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Recent interpretations of ancient Israelite religion.

There is, perhaps, no more challenging undertaking than the attempt to describe in detail the religion of ancient Israel. This situation results not only from the complexities inherent in that religion and its attendant cult but also from the myriad of methodologies and disciplines through which scholars have filtered the subject matter. Recent assessments of the efficacy of both specialized and more wide-ranging approaches have suggested serious shortcomings in many areas, including the lack of clear statements regarding method and theory, the failure to establish a productive, interdisciplinary dialogue, and the non-critical use of certain branches of learning. One recently published collection of essays provides an especially helpful summary of the figures, issues, and disparate interpretations involved in the current state of scholarship addressing Israelite religion. That volume is Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, edited by Barry M. Gittlen, which presents a valuable collection of essays drawn from four successive years (1993-96) of a program unit dedicated to the archaeology of ancient Israelite religion held at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). The twelve articles included in the book, written by ten authors, span four principal areas of concern: "Charting the Course: The Relationship between Text and Artifact" (three essays); "Prayers in Clay: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Figurines" (two essays); "The Mythology of Sacred Space: Structure and Structuralism" (four essays); and "Death in the Life of Israel" (three essays). The volume includes comprehensive indexes of authors and Scripture references but does not provide a master bibliography, and the individual essays are inconsistent in this regard. The reader might also benefit from knowing the specific year of each presentation in the ASOR program as a means of gauging the progress of research relating to the stated topics. Judging from the dates of the sources cited, it appears that some essays were updated prior to publication while others were not.

The editor hopes that, by combining "new methods of examining textual data" and "the latest archaeological data" (p. xii), the collection will "clearly assess and understand the problems, chart new approaches to the issues, and reach possible new conclusions" (p. xi). The overarching thesis holds that a dialectic between scholars dealing with archaeological remains, texts, and analogy "is basic to the reconstruction of ancient societies in any time and place" (p. xi), and that early Israel is no exception.

Part one emerges more as a history of scholarship and a critical review of various disciplinary practices up to the present than as a prescription for future research. J. Z. Smith ("Religion Up and Down, In and Out") argues in principle for new, complex rules to guide comparative studies seeking to capitalize on both archaeological and textual data sets. At present, "the general absence of such rules in the literature precludes further discussion" (p. 3). Since much literary theory views a text as basically "incomparable," while archaeological theory "is fundamentally comparative" (p. 4), scholars on both sides of the rift must move beyond their respective theoretical bases and try to determine how and where their two disciplines overlap and where they remain distinct. "Interdisciplinary research is necessarily narrower than the total disciplinary domains that it brings into mutual intellectual relationship" (p. 4). In its "prebiblical form," says Smith, the Bible was "not a religious document," and in its present form it represents a "second-order text." It therefore rarely provides clear social loci for many of the "materials and traditions that became biblical" (pp. 6-7). Archaeology can help overcome this economy of the biblical texts (which only occasionally describe birth, marriage, death, funerary observances, a cult of the dead, ordinary diet, rituals during daily meals, domestic religion, etc.). But before the dialogue can legitimately begin, participants must agree on "a more adequate theory of religion to govern interpretation," and "a theory of discourse and translation to govern the conversation" (p. 9).

After opening his contribution by noting that the last fifteen years have witnessed "the beginning of the interdisciplinary dialogue that ... is crucial," W. G. Dever contends that "the pursuit has been largely in vain" (p. 11). He then offers a sharp critique of past philological and theological approaches to Israelite religion. While its stress on empirical data and comparative method gave philology an objective, academic edge over other reasons for studying Israelite religion (orthodox belief, personal piety, etc.), the discipline's "fundamental flaw" lay in its "positivist presuppositions." The burgeoning discipline assumed that the biblical texts preserved an accurate portrait of early Israelite religion and that philology would lead us to a correct reading and understanding of the texts. Yet "literature is not life but, rather, the product of the intellectual and literary imagination of a creative few" (p. 13). Working from texts alone, then, scholars recover only a Sitz im Literatur, not a reliable Sitz im Leben for Israelite religious thought and practice.

