Abstract of LaRocca-Pitts, Elizabeth C. “Of Wood and Stone’: A Source Critical Analysis and Study of Early Biblical Interpretation Concerning bamot, massebot, ‘aseri m, and mizbehot.”

LaRocca-Pitts, Elizabeth C. “Of Wood and Stone’: A Source Critical Analysis and Study of Early Biblical Interpretation Concerning bamotmassebot, ‘aseri m, and mizbehot.”   PhD diss., Harvard University, 1994. [Israel/Theology/Sacrifice/Covenants/Furnishings]

Abstract:  In the secondary literature on the biblical text it is often generally stated that bamot (so-called “high place” shrines), massebot (standing stones), ‘aseri m (so-called “sacred trees” or “poles”), and certain mizbehot (altars), were universally condemned by the biblical writers due to a clear connection between them and Canaanite religion. This study offers a detailed analysis of biblical views of these items which demonstrates the essential inaccuracy of such generalization. The study also discusses the early interpretation of these items in the Septuagint, Vulgate, Targumim, Mishnah and certain midrashim, demonstrating the additional fallacy of seeking more detailed descriptions of these items in the early translated traditions, each of which transformed the biblical witness into teachings applicable to its own time and circumstances.

After a general review of scholarship, the study divides the biblical passages which mention these items by source, discussing each writer’s views individually. Next the data is reorganized according to item, comparing the various biblical views. This section provides a more detailed review of scholarship on each item and discusses other issues such as: bamot in relation to Moab, child sacrifice, and temples; massebot in relation to other stone monuments, and massebot as covenant markers; ‘aseri m in relation to the goddess ‘Asherah, live trees, and shrines; altar construction and cultic centralization; the relation of each object to the others and to items such as cultic statuary and the “high hill and green tree” complex. Finally, the treatment of these items by early interpreters is discussed, including such issues as: the LXX’s connection between ‘aseri m and sacred groves; the Vulgate’s equation of massebot with cultic statuary; the early Jewish equation of ‘aseri m with live trees; and the practice on the part of all three traditions of introducing, through translation, value distinctions not present in the Hebrew text.

Full text available online through ProQuest.

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