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Narrative Obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible

by Christopher T. Paris

Publication Year: 2014

Narrative critics of the Hebrew Bible often describe the biblical narrators as “laconic,” “terse,” or “economical.” The narrators generally remain in the background, allowing the story to proceed while relying on characters and dialogue to provide necessary information to readers. On those occasions when these narrators add notes to their stories, scholars may characterize such interruptions as “asides” or redactions.

Christopher T. Paris calls attention to just these narrative interruptions, in which the story teller “breaks frame” to provide information about a character or even in order to direct reader understanding and, Paris argues, to prevent undesirable construals or interpretations of the story.

Paris focuses on the Deuteronomistic History. Here the narrator occasionally obtrudes into the narrative to manage or deflect anticipated reader questions and assumptions in an interpretive stance that Paris compares with the commentary provided by later rabbis and in the Targums. Attention to narrative obtrusion offers an entry point into the world of the narrator, Paris argues, and thus promises to redefine aspects of narrative criticism.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. 1-6

Narrative critics of the Hebrew Bible can describe the biblical narrators as “laconic,” “terse,” or “economical.” Although these narrators view their stories from an omniscient perspective that gives them godlike knowledge of the events in the narrative, the narrators generally remain in the background...

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1. Narrative Economy, Artistry, and the Literary Imagination

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pp. 7-34

Generations of scholars have recognized the artistic qualities of the Hebrew Bible, praising the biblical narrators for the depth of their writing style in spite of the terse nature of their work. But while historical criticism has ostensibly applauded the efforts of the narrators in its quest to uncover authorial intentions...

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2. Omniscience and Obtrusiveness

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pp. 35-68

The previous chapter discussed the various methodologies that contributed to the formation of narrative criticism, the possibility of using redaction criticism for literary purposes rather than historical ones, and the potential alliance between narrative criticism and reader response in studying narrative...

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3. The Narrative Obstrusion of Judges 14:4

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pp. 69-100

The narrator’s foray into the story of Samson in Judg. 14:4 is a good example of narrative obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible, because the verse breaks frame at a key structuring point in the book of Judges and contains examples of both omniscience and obtrusiveness. The opening verses of chapter 14 recount...

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4. Reader Response, Narrator Foresight, and Foreclosure

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pp. 101-128

Reader response criticism focuses on the conversation between the text and the reader. The voice of the narrator is often overshadowed by this exchange, particularly in the case of the generally quiet, nonintrusive biblical narrator. Even in their discussions of the narrator, scholars do not always consider the...

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5. Selected Examples of Omniscience and Obtrusiveness in Ancient Near Eastern Literature

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pp. 129-168

In most literary studies, the concept of an omniscient narrator is taken for granted. Scholars rarely feel the need to explain or define the term since the idea of an all-knowing God serves as a convenient model for such a narrator. While some biblical scholars might question the extent of this deity’s...

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6. Conclusion

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pp. 168-176

By examining obtrusions directly communicated through the voice of the narrator, I have highlighted an anomalous action of the laconic narrator of the Hebrew Bible. The narrator not only inserts explanatory glosses and explicit commentary into the text, but massive intrusions occur as well. Although these...

Appendix A: Selected Obtrusions from the Hebrew Bible

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pp. 177-184

Appendix B: Some More Obtrusions Not Covered In This Study

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pp. 185-190


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pp. 191-212


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pp. 213-215

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451487459
E-ISBN-10: 1451487452
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451482119
Print-ISBN-10: 1451482116

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Emerging Scholars