Biblical Narrative as Ethics?

The Limits of Exemplarity in Ancient Jewish Literature

In: Dead Sea Discoveries
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  • 1 The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillUSAChapel Hill, NC
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This paper considers whether biblical narrative was used as part of a technology of the self in Jewish antiquity. Many have seen the assumption that Israel’s ancestors were perfect and, hence, worthy of imitation as essential to the Bible’s identity as Scripture around the turn of the Common Era. Recently several scholars have detailed the specific dynamics of exemplarity among certain readers of the Bible, such as Philo, particularly in light of Hellenistic and Roman models. Such work draws attention to the relative lack of explicit attestation for such a practice in much of ancient Jewish literature. As a next step, we need to further delineate what constitutes a literary practice of exemplarity and explore alternatives or additions to it, such as memorialization. To do so, this paper examines a range of texts, including the Genesis Apocryphon, the Book of Jubilees, Ben Sira, Philo, Josephus, and the rabbinic collection, Genesis Rabbah.

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