Sacrifice & Symbol
Biblical Selamim in a Ritual Perspective

By Martin Modeus
August 2005
Almqvist & Wiksell
ISBN: 9122021205
500 pages, Illustrated, 6" x 8 "
$115.00 Paper Original


For the sacrifice selamim in the Hebrew Bible, scholars have suggested a number of different interpretations and uses. This sacrifice also had an ambiguous role in Israelite culture. Lack of a general consensus and the failure to reach a satisfying solution makes the selamim a puzzle and an interesting sacrifice to investigate with insights gained from modern ritual studies. In this study, it is suggested that an investigation of ritual issues should start in the situation that creates the need for the performance, not in an analysis of the rituals form or content.

Rituals are here understood as human reactions to various causae, that is, events in nature or culture. Determining a ritual's causa is the first step in a ritual analysis. To better grasp the "meaning" of symbols and rituals, three levels of interpretation should be identified: the level of ideology, the level of use and the level of structure. A single ritual may have different interpretations on different levels. Furthermore it is suggested that symbols and rituals can be classified as legitimizing, defining or marking in function.

This analysis makes it possible to determine the position of a particular symbol or ritual in the culture in the culture. Once the selemim was identified as a marking symbol, it was possible to understand the use of it, mirrored in the Hebrew texts. Without having to postulate a long historical development, it is suggested in this thesis that, although there was a differentiated use of the sacrifice, it always appears in a specific context. This context is identified as any texts, which concern the peak moments of the Israelite cult.

Since the context is on the textual level, it is suggested that the term selamim entered the texts through glossation, in order to specify the slaughtered sacrifice, the zebah, of the legitimate cult. Most probably, the need for this specification began to be felt when the centralization of the cult in effect divided the old slaughtered sacrifice in two: a domestic slaughter of lesser ritual value and a solemn cultic performance in the only legitimate cult site, the temple of Jerusalem. Step by step, it is demonstrated that the glossation was an effort to correct the textual incongruities that were created in the old texts by the centralization.

Coniectanea Biblica Old Testament Series, No. 52

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