” with the Bronze Age Hittite Empire and its Iron Age descendants has attracted the attention of biblical scholars. In addition, the numerous parallels between biblical and Hittite practices, beliefs, and traditions have underscored the importance of the Hittites for illuminating the prehistory of the Israelites.

General Overviews

Recent years have seen the appearance of a number of important books that present cutting-edge research on Hittite Anatolia. Bryce 2005 and Klengel 1999 are comprehensive in their coverage of Hittite history and the problems of interpretation of the written sources that for so long hindered attempts at a historical reconstruction. Collins 2007 and Klinger 2007 give more succinct accounts of the history and include discussions of other aspects of Hittite society. As such, they are better suited to use in classes in which the Hittites are not necessarily the main focus. Popko 2008 provides a useful overview of all the ethnic groups who populated the world of the Hittites, with a particular focus on the languages, while Melchert 2003 is an excellent entrée into the world of the Luwians, who comprised the largest component of the population of Anatolia during Hittite rule. The exhibit catalogue Art and Exhibition Hall of Federal Republic of Germany 2002 offers an up-to-date overview of all areas of Hittite studies supplemented by lavish illustrations that offer an unparalleled visual dimension.

  • Art and Exhibition Hall of Federal Republic of Germany. Die Hethiter und ihr Reich: Das Volk der 1000 Götter. Stuttgart: Theiss, 2002.

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    The catalogue to the exhibition of the same name that took place in Bonn, Germany, in 2002. It contains contributions by prominent scholars on all aspects of Hittite studies, from history to archaeology to the place of the Hittites in the world of the Late Bronze Age. The lavish full-color illustrations make this an irreplaceable reference work.

  • Bryce, Trevor. The Kingdom of the Hittites. Rev. ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    A detailed and fascinating account of the history of the Hittite kingdom. The author is especially skilled at infusing the historical sources with life, rendering the people who populate those sources three-dimensional and the events they describe dynamic and compelling.

  • Collins, Billie Jean. The Hittites and Their World. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.

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    An accessible introduction to the Hittites with chapters on discovery and decipherment, political history, society, and religion. Additionally, it surveys the contributions of Hittite studies to biblical interpretation, presenting the cumulative work on the subject. A final chapter is devoted to the question of who where the Hittites in the Bible.

  • Klengel, Horst. Geschichte des hethitischen Reiches. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1999.

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    No longer state of the field, this book nevertheless remains a fundamental reference work on Hittite history, particularly to specialists and researchers desiring direct access to the primary sources. Includes a chapter by Fiorella Imparati on the organization of the state.

  • Klinger, Jörg. Die Hethiter. Munich: Beck, 2007.

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    A compact introduction to the Hittites. Chapters covering the emergence of the kingdom and the period from its zenith to its end are separated by a chapter considering aspects of Hittite culture, including political, social, and economic structures. Offers many fresh insights into Hittite history.

  • Melchert, H. Craig. The Luwians. Handbuch der Orientalistik 1/68. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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    Evidence for the Luwians is embedded in the material and textual sources belonging to the Hittite realm, making a volume devoted to isolating the world of the Luwians as remarkable as it is needed. A rich and valuable resource covering history, language and script, religion, and art and architecture.

  • Popko, Maciej. Völker und Sprachen Altanatoliens. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2008.

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    An overview of Anatolia’s ethnic groups in the second millennium BCE, which includes Hattians, Hittites, Palaians, Luwians, Hurrians, Kaskaeans, Greeks, and first-millennium peoples. The presentation is clear, provides a context for the languages, and for the most part reflects current scholarship.

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