For Dever, the biblical theology movement has devalued the history and religion of ancient Israel by remaining confessional in character, seeking only to establish a foundation for modern belief, stressing typology, and misappropriating the texts "as simply the starting point of a Vergegenwartigung." That is, in proclaiming a salvation-history, the "story" receives more stress than the facts, and the desire to know what really happened in antiquity is displaced by an acceptance of the biblical writers' interpretations, which become the basis for our own confessional recitals. Theology, Dever says, falls victim to its own need to locate ideological unity within the texts and to identify a "normative" religion.

The value of archaeology lies in its ability to understand ancient religion from the point of view of practice rather than ideology. Still, he acknowledges that since religion always incorporates elements of ideology and power, a phenomenological or functionalist approach "cannot, of course, do justice to all dimensions of religion" (p. 23). Yet the fact that archaeological data are contemporary, random (unedited), better representative of society at large and the practices of the majority, populist, focused more on social behavior than on ideology, and virtually unlimited in quantity allows archaeology to recover the Sitz im Leben of ancient religion.

Only philology and archaeology survive Dever's critique. While he accepts that we must improve on our traditional methods (such as philology), he remains skeptical of "trendy new approaches such as canonical criticism, rhetorical criticism, semiotics, 'new literary criticism,' structuralist and poststructuralist paradigms, liberation theology, feminist critiques, or what have you" (p. 29).

The first of two articles by Z. Zevit ("Philology and Archaeology: Imagining New Questions, Begetting New Ideas") concludes this section and interacts with (and tempers) the views of both Smith and Dever, but especially those of the latter. Zevit notes that Dever's characterization of philology as positivistic, even "naive, wistful, and rather sad," itself undermines the interdisciplinary dialogue that he calls for elsewhere (p. 37). Archaeology itself "is a discipline characterized by a positivistic approach to knowledge" (p. 37), and the artifactual world, like a collection of transmitted texts, represents "a semiotic expression of the religio-intellectual world view of a given society at a given time ..." (p. 41). Without the advances made by philology, Zevit wonders how we could interpret archaeological data. Even if the biblical texts are, "at best," only capable of sketching a view of official religion and not popular or folk religion, that "will be no mean accomplishment," inasmuch as official religion certainly constituted "a significant component of the complex of cults that we call Israelite religion" (p. 39).

Zevit advocates combining literary-intellectual data, artifactual data, and religiological data (derived from a "non-apologetic, academic study of religion") (p. 37) to achieve a better understanding of Israelite religion. He calls for archaeologists to formulate and ask new questions of the phenomena they observe in the material record. Both Dever and Zevit, however, fully accept the premise that theology hardly represents "a disciplined historical study of Israelite thought" (p. 39) and, as a consequence, contributes nothing to the interdisciplinary dialogue.

Given the not-so-new call for greater interaction between biblicists and archaeologists coupled with the title of part two (see above), the next two articles are apparently intended to demonstrate this interdisciplinary dialogue in action. In the process, however, they also reveal how open-ended many issues remain (in both theory and method) and how much disagreement will arise when the cross-disciplinary conversation actually begins. In other words, dialogue itself will not necessarily lead to a new consensus on any given aspect of Israelite religion.

After affirming the usefulness of the biblical texts (biased and late as they may be) in analyzing figurines recovered from Israelite contexts, K. van der Toorn ("Israelite Figurines: A View from the Texts") says further that "epigraphic material does not take the place of the Bible but orients its interpretation" (p. 46). He then argues against the often accepted aniconism of the "official cult" on the following five grounds: the date of the biblical prohibition of cult images (seventh century); the centrality of the temple (in which Yhwh lived); biblical evidence for the worship of theriomorphic images representing various deities; the apparent reality that in both Samarian and Judahite thought Yhwh had a consort (Asherah); and the anthropomorphic representation of Asherah (based on 2 Kings 23:7) in the Jerusalem temple, with the implication that images of Yhwh will also appear in anthropomorphic form if we ever find them.

