Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview
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4 Conclusions

A. In comparison with the records and traditions available from Mesopotamia and Egypt, the extant testimonies to scribal activity preserved in the Hebrew Bible are meagre and difficult to evaluate. Nevertheless, ancient Israel had a long and multifaceted scribal practice. The intent of the preceding analyses has been, therefore, to call attention to this long history and its diverse aspects, while giving particularly close attention to a typology of the exegetical content, concerns, and techniques of the scribes of ancient Israel.

The official political and bureaucratic role of scribes is attested in biblical sources beginning with the royal council established by David (2 Sam. 8: 16-18∼20: 23-5). 1 This role is complemented by the particular involvement of diverse groups of scribal tradents in the transmission of the several major genres of ancient Israelite literature (for example, the cultic-legal, the historical, the wisdom, and the liturgical, among others). There is certainly no evidence that only scribes from the priestly guilds transcribed and transmitted Torah-instructions; or that only scribes from within prophetic or wisdom circles worked on their corresponding materials. In fact, scribes from the wisdom tradition were manifestly involved in the transmission of Torah-texts (cf. Jer. 8: 8); and there is evidence suggesting that prophetic groups and attitudes were involved in the shaping and composition of historio-graphical literature. 2 Nevertheless, it is reasonable that those groups most familiar with certain types of literature would have had primary involvement in their transmission, and in the development of distinct stylistic features. Thus, the colophon formulary of the cultic-legal material (e.g.

) is easily distinguished from the colophon formularies found in prophetic (cf. ), liturgical (cf. ), and wisdom literature (cf. ). 3 Similarly, the title formulary—the superscriptions—of the different biblical genres also

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