The Journal of Jewish Studies Supplement Series includes the latest title “The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity”, which will be launched tomorrow evening at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Yarnton.
The volume contains essays by leading scholars in the field of Jewish Antiquity including the launch’s discussion panel: Sarah Pearce, (University of Southampton), Professor Philip Alexander FBA (Manchester University), Professor Tessa Rajak (Oxford), Professor Sacha Stern (University College London), Professor Hugh Williamson FBA (Oxford), Dr Jane Heath (University of Durham).
The book is about the use of images by Jews and their contemporaries in the Antique period, in light of the biblical prohibitions against making ‘graven images’ in the Second Commandment:
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth’ (Deuteronomy 5:8)
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.’ (Exodus 20:4-5a)
This law was written to combat the proliferation of idols, which distracted from the essence of Judaism, and shifted the attention towards material goods. The prohibition was intended to draw the Israelites away from the creation of idols, rather than to stop all decoration and the production of images.
‘The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity’ edited by Sarah Pearce, explores the dynamic between the image-filled classical culture of the Mediterranean world, and the ‘law-inspired’ images within Jewish culture. The book offers examples of Jewish images which borrow from the Classical tradition, but that avoid idolatry, by using art and images for decorative and pedagogical purposes only.
The volume contains beautiful images, produced in exceptionally high-quality, such as the magnificent Macedonian gold wreath from fourth century BCE. The wreath is one of 8 that have been found discovered and thought to have been used for a variety of social and religious ceremonial occasions. A metal band is adorned with leaves and flowers made of very fine gold, which move with the person wearing it, as a wreath made of real foliage would. Jane Heath writes that the wreath is indicative of a Hellenistic interest in realistic art, and the ‘elaboration of the topos of realism’, particularly within the literary tradition. Heath skilfully argues that the Letter of Aristeas is not just combining Greco-Roman ideas with Jewish traditions, but instead uses only non-figurative subjects, and engages with the cultural interest in realism, however draws the line at using allegory to describe the tabernacle gifts instead describing them as realistically as possible; Thereby emphasising the value of the gifts of the tabernacle.
Essays in the book explore contexts including late antique Palestine, urban Galilee, Dura-Europos and Jerusalem. H.G.M. Williamson considers the interesting question of the use of the image of the deity in the First temple in Jerusalem. Williamson looks at archaeological and textual sources from Jewish and contemporary contexts including figurines from Judea, thought to be of the goddess of fertility Ashrah, who was sometimes described as the consort of Yahweh. The scope for this book is wide and the subject matter far-reaching. It is a fantastic exploration into the role of the second commandment within ancient Jewish culture, something which has rarely been given such in-depth attention.
Details of the launch and ways to purchase the book are below. A copy of the supplement is also available in the Library.
HEBREW AND JEWISH STUDIES UNIT
DAVID PATTERSON SEMINARS – TRINITY TERM 2014
Wed 28 May 8pm Yarnton manor
“The Image and its Prohibition in Jewish Antiquity”
Published by the Journal of Jewish Studies
Supplement Series 2
BOOK LAUNCH and PANEL DISCUSSION
Professor Sarah Pearce (University of Southampton)
Professor Philip Alexander FBA (Manchester University)
Professor Tessa Rajak (Oxford)
Professor Sacha Stern (University College London)
Professor Hugh Williamson FBA (Oxford)
Dr Jane Heath (University of Durham)
The Book will be available for sale with a 30% discount
Light buffet supper from 7pm
ALL ARE WELCOME
Published by the Journal of Jewish Studies: http://jjs-online.net/
Distributed by Oxbow: http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/the-image-and-its-prohibition-in-jewish-antiquity.html