THIS IS NOT THE BOOK I SET OUT TO WRITE. I HAVE TAUGHT A COURSE ON worship in ancient Israel off and on through the years, and each time I have been reminded that there is not adequate treatment of the subject in print that I could assign as a text. My conviction that the situation should be remedied pushed me finally to draft the first outlines for this project. My original objective was to provide a basic update of the subject that would have followed the history-of-religion approach modeled by Hans-Joachim Kraus, although I hoped to supplement this with a modest theological perspective that might suggest an overall framework for understanding general issues. This objective was gradually discarded for several reasons, none of which I foresaw when I started.
First, I began to realize that it was not the disparate details of Israel's worship that I needed to describe. Instead, I found myself wanting to understand the fundamental objectives of Israel's worship, which the various rites and practices may have served. I eventually conceptualized these objectives with the rubric of the Torah's “vision” of worship. When I completed that part of the work (part 2 of this book), I thought the manuscript was finished.
Second, this vision of Israel's worship gradually pushed me to ask a range of other questions, landing me far outside the lines of my first-draft projections. Where did this vision originate? What context(s) did it address? What were the historical, political, and social factors that shaped its formulation? Such questions led me eventually to look to the Persian period and to reflect on how this world, which by all accounts provided the setting for the Pentateuch's canonization, may have contributed to the vision I had discerned. Although I am keenly aware of my limitations in this area, I have tried to give a brief account of what I have learned in what is part 1 of this book: “The World That Shaped the Torah's Vision.”
Third, the tension created by the juxtaposition of parts 1 and 2 made it imperative for me to rethink the theological perspective of the Torah's vision