The Biblical Vow as Barter Deal or Lasting Relation: A reconsideration of the vow of the sailors in Jonah 1:16

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentation - typerForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme - Foredragsholder


In Jonah 1:16, one of the few narrative passages in the Hebrew Bible to mention vow-making, it says that, after the dying down of the storm, "the men feared Yahweh greatly, they offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and made vows."

The sailors' reaction to the natural wonder they have just witnessed has caused Biblical scholars some difficulties and has resulted in varied attempts at explanations; are the sailors giving thanks or begging for their lives? Are they actually paying vows rather than making them? Why are the sailors asking for something, i.e. making vows, after having been saved? Are the sailors greedy or merely impolite?

The majority of these difficulties stem from a mistaken understanding of the vow as a kind of barter. One makes a vow to a deity, because one wants something, an object or a service. By insisting on an economistic interpretation of vow-making and gift-giving scholars fail to grasp the logic of the sailors' vow.

On the basis of an understanding of ritual actions as mirroring social actions, voiced by among others E. Thomas Lawson and Justin L. Barrett, and using insights from sociology and anthropology on gift-giving, this paper argues that the crucial outcome of vow-making is the relationship established between the involved parties and not the exchanged objects or services.

Therefore, the sailors' reaction is neither awkward nor misplaced, but a perfectly intelligible attempt at establishing a lasting relationship with a deity who has proven to be very powerful.

27 aug. 2010

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelSBL International, EABS Annual, session: Mind, Society and Tradition
EmneBetingede løfter i GT, gavegivning, ritualer, kognitive tilgange til religionsteori

ID: 21749657