Ancient rabbinic myth and mythmaking develop along two thematic tracks. One is marked by a thematic continuity with mythic topics, images, and scenarios found in earlier ancient Near Eastern and biblical sources or traditions. Particularly notable were the diverse accounts of a divine combat with a primordial sea monster, the figure of a divine arm of power, and the abandonment by a divine being of their city or temple due to displeasure at human behaviour. The second track is marked by thematic innovation, whereby new mythic themes, figures, and topics are developed. These include the participation of God in the various afflictions of Israel, in its exiles, and in the redemptions to come; and they are also represented by dramatic divine labours and mourning, as well as by accounts of divine impoverishment and weakness. Both tracks focus on features of God's actions and personality. These mythic modalities are of an extrovert and introvert character, respectively. That is, they focus on external divine behaviours and actions, as well as internal emotions and passions.
But whether the various topics of rabbinic myth are continuous with their predecessors, or discontinuous with these cases, the mythic teachings or instructions are themselves not self-standing. That is to say, the myths do not appear as an independent genre, independently presented. They are rather variously linked to Scripture and presented alongside it. Hence the scriptural verse and its mythic content are two languages presented in tandem: the first being solely biblical in content and character, the other being wholly rabbinic in its formulation and form. Put differently, we may observe that the mythic content is doubled—being both the encrypted, fragmentary, or obscured myths of Scripture, and the explicit, elaborated, and detailed myths of the rabbis. Accordingly, Scripture serves both as the proof-text for any given myth and its core form, apart from the exegetical explication. Granted, in numerous cases the scriptural proof-text is arguably a secondary juxtaposition or justification of the mythmaker; nevertheless, even this addition indirectly proves the point at hand. Rabbinic myth does not appear by itself, but as a function or feature of Scripture.
Scripture serves rabbinic myth in two further respects. The first is as its thematic source, the second as its hermeneutical resource. By 'thematic' is meant the fact that the topics of rabbinic myth are the topics of world origins and Israelite sacred history (creation, exodus, temple, and exile) as
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Publication information: Book title: Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking. Contributors: Michael Fishbane - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: Oxford. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 191.
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