Centralization and Cult in Persian Period Israel: Biblical, Historical and Comparative Perspectives


The special session aims at renewing the conceptualization and understanding of centralization in ancient Israel, especially during the Persian/Early Hellenistic periods, from a combined perspective including biblical, historical and comparative approaches. It is based on the following issues raised by the current scholarly discussion: 

  • The discussion involves various levels of analysis—biblical texts, history, archaeology, comparative evidence—which have not always been adequately distinguished; in addition, the discussion has not given enough attention to the contribution of theoretical approaches of centralization.

  • Since W.L.M. de Wette, centralization has usually been limited to cultic aspects. In light of more recent approaches, it is essential to understand centralization as a more comprehensive process, in which the cultic aspect is only one among several others (i.e., administrative, economic, political, etc.).

  • Up to now, the debate on centralization has largely focused on Deuteronomy and 2 Kgs 22–23, without acknowledging the plurality and diversity of centralization concepts within the Hebrew Bible itself.

  • In former research, centralization was predominantly analyzed from a Judean perspective, without taking into account the textual evidence suggesting a broader Israelite perspective (esp. Deut 12; 27 in MT and SamP).

  • Comparative evidence often serves only as an “analogy-argument”, but has not been fully investigated for reshaping the conceptualization/understanding of centralization. 

  • Against this background, the session will bring together experts of various fields in order to discuss biblical, epigraphic and archaeological evidence as well as aspects of material culture related to processes of centralization in the Persian period.


Centralization, Cult, Persian period, Economy, Power structures 



Katharina Pyschny

Christophe Nihan

 Member Area



The Annual Conference 2021
takes place 2-5 August
in Wuppertal. Read more.