"A People Great and Exalted": Historicity of the Rephaim Reconsidered

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Title: "A People Great and Exalted": Historicity of the Rephaim Reconsidered
Alternative title: "Mahtava ja ylhäinen kansa": Refaimin historiallisuuden uudelleenarviointi
Author: Korpelainen, Eirik
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Helsingfors universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2022
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202203091418
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Historian maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in History
Magisterprogrammet i historia
Specialisation: Historia, suomenkielinen
Historia, in Finnish
Historia, finskspråkig
Abstract: The present study seeks to answer the following all-encompassing question: who were the Rephaim? This inquiry is founded upon the hypothesis that said group was noted in ancient texts for its status as powerful warriors. Beyond demonstrating this martial disposition another major objective is that of proving their general character as temporal actors rather than supernatural and mythical figures, the latter being the view asserted by much of modern scholarship. The primary sources employed are particularly the relevant biblical and Ugaritic texts that mention the Rephaim, yet the brief Phoenician writings attesting to said group are considered as well. Additionally, various other ancient texts, especially those of Egyptian provenance, provide important circumstantial information about the periods, regions, and events relevant to the Rephaim. Naturally related academic literature is consulted throughout such qualitative research. As is typical for such a highly interdisciplinary field as Ancient Near East studies, the present study also avails itself of archaeological data when possible. Linguistic factors too figure prominently as there often remain ambiguities as to the most correct interpretation of the dead languages in which the relevant primary sources were written. Besides the primary sources utilized, especially since the rediscovery of the ancient city of Ugarit in 1928, a rich scholarly tradition has grown around the study of the Rephaim, or Rapiuma, as they appear in the Ugaritic context. It is to this discussion that the present study contributes, and by so doing, provides fresh perspectives on the matter at hand. What differentiates the present study from most other contemporary investigations into the Rephaim is its favorable estimation of the biblical record as an important and relevant historical source. Indeed, it is the wholly temporal biblical portrayal of the Rephaim that helps highlight such equally non-supernatural characteristics in the more fragmentary and indefinite Ugaritic texts as well. In conclusion, the present study may proclaim that it adequately reaches all the goals it has set for itself. What follows then is a summary of the research results. Ancient texts indicate that the Rephaim were active in the Levant, especially its more southern regions, from at least the 19th century B.C. onwards. They appear to have been strongly linked with the Amorite expansion in the Middle Bronze Age Near East. In the 15th century B.C. the group is claimed to have been destroyed from much of their traditional Levantine territories. The Rephaim seem to have disappeared as an extant people sometime prior to the end of the Late Bronze Age. Yet they lived on in 1st millennium B.C. biblical and Phoenician texts as literary archetypes of once powerful ancient figures. The present study plausibly corroborates the hypothesized status of the Rephaim as a temporal people of evidently historical significance rather than mere supernatural and mythical entities. Confirmed is also their warlike and often even kingly status, which evinces an elevated standing in their respective societies. Moreover, clarification of the typically misconstrued nature of the Rephaim results in an improved understanding of the ancient Levant in general, particularly as pertains to its Amorite heritage in the Bronze Age.
Subject: Lähi-itä
Vanha Testamentti

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