A Kingdom of Priests: Ancestry and Merit in Ancient Judaism by Martha Himmelfarb

By Martha Himmelfarb

In accordance with the account within the publication of Exodus, God addresses the kids of Israel as they stand sooner than Mt. Sinai with the phrases, "You might be to me a country of monks and a holy kingdom" (19:6). The sentence, Martha Himmelfarb observes, is paradoxical, for monks are by means of definition a minority, but the that means in context is apparent: the whole humans is holy. The phrases additionally aspect to a couple major tensions within the biblical knowing of the folks of Israel. If the complete humans is holy, why does it want monks? If club in either humans and priesthood is an issue no longer of advantage yet of delivery, how can both the folk or its clergymen desire to be holy? How can one reconcile the space among the distinction due the priest and the particular habit of a few who stuffed the position? What can the folks do to make itself really a country of priests?Himmelfarb argues that those questions turn into vital in moment Temple Judaism. She considers a number texts from this era, together with the booklet of Watchers, the e-book of Jubilees, criminal files from the lifeless Sea Scrolls, the writings of Philo of Alexandria, and the booklet of Revelation of the hot testomony, and is going directly to discover rabbinic Judaism's emphasis on descent because the basic criterion for inclusion one of the selected humans of Israel—a place, she contends, that took on new strength in response to early Christian disparagement of the concept mere descent from Abraham used to be adequate for salvation.

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O n behalf o f m e n , and n o t m e n o n your b e h a l f " (1 Enoch 15:2). Inter­ cession is a priesdy task. G o d ' s objection is to the unsuitability o f E n o c h ' s clients, n o t to his undertaking the task. T h e understanding o f the Watchers as priests in the heavenly temple is the contribution o f chapters 12-16; it d o e s n o t appear in the story o f the descent o f the Watchers in chapters 6 - 1 1 . 1 suggested above that in­ terest in the heavenly temple reflects lack o f c o n f i d e n c e in the earthly.

But fortunately for b e n Sira, S o l o m o n was also a famous sinner: You gathered gold like tin and amassed silver like lead. . You laid your loins beside women, and through your body you were brought into subjection. You put a stain upon your honor, and defiled your posterity, so that you brought wrath upon your children and they were grieved at your folly, so that the sovereignty was divided. (Sir 47:18-21) A b o v e I have slightiy m o d i f i e d the translation o f the RSV following the suggestion o f Pancratius C.

T h e y are d o i n g just what priests ( o r anyone else) in a state o f impurity should d o : staying away from the temple. I n d e e d , a c c o r d i n g to the Torah, there is nothing w r o n g with b e c o m i n g i m p u r e through sexual relations. O n e must take care n o t to enter the temple o r have contact with holy things while in a state o f impurity (Lev 12:4), and o n e must take p r o p e r steps to bring an e n d to the state o f impurity. But for h u m a n beings, w h o have b e e n c o m m a n d e d to b e fruitful and multiply, sexual relations are n o t only permissible but desirable.

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