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The Destruction of the Seven Nations in Deuteronomy and the Mimetic Theory Norbert Lohfink Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfort The book of Deuteronomy is a narrative with two narrative voices which do not necessarily present the same perspective, the one of the narrator, the other ofMoses. By employing the technique of showing rather than telling, the narrator allows his Moses to articulate a new design of the world in the Deuteronomic law. Although mimetic theory may be important to our understanding of both perspectives, I will focus here solely on that world presented by Moses' speeches.1 A brief summary of my essay "Opfer und Säkularisierung im Deuteronomium" (Sacrifice and Secularization in Deuteronomy), in whose final section I found it necessary to tum to René Girard's mimetic model for clarification of the evidence, provides the basis for the revision and expansion of that study which follows. Deuteronomy—a new conception of the sacred My essay was in the form of a debate with the secularization thesis of Moshe Weinfeld, whose point ofdeparture is the Deuteronomic centralization of sacrifice in Jerusalem.2 In Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, Weinfeld argues that all sacrifice as well as everything sacral was abolished throughout the land, that the sacred was restricted to the central cultus and all else became the profane. I sought to demonstrate that the historical assump1 With regard to the narrator's perspective a central question which arises, for example, is whether Moses is a sacrificial victim or a scapegoat. 2 For an early criticism of Weinfeld's work, see Jacob Milgrom (1973). 104Norbert Lohfink tions of his thesis are based on an erroneous interpretation of the evidence. Although I cannot review those assumptions here, it is important to point out that the evidence is more complicated than Weinfeld seems to admit. In the book of Deuteronomy, we see that sacrifice indeed is abolished throughout the land. Less apparent is the fact that that restriction extends also to the rituals of sacrifice practiced by the central cultus. There is no mention of such rituals in Deuteronomy. A close study of the text reveals that they in fact have undergone a subtle transformation. The 14 centralization laws which describe the pilgrimage to the central sanctuary are presented in a literary form that resembles a ritual (see the tables in Lohfink 1992, 25-31). The high point of that pilgrimage is not the slaughter and offering of animals but the joy of a common meal. The killing of the animals is relatively insignificant in the light of the celebration of Israel's existence "before the countenance of YHWH." The Israel that celebrates this festival is moreover a society where there are neither poor nor needy. This ideal society constitutes in Deuteronomy the true sacred. By comparison with the older, archaic-cultic, understanding of this sacred the transferrai of the world-reality of the society 'Israel' into the sacred appears to imply its disintegration. But this is not the case. Deuteronomy embodies an extension of the sacred, not its demise. It presents a new interpretation of the phenomenon. The process of transforming the meaning of the sacred is mirrored in designation of Israel, indeed all of Israel, as qadosh 'holy'. It is no longer the priests alone who are considered holy but the entire population. Deuteronomic law is framed by statements that name Israel as "a people holy to the LORD your God" (7:6; 26:19) and that promise the holiness of Israel as a future blessing (28:9).3 Now 'holiness' always means the marking of a partial realm out of a greater realm which becomes thereby the 'profane'. This is what is meant in Deuteronomy. The nation of Israel is 'holy' in contrast to the other 'nations;' it is, according to 7:6, the "people for his own possession out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth." In 26: 18ff. this rhetorical formula splits into two discrete references, the one stating that Israel wül be "a people for His own possession," the other that "He will set you high above all the nations He has made." Both texts depict a system of holy-profane...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1930-1200
Print ISSN
1075-7201
Pages
pp. 103-117
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-26
Open Access
No
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