A History of Death in the Hebrew Bible

ISBN : 9780190844738

Matthew Suriano
312 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2018
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Postmortem existence in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was rooted in mortuary practices and conceptualized through the embodiment of the dead. But this idea of the afterlife was not hopeless or fatalistic, consigned to the dreariness of the tomb. The dead were cherished and remembered, their bones were cared for, and their names lived on as ancestors. This book examines the concept of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible by studying the treatment of the dead, as revealed both in biblical literature and in the material remains of the southern Levant. The mortuary culture of Judah during the Iron Age is the starting point for this study. The practice of collective burial inside a Judahite rock-cut bench tomb is compared to biblical traditions of family tombs and joining one's ancestors in death. This archaeological analysis, which also incorporates funerary inscriptions, will shed important insight into concepts found in biblical literature such as the construction of the soul in death, the nature of corpse impurity, and the idea of Sheol. In Judah and the Hebrew Bible, death was a transition that was managed through the ritual actions of the living. The connections that were forged through such actions, such as ancestor veneration, were socially meaningful for the living and insured a measure of immortality for the dead.


Note on Sources
Prolegomenon: The Afterlife Embodied
Part I: The Archaeology of Death in Iron Age Judah
Chapter One: Death as Transition in Judahite Mortuary Practices
Chapter Two: The History of the Judahite Bench Tomb
Chapter Three: Writing and the Tomb
Part II: Death and the Afterlife in the Hebrew Bible
Chapter Four: Care for the Dead
Chapter Five: The Narrative of Bones
Chapter Six: The Tomb and the Identity of the Dead
Chapter Seven: Death, Dying, and the Liminality of Sheol
Epilogue: The Invisible Tomb

About the author: 

Matthew Suriano is an Assistant Professor in the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland. His research focuses on the history and culture of ancient Israel through the integration of biblical literature, Northwest Semitic inscriptions, and the archaeology of the Levant. He received his PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

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