A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism by Martha Himmelfarb

By Martha Himmelfarb

Based on the account within the publication of Exodus, God addresses the kids of Israel as they stand earlier than Mt. Sinai with the phrases, "You might be to me a country of clergymen and a holy kingdom" (19:6). The sentence, Martha Himmelfarb observes, is paradoxical, for monks are by way of definition a minority, but the that means in context is obvious: the total humans is holy. The phrases additionally aspect to a few major tensions within the biblical realizing of the folk of Israel. If the complete humans is holy, why does it want clergymen? If club in either humans and priesthood is an issue no longer of advantage yet of beginning, how can both the folks or its clergymen desire to be holy? How can one reconcile the space among the glory due the priest and the particular habit of a few who crammed the function? What can the folk do to make itself really a nation of priests?Himmelfarb argues that those questions develop into important in moment Temple Judaism. She considers more than a few texts from this era, together with the publication of Watchers, the e-book of Jubilees, criminal records from the useless Sea Scrolls, the writings of Philo of Alexandria, and the ebook of Revelation of the hot testomony, and is going directly to discover rabbinic Judaism's emphasis on descent because the fundamental criterion for inclusion one of the selected humans of Israel—a place, she contends, that took on new strength in response to early Christian disparagement of the concept mere descent from Abraham was once adequate for salvation.

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Extra info for A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism (Jewish Culture and Contexts)

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Jubilees calls the text E n o c h writes a "testi­ m o n y " (Jub. 4:16-26), the same term it uses for itself, thus clearly a term o f approbation. Altogether the Moses-centered Jubilees places a high value o n the E n o c h o f the Book of the Watchers. While Jubilees represents the response o f a single reader, the D e a d Sea Scrolls offer us the response o f a community—a c o m m u n i t y well known for its c o m m i t m e n t to a particularly strict reading o f the laws o f Moses. Yet the manuscript evidence shows that this c o m m u n i t y valued highly several E n o c h i c works, including the Book of the Watchers.

27 But b e f o r e we turn to s o m e o f those texts, it is worth r e m e m b e r i n g that there is a certain lack o f symmetry between Watchers and priests in regard to marriage. While the Torah decrees that priests are m o r e limited in their c h o i c e o f wives than other Israelite m e n (Lev 21:7, 14; cf. Ezek 44:22), n o ancient Jewish text suggests that priests should n o t marry. T h e Watchers' marriages to w o m e n , o n the other hand, are w r o n g n o t because the Watchers should have married s o m e o n e else, but because as immortal angels they should n o t have married at all: Why have you forsaken the high heaven, the eternal sanctuary; and lain with women, and defiled yourselves with the daughters of men; and taken for yourselves wives, and done as the sons of earth; and begotten for yourselves sons, giants?

H e himself b e g i n s as a c h a n n e l , a narrow, m a n - m a d e waterway, but h e e n d s as a sea. " T h e association o f the scribe's teaching with p r o p h e c y is remarkable, but it is n o t as surprising as it w o u l d have b e e n in an earlier period. Dur­ ing the First Temple period, p r o p h e c y was primarily auditory: the p r o p h e t heard G o d ' s word, which h e then transmitted to the p e o p l e . Zechariah at the beginning o f the S e c o n d T e m p l e p e r i o d d o e s i n d e e d hear the w o r d o f the L o r d ( Z e c h 1:1-6, 2:10-17, 6:9-15, 7:1-8:23), but the d o m i n a n t f o r m o f divine c o m m u n i c a t i o n in his p r o p h e c y is the vision ( Z e c h 1:717, 2:1-4, 2:5-9, 3:1-6:8).

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