Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Jeffrey H. Tigay

Second Advisor

David M. Stern

Third Advisor

Dan Ben-Amos

Abstract

Abstract

ENDINGS IN SHORT BIBLICAL NARRATIVES

Susan Zeelander

Professor Jeffrey H. Tigay

There has been much study of the narrative aspects of the Bible in recent years, but the ends of biblical narratives—how the ends contribute to closure for their stories, whether there are closural conventions that biblical writers regularly used, in what ways the ending strategies affect the whole narrative—have not been studied. Knowledge of closural conventions can address these questions and even whether biblical writers used them intuitively or intentionally. This dissertation is the first thorough study of the ends of biblical narratives; its prime data are the relatively short narratives in Genesis 1-35 and 38.

The first step in the study is to determine what constitutes the end of a biblical narrative. I use a system within narratology based on paradigms developed by Emma Kafalenos that identifies the end as the resolution of the key destabilizing action or perception; that together with additional information that the writer adds forms an “end-section.” I use literary methods, a close reading of the text and awareness of the Bible’s textual and compositional history and the interconnectedness of its literary art and themes, to identify the closural devices within end-sections.

This dissertation shows that all the Genesis narratives, irrespective of their documentary source, use one or more structural, thematic, and linguistic closural devices. Some of the devices can be found in non-biblical genres, some are significant only in Genesis. They include rituals, etiologies, frames and summaries, as well as specific motifs, language, and repetitions that mark the changes in their stories; they use entertainment, flattery, logic, education and didacticism. I suggest that there are aspects of our minds, culture, philosophies, and experience in life that draw the writer and the reader most often to closure, although some of the narratives leave important questions unresolved. I investigate possible reasons why this may be so.

I conclude that the short narratives in Genesis are filled with closural conventions that mark the ends of their stories and help indicate that they are complete and over, even when a reader would like the story to continue. Future research can apply this methodology and the results to larger units within the Bible and to extant narratives in the ancient Near East.