Structure, Style And Context As A Key To Interpreting Jacob’s Encounter At Peniel -- By: Edward M. Curtis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:2 (Jun 1987)
Article: Structure, Style And Context As A Key To Interpreting Jacob’s Encounter At Peniel
Author: Edward M. Curtis

Structure, Style And Context As A Key To Interpreting Jacob’s Encounter At Peniel

Edward M. Curtis*

As evangelicals we have long affirmed that the events described in Scripture took place as they are reported by the Biblical authors. Even as we have argued vigorously for the historicity of the Biblical narrative we have recognized that there is another element of crucial significance as well. We not only want to know what God has done in the past; we also need to know what the acts of God mean. Thus both event and interpretation of the event are of great significance, and evangelicals have recognized that the Bible contains both of these important elements. Marten Woudstra has pointed out that “orthodox Biblical scholarship has not been unmindful of the fact that the events of sacred history are reported to us in the Bible within a certain interpretive context, a context which lets the full light of God’s revelation fall upon the events.”1

We recognize that books such as Job and Ruth are literary masterpieces, and we readily acknowledge that the inspired authors of those books were literary geniuses. A careful study of much of the Biblical narrative material makes it clear that there are many indications of literary sophistication throughout that material as well. It is the contention of this paper that the literary structure and style of the Biblical narrative often provide somewhat subtle but extremely effective clues to the interpretation of the events recounted in the text. Sometimes literary clues provide keys to the structure of a passage. 2 The repetition of certain words may underscore the emphasis of a passage3 or may correlate the passage with related passages elsewhere.4 Oc-

*Edward Curtis is assistant professor of Biblical and theological studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

casionally the literary structure or the interruption of the structure may provide an interpretively significant clue to some aspect of the meaning.5 A recognition of these literary elements is an important part of proper exegesis in that they often constitute an inner-Biblical commentary on the text that has been provided by the inspired writer himself. And, as Michael Fishbane has noted, these rhetorical features provide an “empirical peg for the interpretation of content.”6 Interpretive clues of this sort are especially important since OT narrative rarely provides an e...

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