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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Textual Memory: Ancient Archives, Libraries and the Hebrew Bible
du Toit, Jacqueline S.

Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix, 2011 pp. xii + 187. $95.00

Series Information
The Social World of Biblical Antiquity, 2d. ser., 6

Description: In modern scholarship the Hebrew Bible represents a collection of books, perhaps even a library of books. Some think that it is a selection of ancient oral traditions that were eventually written down, edited and preserved. Others suggest that the biblical corpus resulted from a merging of regional libraries in ancient Palestine or was the outcome of the Hasmoneansí need to legitimize their rule by claiming ownership of a library of books originating in the Jerusalem temple. No matter how tantalizing these hypotheses are, the implications of a concrete understanding of the origins of the Bible as library or archive are not often fully appreciated by scholars. Textual Memory explores how various disciplines, including Assyriology, biblical studies, archival science and library history, have made sense of the thousands of collections of clay tablets and ancient written material discovered over the past two hundred years in the Middle East. And it raises the question whether the great libraries of Ashurbanipal and Alexandria, among others, are able to suggest models of how the Hebrew Bible came into being. Can the temple libraries in Mesopotamia or Egypt offer us any clues about who decided what should be preserved and why? What have ancient archival practices of careful selection, conservation, classification and dissemination of information to contribute to our understanding of the creation of the Hebrew Bible? Ultimately, this book is a historiographical synthesis of current scholarship on ancient Near Eastern archives and libraries from different disciplinary perspectives. Its purpose is to better understand how we should conceive of the Bible as religious tradition and literary heritage.

Subjects: Bible, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Literature, Methods, Historical Approaches, History, Ancient Near Eastern History

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Review by Ingeborg LŲwisch
Published 9/6/2013
Citation: Ingeborg LŲwisch, review of Jacqueline S. du Toit, Textual Memory: Ancient Archives, Libraries and the Hebrew Bible, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2013).


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