For van der Toorn, there exists no a priori reason why we should restrict the use of figurines (generally speaking) to popular religion. He follows with three possible ways in which figurines may have claimed at least an ancillary role in the official cult: as "lower-ranking companion gods ... and apotropaeic deities alongside the image of the main god"; as votive gifts; or as "reflections of official cult images or symbols, used for a variety of purposes outside the cult" (pp. 56-57). Ultimately, he rejects the first proposal as "quite improbable" (p. 58), lends greater credence to the second option (yet acknowledges that "there is not one example of a figurine demonstrably donated as a votive gift" [p. 59]), and favors the final alternative. That is, many figurines (e.g., the Astarte plaques) represent replicas or "cheap imitations of cult images" used by the many people "unable to visit the Temple daily." The pillar figurines, however, do not signify such replicas; rather, they epitomize a nonspecific "type" of figurine (mother-goddess or dea nutrix) that people in various regions could associate with their own local deities (Ninhursag, Belet-ili, or Mami in Mesopotamia; Asherah in Canaan/Israel; etc.).

Judging from this article, figurines in general provide some connectivity between the centralized and localized cults of ancient Israel. As a result, "the distance between the official cult and the popular religion was not as great as is commonly believed," and "instead of being nonconformist, popular religion conformed to the established cult" (p. 62). The frequent, generic references to "figurines," as though they represent a monolithic class of artifacts with little diversity of function and meaning, raises a recurring challenge to the reader of this article.

In direct response to van der Toorn's views, J. Sasson ("On the Use of Images in Israel and the Ancient Near East") asserts that neither our database nor our knowledge of images recovered from ancient Israel has incorporated anything new for some time (either through texts, archaeology, or comparative material outside the Bible/Israel). Against the proposal that the official cult in old Israel was iconic in nature, Sasson says that since trends are typically codified at the point of their fullest expression, "Deuteronomy might be a last-ditch attempt at retaining an-iconic worship" (p. 64). Even if certain bits of evidence (e.g., the Kuntillet Ajrud material) seem to associate Yhwh with a consort (Asherah), we cannot automatically attribute that position to Israel's priestly circles or to its cult. Different types of texts from various periods and places (Elephantine; gnostic texts; medieval Jewish cabalistic texts) promote similar brides for Yhwh, yet we do not make generalized applications to worship (whether official or popular in nature).

Regarding the view that some figurines served as votive gifts in Israel's official cult, Sasson notes that in Mesopotamia votive figurines can often represent the worshipper rather than the deity, especially if the figurine is inscribed. Moreover, the replica theory remains questionable on grounds that "average worshippers ... would not have relished transporting deities or their symbols" (p. 65); such close encounters with the divine presence typically instilled fear and trepidation, not a casual attitude of familiarity. On a methodological note, Sasson adds that the recovery of actual figurines will not be enough to confirm the existence of Yhwh images in the cult of Israel. Rather, scholars should "first refer to Scriptural evidence, manifest or vestigial, for consecrative ceremonies" (p. 68). This apparent text-based approach to archaeological remains becomes more complex, however, when Sasson subsequently acknowledges that "you can argue antithetical positions, just by citing from Scripture" (p. 69).

A final point relates to an age-old pitfall of historiography and strikes hard at a principal tenet of this book, namely, the hope for improved interpretations resulting from new methodologies. Sasson speculates that "the most radical change" in our understanding of ancient figurines has occurred "not in our materials and methods, but in us and in our environment" (p. 69). That is, in becoming "more tolerant, multicultural, and pluralistic" (p. 70) ourselves, we may at some level be seeking to "legitimize our gains" by ascribing similar attitudes to ancient Israel.

The essays in part three build on the logical premise that space derives its meaning and function from that which it contains, or does not contain. That this section constitutes the longest in the collection underscores the book's general emphasis on space and not time in cultic worship, even though its title includes both aspects of religion. In fact, Z. Zevit's second contribution ("Preamble to a Temple Tour") rests on the premise that "the pertinence of time, text, ritual, story, and belief to understanding religion has been long recognized; not so the spatial dimension" (p. 74).

