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Authenticating Oral and Memory Variants in Ancient Hebrew Literature

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle


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The unending pursuit of more accurate models for text production in Jewish antiquity gave birth in the 1990s to a new sub-discipline: orality and textuality. New reflection on the emergence of writing in an oral context moved scholarship away from the longstanding assumption that in some transitional ‘moment’ ancient Israel changed from a predominantly oral to a predominantly literate culture. Instead, scholars posited long centuries of transition in which the oral and the literate coexisted and, indeed, interacted. Despite its obvious and immediate implications of this model for textual criticism, studies of orality and textuality have not emphasized this dimension. Fortunate exceptions can be found in the work of Raymond Person Jr. and David Carr, who have provided many examples suggesting the influence of orality or memory on a text’s written features. The purpose of this essay is to reconsider the authentication of possible oral and memory variants. I bring to bear a particular set of text-internal evidence that has direct implications for their proposals, namely quotations and citations. I explore the implications of this evidence on the authentication and analysis of oral- and memory-variants, and I conclude that literary features that might be the result of the dynamics of orality or memory are not distinguishable from literary features that are the result of a variety of text-replicative conventions.


Original languageEnglish
StateSubmitted - 2019

    Research areas

  • oral, orality, reproduction, memory, textuality, variant, scribe, scribal practice, quotation, citation, inner-biblical

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