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Green Defines Numerous Figures

“After the lahmu, the text goes on to prescribe a type whose name is lost in the break but which is to be inscribed “Go out death, come in life!” Rittig has already pointed out, on the basis of figurines from Aššur, that this is the creature called in modern literature the “bull-man.” (F.A.M. Wiggermann has suggested to me the possible Akkadian name kusarikku; … Reade, BaM 10 (1979), 40).

ND 4114. Sun-dried clay figurine of "bull-man" type discovered together with a "spearman" in a foundation box at the W. jamb of the S.E. doorway of court 18 of the Burnt Palace at Nimrud. Previously unpublished. Plate XIVa.

ND 4114. Sun-dried clay figurine of “bull-man” type discovered together with a “spearman” in a foundation box at the W. jamb of the S.E. doorway of court 18 of the Burnt Palace at Nimrud. Previously unpublished. Plate XIVa.

Plate XIVa shows a Burnt Palace example, with obvious taurine hindquarters, and Plate XIIId a rather different type from Fort Shalmaneser, broken but still with fairly clear bull’s legs; the latter was probably inscribed in the same fashion as the Aššur examples and as ritually prescribed.

ND 9523 (IM 65138), British School of Archeology in Iraq, photograph by David A. Loggie. Plate XIIId. Sun-dried clay figurine of "bull-man" type, discovered in a foundation box on the E. side of the N.E. courtyard, at the N. jamb of the doorway leading to room NE 21, Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Previously unpublished. Cf. D. Oates, Iraq 23 (1961), 14.

ND 9523 (IM 65138), British School of Archeology in Iraq, photograph by David A. Loggie. Plate XIIId.
Sun-dried clay figurine of “bull-man” type, discovered in a foundation box on the E. side of the N.E. courtyard, at the N. jamb of the doorway leading to room NE 21, Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Previously unpublished. Cf. D. Oates, Iraq 23 (1961), 14.

The being is apparently unknown in extant Assyrian monumental sculpture, but can be seen at Pasargadae with the fish-apkallū (Plate XIVc, placed second from the bottom for reasons of formatting), perhaps copied from an Assyrian or Babylonian original; the discovery of the fish-cloaked figure and a “bull-man” together on reliefs at Nineveh is referred to in a letter of Rassam to Rawlinson (quoted by Barnett, SNPAN, 42).

A type superficially resembling the “bull-man” but with some important iconographic distinctions and a different inscription is the figure of Plate XIIIc.

ND 7901. Sun-dried clay figurine of a scorpion-tailed, bird-footed human creature, discovered with figures of other types in the fill of room SE 5 of Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Plate XIIIc.

ND 7901. Sun-dried clay figurine of a scorpion-tailed, bird-footed human creature, discovered with figures of other types in the fill of room SE 5 of Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Plate XIIIc.

The legs end in bird talons, and on the reverse (Plate XIVb) a curving ridge, formed by pressing the wet clay between the thumb and forefinger, would appear to represent a twisting scorpion-tail.

ND 7901. Sun-dried clay figurine of a scorpion-tailed, bird-footed creature, discovered with figures of other types in the fill of room SE 5 of Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Reverse of Plate XIIIc. This image is Plate XIVb.

ND 7901. Sun-dried clay figurine of a scorpion-tailed, bird-footed creature, discovered with figures of other types in the fill of room SE 5 of Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud. Reverse of Plate XIIIc. This image is Plate XIVb.

The type would seem, therefore, to be analogous to a scorpion-tailed figure on an Assyrian relief who has the hindquarters and claws of a bird. This creature has been identified as the girtablīlu, “Scorpion-man;” but the inscription on the Nimrud figure may possibly correspond to that prescribed in the ritual for the type immediately after the bull-legged being, while for the girtablīlu no inscription is ordained. Unfortunately the Akkadian name is again lost.

After figures of snakes, whose identification is obvious enough, the ritual mentions figurines of the well-known mušhuššu, which is surely represented by the creature of Plate XIVd, regarded by the excavators as a dog.

