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Body Piercings: The Priestly Body and the “Body” of the Temple in Ezekiel

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Using the categories of “grotesque” and “classical” bodies drawn from literary studies, this essay examines how bodies function in Ezekiel. More specifically, the violations of Ezekiel's own priestly body in chapters 4 and 5 share certain features with the violations of the “body” of the temple in chapter 8, shared features that point to a certain common identity between the classical body of the priest and the classical “body” of the temple. The sanctity of both these “classical” bodies is violated until the temple is destroyed and the classical body of the priest so closely associated with it also recedes. Thus, the classical body disappears in the book until it reappears at the very end in the vision of chapters 40–48. In the intervening chapters, the question of whether there can be any future for Israel, whose classical body has also been sullied, is in doubt, for as the “classical” bodies of temple and priest recede, other “grotesque” bodies pile up (chapters 6, 7, and 16 and 23 especially, but also in 29, 32, 38, 39), revealing Ezekiel's deep ambivalence about bodies—the classical bodies being the site of holiness and deliverance, the grotesque ones the site of disobedience and destruction. Ezekiel's theological creativity is evident in this interplay between grotesque and classical bodies.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-06-01

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  • Hebrew Bible and Ancient Israel is a new, peer-reviewed, quarterly journal focusing primarily on the biblical texts in their ancient historical contexts, but also on the history of Israel in its own right. Each issue has a topical focus. The primary language is English, but articles may also be published in German and French. A specific goal of the new journal is to foster discussion among different academic cultures within a larger international context pertaining to the study of the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel in the first millennium B. C. E.
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