Terminological Patterns And Genesis 39 -- By: Wilfried Warning

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 44:3 (Sep 2001)
Article: Terminological Patterns And Genesis 39
Author: Wilfried Warning

Terminological Patterns And Genesis 39

Wilfried Warning*

[* Wilfried Warning is teacher at the Schulzentrum Seminar Marienhöhe, Auf der Marienhöhe 32, 64297 Darmstadt, Germany.]

The Joseph story with its beginning in Genesis 37 is “interrupted” by the episode of Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38), and in Gen 39:1 the main thread of the story is reintroduced by recapitulating 37:36, “Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar … ,” but “here Joseph is the subject of the sentence … showing he is now to be the focus of interest.” 1 In order to elaborate on Joseph’s role in Genesis 39 effectively it seems best to take seriously the vocabulary employed by its ancient author, the term “author” being understood and used as referring to the person(s) responsible for the text before us, the person(s) who composed the literary unit we call “Genesis 38, ” “Genesis 39, ” or “Genesis,” literary entities which did not exist prior to their composition, whatever the prehistory of their individual parts may have been. In order to comprehend the message of each of these three chapters properly and to realize their linguistic and thematic interrelation, the extant Endgestalt, the final shape, should be accepted as sole starting point of any exegetical work.

It is my contention that it will prove profitable to implement the proposal made by R. Rendtorff both consequently and rigorously:

A “reconstruction” of previous stages of the text … would be very hypothetical in most cases…. Moreover in conscious and categorical deviation from a widely practiced exegetic theory and praxis, the hermeneutic principle applied here is that the understanding of the biblical text in its present form is the preeminent task of exegesis. 2

Since “the only fact available to us is the text of the Pentateuch in all its complexity,” 3 it is the complex and yet carefully composed Endgestalt that serves as the foundation for this paper. In some recent studies scrutinizing the vocabulary of selected pericopes of the Hebrew Bible, the hermeneuti-cal principle proposed by Rendtorff has been consequently applied. In the course of these scrutinies significant verbal links have been discovered that come to light both in short se...

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