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At the Intersection of Scribal Training and Theological Profundity: Chiasm as an Editorial Technique in the Primeval History and Deuteronomy
|Title||At the Intersection of Scribal Training and Theological Profundity: Chiasm as an Editorial Technique in the Primeval History and Deuteronomy|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||2020|
|Authors||Levinson, Bernard M.|
|Book Title||Chiasmus: The State of the Art|
|Publisher||BYU Studies/Book of Mormon Central|
|City||Provo, UT/Springville, UT|
|Keywords||Ancient Near East; Chiasmus; Creation; Decalogue; Great Flood; Justice; Laws; Legal; Literary Device; Literary Form; Scribe; Ten Commandments|
There can be little doubt that ancient Near Eastern scribes, including those in ancient Israel, were well-trained in a wide range of technical devices associated with the composition, copying, transmission, editing, collation, revision, reworking, and interpretation of texts. My focus in the present study will be on one of the most interesting of these devices, the literary chiasm, in which textual content is ordered in an ABC::CʹBʹAʹ chiastic, or “x-shaped,” pattern. In many cases, once this pattern is recognized within a chapter or literary unit, an ostensibly haphazard or difficult to follow textual sequence gains a sense of order, as a logical structure emerges from the text. As such, recognition of the chiasm provides an intellectual and religious gain for the reader. Moreover, a study of chiasmus can provide a window into how scribes and editors worked with texts in antiquity.
My research focus is less on the chiasm as an isolated literary device than on what the chiasm can tell us about the compositional history of a text: how it came to be written or edited. My primary interest is in the legal, literary, and religious history of ancient Israel. I have investigated the full range of literary devices that were employed in the editing, copying, transmission, revision, and interpretation of texts, using the controls of cuneiform literature in Akkadian and Ugaritic, as well as the reception of the biblical text in Second Temple Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
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