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The Incubation Type-Scene: A Working Definition

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Chapter Summary


This introductory chapter of the book discusses why the history of religions approach to incubation has failed in biblical and ancient Near Eastern studies: it has much to do with the problem of definition. After differentiating three possible levels of definition of incubation, it proposes to focus on incubation as a literary device. In particular the chapter proposes to use the Homeric conception of type-scene in defining and discerning incubation as a literary device. Finally, two points are made towards the justification of the use of type-scene: 1) Type-scene is a motif-sequence, while incubation is an action-sequence; 2) Just as we needed a flexible definition of incubation for a comparative perspective, so also we need a parallel flexible definition of incubation as a literary device. The conception of type-scene as a pre-verbal Gestalt provides such flexibility. Recognition of type-scene is then done by the principle of family resemblance.

Keywords:ancient Near Eastern studies; biblical studies; incubation; type-scene


Any historical review of the study of an incubation scene in the first two columns of KTU 1.17 must begin with Julian Obermann's 1946 monograph, How Daniel Was Blessed With a Son. This chapter examines, from the perspective of the incubation type-scene, various motifs that occur together in the first two columns of the ’Aqhatu story: sonlessness, offering, ritual clothing, nakedness, sleeping, theophany, divine speech, change of mood, and fulfillment of promise-command. The configuration of motifs occurring in the text not only represents the tradition upon which the poet draws, but also reveals the poet's high degree of literary artifice. Finally, it should be noted that the incubation type-scene also anticipates the future plot of the story by foreshadowing and patterning.

Keywords:incubation type-scene; Julian Obermann; KTU 1.17; motifs




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