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the greatness of the book lies in the creative integration of the wide range of methodological approaches which Jacobsen has used over the years into a new organic whole. and rare felicity of expression-qualities which distinguish all his previous writingsmanifest themselves in this great work in all their full power. it seems wiser to err in the direction of seeming over-explication. Yale University Press. W. especially from his contribution to Before Philosophy-a work which has done more than almost any other to transform the study of the ancient Near East from an esoteric occupation of a few specialists. The Treasures of Darkness. Otto's studies on Greek Religion.Numen. Gilgamesh. Religion-New . one which transcends any of the methodological structures or grids used before. Whether one differs with Jacobsen in specific details or even in general orientation. I970). uncanny empathy into the intellectual and religious life of the Sumerians. Vol. XXV. 273 p. Nor is the book to be taken simply as the ingathering of his previous studies in the field. I976. and others. $ I5. one must admit that we have before us a model of scholarly and humanistic interpretation-one which treats the ancient texts with the seriousness and penetration they deserve. Nor does its uniqueness lie in the richness of new material and wide-ranging documentation it presents or in the fact that we now have in written form most of his great lectures: on the "Personal Gods". Fasc. * JACOBSEN. to an organic and legitimate branch of the Western Humanities. Those of a more positivistic bent may claim that he makes the ancient texts too resonant poetically and a bit too profound intellectually. this has been attempted elsewhere (Towards the Image of Tammuz and Other Essays on Mesopotamian History and Culture: Cambridge. However. in a field where the qualities of aesthetic appreciation and philosophic sensitivity have been too infrequently represented. A History of Mesopotamian Haven and London. Thorkild. comparable in many ways only to. His combination of philological preeminence. r A HISTORY OF MESOPOTAMIAN RELIGION Jacobsen's The Treasures of Darkness * is a truly remarkable achievement. on Enuma Elish. To my mind. His masterly recreation of the spiritual life of Ancient Mesopotamian man is well known from his previous works.
from the use of the mytho-poetical in Before Philosophy to the literary-aesthetic interpretations of the Akkadian epics.A history of Mesopotamianreligion 8i Each of his previous studies has been distinguished not merely by a richness of factual information. their specific representations differ from area to area according to the central economic concern of each area: hunting. for example. a constant preoccupation with the process of humanization (or humanification) by which originally "intransitive" nature gods become more and more "transitive"-human. Now just at the moment when through the skill of Jacobsen we are totally involved in the literary and psychological aspects of this piece of world literature-and under the spell of his "New Criticism" have forgotten that this work of art is not merely an expression of eternal and transcultural human values-we are suddenly confronted by another level of interpretation where the psychological ambivalence of the poet towards the act of parricide is given a profound and unexpected political interpretation. In Enuma Elish. cattle breeding.) to the psychological or even the psychoanalytical (his brilliant treatment of the female psychology of Inanna. but also. the story also has a clear psychological aspect: Marduk is involved in an act of parricide-he kills. date cultivation. humane. Rarely does one find such a careful attempt at doing justice to such a wide range of approachesfrom the almost materialistic (the gods Lahmu and Lahamu are but personifications of the geological process of silting and being silted) to the almost mystical (the use of the "numinous" in his more recent publications). and articulated personalities distinguished by an outgoing will and purpose. And above all. but is also a representation of the passivity of the older generation of gods who resent the creative restlesness of youth. his parents. the 6 . of maturity in the Gilgamesh Epic). Tiamat is not merely the personification of the salt waters of the Persian Gulf mating with the sweet waters of the rivers. note that Marduk does not kill his immediate parents. note also the sympathy with which Tiamat is depicted: as a woman with real motherly feelings. or the theme of parricide in the Enuma Elish. from the ecological (while all of Tammuz figures somehow represent the principle of fertility. and especially. What is truly exciting about this book is the subtle manner with which these various methodological foci interpenetrate and complement each other. To our great joy. Not quite warns Jacobsen. However. however. by the creative use of some new methodological focus. etc. thus creating a multileveled texture of rare beauty and sophistication.
