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Blood and life in the Old Testament

Owiredu, Charles (2004) Blood and life in the Old Testament. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The primary objective of this thesis is to present an integrated inteipretation of the significance of blood in Israelite thought, based around Lev 17:10-14, which states that blood is the life of every creature. Previous works on OT blood ritual have given very little attention to the wider symbolic context. The question of Lev 17:11 can be better understood when we have explored the OT and the Israelite/Judahite concept of life and death in terms of the presence of fluid in the body, and the manipulation of blood on behalf of a person. It will become evident that in order to fully appreciate the significance of blood in the OT, blood must be seen not only in its own right (Lev 17:10-14), but also in relation to the general role of fluids within the life of the body. The first chapter looks at the place of blood in OT physiology, and at aspects of its cultural significance. The subsequent two chapters consider fluids in general, and their significance for ideas of death in literary and mortuary contexts. Chapters four and five will then show how the understanding of blood as life can throw light on the ritual use of blood in reversing the dead condition of the "leper" and the corpse-contaminated person and on the narratives apparently featuring a protective use of blood in Exodus. Chapter six comprises a short summary and a discussion of some broader implications. These include remarks on the dietary prohibition in Leviticus, and on the significance of this research for an understanding of the role of blood in Temple sacrifice. The chapters draw on a variety of methods, including textual analysis and on a symbolic analysis derived from social anthropology. Their main purpose is to indicate that life is, in some physical sense, located in blood and is associated with body fluids. Literary and archaeological evidence will also be invoked to show that blood and other liquid substances may also have been thought capable of postponing or even reversing the dying process.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2004
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 10:01

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