Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reference to a Soul in a New Eighth-Century Inscription at Zincirli

The New York Times science section (J. Wilford) was reporting yesterday on a funerary inscription discovered last summer near the Syrian border in southwestern Turkey at ancient Sam'al (modern Zincirli). It dates to the eighth century BCE and was commissioned by one Kuttamuwa, a royal official. It makes reference to his soul (Aramaic "nabsh") as something quite separable from the body at death. I have argued in print that, contrary to much scholarly opinion, Israelites long had comparable understandings of a "separable nephesh."

Here is the relevant section as translated by Univ. of Chicago's Dennis Pardee: “I, Kuttamuwa, servant of [the king] Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber [?] and established a feast at this chamber: a bull for [the god] Hadad, a ram for [the god] Shamash and a ram for my soul that is in this stele.”

I doubt that the expression "in this stele" refers to any sort of animistic "occupation" of the stele. Note in the image above how the bearded Kuttamuwa, with tasseled cap, appears free of the stele and enjoying roast duck and a cup of wine in the Beyond.


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