Providing a comprehensive study of “oral tradition” in Israel, this volume unpacks the nature of oral tradition, the form it would have taken in ancient Israel, and the remains of it in the narrative books of the Hebrew Bible. The author presents cases of oral/written interaction that provide the best ethnographic analogies for ancient Israel and insights from these suggest a model of transmission in oral-written societies valid for ancient Israel. Miller reconstructs what ancient Israelite oral literature would have been and considers criteria for identifying orally derived material in the narrative books of the Old Testament, marking several passages as highly probable oral derivations. Using ethnographic data and ancient Near Eastern examples, he proposes performance settings for this material. The epilogue treats the contentious topic of historicity and shows that orally derived texts are not more historically reliable than other texts in the Bible.
This volume in the Biblical Performance Criticism Series is a great addition to your electronic library if you’re wanting to learn more about oral tradition and performance. In the Logos edition, this subject is easily searchable and more convenient than ever before, with Scripture references linked directly to your favorite Bible translation and cross references linked to other resources in your digital library.
“Rollston’s working description: ‘Substantial facility in a writing system, that is, the ability to write and read, using and understanding a standard script, a standard orthography, a standard numeric system, conventional formatting.’” (Page 44)
“written texts circulated in spoken form by recitation long after they were committed to writing” (Page 54)
“There is considerably more evidence for literacy in the late preexilic period” (Page 46)
“major part of ancient Israel’s society and, if so, whether the Hebrew Bible has some relation to that oral literature” (Page 42)
“All authors in such societies remain in dialogue with other stories of similar kind, with the traditional folklore.” (Page 51)
In this book, Robert Miller offers an assessment of the modern study of oral tradition in ancient Israelite literature. . . . The result is an engaging survey of the question of oral literature in ancient Israel. The book points up the problems and prospects involved in this most difficult area of biblical studies.
—Mark S. Smith, Skirball Professor of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, New York University
Robert Miller’s Oral Tradition in Ancient Israel is warmly to be welcomed. Miller is particularly well equipped for this task, being equally at home in literary and archaeological work, and this timely and comprehensive study does not disappoint. Miller succeeds brilliantly in demonstrating that there was an interplay of oral and written composition and performance throughout Israel’s history. We are very much in his debt.
—Paul M. Joyce, Theology Faculty Board Chairman, University of Oxford
This study is a fascinating contribution to discussion of the role of oral tradition in the composition of biblical texts. Miller offers an impressive critique of classic and recent studies on the oral-written continuum in a wide range of literatures and cultures, opening up new insights into the literature and culture of the Hebrew Bible.
—Katherine Hayes, professor of Old Testament, Seminary of the Immaculate Conception
Robert D. Miller II is associate professor of Old Testament at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He is the author of Chieftains of the Highland Clans and Syriac and Antiochian Exegesis and Biblical Theology for the 3rd Millennium.