Jewish Studies Sacrifice in the Bible
by
Henrietta Wiley
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0121

Introduction

Sacrifice has traditionally been conceived of as an act of devotion, performed by a human devotee and offered to a divine or otherwise superior being. Sacrifice may refer to the surrender of any valuable object but most often signifies the ritual slaughter of an animal (sometimes human) victim as a service to the divine. The Hebrew Bible provides the most ancient descriptions of Jewish sacrificial practice, and subsequent Jewish thought about sacrifice has always turned first to the authority of biblical law. Indeed the ancient religion of Israel focused on the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms of sacrifice performed at local and national shrines. Over time legitimate rites of sacrifice were restricted to the Temple in Jerusalem, until the Romans destroyed it in 70 CE, and the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice came to an end. From that time sacrifice in Judaism was a matter for reflection on past practices, reinterpretation for religious observance in the present, and expectation of renewed sacrificial worship in the future. Biblical analysis makes up the majority of scholarship on Jewish sacrificial traditions, and will therefore make up the majority of this bibliography. In addition, attention will go to examinations of Second Temple sources, rabbinic literature, and later sources, as well as social science methods and ritual theory.

General Overview

The literature on theories of ritual in general and sacrifice in particular is vast and inconsistent in quality. Carter 2003 is an excellent place to begin surveying general studies and theories of sacrifice, because it includes excerpts from nearly all of the major scholars in this area. Below are theoretical works from the social sciences, the study of religion in general, and literary theory. These are not specific to Jewish studies but are fundamental to wider scholarly discussions about the nature and purpose of sacrifice. These are routinely cited in more specialized studies and are necessary background even if one is not using a comparative approach that examines sacrifice from different traditions together. Girard is a special case for Jewish studies because his work is highly controversial and widely criticized as supersessionist and anti-Semitic. Familiarity with his work is necessary for understanding the issues at stake.

  • Carter, Jeffrey, ed. Understanding Religious Sacrifice: A Reader. London: Continuum, 2003.

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    A useful collection of readings on the general subject of sacrifice. Includes selections from many of the works cited in this bibliography including W. Robertson Smith, Durkheim, J. Z. Smith, Burkert, Girard, Jay, Levenson, and others.

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    Fundamental Theory

    Burkert 1983 represents a traditional approach to sacrifice that seeks its origin in human history, specifically an unidentifiable moment when human beings constructed sacrificial rituals to rationalize the killing of animals. Durkheim 1965 has had the most lasting impact on the study of sacrifice, in part because Hubert and Mauss 1981 draws so heavily on his theory of religion and society. For Durkheim, societies use concepts of the sacred and the profane to organize and define themselves. Hubert and Mauss see sacrifice as the primary social means of mediating the realms of the sacred and the profane. Tambiah 1985 and Turner 1969 present the theories of sacrifice as essentially performative and are influential for later scholars who emphasize the social effects of sacrifice more than the symbolic meaning of particular aspects of ritual. Bell 1992 and Bell 2009 stand in stark contrast to the earlier work, rejecting universal theories of sacrificial structure or meaning in favor of approaching all ritualized behavior as a continuum of cultural strategies for constructing relationships. With this work she poses serious challenges to the whole notion of the “sacred” and the “profane.” Strenski 2003 is a masterful account of the major theorists on sacrifice especially French social scientists from Durkheim to Hubert and Mauss.

    • Bell, Catherine. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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      Bell begins with a critique of how the category of ritual has been used in the study of religion. She argues against the scholarly tendency to seek universal truths about rituals and for an alternative focus on “ritualization.” She challenges previous work that elevates or privileges ritualized behavior categorized as religious: that is, she challenges the theory that there are separate realms of behavior that can be called “sacred” or “profane.” Instead she identifies ritualized behavior as a cultural continuum of regularized activities that function as strategic way of constructing social relationships. Bell’s work represents a turning point in the study of ritual away from universal theories of ritual meaning (in particular how it relates to myths) and toward theories of the purpose and consequences of ritual in society.

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      • Bell, Catherine. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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        A sophisticated introduction to major theories of ritual and the fundamental questions and categories in the study of ritual. Useful for a slightly deeper examination of previous theories of ritual and demonstration of how Bell’s approach differs. Bell examines a wide range of activity that may not always be identified as ritual. She discusses the flexibility of such activities in response to social context and social needs.

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        • Burkert, Walter. Homo Necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

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          Burkert places the origin of ritual violence in the Paleolithic Age and the human dependence on the hunt at that time. He argues that the forms of sacrifice cloak the violence of killing animals for food and so relieve some of horror of killing animals.

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          • Durkheim, Émile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press, 1965.

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            In this foundational text, Durkheim identifies religion as essentially social; it is a society’s means of creating and maintaining the idea of itself. The fundamental elements of religion are notions of the sacred and the profane that a community uses to reinforce its ideal sense of itself. What is sacred in society is that which is separate and transcendent from the mundane world but functions in that society as a representation of the community and its identity; however, this is set apart from the profane, which is defined as the ordinary aspects of individuals’ lives.

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            • Hubert, Henri, and Marcel Mauss. Sacrifice: Its Nature and Function. Translated by W. D. Halls. Midway Reprint. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

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              Following Durkheim’s social theory of religion, Hubert and Mauss rely on the idea of the separate domains of the sacred and the profane, identifying sacrifice as the foremost religious ritual that mediates those two realms. The gap that separates the phenomenal from the transcendent can only be bridged by a victim consecrated in a ritualized death that transforms it from something of this world into something of the other.

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              • Strenski, Ivan. Theology and the First Theory of Sacrifice. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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                An intriguing analysis of the rise of theories of sacrifice in 19th- and 20th-century France. Notable as an in-depth review of such scholars as Durkheim and Hubert and Mauss but especially instructive for keeping in mind how a theorist’s own historical context shapes his or her theories.

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                • Tambiah, Stanley Jeyaraja. “A Performative Approach to Ritual.” In Culture, Thought, and Social Action. 123–166. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985.

                  DOI: 10.4159/harvard.9780674433748Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  Theorizes that ritual’s social power lies in its actual performance rather than in any symbolic meaning it may carry. The performative approach emphasizes how ritual activity actually effects social change by imposing fixed rhythms and movements that create a satisfying and even pleasurable sense of order and well-being.

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                  • Turner, Victor Witter. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Symbol, Myth, and Ritual Series. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969.

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                    Turner calls ritual a condensation of symbolic social meanings re-created with each performance, and calls sacrifice the quintessential ritual that makes it possible to maneuver within and particularly across social categories. In particular, Turner is interested in liminality, a transitional social state that is understood as being marginal or lying somewhere in between orderly, social classifications. Rites of sacrifice manage liminality by addressing it directly and then removing it by symbolic actions of purgation or abandonment.

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                    Girard and His Critics

                    Girard 1977 and Girard 1987 have become the center of a whole school of sacrificial theory based on the idea of “mimetic desire.” Chilton 1997, Smith 1987b, offer significant critiques of this theory. Girard’s scholarly following is still robust, but the critique of his method and charges that he draws on anti-Semitic assumptions has undermined his significance in much of ritual studies.

                    • Girard, René. Violence and the Sacred. Translated by Patrick Gregory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977.

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                      Girard locates the origin of sacrificial violence in a primordial act of human “mimetic desire” (the desire for what others desire) that leads inevitably to reciprocal violence. The danger of potential violence created the need for a surrogate victim, the scapegoat—a sacrifice—to stem the rising tide of violence. Girard postulates that an actual, historical act of murder lies at the root of all sacrifice, which copes with the problem of mimetic desire but also perpetuates it.

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                      • Girard, René. Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. Translated by Stephen Bann and Michael Metteer. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987.

