Please join us for a lecture and signing with Robert Canfield
ABOUT THE BOOK: The Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 587 BCE forced upon the Israelite survivors the realization that Yahweh, one of the gods they had venerated, was an overwhelming presence in their affairs. The attack on their city had been devastating, overturning virtually the only world they knew. Such a disaster had been prophesied by several prophets of Yahweh who had warned them against worshipping other gods than Yahweh and ignoring his commandments. These prophets reminded them that in the ancient past Yahweh had established a special relationship with their people, binding them to himself through a covenant in which Yahweh promised to protect and lead their people while they were to honor him as their only god and keep his commandments. The community of survivors living as exiles in Babylon, and their heirs who would return to Judah after 539 BCE, believed that Yahweh had caused the destruction of their society because of the refusal of their people to abide by the terms of the ancient covenant. Indeed, they saw it as an act of Yahweh's love, an appeal for them to honor him as their only god so that he could show them his favor. Anthropologist Robert Canfield examines the process by which this transformation in religious understanding took place, describing it as an example of how human beings imaginatively imbue their affairs with moral significance.
"There is no doubt that the fall of Jerusalem and the exile in the sixth century BCE were of pivotal importance for the history, literature, and theology of biblical Israel. In Jerusalem Burning, Robert Canfield brings the events, stories, and personages of the time to life for interested readers. In an informed and highly readable overview, he provides a view of and beyond the disaster that is as timely as it is engaging."
--Jill Middlemas, associate professor of biblical theology and Abrahamic religions, University of Copenhagen
"In this daring and erudite study of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, Robert Canfield brings clarity to the process of meaning-making and moral imagination in biblical texts grappling with individual and community suffering."
--Louis Stulman, professor of religious studies, University of Findlay
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert L. Canfield is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at Washington University in St Louis. He has a B.A. in Psychology (U. Tulsa), an M.A. in Linguistics (U Michigan), and a PhD in Anthropology (U. Michigan). He spent over nine years in Afghanistan teaching English and doing research in linguistics and cultural anthropology. He has authored two books and edited five books, and published over seventy articles and chapters of books on affairs in Central Asia. His topics include the Ismaili movement in Afghanistan, the intrigues of local populations and the interactions of ethno-religious groups in marginal regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia, the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union for the emerging states of Central Asia, and the sources of the Taliban movement. He has also published a book of commentary on several texts in the Bible. All his writings reflect his conviction that anthropology is the science of history. Jerusalem Burning: the Terror and Promise of the “Wrath of Love” is his latest look at the human condition in its various forms. In this case a horrific, destructive loss suffered by an ancient people was imputed a peculiar set of significances which Canfield takes as an example of how the moral imagination gives people a sense of meaning and hope in the midst of the frustrations, defeats, and heartaches of life.