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This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Megan Bestor on Saturday January 9, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PSYC 101 at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill taught by LOEB,JEANNIE H in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 12 views.
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Date Created: 01/09/16
Lesson 1: Israel and the Israelite Religion 1/1115/16 Question 1: Israelites and their Neighbors How are the Israelites similar to their neighbors? What distinguishes the Israelites from their neighbors? Considering these similarities and differences, are there any conclusions you might draw about Israelite culture? Israelites were similar to their neighbors when it dealt with the ritual of performing sacrifices to their Gods. Many people used priests or some kind of holy figure to offer something special to their Gods. Something that distinguishes the Israelites from their neighbors is where they hold their place of worship; The Temple. By attending the temple, the Israelites strengthened their convenient with YHWH as well as their fellow Israelites by participating in rituals and festivities. Because of monetary means, slavery and polygamy did not exist because it was too expensive. The first monotheists religion was created by Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep the Fourth. It failed soon after his death and took Israelites hundreds of years through history to stop worshipping multiple Gods. Coming to this course with very little knowledge about the Israelites and their religion, a lot of things struck my attention when it came to Israelites and their neighbors. I was unaware and found it very interesting that the Israelites were the only people to use a 7 day work week, while their neighbors did not. This was one main difference that I was surprised at. With all of the clocks and technology that were surrounding the Israelites, the Israelites remained different from their surrounding cultures and countries. (page 16 of Goldenberg.) One similarity about the Israelites and their neighbors is the fact that they used and agriculture and rural economic system. Polygamy was also an option, however this practice was very expensive and usually only the rich people could practice this. They were also religiously similar in a way that they both used priests and religious figures. When talking about religion, the Israelites had one main problem; believing in 1 god. This was something that was very different from their neighbors. I would say that after these readings, I believe that the Israelites were more different from their neighbors than they were the same. The Israelites were similar to their neighbors because they also started as a polytheistic religion (Goldenberg, p.33). They believed in sacrifice and worship. Israelites can be distinguished from others in their area in that they turned into a monotheistic religion by getting rid of idols during each generation. They claimed that no other god existed but their own, or that if they did, "they were nothing" (Goldenber, p. 34). From this, I believe that the Israelites believed that they were competitive and assumed their culture to be superior. Another difference is that not only did the Israelites use priests as was common with other cultures at the time, but they also had prophets who made predictions and acted as advisors to the kings and to help guide the people. A conclusion that I drew, one that is pretty similar to Shelby’s, is that while the day to day lives of the ancient Israelites were relatively similar to those of their neighbors, they also had many distinctive attributes and customs. Perhaps this was done unintentionally and for no reason. As Goldenberg points out, "they differ from the fortunetellers, astrologers, and oracles who could be found all over the ancient world" (Goldenberg 22). In Israel's eyes, prophets were the middlemen between man and God. Prophets were able to directly communicate God's words to the Israelites in a way that the ''fortunetellers, astrologers, and oracles" of other people groups could not. Although the prophets eventually became obsolete, they were utilized and respected for a long period of time among the Israelites. Additionally, Goldenberg points out that the Israelites struggled for years to come to the realization of there being one true God. Even though this process took time, it is vastly different from other religions in the neighboring areas, considering their beliefs were largely polytheistic. With this being said, the Israelites were more different from their neighbors than the same. Although some similarities exist, the major religious differences became very divisive between Israel and its neighbors. Question 2: Changing Israelite Religion How does Israelite religion change over time? What are the effects of these changes? Is Israelite religion unified? Why or why not? How does Goldenberg’s reconstruction of the history of the Israelites compare to your previous understanding of it? For the most part, yes the Israelite religion maintained unified for most of the 10th century BCE. As time passed the tribe of Judah separated itself from the other kingdoms calling itself “The Kingdom of Judah.” This was mainly for distinction purposes and meant that it was a smaller ethnic entity. There was a major concern that dealt with people who were born Jews, and people who weren’t born jews, but adapted to the Jewish community; who would have to pay the Jewish tax? The Romans increased the Jews as more of a religious community, rather than an ethnic one. As