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Official Religion and Popular Religion in Pre-Exilic Ancient Israel

Presented at the twenty-third annual
Rabbi Louis Feinberg Memorial Lecture in Jewish Studies, Department of Judaic Studies,
University of Cincinnati, May 11, 2000
(Continued from Works Cited)

End Notes

1. My summary of this argument is based on both Kaufmann’s original Hebrew version and Moshe Greenberg’s abridged version translated into English in 1972.

2. This translation as with most others in this essay comes from the JPS edition.

3. For the most part, however, Kaufmann believes that the Hebrew Bible is an expression of the people’s religion. Kaufmann himself once claimed: “Biblical religion is therefore not an esoteric religion of a spiritual elite like the higher pagan religions, but is a growth that is rooted and nourished by the popular religion of Israel.” (1972: 133; 223). As Moshe Greenberg has pointed out, for Kaufmann “[biblical] literature is a faithful reflection of the literature of the folk as well” (1964: 81).

4. For a discussion of Kaufmann’s work see Stephen Geller’s insightful, “Wellhausen and Kaufmann” (1983). Also see Gottwald (1993).

5. Though the terms “popular” and “official” are not used by the actors themselves. An official religion is more likely to refer to its own views as “orthodox,” “natural,” “legitimate,” “God-ordained,” and those of other groups as “heterodox,” “unnatural,” “illegitimate,” “demonic,” etc.

6. As Perry Anderson notes, Gramsci "carefully distinguishes the necessity for coercion of enemy classes, and consensual direction of allied classes" (1976:45). In "The Modern Prince," Gramsci observes: "The 'normal' exercise of hegemony on the now classical terrain of the parliamentary régime is characterised by the combination of force and consent, which balance each other reciprocally, without force predominating excessively over consent" (1975:80 fn. 49). Elsewhere, in an apparent reference to hegemony, Gramsci indicates that force must be "ingeniously combined" with consent and persuasion (1975:310). One thinks of Sassoon's remark that for Gramsci "The political is not defined by, it cannot be understood in terms of, only one of its attributes, of force or consent. It is both force and consent. . ." (1980:112). As for consent, James Scott observes that for Gramsci the poor are "coconspirators in their own victimization" (1985:318).

7. Gramsci's discussions of hegemony evince similarities to ideas found in both Engels (see Portelli 1974:68-121: Fulton 1987:214) and Weber (see Shafir: 1985; Levy, 1987). Moreover, his work provides a more detailed description of the role which intellectuals play within the apparatus of orthodoxy. As has been often noted, Gramsci was not the originator of the term hegemony. For a discussion of its intellectual lineage and impact on Gramsci's thought see Anderson (1976:15-18); Piccone (1983:10-11); Hoffman (1984:51-75). As Bates has pointed out, Gramsci's remarks on hegemony are "fragmented and dispersed throughout his Quaderni del carcere" (1975:351; Femia, 1975:29; McLellan, 1979:180). This concept, however, has only been rarely applied to the study of religion. For some notable exceptions see Nesti (1975); Fulton (1987); Caceres (1988); Portelli (1974); Vasale (1979:47-84).

8. As Luis Maldonado describes it, Ecclesiastical authority deploys 4 strategies in regards to popular religion: “proposition, prescription, tolerance and proscription” (1986: 10).

9. A much more comprehensive treatment of the issues discussed in this section may be found in Berlinerblau 1993; 1995;1996;1999;2001a;2001b.

10. Moshe Greenberg, who abridged and translated Kaufmann’s work, seems to share a similar view. In his important and overlooked Biblical Prose Prayer as a Window to the Popular Religion of Ancient Israel he writes “the temple rituals and the psalms –are thus deficient as mirrors of the commoners’ religion; both are prescriptions of the schooled; they belong to a class of experts” (1983: 6). Thus here again, it is assumed that “official religion” is given expression on the pages of the Bible. For a critique of Greenberg see Berlinerblau (1995).

11. McCarter (1987:138) ascribes an eighth-century date to this “exclusively Iron II” site.

12. Some read “Yahweh of Teman” here (pithos 2; Lemaire 1984:44; Albertz 1994:86; and see especially the discussion of Hadley 2000: 125-129).

13. Naveh translates: 

May Uriyahu be blessed by Yahweh, my guardian and by his Asherah, Save him (1979: 28, 30; also see Dever 1984:22: Hadley 1987:51)

Patrick Miller renders it: 

Blessed is Uriyahu by Yahweh; Yea, from his adversaries by his asherah he has saved him (1981:317)

M. O’Connor (1987) reads these as part of an inscriptional poem. A totally different translation, one which rejects the idea of Yahweh possessing an Asherah, is advanced by Binger (1997: 96). Binger also conveniently summarizes many of the major translations of both inscriptions (1997:98; 164-172). Mittmann (1981:144) rejects the reading of Asherah in this line altogether.

14. Other instances, such as Judges 3:7, are ambiguous.

15. The belief that the Asherah here is a wood pole that symbolizes the goddess is a widely reached verdict. McCarter sees an Asherah in the Israelite mileu “as a wooden cult object . . . the personification of a cult object as a goddess” (1987: 147). She was thus understood as his consort (149). McCarter points out that we are seeing in these various Yahwehs “local forms or manifestations of a national God” (1987:139, 141).

16. Kaufmann claimed: “We do not hear . . . .that he [Yahweh] was mated with Ashtoreth” (1972: 123). Though the inscriptions discussed above pertaining to Asherah raise the possibility that this might have been a possibility with this goddess as well.

17. Binger equates the Asherah worship implied in these inscriptions with the official religion (1997: 109; 121; also see Gilula 1978-1979: 134). Also see Olyan (1988: 13) who sees Asherah worship as “a legitimate part of the cult of Yahweh both in the north and in the south, in state religion and in popular religion, finding opposition in deuteronomistic circles.”

18. Dever, for his part, equates the orthodoxy of the period in which the Kuntillet Ajrud inscriptions were written with the Jerusalem establishment. He clearly associates the latter with the authors of the Hebrew Bible (1984: 31). Once again, an implicit association is drawn between official religion and biblical verses (also see Dever 1999: 11).

19. Here departing from the JPS translation (“The Lord will uncover their heads.” For similar translations see Kaiser 1983:78; Wildberger 1991:45; Watts 1985:43; also see Driver 1937). Insofar as Yahweh proceeds to undress the women in the following verses a translation of ____ as “their private parts” seems preferable. George Buchanan Gray (1912:69) translates “And Yahweh shall lay bare their shame(?)” Blenkinsopp translates “private parts” (2000:200). Also see Koehler and Baumgartner who offer “female pudenda” as a possibility (1996:983).

20. By using Gramsci and Weber I am leaning on what I have elsewhere labeled “the voluntaristic conception of ideology.” There are other sociological traditions, however, that may be brought to bear on the question of ideology in the Old Testament (see Berlinerblau 2001c).

21. Of course, the prophets do offer ample glimpses of hope in the future. But my point is that prophetic discourse is not the sort of thing that seems geared toward the type of large-scale consensus building that is characteristic of any hegemonic endeavor.

22. Though Roberts argues that the Dtr source also retains pro-monarchal stances as well. (1987: 381-2).

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