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«Sarah Lethbridge Hart B.A., Dip. Mus., M. Theol. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Theology MCD ...»

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From Temple to Tent:

The Cultic World of Diaspora Israelites

(Exodus 24:15—Numbers 10:28)

Sarah Lethbridge Hart

B.A., Dip. Mus., M. Theol.

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the

requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Theology

MCD University of Divinity




The tent of meeting text (Exodus 24:15—Numbers 10:28) is lengthy and sophisticated by

literary standards, thereby suggesting that intensive creativity has gone into its production. A review of literature from the early 1800s in Germany through to today observes that no extensive work focuses on the tent of meeting (‫ )אהל מועד‬AND cult (Exodus 24:15—Numbers 10:28) and that this is a lacuna.

The methodology follows that of three exegetical chapters; the tent of meeting text is described and then discussed in dialogue with other scholars. Israelite cult is addressed as cultic place in Exodus 25–40, instructions for cultic practice in Leviticus 1–27 and defining of the cultic people in Numbers 1:1–10:28. The major outcome is that mimesis (representation taking the place of reality) is the key concept to understanding the text.

Informed by Paul Ricoeur‘s theory on mimesis, the hypothesis is developed, ―Exilic Israelite communities in the Diaspora in Babylonia want a cultic place and cannot have a temple, so they create and author the idea of ‗the tent of meeting‘ which substitutes as a cultic centre.‖ The hypothesis is broken down into an investigation of three areas: life in the Israelite settlements in the Babylonian Diaspora, literary competency, and mimetic text as a substitution for reality.

On the basis of these investigations, production of the tent of meeting text by an Israelite writing circle in the Babylonian Diaspora and in the exilic or early Persian period is feasible.

The tent of meeting text is creatively authored to substitute for an actual physical temple outside of the land of Israel. The implications of the findings of the thesis are that the tent, furnished like a temple, resembles a temple-tent. An Israelite cultic world is written into textual form.

iii Declaration / Statement of Originality I hereby certify that this thesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree of diploma in any university or other institution and affirm that to the best of my knowledge, the thesis contains no material previously published or written by another person, except where due reference is made in the text of the thesis.





When I left New Zealand in the 1970s there was no Department of Theology at the University of Auckland. By the mid 1990s when I returned to Auckland, theology was available thanks to the Auckland Consortium of Theological Education, a group of theological colleges which had combined resources. I recognise the influence of the many lecturers who formed my biblical and theological thought through the courses that I took. Librarians at the libraries of the colleges, of what is now a former consortium, continue to facilitate the loan, even the ordering of new books and the photocopying of relevant articles.

Financial support for doctoral fees has come from the Jubilee Bursary Grants Committee of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, the Barry Croft Memorial Education Scholarship Committee of the Service and Food Workers Union of which I am a member, and from the Australian government.

Thanks are due to the sisters of the Soeurs Auxiliatrices who gave me a spiritual formation and allowed me an experience of the East in Japan. In New Zealand, Dr Alice Sinnott rsm introduced me to many biblical associations.

Family and friends have encouraged and supported me through years of doctoral study. The thought that the doctoral project was no longer my project alone but a community project sustained me in difficult times and meant I could not give up. I am full of gratitude to Terry Wackrow, a special friend, who has generously read, critiqued and encouraged all stages of my work.

Many thanks to Dr Tony Campbell s.j., Jesuit Theological College, United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne College of Divinity, Australia, doctoral supervisor, who has helped me advance in biblical studies and expand the mind in ways never imaginable before the doctoral work began.


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AB Anchor Bible ABD Anchor Bible Dictionary AnBib Analecta biblica ANET Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament BA Biblical Archaeologist BBB Bonner biblische Beiträge BETL Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium BN Biblische Notizen BWANT Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament BZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft CaE Cahiers évangile CahRB Cahiers de la Revue biblique CBQ Catholic Biblical Quarterly COS The Context of Scripture EncJud Encyclopaedia Judaica ER The Encyclopedia of Religion FAT Forschungen zum Alten Testament FOTL Forms of the Old Testament Literature FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual IBC Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching ISBE International Standard Bible Dictionary JAOS Journal of the American Oriental Society JBL Journal of Biblical Literature JPS 1917 Jewish Publication Society, The Holy Scriptures (Old Testament), 1917 JSOT Journal for the Study of the Old Testament JSOTSup Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series NEAEHL The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land vii The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible NIDB NJPS New Jewish Publication Society 1985 NRSV New Revised Standard Version, The Holy Bible, 1989 OBO Orbis biblicus et orientalis OIP Oriental Institute Publications OTL Old Testament Library OUP Oxford University Press SBL Society of Biblical Literature SBLSymS Society of Biblical Literature Symposium Series SBT Studies in Biblical Theology ScrHier Scripta hierosolymitana TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament TDOT Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament TLOT Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament TRu Theologische Rundschau TZ Theologische Zeitschrift URJ Union for Reform Judaism VT Vetus Testamentum VTSup Supplements to Vetus Testamentum WMANT Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament ZAW Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft ZTK Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche


Approaching the kami (gods) at a shrine entails danger—warns a guide to Japan in its introduction to Shinto.

