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Harlot or Holy Woman? A Study of Hebrew Qedešah

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Harlot or Holy Woman? presents an exhaustive study of qedešah, a Hebrew word meaning “consecrated woman” but rendered “prostitute” or “sacred prostitute” in Bible translations. Reexamining biblical and extrabiblical texts, Phyllis A. Bird questions how qedešah came to be associated with prostitution and offers an alternative explanation of the term, one that suggests a wider participation for women as religious specialists in Israel’s early cultic practice.

Bird’s study reviews all the texts from classical antiquity cited as sources for an institution of “sacred prostitution,” alongside a comprehensive analysis of the cuneiform texts from Mesopotamia containing the cognate qadištu and Ugaritic texts containing the masculine cognate qdš. Through these texts, Bird presents a portrait of women dedicated to a deity, engaged in a variety of activities from cultic ritual to wet-nursing, and sharing a common generic name with the qedešah of ancient Israel. In the final chapter she returns to biblical texts, reexamining them in light of the new evidence from the ancient Near East.

Considering alternative models for constructing women’s religious roles in ancient Israel, this wholly original study offers new interpretations of key texts and raises questions about the nature of Israelite religion as practiced outside the royal cult and central sanctuary.

  • Introduction
  • Sacred Prostitution as Interpretive Construct
  • Sir James George Frazer and the Concept of Sacred Prostitution
  • Classical Sources in Constructions of Sacred Prostitution
  • New Sources from the Ancient Near East
  • Qedešah in the Hebrew Bible
  • Appendix A. Synopsis of Classical Sources in Constructions of Sacred Prostitution
  • Appendix B. Synopsis of qadištu /nu.gig Texts
  • Appendix C. Nu-gig in Early Sumerian Texts
  • Title: Harlot or Holy Woman? A Study of Hebrew Qedešah
  • Author: Phyllis A. Bird
  • Publisher: Eisenbrauns
  • Print Publication Date: 2019
  • Pages: 512
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2020-07-22T21:31:27Z

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Phyllis A. Bird is Associate Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, Illinois, and author of The Bible as the Church's Book.


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    Digital list price: $199.95
    Save $173.96 (87%)

    Gathering interest