Saturday, April 25, 2015

Evidence of a literate culture?

In Deuteronomy 28 again, there is an obvious parallel structure made clearer if we just pick words that recur exactly twice and also omit some verses so the table is manageable. If I were composing a speech orally, I doubt I could manage 20 odd words in a sequential parallel like this. Hmmm, the sequence is not as unvaried as it seems. Perhaps verse 5, or verse 17, each only 3 words long, got displaced.
והיה and it will happen
1היה
אם that if
1אם
לשׁמר to keep
1שׁמר
לעשׂות and to do
1עשׂה
אנכי I
1אנכי
היום today
1יום
הארץ the earth
1ארץ
האלה these
2אלה
והשׂיגך and will overtake you
2נשׂג
בעיר will be in the city
3עיר
בשׂדה in the field
3שׂדה
בטנך your belly
4בטן
אדמתך your ground
4אדם
שׁגר the issue of
4שׁגר
אלפיך your oxen
4אלף
ועשׁתרות and the breeding of
4עשׁר
צאנך your flock
4צאן
טנאך your basket
5טנא
ומשׁארתך and your warehouse
5שׁאר
בצאתך when you go forth
6יצא
לפניך before you
7פנה
בדרך in way
7דרך
יצאו they will emerge
7יצא
דרכים ways
7דרך
לפניך before you
7פנה
בארץ in the land
8ארץ
והיה but it will happen
15היה
אם if
15אם
לשׁמר to keep
15שׁמר
לעשׂות and to do
15עשׂה
אנכי I
15אנכי
היום today
15יום
האלה these
15אלה
והשׂיגוך and will overtake you
15נשׂג
בעיר will be in the city
16עיר
בשׂדה in the field
16שׂדה
טנאך your basket
17טנא
ומשׁארתך and your warehouse
17שׁאר
בטנך your belly
18בטן
אדמתך your ground
18אדם
שׁגר the issue of
18שׁגר
אלפיך your oxen
18אלף
ועשׁתרות and the breeding of
18עשׁר
צאנך your flock
18צאן


3 comments:

  1. I can only offer anecdotal evidence in rebuttal, when we first arrived in Congo I had to set a resit exam for half a dozen students my predecessor had failed. I invigilated, but when I marked the scripts two students had almost word for word the same answers, even down to the same errors of fact and spelling often. Being new I took the case to the academic dean. When confronted the students said: "We studied from the same notes and we were stilling on opposite sides of the room." They fetched the notes, which also had the same errors!

    When you add that the speech is repetitive of topic deliberately I think oral composition in this case is quite possible. (Though I wouldn't want necessarily to argue for that...) It is larger scale correspondences and patterns that suggest a necessarily written stage, for me.

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  2. As I think of it, it is quite possible that this list of troubles could come from the heart of the lives of those of the time. It is curious to me that the short verse seems to be displaced. I must look up some history of comment on it but I haven't yet had the chance to get to the University Library or query online with that objective.

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  3. True, I did not get as far as comparing the rest of the blessings with their corresponding but extended curses. I may get to more b & c this week - never know where I will be led. I had such a beef with the translation of 1 John 3 today, I took Raymond Brown's commentary out of the library for investigation. While I was there I read a page of Driver's comments on this passage, but I didn't see anything earth-shattering so I ended up also taking out a 2014 commentary by Deanna Thompson, part of the Belief series. It looks like a light read (only 250 pages) but was quite helpful for me, pointing out that the tradition of lists of blessings and curses is a part of the conclusion of many ancient near eastern treaties - so a person might well be familiar with the lists as part of both a written and oral tradition. Of course, Deuteronomy is phrased as the last of Moses words and to be written down, thus perhaps signalling a change from oral to written. Thanks for the von Rad example. I expect to be further edified by the words of the remaining 46 verses - but even at 15 verses a day this will take me some time - I am so slow with my process!

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