Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult

Princeton University Press
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Good and evil, clean and unclean, rich and poor, self and other. The nature and function of such binary oppositions have long intrigued scholars in such fields as philosophy, linguistics, classics, and anthropology. From the opening chapters of Genesis, in which God separates day from night, and Adam and Eve partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, dyadic pairs proliferate throughout the Hebrew Bible. In this groundbreaking work melding critical exegesis and contemporary theory, Saul M. Olyan considers the prevalence of polarities in biblical discourse and expounds their significance for the social and religious institutions of ancient Israel. Extant biblical narrative and legal texts reveal a set of socially constructed and culturally privileged binary oppositions, Olyan argues, which instigate and perpetuate hierarchical social relations in ritual settings such as the sanctuary.

Focusing on four binary pairs--holy/common, Israelite/alien, clean/unclean, and whole/blemished--Olyan shows how these privileged oppositions were used to restrict access to cultic spaces, such as the temple or the Passover table. These ritual sites, therefore, became the primary contexts for creating and recreating unequal social relations. Olyan also uncovers a pattern of challenge to the established hierarchies by nonprivileged groups. Converging with contemporary issues of power, marginalization, and privileging, Olyan's painstaking yet lucid study abounds with implications for anthropology, classics, critical theory, and feminist studies.

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About the author

Saul M. Olyan is Dorot Professor of Judaic Studies, Professor of Religious Studies, and Director of the Program in Judaic Studies at Brown University. He is the author of A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism and Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 17, 2000
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Pages
194
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ISBN
9781400823567
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Judaism / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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English description: This volume consists of fifteen of the authors essays, including two that have never been published before. The essays date to the last decade and a half, and all reflect in some manner the authors ongoing interest in literary operations of classification and their social implications, particularly the production of distinctions which create social inequality in the world of the text, and have the potential to generate hierarchical social relationships in contexts where biblical texts might have had an impact on real people. In these essays, the author explores themes such as gender, sexuality, purity and pollution, sanctification, death and afterlife, foreignness, and disability with particular attention to the roles distinctions such as honored/shamed, feminine/masculine, mourning/rejoicing, unclean/clean, alien/native play in creating and perpetuating social differences in texts. Rites of status change such as circumcision, shaving, purification, burial or disinterment, sanctification and profanation of holiness are a focus of interest in a number of these essays, reflecting the authors on going interest in the textual representation of ritual. Most of the essays examine texts in their historical setting, but several also engage the early history of the interpretation of biblical texts, including the phenomenon of inner biblical exegesis. The essays are divided into five sections: Rites and Social Status; Gender and Sexuality; Disability; Holiness, Purity, the Alien; Death, Burial, Afterlife and their Metaphorical Uses. The author introduces each of the sections, contextualizing each essay in his larger scholarly project, reflecting on its development and reception and, in some cases, responding to his critics. German description: Der vorliegende Band beinhaltet 15, z.T. noch unveroffentlichte Aufsatze von Saul M. Olyan. Der Autor beschaftigt sich mit Klassifikationen in biblischen Texten und ihren sozialen Auswirkungen. Besonders widmet er sich den Klassifizierungen die Ungleichheiten in der Umwelt des Textes hervorrufen.Solche Unterschiede sind zum Beispiel mannlich/weiblich, tot/lebendig, fremd/einheimisch oder rein/unrein. Die Artikel beschaftigen sich dabei mit biblischen Texten, die von der Konigszeit uber das Exil bis hin zur romischen Epche datiert werden.Dabei legt Olyan ein besonderes Augenmerk auf die Menschen, die bei diesen Unterscheidungen die minderwertige Rolle spielen oder gar ganz von der Gemeinschaft ausgeschlossen sind. Einen weiteren Schwerpunkt stellen Ubergangsriten dar, die einen Wechsel des Status markieren, z.B. Beschneidung, Rasur, Bestattung.
Sexual orientation is a topic of intense debate within America's religious traditions. These discussions have had a significant impact on the formation of public policy, as speakers who locate themselves squarely within religious traditions have articulated positions on both sides in recent arguments concerning gays in the military, civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, gay marriage, parenting and foster parenting, and benefits for partners of gay and lesbian employees of major corporations and institutions. This volume, which stems from a 1995 conference at Brown University, aims to promote both academic and public understanding of the different positions that exist on sexual orientation and its public policy dimensions within four major American religious traditions. Writers from within the Jewish community, the Roman Catholic church, Mainline Protestant churches, and African-American churches explore the history and tradition of their communities on same-sex orientation, discuss the moral stance they advocate, and consider the legal and public policy implications of that stance. For each of these traditions, two opposing views are represented, and a respondent frames the issue in a larger context. The book concludes with essays by Michael McConnell and Andrew Koppelman exploring how our society might find a modus vivendi in a state position of neutrality on the moral status of homosexuality. This book will appeal to a broad range of readers interested in these crucial issues, and in the role the religious communities play in these debates, while helping to foster the climate for a more reasoned and civil dialogue.
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