The Afterlife In Ancient Near Eastern Culture

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Death and the Afterlife Is death the end or just the beginning? To Ancient Near Eastern cultures, the answer was not clear. In fact, the view of numerous cultures differed from others. Some cultures did not believe in a glorious afterlife. On the other hand, a few cultures shared the idea of having a positive and joyful life after death. These differing ideas often stemmed from the conditions each culture was presented with. Within the Ancient Near East, the Mesopotamians and Hebrews had a pessimistic view regarding the afterlife, while the Persians and Egyptians had hopeful notions of a pleasant life after death. In Mesopotamian culture, death was nothing to look forward to. Death meant the end to any traces of life, regardless of anyone’s…show more content…
Unlike the Mesopotamians or Hebrews, the Persians believed it was possible to have a pleasant afterlife. However, it was still possible to attain an unenjoyable afterlife. The Persians knew the world contained both good and evil. Evil was usually seen in the wars they fought, but on the other hand, goodness was displayed as the Persians rebuilt cities and tolerated others. Their acknowledgement of good and evil existing is displayed in their views of the afterlife. The way of determining which part of the afterlife a person wound up in revolved around the actions a person did while on Earth. Each person had a right to choose between good and evil, which meant they would need to side with Ahura Mazda or Ahriman, respectively. By siding with Ahura Mazda, as well as having good thoughts, actions, and words, a person had a great chance of ending up in a “protective enclosure” known as “paradise.” As Zoroaster, a Persian priest, proclaimed, “If…you follow these commandments that Mazda hath ordained…then hereafter shall ye have bliss” (Gatha 30, p.1). On the other hand, siding with the chaotic Ahriman meant one would end up in “jaws.” There, spirits will be tortured and punishments will equal the bad deeds done on Earth, but even worse. However, the time in both paradise and jaws was temporary, as the Persians believed the whole universe was coming to an end, for Ahriman would be defeated. As a result, Earth itself would…show more content…
In fact, they were the earliest culture with the notion of a beautiful afterlife. The general optimism of a pleasant afterlife takes root in the friendly environment they were surrounded by. The Nile River was the source of life for the Egyptians, and this positive influence in their life can be seen in their views on the afterlife. The Egyptians believed anyone could end up achieving a perfect afterlife, including a common person. However, similar to the Persians, the actions on Earth determined whether a person could have a positive afterlife. Important to the Egyptians was “maat,” which was their traditional concept of truth, creating harmony. Death was viewed as not quite the end, but an opportunity for the spirit to live on. Undoubtedly, they placed a huge emphasis on the idea of death, evident in their construction of huge tombs, commonly known as the pyramids. Furthermore, people of particular importance were mummified. Wanting to increase their chances for eternal happiness, written works, such as The Declaration of Innocence, were used to assert their belief of deserving an enjoyable life after death. Assertions such as “I have not done crimes against people” and “I have not done any harm” were used to proclaim one’s pureness (The Declaration of Innocence, p.1). Before an Egyptian could achieve a positive afterlife, they were required to pass a test administered by Osiris. A passing of the test occurred

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