ND 8194 (MMA 59.107.27). Sun-dried clay figurine of a mušhuššu, discovered in the same foundation box as the figure of Plate XIa. Previously published: D. Oates, Iraq 21 (1959), Mallowan, N&R II. Double-catalogued by Rittig. Plate XIVd.

ND 8194 (MMA 59.107.27). Sun-dried clay figurine of a mušhuššu, discovered in the same foundation box as the figure of Plate XIa. Previously published: D. Oates, Iraq 21 (1959), Mallowan, N&R II. Double-catalogued by Rittig. Plate XIVd.

The following prescriptions are for figures of the suhurmaššu, “Goat-fish” and kulīlu, “Fish-man,” rare types which do not occur at Nimrud, and are illustrated here by examples probably from Aššur, Plate XV. Their identities are indicated by comparison of the prescribed legends with actual inscriptions.

Sowie Museum 9-1796, sun-dried clay figurine of a suhurmaššu, probably from Aššur. Previously published: H.F. Lutz, University of California Publications in Semitic Philology 9/7 (1930), Rittig, 97.  Sowie Museum 9-1795, sun-dried figurine of a kilīlu, allegedly from Aššur. Previously published: Lutz, op. cit., Rittig, 95f. Plate XV.

Sowie Museum 9-1796, sun-dried clay figurine of a suhurmaššu, probably from Aššur. Previously published: H.F. Lutz, University of California Publications in Semitic Philology 9/7 (1930), Rittig, 97.
Sowie Museum 9-1795, sun-dried figurine of a kilīlu, allegedly from Aššur. Previously published: Lutz, op. cit., Rittig, 95f. Plate XV.

A little later in the ritual appears the urmahlīlu, “Lion-man,” who has already been identified directly from the inscription on a bas-relief; it is the creature called in modern literature a “lion-centaur.”

After the urmahlīlu, the ritual prescribes clay figures of dogs, an actual set of which, inscribed and colored in close conformity to the prescription, was discovered by Loftus in a rectangular niche at the base of a sculptured doorway slab in the North Palace at Nineveh.

Relief at Pasargadae, in situ. Palace S. photograph by Dr. M.R. Edwards, Plate XIVc. Limestone relief at one jamb of a doorway of Palace S. at Pasargadae. Achaemenid period. Previously published: D. Stronach, Pasargadae (Oxford 1978), Pl. 59.

Relief at Pasargadae, in situ. Palace S. photograph by Dr. M.R. Edwards, Plate XIVc.
Limestone relief at one jamb of a doorway of Palace S. at Pasargadae. Achaemenid period. Previously published: D. Stronach, Pasargadae (Oxford 1978), Pl. 59.

Such clay dogs appear not to occur among the Nimrud figures, although seven copper or bronze examples, of differing breeds, sitting and standing, were found in the North-West Palace (Plate XIVe). These metal models have also been considered apotropaic, although there is no absolute proof, and the Nimrud examples were found out of context at the bottom of a well.

ND 3209. Copper or bronze figurine of a dog, discovered with six others down a well at the S. end of room NN of the N.W. Palace at Nimrud. Left ear chipped, and tip of tail broken in antiquity. Previously unpublished: see J.E. Curtis, Dissertation, II; Cf. also Mallowan, ILN 1952; Iraq 15 (1953); N&R I, 103. Plate XIVe.

ND 3209. Copper or bronze figurine of a dog, discovered with six others down a well at the S. end of room NN of the N.W. Palace at Nimrud. Left ear chipped, and tip of tail broken in antiquity. Previously unpublished: see J.E. Curtis, Dissertation, II; Cf. also Mallowan, ILN 1952; Iraq 15 (1953); N&R I, 103. Plate XIVe.

It does seem possible, therefore, to identify a number of the creatures of Assyrian religious art on the basis of these figurines and their rituals, and to this process the Nimrud figurines, while they do not show the same typological diversity as those from Aššur, are able to make a number of significant contributions.”

Anthony Green, “Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figures,” Iraq, Vol. 45, 1983, pp. 92-4.

Wiggermann Defines the Lamassu

“The limited number of candidates available for identification with e’ru, libbi gišimmari and urigallu enables us to choose a denotation, even when the results of philology are not unequivocal in each case.

