Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Forthcoming in the LHBOTS Series: The Family in Ancient Israel

I'm excited to see this volume on the Family in Ancient Israel finally being advertised (click here). It stems out of a series of SBL sessions done jointly with ASOR on sociological and archaeological perspectives on Israelite families in life and in death. I'm very pleased to have one of the essays in here.

1. The Clarity of Double Vision: Seeing the Family in Sociological and Archaeological Perspective -- Introduction to the volume
Patricia Dutcher-Walls, Vancouver School of Theology
This introductory chapter is a discussion of the methodological interactions between sociology and archaeology. It proposes that these distinct but complementary fields act together heuristically to give scholars ways of understanding and reconstructing the life and death patterns within families in ancient Israel. Examples of the utility of such “double vision” are drawn from the papers in the volume. This first essay thus serves as both an introduction to the volume and an analysis of the potential results of the combined papers.

2. "It's 'All in the Family”: Aspects of Identity in Ancient Israel"
Victor H. Matthews, Southwest Missouri State University
In order to create a sociology of the family in ancient Israel, it is necessary to take into account both archaeological investigations and social theories. In particular, an investigation of the basic indicators of identity takes into account narrative descriptions and the physical remains of living and work space, clothing, marriage and inheritance patterns, and basic economic activity. A creative synthesis of material and textual data allows a better understanding of the shared social cognitions that shaped behavior and identity.

3. Lying and Deceit in Families: The Duping of Isaac and Tamar
Heather McKay, Edge Hill College
Whereas in many societies lying to outsiders is regarded as acceptable and even, at times, praiseworthy, the practicing of deceit upon insiders is considered to be a hostile or contemptible act. The stories of the Dispossessing of Esau and the Rape of Tamar are analyzed using insights from two social scientific theories of manipulation. These biblical stories provide us with clear examples of the malign and manipulative use of ambiguity where two conspire against one in a deceitful way.

4. Average Families? The Problem of Variability in Iron Age Houses
Bruce Routledge, University of Liverpool
Discussions of both the four-room house and biblical representations of the family rely heavily on models of the “typical” or “average.” However, when one looks closely at actual excavated houses from Iron Age contexts in the southern Levant, one finds significant levels of variability in size, internal arrangements, and artifact assemblages between houses. This study highlights the scale and nature of this variability and shows the potential for new insights into Iron Age social life, including both village and household relations, which arise from taking variability seriously.

5. "Home Economics 1407” and the Israelite Family and their Neighbors: An Anthropological/ Archaeological Exploration
John S. Holladay, Jr., University of Toronto
Taking as axiomatic that “form follows function” in varying house styles, this study analyzes the functionality and archaeoethnographic suitability of six distinctly different house building plans to each of four population groups in the Levant. Determinants examined include the archaeologically-preserved building remains themselves, building materials, inferable and/or reconstructable economies (domestic, communal, agricultural, state) together with family makeup and, where inferable, social organization, employing archaeological, textual/ historical, ethnographic, and geographical approaches.

6. Food, Family, and Clothing at Passover: Ancestor Worship in Exodus 12:3-13
Naomi Steinberg, DePaul University
This study argues that Passover was originally a family ritual which established reciprocity between the living and the dead by giving thanks to the ancestors of the kinship group who blessed the fertility of fields and family. Cross-cultural data on ancestor worship reveals contexts in which the consumption of distinct foods at ritual meals reflects a changed relationship between the living and the deceased. The unique clothing worn for the Passover meal, like the food eaten, is an indicator that the ritual both connects the living and the dead of the lineage, and yet emphasizes the distinction between them.

7. Death, Kinship, and Community: Funerary Practices and the hesed Ideal in Israel
Stephen L. Cook. Virginia Theological Seminary
Within the covenant ideology of the Hebrew Scriptures, the hesed ideal of the mutuality of persons enjoying physical, embodied community on earth was fostered by Israelite society’s traditional family and lineage bonds. The powers of Sheol, however, were understood to be constantly at work to sever human relationships and to dissolve community, contradicting hesed. Taking a stand against Sheol’s dissevering power, Israel’s mortuary ideals and practices betray a faith that death’s power can somehow be overcome by the bonds of lineage membership and land-vested community.

