Term Paper: Hebrew Bible

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Hebrew Bible Viewed Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology

The objective of this work is to examine the Hebrew Bible as viewed through the lens of cultural anthropology in various areas of study of the Hebrew Bible, its' symbolism and the meanings applied in the Hebrew Bible both literal and symbolic in its interpretation.

The Hebrew Bible, referred to as the Old Testament by Christians "developed over roughly a millennium" with the texts that are the oldest appearing to "come from the eleventh or tenth centuries BCE." (Hamilton, 2008) There is much in the way of symbolism in the Old Testament, and it is precisely this symbolism as applied by the Hebrew culture that this work will examine. McNeeley holds that "Israel was not afraid of iconographic representations" and states further that "the corruption of the allowable iconographic representations may be a reflection of the leadership's prevailing understanding and association of Yahweh to the Canaanite god El." (nd) McNeeley examines the 'Tannach' stand which is held by Taylor (1994) to stand as a portrayal of "the invisible Yahweh with the visible symbols available for the asherah: the nude female and the tree of life." (nd) McNeeley states that the Taanch stand "definitely represents a means of focusing attention towards some deistic collection and a product of the prevailing religious cult social system. Because the third tier seems to depict a deity whose characteristics are impossible for representation, Taylor (1994: 60) suggests that the tier represents Yahweh and the Asherah." (McNeeley, nd) it is clear that the Hebrews made it clear through their many varied and diverse use of alternative descriptions and symbolic representations of God that the Hebrews went to great and explicit lengths to attempt to describe God while conveying that God is altogether indescribable and as well in their understanding, which admittedly that would leave intermittently throughout the Old Testament to worship Baal, whom they could see, that God should not be iconically represented according to the instructions given of God. God understood however, that the Hebrew people were very visually oriented individuals as were likely all humanity at this age of the earth's modern history and many of the miracles and wonders were visual ones in nature as God attempted to connect to and know the group that are named as the chosen people of God. In fact, God used an expansive amount of visual stimulation to gain the attention of the Hebrews. Furthermore, symbolism was greatly utilized by God in teaching the Hebrew people, who were still very primitive in terms of the stage of advance learning in their civilization. In order to truly understand how very critically important symbolism is in the Bible it is necessary that an anthropological view be integrated into study of scripture and most specifically in undertaking the study of the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible.

I. CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY in UNDERSTANDING the HEBREW BIBLE

The work of Donald C. McNeeley, entitled: "Processing Ethno-historic Understanding and Archaeological Artifacts for Biblical Truths" relates the work of Strange (1992) who proposed a model for understanding the Hebrew Bible. The model posited in the work of strange is shown in the following illustration labeled Figure 1. The figure illustrates the process posited by Strange and uses the word 'star' in the example of how words are examined within this framework for understanding.

Model as Proposed by Strange for Understanding Hebrew Bible

Source: McNeeley (nd)

The three primary components of Strange's Model are those of:

1) the literary remains;

2) the archaeological remains; and 3) social reality or the theological construct. (McNeeley, nd)

McNeeley states that the user of this model must necessarily possession at least "...some, literary competence." (nd) it is stated to be posited in the work of Long (1997) that one should "read as much of the literature under consideration as possible...immersing oneself fir and foremost in the OT, but then also in such cognate literatures as are available from ancient Israel's neighbors." (McNeeley, nd)

The reason given is that "...users of the model must have an awareness of, working of, and be able to discern what the literary texts are attempting to describe, present, or argue for in their use of the different genres." (McNeeley, nd) the second reason stated by McNeeley for the need in understanding the material remains unearthed by the archaeologist is that "ethnographic studies, experimental, archaeology and a host of other activities should be invested by the model user in order to come to an understanding of how to extract a social reality from the archaeological remains." (nd)

McNeeley states that for the biblical archaeologist, and this holds true for the biblical historical theologist as well that it is important to consider that "the ethnohistorical accounts contained in the biblical records are as vital as understanding the archaeology for constructing the social reality." (nd) Furthermore, McNeeley states that it is:

imperative for the model developer sift through the evidence through the intellectual maze that that comprises his theoretical stance, in order to reconcile discordant information. This is not something that can be learned through the reading of scripture, history, archaeology, culture or others various writing; rather it is accomplished through the active participation of the researcher in every arena." (nd) McNeeley holds that one must become "immersed in the synthesis of all the disciplines that are associated with the study of biblical cultures." (nd)

METHODOLOGY of the PRESENT STUDY

The methodology employed in this present research study is one of a qualitative nature which is interpretive in nature. The study will be conducted through means of a review of relevant literature in this area of study. Further, this study will not be limited by religiously oriented reporting but will be in the form of a non-biased review of literature relating to symbolic representation vested in the Old Testament or the Hebrew portion of the Bible. This review of literature will be one of the nature that opens the door of many varied and diverse views in this area of study in an attempt to disseminate the meaning behind many of the symbolic representations that are used in the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible. This is necessary because as reported in the work of Strange and according to the model posited by Strange it is critically necessary to consider the matters of:

material remains;

social systems literary remains dialogue; and social systems in combination in the attempt to reconstruct a 'social reality' and disseminate the true meanings vested in symbolic representation in the Old Testament of the Bible.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The first symbolic representation examined in this study is the work of McNeeley in relation to Hosea's prophecy in the northern kingdom and how it: "...continued its economic, political, social and religious death spiral." (nd) the voice of Hosea was a voice in prophecy that spoke "...against the leadership that is attempting to protect their own narrow interests by utilizing every opportunity to better or at least maintain their level of sufficiency at the expense of others." (nd) the view of these leaders was that Yahweh was in the practice of "awarding and granting personal advantages based on some magical formula." (McNeeley, nd) it was however, stressed by Hosea that this had occurred due a prevailing belief that Yahweh could be influenced "through ritual and sacrifice, an idea which had come from the Baal worship that seems to have permeated Israelite society. (Gottwald, 1985:360 as cited in McNeeley, nd) Sacrifice in the Hebrew tradition is also examined in the work of David Janzen entitled: "The Social Meanings of Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible: A Study of Four Writings" states that it is demonstrated in anthropological field studies the "importance of understanding concept in the interpretation of the social meaning of ritual." (2004) Janzen relates that while anthropological studies have, in the past, relegated sacrifice to hold universal meaning that this method of understanding is not workable because of the diversity of meaning found within cultural studies for reason associated with sacrifice and its associated rituals. Janzen's references in this arena appears repeatedly in his work and relates to:

1) Social meaning of rituals;

2) Social significance or the worldview of a particular group; and 3) the moral system of the group. (2004)

Janzen states that sacrifice:

like other rituals, communicates social meaning to its participants, and like other rituals the meaning it expresses is a communication of the way one social group understands the world to be and, therefore, the moral actions that its members should adopt." (2004)

The individuals who are participants in this particular sacrifice are thereby publicly assenting "...to these truths and communicate this assent to their social group simply by virtue of their participation." (2004) Janzen states that in the endeavor to understand these things: "...we cannot offer any a priori meanings of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible or anywhere else, and to understand its social message we will have to study its context." (2004)

The sermon of Martin Luther entitled: "Christ Our… [END OF PREVIEW]

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