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                        English translation of Des choses cachées depuis la foundation du monde (Paris: Grasset, 1978). Here Girard applies his theory to specific examples of sacrificial practice, with particular attention to “The Judeo-Christian Scriptures.” Girard asserts that Christianity fulfills the incomplete rejection of sacrificial practice as represented in the Hebrew Bible, and so brings to an end the “governing mental structure engendered by the first murder” (p. 160). It is this work that has especially drawn criticism as supersessionist and anti-Semitic, since it implies that Rabbinic Judaism has not rejected the scapegoat mechanism and perpetuates this violent impulse.

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                        • Chilton, Bruce. “The Hungry Knife: Towards a Sense of Sacrifice.” In Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration. Edited by Bruce Chilton and Craig A. Evans, 91–108. Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judentums und des Urchristentums 39. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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                          Examines major theories of sacrifice and their use in biblical studies. In particular he rebuts many of Girard’s arguments, especially what he regards as Girard’s over-emphasis on the killing aspect of sacrifice. Chilton asserts that the consumption inherent to sacrifice: burning and especially eating—is where the ritual’s primary significance lies.

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                          • Smith, Jonathan Z. “The Domestication of Sacrifice.” In Violent Origins. Edited by Robert G. Hamerton-Kelly, 191–205. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987b.

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                            Smith rejects Girard’s claim that sacrifice tamed pre-civilized violence at some mythical moment in human history. Instead, he suggests that sacrifice is the product of agrarian civilization, in particular because the ritual mirrors and even exaggerates the process of animal domestication in its “selective killing.” It is an artificial process that allows the culture to reflect on most basic processes for feeding itself: husbandry and cookery.

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                            Comparative Approaches

                            Baumgarten 2002 and Bourdillon and Fortes 1980 are useful collections of essays on many aspects of sacrifice and represent a broad array of approaches in the field. Douglas 1966 and Douglas 1972 offer structuralist, symbolic analysis of sacrificial systems, and are fundamental to the study of biblical sacrifice. Jay 1992 is a skillful comparison of her own and others’ specific analyses of particular cultures’ sacrificial practice to reveal common dynamics of gender, kinship, and sacrificial ritual. Smith 1987a identifies space as a common defining element of sacrifice. McClymond 2008 compares ancient Jewish and Vedic accounts of sacrificial rites and finds that no one element of sacrifice can adequately account for sacrificial phenomena.

                            • Baumgarten, Albert I., ed. Sacrifice in Religious Experience. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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                              A collection of revised papers from the 1998 and 1999 conferences at the Taubes Minerva Center for Religious Anthropology. These include two essays directly related to Jewish tradition, but the whole volume is useful for a comparative perspective.

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                              • Bourdillon, M. F. C., and Meyer Fortes, eds. Sacrifice. London: Academic Press for the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1980.

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                                A collection of revised papers that deal with broad issues in the study of sacrifice as ritual and sacrament.

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                                • Douglas, Mary. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and Keegan Paul, 1966.

                                  DOI: 10.4324/9780203361832Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  A classic anthropological analysis of the concepts of dirt, pollution, purity, and purification in relationship with social concerns about order and disorder. Douglas suggests that all ritual systems, regardless of time and place, are coherent wholes that express what a given culture understands social order to be and promote that order. In ritual structures, the human body functions symbolically as the body of the whole community. To protect the community from the dangers of pollution, the human body, especially the orifices, are policed to minimize or remove that danger.

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                                  • Douglas, Mary. “Deciphering a Meal.” Daedalus 101.1 (1972): 61–81.

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                                    A structural analysis of meals as social codes. While the article focuses primarily on the mundane meal, she also discusses implications for ritual systems, especially those that include foodstuffs such as meat. There is an analogous relationship between the table and the Altar.

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                                    • Jay, Nancy B. Throughout your Generations Forever: Sacrifice, Religion, and Paternity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

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                                      A comparative study of sacrifice “as a remedy for having been born of woman.” This is to say that sacrifice is the vehicle through which non-matrilineal social relationships are constructed and maintained. The analysis is cross-cultural but relies heavily on biblical literature.

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                                      • McClymond, Kathryn. Beyond Sacred Violence: A Comparative Study of Sacrifice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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                                        A comparative study of Vedic and ancient Israelite sacrificial texts. McClymond argues against placing too much emphasis on the element of killing in sacrifice. Instead she argues that rather than seeking a single essential definition, the study of sacrifice should focus on the interplay of various elements.

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                                        • Smith, Jonathan Z. To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual. Chicago Studies in the History of Judaism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987a.

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                                          In this comparative study, Smith emphasizes the role of space as a defining element of ritual activity. Actions that are identified as ritually meaningful in one place may have different meanings (or no meaning at all) in other places.

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                                          Sacrifice in Ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible

                                          Scholarship in this area is often interdisciplinary, bringing philological, historical, and anthropological methods into some combination. The following are key examples of not only wide-ranging approaches but also highly technical analysis. In the Overviews subsection are those works that discuss most broadly the concepts and practices of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible. The second subsection Elements of the Israelite Cult contains works that treat particular components of Israelite sacrifice in greater detail: for example, examination of the nature and function of the Israelite priesthood, particular ritual activities, and specific functions of different types of sacrifice. The third subsection includes works that apply anthropological methods to the topic of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible in general. Works applying anthropology to the Priestly literature specifically may be found further down. The last subsection cites scholarship on the phenomenon and questions regarding human sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible.

                                          Overviews

                                          Smith 1969 is the earliest attempt at theorizing sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible and is frequently cited, although his ideas are largely outdated. Anderson 1992, Gorman 2009, and Milgrom 1976 are encyclopedia articles that provide helpful overviews of sacrifices and the sacrificial system in the Hebrew Bible and provide useful bibliographies. Anderson 1987, de Vaux 1964, Janzen 2004, and Marx 2005 are more detailed book-length explorations of Israelite sacrifice that provide wide-ranging viewpoints but are more descriptive of particular sacrificial rites than integrative.

                                          • Anderson, Gary A. Sacrifices and Offerings in Ancient Israel Studies in Their Social and Political Importance. Harvard Semitic Monographs 41. Atlanta: Scholars, 1987.

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                                            A publication of the author’s dissertation, this book examines biblical terminology of certain cultic offerings etymologically and socially, in order to highlight the political aspects of those offerings. It does not, however, posit an overarching structure, political or otherwise, for sacrifice.

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                                            • Anderson, Gary A. “Sacrifice and Sacrificial Offerings (OT).” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 5. Edited by David Noel Freedman, 870–886. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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                                              This is excellent overview of Israelite sacrifice and biblical texts dealing with the subject. It also reviews major scholarship, methods, and interpretation.

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                                              • de Vaux, Roland. Studies in Old Testament Sacrifice. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1964.

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                                                Diachronic analysis of specific biblical sacrifices as external expressions of religious devotion: the Passover sacrifice, daily temple offerings, atonement and expiatory rites, and human sacrifice. These studies are particularly interested in the origin of each ritual in its ancient Near Eastern context, and so focus on historical and cultural context rather than theory.

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                                                • Gorman, Frank H. “Sacrifices and Offerings.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 5. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Samuel E. Balentine, and Brian K. Blount, 20–32. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

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                                                  A concise but thorough review of all the Hebrew biblical literature concerning sacrifice and the major scholarship on the subject. Similar to Anderson 1992, although considerably more up to date.

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                                                  • Janzen, David. The Social Meanings of Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible: A Study of Four Writings. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 344. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004.

                                                    DOI: 10.1515/9783110904819Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Includes a comprehensive review of scholarship on sacrifice in general and in the Hebrew Bible. His own argument focuses on four literary units—the Priestly source, the Deuteronomistic History, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles—and their distinctive expressions of the meaning and practice of sacrifice. Janzen is also interested in how these meanings are shaped by context and reflect social values.

