Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-27-2014


Most people who follow one of the major contemporary religions, particularly in the Abrahamic traditions, adhere to a very specific set of beliefs concerning the types of behavior expected from a deity or divine power. The Bible portrays a God who “delights to show mercy” (Mic. 7:18) and encourages followers to “sanctify yourselves… and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). God’s character is often thought to be perfect, utterly above negative qualities such as evil, deceit, wrong doing and pettiness.[1] By this standard, then, some of the acts committed by the gods and goddesses of the ancient Near and Middle East would be seen by modern audiences as bordering on blasphemous and obscene. For example, texts from ancient Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, and Ugaritic cultures, detail episodes of parricide (the killing of one’s children) and patricide (the killing of one’s parents) on the part of the members of their respective divine pantheons. These portrayals of violence feature elements that are uncomfortable for some modern readers, largely because these scenes use anthropomorphic depictions of multiple deities and mix “secular” and “religious” realms. By addressing historical flaws in the study of myths, then noting contemporary issues with certain mythological themes, and finally analyzing specific violent elements of stories from the ancient Near Eastern world, this paper will explain why the behaviors of these divine figures might be misunderstood by a modern, western audience and how these misconceptions might be the byproduct of nineteenth and twentieth century approaches to mythology, “religious violence,” and the ancient Near East that remain influential, even today.

[1] From “Article I” of the “Confession of Faith of the Evangelical Brethren Church: “We believe in the one true, holy and living God, Eternal Spirit, who is Creator, Sovereign and Preserver of all things visible and invisible. He is infinite in power, wisdom, justice, goodness and love, and rules with gracious regard for the well-being and salvation of men, to the glory of his name. We believe the one God reveals himself as the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, distinct but inseparable, eternally one in essence and power.” The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Nashville, TN; United Methodist Publishing House, 2004.


Senior Thesis

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