seen in pages 133 and 134 in Goldenberg, the conflict began to spread and cause more dispute between the Jews of North African and the Roman Empire. This led to an ongoing war. These changes helped Jews in the long run to prepare to accept christianity as its official religion. Throughout these changes, Jews had to accept the racial adjustment that came with their new circumstances. The Israelite religion remains overall unified over time. However during the beginning of monotheism there is some division. Everyone recognized that YHWH was the ultimate God. However monotheism states that there is only one god. Polytheism states that there are multiple gods. The people were divided in this concept. Many people believed that YHWH was the most powerful god, however, not the only god. A god represented each nation or territory and the Israelites God was the most powerful. This explains the definition of YHWH as God of gods (Goldenberg, 37). These people believed that YHWH took control of the other gods and made them his servants. However, other people and prophets proclaimed that the God of the Israelites is the only god and this is the definition of monotheism. Personally I have always learned Christianity and the bible from a very monotheistic standpoint. It is very interesting to see and learn about the controversy and division that rose among the Israelites. I had no idea that under any point, did people genuinely believe that YHWH was not the only real God. Terms such as “God of gods” and “Lord of Lords” tend to make a lot more sense. I agree with Emily that overall the Israelite religion remained unified. However, there were some changes over time such as, the peoples’ attitude and belief in monotheism versus polytheism. Another example of change over time is in regards to the Temples and the United Monarchy. Under Solomon’s reign the First Temple was constructed in 960 BCE and was the center of worship and sacrifice. However, following Solomon’s death the kingdom was split and Jeroboam, the king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, built two temples. Over time, there was a return to the belief that Solomon’s Temple was the only acceptable place to worship in a process known as centralization of cult. The Biblical writers portrayed the building of additional temples in a negative light, possibly because centralization would benefit Jerusalem and unify the religion. In addition, the changes explain why the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE was such a dramatic loss for the Israelites (Goldenberg 15). Furthermore, these changes show the influence of political authorities, such as King Jeroboam, on central ideas of religion. It is likely that Jeroboam built the additional temples to maintain power over his people, by preventing the need for them to travel to Jerusalem (1Kings 12:2633). Another example of change is the movement from kings, prophets, and priests all holding leadership positions to solely priests. This change gave the priests more religious authority and solved the issue of deciding who was a true prophet. Question 3: Israelite Leadership What are the major leadership roles in the kingdom of Israel? What are their characteristics? How do they differ from one another? What happened to them according to Goldenberg? There were three major leadership roles that the Israelites had; the king, the prophets, and the priests. Kings were in charge of the stability of the nation and had complete control over it. The kings also decided which God or Gods were to be worshipped. The priests had the right to perform sacrifices and were allowed to enter inside the Temple. The prophets were considered the messengers between the people and their God. This often led to some disagreement and tension between the prophets and the priests. Prophecy soon disappeared, which left the Israelites with just priests. The Israelites had three major leadership roles, the king, the prophets, and the priests. The kings were in charge of the stability of the nation and had sole authority over the nation, besides God. However, many kings were so far away from the people they ruled, their ministers were treated as though they were king (Goldenburg 35). The kings also determined which God or gods would be worshipped through building temples or shrines and were often appointed by God. I think there is an interesting relationship between human kings and God, as he was often referred to as the “King of Kings.” The assignment of priests varied over time; originally filled by the first born sons of every household and later inherited by ancestors of Aaron (15). The priests had the sole right to perform sacrifices and were allowed access in the temples. Priests were a common feature of many ancient religions, but unique to Israel were the prophets. These prophets were considered “messengers and intermediaries between the people and their God,” responsible for delivering God’s word. However, unlike the kings or priests, the nature of their identity caused debate because anyone could show up and claim to be a prophet bringing God’s word. Furthermore, the solution offered by biblical law, suggesting that a prophet was only sent by God if his prophecy came true, was not effective because sometimes people could not wait long enough to see the outcome of the prophecy and other times the purpose of the prophecy was to prevent the predicted outcome. There was also the issue of competing prophecies and which to believe and follow. Therefore, there was often tension between the prophets, with their “unpredictable disruptions”, and the priests, with their “dedication to order and permanence” and the