Workshop: Prayers in the Ancient Near East : Form, Extra-linguistic Context and Intercultural Adaptation

The prayer, i.e. the speech to God or gods, constitutes for mankind a highly important way of expressing their religious feelings. Its verbal character is amenable to interesting glimpses into the mental world of human beings and conducive to a typological and/or historical comparison of diverse traditions of prayer literature. The traditions from Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt and Syria/Palestine yield large prayer corpora whose study has already brought about important insights. These include new insights into the composition and adaptation of prayers (e.g. in the course of their transfer from Mesopotamia to Anatolia), as well as the relationship between the texts and their ritual context. However, not infrequently, former generations of scholars used problematical methods and hermeneutical approaches, for example, excessive speculation on the prototypical usage (“Sitz im Leben“) and oral prototypes of prayers, rash judgments on the interdependence of traditions or evaluations in terms of cultural superiority.


While these methodological dead ends will hopefully be avoided in the proposed workshop, we want to study the form and extra-linguistic context of prayer in the Ancient Near East based on a grown text corpus. In addition, we welcome the comparison of macro- and microstructural features and formulaic language of prayers from various Ancient Near Eastern cultures, as well as studies in areal influence and adaption of prayer literature. Given the diversification of research through regional studies, this can only be achieved in the process of interdisciplinary collaboration. Does the current state of research allow for setting up a framework for the development of prayer literature, either for a single culture or for the entirety of Ancient Near Eastern civilizations?


Workshop organizers:


Alexandra Grund-Wittenberg:


Elisabeth Rieken:

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