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Created EqualHow the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought$
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Joshua A. Berman

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195374704

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195374704.001.0001

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 Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Narrative

 Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Narrative

The Rescue of Moses (Exodus 2:1–10) and the Sargon Legend Compared

(p.135) 5 Egalitarianism and the Evolution of Narrative
Created Equal

Joshua A. Berman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Scholars of the rise of the novel in 18th century England have noted that the evolution of the genre of the novel in place of the drama or the epic poem, reflects Enlightenment thinking about nature, about the individual, and about class differences. The novel emerges as a vehicle in which new literary techniques are developed that both reflected and in turn further spurred these humanist impulses. This development serves as a heuristic prism for the final chapter, which demonstrates how biblical narrative adapted and advanced modes of storytelling in the ancient Near East to better convey its egalitarian agenda. This occurs on the level of content: the Pentateuch's stories place the entire nation at center stage—as opposed to some divinely elected monarch—in a way not evinced anywhere else in the ancient Near East. But biblical narrative also advances the egalitarian agenda in a more subtle way—through the rhetorical tools it employs, the mechanics of storytelling. Even as covenant addresses the entire nation, it essentially challenges each member of the polity to strive for moral and spiritual excellence. The Pentateuch's stories—much like its sermons and law codes—essentially address each member of the polity. The poetics employed by biblical narrative place a premium on complex characterization and on highlighting the dilemmas and trials faced by its protagonists. From the story of the Garden of Eden through the challenges of leadership faced by Moses, biblical narrative emerges as an educational tool well‐suited to instructing the members of the polity, as each of them faces the challenges of jealousy, of temptation, of rising above self‐interest, of heeding God's word. To demonstrate how biblical narrative technique reflects and serves a covenant theology, this chapter compares the biblical account of the rescue of baby Moses (Exod 2:1–10) by Pharaoh's Daughter and the legend of the rescue of Sargon of Akkad as an infant. The two accounts are strikingly similar, and yet it is precisely on the score of characterization and highlighting the moral choices faced that the Bible's refinement of rhetorical tools emerges.

Keywords:   Moses, Pharaoh's Daughter, Sargon, novel, rhetoric, characterization, Enlightenment, storytelling

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