Disputation: Kari Zakariassen

Kari Zakariassen  defended her doctoral dissertation: ""My People Consult Their Tree…" Human-Divine Interaction in Arboreal Spaces in the Ancient Levant" for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (Ph.D.) at the Faculty of Theology.

Bilde av Kari Zakkariassen

Time and place for the disputation: June 21,12:00. Place:  The library, Domus Theologica

Adjudication committee

  • Senior lecturer Blaženka Scheuer, Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology, Lund University, (first opponent)
  • Associate professor Tina Dykesteen Nilsen, Faculty of Theology, Diaconia and Leadership Studies, VID Stavanger, (second opponent)
  • Senior Lecturer Vemund Blomkvist, Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. 

Leader of the disputation

Dean Aud Tønnessen.


Professor Terje Stordalen, Faculty of Theology.

About the dissertation

Arboreal spaces have a range of functions and meanings, and a variety of practices are carried out beneath trees and in their proximity. The thesis investigates written and visual reflections of ancient Levantine practices connected to human-divine interaction in arboreal spaces. Five passages from the Hebrew Bible are thoroughly analysed with the use of Henri Lefebvre’s spatial theory as an analytical tool. In addition, a range of other texts and some images from the ancient Levant are studied to shed light on the discussed topics. Based on the analyses, suggestions of how people might have used and experienced arboreal spaces in the ancient Levant are made.

Religious specialists are often portrayed as sitting or standing beneath trees in written and visual material from the ancient Levant. The thesis argues that it is probable that the material reflects a social world where religious specialists were known to perform their offices in arboreal spaces. In some texts, the characters interact with divine agents in arboreal spaces: Gideon encounters a messenger of the divine beneath a tree (Judg 6:11–24); David receives a signal from Yahweh through the sound of marching in the tops of the trees (2 Sam 5:22–25); “people” consult their tree (Hos 4:12); and Abraham plants a tree when he needs to contact Yahweh (Gen 21:33). In other texts, trees have names that connect them to oracular activities: the Oracle Oak(s) (Gen 12:6–7; Deut 11:30) and the Soothsayer’s Oak (Judg 9:37). Based on these texts and others, the thesis argues that some trees were probably conceived to be liminal spaces – spaces where interaction between the realm of the humans and other realms could take place.

In visual material, altars are depicted beneath trees and are described as being built beneath trees in written material. Through the practice of building altars beneath trees, arboreal spaces are produced as parts of sanctuaries and as sacred spaces.

The written material has different attitudes towards divination practices in arboreal spaces and towards altars beneath trees. The material thus reveals that groups of people in ancient Levantine social worlds had different and conflicting views regarding practices in arboreal spaces. The thesis discusses both the reflected practices in arboreal spaces and how some of the practices seem to have been evaluated in various ways by different groups of people in an ancient Levantine social world.

Published June 21, 2019 3:02 PM - Last modified Nov. 1, 2019 1:39 PM