The 'Divine' Confused and Abused: Cultural Memories of Royal Ritual Netherworld Descent and Heavenly Ascent in the Hebrew Bible
Beadle, David Nathaniel
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Submitting thesis for publication as a monograph.
This thesis proposes that integrated rituals of netherworld descent and heavenly ascent are represented in the Hebrew Bible as having been performed by Davidic royals – royal women, as well as male monarchs. In some instances (e.g. Psalms 2; 18; 24; 89:2-38; and 110) these rituals are represented idealistically, with Yahweh confirming the king’s ritual status and potency, through re-presented speech acts. In other instances, however, while an idealistic picture of monarchy continues to be upheld, it is subverted from within in varying ways (e.g. 2 Kgs 9:30-37; 11; Ps. 89:39-52; Isa. 14.4b-20; Jer. 13:18-20; Ezekiel 19). The differing portrayals of monarchy reflect the differing ways with which biblical texts are negotiating and interacting with ambiguous discourses embodying memories of monarchy. On the one hand, after the fall of monarchic Judah, ‘foreign’ monarchy (and especially trading monarchies, such as those of Phoenicia) were fetishised within biblical authors’ discourses of political and economic imperialism, and so Davidic monarchy became a signifier of an enchanting and mystifying ‘indigenous’ past. On the other hand, discourses concerning the past frequently referenced exile, and the collapse of monarchy. Some biblical representations of ritual netherworld descent and heavenly ascent acknowledge this latter, uncomfortable kind of remembering – even as they reify and reinforce these enchanting memories which they subvert. The remembered, cosmically liminal first temple and the remembered royal body become loci for these paradoxical, contradictory, and competing memories. This much is evident in mystifying royal cosmic liminality and heavenly ascent, access to divine knowledge, and mimesis of Yahweh; in cathartic myths of the subjugation of the forces of chaos and disorder, both cosmic and military; and in the subversion of the enchanting remembered Davidic cultic praxis of descent and ascent, through these motifs’ re-presentations in montages alongside rituals which connote displacement, destruction, profanation, desecration, subjugation and being forgotten. In these instances, the vulnerabilities inherent in cultural idealising of the Davidic monarchy’s potent cosmic liminality are brought into sharp relief.
Arts and Humanities Research Council
PhD in Theology