The Pro-Social Role of Grief in Ezra’s Penitential Prayer

In: Biblical Interpretation
Angela Kim Harkins Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, USA

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This study uses a model of human experience that considers the embodied brain, religion, and social context in an integrated system of bio-cultural approaches. The study of grief and its strategic arousal in ritual contexts can highlight fundamental differences between modern and ancient religious understandings of the self, ultimately helping us to become more aware of our own scholarly biases and anachronisms. Such methods complement traditional historical-critical methods and shed light on how Ezra’s penitential prayer could have functioned in a Second Temple context. This study examines the similarities between the ritual performance of actions and discursive traditions that are said to have been performed by Ezra (Ezra 9–10) and discusses their resemblance to two passages that preserve foundational events of remaking the covenant (Exodus 32–34; Deuteronomy 9) and dedicating the first Temple (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6–7). The reenactment of scripted grief is identified as a strategy for bridging the breach between foundational events and the authors and readers in the Second Temple period.

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