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

Jonathan Klawans

in Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738960
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918676 | DOI:
Symbol, Function, Theology, and Morality in the Study of Priestly Ritual

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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

Chapter.  8338 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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