Keeping Heaven on Earth. By Michael B. Hundley. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2. Reihe, vol. 50. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2011. Pp. xvi + 250. [euro]99 (paper).
This study, a revised version of the author's doctoral dissertation, seeks to explain the Priestly mechanism for ensuring "the divine presence at the heart of the Israelite community" (p. 1). Hundley examines the tabernacle legislation from Exodus 25--Leviticus 16, along with other relevant texts. He includes H material, treating it as secondary and often supplementary to P. However, he also focuses on the final form and setting of the text, choosing not to enter into the argument over Priestly dating or make an argument about the authors' own context (p. 6).
Hundley is particularly interested in the application of ritual theory to the texts and follows James Watts in noting that ritual texts, unlike ritual practice, serve particular rhetorical purposes (p. 5). In the case of P, the setting of the tabernacle legislation in the distant past is meant to highlight the priests' authority and to show Israelite religion's superiority over other ancient Near Eastern systems. Hundley relates this to his choice to analyze the final form of the text, noting that ancient practitioners of these rituals would have been concerned only with the rituals' authority and efficacy, not with their development or history of composition (p. 7).
Much of the study is devoted to specific language and terminology, because as Hundley notes, "Priestly language ... is by turns more precise and more elusive than its biblical and ANE counterparts" (p. 12). His overall purpose and contribution is to comprehensively examine the whole Priestly system in light of other ancient Near Eastern systems and to use ritual theory to uncover the rhetorical purposes of the Priestly material (p. 14).
Chapter 1, "Ritual Theory," explores the purpose of ritual, which "serves as a bridge between two worlds" (p. 21). Hundley covers several major theories of ritual (Bell, Klawans, Gilders, Modeus, Gane), opting to use a cumulative approach that draws on any and all of them. He adopts Modeus's method of analyzing ritual function on three levels: structure, use, and ideology (p. 35). Different theoretical approaches will work on different levels, yielding what Hundley calls different interpretations (p. 37), though it would seem better to think of them as different angles of interpretation, as a single ritual (or ritual text) may...