“Soul-Concepts” in Ancient Near Eastern Mythical Texts and Their Implications for the Primeval History

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 University Koblenz-Landau

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In an occidental perspective, influenced by classical Greek and Hellenist philosophy, the soul is the immaterial part of the human, which becomes, in its incorporeality, the immortal “remainder” of a person after his death. The comparaison of soul concepts (cf. Hasenfratz) in Ancient Near Eastern, Egyptian, Greek archaic texts with the data of the Primeval History exhibits indeed a similar “concept of man” (anthropology), but a lesser elaborate concept of “souls” in the Biblical context.

  • 3

    Bremmer, 2002, pp. 2-4, 15-26.

  • 10

    Bremmer, 1983, pp. 66-67.

  • 16

    Cf. Badawi, p. 37 n. 3; p. 44 n. 7 and A. Mariette, Dendérah. Description générale, vol. iv (Paris, 1873), pl. 40,11; for the titles of Chnum cf. C. Leitz, lägg 7 (2003), pp. 597-598.

  • 20

    J. Assmann, 2005, p. 52.

  • 23

    Bremmer, 1983, pp. 15-16.

  • 29

    Lambert/Millard, pp. 42-43; cf. B. Alster, “ilu awilum : we-e il-e, ‘Gods:Men’ versus ‘Man: God’. Punning and the Reversal of Patterns in the Atraḫasis Epic”, in T. Abusch (ed.), Riches Hidden in Secret Places (fs T. Jacobsen; Winona Lake/in, 2002), p. 35-40, esp. 37: “I 223 wē ilu(m) is a play on awīlum ilū, the reverse order of i 1: ilū awīlum. Thus, wē ilu(m) is not meant as an etymology, but is just what it appears to be, an pun.” Cf. Steinert, pp. 324-332.

  • 30

    Cf. Abusch, pp. 370-373 analyzing the paradox that the immaterial human “spirit” is made from divine flesh: “From the god’s blood comes the person, the self is from the god’s body, the ghost.” In the case of death, damu “blood”, force of vitality, and ṭēmum “intelligence” vanish, not the materially bound eṭemmu (371).

  • 32

    Cf. Steinert, pp. 325-326.

  • 33

    Abusch, p. 372, changes the sequence of l. 215f., ll. 214 and 216 describing the situation of the living man, with ll. 215 and 217 previewing its afterlife in the memory by the others.

  • 37

    Selz, 2004, p. 37 explains that eṭemmu means in common understanding, “that in Mesopotamia the ‘spirit’ of a deceased person survives physical extinction. The Gilgamesh- or the Atrahasīs-epic and other sources allow us assume that these spirits were actually conceived of as the immortal part of a person, somehow comparable to our concept of a ‘soul’. But there is an additional way of survival mentioned in the epic: the fame of Gilgamesh’s deeds and the written account of them will provide a somewhat questionable lasting life”; cf. Steinert, pp. 331-332 and S. L. Richter, The Deuteronomistic History and the Name Theology. lešakkēn šemô šām in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (bzaw 318; Berlin/New York, 2002), pp. 127-203.

  • 38

    Abusch, pp. 370-373; Selz, 2004, pp. 40-41.

  • 42

    Foster, p. 6.

  • 46

    Steinert, p. 371, emphasizes the unemotional character of napištu in opposition to נפש, which would create the precondition for the term to connote “self” in Hebrew; however, eṭemmu takes no function for the living being. The Akkadian terms are “als Ego-Seelen typologisch verwandt, aber andererseits verschieden (Toten- bzw. Lebensseele)”.

  • 58

    Cf. Janowski, 2014, p. 79, who emphasizes that יצא does not signify “leave” (the unnamed corpse) here, but “vanish”, “disappear”.

  • 61

    Pardee, 2009, 53-54 (transcription and translation), 63 (commentary).

  • 64

    Pardee, 2009, p. 62f.

  • 67

    Suriano, 2014, p. 388.

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