Zevit seeks to clarify the "vague and diffuse" notices of sacred space in earlier scholarship by exploring three principal facets of the concept: geographical, thematic, and mythic-symbolic space (p. 76). These three concepts relate, in various ways, to the remaining articles in this section. Geographical space deals with "the topography of the site and its physical environment," i.e., simply the physical location of the architectural features involved. Thematic space adds "an evaluating valence, a psychological and emotional charge to the place." For example, the mundane temple becomes the dwelling place of Yhwh. The mytho-symbolic aspect of holy space "reflects less accessible matters, some of which may have been experienced subliminally by people visiting the site or may have been appreciated metaphorically by others." That is, experience or tradition may lead some to imagine a place as resting upon the great, watery depths, as the center of the world, etc. The findings of both archaeology and "religiology" suggest that changes in any one of these facets may effect significant transformations at other levels.

In the first of her two contributions to this volume, E. Bloch-Smith ("Solomon's Temple: The Politics of Ritual Space") examines the religious and political symbolism of the Yahwistic royal Temple as described in the books of 1 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, and Ezekiel. Her discussion ably demonstrates the junctures between the facets of holy space outlined by Zevit. For example, Bloch-Smith observes that biblical texts describe the size of the courtyard objects (e.g., the tank and stands) as much larger than their closest Near Eastern parallels. This suggests that these features were imbued with symbolic meaning in that "they were not intended for human use but belonged to the realm of the divine" (p. 84). Moreover, this interplay between geographical and thematic space also served to link deities to earthly kings. Parallels from Marl suggest that the Molten Sea represented by the giant tank "may have symbolized Yahweh's cosmic victories and extension of divine powers to the king" (p. 84). Consideration of both physical and symbolic space, then, ties together religion and politics.

A similar discussion follows for the interior decorations, which include the cherub, sacred tree, and bull motifs. A detailed treatment of the background, parallels, and symbolism of each embellishment underscores how and why the principal motif of the south (cherub) remained distinct from that of the north (bull image). The suggestion that the designers of the Temple's interior, who covered the doors and wall panels with gilded wood reliefs of cherubs and sacred trees, attempted to connect Yahweh's earthly residence with the mythological Garden of Eden moves the symbolism from the geographical and thematic to the mytho-symbolic level. Within this "virtual Garden of Eden," says Bloch-Smith, the lights from the ten lampstands that flanked the entrance to the Holy of Holies represented the stars of the heavenly host (see 1 Kings 22:19; Job 38:7; Judg. 5:20) and, more specifically, "the Pleiades, a constellation associated with divination" (p. 89). If true, the arrival of the Assyrian star cult in the seventh century B.C. did not introduce something new into Israel; rather, it threatened to elevate the already recognized lesser deities (stars) to a level that would compromise the exclusive worship of Yhwh. (Similar considerations arise in later essays regarding Assyrian influence on the cult of the dead in Israel.) Finally, from a brief comparison of the 'Ain Dara and Jerusalem temples, Bloch-Smith (contra van der Toorn) concludes that the Judahite Temple showed an aniconic tendency--"anthropomorphic god and goddess representations were wholly unacceptable" (p. 91).

Though one may have presumed that textual analysis has dealt more adequately with sacred time while archaeology has focused on sacred space, S. Gitin begins his study ("The Four-Horned Altar and Sacred Space: An Archaeological Perspective") by showing that at least the former presumption is not the case. Textual studies have, in fact, concentrated on sacred space, with archaeological data serving mainly "as referents in the discussion" (p. 95). One way in which archaeology can claim a more central role, judging from Gitin's thesis, lies in the fact that the distinctive four-horned altar, which shows Syrian antecedents and multiple parallels in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Canaan, Cyprus, and the Aegean word, provides a reliable "criterion for defining sacred space" (p. 96).

