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

By Martha Himmelfarb

In line with the account within the e-book of Exodus, God addresses the youngsters of Israel as they stand prior to Mt. Sinai with the phrases, "You will be to me a country of clergymen and a holy country" (19:6). The sentence, Martha Himmelfarb observes, is paradoxical, for monks are by means of definition a minority, but the that means in context is apparent: the total humans is holy. The phrases additionally element to a few major tensions within the biblical knowing of the folk of Israel. If the total humans is holy, why does it desire clergymen? If club in either humans and priesthood is an issue no longer of benefit yet of delivery, how can both the folk or its clergymen wish to be holy? How can one reconcile the space among the glory due the priest and the particular habit of a few who stuffed the function? What can the folk do to make itself really a state of priests?Himmelfarb argues that those questions turn into critical in moment Temple Judaism. She considers quite a number texts from this era, together with the ebook of Watchers, the e-book of Jubilees, criminal files from the lifeless Sea Scrolls, the writings of Philo of Alexandria, and the e-book of Revelation of the hot testomony, and is going directly to discover rabbinic Judaism's emphasis on descent because the basic criterion for inclusion one of the selected humans of Israel—a place, she contends, that took on new strength in response to early Christian disparagement of the concept that mere descent from Abraham used to be enough for salvation.

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Lev 15:16-18) Perhaps the language o f the Book of the Watchers is i n t e n d e d to make the p o i n t that unlike m e n , the Watchers incur defilement n o t only through seminal emission but by the very fact o f taking wives. Furthermore, while the Damascus Document and the Psalms of Solomon leave n o d o u b t that the m e n they are c o n d e m n i n g are defiled by men­ strual b l o o d , the Book of the Watchers is m u c h less clear: With the blood of women you have defiled yourselves, and with the blood of flesh you have begotten; A n d with the blood of men you have lusted 33 and you have done as they d o — flesh and blood, who die and perish.

T h e most striking aspect o f the passage about A a r o n is the detailed description o f his priesdy garments, including a g o l d e n crown (Sir 45:12). T h e priesdy d o c u m e n t o f the Torah provides the high priest with a turban with a g o l d plate inscribed "Holy to the L o r d " ( E x o d 28:37-38), but the crown is b e n Sira's own contribution. T h e phrase "golden c r o w n " is drawn from Ps 21:4; there it describes the crown G o d has placed o n the head o f the king. Further, b e n Sira notes that A a r o n and his descendants are parties to a covenant that will e n d u r e "as the days o f heaven" (Sir 4 5 : 1 ) .

T h e r e the sights E n o c h sees are explained rather than deci­ p h e r e d , but the formal features o f the explanations recall the language o f vision interpretation in Zechariah and his p r e d e c e s s o r s . T h e n e w p r o m i n e n c e o f symbolic visions in the p r o p h e c y o f the S e c o n d T e m p l e p e r i o d reflects the growing i m p o r t a n c e o f interpretation in c o m m u n i ­ cating the divine will as Jews c o m e to r e c o g n i z e the authority o f the Torah.

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