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                                                    • Marx, Alfred. Les systèmes sacrificiels de l’Ancien Testament: Formes et fonctions du culte sacrificial à YHWH. Vetus Testamentum Supplement 105. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

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                                                      A comprehensive examination of sacrifice in the Priestly source material, Ezekiel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles, that provides a detailed catalogue of sacrificial types, rules, and paraphernalia.

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                                                      • Milgrom, Jacob. “Sacrifice and Offerings, OT.” In The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: Supplementary Volume. Edited by Keith Crim, 763–771. Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.

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                                                        A helpful summary of Milgrom’s early work on sacrifice as a system structured around the need to preserve the purity of the Jerusalem temple. Although not comprehensive in its treatment of other scholarship, this is a good entry into the work of one of the most important scholars of ritual in the Hebrew Bible.

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                                                        • Smith, William Robertson. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites: The Fundamental Institutions. 3d ed. The Library of Biblical Studies. New York: Ktav, 1969.

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                                                          Smith suggests that the purpose of ancient Near Eastern ritual slaughter was to make available a consecrated animal for consumption in a ceremonial meal. Smith relies heavily on the now discredited idea of totemism, but he remains one of the most important scholars in this area.

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                                                          Elements of the Israelite Cult

                                                          The works listed here are significantly more detailed and specific than those listed in the previous subsection. They are not likely to be a researcher’s first line of inquiry, except to peruse for chapters that address one’s particular interests. Anderson 1991; Eberhart 2011; Schwartz, et al. 2008 (cited under General Studies); and Wright, et al. 1995 are edited collections of papers that represent the most important specific issues in this field such as purity, cultic personnel, and ritual details. De Troyer, et al. 2003 is similar, except for its emphasis on gender analysis. Brichto 1976, Eberhart 2004, and Rainey 1970 are detailed, descriptive studies of particular aspects of Israelite cult.

                                                          • Anderson, Gary A., ed. Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplementement 125. Sheffield, UK: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Press, 1991.

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                                                            A collection of papers by major biblical scholars on a variety of topics related to ancient Israelite cult and biblical literature on the subject. As with most edited volumes, the papers included here are self-contained and vary in both specific topic and method but all offer a useful perspective on aspects of sacrificial practice in both the first and Second Temple period.

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                                                            • Brichto, Herbert C. “On Slaughter and Sacrifice, Blood and Atonement.” Hebrew Union College Annual 47 (1976): 19–55.

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                                                              Detailed discussion of sacrificial terms, especially concerning atonement. Through philological analysis Brichto argues that the Priestly source, Holiness code, and Deuteronomistic sources represent different perspectives on animal consumption and cult centralization that emerged at the same time.

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                                                              • De Troyer, Kristin, Judith A. Herbert, Judith Ann Johnson, and Anne-Marie Korte, eds. Wholly Woman, Holy Blood: A Feminist Critique of Purity and Impurity. Studies in Christianity and Antiquity. London: T&T Clark International, 2003.

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                                                                A collection of ten essays addressing issues of blood ritual and purity with particular attention to cultural meanings of women’s blood. The first four of these deal directly with Hebrew Bible, halakhic sources, and Qumran literature.

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                                                                • Eberhart, Christian. “A Neglected Feature of Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible: Remarks on the Burning Rite on the Altar.” Harvard Theological Review 97 (2004): 485–493.

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                                                                  A helpful distillation in English of Eberhart’s ideas from his German dissertation. Eberhart argues that the burning aspect of Israelite sacrifice is crucial to the meaning and function of that rite. He understands the movement of the smoke to be a tangible metaphor for the communication with the divine.

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                                                                  • Eberhart, Christian, ed. Ritual and Metaphor: Sacrifice in the Bible. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

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                                                                    A collection of revised papers from the “Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement” section of the Society of Biblical Literature. The first four of these helpfully treat aspects of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel. Methods include rhetorical analysis, history of religions, and literary criticism.

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                                                                    • Rainey, A. “The Order of Sacrifices in Old Testament Ritual Texts.” Biblica 51 (1970): 485–498.

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                                                                      Distinguishing between descriptive ritual texts are and prescriptive ones, Rainey argues that the meaning and function of each type of sacrifice can be discerned from the order in which they are performed. A highly technical and sophisticated examination of Priestly texts.

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                                                                      • Wright, David, David Noel Freedman, and Avi Hurvitz, eds. Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1995.

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                                                                        This Festschrift is a trove of essays regarding ritual and cult in biblical and other early Jewish literature. While none are foundational, they represent a wide variety of methods and some of the most important voices in the field.

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                                                                        Anthropological Approaches

                                                                        Eilberg-Schwartz 1990 is virtually unique in its approach to violence and ritual in ancient Israelite and Jewish culture. It is frequently cited, though seldom used explicitly in scholarship on sacrifice, and is recommended reading as a foil to the wider literature. Gilders 2004, Gruenwald 2003, Olyan 2000, and Wiley 2004 are examples of thoroughly traditional philology that also applies anthropological methods. Klawans 2000 and Klawans 2001 do the same and are important studies particularly for issues of purity.

                                                                        • Eilberg-Schwartz, Howard. The Savage in Judaism: An Anthropology of Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

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                                                                          This groundbreaking work of cultural anthropology is both a sustained critique of the tendency to separate “primitive” or “savage” religions from Judaism and Christianity, and an analysis of Jewish laws pertaining to the body.

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                                                                          • Gilders, William K. Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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                                                                            Gilders questions symbolic explanations of sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible. Instead he argues that blood manipulation in sacrificial rituals are less signs than signals, not representing but rather indicating the status and identity of the participants in rites of sacrifice. Using recent ritual theory Gilders shows how the manipulation of blood both indicates and reinforces social relationships.

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                                                                            • Gruenwald, Ithamar. Rituals and Ritual Theory in Ancient Israel. Brill Reference Library of Judaism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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                                                                              This collection of revised papers is a functionalist investigation of ancient Jewish ritual, especially sacrifice, which he identifies as the core of religion. Of particular interest is the way Gruenwald considers the social meaning of sacrifice at the same time he deemphasized symbolic meaning. The book is an excellent example of blending anthropological theory with deep textual analysis.

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                                                                              • Klawans, Jonathan. Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism. New York: Oxford, 2000.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195132908.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Primarily an examination of the relationship between physical impurity and moral impurity. For Klawans the symbolic systems of impurity and of sacrifice are separate but overlapping. Klawans draws very heavily on the work of Mary Douglas and structuralist anthropology.

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                                                                                • Klawans, Jonathan. “Pure Violence: Sacrifice and Defilement in Ancient Israel.” Harvard Theological Review 94 (2001): 135–157.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/S0017816001029017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  In conversation with earlier scholars, Klawans argues that sacrifice and defilement are two “complex sets of ritual structure” that depend upon one another. Together they reveal a cultural desire to imitate God and to draw and keep God present.

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                                                                                  • Olyan, Saul M. Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                    An investigation into how cultic rituals create and maintain hierarchical social relationships. In particular Olyan identifies four conceptual binary oppositions that realize social status: holy/common, unclean/clean, Israelite/alien, and whole/blemished. This source is particularly useful for its careful distinction between the historical practice of Israelite cult and the biblical text’s representation of cult.

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                                                                                    • Wiley, Henrietta. “Gather to My Feast: YHWH as Sacrifier in the Biblical Prophets.” PhD diss., Harvard University, 2004.

