The Appeal of Exodus: The Characters God, Moses and Israel in the Rhetoric of the Book of Exodus

Kürle, Stefan (2005) The Appeal of Exodus: The Characters God, Moses and Israel in the Rhetoric of the Book of Exodus. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire.

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Abstract

The present thesis offers a reading of the book of Exodus as a literary artifact. This is accomplished through the investigation of its main literary characters Yhwh, Moses and Israel. The text is understood to be part of a communicative situation between author and reader. This hermeneutical claim and the nature of Exodus itself entail certain consequences with regard to the method of enquiry. The method applied is a modified form of rhetorical criticism, which is understood to provide an interpretive perspective on the text. The particular focus is on the functional aspects of the text which direct the reading process and thus guide the reader. Given the difficulties in determining the circumstances of the origin of Exodus and the paucity of secured knowledge about early Israelite history, the `implied reader' is introduced as a key-term. It is assumed that this implied reader informed the inventio and dispositio of the book. Because of the book's central themes - identity and relationship -a careful investigation of the characters is a worthy avenue to pursue. Three characters have been chosen on account of their continuous involvement in the plot. The introduction of each character into the plot receives special attention. The developing portrayal of each character is closely linked to its paradigmatic qualities and to its influence on the reader. First, the portrait of God is discussed, especially in relation to the contributions of the narrative, poetic and legal parts of Exodus. The very important but often neglected legal characterisation of Yhwh in Exodus is a topic of special interest. Although the legal collections say much about their recipients, they also reveal deep insights into the law-giver's nature and concerns. Yhwh is identified as the king who justly claims obedience and service. A further focus is the possibility of the relationship between Israel and their king, Yhwh. Second, with regard to Moses there is a significant difference between his first appearance in Exod 2-5 and his later development. This remarkable tension in the Mosaic portrayal reveals interesting insights into the implied reader's preconceptions. Here we trace closely the argumentative strategy of the author in his attempts to convince this reader. Furthermore, it is necessary to discuss the paradigmatic qualities of the character Moses. Third, reader-identification is at the heart of the construction of Israel. Here the historical gulf between the Israel of the narrative and the one of the implied reader is bridged. The complexity of Israel is a central aspect of Exodus' rhetoric, urging its readers to comply with the ideal which the author sought to communicate in his book. The results of this study provide insights into the specific poetics of Exodus and its management of the reading process. Because of the proposed unity of form and content, it is possible to specify the message of the entire book by taking into account its intriguing mixture of different genres. An abstraction from modern reading-conventions in the encounter of ancient Hebrew texts is shown, and the possibility of reading the text on its own terms is explored.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Wenham, GordonUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Bimson, Johnjbimson@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bible studies, Exodus; Rhetorical critisism
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BS The Bible
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Depositing User: Phil Davis
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2016 10:09
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2017 09:34
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3145

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