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The Search for God in Ancient Egypt [Paperback]

Jan Assmann , David Lorton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 14.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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The Search for God in Ancient Egypt + Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many + Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice : Symposium on "Ancient Egyptian Religion" : Papers
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1st English-language Ed., with Revisions and Additions edition (15 Feb 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801487293
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801487293
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The ancient Egyptian language has no word for "religion," but the many treatments of Egyptian religion have encountered no difficulties in determining their subject; the relevant phenomena are clearly distinct within what remains to us of Egyptian culture. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jan Assman has written many books on Egyptian religion, and this one explores several different dimensions of this field. The major divisions within the book cover firstly "implicit theology", in other words how personal and social religious practice reveal attitudes and habits of thought that are not directly discussed, and secondly "explicit theology", where ideas and themes are brought into the arena of public discussion and debate. Both aspects accommodate diversity of belief, and by allowing divergent views of religion to be brought face to face with each other enrich the human experience.

Assman spends a considerable time exploring the dual aspect of the divine in Egypt - on the one hand a culture believing in and devoted to many different gods, but on the other hand a sense that "the divine" could be referred to in the singular, not the plural. These twin themes are revealed in many different areas, such as temple practice, views of the cosmos, the power of individual speech, and the expectation of a real divine presence encountered by men and women.

Much of the focus towards the end of the book concerns the New Kingdom, and in particular the way that the specific religious views of Akhenaten both copied and diverged from traditional Egyptian practice. He sees this Amarna period as an interruption that threatened the development of religious thought rather than helping it, and some readers will part company from him here.

The book itself was written in 1984 in German, but this 2001 translation by David Lorton reads smoothly and naturally - it is in fact very easy to forget that it is a translation. Assman's detailed analysis and years of study of the field permeate the book and are clearly set out in this very readable text.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and interesting reading for all 27 April 2001
By Francesca Jourdan - Published on Amazon.com
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.
37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative general account of Egyptian Religion 22 Mar 2001
By P. Nagy - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The system of Egyptian religions 18 Feb 2013
By Peter S. Oliphant, Ph.D. - Published on Amazon.com
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. During the transitions from Old to Middle to New Kingdoms, immanence in local cults of city gods transmuted to ruler god, primeval god, creator god, sun god, and to the ethical authority of personal devotion. The solar cult of the Amarna period, so often portrayed as Enlightenment, was a conservative repression that persecuted any personal experiences of the older religions of Ammon by interposing the royal couple between the Aten and people. The unexpected consequences of the persecution was the 'breakthrough' to the 'fourth dimension' of personal ethical consciousness, the same general development that describes the 'axial age,' the appearance everywhere of the historic religions at the end of the ancient world. Assmann's communicates the consistent beauty of the major hieroglyphic liturgies by demonstrating the logic of the litanies. Egyptian 'polytheism' was simply the symbolization of transcendence in immanence -- all the 'forms' (cheperu) of immanent experience are manifestations of searching for transcendent God. 'Search' in this context does not mean conscious theologizing.
4.0 out of 5 stars Egyptian Religion 19 May 2014
By Jeanette Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read much on Egypt, I have studied Egypt and Comparative religions at university. That was a long time ago and this is my first introduction to Jan Assmann. At first I found the text aggravatingly dry and academic and wanted more Egyptian soul. However, I persevered and was rewarded by an enthralling new way of looking at Egypt, which IS all about soul and religion and a mystical way of seeing life. I would have liked more illustrations/pictures, which is why I only gave 4 stars. I look forward to reading some more of this author.
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