The sages and the lesser gods of NAss art share attributes and therefore functions: goat, sprig, greeting gesture, cone, bucket and mace. Both can occur with or without wings.

This umu-apkallū makes the iconic greeting gesture with his right hand while holding an e'ru stick in his left.  The tassels of his robe are clear around his ankles, as are bracelets just above his elbows.  Note the detail of the individually feathered wings. The rosette insignia on the e'ru and his wrist is not yet understood.  The headdress is a horned tiara, indicative of divinity.

This umu-apkallū makes the iconic greeting gesture with his right hand while holding an e’ru stick in his left.
The tassels of his robe are clear around his ankles, as are bracelets just above his elbows.
Note the detail of the individually feathered wings. The rosette insignia on the e’ru and his wrist is not yet understood. The headdress is a horned tiara, indicative of divinity.

The apkallū of the rituals share properties with some of the gods of the rituals: the šūt kakkī (II.A.3.4) hold the e’ru-stick/mace, the il bīti (II.A.3.8) greets and holds the gamlu-curved staff (attributes also of apkallū in art), the undeciphered intruders of text II Rev. 9f., probably gods since they are made of tamarisk, hold an ara gišimmari (cf. also text IV/1 ii 6’f.; held by apkallū of art), and the šūt kappī, “the winged ones”, of bīt mēseri (III.B.6) hold the e’ru and the libbi gišimmari.

The umu-apkallū at far left has his right hand raised in the iconic gesture of purification and exorcism, but no mullilu cone is present.  The banduddû bucket is present in the left hand. This umu-apkallū wears a horned tiara, indicative of divinity.  The next entity lacks wings, and so is probably not an umu-apkallū. The mace in the right hand could be an e'ru, as it is not yet clear precisely what e'ru means. I do not understand the object in his left hand.  The next entity holds a bowel and the curved staff, known as the gamlu-curved staff. While this entity wears a headdress, it is not horned, and wings are absent, suggesting that it is human rather than umu-apkallū.  The entity at far right wields a curved stick in his right hand, I am unsure how Wiggermann defines it, and I completely stumped by the object in his left hand, which appears to be a ladle.

The umu-apkallū at far left has his right hand raised in the iconic gesture of purification and exorcism, but no mullilu cone is present.
The banduddû bucket is present in the left hand. This umu-apkallū wears a horned tiara, indicative of divinity.
The next entity lacks wings, and so is probably not an umu-apkallū. The mace in the right hand could be an e’ru, as it is not yet clear precisely what e’ru means. I do not understand the object in his left hand.
The next entity holds a bowl and the curved staff, known as the gamlu-curved staff. While this entity wears a headdress, it is not horned, and wings are absent, suggesting that it is human rather than umu-apkallū.
The entity at far right wields a curved stick in his right hand, I am unsure how Wiggermann defines it, and I completely stumped by the object in his left hand, which appears to be a ladle. If I had to guess, I would surmise that the entity with the raised bowl is a king, and he is holding an offering which the figure at far right is blessing with the curved stick.

Like the (winged) gods and sages of art (Kolbe Reliefprogramme IIA, VII; above apkallū I and II) the gods of the rituals sometimes kneel (šūt kappī, III.B.6); kamsūtu, “kneeling figures”, probably gods since they are made of tamarisk in ritual II Rev. 11f., occur as well (Ritual II Rev. 11f., Text VI Col. B:25, BiOr 30 178:18).

The designations of these purifying and exorcising gods of the rituals are not names, but descriptions of function or appearance: šūt kakkī, “weapon-men”, it bīti, “god of the house”, šūt kappī, “winged ones”, kamsūtu, “kneeling ones”.

This um-apkallū holds a feather in his right hand, raised, and holds a small goat in his left hand.  The tassels on his robe are distinct, as are the bracelets on his upper arms, just above his elbows.  The headdress is unknown to me.  Wiggermann appears to favor the ür-term "lamassu" for all such apkallu figures.

This umu-apkallū holds a feather in his right hand, raised, and holds a small goat in his left hand.
The tassels on his robe are distinct, as are the bracelets on his upper arms, just above his elbows.
The headdress is unknown to me.
Wiggermann appears to favor the ür-term “lamassu” for all such apkallu figures.

