The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

The Crisis of Israelite Religion: Transformation of Religious Tradition in Exilic and Post-Exilic Times

Synopsis

Exile and Return have caused a crisis in Israelite religion. This crisis eventually gave the impetus for the emergence of Judaism. The papers in this volume, originally read at a Symposium organized by Utrecht University in April 1998, discuss the relevant aspects of this crisis and the shift from Yahwism to Judaism. The collection of papers is unique in presenting a multidimensional treatment of the problems involved. Biblical texts are read against their historical background with the question in mind: How did the author(s) of this text cope with the changed and shifting situation? Next to that the period under consideration is discussed from historical, religion-historical, archaeological and iconographic angles. The volume underscores the significance of this period for Biblical studies and will certainly yield further discussion.

Excerpt

Bob Becking Utrecht — The Netherlands

Continuity and Discontinuity after the Exile
Some Introductory Remarks

These remarks intend to introduce the articles in this volume to the readers. It is not my aim to summarize the various contributions to the theme both of the conference and of this book. I will, however, sketch its contours by referring to the problems involved. This will be done in a somewhat expressionistic way. Not by arguing, but by putting some dots and lines on the canvas, I will introduce the reader in the scholarly landscape related to period under consideration. In doing so, I hope to make clear the various connections between the papers in this volume.

2 Exile and return

From a broader historical perspective the period between, roughly speaking, 600 and 400 BCE in Israelite history is characterized by changes. These changes can simply be indicated with the ideas ‘exile’ and ‘return’. In the beginning of the sixth century Judah lost the last remains of its independence in the sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Judahites — among them the royal family — were deported to Babylonia. City and temple were destroyed. In 539 BCE Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonians and conquered their capital city. Since that date, Judaeans (re)settled in Jerusalem and vicinity. They rebuilt their temple and worshipped Yahweh as sole deity.

The outline given in the previous textual unit is wilfully vague. I have my reasons for that. When it comes to a detailed reconstruction of the events in the sixth and fifth century BCE many problems arise. The main problem is yielded by the scarcity of evidence. Moreover, much of the existing written evidence is imbued with Persian or Judaean ideology. This scarcity on the other hand has opened the lane for a vivid scholarly discussion on what did and what did not happen in the periods of exile and return. I would like to point at three features here:

The order of the articles follows the sequence of the respective lectures and workshops during the congress.

See most recently: B. Becking, “Babylonisches Exil”, in: H.D. Betz et al. (ed.), Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Handwörterbuch für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, Bd. 1/A-B, Tübingen 1998, 1044–1045.

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