Gitin believes that the earliest exemplars of horned altars derived from sites in the Syrian Middle Euphrates region and from levels dating between the fourteenth and twelfth centuries B.C. The body of these ceramic, "tower models" narrowed toward the top; a wider platform, crowned with horns at each corner, sat above the body. By the tenth century, this Syrian form continued in two more stylized versions: a straight-sided ceramic stand/altar and a stone model. When the horned altar first appeared in Israelite tradition in wooden form and in association with the Tabernacle, it resembled the earlier tower models and its primary purpose remained the burning of incense (Exod. 30:1-7; Lev. 4:7). One should note, however, that stone, clay, and alabaster horns already appear on altars in the Aegean world by the middle of the second millennium B.C. (p. 99). In fact, the horns and the double axe (used in the sacrifice of the bull) constitute "the two most renowned and ever recurrent signs of the sacral in the Minoan-Mycenaean cult." (1) Such horns likely replaced the use of a real bucranium in practices that extend as far back as the Jemdet Nasr Period in Anatolia and North Syria (recall descriptions of the "horns of consecration" at sites such as Chagar Bazar and Tell Brak on the Upper Khabur plain). (2)

Gitin's sketch of the historical background and pattern of diffusion for the horned altar seems consonant with the traditional view that understands Cretan culture in its heyday as a mosaic of cultic features, artistic motifs, and attendant rituals (e.g., the sacral horns, double axe, dove and spiral motifs, snake worship, Mother Goddess figure, bucrania, tholos, etc.) that mostly originated in northern Syria-Mesopotamia. Sometime after entering Crete (probably during the Early Minoan period), according to this interpretation, these various aspects spread back to Cappadocia and surrounding areas. But the precise point from which the horned-altar design entered Israel itself and the overall process by which it did so remain somewhat murky. It seems reasonable to think that the appearance in chronologically distant, seventh-century Ekron of dozens of horned altars alongside other evidence beating divine and personal names with clear Aegean origins (p. 115; the goddess ptgyh and the ruler Ikausu [= Achish]) may heighten the possibility of a direct connection between these altars and those found in earlier Aegean (vs. northern Syrian-Mesopotamian) contexts. (3) Gitin, however, prefers to associate the Ekron altars with Assyrian influences during the late Iron II Period. At any rate, the terminus post quem for the overall motif and its specific place and culture of origin, as well as the sequence of connections between various areas in the Levantine and Aegean worlds, will likely require future reconsideration. For the present, Gitin convincingly connects the tower-shaped altars to rooftop rituals involving the burning of incense.

The essay includes an incisive critique of M. Haran's objections to associating the horned altars with the burning of incense (pp. 103-13). The discussion is concise and convincing, as it incorporates data from textual and lexical analyses (particularly on understanding qtr as "to burn incense"), archaeology, and the comparative study of religion. This section ends with the proposal that the sacred quality of the altars' form and function actually "transmitted sanctity to the space they occupied" (p. 113), even in areas where, without the presence of the altar, one may not have recognized the space as geographically or thematically sacred in nature (e.g., the industrial zones and domestic areas in the seventh-century Stratum IB at Ekron). One wonders about the number of such artifacts needed to ascribe sacral status to an otherwise secular area. Would the presence of only one homed altar transform a large industrial complex into sacred space? Gitin concludes by suggesting that this "new dimension in defining sacred space" shows that both private and public worship could occur within either "religious" or "secular" areas.

Baruch Levine ("Ritual as Symbol: Modes of Sacrifice in Israelite Religion") complements the papers by Bitch-Smith and Gitin in recognizing that "the choreography of performance," in addition to art and architecture, "hark[s] back to phenomenology, to the perceived meaning of ritual in its various forms" (p. 125). Thus the ritual that is played out among the physical furnishings filling a sacred area is not only enhanced and shaped by those features but itself has the power to move the participant to deeper levels of participation in the cult and to a deeper experience of the divine. Working from the biblical texts, Levine concludes that "Israelite sacrifice was realized in three primary modes": presentation and display before the deity; an offering of "prepared food, intended for a sacral meal in the company of the deity, with the deity variously perceived as host or as guest"; and "the burnt altar offering" (p. 127). Most biblical sacrifices, says Levine, occurred through a mixing of these three key modes.

