The Decalogue: The Reaction Against the Proto-Narrative

I’ve been doing a series on pages pages 275-278 of David Aaron’s Etched in Stone: The Emergence of the Decalogue.  These pages contain a summary of Aaron’s views on the stages of the Decalogue tradition.  Yesterday, I talked about the proto-narrative, which was developed in Israel’s Diaspora, after the collapse of the monarchy and the cult.  In the proto-narrative, the Decalogue (which was the basis for what we see in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) was modeled on ancient Near Eastern law codes, which were largely non-cultic and secular—in that they focused on laws against theft, etc.  The aim of the proto-narrative was to demonstrate that Israel could have a law-code even in the absence of a king.

According to Dr. Aaron, there was a polemic against the proto-narrative.  There were priests who disliked the secular character of its Decalogue, “for nothing within it required cognizance of the (priestly) festival calendar, rituals, or social organization preferred by the Levitical caste” (page 277).  The secular Decalogue also “exhibited little cognizance of ethnic identity” (page 277).  These priests engaged the “golden icon motif”—in which a golden icon is fashioned and condemned (Judges 8, I Kings 12, Exodus 32)—as a means to criticize the secular Decalogue’s “adaptation of a Near Eastern model for covenant”, to highlight “the rightful place of the Levitical caste in Israelite society”, and to fashion a “covenant document that was founded upon core religious precepts and practices, all of which worked in harmony with priestly ideology” (page 277).  We can see this cultic Decalogue in Exodus 34. In the priestly reaction against the proto-narrative, the original tablets were smashed before they were even read, nullifying that covenant and the tablets of those priests’ adversaries (page 261).  The covenant was now based on the cultic Decalogue of Exodus 34.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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