Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hebrews and Ritual Studies: Abstract and TOC

So as I finish up readying a draft of my monograph to send to publishers, I have thought a bit about a potential future project that would be more patently methodological in nature:  what, if anything, can different scholarly frameworks of ritual tell us about Hebrews?  How might Hebrews help us to rethink those frameworks?  So, I toyed with this idea a bit here, spoken of it with biblicists, with people who study ritual or "ritual" in other contexts, etc., and with their feedback I have come up with this as a preliminary abstract and table and contents:

The Epistle to the Hebrews and Ritual Studies:  An Investigation

Jared C. Calaway
Visiting Assistant Professor
Illinois Wesleyan University

This study responds to the increasing interest in “social-scientific criticism” in biblical studies and its relative absence in the most cultically-interested work in the New Testament:  the Epistle to the Hebrews.  There have been some pioneers in this regard.  David DeSilva employs a socio-rhetorical approach when considering the Greek and Roman social context of Hebrews.  On the cultic side, John Dunnill has brought Hebrews into dialogue with structuralist anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, and Victor Turner, that looks at the structure or system of symbols and how Hebrews re-presents and transposes the symbol system of the Old Testament covenant.  Dunnill’s monograph is an important trailblazer in bringing Hebrews into dialogue with important trends in anthropology that have had analytic usefulness, but anthropology and sociology as disciplines have continued to develop new lines of social analysis.  In this project, I propose to analyze Hebrews with shifting lenses of anthropology, sociology, as well as the history of religions school that have been developed for the study of “ritual.”  I investigate well-known theories and more recent developments.  Each chapter is dedicated to a particular approach, and analyzes the effects of that approach when brought into dialogue with the Epistle to the Hebrews.  By dedicating each chapter to a different approach, I hope to elucidate what difference using a distinct sociological or anthropological theoretical model makes, what benefits are accrued, and what drawbacks can be found.  Within each chapter, I will examine how these theories can help us understand Hebrews on a couple of levels:  how ritual or ritualized actions are represented in the text, or Jesus as ritual expert; and how these theories help us understand the sets of social relationships between author, community, received tradition, and other groups that create different pressures and contacts, or the author as ritual actor.  Biblical studies historically has been an important ground for debating social theories developed by sociologists, anthropologists, and historians of religion from William Robertson Smith, to Mary Douglas, to Jonathan Z. Smith, and to Nancy Jay.  What, if anything, can discussing Hebrews in this manner contribute to refining, redefining, or exploring the potentials and limits of social, especially ritual, theories?

Table of Contents:

1.  Introduction:  Social Sciences, Ritual, and Biblical Research

2.  Hebrews as Cosmogonic Reenactment:  Mircea Eliade, the Myth and Ritual School, and the Eternal Return

3.  Betwixt and Between:  Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, and Liminality in Hebrews

4.  The Symbolic System of the Heavenly Sanctuary:  Claude Lévi-Strauss, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, and Hebrews
5.  Performance, Display, and Efficacious Speech:  Jesus and Author as Ritual Performers
6. Ritualizing Jesus’ Sacrifice:  Pierre Bourdieu, Catherine Bell, and Hebrews

7.  Conclusion:  Insights, Blind Spots, and Next Steps

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