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xii + 166 pp.

£22.50 / $37.50 / €25
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Deuteronomy and Environmental Amnesia
Raymond F. Person, Jr

Modern Westerners suffer from environmental amnesia, our failure to remember properly our intimate connections to the places in our lives and to the other inhabitants of these places, both human and non-human. Although environmental amnesia may be the underlying diagnosis of our contemporary ecological problems, in Deuteronomy and Environmental Amnesia Raymond Person argues that environmental amnesia has roots in ancient Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, and that ancient forms of environmental amnesia are evident in the book of Deuteronomy.

Raymond Person combines the ecological hermeneutics of the Earth Bible project for the first time with an emerging approach in environmental philosophy—that is, environmental hermeneutics which draws significantly from the works of Heidegger, Gadamer, Habermas and Ricoeur. As he explores the presence of ancient forms of environmental amnesia in Deuteronomy, he draws extensively from other approaches to the ancient Near East and the Bible that emphasize the interactions between material culture and text and that take seriously the Other as portrayed in the Bible, especially household archaeology, zooarchaeology, feminist approaches, and postcolonial approaches. His analysis discovers not only forms of environmental amnesia that the Deuteronomic school suffered from and promoted ideologically, but also partial remedies for forms of ancient environmental amnesia in some of the Deuteronomic legislation. His reflection on environmental amnesia and its partial remedies in the text of Deuteronomy provides insights into our modern forms of environmental amnesia and how we may begin to lessen its effects on the Earth community.

Between the introduction and conclusion, the volume contains two parts. The first part consists of chapters on how environmental amnesia exists in various themes in Deuteronomy: the family household, land versus wilderness, Israel versus the nations, clean versus unclean animals, and urban versus rural. The second part is somewhat more like a traditional commentary, focusing on themes in selected passages, including herem in Deut. 7.1-26, the sabbath year in Deut. 15.1-18, war in Deut. 20.1-20, first-fruits and the third-year tithe in Deut. 26.1-19, and eschatology in Deut. 28.1-68 and 30.1-20.

Raymond F. Person, Jr, is Professor of Religion at Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio.

Series: Earth Bible Commentary, 3
978-1-909697-58-4 hardback
Publication September 2014

     The ‘Emerging Field’ of ‘Environmental Hermeneutics’
     The Earth Bible Project and Its ‘Ecological Hermeneutics’
     Re-Placing ‘Ecological Hermeneutics’ and ‘Environmental
     Methodological and Privileged Perspectives


1. Family Household
     The Family Household in Ancient Israel
     The Patriarchal Household in Deuteronomy
     The Household as Primary Location of Emplacement
     Clingerman on Environmental Amnesia and Homecoming
     Re-Placing Environmental Amnesia in Ancient Israel

2. Land versus Wilderness
     ‘Land’ and ‘Wilderness’ in Deuteronomy
     The Effect of ‘Land’ versus ‘Wilderness’ on the Law
     The Environmental Amnesia of Land

3. Israel versus the Nations
     The Human Other in Deuteronomy
     Environmental Amnesia and the Rejection of the
        Human Other

4. Clean versus Unclean Animals
     ‘Clean’ versus ‘Unclean’ Animals in Deuteronomy 14.3-20
     The Law’s Effect on Animals
     The Law’s Effect on Nonhuman Communities: A Case Study
     ‘Clean’ versus ‘Unclean’ Animals and Environmental Amnesia

5. Urban versus Rural
     Cities in Ancient Israel
     Deuteronomy 12.1-28
     Deuteronomy 16.1-17
     Centralization and Environmental Amnesia


6. Deuteronomy 7

7. Deuteronomy 15.1-18: The Sabbath Year

8. War and the Environment in Deuteronomy20     

9. Deuteronomy 26: Firstfruits and the Third-Year Tithe

10. Eschatology

Conclusions: Implications for Overcoming Environmental Amnesia
        in the Anthropocene
     Place, Environmental Identity, and Environmental Amnesia
     Deuteronomy as an Expression of Ancient Forms of
        Environmental Amnesia
     Deuteronomy’s Partial Remedies of Ancient Forms of
        Environmental Amnesia
     Deuteronomy as a Partial Remedy to Modern Forms of
        Environmental Amnesia
     Continuing the Struggle to Overcome Modern Forms of
        Environmental Amnesia

Environmental amnesia can be defined as a distorted, oppositional understanding of the relationship between nature and culture that comes about when humans become divorced from the land and forget their dependence on it. In this non-traditional commentary on Deuteronomy, P. avers that such amnesia, a consequence of urbanization, was present not only in the great Mesopotamian civilizations of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BCE but also among the urbanized elites who were responsible for producing Deuteronomy, and their amnesia is reflected in the dichotomies that are identifiable in Deuteronomy.… This is a chilling, challenging and highly relevant reading of a foundational biblical text. Deborah W. Rooke, Society for Old Testament Study Book List

Person’s thesis is that the members of the Deuteronomic school were elite, urban literati who had no memory of a rural, agrarian lifestyle and were thus divorced from an intimate connection with nature. … [H]is employment of an environmental hermeneutic in analyzing Deuteronomy is a welcome addition to biblical studies, and the conclusion offers helpful suggestions for “overcoming environmental amnesia” in the contemporary world.
Thomas W. Mann, Interpretation.