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Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 201 Reviews (both Corinth and Ephesus are claimed as the site of Paul's longest stay in a place), rare misspellings (Pansanius for Pausanius? [po 363]) and some inexplicable glitches (Athens discussed without mention of Alexander's empire building) are relatively minor problems. The volume is sturdily presented on quality paper, yielding better photo reproduction than some selections of photos present. It can be used in Religious Studies classes at parish, synagogue, high school, and perhaps college courses. It seems a bit thin for seminarians unless they are relatively blank slates on Middle Eastern history and culture. Roger S. Boraas Upsala College East Orange, NJ 07017 ORAL WORLD AND WRITTEN WORD: ANCIENT ISRAELITE LITERATURE. By Susan Niditch. Library of Ancient Israel. Pp. xi + 170. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996. Cloth. The modem study of folklore and the modem study of the Hebrew Bible have often traveled hand in hand. It was Herder who first joined these two fields together, rhapsodizing about the wisdom of das Volk and the pure, untrammeled spirituality of the "shepherd's stories" in Genesis. Hermann Gunkel raised the folkloric analysis of the Hebrew Bible to a new level, particularly by inventing the task of Form Criticism in seeking the original setting (Sitz im Leben) of biblical literature in the daily life of the people. Gunkel's massive influence, primarily through his great commentaries on Genesis and Psalms, has had the unfortunate consequence in biblical scholarship of reifying folkloric analysis to its state of the art in ca. 1910 (the date of the third edition of his Genesis commentary). As a result, many biblical scholars still think (following Gunkel) that oral tradition in ancient Israel consisted of simple, short forms of narrative and poetry, wisdom, and law, suitable for the simple purity of primitive rural folk. The road from these simple forms to the complexity of the literature of the Hebrew Bible must have been long and complicated indeed-so attest such monuments of biblical scholarship as Martin Noth's History of Pentateuchal Traditions. But the study of folklore and oral traditions has burgeoned in the last half-century or so, and it behooves biblical scholars to try to catch up. This is the task that Susan Niditch has engaged in several books, including Hebrew Studies 39 (1998) 202 Reviews Underdogs and Tricksters: A Prelude to Biblical Folklore (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987) and Folklore and the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993). Her latest book, Oral World and Written Word, continues this rapprochement between biblical scholarship and folklore studies. Her chief aim is to break down the traditional (mis-)conception of the difference between "oral" and "written" mentalities that has ruled biblical scholarship since Gunkel. Rather than seeing this contrast as one of "primitive and simple" versus "worldly and complex," she aims to show that oral tradition may also be stylistically sophisticated and that the opposition between oral and written mentalities is better redefmed as a continuum. Her agenda and challenge to other scholars is to ascertain the degree to which the written texts of the Hebrew Bible partake of the attitudes and aesthetics of the predominantly oral world of ancient Israel. To achieve these impressive aims, Niditch's book is structured into three parts. In the first she explores the question of oral-traditional style and what it means to say that a written text partakes of an "oral aesthetics" or "oral register." In my view this is the most accomplished and important section of the book. Most such studies attempt to discern whether particular biblical texts were originally orally composed, but, as Niditch notes, these studies have not yielded many clear conclusions. Niditch turns this kind of inquiry to better use in letting the written text be written and by asking instead whether it is shaped by an oral aesthetics or oral style. She discusses various features that are typical of oral style-repetition, formulas, epithets , type-scenes, and traditional story patterns-and identifies such aspects of the "oral register" in the written texts. This is a significant move in the application of folklore methods to biblical studies. If sensitivity to the nuances of oral literature allows us to perceive better the...


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