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                                                                                      Includes a comprehensive review of major theories of sacrifice especially as they pertain to the Hebrew Bible. Wiley argues that in certain prophetic texts (as well as other narrative texts) God is represented as an agent or at least a potential agent in sacrificial ritual. This is useful both for its broad survey of the discipline and the application of theory to specific texts.

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                                                                                      Human Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel

                                                                                      This topic interests many biblicists but rarely takes center stage in Jewish studies except in the exploration of Genesis 22 and the Aqedah and its later interpretation. Day 1989, Stavrakopoulou 2004, and Tatlock 2009 survey aspects of human sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible. Niditch 1993 and Stern 1990 focus on aspects of this practice in ancient Israelite war. Finsterbusch, et al. 2007 and Levenson 1993 survey reflections in this theme in the Bible and early Jewish and Christian interpretation.

                                                                                      • Day, John. Molech: A God of Human Sacrifice in the Old Testament. University of Cambridge Oriental Publications 41. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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                                                                                        Takes up the question of whether the term molech in the Hebrew Bible represents a type of sacrifice—that may include child sacrifice—or a particular god who would welcome such sacrifice. Day argues for the latter.

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                                                                                        • Finsterbusch, Karin, Armin Lange, and K. F. Diethard Römheld, eds. Human Sacrifice in Jewish and Christian Tradition. Numen Book Series Studies in the History of Religion 112. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.

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                                                                                          A comprehensive collection of essays on attitudes toward human sacrifice in the ancient Near East and Israel, early and later Judaism, and Christianity and the Greco-Roman world. The diversity of the papers’ perspectives adds to the volume’s value as a window into the larger field.

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                                                                                          • Levenson, Jon D. The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                            This sophisticated but highly readable exploration of the concept of child-sacrifice beginning with Genesis 22. Levenson skillfully integrates historical criticism, literary criticism, and interpretive history to reveal how the idea of child sacrifice has remained compelling throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity. This is considered fundamental reading on the subject of child sacrifice in Jewish and Christian interpretation.

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                                                                                            • Niditch, Susan. War in The Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                              A study of the various meanings of the war ban (ḥērem). She identifies three separate conceptual models: sacrifice, justice, and purity—each of which differs in its attitude toward the victim. While Niditch acknowledges some degree of overlap, she argues that the distinctions are more significant.

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                                                                                              • Stavrakopoulou, Francesca. King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions and Historical Realities. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 338. Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1515/9783110899641Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Argues that biblical interpreters tend to flatten the character of Manasseh and fail to appreciate the literary complexity of his presentation in 1 Kings. As a result of her analysis, Stavrakopoulou takes a position contrary to that of Day 1989. She identifies the so-called foreign god Molek as a distortion of rituals of child sacrifice with the same name.

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                                                                                                • Stern, P. D. The Biblical ḥērem: A Window on Israel’s Religious Experience. Brown Judaic Studies 211. Atlanta: Scholars, 1990.

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                                                                                                  A sustained argument against the view that the war ban (ḥērem) was ever understood to be a religious sacrifice in ancient Israel and its literature. It is not widely cited but serves as counterpoint to Niditch 1993 and Tatlock 2009.

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                                                                                                  • Tatlock, Jason. “Sacrifice, Human.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 5. Edited by Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, Samuel E. Balentine, and Brian K. Blount, 18–20. Nashville: Abingdon, 2009.

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                                                                                                    The most current introduction to the topic and review of the literature at this time. Tatlock takes the position that ancient Israelite religious practice did indeed include rituals of human sacrifice.

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                                                                                                    Studies of Leviticus and Other Priestly Literature

                                                                                                    The works included in this section are specifically focused on the sections in Torah designated as “Priestly” including the sections often identified more specifically as the Holiness code or source, found throughout Genesis through Numbers. Since most of the descriptive and prescriptive texts on sacrifice come from the Priestly source, much of the most important scholarship on ancient Jewish sacrifice deals with this material. The first subsection General Studies, includes works that treat the Priestly material across the Pentateuch using classic methods of historical criticism, philology, and literary analysis. The second subsection, Commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers, cites the major modern scholarly commentaries on these two books that contain nearly all of the Priestly texts about sacrificial practice. The third subsection, Social Science Approaches, gives notable examples of work on the literature of P from a social science perspective.

                                                                                                    General Studies

                                                                                                    The work listed here includes major scholarship that discusses the Priestly literature (P) as a whole, with an interest in discerning Priestly authors’ overall perspective and agenda. Janzen 2008 is a particularly useful and readable overview of sacrifice in P and recent scholarship on the subject, and an excellent place to start. Haran 1985, Levine 1974, and Milgrom 1983 present foundational work by these major scholars in Israelite cult and the theology of P. These are essential reading for the subject. Rolf and Kugler 2003 is an edited volume of thought-provoking essays on various topics in Leviticus. Schwartz, et al. 2008 is also an edited volume focused issues of purity in P. Watts 2007 focuses on literary and compositional issues. Wright 1987 is a comparative analysis of P with non-biblical literature of the ancient Near East.

                                                                                                    • Haran, M. Temples and Temple-Service in Ancient Israel: An Inquiry into Biblical Cult Phenomena and the Historical Setting of the Priestly School. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1985.

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                                                                                                      A comprehensive work driven by two purposes: an exhaustive study of temple-based worship and an argument in favor of a pre-exilic date (specifically, the reign of Hezekiah) for the Priestly source. Haran’s book is useful for cultic details and technicalities. Its analysis is almost totally descriptive.

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                                                                                                      • Janzen, David. “Priestly Sacrifice in the Hebrew Bible: A Summary of Recent Scholarship and a Narrative Reading.” Religion Compass 2.1 (2008): 38–52.

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                                                                                                        As the title suggests, this is a helpful review of the major questions and points of argument in recent research on sacrifice in P. Janzen gives particular attention to Jacob Milgrom’s ideas about Israelite cult.

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                                                                                                        • Levine, Baruch A. In the Presence of the Lord: A Study of Cult and Some Cultic Terms in Ancient Israel. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974.

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                                                                                                          A philological examination of the mechanics of purification and atonement through sacrificial action. The sin is an active, even demonic, force in conscious conflict with God that clings not to the perpetrator but to the cult center, threatening to make the holy place uninhabitable by the deity. Sacrifices of atonement cleanse the sanctuary of the hostile force of sin.

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                                                                                                          • Milgrom, Jacob. Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology. Studies in Judaism and Late Antiquity, Vol. 36. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983.

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                                                                                                            A compedium of Milgrom’s previous articles and essays on ritual and cult, mostly focused on Leviticus. Milgrom’s guiding theory of the Priestly ritual system is that it is a coordinated response to sin that acts like a defiling miasma threatening the sanctuary and risking the departure of God. Levine’s work is especially important in counterpoint with Levine’s above.

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                                                                                                            • Rolf, Rendtorff, and Robert A. Kugler, eds. The Book of Leviticus: Composition and Reception. Vetus Testamentum Supplement 93. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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                                                                                                              A collection of papers organized into four sections: Leviticus in its literatary context, cult and sacrifice, priesthood in Leviticus, and Leviticus in translation and interpretation. The authors in this collection include many of the most important scholars in this area, and some of the work is quite technical. The book is not so much a place to start but rather a place to turn for examples of detailed explorations of particular issues in Leviticus.

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                                                                                                              • Schwartz, Baruch J., David P. Wright, Jeffrey Stackert, and Naphtali S. Meshel, eds. Perspectives on Purity and Purification in the Bible. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 474. New York: T&T Clark, 2008.

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                                                                                                                A collection of conference papers that ask whether the purity laws of the Priestly source material represent a coherent system, and what methods and approaches would be most appropriate for examining that system. A good sample of the work of a newer generation of scholars focused on these issues.

