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Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice$
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Jennifer Wright Knust and Zsuzsanna Varhelyi

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738960

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.001.0001

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Symbol, Function, Theology, and Morality in the Study of Priestly Ritual

Symbol, Function, Theology, and Morality in the Study of Priestly Ritual

(p.106) 5 Symbol, Function, Theology, and Morality in the Study of Priestly Ritual
Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Jonathan Klawans

Oxford University Press

Arguing for diverse, contextual, understandings of ancient religions, Jonathan Klawans argues that Israelites themselves put forward symbolic rationales for their practices. Therefore, symbolic interpretations should preside over functional understandings of Israelite ritual. Klawans then notes the importance of prophetic symbolic action: these explicitly figurative performances further demonstrate that symbolic behavior could be understood broadly within ancient Israel and not only by literate specialists. Taking a cue from Roy Rappaport, Klawans suggests that the primary, intended purpose of many Israelite rituals was to serve as communicative “signs”—public reinforcements of communal messages and memories. Israelite rituals will best be understood when scholars draw on both ritual and prophetic texts, recognizing that Israelite culture exhibited a distinctive proclivity for symbolic communication.

Keywords:   Israelite religion, symbolism, functionalism, prophecy, Israelite sacrifice

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