performance of their ceremonies. The kings had a slightly different relationship with the prophets as they would sometimes “denounce the kings in the name of God”, but other times the prophet would become a royal advisor (22). Due to the uncertain nature of prophets, the past prophets were still remembered, but future prophetlike individuals were not well received and prophecy disappeared around 336323 BCE. With the kings gone centuries before, all that was left were the priests. The major leadership roles in the kingdom of Israel predominately centered around religious roles. Since sacrifice was such an important part of the Israelite's lives, I agree with Lyndsay and thing that firstborn sons and priests were important in history in regards to sacrifice. In the beginning, the right to sacrifice fell on to the firstborn son in each household in Israel. However, as time progressed, the right to sacrifice became the right of the hereditary priests (Goldenberg 15). Prophets had one of the most important leadership roles in the kingdom of Israel. These prophets preached the word of God to those around Israel (Goldenberg 22). The other important leadership roles in the kingdom of Israel were kings and priests. Kings were characterized as wanting the ultimate power and influence while ruling their country, while priests were focused predominately on keeping order in the country. Prophets differed greatly from kings and priests. Frequently prophets would try to diminish the teachings of the kings, and the priests would try to keep the prophets as far away from them as possible (Goldenberg 22). Occasionally, prophets, kings, and priests all worked together in unison, but this situation is few and far between. Most of the time, the priests were so committed to making sure everything ran smoothly in the country, while the prophets would often cause a scene while teaching. According to Goldenberg, people began to lose faith in the prophets around the same time Alexander the Great was king (Goldenberg 24). Even before the prophets disappeared, the kings had disappeared (Goldenberg 25). Because of this, Israelites began to put more stock into their individual beliefs and what the priests were teaching. Question 4 Approaches to the Bible What does Goldenberg mean when he says that the “biblical narrative is a distillation of national memory that has been designed to convey a religious message” (pg.9) What does the say about how historians read the Bible? How is it similar/different from how you have read the biblical text in the past? He is simply saying that the bible is not an exact record of real events recorded in real time. This is simply a biblical narrative. They are some fictional stories that are told for a purpose, to persuade or to entertain. When Goldenberg says this quote, he is saying that everything told in the Bible is not all true, and not told in real time. These stories in the bible are told and are written to convey a religious message. People may ask certain questions about biblical stories, but not for historical accuracy. The bible should mainly be used as a suggestive tool to help promote specific messages not for historical accuracy purposes. The bible was written by man, not YHMW himself, therefore error and bias is to be expected. This quote has many key phrases that, when put together, express the idea that the bible is not a one dimensional, exact records of real events, recorded in real time. This is "biblical narrative." The word narrative has connotations of fictional stories that are told for a purpose, perhaps to entertain or persuade, but not always to simply record factual stories. When Goldenberg states that the Bible is a "distillation of national memory," he is conveying the idea that the events portrayed in the Bible are not a real time, accurate depiction of everything that happened during the depicted time period. Rather, these are the memories and representations, all bottled up into one fine binding, of what the people of biblical times accomplished or lived through. When historians ready the bible, they do not analyze the events illustrated by the words and stories. Instead, they view the stories, keeping in mind that they were written to "convey a religious message." This means that researchers may ask WHO is in the story, WHAT truths are in the story, and many other breakdowns and angles for judging the stories in a historical context but not for historical accuracy. The first thing I did when I saw this quote was to break it down into parts and then analyze them. Biblical Narrative a story recounting events of the bible that can be either true or fictitious This seems to mean that Goldenberg is telling us to evaluate the bible as a piece of history, while also acknowledging that men wrote it and therefore can be based in both truth and fiction. Distillation the recreation of something in another form of something else This part of the quote addresses the process of the Israelites rethinking their past and recreating it to be more appealing. Based in true events, but over time changed to be slightly distorted and ultimately believed to be the truth. Designed to Convey something constructed in a manner to either be understood easier or to sway an audience to believe a specific version of it It seems to insist that the memories the Israelites remembered were altered to influence them to believe in the teachings of the priests and the Torah. Religious Message a message based in religious beliefs that conveys a specific religions teachings and customs The religious message that was being taught was similar to other religions, as was noted in the lecture notes. The