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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 237 Reviews to the growing debate on the nature and composition of biblical narrative and how it can be read. Elizabeth Bellefontaine Mount Saint Vincent University Halifax, Nova Scotia B3M 2J6 TELLING AND RETELLING: QUOTATION IN BIBLICAL NARRATIVE. By George W. Savran. Indiana Studies in Biblical Literature. pp. xii + 161. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1988. Cloth. Proverbs 30:5 admonishes, "Do not add to [God's] words, lest he indict you and you be proved a liar" (NJPS). A well-known midrash cites this verse against Eve, who augmented God's commandment not to eat from a certain tree under penalty of death (Gen 2:17) with a prohibition against touching it (Gen 3:3). Eve's misrepresentation or embellishment of God's injunction (which had been conveyed to her in a manner unknown to us) provided the serpent with a perfect means of deceiving her: "When he saw her passing in front of the tree, he grabbed her and pushed her into it. Then he said to her, 'See, you have not died! Just as you have not died from touching it, so you shall not die from eating it'" (Gen. Rab. 19.3). The discrepancies between God's and Eve's versions of the commandment , so cleverly worked out in that midrashic invention, are wonderful goads for traditional exegetes. (On the case in point, see Nehama Leibowitz, n'U)R~ ~O:l O'l"1' [pp. 22-27], as well as pp. 63-64 of the book under review.) For the modem critic, the use of quotations in biblical narrative is no less fascinating, and the topic receives an excellent treatment in Savran's book, a revision of his 1982 Brandeis University Ph.D. dissertation. In this short, well-written work, Savran examines the quotations found in Genesis through 2 Kings. After placing his study in the context of previous scholarship, he addresses two questions: The ftrst regards style and meaning: Given that quotations are themselves deliberate repetitions, how does change in language affect the meaning of the quotation? The second concerns the literary function of the quotation: How does the use ofquotation affect the meaning of a character's speech, and the meaning of the text as a whole? (p. 16). Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 238 Reviews In order to answer the first question, Savran discusses the conventions that govern the use of quoted direct speech: fonns of attribution, verifiability , patterns of discourse in which quotations occur, and indicators of "spokenness" (pp. 18-36). This discussion is clear, concise, and rigorous, and it leads to a striking conclusion: only ten out of ninety-four verifiable quotations of direct speech entail verbatim repetition of the original utterance, while the other eighty-four manifest some modification of the original. Such modification takes the fonn of shortening, lengthening, or paraphrase, and since it is so pervasive, its significance (as well as that of verbatim repetition) "can be assessed only in the light of the context in which the quotation is placed" (p. 36). The assessment of significance in context takes up most of the book in two separate chapters devoted to "story analysis" and "discourse analysis." The book also includes a summary conclusion, an appendix on quoted direct speech in Deuteronomy, a good bibliography, and useful indexes of topics discussed and biblical passages cited. At story-level, Savran shows that quoted direct speech sometimes does nothing more than convey infonnation (Oen 38:22, for example, p. 39), but sometimes reflects the speaker's more or less sophisticated rhetorical strategy (the serpent's drawing out of Eve, for instance). At discourselevel , the situation is complicated by the inevitable dissonance between a speech's effect on its fictional addressee and its effect on the implied reader of the narrative. The Joseph story is a wonderful case in point. Savran shows how the very speeches that convey a sense of Joseph's omniscience to his brothers reveal to the reader the limitations of Joseph's knowledge. Thus "the narrator allows the theme of divine providence to emerge in a unique way" (p. 86). Savran's exegetical discussion has sufficient breadth to provide an overview of his subject. He supplies just...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 237-239
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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