The Field Of Biblical Literary Criticism

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Research in the field of "biblical literary criticism" have rapidly increased in recent decades. The publication of Robert Alter 's 1981 The Art of Biblical Narrative stamps the symbolic arrival of a style of analysis that has now become entrenched in modern biblical research. Robert Alter argues that the Bible is a largely cohesive literary text to be read with a literary purpose. In this essay it is asked if assumptions about texts predicated on the study of modern literature can be profitably applied to a multiple-authored, multi-layered collection of ancient provenance such as the Hebrew Bible and offers a brief critique of Alter 's discussion of the artistic merits and unity of Genesis chapters 37-39.

For a thousand years the Western world has looked toward the Bible as a work of sacred history and the foundational account of the development of the Jewish people. While Alter does not completely reject the historicity of the Bible, he sees it as secondary; rather, in Alter 's view, the authors of the Bible developed a form of “prose fiction in order to tell the revolutionary tale of monotheistic revelation contained within its pages.” Chapter by chapter Alter makes clear the various literary methods and techniques employed by the Biblical authors, including narration, repetition, parallelism, analogy and direct dialogue. By learning to uncover the inherently literary nature of the Bible, Alter hopes to reach a greater understanding of Biblical narrative, and, in
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