Likewise the purifying and exorcising gods of art are not represented as individuals but as indistinguishable members of a group of lesser gods of similar function, holding more or less interchangeable attributes.

Although not an exorcist but an armed door keeper, the nameless god ša ištēt ammatu lān-šu, ” One Cubit” (II.A.3.5), might belong here; the winged goddess holding a bracelet (Kolbe VIII) may be a female member of the same group.

Without definite proof we propose to indentify the nameless exorcising gods of the rituals with the indistinct winged gods of the reliefs.

The “names” distinguish the members of this group according to form or function, but we ought to expect a term identifying these gods as similar lesser gods. The only term available is lamassu (also proposed by Reade BaM 10 36).

In view of the many difficulties surrounding this term (provisionally Foxvog/Heimpel/Kilmer/Spycket RiA 6 446ff.) definite proof would require a separate study.”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 79.

Things that Apkallu Hold

” … we present a survey of the objects in the hands of apkallū on reliefs, seals, and in the Kleinplastik. The survey is not meant to be complete. It is based on the recent treatments of Rittig (Kleinplastik), Kolbe (Reliefprogramme), and Reade (BaM 10 17ff.).

Umu-Apkallu Anthropomorphic and Winged

Lamaštu amulets:

Occasionally on Lamaštu amulets (2, 3, 5, 20 ?, 29′, 37 61) a figure wearing a shawl covering the legs, once clearly with headband (3, cf. the description RA 18 176), appears at the head or feet of the bed of the sick man, together with fish-apkallū (2, 5, 37) or alone (3, 61).

His right hands greets (2′, 3?, 5′, 61?) or holds an angular object, his left hand is placed on the bed (3, 61), on a censer (3, cf. Wiggermann apud Stol Zwangerschap en Geboorte 111) or holds a square object (37) or the bucket. He is never winged.

Frank LSS-III/3 who considered the fish-apkallū a dressed up priest, thought the second figure at the bed to be an assistant priest. Today we no longer view the fish-apkallū as priests, and accordingly the men at the bed are assistant apkallū rather than assistant priests. The “men” are clearly involved in activities similar to those of the fish-apkallū, and the texts prescribing the visual representations of beneficial supernatural powers do not offer another candidate for the identification of this apkallū-like figure than the ūmuapkallū.

Bird Apkallu and Fish Apkallu, side by side. Apkallu statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Bird Apkallu and Fish Apkallu, side by side. Apkallu statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Identification of ūmu-apkallū on reliefs:

The description and incantation of the ūmu-apkallū make it clear that they are anthropomorphic figures of human descent; the material they are made of also distinguishes them from the gods and the monsters and apkallū of non-human lineage.

That the horns of divinity are lacking in the description then is not a coincidence (as it is in the case of the il bīti). On amulets, in a context clearly defined by the bed of the sick man and the presence of fish-apkallū, only one figure is available for identification with the ûmu-apkallū (see above); this figure serves as a check on any identification of the ūmu-apkallū in the less clear context of the palace reliefs.

Umu-Apkallu, with right hand raised in greeting. The banduddu bucket is in the left hand. Later analysts focus on the rosette patterns on the headdress and bracelets of um-apkallu, and their earrings.

Umu-Apkallu, with right hand raised in greeting. The banduddu bucket is in the left hand. Later analysts focus on the rosette patterns on the headdress and bracelets of um-apkallu, and their earrings.

There is no reason why the ūmu-apkallū must appear on reliefs; the text quoted by Reade BaM 10 38i27 may have belonged to fish- or bird-apkallū (text I/7). However, the apparent bearing of our rituals on the apotropaic subject-matter of the reliefs, and more specifically the presence of the bird- and fish-apkallū, leads us to expect them.

Although ritual I/II prescribes specific attributes for each type of apkallū, the actual fish- and bird-apkallū of the Kleinplastik show that this specificity is a forced choice between a number of more or less equivalent attributes; we must not expect the ūmu-apkallū to have held only the object denoted by e’ru, whatever it is; the ūmu-apkallū of the Lamaštu amulets confirm this point.

