The Search for God in Ancient Egypt

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This classic work by one of the world's most distinguished Egyptologists was first published in German in 1984. The Search for God in Ancient Egypt offers a distillation of Jan Assmann's views on ancient Egyptian religion, with special emphasis on theology and piety. Deeply rooted in the texts of ancient Egypt and thoroughly informed by comparative religion, theology, anthropology, and semiotic analysis, Assmann's interpretations reveal the complexity of Egyptian thought in a new way.

Assmann takes special care to distinguish between the "implicit" theology of Egyptian polytheism and the "explicit" theology that is concerned with exploring the problem of the divine. His discussion of polytheism and mythology addresses aspects of ritual, the universe, and myth; his consideration of explicit theology deals with theodicy and the specifics of Amarna religion.

About the Authors:
Jan Assmann is Professor of Egyptology at Heidelberg University and the 1998 winner of the prestigious Deutsche Historikerpreis (German History Prize).

David Lorton, an Egyptologist, has translated other Cornell books, including The Twilight of Ancient Egypt: First Millennium B.C.E. by Karol Mysliwiec and The Priests of Ancient Egypt, New Edition by Serge Sauneron.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Well researched, this is most definitely a serious book for scholars and students interested in the subject. Recommended reading for all."—Frankie's Review of Ancient Egypt

"What, for the ancient Egyptians, was the nature of the world's governing spirits' . . . With the evidence of ancient texts, Assmann considers Egyptian theology, . . . and cults and rites. . . . This deep, analytic book is of the greatest interest not only for specialists in matters Egyptian but also for comparative studies."—Antiquity, September 2001

"The Search for God in Ancient Egypt is an excellent example of how to write an interdisciplinary work. Egyptology is deeply rooted in the translation and interpretation of ancient texts. Assmann successfully combines the primary sources with current theories to present his view on religion, piety and theology of ancient Egypt. Such an approach works well, and while this book is not an introduction, it is highly recommended to scholars and non-specialists interested in the subject."—Monica Bontty, California State University at San Marcos. Bryn Mawr Classical Review, March 2002

"Very occasionally there will appear a book, vibrant with intellectual fervor, which challenges jaded ideas and as such I welcome with the greatest admiration Jan Assmann, The Search for God in Ancient Egypt. At the outset I would urge readers to confront the complexity of the linguistic level of this book . . . because Assmann's total command of the ancient sources and his interpretative insights make joining him on his 'search' a unique experience."—George Hart. Egyptian Archaeology, Fall 2001

"A good survey of Egyptian mythology and hymnography. . . "—Steven M. Stannish, Miami University. History: Review of New Books

"What has made Assmann not only an eminent Egyptologist, but, in Germany, a public intellectual as well, is his sympathetic operation from within Egyptian texts coupled with a deep and detailed knowledge of Western intellectual history. . . . We are very fortunate to see his extraordinary scholarship appearing at last in English, and owe our thanks to . . . Cornell University Press and David Lorton, as well as, of course, to Assmann himself, for this excellent new opportunity."—Tom Hare, Princeton University, Cambridge Archaeological Journal 12:2, October 2002

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801487293
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ENG ED
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 495,973
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jan Assmann is Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at Heidelberg University. His books include The Search for God in Ancient Egypt and Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, both from Cornell.

David Lorton, an Egyptologist, is the translator of many books, including Erik Hornung's books The Secret Lore of Egypt and Akhenaten and the Religion of Light, both from Cornell.

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Table of Contents

Foreword to the German Edition
Translator's Note
1 Religion: Divine Presence and Transcendence 1
Pt. 1 The Dimensions of Divine Presence: The Implicit Theology of Egyptian Polytheism 15
2 The Local or Cultic Dimension 17
3 The Cosmos 53
4 The Verbal or Mythic Dimension 83
5 Myth 111
6 On the Meaning of the Three Dimensions: Concluding Remarks 149
Pt. 2 Explicit Theology: The Development of Theological Discourse 161
7 The Unity of Discourse 163
8 Theodicy and Theology in the Middle Kingdom 169
9 The New Gods 189
Abbreviations 245
Notes 247
Bibliography 259
Index 269
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