The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Rhetoric and Discourse in Qoheleth and 4QInstruction

The premise of the paper at hand is to problematise and move beyond linear conceptions of influence, development and literary relationships between texts of Jewish antiquity. While the matter of the deeply interpretative and transforming nature of text production in the biblical tradition and beyond is well established, most studies in the past have been aimed towards positing linearities rather than discourses when discussing such relationships.

In examining the example of the propensities and intellectual trajectories of both 4QInstruction and Qoheleth, we can see how these texts present themselves on a rhetorical level in very different ways, one being more systematic while the other takes on the role of a critic.

What is attempted here, with this particular case of thinking about these two texts in dialogue with each other, is an approach to overcome speaking of texts along the lines of genre. While it will be established that the texts at hand are participating in shared discourses, and that they exhibit common thematic and linguistic features, it will be proposed here to speak about their relationship without using taxonomies from outside of the texts and demarcative categories such as genre. By borrowing the conceptual framework of Bakhtin’s notion of dialogic truth, which was originally formulated to think of matters within a literary text, and adapting it to understand dialogical dimensions between texts, which need not necessarily have been consciously pursued by the texts’ authors, it can be possible to speak of the relationships between texts (here of roughly contemporary origin, but open also to such of different periods) on a level where it is not necessary to superimpose external theoretical determinators, such as genre.

By doing so, we can consider relationships between texts by themselves on a solely discursive level initially, before suggesting a larger cultural context.