Wayne T Pitard
WHISPERS FROM THE DUST: CARE OF THE DEAD AND THOUGHTS ON AFTERLIFE IN ANCIENT CANAAN AND ISRAEL
During his Center appointment, Professor Pitard will complete an investigation of the development of, and relationships between, concepts of death and the afterlife in ancient Canaan and in biblical Israel. One of the most enigmatic aspects of the Hebrew Bible (the surviving literature of ancient Israel) is the fact that it hardly discusses the issue of death and the afterlife. This is particularly striking when we look at the cultures surrounding Israel (e.g., Canaan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Hatti), where issues of death and the afterlife are major topics of discussion. Why such a silence in the biblical literature?
Scholars have struggled with this issue for more than a century. Professor Pitard has found that many of the reconstructions of Israel’s beliefs and practices concerning the dead were based on misreadings of key texts, both biblical and nonbiblical, and on misinterpretations of archaeological evidence. In reconstructing the developments in Israelite thought, he has gone beyond Canaan, the culture out of which Israel emerged, and reexamined the evidence for thoughts on death and the afterlife in the other societies within Israel’s cultural sphere. This new research suggests that Israel’s beliefs on this subject were complex and changed dramatically over the millennium between 1200 and 200 BCE.