The Torah's Vision of Worship

By Samuel E. Balentine | Go to book overview

1.

WORSHIP AS A SUBJECT
IN OLD TESTAMENT STUDIES

ALMOST A FULL GENERATION HAS PASSED SINCE THE LAST COMPREHENsive treatments of worship in the Old Testament were published. H.-J. Kraus's Gottesdienst in Israel (Worship in Israel), which first appeared in 1954, introduced a brief period when this subject emerged as a principal concern.1 Over the next fifteen years, significant studies were offered by R. de Vaux, H. H. Rowley, and W. Harrelson.2 By the end of the 1960s, few would have quibbled with U. Simon's observation, in reviewing the 1965 English translation of Kraus, that “Worship is nowadays no longer just a department in Old Testament studies, but without a doubt the master-key.”3

Since Harrelson's 1969 publication, however, the subject of “worship” in ancient Israel seems largely to have faded from Old Testament studies. One can still find discussion of selected aspects of Israel's worship, for example the sacrificial system4 or the temple and its cult.5 But when one looks for the kind of comprehensive assessments of worship that characterized the generation of Kraus and his peers, nothing comparable emerges. Indeed, even the general synopses of Israel's worship that were once standard

1. H.-J. Kraus, Worship in Israel: A Cultic History of the Old Testament, G. Buswell trans.
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell; Richmond: John Knox, 1965), is a translation of the 1962 revised and
enlarged edition; the book was first published in 1954.

2. R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel. Vols. I, II, trans. J. McHugh (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961);
H. H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel (London: SPCK, 1967); W. Harrelson, From Fertility
Cult to Worship
(New York: Doubleday, 1969).

3. U. Simon, “Old Testament Cultus,” CQR 168 (1967), 111.

4. Note especially the significant contributions of J. Milgrom, e.g., Studies in Levitical Ter-
minology: The Encroacher and the Levite. The Term Aboda
(Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1970); Cult and Conscience: The Asham and the Priestly Doctrine of Repentance (Leiden:
E. J. Brill, 1976); Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1983); Leviticus
1–16
, AB (New York: Doubleday, 1991).

5. E.g., M. Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978).

-3-

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