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To summarize, the study of intertextuality leads down a plethora of winding paths of complex relationships and multi-layer conversations between texts/intertext/reader. All the while, texts are in conversation with other texts/intertexts, loosely comprising an intertextual mosaic (referred to as a ‘tapestry’ in this study) extending ad infinitum into a blurry horizon, portions of which are picked up and digested by the reader in the creation of meaning. For the reader, meaning happens in the conversation between text/intertext/reader, acknowledging both the influence of a broad understanding of text that includes culture, history, art, etc., and the reader’s varied awareness of the text's intertextuality.
0.2.2 A Viable Intertextuality and the History of Interpretation The question, now, is whether or not such an ad infinitum observation is useful within the study of the history of interpretations, contra Timothy Beal. And if so, how might intertextuality be employed? I argue that intertextuality can be harnessed to provide insight into the mosaic of interrelated texts within a given corpus. The harnessed observations that intertextuality provides can be particularly helpful within the history of interpretation as they provide a glimpse of the intertextual tapestry from which later readers/interpreters drew their interpretations.
Following the lead of biblical scholar Ellen van Wolde, I assert that intertextuality is a window that ‘makes a special perception of the text possible’23 with some limitations, artificial though they may be. Though not a method, the observation of intertextuality is employable in that it provides an understanding of the relationship between texts that opens avenues of perception outside the bounds of the questions of source, Sitz im Leben, author, authorial intentions, etc. Given the broad sense of intertextuality, that is the débordement [Derrida] of text ad infinitum, some modification and/or limitation of the concept is both necessary and possible.
Aichele and Phillips, “Exegesis, Eisegesis, Intergesis,” 14-15. Similarly, D. Boyarin, Intertextuality and the Reading of Midrash, (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1990) suggests that ‘…midrash is literature, but all serious literature is revision and interpretation of a canon and a tradition and is a dialogue with the past and with authority which determines the shape of human lives in the present and future. The rabbis were concerned with the burning issues of their day, but their approach to that concern was through the clarification of difficult passages of Scripture.’ (19) Hatina, “Intertextuality and Historical Criticism,” 28ff.
Aichele and Phillips, “Exegesis, Eisegesis, Intergesis,” 11-12.
van Wolde, “Trendy Intertextuality,” 43ff.
Beal, “Intertextuality,” 129.
E. van Wolde, “Texts in Dialogue with Texts: Intertextuality in the Ruth and Tamar Narratives,” BibInt 5 (1997) 1.
INTRODUCTIONVan Wolde employs a metaphor of the relationship between a drop of water and a river to both explain and
critique the ‘usefulness’ of the Kristeva, Barthes, Derrida, etc. school of intertextuality within biblical studies:
Their standpoint might be compared to a river: elements from other texts are incorporated in a text like drops of water in a river. In addition, they find that it is not the writer who is determinative of the intertext, but the reader. Expressed in the images of metaphor: it is the writer who determines where the drop ends and river begins, but the reader who distinguishes particular drops within the unfathomable quantity of water.24 Van Wolde finds this broad understanding of intertextuality unhelpful because of the inherently vague nature of the concept and the uselessness of an observation that deals with the droplet-level observation of something as large as a river. She echoes W. van Peer's critique of Kristeva's intertextuality as having ‘little analytical power.’25 While I am not convinced that Kristeva would say that intertextuality is meant to be analytical, van Wolde sees enough value in Kristeva's intertextuality to offer a modification of it that proves useful within her exegetical goals.
Within van Wolde's complex literary analysis, she proposes a limited utilization of intertextuality that ‘starts from an acknowledgement of the autonomous value of each of the compared texts on their own, and continues with the explication of the textual markers shared by the texts.’26 She goes on to propose specific criteria for intertextual study of the Hebrew Bible for purposes of exegesis: (1) study the texts on their own; (2) compile an inventory of repetitions in the compared texts; and (3) analyse the ‘new network of meaning originating from the meeting of the two texts.’27 These criteria can prove useful within the history of interpretations with some modification.
For the ancient interpreter, namely ancient rabbinic sages but presumably ancient interpreters in general, scripture was a dynamic revelation of the divine. That is, revelation was not a completed event. Each generation was present again at Sinai and charged with understanding and inwardly digesting Torah28 (at least within Zadokite
or Mosaic Judaism).29 Writing about rabbinic midrash, Daniel Boyarin continues this thought:
The rabbis, as assiduous readers of the Bible, developed an acute awareness of these intertextual relations within the holy books, and consequently their own hermeneutic work consisted of a creation process of further combining and recombining biblical verses into new texts, exposing the interpretive relations already in the text, as it were, as well as van Wolde, “Texts in Dialogue with Texts,” 3.
E. van Wolde, Word Become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1-11, (Biblical Interpretation 6; Leiden: Brill,
1994) quoting W. van Peer, "Intertextualiteit: traditie en kritiek," Spiegel der Letteren 29 (1987) 16.
van Wolde, “Texts in Dialogue with Texts,” 7. By ‘textual markers’ van Wolde is referring to a broad range of characteristics including words, semantic fields, larger textual units, theme, genre, analogies in character type, and similarities in narrative style.
van Wolde, “Texts in Dialogue with Texts,” 7-8.
Two theologians of undoubtedly more who have worked constructively with this idea are: E.L. Fackenheim, God's Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1970), from the perspective of post-Holocaust Judaism, and J. Plaskow, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990), from a contemporary Jewish Feminist perspective.
M. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985) places the interpretation of scripture early in Israel's history. Looking at inner-biblical exegesis he notes that the biblical text itself was subject to ‘redaction, elucidation, reformulation, and outright transformation….They [biblical texts] are, in sum, the exegetical voices of many teachers and tradents, from different circles and times, responding to real theoretical considerations as perceived and anticipated.’ (543)
creating new ones by revealing linguistic connections hitherto unrealised. This recreation was experienced as revelation itself, and the biblical past became alive in the midrashic present.30 Such a realization about the ancient rabbis, along with ancient biblical interpreters in general,31 is reason enough for the use of a limited intertextuality in the history of interpretations. If it is true that the ancient scribe/rabbi/interpreter had a concordance-level knowledge of their sacred texts, then intertextuality is a sound observational tool for reconstructing the scriptural mosaic that was foundational to subsequent interpretations.
Within the history of interpretations, then, intertextuality serves as a window into the textual/language world of the ancient interpreter.
A modification of van Wolde's proposed criteria for intertextual study is then in order for use within the history of interpretation. The first step in this method (1) remains similar, beginning with the study of the primary text under consideration. This means that the initial text placed under the microscope is the text whose intertextuality is to be studied. For this study, the primary text is Genesis 1.1-5.
Step two (2) involves identifying intertexts within a predetermined corpus of similar texts, in the case of this thesis, the Hebrew Bible (ch.1), the Greek equivalents of the text of the Hebrew Bible (ch.2),32 and Hebrew (ch.3) and Greek (ch.4) texts from before 200 CE that fall outside those covered in the first two chapters. A means to this end is identifying intertextual markers, that is individual words, minor phrases, or word-pairs within the primary text whose recurrence elsewhere in the corpus might spur interest in the primary text. These are words that occur infrequently and/or are central to the primary text. In such an atomic- level study of the corpus, these words are examined thoroughly in the variety of meanings they bear and the variety of contexts in which they appear. In effect, a mosaic of usage/meaning is sketched for each intertextual marker. This atomic level study is useful in identifying the variety of understandings of a given intertextual marker in subsequent interpretations.33 Step three (3) is the identification of texts that have a significant repetition of intertextual markers from the primary text and bear its theme(s). The primary goal of this step is to provide a collection of identifiable intertexts.
Commonality is most important. As such, while intertextual markers are the initial draw to a given text, and the Boyarin, Intertextuality, 128. Also, M. Fishbane, The Exegetical Imagination: On Jewish Thought and Theology, (Cambridge: Harvard, 1998) 20.
Rowan Greer would say similar things about early Christian interpreters of scripture prior to Irenaeus, though from a perspective of ‘transformation’. Early Christian interpreters were of a similar mind to their early Jewish counterparts that scripture was divine revelation. Their interpretation was a transformation of the Hebrew scriptures to ‘disclose their true significance’ in light of their accepted messiah, Jesus. J.L. Kugel and R.A. Greer, Early Biblical Interpretation, (LEC 3; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986) 126ff. Also, pre-rabbinic texts exist that point to the importance of interpretation, as noted by James Kugel, especially the book of Daniel in which Daniel is the interpreter of revelation and in Ben Sira's understanding of the role and importance of the sage in Sir 39.1-6. (58, 62The issue of ‘canon’ is a sticky wicket in a study such as this. Just whose canon ought to be employed to delineate texts, if one should be used at all? Since this study begins with the Hebrew text of Gen 1.1-5, which is undoubtedly the most ‘original’, the Hebrew canon, a.k.a. the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, is used as a benchmark throughout this study. While this may not be an ideal solution, it is a solution nonetheless. E. Ulrich, “Our Sharper Focus on the Bible and Theology Thanks to the Dead Sea Scrolls,” CBQ 66 (2004) based on the texts of the Dead Sea Scrolls draws a clear picture of the ‘shadowy beginnings’ of the Hebrew Bible. (1-24) These intertextual sketches of individual intertextual markers can be found in Appendices A and B.
INTRODUCTIONmore the better, also included in this equation are theme and other words common to both the primary text and the intertext. In this stage, then, as intertextual markers function as a beacon, theme and the wider commonality maintain the attention of the interpreter. It should be noted here that intertextuality and influence are two different, some would say opposed, observations. Intertextuality is concerned with relationships but not with direction, causality, and thus influence. The intertexts identified in step two, then, need only be demonstrably similar to the primary text in vocabulary and theme. No inference of direction should be made at this point.
Step four (4) examines the material compiled in step three with the goal of drawing thematic lines among the intertexts, that is, getting a broad look at the intertextual tapestry. This provides another view of the tapestry and hence another lens through which subsequent interpretations can be studied. Again, direction and causality are not an issue here. Rather, the analysis is based on thematic similarities among the intertexts identified in step three.
Step five (5) is similar to van Wolde's step three, with the difference being the locus of the new meaning being in the subsequent interpretations rather than in contemporary exegesis. Van Wolde's concern is utilizing a limited intertextuality as an exegetical tool leading to ‘new’ observations. The usefulness of intertextuality within the history of interpretations, then, is as a foundational lens through which to make ‘new’ observations of ‘old’ exegesis – seeing not new exegesis but intertextual ‘afterlives’ of the primary text. The tapestry that intertextuality serves to illuminate provides a glimpse of the language world(s) within which the ancient reader worked.
It is my hope, then, that this method will provide a new glimpse at old material – and in particular a new glimpse of Day One in this intertextual history of Gen 1.1-5 up to 200 CE.