Friday, July 2, 2010


"In some respects, Deuteronomy reads like a modern document. Had it been implemented, the reformers' program would have included the establishment of a secular sphere and an independent judiciary separate from the cult; a constitutional monarchy, which made the king subject to the Torah like any other citizen; and a centralized state with a single, national shrine. The reformers also rationalized Israelite theology to rid it of superstitious mythology. You could not manipulate God by sacrifice, and God certainly did not live in his temple, which instead of being a scared "center, as of old, was merely a house of prayer.

But a rational, secular ideology is not necessarily any more tolerant than a mythical one. The Deuteronomists' reform revealed the greatest danger of idolatry. In making their national God, now the only symbol of the divine, endorse the national will, they had crafted a god in their own image. In the past, Marduk's power had always been challenged by Tiamat's, Baal's by Mot's. For J and E, the divine was so ambiguous that it was impossible to imagine that Yahweh was infallibly on your side or to predict what he would do next. But the Deuteronomists had no doubt that they knew exactly what Yahweh desired and felt it a sacred duty to destroy anything that seemed to oppose his/their interests. When something inherently finite -- an image, an ideology, or a polity -- is invested with ultimate value, its devotees feel obliged to eliminate any rival claimant, because there can be only one absolute. The type of destruction described by the Deuteronomists is an infallible indication that a sacred symbol has become idolatrous."

No comments: