Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hebrews and the Social Sciences

Reviewing some works on Hebrews and the "social-scientific method," by which one usually means taking the insights of sociology and anthropology and applying them (or putting them in dialogue with) the biblical texts, I have been somewhat amused that, when discussing cultic aspects at least, the typical go-to's are still Victor Turner and Mary Douglas.  No one would deny their importance and influence.  And the latter is particularly understandable, since she did theorize using the Pentateuch, especially Leviticus and Numbers, to discuss ritual as a symbolic system.  Nonetheless, the social sciences move on and Bible scholars are often the last to know.  So, I had an idea perhaps for a future project in which one might be a little more overt about the the implications of the application of the social sciences and the Bible--that is, instead of making a particular thinker the background or general approach one has to the text, to see what happens when one makes the application the very topic under investigation.  Considering my own interest in the scholarly study of ritual (or ritualization), this might be an interesting, fun, and educational project to clarify the implications of using "this" thinker rather than "that" one.  I can just imagine the chapters (or sections for a smaller project).  So what would happen if you dedicated separate chapters or sections to different thinkers and how their thought related to Hebrews (Why Hebrews?  As the Doctor says, "Because it's cool."). 

Hebrews and Ritual Studies:

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

2.  The Symbolic System of the Heavenly Sanctuary:  Mary Douglas, Structuralism, and Hebrews

3.  Ritualizing Jesus’ Sacrifice:  Catherine Bell and Hebrews

Conclusion:  Insights, Blind Spots, and Next Steps

One could, of course, open it up beyond this as well with Geertz, Bourdieu, etc.

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