Narrative Obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible

Narrative Obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible

Copyright Date: 2014
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    Narrative Obtrusion in the Hebrew Bible
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8745-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (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, allowing the story to proceed while relying on characters and dialogue to provide necessary information to readers. On those occasions when the narrators add notes to their stories, scholars characterize such interruptions as asides. A narrative interruption occurs when the narrator steps out of the shadows and remarks on the story, perhaps by providing a historical...

  6. 1 Narrative Economy, Artistry, and the Literary Imagination
    (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 and origins in history, historical critics have often fallen short of addressing literary questions. Form criticism, particularly in the work of Hermann Gunkel, served as a possible foundation for narrative criticism by focusing on scenes, characters, and narrative structure, leaving historical critics with road maps to the literary world...

  7. 2 Omniscience and Obtrusiveness
    (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 obtrusiveness. This chapter offers a methodology for determining obtrusiveness. This methodology faces several challenges, including narrative criticism’s lack of a clearly defined system for interpretation, the difficulty of combining historical-critical methods in literary concerns, and the inconsistent manner in which the biblical narrators employ obtrusiveness. In spite of these difficulties, I argue that obtrusions can be identified by distinguishing...

  8. 3 The Narrative Obstrusion of Judges 14:4
    (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 Samson’s desire to marry a Timnite woman. When his parents object, Samson proclaims that this girl is the only one for him. In spite of the fact that his parents have previously received divine revelations, such as an angel foretelling Samson’s birth to them, they lack an important...

  9. 4 Reader Response, Narrator Foresight, and Foreclosure
    (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 fact that the narrator acts as a reader of the text being composed or redacted. As the initial reader of a text, the narrator foresees some of the questions that may arise from textual gaps or inquisitive readers. The narrator employs literary strategies based on the type of reader envisioned. If the...

  10. 5 Selected Examples of Omniscience and Obtrusiveness in Ancient Near Eastern Literature
    (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 knowledge, the majority of literary critics define omniscience based on the totality of knowledge possessed by the infinitely wise God of Jewish and Christian tradition.¹ Although philosophers and theologians may wrangle over definitions of omniscience, most narrative critics accept the literary presence of (1) the omniscient narrator and...

  11. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 169-176)

    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 obtrusions stop short of directly addressing the reader, as in an apostrophe, they are a sharper manifestation of omniscience.

    Obtrusions occur because the narrator preemptively responds to a question or assumption that may arise from a knowledgeable reader. Because this type of reader may have a tendency to be creative or theologically presumptuous, the...

  12. Appendix A: Selected Obtrusions from the Hebrew Bible
    (pp. 177-184)
  13. Appendix B: Some More Obtrusions Not Covered In This Study
    (pp. 185-190)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-215)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 216-216)