he clearly points out that the Mesopotamian personal god. probably the most articulated personality of all Near Eastern deities. one of Jacobsen's major contributions in this book is his discussion of the "personal god". the term "personal" in the concept personal god would seem to link this new phenomenon to the humanification process. The whole book abounds in such surprises. Furthermore. as a personification of Lady Luck. one could postulate a linear development. but to Israel as well.82 YochananMuffs political interpretation instead of cancelling the psychological-literary approach. he is clearly disturbed by the human reaction to this type of god. At this juncture. it may be useful to raise a few questions concerning the implications of the term "personal". If Jacobsen finds the idea of the personal god to be a positive religious contribution. exists between this personality-less "personal" god and the process of "humanification" by which intransitive nature gods emerged into anthropomorphic transitive ones with clearly articulated wills and personalities? At first glance. but rather from Jacobsen's "transitive" high-gods. if any. not from the Mesopotamian personal god. further reflection would seem to cast doubt on this association. Jacobsen clearly opts for the first meaning. A personal god is either (a) a god who is concerned with my person. a religious phenomenon which seems to have originated in Mesopotamia and which spread from there not only to Egypt. Without a doubt. Furthermore. the problem deserves some clarification. However. He is perplexed by a seemingly improper human intimacy with the divine and by a rather . a reaction which found its literary expression in the personal penitential prayers. had little or no personality of its own. Whatever the case may be. to Israel's super-transitive deity. if one is looking for connections between Israelite personal religion and the Near East. A few observations concerning the human reaction to the personal gods may now be in order. or (b) a god with a clearly articulated person(ality). Yahweh is not a personal god simply because he is concerned with the person of Israel. a thesis central to all of Jacobsen's studies. enhances and complements it. the relationship between the Mesopotamian personal god and the personal god of Israel is also somewhat problematic. One is therefore tempted to ask what relationship. Indeed. He is a personal god because he is a most highly articulated personality-in fact.
The fact is that the ancients may have reacted differently. My remarks. Jeremiah and Job have with God may seem strange and more than a bit improper to the moder Western sensibility. had a similar problem in dealing with the too-human intimacy with the divine reflected in some Islamic legends. (Contrast the importance of such developments for the historian of biblical monotheism. this audacious parading of pseudo-humility is more often than not. shall we say. Jacobsen seems to reject the seemingly real humility . in a more "oriental" tradition. but they are certainly typical of biblical religiosity. p. Professor Jacobsen's negative reaction to the seeming lack of awe in these personal confessions may be a reflection of a modem or Western sensibility in which such a familiarity with the divine can hardly "co-exist" with a proper sense of awe. therefore. What has happened to the traditional (and theologically "proper") sense of awe before the divine and the transcendent? At least in the Old Testament.A history of Mesopotamianreligion 83 ostentatious display of pseudo-humility. speak to and about God with an audacious familiarity which Moslems and Christians may find positively irreligious. a possible reflex of human despotism. The rabbis of the Talmud. Even the interesting later tendency to view the various gods and their functions as aspects of one deity is not treated with any real enthusiasm. are only intended to offer an alternate subjective vantage point rooted. Moses. After the sublime chapters on the Gilgamesh Epic and Enuma Elish. the growth of astral religion. certainly experienced divine awe. Jacobsen sees very little in the religious literature of this period that is of positive religious significance and very much that he actually dislikes: the growing brutalization of the divine image. who.of first millennium kings as "passivity" and . balanced off by more sincere expressions of human sinfulness and real lack of self-worth. the obsession with death and the underworld and many other "unpleasing" phenomena. 369n. the last chapter on the spiritual life of the first millennium is somewhat disappointing.) Furthermore. which he takes to be an unconscious expression of an over-blown sense of self-importance. Kierkegaard in his Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Jacobsen's evaluation of the human reactions in the Mesopotamian compositions may indeed be correct. The arguments that Abraham. Samuel. says the author. it seems a bit strange that after having rejected the humility of the second millennium penetential prayers as a pseudo-humility.
The idea. This idea is a fine example of the type of personal religion that began to emerge in this seemingly barren period. this later period and its religious traditions were not all "bad". It seems that something fine and new was beginning to break through the archaic stereotypes of the older Mesopotamian traditions. as well as the many barbarizations that Jacobsen has pointed out. ed. The Ancient Near East: Supplementary Texts and Pictures Relating to the Old Testament. Jewish Theological Seminary YOCHANAN MUFFS of America. James B. without comment. Are these positive innovations. I24-6) also merit discussion in this context. My few questions and qualifications in no way detract from the greatness of this book. On the contrary. Pritchard. It is a masterwork of one of the great humanists and scholars of our age. one could make a good case here that a new type of piety is emrging which has real affinities with similar phenomena in the Old Testament (as Jacobsen himself points out).84 YochananMuffs "quietism". expressed in the concluding lines: "Cause me to love Thy exalted rule/Let the fear of Thy godhead be in my heart". deserve a broader treatment. somehow to be connected with the growing "Aramaization" of Mesopotamian culture? Could it be that the relatively greater evocativeness of some of this later material for the biblicist and the student of West Semitic culture and religion has to do with the nonMesopotamian quality of some of this material? Whatever the case may be. Its publication is a source of great joy both to the scholarly world and general public. The phenomenon of Nabonidus and the deeply personal prayers of his mother (cf. seems to be a new and positive breakthrough in the religious thought of the Near East. It is an idea which appears at about the same time in Israel and becomes a dominant (although not sufficiently investigated) theme in later Jewish liturgy and Christian theology. and even if they were. pp. one which deserves a broad comparative treatment. Jacobsen ends his study on a more "positive" note quoting. that without the deity's help man cannot serve him properly. New York . Nebuchadrezer's prayer to Marduk.