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Denison Journal of Religion

Abstract

The body of this essay is separated into two distinct subjects. Firstly, scholarly analyses of the passage and their socio-economic impact are evaluated, followed by Rager’s own theological perspectives on the subject. The first section of the essay begins with first-century philosopher, Philo, who believed that to boil a kid in its mother’s milk was a violation of the dietary laws forbidding the consumption of dairy and meat simultaneously. The segregation of opposites is referenced as well, including child and mother and meat and milk with life and death, Jew and Gentile. For a long time the practice was said to be forbidden because of its resemblance to pagan rituals, a theory later proven wrong. Along the same ritualistic line, the author discusses the possibility that it was not the dairy and meat which needed to be separated but rather the female from the male. Female presence in a religious ritual would have made it impure, and thus the practice was decreed illegal. The analyses continue, positing that the separation was necessary to diffuse any implied incest between a mother and her son. It was also possible, that the passage was a warning to not cheat a land owner, and particularly not Yahweh, out of the best offerings. To boil a kid was to make it appear and taste more tender than it was, thus fooling the recipient into believing he had received better than he had. Some believed that “milk” was meant to be “fat” which implied the death of the mother as well as the kid. The possibility of impure mother’s milk or milk with blood in it arose, but had little evidence to support it. The author then proposes new analyses, first suggesting that the practice was horrifically extravagant and a waste of resources. A second proposal is that the law was made out of respect and need for the mother figure. The author ends noting the fallibility of any of these conclusions, noting the impossibility of certainty on the matter.

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