998RE: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree
- Apr 4 7:17 AMDear Thomas,
Just to clarify things, may I point out that although Parpola's first
article is called "The Assyrian Tree of Life", he states at the end of the
first paragraph "many scholars today prefer the more neutral term "sacred
tree" when referring to the Mesopotamian Tree". (JNES 52 p. 161). In the
rest of his article he refers to the Tree (capital T) or the Assyrian, or
the Mesopotamian Tree. In his article about Gilgamesh's name he speaks of
the "sacred tree". In any case, Parpola seems to steer clear of the "Tree of
Life" which, of course, is a biblical concept designating one of the two
trees in the Garden of Eden and serving metaphorically in some passages in
Proverbs, and should not be transferred outside the Bible and its
derivatives without specific warrant to do so.
I doubt that Parpola would claim that someone who ate from the
(Mesopotamian/Assyrian [Sacred]) Tree would live forever or be rejuvenated
or become young in his or her old age.
Dept. of Bible, Archaeology and ANE Studies
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
From: ANEfirstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:ANEemail@example.com] On Behalf Of
Sent: Tuesday, April 04, 2006 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: [ANE-2] Parpola & the Assyrian Tree
The tree of life is (among others) a technical term and belongs to the
structural theory of religion. This theory is based on archetypes, i.e.
models that help to explain common features in the symbolism of various
religions. To get an idea of what is meant, you may want to start with
Mircea Eliade (it's repeated and explained in almost any of his
publications, on the tree in particular see the relevant chapters in his
Traité d'histoire des religions).
One of the most frequent assyriological arguments against a "tree of life"
in Mesopotamian religion has always been the absence of an expression for it
in Sumerian and Akkadian. If we bear in mind the theoretical nature of the
term "tree of life" then it is much the same as saying there was no status
constructus in Akkadian, since we don't have a genuine term for it.
Though the structural view of religion can be criticized, it offers a useful
tool for interpretation. Yet nobody has tried
to apply it fully on Mesopotamian stuff.
Parpola's Ishtars and esoteric trees remind one of P. Jensen's monstrous
Gilgamesch-Epos in der Weltliteratur, but the other side (philologists
building up religion on attested words, rationalistic and naturalistic
horse-sense interpretations) is stuck deep in the 19th century, if not
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