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Pentateuch

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The Historical And Literary Contexts Of The Sin And Guilt Offerings, James Watts May 2015

The Historical And Literary Contexts Of The Sin And Guilt Offerings, James Watts

James Watts

Many interpreters have noted that the common nouns, hattat and asham, carry legal connotations in Akkadian and non-priestly parts of the Hebrew Bible. In P, they also serve as the names of the “sin” and “guilt” offerings. The fact that the offering names evoke legal documents and treaties suggests that they were introduced because priests were playing a larger role in legal matters, or at least wished to. The demise of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah provide plausible reasons for why the Temple would have been looking for additional sources of revenue in the form of the sin and ...


The Legal Characterization Of Moses In The Rhetoric Of The Pentateuch, James Watts Feb 2012

The Legal Characterization Of Moses In The Rhetoric Of The Pentateuch, James Watts

James Watts

The force of law depends on the authority of its promulgator. Self-characterizations by lawgivers play a vital role in persuading hearers and readers to accept law and in motivating them to obey it. Pentateuchal laws therefore join narratives in characterizing law-speakers as part of a rhetoric of persuasion. They present, however, two speakers of law, one divine (YHWH) and the other human (Moses). I will show that this dual voicing of pentateuchal law has two effects: it restricts Deuteronomy's prophetic characterization of Moses to the narrower definition of prophecy presented in the previous books, while it uses Moses' scribal ...


Aaron And The Golden Calf In The Rhetoric Of The Pentateuch, James Watts Feb 2012

Aaron And The Golden Calf In The Rhetoric Of The Pentateuch, James Watts

James Watts

In the Pentateuch, the contrast between law and narrative, or more precisely, ritual instructions and ritual narrative, is nowhere more stark than in the relationship between the Golden Calf story (Exod 32-34) and the instructions for building the Tabernacle (Exod 25-31, 35-40). The former vilifies Aaron by placing him at the center of the idolatrous event while the latter celebrates Aaron and his sons as divinely consecrated priests. Though source criticism has long since distinguished the authors of these accounts, it does not explain the intentions behind a literary juxtaposition that is too stark to be anything but intentional. Nor ...


Using Ezra's Time As A Methodological Pivot For Understanding The Rhetoric And Functions Of The Pentateuch, James Watts Feb 2012

Using Ezra's Time As A Methodological Pivot For Understanding The Rhetoric And Functions Of The Pentateuch, James Watts

James Watts

The Persian period saw the transformation of pentateuchal materials into a scripture, the Torah. The story of Ezra exemplifies that transformation by its description of his manipulation of the physical scroll, his oral reading of it before the people of Jerusalem, and his arrangement for its professional translation/interpretation by Levites. These rituals have characterized the function of the Torah (and other scriptures) from that time forward. The Persian period, however, also marks a major change in the nature of our evidence for the form, contents and meaning of pentateuchal materials. The only historical evidence from before the time of ...


Public Readings And Pentateuchal Law, James Watts Feb 2012

Public Readings And Pentateuchal Law, James Watts

James Watts

References to reading are remarkably sparse in the Hebrew Bible. Though the variety of forms and styles in the biblical books attests an ancient literary culture in Israel, there is little explicit mention of reading prophecy and virtually no references to reading hymns or history. Most references to reading portray the reading of law. Such references provide valuable insights into how the Pentateuch's writers expected their work to be read. Reading expectations make up the components of genre and shape the conventions used by writers to compose their works. Thus accounts of law readings also illulllinate the ancient literary ...


Rhetorical Strategy In The Composition Of The Pentateuch, James Watts Feb 2012

Rhetorical Strategy In The Composition Of The Pentateuch, James Watts

James Watts

The Hebrew Bible rarely depicts the reading of books or documents, but when it does, it usually portrays public readings of entire law codes. Whether by Moses, Joshua, Josiah or Ezra, law readings to public assemblies play prominent roles in various biblical books. It is not my intention in this essay to discuss Israel's tradition of law readings in depth, but rather to explore its implications for the form of Israel's extant laws as found in the Pentateuch. The tradition of public law readings points out the rhetorical function of law in ancient Israel. The accounts of readings ...


Ritual Legitimacy And Scriptural Authority, James Watts Dec 2004

Ritual Legitimacy And Scriptural Authority, James Watts

James Watts

Theorists of ritual have frequently criticized the old tendency in Western culture to dichotomize ritual and text by pointing to the ritual uses of scripture that reinforce its authority. This article extends that argument by illustrating how Torah gained its authoritative position because it validated the rites of the Jerusalem Temple. In first millennium BCE Egyptian, Jewish and Greek cultures, old texts were used to authorize and validate ritual practices. From such usage grew the idea of the religious authority of ritual texts. When one such text, the Torah, included legal and narrative materials as well as ritual instructions, its ...