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A nation of tribes and priests : the Jews and the immorality of the caste system

Jakob De Roover (UGent)
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Abstract
In the currently dominant discourse about Indian society, the caste system appears as an immoral social structure: its principles represent immoral behaviour as moral obligation. The chapter raises the question as to how this inherently implausible conception of the caste system crystallised in the European understanding of India. It argues that the Old Testament account of the Jewish nation and religion became the framework for describing the people and religion of 'the Gentiles' or 'Hindus' in India. The Hindus were viewed as a nation divided into a hierarchy of tribes and united by one religion led by the tribe of the priesthood. In the course of the nineteenth century, Protestant authors then came to the conclusion that caste was a religious institution: dominated by Brahmin priests, this institution imposed the civil laws of a nation as religious obligations of divine origin. If we were to discard the overtly biblical elements from the nineteenth-century missionary descriptions of Hinduism and caste, it would become difficult to distinguish them from the contemporary moral discourse.
Keywords
religious institution, tribes, nation of Israel, Old Testament, nation, missionaries, Moses, Manu, Levites, Judaism, lawgiver (or legislator), Hinduism, Gentile nation, heathen religion, excommunication, false religion, civil law vs religious law, covenant, Christianity, Catholicism, casteless, as a religious institution), as an immoral social structure, as a hierarchy of tribes, caste (as a civil institution, Bible, Brahmins, outcasts, priests, Protestant Reformation, priesthood, untouchables

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MLA
De Roover, Jakob. “A Nation of Tribes and Priests : The Jews and the Immorality of the Caste System.” Western Foundations of the Caste System, edited by Prakash Shah et al., Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 173–220, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-38761-1_6.
APA
De Roover, J. (2017). A nation of tribes and priests : the Jews and the immorality of the caste system. In P. Shah, D. Jalki, S. Pathan, & M. Farék (Eds.), Western foundations of the Caste system (pp. 173–220). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-38761-1_6
Chicago author-date
De Roover, Jakob. 2017. “A Nation of Tribes and Priests : The Jews and the Immorality of the Caste System.” In Western Foundations of the Caste System, edited by Prakash Shah, Dunkin Jalki, Sufiya Pathan, and Martin Farék, 173–220. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-38761-1_6.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
De Roover, Jakob. 2017. “A Nation of Tribes and Priests : The Jews and the Immorality of the Caste System.” In Western Foundations of the Caste System, ed by. Prakash Shah, Dunkin Jalki, Sufiya Pathan, and Martin Farék, 173–220. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-38761-1_6.
Vancouver
1.
De Roover J. A nation of tribes and priests : the Jews and the immorality of the caste system. In: Shah P, Jalki D, Pathan S, Farék M, editors. Western foundations of the Caste system. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; 2017. p. 173–220.
IEEE
[1]
J. De Roover, “A nation of tribes and priests : the Jews and the immorality of the caste system,” in Western foundations of the Caste system, P. Shah, D. Jalki, S. Pathan, and M. Farék, Eds. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, pp. 173–220.
@incollection{8039178,
  abstract     = {In the currently dominant discourse about Indian society, the caste system appears as an immoral social structure: its principles represent immoral behaviour as moral obligation. The chapter raises the question as to how this inherently implausible conception of the caste system crystallised in the European understanding of India. It argues that the Old Testament account of the Jewish nation and religion became the framework for describing the people and religion of 'the Gentiles' or 'Hindus' in India. The Hindus were viewed as a nation divided into a hierarchy of tribes and united by one religion led by the tribe of the priesthood. In the course of the nineteenth century, Protestant authors then came to the conclusion that caste was a religious institution: dominated by Brahmin priests, this institution imposed the civil laws of a nation as religious obligations of divine origin. If we were to discard the overtly biblical elements from the nineteenth-century missionary descriptions of Hinduism and caste, it would become difficult to distinguish them from the contemporary moral discourse.},
  author       = {De Roover, Jakob},
  booktitle    = {Western foundations of the Caste system},
  editor       = {Shah, Prakash and Jalki, Dunkin and Pathan, Sufiya and Farék, Martin},
  isbn         = {9783319387604},
  keywords     = {religious institution,tribes,nation of Israel,Old Testament,nation,missionaries,Moses,Manu,Levites,Judaism,lawgiver (or legislator),Hinduism,Gentile nation,heathen religion,excommunication,false religion,civil law vs religious law,covenant,Christianity,Catholicism,casteless,as a religious institution),as an immoral social structure,as a hierarchy of tribes,caste (as a civil institution,Bible,Brahmins,outcasts,priests,Protestant Reformation,priesthood,untouchables},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {173--220},
  publisher    = {Palgrave Macmillan},
  title        = {A nation of tribes and priests : the Jews and the immorality of the caste system},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-38761-1_6},
  year         = {2017},
}

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