Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
First Committee Member
Mark A. Weinstein
Number of Pages
Dogmatic biblical exegesis had a near monopoly until well into the modern era. Similarly, in academic circles, "biblical criticism" has invariably meant historical-critical study of the Bible. Both dogmatic and historical interpreters have read the Bible primarily for information--either about religion or history. The Bible's cognitive content has been primary. But now, in the latter part of the twentieth century, the intrinsic literary worth of the Bible is being widely noted; scholarly articles on the Bible regularly appear in standard literary journals; The current explosion of interest in this field may lead one to suspect 'faddism.' Nothing could be further from the truth. This dissertation traces the long and distinguished history of the literary approach to the Bible. From the very beginning, literary approaches have existed alongside more dominant ones. We may say that literary study of the Bible has been a discipline-in-waiting, watching for an opportunity to be born. By all appearances, it need wait no longer; Given the current critical climate, perhaps literary approaches would be more accurate, for there is as yet no consensus on method. Some observers have commented on the apparently chaotic condition of modern criticism. Yet what many perceive as chaos may be evidence of the fundamental vigor of a criticism that has for too long been suppressed by nonliterary paradigms; After circumscribing the limits of a 'literary' approach to the Bible, this historical survey shows how literary study of the Bible is as old as the biblical writings themselves. Later biblical writers freely appropriated and reworked earlier material. During the Middle Ages, rabbinic commentary and Christian allegorical exegesis picked up on literary elements of the biblical text. Based upon the Bible's many rhetorical figures, Renaissance humanism elicited numerous defenses of biblical 'poetry.' The historical 'difficulties' highlighted by Enlightenment criticism were fundamentally literary problems. Nineteenth-century philological advances were a necessary prerequisite for contemporary literary study. Finally, the Romantic revolt inspired the 'Bible as Literature' movement, which has come to maturity in our generation.
Bible; History; Literacy; Study
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Wall, Joseph Patrick, "A history of literary study of the Bible" (1993). UNLV Retrospective Theses & Dissertations. 2980.