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The Place the Israelite Cultus

D espite the timeliness of the question posed in the title of this essay,. it isnot a new one in the history of Old Testament scholarship. 1 It occasionedlively debate at the turn of the century, in terms remarkably similar to arguments heard today. A key figure in that early debate was J. Wellhausen, whose analysis ofIsraelite religion emphasized its masculine, martial, and aristocratic nature, positing an original coincidence ofmilitary, politicolegal, and religious assemblies, in which males alone had full rights and duties of membership.2 Others argued that women were disqualified from cultic service by referencc to an original ancestral cult of the dead which could be maintained only by a male heir. 3 A further argument associated women's disability or disinterest in the Yahweh cult with a special attraction to foreign cults or preYahwistic beliefs and practices involving local numina.4