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Gods in Dwellings

Gods in Dwellings: Temples and Divine Presence in the Ancient Near East

Michael B. Hundley
  • Book Info
    Gods in Dwellings
    Book Description:

    Gods in Dwellings is the first book devoted exclusively to temples and perceptions of the divine presence that inhabits them in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittite Anatolia, and Syria-Palestine. It is thus concerned with official religion and with exploring the interface between human and divine in the major temples of the ancient Near East. Hundley identifies common ancient Near Eastern temple systems and, more particularly, examines such issues as what a temple structure communicates, how it was understood to function, and its ideology; how the divine presence is installed in a temple, often in the form of a cult image; the relationship between deity and image(s); how a deity's presence in the temple, particularly in the cult statue, is related to his or her divine essence and presence elsewhere; and how humanity serves the deity in order to ensure continued presence. This volume collects and synthesizes a vast amount of data, draws on the insights of multiple related disciplines (e.g., architectural and spatial theory, ritual theory, theories of language, art history, archaeology, sociocultural anthropology, and comparative studies) and offers a single interpretive lens through which to view it.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-919-9
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Michael B. Hundley
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxvi)
  5. Part 1: Temples in the Ancient Near East

    • Chapter 1 Temples in the Ancient Near East: An Introduction
      (pp. 3-16)

      In a dangerous and volatile world, the ancient Near Eastern temple was the primary point of intersection between human and divine. As a principle means of establishing security in an otherwise insecure world, it situated the deity in the midst of human habitation, so that humanity might offer service and gifts in exchange for divine protection and prosperity.¹ The temple was also the divine residence, which intimates that its resident had a vested interest in his residence and the community around it. Thus, through regular and regulated interactions in the temple, people could gain some measure of control over both...

    • Chapter 2 Egyptian Temples
      (pp. 17-48)

      Analysis begins with some of the most magnificent monuments that have survived from the ancient world, namely, the Egyptian temples, which have piqued the interests and inspired the imaginations of generations. Although it will include evidence from earlier and later temples, my examination will focus on the New Kingdom since its temples mark the height of the long tradition of Egyptian religious architecture and some of its most impressive structures remain more or less intact.¹

      Although various factors favor an accurate reconstruction, limits to a complete understanding remain. Few of the original temples remain standing,² none of which are entirely...

    • Chapter 3 Mesopotamian Temples
      (pp. 49-84)

      In comparison with the Egyptian temples, ancient Mesopotamian temples are little understood. In turn, sweeping generalizations about “the” Mesopotamian temple are especially problematic. Egypt was relatively isolated and stable; its official architecture and decoration were very conservative, so that one may refer to a “common” Egyptian temple with some degree of success. Made of stone, several Egyptian temples remain relatively intact. Mesopotamia, however, was far from isolated, representing a hodgepodge of people groups and nations always influencing and being influenced by those around them. Thus, the standard forms changed over time and across regions. The predominant building material, mud-brick, provides...

    • Chapter 4 Hittite Temples
      (pp. 85-104)

      Hittite temples are difficult to identify, let alone analyze. Hittite records, profuse in so many ways, provide few details regarding the type and design of temple buildings.¹ Instead, we are left with the archaeological remains,² which are less extensive than their Egyptian and Mesopotamian counterparts and limited primarily to the temples in the Hittite capital, Hattusa. Little remains of Hittite buildings beyond the foundations, while few religious objects have been found in situ.³ In turn, archaeologists have identified temples primarily on the basis of common structural elements.⁴ Likewise, given the state of preservation, they can only make limited comments about...

    • Chapter 5 Syro-Palestinian Temples
      (pp. 105-130)

      As in Mesopotamia and Hittite Anatolia, generalizations about Syro-Palestinian temples are problematic.¹ Syria-Palestine too served as the home for diverse and interconnected people groups. However, unlike Mesopotamia and Anatolia, empires did not readily form inside the region, especially in the south.² In turn, the smaller city-states were often governed by the nearest empire (e.g., the Hittites, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians), which undoubtedly influenced their architecture both in terms of style and resources devoted to building. Some temples incorporated Egyptian elements (e.g., at Beth Shean and Lachish), others Hittite elements (e.g., ‘Ain Dara, Aleppo, and Hazor Area H), and still others Mesopotamian...

    • Chapter 6 Temples: Synthesis
      (pp. 131-136)

      The ancient Near Eastern temple served as a built environment crafted to house the deity in the heart of the human sphere and to allow limited access to its sheltered presence, for the benefit of all parties involved.¹ The temple represented the form and forum for divine-human communication, while the deity, humanity, and their interactions provided the content. Although only a stage, the temple was not without communicative power as the locus of presence and interaction with that presence. It was constructed to reflect and reinforce the importance of the space it shaped as the meeting point between heaven and...

