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Eve's ritual : the Judahite sacred marriage rite

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Abstract

There are many elements at play in the Genesis story of the Garden of Eden, all of which instigated a multitude and diverse range of interpretations. However, the text has only rarely been interpreted as possibly having a link to an ancient ritual. Remarkably, all of the elements present in the tale of Adam and Eve can be found in several Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean sources, many of which have been interpreted as being associated with rituals. What I propose for this thesis is that the written account of the Eden narrative could be both a record of an historical ritual, and an attempt to standardize a choice women's rite of passage that was used to attain an exalted status within the Israelite religious and social institutions. For this, I investigate the development of the sacred marriage ritual in the nations surrounding Israel by defining its history, its purpose, and its main religious experts. I then explore the Israelite religious landscape around the time the text was composed to find the proper circumstances that would lend themselves to the existence of a Judahite sacred marriage rite akin to that of these other ancient cultures. Finally, using a comparative approach to the Eden text, that mainly relies on the Ritual School, I briefly explore the many elements at play in the tale and define their purpose in the ritual.

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