The various means of offering sacrifices allow the participant to experience the presence of the deity in different, symbolic ways. For example, in the presentation and display modes, the worshipper presumes the presence of the deity within the sacred space where the offering is made. Levine defines this contact as "horizontal phenomenology," i.e., "the contact established once the deity has arrived at the cult site" (p. 134). Burnt offerings, on the other hand, express "vertical phenomenology," and may often serve to invoke and attract the deity to the cult site. Although the burnt altar offering proves rather atypical in the Near East in general and in pre-Israelite Canaan specifically, Levine traces its path "from Eblaite sarapatu to Ugaritic srp to biblical migrapa" (p. 134). He concludes that the introduction of this style of offerings into Canaan "comes from Syria and that it may have been introduced by the Israelites, suggesting that they too came from Syria" (p. 134). This proposal alone should engender much discussion.

The introductory article in part four assumes the same title as the overall section ("Death in the Life of Israel"). Here E. Bitch-Smith reviews "the 20th-century C.E. debate over the presence or absence of a cult of the dead in preexilic Israel" (p. 139). She outlines the basic definitions of a cult of the dead as used by both the minimalist-moderate and maximalist-moderate schools of thought. The former group (e.g., Y. Kaufmann; B. Schmidt) focuses on "the intentions and behaviors of the practitioners and anticipated results," i.e., on areas that Bloch-Smith says "leave little archaeological evidence" (p. 140). Though "proponents of a death cult in preexilic Israel agree that the dead played an active role in Israelite society, ... some scholars mandate periodic or repeated activities while others appear content with circumstantial initiatives" (p. 140). Generally, however, they see Israel as having adopted the practices of surrounding, contemporary cultural groups in Mesopotamia and Canaan. Bitch-Smith concludes this overview with a brief inventory of twentieth-century scholarship that sets the stage for the final two essays, which illustrate both the minimalist (Pitard) and maximalist (Lewis) positions.

After noting the "relative silence" of the Hebrew Bible and the newly appreciated ambiguity of the Ugaritic material concerning issues of death, W. Pitard ("Tombs and Offerings: Archaeological Data and Comparative Methodology in the Study of Death in Israel") sets out to reassess several traditional interpretations of archaeological data that previous scholars have related in various ways to death and the dead. His remarks focus on "the limitation inherent in that data and the danger in the use of comparative data for explaining elements of culture in a specific society" (p. 148). While information obtained through archaeology is excellent for cataloguing tomb types, analyzing skeletal remains, and studying the objects buried with the dead, it proves more limited (especially "without some kind of written data") in its ability to reconstruct ancient Israel's beliefs regarding the status of the dead, the concept of the afterlife, etc.

As an example of the danger of relying on archaeology alone, Pitard raises the issue of offerings purportedly left in tombs for the benefit of the dead. After noting the widely accepted view that tombs at Ugarit and Minet el-Beida had holes or tubes in their ceilings through which one's survivors regularly introduced offerings, he argues that this position rests entirely on faulty interpretations made by the original excavator, Claude Schaeffer, who failed to recognize that the tombs in question did not comprise a discretely defined cemetery; rather, they lay beneath the floors of the houses of the living. Thus the putative offering tubes, says Pitard, amounted to nothing more than drainage pipes set beneath the floors of the houses. Similarly, so-called sacrificial altars instead represented olive presses, stepped altars were simply staircases to the second storey of the house, massive concentrations of votive offerings to the dead were really just storerooms used by the living, etc. Though parallels for Schaeffer's interpretations were not widely found at other sites, Pitard critiques the unpublished dissertation of J. Ribar, who applied similar interpretations to features at various sites in Israel.

As a second example of the faulty interpretation of archaeological data in isolation from supporting textual studies, Pitard addresses P Matthiae's understanding of Areas B, C, G, and Q at Ebla as the locus of an active royal cult of the dead during the Middle Bronze Age. By showing the strikingly low number of tombs actually found here, the absence of clear parallels for the floorplan of Sanctuary B2 (which Matthiae understood as a sanctuary for the cult of the dead), the difficulty of seeing "altars" designed to hold statues of deceased kings when no such statues have emerged, and of seeing "offering tables for blood sacrifice" without finding a trace of blood on the installation, Pitard effectively calls into question the presence of a thriving cult centered around deified royal ancestors. Rather, he believes the area represents part of the royal complex around the Western Palace that probably served "in the production and storage of various foodstuffs" (p. 162).

