Monday, October 03, 2016

Apotropaic summary

This study has used apotropaic intercessory texts as windows into ANE and biblical theologies—specifically studying the kinds of human agency the intercessors portray in response to divine threats of doom. Ritual texts present intercessors as straddling divine and mundane worlds: following prescribed pathways for amending the status quo with the gods’ help, even using magical speech with divine approval, while nevertheless petitioning the gods from their position as mortals. The biblical texts show the intercessors’ initiative, courage, rhetorical skills, and love for their people as they speak out in opposition to their deity.

Both the ANE ritual texts and the biblical narratives find their way out of the paradox central to apotropaic intercession—how to depict humans as countering divine will while still holding the gods supreme. But they do so differently. In their depictions of human agency the biblical writers had far more freedom than writers of the ritual texts, and far more at stake than simply avoiding imitation of ritual practices like their neighbors’. While the ritual texts were meant to assist intercessors in accomplishing their goal, the biblical texts, as sacred stories, had a different purpose: illustrating what YHWH seeks from his intercessors, and by extension, his people: standing up for others, with courage, in the face of injustice and near-certain doom—even injustice and doom from YHWH himself! YHWH’s secret applause as his people challenge his own decisions shows his ultimate interest in building human integrity in an uncertain world. The idealized relationships in all these texts, ritual and biblical alike, show divine efforts to help their people navigate the treacherous tides of sin and threat.—Forestalling Doom pages 241–42

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