Friday, October 13, 2006

Discussion with Arachnophilia

I am thankful to Arachnophilia for engaging my series on Afterlife in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament. To see the discussion over on the Higgaion site, click here.

Arachnophilia raises the problem of how we could know that the beliefs in the Hereafter that I have been treating do not merely come in at a late period, for example, when Scriptures such as Isaiah and the DTR history were first appearing.

Well, the 8th century BCE is not all that late! But, be that as it may, that was not my response. The following is the response that I wrote. Comments welcome, of course.

Okay, I see. I wasn't sure at what level I should try to respond. Allow me two quick responses. First, the lack of mention may mean very little. For example, there is very little mention in Scripture of such key parts of life as, e.g., toileting, sexual technique, and betrothal etiquette. Afterlife seems to be one of these types of subjects, which either go without saying or which people avoid speaking about in polite company. Second, when texts such as Isaiah and the DTR History do crystallize in writing, they seem to be about the task of tempering and (re)directing extant local/village traditions about the afterlife. Deut 26:14 is a great example--an archaic practice is allowed but given new restrictions. The beliefs about the Hereafter which I uncover align perfectly with old Israel's segmentary organization along genealogical lines. I admit to being fully persuaded---these beliefs are ancient. What the covenantal traditions of Torah do is temper and (re)direct them along the lines of purity and khesed, etc., as I mention in my series. Thanks for letting me respond! --Steve


Blogger Tim Bulkeley said...

Hmm, I am less that easily convinced by the notion that afterlife should be classified with defecation and sex among the topics not traised in polite company!

Sat Oct 14, 01:10:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

But Tim, even in our own society we tend to surround death with hushed, meditative silence and with euphemisms, such as "passing"; "passed on"; "rest in peace"; "gone to a better place"... We try to whitewash the shear offense and horror of death. ---S.

Sat Oct 14, 01:27:00 PM GMT-5  

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