Through the swirling smoke of Aaron’s incense, Cult and Character steps toward the meaning enacted on “the Day of Purgation,” commonly known as Yom Kippur or “the Day of Atonement.” By treating moral evil both as relational breach and as spiritual pollution, the Israelite system of purification offerings addresses both the standing and the state of YHWH’s people. This system shows the way not only to freedom from condemnation, but also to healing of character, which is defined in terms of loyalty to YHWH.
Freedom and healing come together on the Day of Purgation, when purification rituals benefit those who show themselves loyal to YHWH by affirming the freedom from condemnation that they have received. The effects of purification rituals on YHWH’s community demonstrate harmony between his justice and kindness. He deals with imperfect people by pardoning and clearing the loyal and condemning the disloyal. Gane ultimately affirms Milgrom’s insight that theodicy is foundational to the Israelite expiatory system. Gane’s conclusions are derived from exegetical study of Hebrew ritual texts, informed by controls to ritual analysis developed through critical examination of existing theories, and adapted with a systems-theory approach to human activity systems.
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Gane’s Cult and Character is a marvelously illuminating work; he has shed light on many key issues and covered exceedingly complex questions very clearly.
—John Goldingay, Fuller Theological Seminary
Gane’s book is well-structured. A conclusion is given for each chapter. Tabular listings provide an outline of phraseology variants and contents related to the same subject. Indices of authors and Scriptures complete a book of convincing argumentation comprising an appropriate discussion on Milgrom’s positions which, indeed, have a stake in the scientific discussion. Gane succeeds in offering fitting alternatives.
—Corinna Körting, University of Göttingen
This is a substantive work that makes a significant contribution to scholarship on biblical sacrifice. It will repay careful reading (and rereading).
—William K. Gilders, Emory University
A brief review such as this cannot possibly do justice to a volume as rich in detail and insight as Cult and Character. Innumerable biblical texts and terms are treated to new and thought-provoking elucidation; exegetical and scholarly traditions are mined for all that they have to offer; previously untapped associations of themes and ideas yield rewarding new ways of considering issues that many believed to have been resolved. Scholars of Israelite ritual, of the priestly tradition, of the Pentateuch, and of biblical theology have much to contemplate, much from which they can learn, and much with which to contend in the course of their own research in this remarkable work.
—Baruch J. Schwartz, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem