Book: The Hunt for Ancient Israel
Chapter: The Appearance of Hebrew Prose and the Fabric of History
In the preface to The Fabric of History, Diana Edelman appeals for more theoretically attuned approaches to the history of ancient Israel that attend, critically and self-consciously, to the type of sources we weave into the fabric of those histories we write. This study pursues one thread of this larger cloth by examining the conditions under which the referential claims of the Hebrew Bible first became possible. A key provision for the composition of these biblical stories, this investigation argues, was the appearance of a native Hebrew prose tradition in the ancient world of the southern Levant. This investigation retraces elements of the genealogy of this prose tradition by exploring comparative instances of prose writing from other literary cultures in antiquity and epigraphic evidence from the region, texts that, this study maintains, helps us to both situate the emergence of Hebrew prose historically and understand better the types of past knowledge these writings convey.