Cover image for Controlling corporeality : the body and the household in ancient Israel
Controlling corporeality : the body and the household in ancient Israel
Berquist, Jon L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 238 pages ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BS1199.B62 B47 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Human bodily existence is at the core of the Torah and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures--from birth to death. From God's creation of Adam out of clay, to the narratives of priests and kings whose regulations governed bodily practices, the Hebrew Bible focuses on the human body. Moreover, ancient Israel's understanding of the human body has greatly influenced both Judaism and Christianity. Despite this pervasive influence, ancient Israel's view of the human body has rarely been studied and, until now, has been poorly understood.

In this beautifully written book, Jon L. Berquist guides the reader through the Hebrew Bible, examining ancient Israel's ideas of the body, the unstable roles of gender, the deployment of sexuality, and the cultural practices of the time. Conducting his analysis with reference to contemporary theories of the body, power, and social control, Berquist offers not only a description and clarification of ancient Israelite views of the body, but also an analysis of how these views belong to the complex logic of ancient social meanings. When this logic is understood, the familiar Bible becomes strange and opens itself to a wide range of new interpretations.

Author Notes

Jon L. Berquist is academic editor at Chalice Press and the author of numerous books, including Judaism in Persia's Shadow: A Social and Historical Approachand Incarnation.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Given the common tendency for readers of the Bible to retrodict those ancient texts, Berquist's wide-ranging discussion is a welcome addition to the ever-growing body of scholarship on the body and religion. Rightfully insisting that to understand ancient Israelite identity one has to understand how its ideology is embodied, Berquist weaves considerations of beauty and fertility, sexuality and gender, age, purity and priesthood, and the practical structures of the household and nation into a broader view of how Israel defines self and other. However, his attempt to coordinate the structural anthropology of Mary Douglas with poststructuralist approaches is uneven. Berquist's theorizing about sexuality is anchored in Foucault, with a short foray into Bataille, whereas his interests in connecting the construction of the embodied self to social organization and religious authority might have been better served by utilizing Bourdieu. While specialists may be disappointed by the lack of technical discussions in areas such as philology and archaeology, general readers will find here an accessible work, whose chief virtue lies in bringing to light and examining those dramatically different assumptions that undergird the biblical and contemporary worldviews. This book is also suitable for undergraduates. G. Spinner Central Michigan University