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“Literary” Craft and Performative Power in the Ancient Near East: The Hebrew Bible in Context

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Chapter Summary

Biblical scholars have done a great deal to advance our appreciation of literary sophistication of biblical texts. Since spoken and written words were understood as capable of wielding divine power, elite group of literate scribes naturally guarded this power carefully and considered it a secret that was not for the uninitiated. Moreover, it is important to realize that acts of divination also constitute acts of divine judgment. Since the literati who composed the omen compendia also created the literary texts, their word plays in the latter corpus function similarly as indices of transformative power and vehicles of divine judgment. In order to understand ancient Israelite literary craft two factors must be recognised. The first is a conception of words and texts as powerful technologies capable of manipulating reality and activating divine judgment. The second is a social context that places literary production in the hands of mantics, diviners, and/or priests.

Keywords: Hebrew Bible; literary craft; performative power; social context



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