8. From Womb to Tomb: The Israelite Family in Death as in Life
Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, Villanova University
Throughout the Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE), Israelite burials reflect the centrality of family and community in which the dead in their tombs provide a still-life picture of the living in their homes. Interpreted within the context of biblical and extra-biblical writings, burial remains suggest the deceased joined their ancestors and attained low-level divine status and retained any special powers after death. As in cultic practices in general, early Israelites followed indigenous customs in their burial practices in which the living provided nourishment for the dead and consulted them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the description at the publisher website, this looks fabulous. Unfortunately, they don't name who did which essay. Which one is yours? Let me guess... either "Death, Kinship, and Community: Funerary Practices and the hesed Ideal in Israel" or "From Womb to Tomb: The Israelite Family in Death as in Life"? They all look interesting.

Mon Jan 19, 10:19:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you for this! And, you're right on. I have the essay on "Death, Kinship, and Community" and Liz Bloch-Smith has the essay on "Womb to Tomb." You have prompted me to go ahead and emend the post: I've added the articles and brief descriptions at the bottom (at least as the volume was originally conceived. There could be slight changes by the time it comes off the presses). Peace, ---SLC

Tue Jan 20, 09:32:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great! Thanks for the extra info on the work. It's on my reading list.

By the way, I have been reading through Knowing the End from the Beginning of late. Grabbe really goes after you!! But he seems to go after everyone :) I think it was Jim West who highlighted Grabbe's presidential address to SOTS criticizing the use of consensus. I haven't read much from him, but I can really see his passion for this come out in what I have read.

Tue Jan 20, 04:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks. Yes, I had occassion to re-read the _End From the Beginning_ volume recently when working on a new piece. Grabbe is right that his early article viewing the origins of apocalyptic in cross-cultural perspective did not receive the attention it deserved. I try to rectify that a little bit in this new article. It was John Collins who really felt Grabbe's introduction _End From the Beginning_ was unfair, and ended up writing an extra introductory essay for the volume to take Grabbe on. I must say, where I really feel quite a distance from both of them is in their mutual failure to grasp how biblical apocalyptic uses mythic material as a way to grapple with the transcendent. Apocalyptic is all about a new window into transcendent reality, and myth represents a tool for it to use in revealing this reality. The problem is that both Collins and Grabbe have difficulty taking about transcendence, about anything beyond the historical-critical. Thus, all language about God in the Bible is "mythical." If that's your position, how can you possibly do justice to apocalyptic literature and the peculiar way that it "leans on" myth? ---SLC

Tue Jan 20, 08:58:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Thanks for that insight! I will have to chew on that a bit more as I read through. I am trying to bridge some gaps in my own education, with theological training from Fuller Seminary and now social history at UCLA, so I can appreciate your perspective.

I found the Collins' addition to the introduction interesting and I think I side closer to him than Grabbe at the moment. I am trying to focus on apocalyptic eschatology in my doctoral program at UCLA, but it's thick stuff. The obvious problem is the issue of definition. All of these terms are our own inventions, our own categories. We have to first agree on how to define the categories before we can ever start making judgments about how those categories are functioning. Of course any scholarly endeavor into ancient history is like this, but I have found it more challenging in reading the scholarship regarding apocalyptic literature than any other field.

Tue Jan 20, 11:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

The other main caution that I would add about that particular Collins essay is that I would steer clear of his focus on _resurrection_ as some sort of demarcator. He is stuck in the older view that resurrection is a late, Hellenistic-era development. If you want to email me directly, I can probably send you some helpful material. ---SLC

Wed Jan 21, 08:54:00 AM GMT-5  

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