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The Search for God in Ancient Egypt Paperback – February 15, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Well researched, this is most definitely a serious book for scholars and students interested in the subject. Recommended reading for all."―Frankie's Review of Ancient Egypt

"What, for the ancient Egyptians, was the nature of the world's governing spirits' . . . With the evidence of ancient texts, Assmann considers Egyptian theology, . . . and cults and rites. . . . This deep, analytic book is of the greatest interest not only for specialists in matters Egyptian but also for comparative studies."―Antiquity, September 2001

"The Search for God in Ancient Egypt is an excellent example of how to write an interdisciplinary work. Egyptology is deeply rooted in the translation and interpretation of ancient texts. Assmann successfully combines the primary sources with current theories to present his view on religion, piety and theology of ancient Egypt. Such an approach works well, and while this book is not an introduction, it is highly recommended to scholars and non-specialists interested in the subject."―Monica Bontty, California State University at San Marcos. Bryn Mawr Classical Review, March 2002

"Very occasionally there will appear a book, vibrant with intellectual fervor, which challenges jaded ideas and as such I welcome with the greatest admiration Jan Assmann, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. At the outset I would urge readers to confront the complexity of the linguistic level of this book . . . because Assmann's total command of the ancient sources and his interpretative insights make joining him on his 'search' a unique experience."―George Hart. Egyptian Archaeology, Fall 2001

"A good survey of Egyptian mythology and hymnography. . . "―Steven M. Stannish, Miami University. History: Review of New Books

"What has made Assmann not only an eminent Egyptologist, but, in Germany, a public intellectual as well, is his sympathetic operation from within Egyptian texts coupled with a deep and detailed knowledge of Western intellectual history. . . . We are very fortunate to see his extraordinary scholarship appearing at last in English, and owe our thanks to . . . Cornell University Press and David Lorton, as well as, of course, to Assmann himself, for this excellent new opportunity."―Tom Hare, Princeton University, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 12:2, October 2002

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487293
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
First published in 1984, this book is finally available in English. The author offers his views on Ancient Egyptian religion, theology and piety. In the various chapters (The Cosmos, Myth, The New Gods, Theodicy and Theology), he explains the difficulties when discussing Ancient Egyptian thought, rituals and cultic beliefs. This book attempts to compare religions based on what is known about the Ancient Egyptian religion. Well researched, this is most definitely a serious book for scholars and students interested in the subject. Recommended reading for all.
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Format: Hardcover
The Search for God in Ancient Egypt by Jan Assmann (Cornell University Press) (PAPERBACK) provides a fresh synthesis of the main characteristics of Egyptian religion. Unlike the more hermetically minded scholars, Assmann sticks to the records as preserved and seamlessly draws on current religious theories about how cults function and the divine presence is ritualized to reveal the strangeness and beauty of Egyptian religion in a coherence misplaced from earlier accounts.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Assmann's wonderfully easy, careful writing reveals all the features of Egyptian religion a way no other book achieves. He explores religion in two terms: 'divine presence.' These terms meaning sacred (transcendent), and mundane (immanent) realms. The distinction extends Durkheim's distinction of sacred and profane, because divinity was present in the world for the Egyptians. 'Divine presence' for the Egyptians meant realizing plenty (ma'at) over against lack (isfet) both in the divine order by pacifying the gods and in the mundane order by instituting ethical conduct. He studies the 'narrow view' of religion: pacifying the gods. He leaves the wide view - ethical conduct - aside a task of sociology.

To arrive at the Egyptian 'narrow view,' Assmann distinguishes 'implicit theology' from 'explicit theology.' Implicit theology is his theory of how the Egyptians thought that he drives from interpreting texts. Explicit theology means whatever theory the Egyptian natives may have had, but the Egyptians 'never referred to [explicit theology] in practice.'

His 'implicit theology' is not 'reading into' the liturgies, but summarizing their consistent literary devices. An example of 'implicit theology' is the consistent progress in the ancient liturgies from names, to embodiments, to statues. Such consistent liturgies reveal civil, natural, and mythical levels of religion. Studying implicit theology in the liturgies over the 3,000 or so years of the dynastic periods reveals that polytheism played the particles to waves of monotheism.

A transition from localized polytheism to national monotheism occurred over the course of Egyptian history.
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Format: Paperback
Assmann is verbose and has a habit of making sweeping statements that may not stand up to deeper analysis. Nevertheless, this is an important book. After the introductory chapter, Assmann devotes a chapter to each of three aspects (or "dimensions") of divinity in Egyptian thought. One discusses the beliefs surrounding the Egyptian temple (the "local" dimension that connected deities to specific places in Egypt), the continuous and cyclical actions of deities in the cosmos (the "cosmic" dimension), and the way people talked about the gods in language (the "verbal" dimension). A separate chapter describes the most important form of verbal religious expression, myth. According to Assmann, these aspects of the gods made up an "implicit theology" that did not describe the gods' nature directly but illustrated it by describing their interactions with each other.

The second part of the book describes the more explicit theology that was found in certain religious texts. Assmann argues that in the course of their history, mostly during the New Kingdom, the Egyptians who wrote these texts developed a fundamentally different conception of divinity, in which a single divine power governs and encompasses everything. Whereas the older ideas about gods focused on their continuous activities in maintaining the world, some New Kingdom texts emphasize how a god intervened in specific moments in history, adding a "historical dimension" to religious thought. The emphasis on divine intervention produced the dramatic growth of personal prayer and offerings to the gods during the New Kingdom. The conflict between this concept of divinity and traditional polytheism prompted Akhenaten's religious revolution, which rejected polytheism entirely.
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