Wenell, Karen J.
Jesus and land: constructions of sacred and social space in Second Temple Judaism.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Chapter One introduces the study by setting out an understanding of sacred space using social anthropology and social space using the theoretical work of Henri Lefebvre. The importance of space to human experience is highlighted with a view to application to the life of Jesus, understood in light of the social situation of his day.
A specific text, Genesis Ten (the Table of Nations), is the focus of Chapter Two. Re-readings of the text in Jubilees and Josephus’ Antiquities show very different spatialisations and views of cosmic order. They also come out of very different settings in life and show something of the ways that land (in relationship to other nations) could be understood in the Second Temple Period.
Chapter Three explores the meaning of the temple as the central sacred space in the first century and also as a strong economic and political centre. There was devotion to the temple, but also opposition to it. Jesus’ action in the temple shows a break with the institution without a clear indication of its restoration.
Purity, the topic of Chapter Four, was widely practised in the first century. Conventionally associated with the purity of the land and separation from the gentiles, interpretation of the laws of purity was a concern of groups such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, ‘Qumranites’ and Samaritans. John’s baptism in the Jordan is highly symbolic and is comparable to the sign prophets in Josephus who take up the biblical themes of exodus and entry into the land. Jesus primarily associates uncleanness with demons; he exorcises them and heals (by touching) individuals who would be considered impure. He practices table fellowship with ‘sinners’ and emphasises love of enemies. Jesus’ mission is itinerant (not located) and rejects current notions of purity.
An alternative model of governance in the eschaton is offered by Jesus in his calling together of a group of twelve. Chapter Five explores traditional tribal and spatial associations with ‘twelve’ and their importance for Jesus’ symbolic use of ‘the twelve’ which includes the notion of gathering.
Finally, Chapter Six draws the study together to set Jesus in relationship to land as a Galilean millenarian prophet.
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