Conceptualizing the place of deaf people in Ancient Israel: suggestions from Deaf Space

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Building on the recent interest in disability studies within biblical studies, this article considers the place of the deaf in ancient Israel. Positive explorations of disability by Neil Walls, Saul Olyan, and Hector Avalos have moved away from the assumption that a deaf life in the ancient world was necessarily a squalid one. Using the insights into the complexities of deaf experience put forward by the Rev. J. H. Pettingell, a nineteenth-century clergyman who worked with what were then termed the “deaf and dumb,” this article explores the different potential scenarios for a male and a female deaf person. It then considers the potential life options for a priestly son deafened early or born deaf. The conclusion notes the possibility of communal Deaf spaces in ancient Israel and calls for an acceptance of one of the central methodological assumptions of deaf studies, that where a group of deaf people come together, a signing community is likely to come into existence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-553
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Biblical Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2018


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