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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

Creative Historiography

Prerabbinic texts are also useful in terms of tracing the notion of “creative historiography” from the late biblical through the early rabbinic periods. Jubilees, a pseudepigraphic book written in the second century BCE, at about the same time as Daniel, is filled with examples of creative historiography. For example, in retelling the creation story, Jubilees adds to the biblical text, noting among other additions that angels are fashioned on the first day of creation. Law is of paramount importance for this author, and he therefore retrojects many legal obligations from Exodus‐Deuteronomy into his retelling of the book of Genesis, so that Genesis would not be “merely” a narrative work. (This shows, incidentally, that the emphasis on “law” was not a rabbinic or Pharisaic innovation.) In addition, because the Torah was canonical for the author of Jubilees, the two different creation stories, which critical scholars see as separate (Gen 1.1–2.4a; 2.4b–3.24 ), are read canonically as a single story by one divine author. As a result, the second (Yahwistic) story is used to fill in the details of the more laconic first (Priestly) story. There is nothing remarkable about this development: Once the Bible is read canonically and the existence of sources forgotten, it becomes natural to interpret the stories in this fashion.

Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century CE, also offers many examples of creative historiography in his Jewish Antiquities. He often remolds biblical characters so that they better fit the ideals of his Greco‐Roman audience. He also restructures biblical texts, so that problems inherent in the text as it is currently ordered are resolved. For example, Gen 10 contains a genealogical description of the nations of the world that recounts their dispersion. Yet this is followed by the Tower of Babel story, which begins with the geographical unity of humanity. Josephus brilliantly solves this problem by reversing the order of these chapters, putting the genealogies after the story of the Tower of Babel. This is an early example of what would later become a fundamental principle of Jewish interpretation, that the narrative order of the biblical text does not necessarily represent the chronological order of the events it is depicting.

Jubilees and Josephus are also important because they offer explicit justifications for their radical rewriting of earlier traditions. Jubilees presents itself as revealed to Moses on Sinai with the help of a mediating angel. Josephus notes in the introduction to Antiquities: “The precise details of our scripture will, then, be set forth, each in its place, as my narrative proceeds, that being the procedure that I have promised to follow throughout this work, neither adding nor omitting anything” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, Books I–IV, trans. Henry St. John Thackeray [Loeb Classical Library], Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 9 ). If these two ideas may be combined, we have much of the basis for the rabbinic interpretation of the Bible, which understood itself as (1) the legitimate (oral) law revealed to Moses on Sinai, which was passed down from generation to generation; and (2) the authoritative law, which might differ in word from the phraseology of the biblical text, but is, in reality, “neither adding nor omitting anything.”

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