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Communal Meals as Nexus of Socio-Religious Identity: Meal Texts in the Deuteronomic Code

Applicant Schmid Konrad
Number 121591
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Theologisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Religious studies, Theology
Start/End 01.10.2008 - 30.09.2010
Approved amount 96'246.00
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Keywords (13)

Deuteronomium; Kulturgeschichte; Deuteronomy; Meal; Anthropology; Sociology; Old Testament; Meals; Community; Zooarchaeology; Feasts; Ancient Near Eastern Comparisons; Iconography

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy promotes an idyllic vision of one united people (Israel) gathering at one central sanctuary in order to worship one God through cultic meals. This project focuses on the legal code of Deuteronomy, exploring the effects of these celebratory meals for the formation and re-articulation of this corporate identity, especially in the context of its primary reception in ancient Israel. Comparison of these texts with comparative texts, archaeology, and iconography, as well as pentateuchal texts like Exodus 20-23, highlights the rhetorical potential of these Deuteronomic meal texts in relation to the religious and political circumstances in Israel during the Neo-Assyrian period.YHWH's beneficence is underlined by the promise of the highly valued commodity of meat in Deuteronomy 12 in comparison to archaeozoological and administrative records, and in relation to iconographic portrayals of banquets. Juxtaposition of Deuteronomy 16 with the banquets found in the ritual texts of the Emar zukru and Ugaritic CTU 1.40 and those in the narratives of the Ugaritic corpus and the Neo-Assyrian uses of the aki?tu-Enuma Elish supports the centrality of the banquet topos for communal identity in the ancient world. The emphasis on enjoyment and absence of a human monarch in Deut 16:1-17 points to a particularly broad-based religious-political image of "Israelite" society. Furthermore, recent anthropological and psychological perspectives point to the social importance of communal feasts as described in Deut14:22-29 as communicative and society-forming events . As a whole, these interdisciplinary analyses suggest that the seventh-century Deuteronomic meals promote a pro-YHWH and anti-Assyrian "Israel."Finally, Deuteronomy 26 adapts the meal formulation of chapters 12, 14, and 16 to a later circumstance. The Deuteronomistic passage augments the focus of the meal to include the uttered word as an integral part of the ritual alongside enjoyment of the feast.Attention to the wider ancient Near Eastern context for these meals, as well as the importance of meals highlighted by modern anthropology and the reception of the meal topos in the Deuteronomistic tradition, show the importance of meals for statements of identity, politics, and theology.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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