Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel

By Michael Fishbane | Go to book overview

14 Conclusions

A. The range of styles, topics, and hermeneutical techniques associated with inner-biblical aggadic exegesis is considerable. Culled from a broad spectrum of genres, including epic narrative, historiography, oratory, liturgy and prophetic oracles and condemnations, this aggadic exegesis also derives from a broad variety of ancient Israelite traditions. Thus, the received aggadic interpretations utilize legal traditions found in the civil law corpora or the epic narratives (cf. Gen. 9: 1-7; Jer. 2: 26, 34, 3: 1, 5: 21-4), descriptive materials drawn from theological, epic, court, and royal narratives (cf. Deut. 4: 16-19, 8: 3; Josh. 1: 6-9; 1 Chron. 13: 7-14, 15: 1-2, 12: 15; Hos. 12; Jer. 9: 3-5; 2 Chron. 20: 31-6), liturgical traditions derived from the attribute formulary or the priestly benediction (cf. Deut. 7: 7-10; Mic. 7: 18-20; Mal. 1: 6-2: 9), cultic rules and behaviours taken from priestly prescriptions (cf. Jer. 2: 2; Isa. 58: 1-10; Hag. 2: 10-14), as well as prophetic oracles of various sorts (cf. 2 Chron. 15: 3-5, 20: 20). From these and similar examples it is clear that the imaginative life of the aggadic reformulators of the Israelite traditions was nurtured significantly by these ancient teachings. Regarding this dynamic much more must be said. At this point, however, it is first necessary to draw attention to a distinguishing characteristic of aggadic exegesis that is accentuated by the broad spectrum of genres from which such exegesis is derived and into which it is cast. This characteristic may be succinctly identified by the double shift involved in aggadic exegesis, a shift in historical and literary context. Put differently, one may say that the movement from traditum to aggadic traditio involves both a shift to a new historical setting, such that a given traditum is aggadically revised by new teachers in new life-settings, and a shift to a new literary setting, such that an aggadic traditio is embodied in new literary milieux and, commonly, in new literary modes as well.

1. A proper understanding of the historical shift just alluded to does not rest solely upon recognizing the temporal belatedness of a given aggadic traditio in relation to the traditum from which it is derived, or in the fact that the traditio is articulated by teachers or spokesmen who have inherited the various forms of ancient traditum. Such factors are, of course, essential, though they are inevitably subordinate to the more vital issue which pertains to the historical exigencies that elicited the literary transformations in the first place. These exigencies can be

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