Date of Graduation

Summer 2016


Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Victor Matthews


The transition from generational morality to individual moral responsibility in Judah during King Josiah's time is present in Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. However, the fact that such an approach to morality would survive a period in which Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite cultures exerted cultural pressure on the Israelites to conform is rather astonishing. This thesis applies memetics – a theory that applies evolutionary models to cultural development – to the topic in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the transition from generational morality to individual moral responsibility. I argue, based on the insights that an evolutionary understanding of culture offers, that there were inherent aspects of the new approach to morality that gave individual moral responsibility a high fitness value, which allowed it to not only survive external pressures, but to survive into later rabbinic literature as the dominant form of morality. Primarily, this thesis posits that the survival of individual morality was dependent on the fact that the new morality affirmed cultural identity in contrast and opposition to Assyrian and Babylonian cultural dominance; it promotes an exclusivist mentality; and finally, it enabled Israelites to move away from the theological nihilism of generational morality.


meme, memetics, ethics, morality, Hebrew Bible, Josiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel

Subject Categories



© Jonathan Michael Gracza

Open Access

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Religion Commons