Beyond Shared Language? Assessing Criteria for Inner-Biblical Allusion

In a 2011 article titled Intertextuality in Old Testament Research, Geoffrey Miller surveyed the landscape of inner-biblical allusion and intertextuality research in the Old Testament, concluding that the field is hindered by methodological murkiness. While there has been increased interest in recent years regarding how inner-biblical allusion functions in the Old Testament, clarity over methodology has often not followed. One of the major questions contributing to murkiness in inner-biblical allusion continues to be the debate over criteria used to determine a legitimate allusion. While almost all scholars agree on the importance of shared language between texts, there is little consensus beyond this point.

This paper will survey research that has taken place since Miller’s article and propose a methodological option for moving beyond shared language to determine inner-biblical allusion using four points. First, I will diagnose the problem by suggesting that allusions are by nature implicit, which makes agreed-upon criteria difficult to come by. However, this does not mean that further criteria beyond shared language are impossible. Second, I will argue that due to the implicit nature of allusion, inner-biblical allusion must be pursued with a mixture of quantitative and qualitative criteria. Third, I will survey methodological approaches of representative scholars in order to examine options for quantitative or qualitative approaches. Finally, I will argue that quantitative criteria are necessary to prevent subjectivity and qualitative criteria are necessary to prevent legitimate allusions from going uncounted.

Beyond shared language, there is a lack of consensus on what qualifies as a legitimate instance of inner-biblical allusion in the Old Testament. Some scholars only use quantitative criteria while other scholars are more comfortable with qualitative criteria. While the nature of allusions may make consensus on criteria difficult, it is important to have greater methodological clarity in order to serve studies of inner-biblical allusion and more importantly, the interpretation of Scripture. In sum, this paper will argue that the implicit nature of allusions demands a mixture of quantitative and qualitative criteria for inner-biblical allusion, and will propose a way forward for agreement on criteria beyond shared language.

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