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2021 | 27 | 60-96

Article title

Which Seth? Untangling some close homonyms from ancient Egypt and the Near East



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This paper aims to disambiguate the proper name “Seth” and its cognates or homonyms – perfect or imper fect – in texts from ancient Egypt, the Near East and the Mediterranean. It considers: (1) the Suteans, West Semitic Amorite/Aramean nomads who feature negatively in Mesopotamian records; (2) S(h)eth in the Hebrew bible, in which a disparaged southerly Sutean group (“sons of Sheth”) may have been recast as the virtuous lineage of the third son of Adam (“sons of Seth”); (3) Seth, the Egyptian god of tumult and confusion, who has some elements in common with the Judeo Christian Satan; (4) Seth of the Jewish pseudepigrapha, a positive embellishment of the biblical figure; (5) the Gnostic Seth, a further embellishment of the biblical/ pseudepigraphical figure; and (6) Seth as an agent invoked in magical texts. Accordingly, the paper provides an integrated review of six Sethian subject areas that are seldom considered together; they are examined here through an Egyptological lens. The survey reveals that the two principal Seths – the Egyptian god and the son of Adam – maintain almost entirely separate trajectories in the religious and magical literature of ancient Egypt and beyond.



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