This well-preserved bas relief retains incredible detail. The daggers carried in the Umu-Apkallu's waistband are clear, as is the rosette styling on his wristbands. The earrings are more distinct than most other examples, and the headdress appears to be of the horned-tiara type. The umu-apkallu appears to wear bracelets on his upper arms. Tassels are apparent on the fringes of his robe, as well as behind the neck.

This well-preserved bas relief retains incredible detail. The daggers carried in the Umu-Apkallu’s waistband are clear, as is the rosette styling on his wristbands. The earrings are more distinct than most other examples, and the headdress appears to be of the horned-tiara type. The umu-apkallu appears to wear bracelets on his upper arms. Tassels are apparent on the fringes of his robe, as well as behind the neck.

The banduddû, identified with certainty with the bucket, thus isolates two groups with anthropomorphic members: the (winged) figures with headband and the (winged) figures with horned tiara (we will return to them below). The other attributes of the members of both groups can be made to match the attributes of the apkallū known from the texts; the horned figures, however, must be gods, and since the apkallū are no gods, the figures with the headband should be the apkallū (so Reade BaM 10 37; differently Kolbe Reliefprogramme 14ff., cf. 41f. 47, 50).

The banduddu buckets are discernible in the left hands of these bird-apkallu statuettes.

The banduddu buckets are discernible in the left hands of these bird-apkallu statuettes.

The ūmu-apkallū of the Lamaštu-amulets confirms this identification: decisive is the headband defining this type of supernatural beings (this band with daisy-like flowers differs from the diadem with two strips of cloth pendant behind, worn by the king or the crown-prince, cf. Reade Iraq 29 46, Iraq 34 92f.).

Unfortunately the headgear of the ūmu-apkallū is described only as agê ramāni-šunu, “crowns (cut out) of their own (wood)”; agû denotes a variety of functionally similar divine or royal headgears (CAD A/1 157a).

The different dress of the apkallū of the Lamaštu amulets cannot be adduced against identification with the apkallū of the reliefs; differences in dress are attested for the bird-apkallū as well, cf. Kolbe Reliefprogramme Pl. IV/1 and 2, Iraq 33 Pl. XiVe, Rittig Kleinplastik Fig. 20ff.; ūmu-apkallū with a shawl covering the legs appear on seals (VAR 675, probably CANES 705).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 73-4.

On the Mullilu, the “cleaner,” the Purification Instrument of the Apkallu Exorcist

Apkallu Attributes

“–mullilu, “purification instrument” (literally: “cleaner”).

When it is agreed upon that a word denoting the cone, the most common object in the hands of the bird-apkallū and the fish-apkallū, must appear among the terms denoting objects held by the apkallū in ritual I/II, this word can only be mullilu.

The identification of mullilu as denoting the cone is based on the observation that the cone on reliefs, seals and in the Kleinplastik never occurs as the only object held by an apkallū; thus e’ru, libbi gišimmari, and urigallu, the other objects held by an apkallū, are excluded.

Klengel-Brandt (FuB 10 34, cf. Rittig Kleinplastik 215) thinks mullilu denotes “eine Art kurzen Wedel … der hauptsachlich zum besprengen mit Wasser benutzt worden ist“, and indentifies it with the cone. Correctly, but without justification, Parker (Essays Wilkinson 33) states that mullilu, “purifier”, “may be the cone-shaped object carried by the genii”.

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.  From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal. AO 19845

Umu-Apkallū in the characteristic act of purification, sprinkling sacred water from the Banduddu bucket with the Mullilu cone.
From Nimrud, capital of king Ashurnarzipal.
AO 19845

Unclear is BBR 26 v 39ff. (restored from 28:9, quoted by CAD M/2 189a), where the king carries a mullilu in his right and in his left hand. Never, on seals, reliefs or as a statue, does a figure carry a cone in both his left and his right hand.

The identity of the cone is still being debated: male inflorescence of the date-palm, or cone of a coniferous tree (cf., with previous literature, Stearns AfOB 15 2443). In a recent study, the second option is hesitantly favoured (Bleibtreu, Flora 61f., 93f., 123f.).

