Some Reflections On Current Narrative Research On The Book Of Samuel -- By: David G. Firth

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 10:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: Some Reflections On Current Narrative Research On The Book Of Samuel
Author: David G. Firth

Some Reflections On Current Narrative Research
On The Book Of Samuel

David G. Firth

Trinity College, Bristol / University of the Free State

The development of narrative criticism as a discipline within Old Testament studies and study of the books of Samuel are integrally related. This essay examines the significance of Samuel for the ways in which narrative criticism has developed, arguing that it is the narrative poetics of Samuel that have come to be largely definitive for our understanding of the poetics of narrative within the Old Testament. At the same time, the developing understanding of narrative criticism has shaped the ways in which Samuel is interpreted, with narrative criticism becoming a dominant model. This development is explored through major studies of Samuel published as and since this shift took place, showing the fruitfulness of this approach for contemporary study, while also showing that issues left unaddressed in the rise of narrative criticism leave important questions about their interpretation unresolved.

Key Words: ethics, historiography, narrative criticism, poetics, postcolonial criticism, Samuel, textual criticism

The books of Samuel have been the focus of an expanding body of research for some time. Given the explosion of such work in recent years, it is not possible in any one paper to address all the issues that have emerged in research on the book. This paper is therefore selective. In it, I offer reflections on studies which are focused on the Book of Samuel since the 1970s. Although for some this date might not seem especially “current”, it is chosen because it was a time that marked a significant change in how the Bible was interpreted with the rise of narrative methods. It is my contention that issues left unresolved at the point of this development continue to impact the interpretation of Samuel. Within this period, it is also argued that the narrative quality of Samuel means it became a central text in developing narrative approaches. Narrative criticism will thus emerge as the key tool for interpreting Samuel, but problems with this interpretative shift will be highlighted. It should be made clear that these criticisms come from someone who regards himself as a narrative critic, but hopefully situating these reflections in this setting means that we can reflect self-critically on what this means.

As a selective study, commentaries on Samuel are not considered. This limitation is because the form of the commentary forces a high level of

summary which other forms, especially the monograph, do not require. Monographs are accordingly the main focus of the paper. As my concern is with Samuel ...

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