The compilational history of the 'Megilloth' : canon, contoured intertextuality and meaning in the writings
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It is widely agreed among scholars that the third part of the Hebrew canon, the Writings, is a miscellaneous collection of materials, as its name would seem to suggest. My thesis re-examines this assumption. The introduction sets out the critical issues, outlines the thesis and charts the larger picture from which the thesis makes a limited contribution. Chapter one explains my approach. In critical conversation with Brevard Childs and his adherents, I examine the need for contours within the canonical context that respect the discrete voice of each book, while understanding it in relationship to the larger collection in which it is located. The canon is not like a street map, rather, it is more like a topographical map providing contour and depth to the canonical terrain. Taking Childs’ approach one step further; I examine the formation of the Twelve Minor prophets and the Psalter in order to develop a redaction critical grammar for the compilation of texts into collections that serves as a methodological check for the project. This grammar includes the use of catchwords or phrases to bind adjacent books near their seams, the juxtaposition of similar or contrasting themes, framing devices, and superscriptions to provide an overall structure. Chapter two analyzes the formation of the Writings in antiquity. There were a number of different conceptions of sacred literature within Judaism, but probably within temple circles the canon of the Jews was closed prior to the end of the first century C.E. The Prologue to Ben Sira testifies to a tripartite arrangement of the Jewish canon, and 4 Ezra, which provides solid evidence that the canon was closed sometime prior to the end of the first century C.E., confirms the antiquity of a tripartite arrangement. Chapter three explores the various orders for the Writings. Within the conceptual world of Judaism, the concern with the order of the books is not the result of the invention of the codex or long scroll, but rather arises from the holiness attributed to these books in association with their strong connection to the temple and its sacred space. Despite the consensus that there are a vast number of orders for the collection, in fact there is only evidence that the Masoretic (Leningrad Codex) and the Talmudic (Baba Batra 14b) orders existed prior to the twelfth century C.E. The grouping of the Megilloth in the Masoretic tradition is probably not the result of liturgical practices within Judaism, as is commonly thought, which leaves room to re-examine the antiquity of this order. Both arrangements reveal a similar logic of association among the books of the Writings with the possible exception of Ruth. Chapter four explores the location of Ruth in the Former Prophets between Judges and Samuel and in the Writings after Proverbs and before the Psalter. Ruth has been purposefully figured into the Former Prophets and then later was integrated into the Writings after Proverbs as a wisdom book. In this case, different orders bear witness to the search for meaningful associations within the canon. Chapter five probes Esther’s position as part of the sub-collection of Lamentations, Esther, Daniel and Ezra-Nehemiah, in which it always follows Lamentations and is juxtaposed to Daniel. Within this canonical frame I explore Esther’s links to Daniel 1-6 and Lamentations 5 and the way this sets in relief Esther’s theology. Chapter six briefly observes some compilational phenomena in Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations. I also examine the structure of the Megilloth as a whole and the forces at work in this sub-collection. The thesis concludes, due to historical and exegetical reasons, that the codification of the Megilloth into a collection is an integral part of the canonical process rather than a formal feature that is the result of some supposed effort to close the canon.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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