Rhetorical strategy in the composition of the Pentateuch

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Greco-Roman theorists of rhetoric pointed out the persuasive force of story, list and divine sanction in combination and considered it dangerous. That practical insight, if not that evaluation, was shared by writers throughout the ancient world who on its basis structured texts of various types to maximize their rhetorical power. In ancient Israel, where law was published through public readings of entire documents, the need to maximize the texts' persuasive force led writers to employ the same rhetorical strategy. Thus law finds itself in the company of story and divine sanctions in almost all of Israel's extant legal traditions until the late first millennium BCE. As these traditions were combined into ever larger blocks of material, the setting in public readings of whole documents must have become increasingly anachronistic. Yet the rhetoric of story, list and divine sanction still shapes the maze of genres and traditions which make up the Pentateuch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for the Study of the Old Testament
Issue number68
StatePublished - Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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