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Book Reviews 151 from some type ofundefmed "Levitical circles" (BiblicaUnterpretation in the Book of Jubilees; CBQMS 18 [Washington, DC: Catholic BiblicalAssociation ofAmerica, 1987]). Kugler's monograph provides a wealth ofnew possibilities for viewing Levi, not only in Jubilees but in a variety of other documents from the same era. This book addresses the concerns ofspecialists in the areas ofBible, Qumran, and Pseudepigrapha, especially those who read biblical languages and enjoy the details of close textual readings. Students preparing to engage in their own research projects will learn much about defining a topic and setting out the textual basis oftheir projects. This book should be found in libraries for research into the Bible and Second Temple Jewish history and literature, and in seminaries. John C. Endres, S. 1. Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism, by Regina M. Schwartz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 211 pp. $22.95. A recent issue ofthe Sunday New York Times featured a half-page color image ofthe Hindu god Shiva. A god who can appear in many guises, he is depicted in this particular image as the Destroyer, wearing a garland of skulls. In the land of Gandhi, late twentieth-century Hindu nationalism espouses the expansive boundaries of a millennium ago. Religious sanctions for violence, political or personal, are hardly exclusive to monotheistic traditions. Yet Schwartz would have it otherwise in The Curse ofCain. She concedes in the Preface to her book that the damaging monotheistic way of thinking she exposes is "not simply or originally biblical"; she nonetheless assumes that virtually all violence in the world, even in "the climate of Eastern religions," is somehow fatally taintedby principles ofexclusivity she sees encoded inbiblical notions of one god. One can hardly question the claim that horrendous destructive acts by various polities in the last two thousand years have been carried out or justified as fulfilling biblical mandates, just as the exploitation and oppression of groups within a society (women, slaves) have been linked to scripturalprecedent orpronouncement. Discussing the presence and use of violence in any religious tradition is a worthwhile enterprise; assigning a causal relationship between biblical monotheism and the military horrors of nineteenth- and twentieth-century nationalism is another matter. The latter project, Schwartz's project, is fraught with dangers. It misrepresents and distorts both biblical monotheism and the hostile attitudes of ancient Israelites to many (but not all!) other groups, and it also provides fodder for the anti-Judaism tendencies thatpersistin various 152 SHOFAR Fa111999 Vol. 18, No.1 political and theological quarters in much the same way that critiques of patriarchy in the Hebrew Bible foster an insidious kind of feminist anti-Judaism. Furthermore, its basic assumption-an expectation that biblical tradition should somehow be pure, peaceful, and perfect-privileges the biblical legacy in a way that ironically conflicts with her lofty hopes for plenitude of cultures, none more exemplary than the other. Schwartz's analysis ofthe Hebrew Bible in service ofher thesis about monotheism and its negative consequences focuses on the issue of Israelite identity formation-on the way the Israelite construction of its particular, territorially based culture depended upon its separation from the Other. To do so, she examines five aspects of Hebraic culture, one each in the five chapters ofthe book: covenant, land, kinship, nationhood, and memory. As a literary critic trained outside the guild of biblical scholarship, Schwartz attempts valiantly to incorporate or interrogate works in that discipline. Such a task is daunting to insiders. To outsiders it is risky business, and she predictably rehashes some positions that are either dated or controversial and thus problematic as support for her arguments. Similarly, she inevitably fails to consult all relevant treatments ofthe areas of biblical studies that she examines. No loss, in many cases. But in other cases her omission of the most recent discussion leads her to make claims that can no longer be substantiated. Take her covenant chapter, for example. She rightly refers to the way the covenant idea is rooted in political documents known from other ancient Near Eastern societies. But her view of covenants is that they are monolithic, that they all involve oaths with violent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 151-154
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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