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Disloyalty and destruction: religion and politics in Deuteronomy and the modern world

Barrett, Robert Carl (2007) Disloyalty and destruction: religion and politics in Deuteronomy and the modern world. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Divine violence in the Old Testament is troubling for many modern Western readers. I explore a heuristic reading strategy for understanding YHWH's demand for Israel’s exclusive loyalty and concomitant threats of destruction in canonical Deuteronomy through a structural analogy with demands and threats by the modern nation-state. The possibility of an analogy between "religious" and "political" categories follows from the relatively recent modern separation of these spheres, the sociology of functional and political religions, and the relationship between Deuteronomy and ANE political treaties. I survey the primacy of YHWH's loyalty demand in the first commandment and the dynamic of disloyalty, anger, and destruction in Deuteronomy. I then consider particular passages in light of the modern nation-state. The golden calf remembrance of Deut, 9-10 illustrates the gravity of and consequences for disloyalty. The pattern of disloyalty, destruction, and restoration in Deut. 4 and 32 reveals a theocentric coercion of Israel that can be compared with the modern imposition of liberal democracy. Concern for the growth of disloyalty from individuals to the nation in Deut. 13 is comparable with modern escalating response to state threats from police to military action. I compare the horrors of destruction threatened in Deut. 28 with the dreadful consequences of modern warfare used to compel national will. Finally, I consider the idea of "other gods"—those who lure Israel to disloyalty—in the canonical histories beyond Deuteronomy. I argue for a correlation between serving "other gods" and concentrating political power. I find a dis-analogy here where the modern nation-state seems less in line with YHWH than with the "other gods." Though analogous in their demands and threats, YHWH and the modern nation- state protect societies that differ in important ways

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2007
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:26

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