Writing Yehud: Textuality and Power under Persian Rule Open Access

Howard, Cameron Brown Richardson (2010)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/xw42n851t?locale=en


This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of "hypertextuality"--that is, being prolifically textual--in Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Esther. These books, which share a Persian-period origin, exhibit a preoccupation with the authority of written texts, a preoccupation shared by the Persian imperium. Chronicles includes lengthy lists of genealogical material and repeatedly provides citations for what are ostensibly its written source texts. Interpolated lists, letters, decrees, and genealogies constitute one-third of the book of Ezra-Nehemiah, and much of the remainder of the narrative exhibits a bureaucratic prose style. The power of writing forms a dominant motif in the book of Esther. Using literary- and form-critical methods, the dissertation traces a pronounced interest in textual authority through the three books and relates that authority to the books' Persian context.

This project is framed by a premise of postcolonial studies: that the practices of domination wrought by imperialist ventures ineluctably affect all aspects of life in a colony, including its cultural output. The hypertextuality shared by Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Esther represents a literary reaction to the historical reality of Persian rule over Judah. The treasury and fortification tablets found in the ruins of Persepolis attest to the many documents in multiple languages required for every governmental transaction in the Persian Empire. The Persian royal inscriptions demonstrate that the Persian kings commissioned and distributed texts, particularly genealogical ones, to provide propagandistic justifications for their rule. Literary accounts from Greek historians and the Hebrew Bible testify to the Persian kings' reputation as prolific text-creators, with the authority of royal texts sometimes surpassing the authority of the kings themselves. In their literary styles, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Esther serve as ciphers for Persia's own obsession with bureaucratic text-production. These biblical books deploy one of the empire's preferred modes of power to shape the identity of the post-exilic Judean and Diaspora communities; at the same time, that use of the empire's strategies endorses and reinforces those strategies. Thus, these three narratives capitulate to empire even as they also resist it.

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Reading Across History and Literature
1.1 Introduction

1.2 Dating

1.3 Textuality in Post-Exilic Judah

1.4 Method

1.5 Postcolonial Biblical Scholarship and the Persian Period

1.6 Outline of Chapters
Chapter Two: Writing and Textuality in the Persian Empire
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Material Evidence for Persian Textuality
2.2.1 Achaemenid Royal Inscriptions
2.2.2. Bureaucratic Records
2.3 The Mystique of Persian Hypertextuality
2.3.1 Greek Sources
2.3.2 Biblical Sources 2.4 Conclusions
Chapter Three: Writing and Written Texts in Chronicles
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Interpretive Approaches
3.3 Genealogies
3.3.1 The Genealogical Prologue
3.3.2 Functions of Genealogies
3.3.3 Genealogical Terminology
3.3.4 Achaemenid Parallels
3.3.5 Other Genealogies in Chronicles
3.4 Citations of Annals
3.5 Conclusions
Chapter Four: Writing and Written Texts in Ezra-Nehemiah
4.1 Introduction
4.2 1 Esdras
4.3 Prose Style
4.4 Decrees
4.4.1 Decrees and Letters in Ezra 1-7
4.5 Letters
4.5.1 Formal Characteristics of the Letters
4.5.2 Content of the Letters
4.6 Genealogies

4.7 Lists

4.8 The Book of the Law
4.9 Conclusions
Chapter Five: Writing as Motif in the Book of Esther
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Versions of Esther
5.3 Dating
5.4 Writing in Esther Scholarship
5.5 Writing in Esther
5.6 Conclusions
Chapter Six: Conclusions: Yehud Writing Persia
6.1 Summary of Findings
6.2 Concluding Reflections
Table: Citations of Annals in the Book of Chronicles

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
Subfield / Discipline
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files