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Ancient Near Eastern Omens and Prophecies as a Function of Cognitive Modes

Ancient Near Eastern Omens and Prophecies as a Function of Cognitive Modes Omens and prophecies, or "technical" versus "intuitive" divination, present researchers with a valuable window into ancient Near Eastern thought. Recent scholarship on these texts has focused on philological and cultural questions, but little attention has been paid to considering omens and prophecies as features of cognition. Such an approach has considerable potential, however, since the few millennia that separate us from the peoples of the ancient Near East are not sufficient for the evolution of radically different brain or sensory morphology, allowing us to safely argue that their systems of cognition were effectively identical to our own. This study considers how omens and prophecies from Mesopotamia and Israel reflect a cognitive effort to evaluate the empirical world as a complex system, utilizing the "logico-scientific" and "narrative" cognitive modes described by Jerome Bruner. It expands on Bruner's descriptions by detailing features of both modes, and demonstrates that omens and prophecies can be distinguished in how they use logico-scientific and narrative thought: omens beginning as logico-scientific induction which then shifts into narrative under the influence of a belief in divine causality, and prophecies operating purely as narrative based on deduction, sharing with omens a belief in divine causality. Considering divination http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Ancient History de Gruyter

Ancient Near Eastern Omens and Prophecies as a Function of Cognitive Modes

Journal of Ancient History , Volume 3 (2) – Dec 1, 2015

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Publisher
de Gruyter
Copyright
Copyright © 2015 by the
ISSN
2324-8106
eISSN
2324-8114
DOI
10.1515/jah-2015-9999
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Omens and prophecies, or "technical" versus "intuitive" divination, present researchers with a valuable window into ancient Near Eastern thought. Recent scholarship on these texts has focused on philological and cultural questions, but little attention has been paid to considering omens and prophecies as features of cognition. Such an approach has considerable potential, however, since the few millennia that separate us from the peoples of the ancient Near East are not sufficient for the evolution of radically different brain or sensory morphology, allowing us to safely argue that their systems of cognition were effectively identical to our own. This study considers how omens and prophecies from Mesopotamia and Israel reflect a cognitive effort to evaluate the empirical world as a complex system, utilizing the "logico-scientific" and "narrative" cognitive modes described by Jerome Bruner. It expands on Bruner's descriptions by detailing features of both modes, and demonstrates that omens and prophecies can be distinguished in how they use logico-scientific and narrative thought: omens beginning as logico-scientific induction which then shifts into narrative under the influence of a belief in divine causality, and prophecies operating purely as narrative based on deduction, sharing with omens a belief in divine causality. Considering divination

Journal

Journal of Ancient Historyde Gruyter

Published: Dec 1, 2015

References