specific message Goldenberg is addressing is the Israleites' belief that there god was the one true god. When considering all of these different parts it seems that Goldenberg is calling into question the truth behind the stories told in the Torah and remembered by the members of the Israelite community. Their stories may be based in truth, but the quote indicates that what is written should be considered with "a grain of salt" and through the view of a scholar. To me, this means that historians read the bible for specific events and try to match them to other scripts that indicate the same event happened. If the event occurred in both texts, they probably afford more merit to the specific biblical story and study it more in depth to understand how the human mind worked at the time. I have always tried to read the bible as a metaphor rather than a concrete document, but the quote really gets me wondering how much biblical history is true and how much is false passed down so many times that the stories are more of legends than real stories about God. In this quote, Goldenberg argues that the Bible cannot be read as a complete or historically accurate depiction of the events and stories within. His use of "distillation" alone argues that the narrative of the Bible has been filtered in to a collection of what at the time was perceived to be the most important aspects or details of a story. Furthermore, Goldenberg argues that the Bible "has been designed to convey a religious message." This statement implies that these stories were crafted for a specific message. Therefore, when reading the Bible as a historians it is important to take Goldenberg's argument into consideration. As the Bible is often interpreted to have many different messages and meanings, historians must consider these different interpretations in order to make conclusions about such historical events. I personally feel that Goldenberg's statement that the Bible is a creation from a "distillation of national memory" can provide important historical insights about the people of this specific time period. Israelites and their Neighbors. For the most part, those of you who answered this question argued that the Israelites were similar to their neighbors in certain aspects (e.g., economy) but differed in religion. Some of you used these differences to state that the Israelites were overwhelmingly different from their neighbors. If this was your conclusion, I would ask you (1) to reconsider the evidence and (2) to consider why you came to the conclusion you did (was it based on evidence or on personal conviction). In fact, Goldenberg attempts to show that they are similar in almost every other aspect of their lives except religion and, even in that sphere, they share very many similarities (e.g., how they worship, where they worship [in a temple]). How does focusing on similarity affect your view of the Israelites? How does focusing on difference affect your view of the Israelites? Some corrections: On prophets, while I agree with Goldenberg that there is a difference between a prophet and a fortune teller, I would be very cautious about overstating the case that other peoples did not have prophets. On sacrifice—as I actually note in that paragraphmost of the traits I outlined in lesson notes about sacrifice are common qualities of sacrifice throughout the ancient Mediterranean world. Some of you concluded that they are unique to Israelite culture. Read carefully. Changing Israelite Religion. For the most part, those of you who answered this question seem to agree that the religion was unified. For an alternative view, look at Michael’s questions in this thread and consider the following questions. According to Goldenberg, was Israelite religion always a monotheistic religion? (see what Goldenberg has to say about those vocab terms monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, and monoaltry and how they are different from the usual portrait you see of Israelite religion). Did the Israelites agree on where to worship (see Shelby’s post)? What did Israelite religion look like under, say, an early king like Rehoboam verses what did it look like under Josiah? Particularly, pay attention to what Hezekiah did and what it means religion look like before (see Goldenberg, 34). Israelite Leadership. We had good summaries of the roles, but I would like everyone to look at this thread. Not to single anyone out, as this is symptomatic throughout all the forum posts this week, but this thread is a convenient place to see our issues this week with (1) summary v. analysis and (2) conversing with our peers noted in the Posting Tips above. Admittedly, I don’t like Question 3 anymore, and I think I need to reframe it, but the questions should be starting points of conversation, not simply something you answer and then you are done. Always look for ways you can turn your questions into larger discussions. Approaches to the Bible. In general, this was a good and fruitful discussion and most of you get the gist of what Goldenberg is saying here. I would emphasize, for clarity’s sake, that the “distillation of national memory” for Goldenberg means not just that the historicity of the Hebrew Bible is, at times, suspect but that ultimately it does not matter if they are true. What I mean by this is that it is the stories we tell about ourselves that shape our identity, so whether or not certain accounts actually happened in any historical way, the Israelites constituted themselves, their identity, and their relationship to God, to their world, and to their neighbors through the stories they told.
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