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                                                                                                                • Watts, James. Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus: From Sacrifice to Scripture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511499159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Analyzes Leviticus as a text with specific rhetorical purpose. He demonstrates how the writers use persuasive language, especially the rhetorical voice of God, to legitimize the Aaronite priesthood’s monopoly of the sacrificial cult and the high priest’s authority to interpret ritual requirements. This differs somewhat from other studies in its emphasis on rhetoric, but his conclusions are relevant to questions of legitimate and illegitimate sacrifice in ancient Jewish cultic practice.

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                                                                                                                  • Wright, David. The Disposal of Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature. Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 101. Atlanta: Scholars, 1987.

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                                                                                                                    This highly technical work uses a comparative approach to examine “the total repertoire of disposal rites” in the Priestly material, especially Leviticus, in order to understand the writers’ concept of purity. Wright emphasizes the discontinuity between biblical ideas about purification and those found in Hittite and Akkadian sources. The contrast between the biblical and ancient Near Eastern material is useful for understanding how worship in the Jerusalem temple was and was not continuous with its neighbors.

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                                                                                                                    Commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers

                                                                                                                    Levine 1989, Milgrom 1991, Milgrom 2000, Milgrom 2001, and Milgrom 2004 are essential technical and interpretive commentaries on Leviticus. Milgrom 1989, Levine 1993, Levine 2000 are essential commentaries on Numbers. These are among the most important scholars in this area, and these commentaries are fundamental to understanding this literature.

                                                                                                                    • Levine, Baruch A. Leviticus. Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

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                                                                                                                      A solid and accessible verse-by-verse commentary with limited technical notes, integrated interpretation, and several helpful excursuses, including Levine’s major ideas about cult up to that point. Includes Massoretic Hebrew text and NJPS English translation. Levine does not give a fresh translation, although his commentary includes alternatives to the NJPS renderings. This and all JPS commentaries assume a highly educated reader interested in Jewish tradition, though not necessarily a professional scholar.

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                                                                                                                      • Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 1–20: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible 4. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

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                                                                                                                        A detailed and sophisticated technical commentary on Numbers 1–20 with English translation by Levine. The commentary begins with a masterful introduction to Numbers as a whole. The rest of the book is organized by sections that begin with a translation of the portion, followed by technical notes, and integrated commentary.

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                                                                                                                        • Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 21–36: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. The Anchor Bible 4A. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

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                                                                                                                          The second volume of Levine 1993: A detailed and sophisticated technical commentary on Numbers 21–36 with English translation by Levine. The structure is the same as the first volume with an abbreviated introduction.

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                                                                                                                          • Milgrom, Jacob. Numbers: Jewish Publication Society Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

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                                                                                                                            An accessible verse-by-verse commentary with limited technical notes, integrated interpretation, and several helpful excursuses, including Milgrom’s major ideas about cult up to that point. Includes Massoretic Hebrew text and NJPS English translation. Milgrom does not give a fresh translation, although his commentary includes alternatives to the NJPS renderings.

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                                                                                                                            • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3. New York: Doubleday, 1991.

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                                                                                                                              Magisterial verse-by-verse technical commentary with English translation by Milgrom and extensive essays on nearly every issue related to sacrifice in Leviticus. In particular it presents updated treatments of all his previous work on the book. In particular, the introduction is essential reading for the study of Leviticus.

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                                                                                                                              • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 17–22: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3a. New York: Doubleday, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                Second volume of Milgrom’s Anchor Bible commentary continues with Milgrom’s same approaches and same mastery.

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                                                                                                                                • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 23–27: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 3b. New York: Doubleday, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                  Third volume of Milgrom’s Anchor Bible commentary continues with Milgrom’s same approaches and same mastery.

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                                                                                                                                  • Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics. Continental Commentaries. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                    A more concise and accessible commentary that provides a helpful introduction to his influential scholarship.

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                                                                                                                                    Social Science Approaches

                                                                                                                                    This subsection differs from that above (Anthropological Approaches) in its focus on the Priestly source, rather than the subject of sacrifice in the Bible more broadly. Bergen 2005, Douglas 1999, and Douglas 2004 offer a combination of social science and literary approaches to the theology of P.

                                                                                                                                    • Bergen, Wesley J. Reading Ritual: Leviticus in Postmodern Culture. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 417. New York: T&T Clark, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                      A lively introduction to social science approaches to Leviticus. Bergen is particularly interested in ways of bridging the conceptual gap between contemporary, postmodern readers, and the premodern worldview of Leviticus. There is a certain playfulness to this work that makes it particularly engaging and thought provoking.

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                                                                                                                                      • Douglas, Mary. Leviticus as Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                        An anthropological and literary approach to Leviticus as a unified work with highly structured worldview. Douglas sees the text of Leviticus itself as well as the rituals therein as divided into three parts that map onto the three gradations of holiness in the Tabernacle, which is itself analogous to Sinai.

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                                                                                                                                        • Douglas, Mary. Jacob’s Tears: The Priestly Work of Reconciliation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/0199265232.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          A collection of papers on different aspects of the Priestly material with an overarching suggestion that the Priestly writers of the post-exilic period wanted to encourage reconciliation and unity among all the tribes of Israel. As always, Mary Douglas brings her structuralist perspective to bear.

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                                                                                                                                          Sacrifice in Second Temple Judaism

                                                                                                                                          Much of what precedes addresses phenomena of the Second Temple cult in Jerusalem, with particular attention to how that cult is represented in the biblical text. The subsections that follow address more specifically the cultic situation after the Babylonian Exile. Klawans 2006 describes the mainstream institutional cult of this time and raises questions about previous scholarship in this area. It is a useful introduction to the main themes and issues at stake. The first subsection, Sectarian Perspectives, contains works that address some of the variety of Jewish perspectives on how the Jerusalem temple was—or should be—run. The second subsection, Greco-Roman Context, offers perspectives on Second Temple cult in light of Greco-Roman culture, philosophy, and religion as reflected in paganism, Judaism, and Christianity.

                                                                                                                                          • Klawans, Jonathan. Purity, Sacrifice, and the Temple: Symbolism and Supercessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                            A sustained critique of the approaches to sacrifice that concentrate on the origin and evolution of sacrifice that often carry supersessionist bias and declare the ancient Jewish sacrificial system meaningless. Useful for a general overview of the Jerusalem cult during this time and the history of Jewish and Christian interpretation of Second Temple worship.

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                                                                                                                                            Sectarian Perspectives

                                                                                                                                            Gilders 2006b and Kugler 2000 deal specifically with sectarian literature from Qumran, also called the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), and often identified as a product of the Essene movement. Schiffman and Martinez 2008 is a handy collection of previously published articles on the Temple Scroll from Qumran and represents an important school of thought in the study of the DSS. Although the Qumran sectarian literature was not accepted as canonical by Rabbinic Judaism, it is instructive about the matrix out of which rabbinic thought arose. Birenboim 2009 examines Pharisaic and Sadducean debates about the execution of sacrifice in light of the Qumran literature. Gilders 2006a considers sacrificial themes in the pseudepigraphal book of Jubilees, an interpretive retelling of Genesis and Exodus that was rejected as canonical in Rabbinic Judaism but was nonetheless influential in Second Temple thought. Stone 2002 examines the Aramaic Levi document, an early non-canonical narrative text describing Levi’s consecration as a priest, as well as his instruction by his grandfather Isaac and to his own children. This document describes cultic instructions that are virtually unique and may be one of the earliest non-biblical texts of Jewish law.

                                                                                                                                            • Birenboim, Hannan. “Tevul Yom and the Red Heifer: Pharisaic and Sadducean Halakah.” Dead Sea Discoveries 16.2 (June 2009): 254–273.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1163/156851709X429265Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Examines the Qumran attitude toward the ritual of the red heifer (Numbers 19) in the context of Pharisaic and Sadducean disputes. At the heart of the problem is whether the red heifer rite can be categorized as a sacrifice. This article is helpful for distinguishing the perspectives of these three schools of thought.

