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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 209 Reviews The material on early Christianity seeks to present Jesus and Paul as less hostile to women than is commonly thought; but those accolades are distributed at the cost of denigrating the Jewish culture from which both males arise. Similarly. McKenzie reminds us that Jesus (or perhaps an evangelist?) employs imagery of all genders (masculine, feminine and neuter) to make assertions about himself, but then suggests that the implication is of androgyny. It is too big a leap from too slim a methodological base. McKenzie advises her readers that she was warned that her book is dangerous , and she invites the curious to find out why (p. vii). Though she obviously cares deeply about her subject and has devoted years to her quest for readings helpful to women, the present reviewer finds it dangerous for the vast oversimplifications at every level. Barbara Green Dominican Schaol. Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, CA 94709 110235,361J@compuserve.com THE CURSE OF CAIN: THE VIOLENT LEGACY OF MONO· THEISM. By Regina M. Schwartz. Pp. xv + 211. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Cloth, $22.95. The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism is a brilliant analysis of the relationship between violence and the construction of collective identity. The book's introduction makes the point that the biblical approach to the process of identity formation is based on setting boundaries , distinguishing and separating, and that often this very act of drawing a line is an act of violence. There is violence in the biblical construction of the Other. The violence of identity formation authorizes countless acts of violence committed in the name of religious, ethnic, racial, national, and gender identity. This book dismantles the fictions that legitimate both the theory and the practice of this violence. Schwartz emphasizes the diversity and complexity of biblical constructions of identity, illustrating the frequent biblical critiques of its own authorized institutions (judgeship, priesthood , monarchy, prophecy) and the revisions of its own covenant codes (Noachic, Mosaic, Davidic, prophetic). Nevertheless, the Bible's interpreters insisted on canonizing, codifying, and authorizing the text, thus turning it into a weapon against the Other. Schwartz suggests that German Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 210 Reviews nationalism is related to biblical higher criticism, the fonner using the latter to authorize the ideology of the modem secular nation. The book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter, "Inventing Identity: Covenants," analyzes the metaphor of "cutting a covenant" (karat berit). The covenant with Abraham includes the severing of animals, while the Sinaitic covenant includes the cutting of words on stone. The Deuteronomistic Code enumerates the terrible curses in store for the people in case they disobey the commandments. The covenant with God is cut in the flesh, in the male penis. The covenant demands exclusive loyalty to one God only. A profound question is raised in conjunction with the association of monotheism and violence: "Does this mean that the price of a discrete identity must be violence, even obliteration?" (p. 25). Schwartz suggests that the exclusivity of monotheism is based in circumstances of economic scarcity. The second chapter. "Owning Identity: Land," discusses the concept of owning or belonging to a land as part of the process of collective identity fonnation. The fear of losing the land drives the plot of biblical narrative. Even as it describes the acquisition of the land, the biblical narrative continuously and consistently hints at the precariousness of this possession. The punishment for abandoning monotheism is the loss of home, of land, even alienation from the earth itself-"Fidelity to the one God persistently frames the discourse of land" (p. 48). Defining identity in tenns of territory produces two myths: conquest or exile. The Israelites do not lay claim to the land as natives. Abraham comes from another land. Keeping the land depends on the people's loyalty to the one and only God which is often represented in tenns of the metaphor of purity. Straying from the law contaminates the land. The land is depicted as a whore, and so is the people when they betray their Master. "Monotheism, then, is not simply a myth of oneness , but a doctrine of possession, of a people...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 209-212
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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