David Beadle

Department: Theology and Religion
Discipline: Theology and Religion
Research Centre/Unit: Centre for Biblical Studies

Project Summary

In recent years, there have been diverse approaches to the so-called "royal psalms."  Sometimes they are understood to be ritual texts; whilst sometimes they are taken to be purely literary productions. I am in agreement with the view that the "royal psalms" underwent a great variety of changes in their compositional history, and that it is therefore impossible to reconstruct original “liturgical” texts. However, I argue that texts describing royal ritual should be taken seriously as cultural memories of this ritual: casting new light on ambivalent memories of the monarchy in the Hebrew Bible.

I am looking primarily at motifs of royal ritual netherworld descent and heavenly ascent. Royal descent motifs have not been seriously explored since the mid-twentieth century; and studies of both royal descent and ascent motifs have focused on the king.  I, too, will be looking at motifs of the descent and ascent of the king in the Psalms, but I suggest that the pool of relevant texts can be widened by examining ways in which ritual descent and ascent motifs are reflected in various narratives of royal women in the Hebrew Bible, outside the Psalms.  Moreover, I contend that the association of the motifs of ascent and descent with "myth," has resulted in their wholesale rejection, as apposite only in Catholic and/or Jewish traditions; however, these motifs are reflected in the Hebrew Bible.

In order to conceptualise motifs of royal ritual descent and ascent in the Hebrew Bible, it is necessary to question many of the assumptions scholars exploring these particular topics have brought to the Hebrew Bible texts - especially concerning related subjects such as death, the netherworld, space and place, sacred space, cosmology, “humanity” and “divinity”, royal gender etcetera.  I am often proposing new ways of reading these concepts in the relevant texts, in order to see new possibilities for understanding motifs of royal descent and ascent.  Too often, these concepts have been understood according to Modernist notions of "primitive thought" or, at the opposite extreme, they have been conceived far too rationalistically.  In order to avoid these issues so far as is possible, I am looking at the texts through new lenses - using ethnographies, discourses on cultural memory and literary theories.

Supervisory Team

First supervisor: Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou

Second supervisor: Dr Siam Bhayro

Research Mentor: Professor Tim Gorringe

Wider Research Interests

Royal ritual in the Hebrew Bible

Anthropology and the Hebrew Bible

Royal gender in the Hebrew Bible

Cultural memory

Ritual theory

Netherworld descent and Heavenly Ascent