The Invention of Religion: Jews in Babylon and the Evidence of Language and Literature
November 19, 5:00-7:00 pm
Co-sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion.
Social Science Matrix, 8th Floor, Barrows Hall
Jan Joosten, Regius Professor of Hebrew, University of Oxford
At some time after the end of the First Temple period, the religion of ancient Israel became independent of the nation. Language and texts are key to this change. Hebrew turned into a sacred language, not one learned from one's parents, but from the study of ancient texts. The process didn't come to full fruition until after the fall of the Second Temple. But its earliest effects can be traced already in writings of the exilic period. This linguistic development is rooted in a profound change affecting Judean religion. Before the fall of Jerusalem, the cult of the God of Israel was part and parcel of a national existence with strong territorial and cultural components. In exile, worship of this same God was motivated differently, with the reference to ancient texts—history, law, and prophecy—taking on a new and ever-increasing role. The result was a new phenomenon in the ancient world... (more)