Monday, June 15, 2020

How free are the gods?

Like Kaufmann, Lawson views fate as having a prior authority over divinities, even as he explores how acquiring possession of the mythic ṭuppi šīmāti (“tablet of destinies”) may bestow upon one god a limited power over other deities and a degree of flexibility over against fate. Lawson adds:
The real source of power in the cosmos comes from the primal, meta- divine realm. The gods and their individual of offices may give form and direction to this power but they are not the final masters over the cosmos or even their own fate. [Lawson, Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia, 39]
The point can also be expressed by saying that, while the gods are subject to fate, they exercise a degree of agency. On the human plane—the “downstairs” level to the gods’ “upstairs” habitat—the fixed character of destiny was that much stronger and the degree of agency even smaller, to judge from omen texts and the logic of divination. The only exception seems to lie in the notion of prayer. For mortals, prayer could sometimes alter destiny.—Stephen B. Chapman in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 188

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