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                                                                                                                                              • Gilders, William K. “Blood and Covenant: Interpretive Elaboration on Genesis 9.4–6 in the Book of Jubilees.” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 15 (2006a): 83–118.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/0951820706061454Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                Examines the expansion on and interpretation in the book of Jubilees of Genesis 9:4–6, the deity’s post-deluge explanation of the meaning of Noah’s sacrifice. Gilders demonstrates that Jubilees’ elaboration of this brief text is meant to emphasize the identification of blood with life and thus explain the importance of blood in sacrificial rites of atonement.

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                                                                                                                                                • Gilders, William K. “Blood Manipulation Ritual in the Temple Scroll.” Revue de Qumran 22.4 (December 2006b): 519–545.

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                                                                                                                                                  Gilders focuses on how the Temple Scroll deals with the Hebrew Bible’s prescriptions of blood ritual, especially emphasizing the inherent holiness, ritual power, and efficacy of sacrificial blood.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Kugler, Robert A. “Rewriting Rubrics: Sacrifice and the Religion of Qumran.” In Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls. By Robert A. Kugler, 90–112. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                    Reviews the standard assertion that prayer and praise replaced sacrifice in the Qumran community. Kugler also argues that the community also regarded the group’s literary activity, rewriting biblical rubrics for sacrifice and composing interpretive texts operated in the same way.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Stone, Michael E. “Aramaic Levi in Its Contexts.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 9.4 (2002): 307–326.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1628/0944570033029581Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      An introduction to and examination of the Aramaic Levi Document from the 3rd century BCE, whose cultic prescriptions do not mirror Pentateuchal law on the subject. The text apparently legitimates its own authority as derived from the patriarchs who, in Pentateuchal narrative, lived before the giving of the law at Sinai. Stone’s article is particularly helpful for understanding this document in the context of other Second Temple Jewish literature.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Schiffman, Lawrence H., and Florentino Garcia Martinez. The Courtyards of the House of the Lord: Studies on the Temple Scroll. Edited by Florentino Garcia Martinez. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2008.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1163/ej.9789004122550.i-610Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        A compendium of Schiffman’s articles on this subject from 1985 through 2002. This is highly technical but is also an insightful comparison of various Second Temple Jewish schools of interpretation. The Temple Scroll is perhaps the most important reflection from Qumran on cultic issues.

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                                                                                                                                                        Greco-Roman Context

                                                                                                                                                        There was much that was distinctive about Jewish religion in the Greco-Roman period, but the religious ideas and practice were nonetheless powerfully affected by Hellenistic and Roman dominance. The works here are useful resources for understanding the Jerusalem cult in its wider cultural context. Leonhardt-Balzer 2001 examines the work of Philo of Alexandria, one of the most important Jewish writers from the diaspora in this period and a proponent of Hellenistic philosophy. Petropoulou 2008 examines the wider Greco-Roman context of Jewish sacrifice in this period. Knust and Várhelyi 2011 is an edited volume with a handful of directly relevant essays and other articles that provide wider context.

                                                                                                                                                        • Knust, Jennifer Wright, and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi, eds. Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          An edited volume of conference papers that together represent the varieties of sacrifice in the Greco-Roman era. Of direct relevance to Jewish sacrifice are Gilders essay on Philo, Klawans’s assessment of scholarship on Priestly ritual, McClymond’s piece on rabbinic discussions of ritual mistakes, and Boustan’s examination of sacrificial discourse in Jewish martyrologies. Nevertheless the collection as a whole provides a sophisticated, interdisciplinary picture of the historical context of and theory about cultic practice during the Second Temple period.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Leonhardt-Balzer, Jutta. Jewish Worship in Philo of Alexandria. Texte und Studien zum antiken Judentum 84. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                            Examines Philo’s interpretation and defense of Jewish sacrifice. Leonhardt-Balzer emphasizes Philo’s insistence that Jewish sacrifice is not only consistent with Hellenistic ideals but is also a supreme example of them.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Petropoulou, Maria-Zoe. Animal Sacrifice in Ancient Greek Religion, Judaism, and Christianity, 100 BC to AD 200. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199218547.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Examines the connections among ancient pagan, Jewish, and Christian discourses on sacrifice and identifies two intersecting conceptual axes common to all three. The first she calls the “vertical” axis, which links humans to the divine; the second is the “horizontal” axis, which connects the participants with various aspects of lived reality. Petropoulou is ultimately interested in the process by which Christians moved away from practicing sacrifice; however, she eventually gives a thick description of the powerful hold sacrifice had on the whole Greco-Roman world.

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                                                                                                                                                              Sacrifice After 70 CE

                                                                                                                                                              The Roman destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE brought institutional Jewish sacrifice to an immediate halt. Studies of sacrifice in Judaism after that time are entirely a matter of Jewish discourse on and interpretation of sacrifice. There is vastly more literature on the subject of post-temple Jewish literature that reflects on sacrificial law or sacrifice in the abstract. These have been judged mostly beyond the scope of this article. The following is a sample of relevant scholarship. Fishbane 2007 looks at the development of rabbinic thought on cultic laws and how to observe them. Lasker 2004, Neusner 1979, Stroumsa 2009, Swartz 1997, and Swartz 2002 explore the vestigial forms and ideas about sacrifice in late Antiquity. Stern 1998 discusses the major medieval debates about the problem of sacrificial commands in Torah. Hart 2009 is a collection of papers that address a variety of issues related to the meaning and significance of blood throughout the history of Judaism from social science perspectives.

                                                                                                                                                              • Fishbane, Michael. “Spiritual Transformations of Torah in Biblical and Rabbinic Tradition.” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 6.18 (2007): 6–15.

