From Exclusion to Inclusion?

Clifford, H. “From Exclusion to Inclusion? Deuteronomy 23:1–8 in Philo and Beyond”. In: Hywel Clifford & Megan Daffern (eds.), The Exegetical and the Ethical. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2022, pp. 175–199.

Abstract: “This essay considers Philo of Alexandria’s interpretations of Deuteronomy 23:1–8, biblical laws about exclusion (of the “eunuch”, etc.), which he allegorised in terms of religious/philosophical doctrines (e.g. atheism). For Philo, “the assembly of the Lord” is predominantly the soul; hence Deut. 23:1–8 is about what must not enter there. What must enter is orthodox belief and practice: to be a disciple of Mosaic law, to enable the soul’s ascent towards God (in biblical Jewish Middle Platonist terms, suited to Philo’s cultural setting). Philo’s interpretations are compared with texts from Second Temple Judaism (e.g. DSS, NT), highlighting their shared landscape yet distinctive perspectives. The essay then outlines approaches from the history of interpretation: Deut. 23:1–8 are (1) marriage laws, (2) laws about the sanctuary, or (3) laws about holding public office. Philo is compared to each in turn. Modern historical-critical scholars seek to assign Deut. 23:1–8 their original setting (early Israelite governance), whereas deconstructive postmodern approaches go beyond “the tradition” seeing in these laws all non-normative identities. Finally, suggestions are made as to what a Christian sermon on Deut. 23:1–8 might contain in view of its reception history in relation to exclusion and inclusion.”

Author: TorreyS


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