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Title: Bethel: Geschichte, Kult und Theologie
Author: Koenen, Klaus
Publisher: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht; Publication Date: 2003
Hardcover; ISBN: 9783525530498
Volumes: 1; Pages: 251 + illus
List Price in Cloth: $105.00 Our price: $88.99
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This title available only in German.Ancient Bethel is to be identified with the modern town Betin located in the occupied Palestinian territories. On the basis of all available archaeological, iconographic and literary evidence, this study reconstructs the history, cultic traditions and theology of the ancient city. The cultic interpretation of Chalcolithic and Middle Bronze installations is rejected. For the Iron Age II we are almost confined to literary sources. In the 10th cent. Bethel became the seat of the royal Israelite state temple. A masseba and the bull statue, to which the story of the golden calf (Exod. 32) refers, served as cult images. The bull statue was not regarded as a pedestal of the invisible God, but represented Yahweh as the mighty saviour and patron god, who had brought Israel out of Egypt and from whom the state now ex-pected further help. In the late 8th cent. the temple was plundered by the Assyrians who also carried off the bull statue. However, cultic activity continued until the later 7th cent., when Josiah put an end to it after extending north-ward the territory of the kingdom of Judah. Some authors referring to archaeology hold that Bethel continued to function as a cultic site during the 6th cent., and others suppose that parts of the Old Testament were written there. The latter theory, however, does not stand critical examination.During the time of the monarchy, the theology of Bethel was of central importance for the town and the state. It was a typical theology of an urban cultic center, comparable to that of Jerusalem and other ancient Near Eastern cities. The particular profile of this theology may be perceived from etiologies, which have survived in the Bible as a kind of spolia, and by the polemics of Amos and Hosea. It focused on the temple and the idea of un upright axis ("ladder of heaven") connecting the city with heaven, the earthly with the heavenly temple, to express God's presence and thereby assure people of welfare and prosperity for the city and the state. Amos controverted against Bethel in the context of his social criticism, Hosea in the context of his criticism of the state. After the fall of Bethel the city's theological concept became obsolete. The town and its temple were now regarded as a place of sin. The worship of Yahweh, however, survived because God was separated from his image and only the latter was declared illegitimate, an important step in the historical development of aniconism. The positive tradition of Bethel, old and venerable, was transformed into a patriarchal tradition (Jacob) or transfered to Jerusalem, which Judahite theologians regarded as the single legitimate place of God's presence. This hermeneutically interesting process started out in the Old Testament and continued in early Jewish and Christian as well as rabbinic literature.