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                                                                                                                                                                Among the pertinent ideas is the argument that the rabbinic tradition established the study of Priestly ritual in the Bible as the religious equivalent of the rites themselves, with the same atoning efficacy. A concise, readable introduction to this shift in piety after the destruction of the temple.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Hart, Mitchell B., ed. Jewish Blood: Reality and Metaphor in History, Religion, and Culture. London: Routledge, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A collection of essays focused on how blood functions conceptually in Judaism and among Jews around the world and throughout history. The range of topics is wide and few directly address questions of literal sacrifice, but all are useful for understanding the meaning and significance of blood for Jewish identity, religion, politics, and culture.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Lasker, Daniel J. “The Theory of Compensation (‘Iwad) in Rabbanite and Karaite Thought: Animal Sacrifices, Ritual Slaughter and Circumcision.” Jewish Studies Quarterly 11.1–2 (2004): 59–72.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1628/0944570043028491Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Focuses on the theory of compensation for the pain and suffering of animals used in sacrifice as disputed between the rabbinic sages of the Gaonic (early medieval) era and Karaite thinkers of the same period. This theory—that God compensated animals for any pain they suffered as a result of being used for sacrifice—was among the arguments used to defend the Torah laws requiring sacrifice. The article is a helpful window into the clash between orthodox rabbinic thought and Karaite heresy of the period.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Neusner, Jacob. “Map without Territory: Mishnah’s System of Sacrifice and Sanctuary.” History of Religions 19.2 (1 November 1979): 103–127.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/462839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      A descriptive historical approach to the “Mishnaic version of Judaism” as expressed in its system of sacrifice. Neusner explains this system as laid out in “The Order of Holy Things” or “Qodoshim” and considers it in light of anthropological theory. He also places it in its historical context—in which there is no longer an operative sacrificial cult. This section of the Mishnah is strikingly out of joint with reality, discussing things that no longer exist and are unlikely to exist in the foreseeable future. Neusner suggests that the function of the whole section is ultimately not to elaborate on the biblical laws but instead to indicate and assert the fundamental truth and rightness of Jewish scripture.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Stern, Josef. Problems and Parables of Law: Maimonides and Nahmanides on Reasons for the Commandments: Ta’mei Ha-Mitzvot. New York: State University of New York Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Highly readable despite the complex subject matter. A helpful comparison of these medieval philosophers on the reasoning behind commandments, with significant treatment of the rationale for sacrifice. For Maimonides, the laws regarding sacrifice were a kind of concession on God’s part to help the Israelites wean themselves off of idolatrous practices and should be interpreted along the lines of a parable concerning the well-being of the individual and the community as a whole in relationship to God. Nahmanides accepts the validity of parabolic interpretation but considers the plain meaning of sacrificial laws to be plainly valid and not in need of defense or explanation away.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Stroumsa, Gedaliahu A. G. The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A series of revised lectures on the decline of sacrifice as the central religious feature of ancient society. Stroumsa argues that the end of sacrifice precipitated from the rabbinic response to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Swartz, Michael D. “Ritual about Myth about Ritual: Towards an Understanding of the Avodah in the Rabbinic Period.” Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy (Routledge) 6.1 (February 1997): 135–155.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1163/147728597794761727Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            An examination of the Avodah piyyutim, liturgical poetry for the Day of Atonement, from the Tannaitic period. Swartz explores how the recitation of this poetry during liturgy not only recalled the expiatory rites but was also meant to re-create the cultic experience of Yom Kippur.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Swartz, Michael D. “Sacrificial themes in Jewish magic.” In Magic and Ritual in the Ancient World. Edited by Paul Mirecki and Marvin Meyer, 303–315. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                              An insightful exploration of how aspects of biblical sacrifice are appropriated in ancient Jewish magical texts. Swartz examines the use of cultic iconography, the rhetoric of purity, and the use of the divine name to legitimize Jewish magic.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Genesis 22 and the Aqedah

                                                                                                                                                                              There is no more fecund topic pertaining to sacrifice in Jewish tradition than the story of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son. The following is but a sample of the vast literature on this subject. The first subsection, Comparative Studies, includes works that examines Jewish interpretation of Genesis 22 in comparison with either Christian or Islamic interpretation, or both. The subsection Historical Studies includes work that explores the interpretation of Genesis 22 in historical context, whether a specific moment in history or the development of interpretation over time. The final subsections on Modern Literature and Visual Arts contain scholarship on literary and artistic interpretations and reinventions of the Aqedah motif in Jewish culture and more broadly in Western culture.

                                                                                                                                                                              Comparative Studies

                                                                                                                                                                              Since the late 20th century there has been a sharp rise is comparative analysis of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic interpretation of the Genesis 22 story. Some—though certainly not all—of this work is explicitly part of interfaith dialogue. Some concern themselves with the repercussions of the implied violence and horror of a narrative at the core of Abrahamic religions. Firestone 1990 and Caspi and Cohen 1995 focus on the relationship between interpretations in Judaism and Islam. Gellman 2003, Kessler 2004, and Schoenfeld 2012 compare interpretations in Judaism and Christianity. Caspi and Greene 2007, Noort and Tigchelaar 2002, and Chilton 2008 include material on all three “Abrahamic” traditions.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Caspi, Mishael, and Sascha Benjamin Cohen. The Binding (Aqedah) and its Transformations in Judaism and Islam: The Lambs of God. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1995.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Reviews an extraordinary range of material with particular interest in how Jewish traditions of the Aqedah found their way into Islam and how that community adopted Abraham as its own progenitor and reinvented the story of Genesis 22 for itself.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Caspi, Mishael, and John T. Greene, eds. Unbinding the Binding of Isaac. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  An uneven collection of conference papers exploring the interpretation and transformation of the Aqedah in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The historical periods covered range from Antiquity to the 21st century, and topics include history, liturgy, poetry, and theology. Some entries are intensely personal. Aharoney’s piece places an uncommon focus on the character of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Chilton, Bruce. Abraham’s Curse: Child Sacrifice in the Legacies of the West. New York: Doubleday, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    An exploration of the theme of martyrdom in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as it rises from those traditions’ interpretation of the Aqedah. Chilton is particularly interested in how the story has contributed to violence in those traditions throughout history and especially in the modern world.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Firestone, Reuven. Journeys in Holy Lands: The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      This is an extensive survey of Islamic legend and exegesis of the Qur’an related to Abraham and the story of God’s command to sacrifice his son. Firestone suggests an evolutionary path of these legends from those of Jewish, Christian, and even Pre-Islamic communities of the Arabian Peninsula.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Gellman, Jerome I. Abraham! Abraham! Kierkegaard and the Hasidim on the Binding of Isaac. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Compares the work of two significant 19th-century thinkers concerning the Aqedah: existentialist Christian writer Søren Kierkegaard (b. 1813–d. 1855) and the Hasidic Rabbi Mordecai Joseph Leiner of Izbica (b. 1802–d. 1854). Gellmen does not make a forceful case that one writer necessarily influenced the other, but does find in their writing two parallel movements of “inwardness.”

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kessler, Edward. Bound by the Bible: Jews, Christians and the Sacrifice of Isaac. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511520624Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          Kessler attempts to locate successful interreligious dialogue between Jews and Christians throughout history. He asserts that biblical exegesis, especially exegesis of Genesis 22, has provided common ground. His argument is more hopeful than helpful, but his sources are comprehensive and interesting.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Noort, Edward, and Eibert J. C. Tigchelaar. The Sacrifice of Isaac: The Aqedah (Genesis 22) and its Interpretations. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            An interesting collection of revised papers that explores a wide range of interpretations of the Aqedah in both literature and art throughout the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Contributions that explicitly compare interpretations across traditions are Bremmer’s comparison with the Greek Iphigenia myth, and Reinink’s discussion of Syriac Christian interpretations of Genesis 22 as responses to Islam.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Schoenfeld, Devorah. Isaac on Jewish and Christian Altars: Polemic, Faith, and Sacrifice in Rashi and the Gloss on Genesis 22. New York: Fordham University Press, 2012.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823243495.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              Explores how the medieval Jewish scholar Rashi and the Glossa Ordinaria, a Christian commentary of the same era, each used the story of Abraham and especially the figure of Isaac to legitimize their own religious traditions and to polemicize against one another. The Glossa saw Isaac as an obvious prefiguration of Jesus, and described Jews as willfully ignorant of this allegorical truth. For Rashi, as in other Jewish interpretations, Isaac represented a model of Jewish martyrdom. Both of these commentaries were fundamental to biblical exegesis in their respective traditions during the High Middle Ages, the period of the Crusades, and long after the end of that period.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Historical Studies

