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  • Volume papier
year: 2017
isbn: 9783727818158
pages: XII-367 p.
Entre dieux et hommes: anges, démons et autres figures intermédiaires
Actes du colloque organisé par le Collège de France, Paris, les 19 et 20 mai 2014

It has long been an important issue for many religions, both ancient and modern, to imagine and question the differences between humans and deities as well as their means to communicate between each other. Ancient Near Eastern texts and iconography conceive this relationship in more than binary terms (i.e., human vs. divine): they presume the existence of various intermediate and often liminal entities, whom scholars have usually classified in terms of “angels”, “demons”, “heroes” etc. According to ancient belief, such beings (some anonymous, others named such as Pazuzu, Azazel, Gabriel, Metatron, or Satan...) could take over roles that were considered as unfitting for the gods themselves; they could act as messengers and intermediaries, or in contrast even rival the gods. The dead (or at least the prominent among the deceased, such as kings or prophets) could be considered as intermediates in their own right, since they were thought to have special knowledge of a sphere that the living could only imagine imperfectly. To keep such entities at a distance or to satisfy them and gain their sympathy could at times prove no less challenging than to serve the gods. On the other hand, imagining those entities helped ancient societies and individuals, and particularly the literary elites among them, to manage and structure the contingencies of the world they lived in.
The present volume offers the proceedings of an international symposium, organized by the chair of «Milieux Bibliques» and held at the Collège de France on 19-20 May 2014, dealing with intermediate beings as imagined in ancient Near Eastern societies and reflected in their textual and visual records. The aim was to get a better sense of how such entities were conceived, what roles they were attributed and what functions they fulfilled in culture and society, religion and literature, ritual and belief. The contributions scrutinize cuneiform and other ancient Near Eastern texts, as well as biblical literature, in order to understand ancient Mesopotamian, Levantine and Israelite conceptions of human-divine hybrids and intermediaries; other papers address ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Manichaean, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Islamic sources and beliefs. In all their variety, and in the variety of the numinous figures (collectives or individuals, anonymous or named) that are analyzed, these studies provide vivid insights into how the ancients experienced and modeled the reality they lived in when mobilizing human-divine intermediates for their own concerns.