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Jun 25, 2007


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Peter Kirk

Michael, you, apparently following Perdue, ignore the very real question of whether this idea of local shrines presided over by local Levites etc was God's will or not. Indeed you imply that it was. But the book of Deuteronomy in particular implies that it was not. If you choose to go along with liberal scholarship which understands Deuteronomy as late and contradicting God's original plan for Israel, don't forget you are rejecting the authority of the Bible.

Michael W. Kruse

I'm not totally taken with Perdue's analysis on every aspect. I do think it is possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons. Deuteronomy prohibits this practice but what motivated action centuries later? Was it the desire to adhere to the biblical code that motivated the elimination of ancestor worship or was it the desire for centralization? I think it is a valid question.

Michael W. Kruse

Upon further reflection based on Peter’s comment the following was removed from the post:


Concerning religion, Perdue writes:

…the religious traditions and practices that strengthened families were restricted and at times even prohibited by royal design. During Josiah’s reform (2 Kings 22-23), the centralization of worship in Jerusalem sought to strengthen royal control of religion and thereby concentrate greater power in the hands of the king by eliminating not just pagan cults but also the local sanctuaries and priesthoods (country Levites) that were integrated into the social fabric of the households and clans. Transforming Passover from a household sacrificial meal to a national pilgrimage festival held at Jerusalem was designed to centralize religious control to the royal sanctuary and to negate the major cultic celebration that strengthened family identity and solidarity. The proscription of the veneration of the dead ancestors sought to break the link between the living members of the household and their ancestors who were thought to continue as members of the family throughout the generations. The attempts to replace the belief in the continuance of life after death with the view of the oblivion of death and to prohibit ancestor veneration also sought to destroy the family’s linkage with its past. The subverting of the material means by which families continued to exist cost them their future; prohibiting the veneration at the ancestral burial sited on a family estate helped negate the sense of the importance of the household’s land tenure and cost families their past. (211)


Digging into another of Perdue's articles, I see that Perdue is basing his observations here on the theory that Deuteronomy was of c. 7th century construction. The prohibitions against ancestor worship and transforming Passover into a pilgrimage were allegedly added later to justify centralization. I’m not an OT scholar but this doesn’t comport with my understanding of the origins of the OT and Deuteronomy. I think the prohibitions were there centuries before the 7th Century but the aim of prohibiting ancestor veneration was to direct worship toward God. There is no question that this would have had the effect of disuniting the family from household loyalty but did it redirect loyalty toward God as was the intent, or did it redirect it toward the state (and admittedly the two would be hard to differentiate.) Not all evolution away from the household toward some centralization was bad. I think that religion was a tool used for centralization but I think the above paragraph confuses more than it clarifies.

Sam Carr

Michael, I disagree with the idea that upholding conservative traditions about 'how scripture should be viewed' is equivalent to upholding the authority of the bible. The bible is what it is and imposing external interpretations on it as necessary preconditions to its understanding is an exercise in futility especially when the text itself refuses to fall into the moulds into which one wishes to force it...

Peter Kirk

Michael, thank you for making the changes, which relieve my concerns.

Sam, from my point of view the important issue is not about the dating of Deuteronomy or how Scripture should be viewed. The post originally implied that God's original purpose for Israel included things which are clearly and unambiguously prohibited in Deuteronomy. I don't see how one can uphold the authority of the Bible and also take this line.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Sam. My intention with the post was to highlight the centralization of Israel's society. That is a given. The quote is based on a case for a late date for Deut. I have respectable sources in my library that are all over the map on this one.

The Bible is what is. We go where the truth leads us. It is not an "authority of the Bible question" for me. It is more that this is a peripheral point to the discussion which I'm unqualified to adjudicate. I don't want to get sidetracked into an "origns of the OT" debate and I think that is where Perdue's quote takes us.

Peter, you're welcome. This is what I love about blogging. I get to try out presentations of ideas to see how they fly (or in this case fall like a brick. *grin*)

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