Whether one could safely be in the kami‘s presence depends on one‘s state of purity— the overriding concern in Shinto. Priests and others who participate in rites undergo days of purification, avoiding contact with sex, birth, menstruation, and death. (Blood and death are especially polluting.) White robes, water, saké and salt symbolise ritual purity. The sacred ground of a shrine precinct is delimited by rope, gates, fences and expanses of white gravel. Most Japanese who are in mourning or otherwise ritually polluted will not cross these boundaries.1 In many ways the short introduction to Shinto resembles what could be a short introduction to the world centred round YHWH and the tent complex in Exodus 25 through Leviticus into Numbers 10. People, rites and holy place are inexplicably linked in both cases. The tent complex of the Hebrew Bible, with the tabernacle at its centre, is sacred ground. Passing through entrance hangings in the tent complex is to pass from one delimited zone into the next. Much of Leviticus gives insight into the Israelite concern with purity and defilement both on an individual and communal level. Concepts of purity and defilement belong to daily Hebrew life. They are related to holiness, as prescribed in the text of the tent of meeting. In Hebrew rites offerings are brought to the altar. In certain rites blood is sprinkled. Blood from the sacrificial animals purifies and makes holy. Holiness is associated with proximity to YHWH. The centre of holiness draws the attention of the seeker into the interior world of the tent and at the same time the power of YHWH is conveyed as dangerous.

1 June Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky, Gateway to Japan (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1990), 24.

Introduction 2

To examine the identity of a people, their rites and the sacred place of their God, is to investigate cult. Cult is defined as, ―a system of religious worship, especially as expressed in ceremonies and ritual‖ in The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and derives from the Latin verb, colere, to inhabit, cultivate, protect, or honour with worship.2 The idea of systems, implying the ability to define or systematise theology, is more typical for Western than Semitic thought. Cult is understood in this work as a way of life, not systematised beliefs; the word theology is therefore rarely used. The Hebrew text conveys an Israelite cultic world centred round YHWH. The Israelites are the cultic people of YHWH (the people who adhere to YHWH). The tent complex is the cultic (worship) centre of YHWH‘s people. The performance of cultic (ritual worship) rites is an expression of the relationship between YHWH and YHWH‘s people. To enter the Hebrew texts on the tent of meeting is to enter an Israelite cultic world.

My understanding of the Hebrew text, Exodus 24:15—Numbers 10:28, is informed by textual research and what other people have written about the tent of meeting. The process of reading and reviewing scholarly works is to indirectly touch the society and philosophic trends which influence each scholar‘s thought, and even their personality preferences. For example, Wilhelm de Wette has a sense for the artistic nature of the Hebrew text, yet Julius Wellhausen seems to have an abhorrence of legislation though he reads the Hebrew text closely.

My insights into the biblical text on the tent complex grow too out of the formation that many people have given me and experiences that I have had in different cultures. At bed-time as a child, my father read poetry to me.3 Over many years at odd moments, the rhythmic and

meaningless but somehow meaningful verses come to me:

–  –  –

Against this childhood background of verse I realise that repetitions, word inversions and

linguistic changes in biblical passages, fascinate rather than irritate me:

–  –  –

Such biblical passages are poetic—elevated language—having rhythm even in translation.

It would have been difficult to make some of the discoveries in the biblical text without an experience of the Ignatian exercises. The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, developed in the early 1500s, call for what is known as the ―Application of the Senses‖ to certain stages of prayer.5 The senses of inner hearing and seeing through the imagination are recommended in the exercises in the first week, then later in the second week are added the senses of taste, smell and touch. Without an Ignatian formation I doubt whether I would have been sensitive to the invitation to explore the senses in the world of the tent complex.

An important socio-cultural experience for me was living in Japan for several years, the only time I have lived outside Western culture. It gave me a bird‘s eye view of the West, allowing

–  –  –

me to peer at the Western world from the outside. I recognised the defining nature of western European societies with their roots in Greek thought: ―what is this, and what is that?‖ In Japan, my essays were returned with red lines and arrows demonstrating that Western logic did not work within the structures of Japanese language. Some years later on a return to Japan, I visited with a Japanese friend one of my favourite shrines, Utskushimi Jinja at Miyajima, close to Hiroshima. I sensed how much my friend‘s spirit was deep at home in the grounds of the jinja. Actions such as rinsing the mouth with pure water from a bamboo ladle from the well at the entrance gate, clapping the hands before the central shrine, putting money into the gift box, giving a nod as a gesture of deference and backing away, were all part of standard rituals at the shrine. The Way of the Gods, Shinto, is not a defined faith or religion. It is a way of being, a way of life, a way of being Japanese. The Japan experiences give me a respect for the Hebrew Bible, not in the first instance as a religion defined or as the book of a faith, but as a way of life.

The text of the tent of meeting is lengthy, complex, and sophisticated. Extensive creative energy has gone into its production. On an intuitive level I have thought the text must therefore have an extraordinary importance. This is the underlying thought that has driven and carried me in study of the tent of meeting text. With this background, my entry into the text, Exodus 24:15—Numbers 10:28, is with the tent of meeting as the key focus.

The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) is the English Bible translation used in this work.

Occasionally another English translation is used in which case the change in English translation is noted.

–  –  –

Chapters three to five are an exegesis and description of the biblical text: Exodus 24:15–40:38 in chapter three, primarily Leviticus 1–16 of Leviticus 1–27 in chapter four, and Numbers 1:1– 10:28 in chapter five. The methodology is to describe the text as one would an artifact such as a Greek vase. Major aspects of the textual evidence are used for the purposes of this work.

Chapters three to five follow the format of a brief structural overview of the biblical book concerned and proceed in two sections; in section A, major features of the textual evidence are presented and in section B the major features are discussed in dialogue with other scholars.

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