The Jewish Novel in the Ancient World

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Lawrence M. Wills here traces the literary evolution of popular Jewish narratives written during the period 200 B.C.E.-100 C.E. In many ways, these narratives were similar to Greek and Roman novels of the same era, as well as to popular novels of indigenous people within the Roman Empire. Yet as a group they demonstrated a variety of novelistic innovations: the inclusion of adventurous episodes; passages of description and of dialogue; concern with psychological motivation; and the introduction of female characters.
Wills focuses on five novels: Greek Esther, Greek Daniel, Judith, Tobit, and Joseph and Aseneth. Drawing on a wide range of theoretical works, he delineates the techniques and motifs of the Jewish novel, shows how genre both initiated and distanced itself from nonfictional prose, such as historical and philosophical writing, discusses its relation to Greco-Roman romance, and describes the social conditions governing its emergence and reception. He also places the novels in historical context, between the Hebrew Bible on the one hand and subsequent developments in Jewish and Christian literature on the other.
Wills sees the Jewish novel as a popular form of writing that provided amusement for an expanding audience of Jewish entrepreneurs, merchants, and bureaucrats. In an important sense, he maintains, it was a product of the "novelistic impulse," the impulse to transfer oral stories to a written medium and to reach a more literate audience.

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Contents

From Legend to Novel
40
Tobit as Tale and Novel
68
Esther and Greek Esther
93
The Judith Novel
132
Joseph and Aseneth and the Joseph Tradition
158
Jewish Historical Novels
185
The Analysis of Genre and the Poetics of the Jewish Novel
212
The Testament of Abraham as a Satirical Novel
245
General Index
271
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Lawrence M. Wills is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Episcopal Divinity School.

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