Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences / Edition 1

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Mental and physical disability, ubiquitous in texts of the Hebrew Bible, receive their first thoroughgoing treatment in this monograph. Olyan seeks to reconstruct the Hebrew Bible’s particular ideas of what is disabling and their potential social ramifications. Biblical representations of disability and biblical classification schemas – both explicit and implicit – are compared to those of the Hebrew Bible’s larger ancient West Asian cultural context, and to those of the later Jewish biblical interpreters who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls. This study will help the reader gain a deeper and more subtle understanding of the ways in which biblical writers constructed hierarchically significant difference and privileged certain groups (e.g., persons with “whole” bodies) over others (e.g., persons with physical “defects”). It also explores how ancient interpreters of the Hebrew Bible such as the Qumran sectarians reproduced and reconfigured earlier biblical notions of disability and earlier classification models for their own contexts and ends.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Olyan's book constitutes an excellent overview of disability in the Hebrew Bible. Though the book represents careful and very sound scholarship, it is also clearly written and accessible to the reader. The book remains interesting and thoughtful throughout."
Biblical Interpretation, Sarah J. Melcher, Xavier University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521888073
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/26/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Saul M. Olyan is Samuel Ungerleider Jr. Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. His previous publications include: Biblical Mourning: Ritual and Social Dimensions (2004), Rites and Rank: Hierarchy in Biblical Representations of Cult (2000), A Thousand Thousands Served Him: Exegesis and the Naming of Angels in Ancient Judaism (1993), and Asherah and the Cult of Yahweh in Israel (1988). He has contributed to, and served as editor of, various journals and publications in the areas of biblical literature and ancient religions.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Abbreviations     xi
Introduction     1
Defining Disability     2
Textual Representations     3
Classification and Stigmatization     4
Contesting Disability's Stigmatization     10
Native and Nonnative Modes of Classification     12
Chapter Outline     13
Constructions of Beauty and Ugliness     15
Male and Female Beauty     15
Ugliness     19
Physical Characteristics That Are Neither Beautiful nor Ugly     20
Beauty and Perfection: Their Relationship     21
Technical Vocabulary of Beauty and Ugliness     22
Assessments of Beauty     23
Conclusion     24
Physical Disabilities Classified as "Defects"     26
A Native Category     27
Stigmatization and Marginalization     31
An Exception: Circumcision     36
Punitive "Defects" and Other Mutilations     38
Conclusion     45
Physical Disabilities Not Classified as "Defects"     47
Deafness and Muteness     48
"Skin Disease" (sara'at) and Genital "Flows" (zob)     54
Menstruation and Parturition     56
Conclusion     60
Mental Disability     62
Defining Mental Disability and Identifying It in Texts     63
"Foolishness" and "Madness"     64
1 Sam 21:11-16 (Eng. 10-15)     66
1 Sam 16:14-23     70
Stigmatization and Marginalization     71
Conclusion     76
Disability in the Prophetic Utopian Vision     78
The Prophetic Utopian Vision     79
A Utopian Future of Changed Circumstances for Disabled Persons     81
A Utopian Future in Which Disability Disappears     85
Disability as Metaphor for Divine Rejection     89
Conclusion     91
Nonsomatic Parallels to Bodily Wholeness and "Defect"     93
The Stones of the Altar     94
The Stones of the Temple     96
Nonsomatic Analogues to Stigmatization and Marginalization     97
Conclusion     99
Exegetical Perpetuations, Elaborations, and Transformations: The Case of Qumran     101
"Defects" in the Dead Sea Scrolls     102
Non-"Defective" Disabilities in Qumran Literature     110
Implicit and Explicit Classifications     114
Conclusion     117
Conclusion      119
Notes     130
Bibliography     164
Subject Index     171
Biblical and Non-Biblical Citation Index     181
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