Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 September 2020
This chapter likewise draws on ancient visual and material culture in order to examine the worship of divine cult statues in Mesopotamia, the anti-idol polemics in the Bible, and the power of images and ritual activities in the construction of religious beliefs. In particular, the ancient Mesopotamian “washing of the mouth” ritual is studied within a cognitive framework. The discussion highlights both the intuitive and non-intuitive (i.e., costly) aspects of the belief in divine cult statues, and proceeds to examine both the cognitive process and cultural mechanisms that contribute to the belief that an inanimate statue is or becomes the deity. In doing so, the chapter adds a nuanced layer to the nature of belief and also problematizes certain scholarly views about belief in cult statues in ancient Mesopotamia and Israel.