Sumerian's (3500 and 2000 BCE):
While writing emerged around 3200BCE, more than six centuries elapsed before the appearance of the earliest "historical," or more accurately "commemorative," inscriptions-dedicatory texts on bricks and door-hinge sockets, figurines buried in foundations, and votive inscriptions on vases, decorative plaques, mace heads, and the like.

It is a known fact that in the long stretch of time between approximately 3500 and 2000 B. C. it was the Sumerians who represented the dominant cultural group of the entire Near East. It was the Sumerians who developed and probably invented the cuneiform system of writing; who developed a well integrated pantheon together with spiritual and religious concepts which influenced profoundly all the peoples of the Near East.
These inscriptions are often laconic, and the Sumerian dialect in which they are written remains obscure.
Source: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Overview' , Dominique Charpin

The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from Mesopotamia, is amongst the earliest surviving works of literature.
Old Babylonian" version, dates to the 18th century BC; The later "Standard Babylonian" version dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC.
This poem has some concepts similar to those in the Bible.

  • A Netherworld
  • Separation of Heaven and Earth
  • A Great Flood
  • Adam & Eve - Enkidu & Shamhat
  • The strength of a triple-stranded rope
See: Sumerian Mythology FAQ
and Epic of Gilgamesh - Wikipedia

Another Sumerian Creation story is from the Eridu Genesis, 17 century BC.

The famous Enuma Elish, improperly called in modem times the "Babylonian Creation Epic." It is in fact a hymn that glorifies Marduk by depicting the acceptance of his leadership by the other gods.
All of the tablets containing the myth, found at Ashur, Kish, Ashurbanipal's library at Nineveh, Sultantepe, and other excavated sites, date to c. 1100 BCE but their colophons indicate that these are all copies of a much older version of the myth.

The Code of Hammurabi (1780 BCE):
Hammurabi was the ruler who chiefly established the greatness of Babylon, the world's first metropolis.

The most remarkable of the Hammurabi records is his code of laws, the earliest-known example of a ruler proclaiming publicly to his people an entire body of laws, arranged in orderly groups.

The Code of Hammurabi, was discovered by a French archaeological expedition under the direction of Jacques de Morgan in 1901-1902 at the ancient site of Susa in what is now Iran

The The Code of Hammurabi and the law of Moses.
It had been charged that Moses had plagiarized Hammurabi, or at least had borrowed from him. However most scholars now think the evident similarities can instead be explained as comparable needs in ancient societies.


  • Justice
  • Civil order
  • The Lex Talionis, "the principle that a person who has injured another person is similarly injured in retribution"
  • Sanctity of human life. The Code of Hammurabi represents a lower view of human life than Moses. For instance, in The Code of Hammurabi, the consequence for theft is to repay ten- to thirty-fold. If that’s not possible, the thief is executed. That’s never the case in Moses.
  • Favoring the privileged vs. protecting the oppressed. Protection of the oppressed is near to God’s heart; not so much with Hammurabi. Many of Hammurabi’s laws favor the free and wealthy.
  • Justice. Though some of The Code of Hammurabi is just, much of it is eminently unjust. There is no injustice at all in the law of Moses.
  • Mercy. The notion of mercy is exceedingly rare in Hammurabi, but appears with regularity in Moses.
  • The focus of the laws. The vast majority of The Code of Hammurabi concerns money, property, and business transactions. While these are addressed in Moses, the focus on moral laws, loving and honoring God and taking care of man’s relationship to God are strong emphases in Moses.
Source: The Code of Hammurabi vs. the Law of Moses | Evangel Classical School
The Bible (1400 BC - 200 AD)
The front cover of The Oxford Companion To The Bible says,
"The Bible has had an immeasurable influence on Western culture, touching on virtually every aspect of our lives. It is one of the great wellsprings of Western religious, ethical, and philosophical traditions. It has been an endless source of inspiration to artists, from classic works such as Michaelangelo's Last Judgment, Handel's Messiah, or Milton's Paradise Lost, to modern works such as Thomas Mann's Joseph and His Brothers and many movies and TV series. For countless generations, it has been a comfort in suffering, a place to reflect on the mysteries of birth, death, and immortality. Its stories and characters are an integral part of the repertoire of every educated adult, forming an enduring bond that spans thousands of years and embraces a vast community of believers and nonbelievers."

The Bible is unique in that is considered the Word of God by most Jews and Christians.
It not only contains the laws of Moses (first 5 books of the old testament - The Tora or Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and the teachings of Jesus Christ as documented in the Gospels (First 4 books of the new testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), but many other writings (66 books in the Protestant Canon by more than 40 authors).
See The Bible here
Who wrote the first five books of the Bible (the Jewish Torah)

Egyptian Law (2000 BCE)
The Precepts of Ptah-Hotep, c. 2200 BCE is a collection of maxims and advice in the sebayt genre on human relations, that are directed to his son.
See: The Maxims of Ptahhotep - Wikipedia
Greek Law (5th and 4th centuries BCE)
Draco (621 BCE) and Solon (594) were two early Greek lawgivers.
The code of Gortyn, which is itself the revised version of an older code, is the only one that comes close to being fully preserved.

See Greek law -- Encyclopedia Britannica

Chinese Law (2000 BCE)
Chinese law has undergone continuous development since at least the 11th century BC.

The earliest document on law in China that is generally regarded as authentic is the Kang Gao (康誥), a set of instructions issued by King Wu of Zhou to a younger prince for the government of a fief.

The Canon of Laws or Classic of Law ( 法经) is a lost legal code that has been attributed to Lǐ Kuǐ (李悝), a Legalist scholar and minister who lived in the State of Wei during the Warring States Period of Chinese history (475-220 BCE)

The laws of Ancient China | Infobase
Traditional Chinese law - Wikipedia
Chinese Text Project

Ancient Myths
Academy for Ancient Texts. Ancient texts library.
Sumerian Mythology: Chapter I. The Scope and Significance of Sumerian Mythology
Ancient History Sourcebook |
Ancient written language
The History of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Overview' , Dominique Charpin
Enuma Elish - The Babylonian Epic of Creation (Article) -- Ancient History Encyclopedia

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last updated 22 Mar 2014