Since so many essays in this collection have affirmed the value of textual studies, or at points even a text-based approach to archaeological data, it seems fitting to conclude the volume with a balanced assessment of the results. Theodore Lewis offers just such an even-handed overview of archaeology and textual study in his article, "How Far Can Texts Take Us? Evaluating Textual Sources for Reconstructing Ancient Israelite Beliefs about the Dead." He accords greater credence to archaeological data when attempting to describe physical death (an individual's age, gender, diet, physiological history, cause of death), burial practices (patterns of tomb types, tomb locations, individual vs. communal interments, orientation and position of the dead, etc.), grave goods (pottery, jewelry, personal items, tools, figurines, etc.), and various social phenomena associated with burial practices (rank and social status of the deceased). Conversely, texts obviously assume greater value when considering the specific language used by the ancients themselves to describe the dead or their attendant powers (met/metim, repa'im, nesama, ruah, peger, gewiyya, and others), burial and mourning customs (mourning rituals, dress codes, symbolic acts, etc.), the psychology of fear (manifested in acts of desecration and the belief that the dead can speak from beyond the grave), purity codes, inheritance patterns, conceptions of the underworld, as well as the role of certain deities within the beliefs and practices of ancient Israel (Molech and child sacrifice).

Unlike Pitard and others, Lewis concludes that "according to what has been a broad consensus, texts ... and archaeology complement one another and speak with a unified voice that indeed there were cults of the dead in West Semitic religious practice (Israel included)" (p. 186). He then offers a brief critique of P. Johnston's minimalist views, followed by an extensive interaction with the similar position of B. Schmidt (pp. 186-200). The reader will find the discussion both interesting and provocative. Ultimately, Lewis concludes that Schmidt's "new thesis is primarily a literary one" (p. 201) and that "it is precisely here (when one privileges literary theory) that we should turn to the judgment of archaeologists and anthropologists" (p. 202). On the whole, "there is no magic wand" and, where texts are concerned, "all that we have at our disposal is the tedious work of textual criticism, dating through linguistic and orthographic considerations, redaction criticism, traditiohistorical criticism, and the other well-known methodologies that constitute our discipline" (p. 206).

This book represents a compact and valuable collection of recent essays for anyone interested in the religion of ancient Israel. Yet its contents raise several important observations. First, one wonders about the appropriateness of the title, for the discussion is not balanced between time and place (i.e., space). In fact, the aspect of time in religion receives very little coverage. Second, the application of new methodologies is never really introduced or affirmed (except, perhaps, for Zevit's references to "religiology"). Rather, from time to time the contributors even appear quite critical of new methods. So while the book succeeds in strengthening the call (which itself is not new) for a dialectic between archaeologists, biblicists, and philologians, it consistently embraces (if only indirectly) a historical-critical methodology and eschews more trendy approaches that focus less on ancient circumstances and more on the world of the modern-day analyst. This alone is a valuable lesson. The "new course" espoused by this book relies less on new methods than on a hard return to the critical, objective practice of traditional disciplines (but with greater interdisciplinary training and dialogue), without the baggage of theology, apologetics, or personal agendas based in our own culture. For the careful reader, these essays also raise, in a more subtle manner, interesting points and serious questions about the extent of Assyrian influence (in Palestine and even the Aegean world) on phenomena such as a possible star cult and the design of temple decor, the proliferation and function of the four-homed altar and the defining of sacred space, and the presence of a cult of the dead.

This is a review article of Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel. Edited by BARRY M. GITTLEN. Winona Lake, Ind.: EISENSRAUNS, 2002. Pp. xii + 228. $29.50.

(1.) W. Burkert, Greek Religion (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1985), 37.

(2.) See M. E. L. Mallowan, "Excavations at Brak and Chagar Bazar," Iraq 9 (1947): 184, pl. XXXIX:2.

(3.) Still, many scholars continue to stress the east-to-west diffusion of cultural influence during this period (e.g., see W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution." Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1992], for the period from 750 to 650 B.C.). The likelihood of a more balanced, two-way exchange remains, I believe, somewhat undervalued.
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Author:Tappy, Ron E.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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