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year: 2015
isbn: 9783727817854
pages: X-393 p.
Colères et repentirs divins
Actes du colloque organisé par le Collège de France, Paris, les 24 et 25 avril 2013

This colloquium brought together biblical scholars, specialists of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and of the Islamic word. The motif of divine wrath is indeed a topic that can be found in almost all ancient civilizations, but is also often used in contemporary religious discourse. It presupposes that personal or collective faults provoke divine anger, which can manifest itself in political and military catastrophes but also in personal disasters.
Several articles deal with war and destruction as manifestations of divine wrath. In the Hebrew Bible the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE is often understood as the result of Yhwh’s anger. In the ancient Near East, military catastrophes are seen to reflect divine punishment, such that certain texts explore the possibility of appeasing the gods. Illness is also explained as the consequence of the wrath of one or many gods. In ancient Egypt, and also in the Hebrew Bible as well as texts from the Mameluke period, particular skin diseases are understood as a material manifestation of divine anger that stigmatizes the supposed sinner’s body.
In ancient Mesopotamia as well as in the Bible, other texts criticize the idea of divine retribution, arguing that a collective or personal disaster cannot or should not be explained ‘logically’ in terms of divine punishment.
There seems to be little doubt that almost all deities can get angry quite easily, but what about divine repentance? Since the term repentance may have a strong Christian undertone, it might be preferable to speak of a change of mind, in which gods can also regret their acts, show mercy, or be appeased. This idea is found in two penitential psalms from Mari that are published for the first time in this volume. Examples from ancient Greece also demonstrate the appeasement of divine anger, whereas in ancient Rome the situation seems to have been somewhat different. In the Hebrew Bible, the book of Jonah can be understood as a parable about how Yhwh can or cannot change his mind.