Flooded With Exegesis: Comparative Hermeneutics on Genesis 6-9 and a Call for Exegetical Reconciliation
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The Bible works with a conscientiousness towards its language and wording which invites interpretation on the part of the reader. This is arguably, and most simply, attested to by those instances in which biblical language suddenly becomes “loose” or wordy. A prime example of this can be seen within character description. Unlike the modern western novel which often provides the reader with numerous details of a character's appearance and idiosyncratic behaviors, helpfully constructing a realistic and familiar character to the reader, the biblical narrative only gives the reader those pieces of description which are necessary for the plot, for the narrative itself. For example, in II Sam. 11, when David seduces (or rapes) Bathsheba, the only introductory information the writer offers to the reader concerning the presence of Bathsheba is: “[And David saw] a woman bathing atop the roof and the woman was very attractive...Bathsheba the daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite” (II Sam. 11:2-3) (personal translation). Bathsheba will become a sexual, perhaps romantic interest of David's, ultimately producing the successor to the throne of Israel, the renowned king Solomon; would it not have been helpful to give such an important figure and the cause of so much narrative action some more “body” (pun intended), some more characterization? As a counter example, other moments of the Bible include details seemingly extraneous, almost distracting from the action being conveyed. In Esther 8, the Persian king Ahasuerus decrees that the Jews are to be permitted to fight in their own self defense against the troops of Haman who has decreed their genocide. When the narrator explains that Ahasuerus conveys this decree in a letter (the normative form of communication in the Persian period), the verse reads, “[Ahasuerus] had [the letters] written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with Renz 3 the king's signet. Letters were dispatched by mounted couriers, riding steeds used in the king's service, bred of the royal stud” (Est. 8:10).1 When the text is about to describe a crucial decree governmentally-ordaining the possibility of hope for the Jewish people in the face of grave danger, it seems awfully irrelevant to the Jews of the time, and certainly to the concerned reader, precisely what types of horses and riders were used to carry out the message. Yet the verse uses three phrases (regarding mounted couriers, etc.), all employed to describe the riders and horses.
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