Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Lawrence Toombs

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


This thesis explores eye symbolism within the context of the art forms of the Ancient Near East, including pottery, sculpture, idols of amulets, seals, cuneiform texts and the literature of the Old Testament. The central concern in this study is to bring together under one cover the iconography of the eye and its meaning from the cultures of Mesopotamia and Israel. The human eye has been a symbol for good or evil from earliest times. This thesis shows that the Mesopotamians focused mainly on the negative aspects of the eye in their belief system, while the Israelites focused on its positive aspects. In Mesopotamia, the positive and negative aspects of this dualism are discussed in the context of the state and the popular religions. In Israel, biblical references are used to illustrate both the positive and the negative aspects of eye symbolism in the monotheistic religion of the Israelites. Rabbinic literature is used to support the concept of the Evil Eye. Incidental evidence for eye symbolism is drawn from Egyptian and Anatolian sources. The iconography is discussed within the context of the belief system of each culture and includes an interpretation of the meaning of the eye symbols. The differences between the religion of the Mesopotamians and that of the Israelites becomes apparent from the kinds of data that are available for comparison. It is demonstrated from the literature of the Old Testament, that the ontogenesis of the soul parallels the evolution of religion.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season