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Reading God’s Will? Function and Status of Oracle Interpreters in Ancient Jewish and Greek Texts

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
Author:
Hanna Tervanotko McMaster University

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Abstract

There is a rising scholarly consensus that consulting the divine will did not altogether cease in the Second Temple period. Rather, it took different forms, and one was consulting the divine will via existing texts. Meanwhile, the identity of such interpreters remains unclear. This paper explores the possible identities of interpreters by comparing the figures that interpret Jewish oracles with the chresmologoi that appear in ancient Greek compositions. Such a comparison provides new insights into the divinatory use of written oracles. The interpreters of the Jewish and Greek texts operated at least partly in similar ways. While their methods of interrogating the oracles are somewhat alike, Jewish interpreters enjoyed a status similar to that of prophetic figures, whereas Greek interpreters operated more independently and without a similarly evident divine mandate.

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