Abstract of Sulzbach, Carla. “From Here to Eternity and Back: Locating Sacred Spaces and Temple Imagery in the Book of Daniel.”

Note: Most universities now require the author of a PhD dissertation to write an abstract.  The following abstracts have been taken from the author’s written summary of his/her work.

Sulzbach, Carla.  “From Here to Eternity and Back: Locating Sacred Spaces and Temple Imagery in the Book of Daniel.”  PhD diss., McGill University, 2009.   [Israel/Sacred Space/Symbolism]

Abstract:  This dissertation offers a reading of sacred spaces and temple imagery in the Book of Daniel using critical spatial theory. It is argued that the idea of sacred space is, in fact, one of the main concerns in Daniel and forms a running theme within the narrative. Because the allusions are often vague and buried deep within the individual stories a methodology has been chosen that foregrounds the notion of the spatial. Unlike other methodologies used to define sacred space, this approach is pre-eminently equipped to perform a depth analysis of the text. Although some elements from older models are incorporated, these have been reformulated and reconfigured into a new context, which goes beyond the traditional binary model that sharply and uncompromisingly juxtaposes the sacred and the profane. Critical spatial theory adds to the traditional historical and societal vantage points the spatial view, creating a trialectic which, rather than ending up with mutually exclusive opposites, results in an integrated system able to expose the sub-narrative underlying the actual text. Thus, the concepts of ‘exile’, ‘kingdom’, and ‘dreamscape’ that are usually understood in a more temporal and abstract sense are now studied as primarily spatial phenomena and brought into each other’s orbit. Therefore, by adding the spatial component, new insights will be gained that show how the narrative past and future bear on what are the true present concerns ‘on the ground’ for those who produced the text. Furthermore, it correlates the concrete and abstract realms that are described in the text and it exposes the various power relations they contain. The notion that space is socially produced, and consequently defined through the ways it is acted upon, thought about, and moved in, is one of the key concepts of critical spatial theory.

The point of departure for the argumentation in this study is the consensus view that although the finished text is a product of the mid-second century BCE, especially the court tales contain older materials that may go back to the late Persian or early Hellenistic Period. The proposed spatial analysis will be applied on three levels. The first is the world that forms Daniel’s narrative frame, i.e., that of the Exile, because this was obviously meaningful to the editors. In doing so, full notice will be taken of the ancient Near Eastern realia that made up the world that is described. This is followed by the implied world of the Hellenistic era especially in Judea, which directly concerned the editors of the text. This, then, brings us to the world that remains wholly within the narrative, namely the alternate realities of the heavenly realm and dream worlds, which contain the hopes and ideals of those responsible for the text. In conclusion it will be assessed what effect these three worlds have on each other and how this relationship may contribute, in the minds of the Daniel group, to producing a fully restored world in which the human and divine both have their fixed places and space.

Full text available online through ProQuest

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