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Date: 04 Feb 96 09:04:41 EST
From: David Lorton <103204.562@compuserve.com>
To: <ane@mithra-orinst.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Assyriology: debate about religion
Message-ID: <960204140440_103204.562_IHF107-1@CompuServe.COM> Sender: owner-ane@oi.uchicago.edu

Asseriology: Debate about religion

A dialog from the Ancient Near East list (ane-l), February 1996

Date: 04 Feb 96 09:04:41 EST
From: David Lorton <103204.562@compuserve.com>

Some time ago, at the University of Chicago, there was a vigorous debate about whether or not we can understand Mesopotamian religion. I seem to recollect that Oppenheim was one of the protagonists, though I don't remember which side he took, nor do I remember who the other protagonist was.

If someone could supply information as to who the scholars were and which side each took, I'd be grateful, and if anything appeared in print in result of the debate, I'd also appreciate reference(s).

David Lorton

Date: Sun, 04 Feb 1996 16:40:52 CST

I would start with Oppenheim's _Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization_. His chapter four is 'Nah ist -- und schwer zu fassen der Gott' [Hoelderlin], Why a 'Mesopotamian Religion' should not be written... Ronald A. Veenker
Bowling Green, KY

From: David Lorton <103204.562@compuserve.com>
To: <ane@mithra-orinst.uchicago.edu>

I'd like to express my thanks collectively (I've already thanked them individually) to all the colleagues who so kindly filled my in-basket with replies to my posting today, and especially to those who took the time to write longer letters.

To those who won't see my original posting until Monday or later, I already have references to Oppenheim's Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization and Jacobsen's Treasures of Darkness, as well as to Bill Arnold's review of their positions in Peoples of the Old Testament World. But further references and reflections will be welcome. The reason for the inquiry: I want to revise an as-yet unpublished manuscript on whether or not we can understand ancient Egyptian religion, and I felt it would be useful to see what turns the debate regarding Mesopotamia took.

David Lorton

Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 08:42:03 +0200 (IST)
From: avigdor horovitz <victor@bgumail.bgu.ac.il>

Dear David,

Oppenheim's stand on the issue is capsulized in his Ancient Mesopotamia in a chapter entitled Why a Mesopotamian Religion Should Not Be Written. After all the strictures he goes on to brilliantly write about Mesopotamian religion. Saggs in his book Enconters with the Divine challenges Oppenheim's contention. Needless to say, Jacobsen wrote extensively on Mesopotamian religion, in brazen defiance of Chicago. See his book Treasures of Darkness where he actually does a history of Mesopotamian religions, stressing the major motifs which characterized the developming religion over a period of three millennia. Unfotunately, I don't remember or am unaware of any formal debate on the issue. You shold also look, by the way at Oppenhiem's analysis of an Assyrian ritual 9I don't recall where he wrote it but if you look at Menzel's Assyrische Tempeln, the first text she discusses is the ritual Oppenheim analyzed and there you will find references.

Victor Avigdor Hurowitz
Dept. of Bible and ANE
Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Beer Sheva, ISRAEL

Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 12:19:09 -0500 (EST)
From: Sara Mandell (REL) <mandell@luna.cas.usf.edu>

Professor Erica Reiner delivered a paper about Religion in Mesopotamia, at the Conference on Religion and the Social Order held in St. Petersburg Florida, and I gave a response to her paper. Both of these were published last year in a book of the same title as the conference. The book was published by Scholars Press and it was edited by Jacob Neusner, who had conferred the conference.

Sara Mandell