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Re:Sumerian netherworld

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  • g_shushan
    Hello again, Peter, Good points, all -- though I do find it difficult to conceive that judgment could be a clear feature of the realm of the dead, but that the
    Message 1 of 20 , Mar 30, 2006
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      Hello again, Peter,

      Good points, all -- though I do find it difficult to conceive that
      judgment could be a clear feature of the realm of the dead, but that
      the dead themselves are not judged....

      I'm tempted to draw an analogy with Aztec belief, where there was a
      pretty miserable afterlife for almost everyone with the exception of
      those who were considered to have died noble deaths, e.g. soldiers
      who died in battle, women who died in childbirth etc. The
      interesting thing here is that the Aztec gods determine the mode of
      one's death, and thereby their afterlife fate, which is effectively
      pre- post-mortem judgment -- though they also had underworld deities
      with judging functions. The Aztec paradise was pretty well-defined,
      though.

      Spronk (1986, Beatific Afterlife in Ancient Israel & in the Ancient
      Near East) argues that the Mesopotamian IDEAL would be to dwell
      forever with the sun god (as in Egypt), though no one would dare hope
      for this because they are resigned to their gloomy fate.... but it is
      possible in extraordinary circumstances, as shown by the fate of
      Utanapishtim in Gilg. XI.200ff who is given immortality and sent to a
      paradisical place (Dilmun). Becoming divine seems to be the
      prerequisite.

      I am intrigued, however, by references in "Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the
      Underworld" to individuals with four children or more described as
      rejoicing, entering a palace, and sitting on a throne with gods (280-
      295); and still-born infants who 'play with honey and butter at
      tables of silver and gold,' and the man who was cut off in his prime
      who 'lies on the bed of the gods' (355-63). These certainly do not
      sound like 'gloomy' fates. You mentioned that the prison metaphor
      seems Christian; though I wonder if there may be an over-
      generalisation regarding the Mesopotamian afterlife with roots in Old
      Testament scholarship -- a tendency to characterise it as a "Sheol"-
      like realm in keeping with the Hebrew Bible. References to rejoicing
      and dwelling amongst gods often seem to get overlooked...(though
      admittedly they are few and far between).

      All the best, Peter.

      Gregory Shushan (PhD candidate)
      Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies
      University of Wales, Lampeter
      College Street
      Lampeter
      Ceredigion SA48 7ED
      Wales
      UK
      +44 7969 803 660
      g.shushan@...
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