Dec 29, 2008

Cook on Funerary Practices and Afterlife Expectations in Ancient Israel

Stephen Cook has posted his November 2007 Religion Compass article in toto. The abstract to the article reads:

Ancient Israel was thoroughly familiar with existence beyond death. Individual personalities survived the death of the body, most Israelites believed, albeit in a considerably weakened and vulnerable state. The ensnaring tentacles of Sheol constantly threatened the living-dead, but the fortunate among them were able to use the power of kinship bonds to keep Sheol’s threats at bay. The traditional ties of lineage and kin-bonding, according to biblical Yahwism, were an actual way for the living-dead to pull themselves back from death’s devouring suction. Ancient Israel’s funerary practices and afterlife expectations are greatly illumined by recent archaeological studies and by a new comparative model that draws on data gleaned from African ethnography.

While one might debate the specifics of ancient Israel's conception(s) of the afterlife, it is refreshing to see someone acknowledge that ancient Israel had a conception of an afterlife. You can access Cook's article here.

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