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Treating Old Testament stories as the product of an oral traditional world, A Prelude to Biblical Folklore sets biblical narrative in a broad cross-cultural context and reveals much about the richness and complexity of the ancient Israelite civilization that produced it.
Using a unique combination of biblical scholarship and folklore methodology, Susan Niditch tracks stories of biblical characters who become heroes against the odds, either through trickery or through native wisdom, physical prowess, and the help of human or divine agents. In this volume, originally published as Underdogs and Tricksters, Niditch examines three cross-sections of the Old Testament in detail: stories in Genesis in which patriarchs pretend that their wives are really their sisters; the contrasting stones of two younger sons, the trickster Jacob and the earnest underdog Joseph; and the story of Esther as a paradigm of feminine wisdom pitted against unjust authority.
Linking these Old Testament heroes to the legendary tricksters and underdogs of other cultures, Niditch shows how the Israelites' worldview and self-image are reflected in the way biblical authors tell their stories. Through a thoughtful analysis of style, content, narrative choices, and attitudes to issues of gender and political authority in biblical narrative, A Prelude to Biblical Folklore draws persuasive conclusions about the identity, location, and provenance of the stories' authors and their audiences.
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