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.  Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0011

A bird-apkallu with mullilu and banduddu.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an Assyrian bas-relief from Khorsabad.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17323/17323-h/17323-h.htm#linkBimage-0011

The Akkadian term mullilu does not give a clue. From a philological point of view the fir-cone (terinnu) is preferable to the male inflorescence of the date-palm (rikbu, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 19): terinnu is attested as an instrument bringing about the release of sin (Maqlû I 24, cf. Landsberger Date Palm 14) and thus resembles the other objects carried by the apkallū. For rikbu no such use is known.

Regarding cone and bucket, we conclude with the following:

  • The bucket is always carried in the left hand. The other hand may be empty, or may carry a variety of objects, such as the sprig (Kolbe Reliefprogramme Type VI), which occur also in the hands of figures not carrying buckets. The value of the bucket in the ritual cannot be dependent on the objects held in the other hand. The bucket, or rather its content, is effective simply by being present.
  • One object, the cone, appears only when the figure in question carries a bucket in its left hand. The value of the cone must in some way be dependent on the value of the bucket.
  • The texts indicate that the bucket contained holy water effectuating “release”. As was proposed before, the dependent cone “purifier”(mullilu) held in the right hand activated the holy water: it was a sprinkler (Klengel-Brandt, Rittig, CAD M/1l 189a).
  • The figures carrying buckets (and cones) are engaged in a purification ritual. As will be seen below, this accords well with their function of apkallū.
  • Figures carrying cones point their cone at the sacred tree, the king, or courtiers (Stearns AfOB 15 64f.). Figures standing in doorways and apparently pointing their cones at nothing, are perhaps best thought of as pointing their cones at passing visitors, just as the weapons and the gestures of greeting are directed at the visitors, and not at the building.
  • The sacred tree benefits from the activities of the genii, the genii do not need the tree, cf. Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. It is not necessary to understand the meaning of the tree in order to understand the meaning of the figures with bucket and cone.
  • For the tree we refer to Porada AASOR 24 108ff., Madhloon Sumer 26 137ff., Stearns AfOB 15 70ff. Genge AcOr 33 321ff., Hrouda BaM 3 41ff., Kolbe Reliefprogramme 83ff., Bleibtreu Flora 37ff., and passim, Parker Essays Wilkinson 38. For a doubtful connection with the texts, cf. van Dijk Syncretism 175 f., and Lugal 1 10 ff. (see below 000).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 67.

The Unknowable

“To this correspond two statements of Isaac that refer to the hidden subject of the third person, past tense, which Hebrew does not mark by a specific termination. In his comment on Genesis 1, he says: “In every place [in the Scriptures] where you find simply bam’, ‘asa, ‘he created, he made,’ know that it [the subject] is above the pure thought.”

But in his commentary on Yesirah 1:1 he explains the hidden subject of the verb haqaq, as “that which thought cannot attain.” Since for Isaac (who knows nothing of a definition of the Will as the first emanated being) the mahshabah itself is the first sefirah, then that which it cannot attain would therefore be nothing other than ‘en-sof, which is itself transcendent and hidden in relation to thinking.

The pure thought would be the supreme creative sphere of being, while ‘en-sof, as the Unknowable, already existed before all thought. Quite possibly this was in fact Isaac’s opinion, and I find nothing in his own statements to contradict this supposition. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that all his disciples, Ezra ben Solomon, Azriel, Jacob ben Shesheth, and above all his own nephew, Asher ben David, who was closest to him, identify the Unknowable, at times explicitly, at times implicitly, with the first sefirah.

The rules of simple logic would lead to the conclusion that Isaac is the common source of this identification. The divine Thought would then be that which cannot be attained by human thought, and Isaac would therefore employ the word mahshabah in different senses: in one context it would designate the Thought of God, but in the expression “that which cannot be attained by thought,” the reference would be to human thought.

However, in the fragment of his commentary on Genesis, he even speaks, as we saw, of that which is above the “pure Thought,” that is, above the divine Thought. I cannot resolve this difficulty without doing violence to the texts. The unknowable in God is identified by the Christian Neoplatonist, Scotus Erigena, with the Nothing from which all creation proceeds.”

Gershom Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, pp. 270-2.

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