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The Aniconic Tradition, Deuteronomy 4, and the Politics of Israelite Identity

From: Journal of Biblical Literature
Volume 132, Number 2, 2013
pp. 251-274 | 10.1353/jbl.2013.0030



The present article examines the aniconic polemics of the Hebrew Bible in an attempt to appreciate better their role in defining Israelite cultural boundaries and belief. The first part of the article deals with early sources in the aniconic tradition on which Deuteronomy 4 builds, particularly the idol prohibition of the Decalogue and the altar law of Exodus 20. The second part seeks to elucidate the creative appropriation of these traditions in Deuteronomy 4 and the historical circumstances that inspired this chapter's rhetoric. Drawing on the conclusions of the previous sections, particularly the strikingly divergent critiques of idolatry as motivated by different historical contexts, the final section will attempt to draw some broader conclusions regarding the role of polemical strategies in establishing a distinctive cultural discourse.

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