• The Privilege of the Living in Caring for the Dead: A Problem of Reciprocity

    Author(s):
    Matthew Suriano (see profile)
    Date:
    2022
    Group(s):
    Ancient Near East, Biblical archaeology, Biblical Studies, Near Eastern Archaeology
    Subject(s):
    Funeral rites and ceremonies, Death, Burial, Ancestor worship, Bible. Old Testament, Jews
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Exodus, Deuteronomy, Phoenician, Hebrew
    Permanent URL:
    https://doi.org/10.17613/7gzw-th69
    Abstract:
    What was the significance of ancestors in the Hebrew Bible? The question is spurred by Kerry Sonia’s Caring for the Dead, which argues that the cult of dead kin was an accepted practice in the culture of the biblical writers. In building this thesis, Sonia resists an idea popular in scholarship that the Hebrew Bible promotes a negative view of rituals involving dead kin. The idea rests upon problematic assumptions of ancestor worship, construed as a set of illicit practices that occurred within the context of family religion but is often conflated with necromancy. Sonia’s work affirms that caring for the dead was an important component of family religion, and effectively distinguishes caring from necromancy. So how should we approach the dead? The discussion of Sonia’s book here provides the opportunity to push the question of ancestors further. This will be done by reassessing “reciprocity,” the term Sonia uses to articulate the relationship between the living and their dead. By reexamining how reciprocity worked in both dedicatory and funerary inscriptions, it becomes possible to identify what the stakes were in caring for their dead. This reassessment has the potential to open up new ways of looking at what ancestors symbolized in biblical literature and how they related to the living communities that cared for them.
    Notes:
    This is a review article of Kerry Sonia's Caring for the Dead in Ancient Israel (SBL, 2020).
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Online publication    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    4 months ago
    License:
    Attribution
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