Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations

By Antony F. Campbell; Mark A. O'brien | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Studies
in Composite Texts

Introductory Reflections
One result of the most welcome entry of serious literary study to the field of modern hiblical scholarship is the commitment of considerable scholarly energy to demonstrating that apparently composite texts are or can be read as coherent literary unities.1 This raises a serious, if ironic, question: Are we in such cases unconsciously imposing a modern Western convention on ancient texts? In this chapter, which looks at some of the implications for interpretation of a final text comprising preexisting sources, such an issue is critical. It is important to have some sense of what we can know about the conventions governing Israel’s biblical literature.2The only basic route to discovery of literary conventions is study of the literature itself. Conclusions about literature will be affected by assumptions concerning its use. The conditions of use for ancient literature are likely to be very different from the conditions surrounding the use of literature today. It is worthwhile looking at what we know in this area.
1. The royal court, whether in Samaria or Jerusalem, would be an evident source for administrative and legal documents and historical records, as well as narratives for both entertainment and the education of courtiers.
2. The temple in Jerusalem is another major source of administrative documents, literature, and law related to liturgy (cult), as well as apparently legal documents (Josiah: the law code); sacred legends, stories, and literature (ark narrative, priestly docu-

1. E.g., the attitude evinced by Meir Sternberg: “Moreover, traditional speculations about documents and sources and twice-told tales have now piled up so high on the altar of genesis as to obscure the one remarkable fact in sight, which bears on poetics. Granting the profusion of variants that went into the making of the Bible, the fact remains that the finished discourse never introduces them as variants but rather strings them together into continuous action” (The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) 127). It is legitimate to ask whether Sternberg is demanding introductions in the form of subheads and footnotes in the finished discourse of the biblical manuscripts, or whether something more subtle might do.

2. On the concepts of competence and convention, see John Barton, Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study (London: Darton, Longman &Todd, 1984) 11–16,26–29.

-203-

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Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction: Pentateuchal Source Criticism 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Priestly Document 21
  • Chapter 3 - The Yahwist Narrative 91
  • Chapter 4 - The Elohist Texts 161
  • Chapter 5 - Nonsource Texts: Material Other Than P, J, and E 195
  • Chapter 6 - Studies in Composite Texts 203
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index of Biblical Passages by Source 259
  • Index of Modern Authors 265
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