                                                                                                                                                                                              The works listed here are specifically historical in their approach, either focusing on interpretation of Genesis 22 during a particular period or surveying the development of interpretation over time. Fitzmyer 2002 focuses on later Second Temple period texts. Levenson 1993 is interested primarily in biblical and immediate post biblical periods. Kundert 1998a and Kundert 1998b look at biblical though early rabbinic literature. Caspi 2001 and Even-Chen 2006 focus on medieval and modern Jewish interpretation. Feldman 2010 discusses the role of this narrative in discourse about Israeli identity in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Berman 1997 and Spiegel 1976 explore the whole sweep of Jewish history from Antiquity to the 20th century.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Berman, Louis Arthur. The Akedah: The Binding of Isaac. Northvale, NJ: J. Aronson, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                A thorough exploration of Genesis 22 and the history of its interpretation, including the author’s personal reflections on the text. Less erudite but more readable than Spiegel and looking at interpretive material as late as Woody Allen’s short story “The Sacrifice of Isaac” (1970).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Caspi, Mishael. Take Now Thy Son: The Motif of the Aqedah (binding) in Literature. North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  The first section of this book explores the classic moral and theological problems posed by the story of the Aqedah—God’s vicious command, Abraham’s compliance, and Isaac’s apparent passivity. From there follows a survey of Western literary interpretation of the Aqedah from Antiquity through the 20th century. Particularly interesting is Caspi’s treatment of Jewish ballads after the expulsion from Portugal and Spain in 1492, and Jewish literature since the Second World War.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Even-Chen, Alexander. Aqedat Yitzhak: The Mystical and Philosophical Interpretation of the Bible. Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronoth, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A splendid review of major medieval and modern Jewish interpretation of Genesis 22. Includes Maimonides, the Zohar, Abravanel, Heschel, and several others. Even-Chen does not advance a particular argument but rather explicates these potent and startlingly varied Jewish readings of this fundamental narrative.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Feldman, Yael. Glory and Agony: Isaac’s Sacrifice and National Narrative. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804759021.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                      An inquiry into the Israeli rumination over the Aqedah. Feldman examines how this quintessentially religious story became a touchstone for secular Israeli identity and then explores the questions and concerns that have brought Israelis back to this story again and again: Who are the heroes? Who are the victims?

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. “The Sacrifice of Isaac in Qumran Literature.” Biblica 83.2 (1 January 2002): 211–229.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Close examination of the earliest texts of Genesis 22:1–19 and interpretation of it in early translations and interpretive texts, notably the text of Pseudo-Jubilees from Qumran, in order to discern which elements of the Aqedah traditions pre-date Christianity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Kundert, Lukas. Die Opferung/Bindung Isaaks: Bd. 1, Gen 22,1–19 im Alten Testament, im Frühjudentum und im Neuen Testament. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1998a.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Uses close literary and philological methods to analyze and interpret biblical and early rabbinic texts as well as early biblical translations, Jewish pseudepigrapha, and Christian scripture pertaining to the Aqedah. Together with the following volume, this publication of Kunert’s dissertation is extraordinarily comprehensive.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Kundert, Lukas. Die Opferung/Bindung Isaaks, Bd 2: Gen 22,1–19 in frühen rabbinischen Texten. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1998b.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            Uses close literary and philological methods to analyze and interpret texts in the Talmud and other midrashic compilations pertaining to the Aqedah.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Levenson, Jon D. The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              This sophisticated but highly readable analysis of the concept of child sacrifice takes Genesis 22 as its starting point. Levenson skillfully integrates historical criticism, literary criticism, and interpretive history to reveal how the idea of child sacrifice has remained compelling throughout the history of Judaism and Christianity. While interfaith dialogue is not a primary goal of the work, Levenson does include reflections on how a common fascination with this story offers help on the way to reconciliation between Jews and Christians.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Spiegel, Shalom. The Last Trial: On the Legends and Lore of the Command to Abraham to Offer Isaac as a Sacrifice: The Akedah. New York: Pantheon, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                A comprehensive examination of midrash on the Aqedah from Antiquity through the Middle Ages. Spiegel also explores the interplay of Jewish and Christian interpretation that emphasizes martyrdom and self-sacrifice.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Modern Literature

                                                                                                                                                                                                                This subsection isolates scholarship on modern Jewish literature (especially poetry) that draws on the themes of Genesis 22. Brown 1982 looks at poetry and prose from 20th century Jewish writers. Kartun-Blum 1988 and Kartun-Blum 2002 focus on modern Israeli poetry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Brown, Michael. “Biblical Myth and Contemporary Experience: The Akedah in Modern Jewish literature.” Judaism 31.1 (1 December 1982): 99–111.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A review of modern Jewish literature (both Israeli and non-Israeli) poetry and prose that reflects on major themes inherent to the Aqedah: father-son relationships, faith, suffering, self-sacrifice, and the weight of tradition.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Kartun-Blum, Ruth. “‘Where Does this Wood in my Hand Come from?’ The Binding of Isaac in Modern Hebrew Poetry.” Prooftexts 8.3 (September 1988): 293.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Examines how 20th-century Israeli poets have transformed the Aqedah, so closely tied to religious faith, into a resource for exploring identity and experience in the secular culture of Israel. A useful companion to Feldman 2010 (cited under Historical Studies) above.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Kartun-Blum, Ruth. “Political Mothers: Women’s Voice and the Binding of Isaac in Israeli Poetry.” In History and Literature: New Readings of Jewish Texts in Honor of Arnold J. Band. 419–438. Providence, RI: Program in Judaic Studies, Brown University, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Explores Jewish poets, women in particular, who have deconstructed traditions about the Aqedah traditions, often bringing the role and or absence of Sarah in that story to the forefront and raising questions about Israeli identity and politics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Visual Arts

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The following works explore how works of art, painting, mosaic, and sculpture have drawn on traditions about the Aqedah. Gutmann 1984 compares Jewish and Christian art of Antiquity. Gutmann 1987 and Sabar 2009 examine Medieval Jewish art. Ankori 1986 and Manor 1986 examine 20th-century Israeli artists. Milgrom 1988 surveys the whole history of the theme in Western art.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Ankori, Ganit. “Image of the Warrior and the Image of the Bound Sacrifice: The Israeli Fighter in the Art of Joram Rozov.” In Proceedings, 9th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Aug 1985. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Examines Rosov’s series of oil paintings of Israeli fighter pilots titled “Men in Shackles.” Ankori sees the figures in Rosov’s series as types of Isaac, and the meaning of their sacrifice as ambiguous.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Gutmann, Joseph. “The Sacrifice of Isaac: Variations on a Theme in Early Jewish and Christian art.” In Thiasos tōn Mousōn: Studien zu Antike und Christentum: Festschrift für Josef Fink. Edited by Dieter Ahrens, 115–122. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 1984.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A comprehensive examination of ancient Jewish and Christian visual representations of the Aqedah in the 3rd century BC. Gutmann’s approach is thoroughly art historical with an emphasis on technique as well as subject matter.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Gutmann, Joseph. “The Sacrifice of Isaac in Medieval Jewish Art.” Artibus Et Historiae 16 (1987): 67.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/1483301Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A close examination of twenty-seven illuminations of the Aqedah in Hebrew manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Gutmann discusses their visual elements, their expression of rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 22, and ways this art influenced Christian and Islamic art on the same theme.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Manor, Tamar. “Altar and Sacrifice in the Art of Yitshak Danziger.” In Proc, 9th World Congress of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Aug 1985. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Examines the sculpture of Israeli artist Yitzhak Danziger, in particular those pieces evoking sacrificial themes such “The Horn of Hattin” and “Sheep in the Negev.” Danziger is among the most important Israeli sculptors of the 20th century, and his work is often cited as integral to Israeli identity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Milgrom, Jo. The Akedah: The Binding of Isaac: The Akedah, A Primary Symbol in Jewish Thought and Art. Berkeley, CA: BIBAL, 1988.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                A review of much the same material as Spiegel 1976 (cited under Historical Studies) but with greater emphasis on the visual arts. Milgrom is especially interested in how the theme of the Aqedah in art can mediate between generations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Sabar, Shalom. “The Fathers Slaughter their Sons”: Depictions of the Binding of Isaac in the Art of Medieval Ashkenaz.” Images: Journal of Jewish Art & Visual Culture 3.1 (January 2009): 9.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1163/187180010X500162Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Discusses the Aqedah theme in Jewish art of medieval Europe. Sabar focuses in particular on how the artists reflect their experience as members of Jewish communities embedded in the dominant culture of European Christianity.

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