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Balaam, Mopsus And Melampous: Tales Of Travelling Seers

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Chapter Summary

One of the attractive sides of the study of ancient languages and cultures is the continual discovery of new material. The discovery of the Deir ʿAlla inscription with the name of Balaam has at least shown that his mention in the Old Testament is not a later invention, but probably goes back to a historical seer. Yet there seems to have been little interest in seeing whether the inscription could enrich the understanding of the sociological and religious aspects of the professional seer in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. This chapter discusses some of these aspects by comparing Balaam to two famous Greek seers, Mopsus and Melampous, even though the knowledge of Balaam is much sketchier than that of the two Greek seers. It is clear that there is a Wittgensteinian family resemblance between the early Greek and Aramaic/Israelite seers rather than a close similarity.

Keywords: Balaam; Deir ʿAlla inscription; Melampous; Mopsus; Old Testament; religious aspects; sociological aspects



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