In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers (Paperback)Professor Mary Douglas
Paperback Published: 05/04/2001
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In the Wilderness is a classic work on the anthropology of the Book of Numbers. Up to now Bible scholars have tended to dismiss Numbers - Wellhausen called it the junk room of the Bible, and most contemporary commentaries feel called upon to say something about its apparent lack of coherence. In this book Mary Douglas argues that Numbers is composed of 12 alternating sections of law and narrative arranged in a ring, with each law and narrative section corresponding to its pair on the other side. Notes from a Hebrew scholar confirm the pattern by identifying objectively the beginnings and endings of law and narrative. On this showing Numbers turns out to be an extremely coherent example of a well-known antique rhetorical system. The meaning of the book comes out very differently according to whether it is read linearly or as written, synoptically. Professor Douglas shows that Numbers is not heavy or obscure but reads like a detective story. WITH REGARD TO LEVITICUS AS LITERATURE The books of Numbers and Leviticus stand at the centre of the Pentateuch and are revered as the basis of biblical Judaism. In her two books Mary Douglas argues that neither has been read in its own terms. Oxford University Press have brought together Professor Douglas's two ground-breaking works because the process of discovery is continuous, the work on Leviticus builds on the work for Numbers. The second book is the fruit of the first. They each make more sense together than apart.
Publisher: Oxford University Press