Thomas Römer’s Introduction to Recent Hebrew Bible Scholarship

Thomas Römer’s inaugural lecture at the Collège de France (5 February 2009) provides an overview of recent scholarship on the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament.

The English version: “The Horns of Moses: Setting the Bible in its Historical Context”

The original French version: “Les Cornes de Moïse: Faire entrer la Bible dans l’histoire”

A video of Römer’s inaugural lecture is available here, and includes many very useful slides which illustrate his talk:

Leçon inaugurale de Thomas Römer

For example, Römer makes an analogy between the manner in which the biblical composers employed earlier sources and the film Mamma Mia‘s employment of ABBA songs. This is one point where the video of his powerpoint illustration is most useful (see 36:55-38:16 in the video).

La première partie de la Bible hébraïque … n’est pas première ; elle est le résultat d’un effort théologique et éditorial de réunir, à l’intérieur d’une même bibliothèque, des traditions et des rouleaux d’époques diverses, véhiculant des idéologies différentes voire contradictoires. Pour illustrer un tel phénomène, permettez-moi d’évoquer un film qui a connu l’année dernière un certain succès et dont la banalité, si d’aventure vous l’avez vu, a dû vous effrayer. Il s’agit de Mamma Mia. Le fil narratif, donc la chronologie, de ce film, est clairement secondaire. Le seul but de l’intrigue est de permettre de regrouper et d’organiser un certain nombre de chansons du groupe suédois ABBA, qui à l’origine ne racontent pas une histoire continue et qui n’ont pas de liens thématiques entre elles. Il en va de même pour certaines « chronologies » bibliques.

The first part of the Hebrew Bible … was not actually first; it was the result of a theological and editorial effort to bring together, in the same volume, traditions and scrolls from different eras, conveying differing and even contradictory ideologies. To illustrate this phenomenon, allow me to mention a film that enjoyed considerable success last year and whose triviality, if you happened to see it, must have struck you. The film is Mamma Mia. The narrative, hence the chronology, of this film is clearly secondary. The only aim of the plot is to bring together and organize a number of songs of the Swedish group ABBA, which originally did not relate a continuous story and have no common thread. The same applies to certain biblical “chronologies”.

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