  6. Part 2: Divine Presence in Ancient Near Eastern Temples

    • Chapter 7 Introduction to Divine Presence in Ancient Near Eastern Temples
      (pp. 139-152)

      In the ancient Near East, deities seem to have been envisioned as primarily anthropomorphic,¹ yet, rather than being cast as bigger and better humans, they transcended the human model in various ways.² In addition to the vast differences in power and spheres of influence,³ a primary difference lay in a deity’s ability to adopt multiple forms (e.g., anthropomorphic, theriomorphic, and celestial) and to move fluidly between forms as the need arose.⁴ Deities even seem to have been able to occupy multiple forms in multiple places simultaneously and, in some cases, multiple forms in the same place. In turn, the relationship...

    • Chapter 8 Divine Presence in Egyptian Temples
      (pp. 153-206)

      Having established that the temple was designed to provide a terrestrial home for the deity, we turn to the locus of terrestrial divine presence, the cult image, to discuss its nature, form, and function. In order properly to understand the cult image, I begin with the conceptual background, addressing briefly the nature of Egyptian deities and their relation to the world and its inhabitants. Then, I examine the textual and archaeological evidence for the cult images themselves, their enlivening and installation in the temples, and their daily care and feeding before assessing the nature of the cult image and its...

    • Chapter 9 Divine Presence in Mesopotamian Temples
      (pp. 207-284)

      As in Egypt, there is a remarkable consistency of religious expression across the millennia.¹ As such, the study of Mesopotamian divine presence is open to meaningful generalizations. Nonetheless, the Mesopotamian picture of divine presence is far from simple. The physical and, at times, literary evidence are spotty. For example, while we can assume some continuity with earlier periods, primary evidence for the installation of the cult image comes from the first half of the first millennium and later, and the evidence for the daily cult is even later, from the late first millennium. Although consistent on a general level, there...

    • Chapter 10 Divine Presence in Hittite Temples
      (pp. 285-332)

      An analysis of Hittite conceptions of the divine is a convoluted endeavor. Hittite religion was an amalgam of the beliefs of many different cultures. In fact, the Hittites themselves—that is, “the Indo-Europeans who began to settle in central Anatolia in the second half of the third millennium—added little from their inherited Indo-European religion” to the indigenous Hattic religion, which they co-opted and incorporated into their own.¹ Luwian religious tradition also played a formative role.² In addition, from the fifteenth century the influence of Hurrian and Syrian (and Mesopotamian mediated through Hurrian)³ religious beliefs became especially influential.⁴ As it...

    • Chapter 11 Divine Presence in Syro-Palestinian Temples
      (pp. 333-362)

      Our understanding of divine presence in the Syro-Palestinian cult is the murkiest of all.¹ Few relevant texts remain,² leaving interpreters to reconstruct their portraits primarily from the archaeological record and by analogy with surrounding cultures.³ In addition, it is often difficult to determine if preserved images depict a deity or a human. Even if a deity may be conclusively identified, it is also difficult to assess whether the image represents the deity itself or its cult statue.⁴ While some have especially lauded the merits of iconographical analysis, going so far as to equate its reconstructive value to the texts of...

    • Chapter 12 Divine Presence: Synthesis
      (pp. 363-372)

      Although there are obvious differences in the particulars, there is nonetheless a remarkable general commonality across ancient Near Eastern cultures regarding conceptions of deity and divine presence. The major gods were conceived of anthropomorphically, with human-like bodies, minds, emotions, and social structures. As befit their exalted status, they exceeded their human counterparts in practically every respect, for example, with larger bodies and greater mental capacities and sensory abilities. Rather than simply being humans writ large, they also transcended the anthropomorphic mold in several important capacities. First, the gods were thought to control the very elements in nature that humanity could...

  7. Afterword
    (pp. 373-374)

    As its title indicates, this book has examined terrestrial divine abodes and the gods who dwelled in them in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hittite Anatolia, and Syria-Palestine. More specifically, it analyzed the efforts taken to secure and safeguard the divine presence in the midst of human community. Rather than attempting an exhaustive survey of all relevant data, it focused on understanding the normative systems of thought and practice designed to keep heaven on earth, through an examination of their essential components. Part I analyzed the temple as the divine abode, exploring temple construction, use, and ideology. Part II investigated the divine presence...

  8. Index of Names
    (pp. 415-419)
  9. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 420-426)