How Books Matter: The Three Dimensions of Scriptures
James W Watts [+]
The first chapter presents a model for understanding the ways in which scriptures function. Recent controversies over Ten Commandments monuments and desecrated Qur’ans involve the iconic function of scriptures. Yet traditional and modern scholarship on Jewish, Christian, or Muslim scriptures is ill-prepared to interpret these events because it has focused almost all its efforts on semantic interpretation. Even the increased attention to the expressive functions of scripture does not provide resources for understanding the iconic roles of scriptures. This chapter addresses that gap by theorizing the nature of scriptures as a function of their ritualization in three dimensions—semantic, expressive, and iconic. The model provides a way to understand how traditions ritualize scriptures and how they claim social power by doing so.