Friday, May 22, 2020

Lost texts of terror?

THE ANXIOUS BENCH: I Gave Them Laws Through Which They Could Not Live (Philip Jenkins).
Let me offer one interpretation that fits the evidence as we have it, although it is certainly not the only possible explanation. Hypothetically, let’s suppose that there once circulated stories or texts that were read, with whatever justification, as legitimizing or commanding child sacrifice. During the time of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, those supposed texts were forcefully condemned, and they have simply vanished from view. The Hebrew Old Testament canon was not defined until the fourth century BC at the very earliest, and there was still considerable latitude and debate for several centuries after that point. Prior to the fourth century BC, it is far from clear that the notion of a canon even existed, and the frontiers separating scriptures and non-scriptures were highly fluid. It is perfectly possible that in Ezekiel’s time, around 600 BC, at least some people in Israel venerated particular texts and regarded them as authoritative or inspired, even attributing words to God himself, although these writings have now been lost irretrievably. Might these have been the “statutes and judgments” in question?
For the evidence that some circles in ancient Israel engaged in child sacrifice, see here.

For books mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, but now lost, see here and here and links.

Shalom Spiegel's book, The Last Trial, argued that there was a lost version of the Aqedah (Genesis 22) in which Isaac was actually sacrificed. A recently discovered Coptic magical papyrus provides evidence for such a tradition.

Cross-file under Lost Books?

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