Gender in ancient texts

This guide provides basic definitions for "gender" and related terms, surveys approaches to gender in the Hebrew Bible, and reviews what we know about gender in ancient Israel and the ancient Near East.

Gender in ancient texts

Prosperity depended on a two-way relationship in which divine benevolence was encouraged by correct human ritual and ethical behavior. From the end of the third millennium, kings asserted enough control over temples that important religious establishments became political extensions of the palace.

The earliest writings from Mesopotamia are in Sumerian, a linguistic orphan unrelated to any known language. By the middle of the third millennium, however, Akkadian, a Semitic language related to Hebrew, began to displace Sumerian.

Cuneiform, a wedge-shaped script written on clay tablets, was invented by the Sumerians but adapted for writing Akkadian. Some half-million cuneiform tablets recovered from ruined cities, supplemented by archaeological discoveries, have been the main sources of information about ancient Mesopotamia.

Ugarit on the northeastern Mediterranean coast is one of several Bronze Age cities in north Syria also among them are Ebla, Emar, and Alalakh with rich caches of cuneiform texts written in Akkadian or Ugaritic, a Semitic language related to Hebrew.

Each Syrian city and its temples reflect a mix of Mesopotamian, Hittite, north Syrian, and local traditions. In Syria as in Mesopotamia, family religion centered on a patron deity and ancestral spirits.

Assyriology, the technical albeit imprecise term for the study of ancient Mesopotamia, has been only minimally affected by gender analysis. Beyond innate conservatism, the abundance of available data, especially textual data, can daunt the most stouthearted of Assyriologists.

Studies of women at Ugarit and other north Syrian cities have barely ventured beyond this level of inquiry largely because so much data is still lacking.

Gender in ancient texts

Although only men are mentioned as praying at Ugarit, one cannot conclude women did not pray, for example. Since the late s a growing number of Assyriologists have demonstrated an awareness that gender and sexuality are human creations, or "constructions," operating within a social matrix of power relations, a matrix in which religion is an active ingredient.

Assyriologists have begun to question their own scholarly assumptions, categories, and methodologies, acknowledging that even ostensibly objective works—the standard dictionary of Akkadian, for example—exhibit gender bias. As such, gender theory promises to open up new directions of inquiry.

For example, gender is not marked in Sumerian; however, in literary Sumerian, goddesses use a distinct dialect called Emesal whose dynamics might be clarified by the application of gender theory. Archaeologists, too, have set aside their earlier confidence that artifacts are value-neutral, for they are aware that ideology and biases of many types inform the questions asked in the process of excavation and data analysis.

The Nature of the Evidence Textual sources for goddesses and the religious experience of women in Mesopotamia include traditional mythological texts, liturgical hymns and temple liturgies, god lists, offering lists, omen lists, votive dedications, seal inscriptions, and personal and place names.

With far fewer texts from north Syrian cities such as Ugarit, Alalakh, or Emar, the application of gender theory there constitutes a greater challenge. Writing was invented to manage and control economic records. However, almost simultaneously, writing became an instrument for managing and controlling society.

Few women, even in the third millennium when the goddess Nisaba was the patron of scribes, were literate, and still fewer became scribes. Nevertheless, the same administrative system that produced the texts affected every level of society.

However, beginning in the s, archaeologists began to investigate the ecology of the cultivated countryside, diet, domestic architecture, and gendered space in the farmhouses, city neighborhoods, temples, and palaces. These new avenues of inquiry complement the data from cylinder seals, amulets, votive sculpture, and figurines that provide a visual record of gendered imagery in the ancient Near East.

Mesopotamian grave goods, personal ornament, body image, and nudity have all been subjects of gender theory-based studies.

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Fertility is now considered to be one of many interwoven principles in ancient Near Eastern religion, just as scholars recognize three interconnected spheres of religious activity: Of the three, popular religion seems to have been the primary locus of female religious activity.

Across the ancient Near East, both male and female deities bestowed fertility. Four deities of one family consistently lead Mesopotamian god lists: In the third millennium there were a multitude of prominent goddesses besides Inanna, some with family-based roles such as mother e.gender and religion: gender and ancient mediterranean religions Scholars reading ancient texts from a feminist stance have long identified the problematic of studying women's experience through men's records of history and male accounts of religious beliefs and practices.

Nov 29,  · Gender Inequality in the Ancient World Throughout history, women have been regarded as unequal and subordinate to men.

Gender in ancient texts

In the male-dominated Western culture, the issue of women’s rights seems unending; even thousands of years after the first evidence of gender inequality, society has yet to even the playing field. Dong’s interpretation of ancient texts, including his reading of gender cosmology, became especially powerful as Confucianism believes that the basis for social order and morality begins in human interaction, not individuals.

Dong’s interpretation of ancient texts, including his reading of gender cosmology, became especially powerful as Confucianism believes that the basis for social order and morality begins in human interaction, not individuals. But, when we look to our texts, we can see that this is wholly inaccurate.

It's very easy to assume that Judaism is an exclusively gender-binary religion. But, when we look to our texts, we can see that this is wholly attheheels.comon: DeKalb Avenue Northeast Atlanta, GA, United States.

GENDER AND RELIGION: GENDER AND ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN RELIGIONS The remarkable continuity of Mesopotamian civilization can be traced in its literature, public architecture, and city planning from the late fourth millennium bce, when, almost simultaneously, urbanism and writing appeared, to bce and the death of Alexander the Great in Babylon.

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