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Disability in the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521888073
ISBN-10: 0521888077
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Editorial Reviews


"Olyan's book constitutes an excellent overview of disability in the Hebrew Bible. Though the book represents careful and very sound scholarship, it is also clearly written and accessible to the reader. The book remains interesting and thoughtful throughout."
Biblical Interpretation, Sarah J. Melcher, Xavier University

Book Description

Olyan seeks to reconstruct the Hebrew Bible's ideas of mental and physical disability and their social ramifications. This study shows how biblical writers constructed hierarchically significant difference and privileged the "able-bodied" over those with disabilities. It also explores the models of classification that biblical writers produced.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521888077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521888073
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,429,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. Westlund on May 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The anthropologist, Mary Douglas, began many years ago to notice the central role of being whole in the Hebrew Scriptures. This book takes these insights to another level of use and to a firmer conviction that her ideas are on to something valuable. If you are a Christian or Jew with disabilities, get this one.
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Format: Hardcover
In Disability In the Hebrew Bible: Interpreting Mental and Physical Differences, Saul M. Olyan (PhD - Harvard), professor of Judaic Studies at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island, investigates the earliest textual representations from a philological perspective. By examining the words and their related cognate forms in other languages, he articulates some insight into how disability obtained meaning in ancient writings.

The study begins by examining the physical characteristics that mark either beauty or ugliness in the ideal male and female and then relates the contrast between blemish and perfection. While there is major overlap, the categories are not exclusively congruent, particularly in the Wisdom literature.

Olyan examines blemish further and proposes there was another broader taxonomy inclusive of disability based in weakness, vulnerability, and dependence. He discovers that mental disabilities and some physical disabilities did not fall into blemish category, but all shared marginalization and stigmatization as evidenced by surrounding textual information. He acknowledges that much of the prophetic utopian vision uses persons with disability to demonstrate YHWH's purpose and power. While some of the text indicates continued marginalization, there is a strong thread that also shows the opposite. Those with disabilities, both ambulatory and non-ambulatory, are welcomed back from exile, into worship, and made beautiful in their disability.

Olyan refocuses his attention from persons with blemish to the relationship between wholeness and holiness. The same stigmatizing language used for people were also utilized for building materials and sacrifices deemed unsuitable for the temple.
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