• The Tower of Babel: A Case Study in the Competing Methods of Historical and Modern Literary Criticism

    Joel Baden (see profile)
    Bible. Pentateuch
    Item Type:
    Genesis, Tower of Babel, Hebrew bible, Pentateuch
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    Since the rise of modern literary criticism of the Hebrew Bible in the 1970s, its proponents have sought to use the results of this method to argue for the compositional unity of the biblical text, particularly in regard to the Pentateuch. They have held up the literary structures they find in the text—alliteration, repetition, and other forms of wordplay, as well as larger structures such as chiasm—as proof of a conscious artistry on the part of the biblical author, an artistry that, in their opinion, belies any attempt to separate the text into constituent documents or layers. That these literary observations are useful in reading the final form of the text is hardly in question; but whether they are, in fact, an effective means of countering the results of historical criticism remains in doubt. In this article I will address this very issue by means of a detailed examination of a particular passage, the Tower of Babel narrative, and the ways in which modern literary critics have attempted to prove its unity. The results of this case study will lead to a discussion of the relationship between the two methods of modern literary criticism and historical criticism.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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