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Grant number: FB-58410-15

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Seth Larkin Sanders
Trinity College, Hartford (Hartford, CT 06106-3100)

The Form of the Pentateuch in the History of Ancient Hebrew Literature

The Torah may be the most fruitful piece of literature in Western history, but its form resists literary history. Scholars agree that it is a collection of incompatible versions of similar stories, where each major event happens in multiple ways--making it unlike any other major work of ancient literature. How did this new paradigm arise, make its mark, then vanish? My project draws on Near Eastern evidence to place the Torah in literary history. The strangeness of its form has been recognized but never really theorized, and theorizing it puts a new range of historical data at our service. While its incoherence departs from common Near Eastern forms of storytelling, its sources do resemble these forms in key ways, and the perplexity of its inheritors suggests that its composition departed from both Israelite and early Jewish literary values. Theorizing its literary values lets us historicize it, revealing the dialectic that made ancient Hebrew literature so strange and so persistent.

Project fields:
History of Religion; Jewish Studies; Near and Middle Eastern Languages

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2015 – 5/31/2016