Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Repetition Is Helpful If Done Right; Appropriately Repeating Yourself Can Help Your Listener

Higher criticism is a school of thought which attributed the simularity of many stories in the Old Testament, especially in the Books Of Moses, to a redactor combining several traditions into book. In other words, according to higher criticism the repetition is a result of an editor having the same material twice and he did not want to through either out so he used both. There is a lot made over which name of God is used, Elohim or Yahweh, as a way of deviding up the texts. When I first heard the theory I was disturbed that there was an attitude that the scripture was not the Word Of God. There seems to have developed a consensous among conservative scholars that results of the higher criticism are so varied that shows the theory as bankrupt. While this is true, David Dorsey in his book
The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi
shows how the repetition is not a mistake, but a feature. This understanding of the Old Testament text is probably the strongest arguement against the higher critical school of thought. For instance the two stories of Abraham telling someone Sarah is his sister is repeated, not because a redactor (editor) did not know what to do with the story but because the author wanted to emphasize a point. (Abraham is not earning God's favor through his righteous life but he is weak and given God's grace freely.) Often the story of Judah's sexual sin with Tamar is seen as a strange story, but Dorsey rightly points it out as a study of contrast of Joseph and his fleeing sexual sin. Judah does wrong and is blessed; Joseph does right and is thrown in prison. It is a repetition which explains.
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