This article outlines an identity-oriented reading of the so-called “apostasy series” (Deut 13) to explore the modes of articulation and construction of collective identity in pre-exilic Israel. To do so, the assumptions of the social constructionist approach will be integrated on a heuristic level with some points of Jan Assmann’s model of “secondary religion”. To begin with, a brief overview of the salient issues contained in Assmann’s model will be presented; then they will be used as heuristic tools in the analysis of Deut 13. The reading will show how identity construction processes in Deut 13 make a deliberate use of religious belief as a marker of collective identity, and how they ultimately depend on inner social articulations within Israel rather than on subversive political or theological claims against the Assyrian power. Ultimately, Deut 13 frames the shapingof a self-articulation within Israel: belief in YHWH as an identity marker allows the Israelite community to distance itself from one of his parts to define what Israel is and what it is not. The real tension felt in the passage is that between a plural community and a collectivity that attempts to standardize plurality in order to define itself, the tension between a real Israel and an ideal Israel, between the layers of historical reality and the normative abstractions that attempt to control it.
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