Siva and Vishnu

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 8 14:22:32 EST 2000

>>In the poems from the Book of Job quoted, good = light
>>and evil = darkness. In Job, or Sons of Light and Darkness myth, etc., is
>>there mention of good = "white" and evil = "black"?

The earliest reference that I can find using "white" as an image
for "good" is Isaiah 1:18, but the contrast is with "red" (probably
denoting bloodstains), not "black":

     "'Come now, let us reason together,
         says the Lord,
     Though your sins are like scarlet,
         they shall be white as snow;
     Though they are red like crimson,
         they shall be like wool . .  .'"  (Isa. 1:18.)

There is continuing controversy over the dating of the various
parts of Isaiah, but it at best barely predates the exile, i.e.,
6th cent. B.C.

Job does use "black" in close association with a discussion of the
evil that befell him, but the context is ambiguous and may only be
descriptive of the illness that had afflicted him:

Thanks a lot again! "white" = "good" in Isaiah is interesting.
I found info about a book which is about the Persian contacts
in Isaiah.

Laato, Antti.
The servant of YHWH and Cyrus : a reinterpretation of the exilic
messianic programme in Isaiah 40-55
Stockholm : Almquist & Wiksell, 1992.
x, 307 p. ; 24 cm.
LC Subject(s):
Cyrus, King of Persia, d. 529 B.C.
Bible. O.T. Isaiah XL-LV--Criticism, interpretation, etc.

"[5] a. sanat kSetraM sakhibhiH 'svitRyebhiH (1.100.18c)
     'may he win the land with the white/light friends'"
[Quoted from Hock]

I quickly glanced thru' two books at home.
1) Religion in ancient Egypt : gods, myths, and personal practice
/ edited by Byron E. Shafer ; contributors, John
Baines, Leonard H. Lesko, David P. Silverman. Cornell UP

2) Gods, demons, and symbols of ancient Mesopotamia : an illustrated
dictionary / Jeremy Black, Anthony Green ;
illustrations by Tessa Rickards. UTexas

Looking for any mention in Semitic corpus of writing in
pre 1000-800 BCE where "BLACK/dark/wicked/evil"
and "WHITE/bright/light/good" ideas are clubbed
together. In the above references, none in pre-1000 BCE
Mesopotamia or Egypt where "Black is evil".

If it cannot be established in pre-1000 BCE writing,
"Black as evil" in the Biblical canon may come from
Indo-Iranian contacts. In the Book of Revelation, Isaiah etc.,
we see ample Persian influences and the above idea.
Usually the beginnings of any book get edited until
late times, Example RV maNDala 1 is late,
so is certain ideas in Genesis.

It will be interesting and an avenue for future research
if the "white/light = good" and "black/dark = bad"
imagery in the portions of the Bible date from periods
of Indo-Iranian contact, and/or whether any contra examples
exist in 2nd millennium BCE Egypt and Mesopotamia.

N. Ganesan

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