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I was wondering whether there was a concept of bringing about a perfected world in ancient pagan religions, whether as something the gods were expected to do, something that mankind was expected to do, or a combination of both. I'm wondering specifically about the religions around Mesopotamia, the Levant and North Africa. "Perfect" might have different meanings between cultures, but options might include: A purified world, a world without evil (/evil deities?), world peace, etc. Anything like that?

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Norse myth does feature such a belief. See the last seven stanzas of the Vǫluspá or "Sybil's Prophecy," in the Elder or Poetic Edda, or Chapters 52-53 of the "Gylfaginning" section of the Snorra or Prose Edda (scroll forward on this last linked page to p. 82). The Eddas admittedly are not from the Mediterranean region about which you more specifically ask, and Christian missionary influence/contamination arrived in Iceland together with the literacy that allowed Norse myths to assume their earliest surviving written forms. But the motif or belief in question is definitely there.

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  • Thanks. Useful information nonetheless. And we could always go back to the late 19th-early 20th century scholarly view that held that the Amorites were the ancestors of the Germanic and Scandinavian people......
    – Harel13
    Jul 6 at 16:02
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    Or not. Such a connection would be read by some as divine authority for genocide and/or enslavement of those people. We don't want 'em as the Master Race, thank you very much, but the opposite extreme is also worth avoiding. Jul 6 at 18:01
  • Snorri himself traces descent of the Norse gods from Trojans. Jul 6 at 18:02
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pagan: a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions.

Since some of these religions effectively were the main religions at the time (and endured longer than any of the current religions have so far) the term "pagan" is inappropriate. Also, the concept of "evil" or "evil deities" is not necessarily something that was part of the pantheon of these religions.

The Egyptian god Seth for example, is often referred to as an "evil" god by early Egyptologists to mirror the Christian pantheon of good and evil. However, this is not how the Egyptians perceived Seth. As son of Geb (Earth) and Nut (sky), brother of Osiris, Seth was god of the desert, foreign lands, thunderstorms, eclipses, and earthquakes. Seth was a powerful and often frightening deity, however he was also a patron god of the pharaohs, particularly Ramses the Great.

Note that this is not all that different from the origins of Yahweh, who in the polytheistic period preceding monotheism in the Judaic religion also was, according to the oldest biblical literature, a storm-and-warrior deity, who leads the heavenly army against Israel's enemies, and worshipped alongside a variety of Canaanite gods and goddesses, including El, Asherah and Baal.

Mesopotamian, Canaanite and Egyptian gods generally were considered to have good and bad aspects:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. - Isaiah 45:7 (written in the intermediate period between polytheistic and monotheistic Judaism)

or were understood as a necessary balance between opposites, a bit like a Mesopotamian version of Yin and Yang, such as the Egyptian god of chaos, Apophis (who was also the patron god of several pharaohs).

The idea of an evil separate from the "good" god is something that originates in Zoroastrianism and was adapted into later Judaic (mostly apocalyptic) writings and thus into early Christianity. This is also where the concept of the "Last Judgment" comes from. In the original text, the Frashokereti we find the first rendering of a doctrine of a final renovation of the universe, when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will be then in perfect unity with the god Ahura Mazda.

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    I'm afraid that I fail to see what your answer has to do with my question, other than a long attempt trying to explain that you don't like its wording.
    – Harel13
    Jun 28 at 9:44
  • You asked for mentions of "purified world" or "world without evil" in the Levant area religions. I literally describe its origins in Zoroastrianism -> Judaism and why these concepts did not necessarily exist in other religions in that area.
    – Codosaur
    Jun 28 at 11:11
  • You opened with explaining why you dislike the term pagan. Should I explain why I dislike the term polytheism? I find that that would be an unnecessary off-topic discussion. You then moved on to discuss whether gods were ever truly viewed as evil. I merely raised that as a possible suggestion of what a "perfected world" may be in such religions. Debating the matter seems irrelevant to me. Then moving on to highly debatable theories from biblical critics is further irrelevant to the topic. I missed the last couple of sentences of your answer, so you're correct on that.
    – Harel13
    Jun 29 at 17:07
  • The relevant portion of your answer is probably from "in the original text" to "Ahura Mazda".
    – Harel13
    Jun 29 at 17:07

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