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The Theological Function of Repetition in the Old Testament Canon

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image of Horizons in Biblical Theology

It is notable feature of the Old Testament that several accounts or passages occur more than once, often in similar but not identical fashion. Such repetitions have o en been a key feature leading to source-critical analyses of Old Testament texts, but several different types of examples of repetition are discussed in order to demonstrate that there is a bigger question to hand: why should the Old Testament canon be so marked by repetitions of material large and small? It is suggested that such repetition is not an unforeseen by-product of the editing and collation process, nor is it simply an editorial desire to include all tried and tested texts regardless of overlap. Rather repetition serves a theological function, which comes into focus when we consider Old Testament texts as a form of testimony. In the light of Deuteronomy 19:15 and questions of trustworthy testimony, it is suggested that textual repetition in the Old Testament serves to foreground a claim to the nature of these texts as reliable witness to the God of Israel. Some hermeneutical implications are explored briefly.


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