Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions

Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions

Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions

Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions

Synopsis

A comprehensive analysis of the ritual dimensions of biblical mourning rites, this book also seeks to illuminate mourning's social dimensions through engagement with anthropological discussion of mourning, from Hertz and van Gennep to contemporaries such as Metcalf and Huntington and Bloch and Parry. The author identifies four types of biblical mourning, and argues that mourning the dead is paradigmatic. He investigates why mourning can occur among petitioners in a sanctuary setting even given mourning's death associations; why certain texts proscribe some mourning rites (laceration andshaving) but not others; and why the mixing of the rites of mourning and rejoicing, normally incompatible, occurs in the same ritual in several biblical texts.

Excerpt

Though groundbreaking work on specific aspects of biblical mourning rites has been published during the past fifteen years (e.g. mourning and rejoicing as ritual type and antitype), no adequate paradigm has been developed for understanding the ritual dimensions of mourning as it is represented in biblical and cognate literatures. Nor have scholars investigated the social dimensions of biblical mourning in any serious way. Recent scholarship on death and the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel has tended to focus more on understanding the extent and nature of ancestor cults, the mechanics of necromancy, patterns of burial practice, and conceptions of the afterlife than it has on comprehending mourning. Furthermore, the

G. A. Anderson, A Time to Mourn, A Time to Dance: The Expression of
Grief and Joy in Israelite Religion
(University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State
University Press, 1991).

On ancestor cults, see e.g. T. J. Lewis, Cults of the Dead in Ancient Israel
and Ugarit
(HSM 39; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989); K. van der Toorn, Family
Religion in Babylonia, Syria & Israel: Continuity & Change in the Forms of
Religious Life
(SHCANE 7; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 206–35; B. B. Schmidt, Israel’s
Beneficent Dead: Ancestor Cult and Necromancy in Ancient Israelite Religion and
Tradition
(Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1996); and Lewis’s recent critique
of Schmidt’s position in ‘How Far Can Texts Take Us? Evaluating Textual
Sources for Reconstructing Ancient Israelite Beliefs about the Dead’, in B.
Gittlen (ed.), Sacred Time, Sacred Place: Archaeology and the Religion of Israel
(Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2002), 189–202. On necromancy, see
J. Tropper, Nekromantie: Totenbefragung im Alten Orient und im Alten Testa
ment
(AOAT 223; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener; Kevelaer: Butzon &
Bercker, 1989). On burial in Judah, see esp. E. Bloch-Smith, Judahite Burial
Practices and Beliefs about the Dead
(JSOTS 123; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1992). On the afterlife, see e.g. N. J. Tromp, Primitive Conceptions of
Death and the Nether World in the Old Testament
(BO 21; Rome: Pontifical
Biblical Institute, 1969) and Lewis, ‘How Far Can Texts Take Us?’, 183–5. A
useful bibliography assembled by B. Janowski consisting mainly of German-

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