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Power, Otherness, and Gender in the Biblical Short Stories

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image of Horizons in Biblical Theology

The concern of this article will be with the books of Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Judith, and Tobit. I would argue that we might profitably compare these five books with regard to themes running throughout them. All evidence similarities in how they portray power relationships, alienation and otherness, theology and divine activity, gender categories, and how their protagonists attain ultimate success. Though this set does not represent a collection of works traditionally grouped together in biblical studies,1 find, nonetheless, that these five literary documents evidence ample similarities that we may beneficially consider how they relate to one another. First and most obvious is that each of these books is a free-standing work which is named by a single character, and thus the action is (at least initially) focused around this individual. They are all most likely compositions of the same general time period in Jewish history, during the Second Temple period. All are narrative in structure and brief in length, and might be seen as representatives of a short story genre.2 In all of them we find continuations and reworkings of ideas from the Torah and the Prophets.3 Also, they all function as diaspora narratives; that is, addressing issues that Jews would have been facing in the diaspora. Esther, Daniel, and Tobit are written directly about diaspora situations. Ruth and Judith, though set within in the geographical boundaries of Judah, likewise deal with the question of the relationship between Israelites and other peoples and how to successfully live with other cultures.

Affiliations: 1: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


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