Daily Archives: 2008-08-05 17:56:38 UTC

Israel’s second God. 2: Evidence of the Exile

1992, a year with two pivotal publications

The Great Angel by Margaret Barker was published 1992, the same year as Philip Davies’ publication of In Search of Ancient Israel. Each proposes a different model for the interpretation of biblical texts and their historical matrix. Davies argues that the realities of ancient deportations make any notion of uprooted captives having the luxury to ponder and creatively build on their literary and cultural heritage as romantic (pious) nonsense. See, for example, my notes on his discussion of the Babylonian Captivity.

Margaret Barker, on the other hand, proposes an alternative hypothesis that is rooted in a fresh analysis of the biblical and extra-biblical Jewish texts. She works within the framework of the orthodox hypothesis of the Babylonian Captivity being the turning point in Jewish literature and history, and explains the difficulties with the evidence in terms of the massive destruction and unsettled political and cultural developments of the period. Davies, rather, sees the problems arising from scholars attempting to explain the literature through a historical reconstruction that was a literary and theological fiction. In the following discussion of Margaret Barker’s second chapter of The Great Angel I am tempted to suggest alternative explanations and leads for followup thoughts by commenting on Barker’s explanations through Davies views, but then I would be doing an injustice to my primary reason for these posts. That is to do what I can to help publicize a wee bit more the biblical scholarship — in this case Barker’s The Great Angel — that too often tends to slip by the radars of most lay readers. I will try to keep any notes that relate to Davies’ viewpoint to a minimum, and clearly mark them as distinct from Barker’s thoughts.

What’s left when the ashes settle?

Barker explains that her hypothesis is “exploratory”. The destruction of the Jewish state and Babylonian captivity, the mass deportations, and the religious-political turmoil that preceded all this (the Josiah reforms) leave evidence so patchy and confusing that certainty is impossible in any attempted reconstruction of  Israel’s religion up to this time.

[T]he customary descriptions of ancient Israel’s religion are themselves no more than supposition. What I shall propose in this chapter is not an impossibility, but only one possibility to set alongside other possibilities, none of which has any claim to being an absolutely accurate account of what happened. Hypotheses do not become fact simply by frequent repetition, or even by detailed elaboration. What I am suggesting does, however, make considerable sense of the evidence from later periods, as I shall show in subsequent chapters. (p.12)

(Davies and others who have broadly followed in his wake have do not see the necessary social, economic and cultural conditions that must have been required to produce the biblical literature existing in Palestine before the Persian period. Another possibility Davies would propose is that the biblical literature was the product of different scribal schools, many of them engaging in debate or dialogue with one another, and this dialogue can be seen in a comparative reading of the texts.)

The religious practices the Deuteronomist purged (or wished were purged?)

Margaret Barker (MB) refers to 2 Kings 22-23 describing in detail the abominations that Josiah purged from Israel and adds a brief mention of a great Passover. I’ve listed them from that passage here, along with some notes from readings outside Barker. read more »

Leaving your religion?

following is a notice from Marlene Winell I think might be of interest to some. . . .
LEAVING YOUR RELIGION?

It’s not the end of the world!   Join us at a recovery retreat.

“RELEASE AND RECLAIM”

August 15-17, 2008, with Dr. Marlene Winell


Do you feel alone in your struggle for healing?  Come to a supportive and powerful weekend with others who can understand you — an oasis from dogmatic teachings and judgmental groups.  We’ll rant and rave, tell our stories, discuss the issues, visualize, role-play, dance and draw – whatever it takes to think for ourselves and reclaim our lives.  A joyful, empowered life is your birthright and you can start now.

WHEN: FRIDAY, Aug. 15, 7PM – SUNDAY, Aug. 17, 3PM.

WHERE: A beautiful house in Berkeley, California,
with hot tub and other amenities.

COST: $320 for the workshop, $125 for room and board. Financial need considered & options available.

TO REGISTER: Call 510-292-0509 or send an email to recoveryfromreligion@gmail.com.  Register soon as group size is limited.


Dr. Marlene Winell is a psychologist & author of “Leaving the Fold:  A Guide for Former Fundamentalists & Others Leaving their Religion.”  She has a practice in Berkeley & also counsels individuals by phone.   For more info, mailing list,  comments about retreats, & Youtube link, visit: www.marlenewinell.net. Or call Dr. Winell for a complimentary discussion about your interest.