Echo Narrative Technique in Hebrew Literature: A Study in Judges 19 -- By: Daniel I. Block

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 52:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: Echo Narrative Technique in Hebrew Literature: A Study in Judges 19
Author: Daniel I. Block


Echo Narrative Technique in Hebrew Literature:
A Study in Judges 19*

Daniel I. Block

* This is a revised edition of a paper presented a the Upper Midwest regional meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in St. Paul, Minnesota, April 1988, and at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held in Wheaton, Illinois, in November 1988.

I. Introduction

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Hebrew narrative tends to follow conventional patterns. This awareness is having a revolutionary effect on the interpretation of many narrative texts, particularly those which appear to have borrowed motifs and expressions from other passages. In the past, higher criticism has treated duplicate accounts in the Pentateuch as variations of the same original story.1 The characters and specific circumstances may vary, but this is explained as evidence for multiple sources. Recently Robert Alter has argued that these should rather be understood as “type-scenes” occurring at crucial junctures in important individuals’ lives.2 Such type-scenes may be expected to unfold according to more or less standard patterns. But signs of convention are evident also at the microlevel, that is in the use of predictable vocabulary and phraseology in specific narrative contexts. To cite only one example, David M. Gunn has discovered a great deal of stereotyping in the manner in which battles and violent deaths are recounted in Judges and Samuel.3

There is one particular type of repetitive strategy that has received inadequate attention, namely echo narrative technique, or echo literary strategy. By echo literary strategy we mean a story-teller’s deliberate employment of preexistent accounts or segments thereof to shape the recounting of a new event. Since the term echo implies a repetition of sound, the designation

nation would seem especially appropriate for oral presentations, in which a narrator borrows familiar traditional accounts and incorporates the structures and phrases found there into his own presentation. However, it is also theoretically possible that this rhetorical strategy could be employed in written narrative composition, particularly in OT texts, where so much traditional material is found. While we have not attempted to identify all or even many accounts which might have been influenced by an echo rhetorical strategy, the purpose of this paper is to examine one passage which appears to be a likely candidate, Judges 19. Our investigation will consist of...

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