1. I started Reading Between Texts: Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible, a collection of essays on (well) intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible. My hope is to comment on an essay a day (except Saturday), as I’ve been doing with Ancient Israelite Religion.
So far, intertextuality appears to be reading two texts side-by-side. When this happens, we compare and contrast. We approach one text with the other in mind, and new questions emerge, for one text leads us to notice things in the other text. For example, God dramatically intervenes in the Exodus, but he doesn’t in Esther. Rather, Esther has to use her wits and beauty. What’s that say about the Book of Esther’s view concerning the roles of God and humanity in the well-being of Israel?
Daniel is bolder with the king than Esther is. She has to crawl on egg-shells to get an audience with him. And, although she is clearly intelligent, she’s not valued for that by the king, who focuses instead on her beauty. What’s that say about the treatment of women in Israel’s exile?
I’m going to enjoy this book because intertextuality allows one to play a little bit with the text. I’m not saying that we can abuse the text or make it mean anything we want, but rather that we can compare, contrast, juxtapose, and arrive at interesting insights in the process. I’m especially looking forward to reading the essay that reads the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 in light of Samson. I doubt the essay is saying that the author of Isaiah 53 had Samson in mind. Rather, it’s seeing what happens when we read the two texts together.
It should be fun!
2. In the meantime, I’ll be reading Theodore Mullen’s Ethnic Myths and Pentateuchal Foundations: A New Approach to the Formation of the Pentateuch. I’ve not gotten enough into the book to see what his perspective is, but I have impressions, which could be right or wrong. Mullen doesn’t seem to care for the Documentary Hypothesis, which divides the Pentateuch into four sources: J, E, P, and D. He recommends R.N. Whybray’s The Making of the Pentateuch, which (if I’m not mistaken) argues that contradictions in the Pentateuch don’t mean that it had to come from different hands. Mullen appears to speak glowingly of synchronic approaches to the text (i.e., the literary approach), which treat it as one piece, rather than dividing it into sources. And he points out on page 2 that one can create national traditions from whole cloth. So will his point be that, at some point in Israel’s history, someone wrote the Pentateuch to be Israel’s national history? We will see!