furuli at online.no
Thu Mar 16 03:02:03 EST 2006
Your question is a good one, and I will give some comments below.
While people have tended to create gods in their own image, with
characteristics typically human, and then include these gods in their
Holy Writ (e.g. Gilgamesh and Atrahasis), I see a difference in
connection with the Tanakh. YHWH is described as being very different
from other gods. From the point of view of archaeology, there can be no
doubt that the people among whom the writers of the different parts of
the Tanakh lived (Israel/Judah), often adopted the customs and beliefs
of the nations around them. This is also shown in the Tanakh itself.
For example, the laws in Deuteronomy 18:10-13 against divination, magic,
spirit mediums, and inquiring about the dead implies that such practices
were extant around Israel, but should not occur there.
Regarding the view of the dead, I am not aware of any passage in the
Tanakh which suggests that dead persons have an existence as shadows or
something similar. Then what about the account in 1 Samuel chapter 28? I
see two possibilities, 1) the passage implies that dead persons are
alive and can come back to the living world, and 2) the passage portrays
a spiritistic séance where things are not real.
I opt for the second possibility, something that would bring this
passage in line with the view of the dead in the rest of the Tanakh. I
think we better can understand this account in the light of the account
in Matthew 17:1-9 in the New Testament. In this account Moses and
Elijah were present and spoke with Jesus, so it would be natural to take
this account as evidence for the view that the dead are living. However,
in v. 9 we learn that this was a vision (hORAMA) - it was not the real
Moses and Elijah who had returned from their graves and were present.
In 1 Samuel 28:7 the woman is called B(LT )WB (=spirit medium), and this
suggests that what happened was a spiritistic séance. In vv. 11-14 we
learn that Saul did not see the dead Samuel, but the woman did. And
because of her description Saul understood that it was Samuel. In v. 15
Samuel speaks to Saul, and this *could* indicate that it was the real
Samuel. However, since the situation clearly is a spiritistic séance and
Saul did not see Samuel, the words simply tell us that the man that the
woman saw, and whom Saul identified as Samuel, spoke. And the words
would evidently come through the medium. Moses and Elijah spoke to
Jesus as well in Matthew, chapter 17, without doing so in a real way.
My conclusion, therefore, is that 1 Samuel, chapter 28 tells us what can
happen at a spiritistic séance, but it tells us nothing about the
condition of the dead.
University of Oslo
Uri Hurwitz wrote:
> Dear Rolf,
> You wrote, inter alia:
> ....."In Hebrew thought the NP$ dies and and go down to $)WL, to the grave,
>where there is no life. So any "afterlife" in the sense that man
>continues to live after the body dies, is not found in the Tanakh
> How do you interpret the bringing forth of the dead Samuel through the witch of Ein
> Dor in I Samuel 28? Here it appears that lady managed to raise the late prophet both
> in body and in mind.
> While this is rather rare in the HB, it seems to indicate belief in survival in the after-
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