Textual Loss and Recovery in the Hebrew Bible

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Textual Loss and Recovery in the Hebrew Bible

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Title: Textual Loss and Recovery in the Hebrew Bible
Author: Rainbow, Jesse
Citation: Rainbow, Jesse. 2012. Textual Loss and Recovery in the Hebrew Bible. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation is a study of four ancient stories about the creation and transmission of all or part of the Hebrew Bible: Moses and the stone tablets (Exodus 32-34), Josiah and the discovery of the law-book (2 Kings 22-23), the scroll of Jeremiah and Baruch (Jeremiah 36), and Ezra's legendary restoration of the entire Bible (4 Ezra 14). Each story is a variation on the common narrative pattern of textual loss and recovery, a fact that is noteworthy because this narrative theme stands in tension with one of the cardinal aspirations of scribal culture in antiquity, as it is known from colophons: the fixity, permanence, and inviolability of writing. When the scribal creators of biblical literature told stories about the texts they produced, they represented the text in its early history as vulnerable and threatened. The purpose of this dissertation is to account for that counter-intuitive choice. My central argument is that in each of the three biblical stories, the common narrative pattern of textual loss and recovery serves as the vehicle for a particular argument related to the textualization of divine revelation, and that the stories function in ways that a plotline of uninterrupted textual transmission would not. Stories of textual loss and recovery can be viewed as strategic transactions in which the ideal of the pristine text is sacrificed in order to express other arguments about divine written revelation. After discussing three texts from the Hebrew Bible, I discuss the legend of Ezra's miraculous restoration of the entire Bible after the exile, reconstructing the biblical-exegetical background of 4 Ezra 14 and tracing the meanings of the story in later Jewish, Christian, and Islamic literature.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288519
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