Monday, October 27, 2008

Amenemope 6 "Literary Dependence"

I realized that I had left my Amenemope posts incomplete. What still needs to be considered is the answer to the question, "What constitutes literary dependence of one work upon another?" Or in other words, on what basis do we determine that one literary work has depended on another for part of its content? Obviously, there would have to be similarity of content. Without that similarity, there would be no reason to consider dependence. But similarity of content, while it might be necessary, is not sufficient. I would think there would also have to be similarity of wording, and similarity of design.

Now we have seen that there is similarity of content between Amenemope and Prov 22:17-24:22. There is also some similarity of wording. If one buys the "thirty" argument, then there is also similarity of design. But is this enough to demonstrate literary dependence?I think not. It seems that one more thing would be necessary to demonstrate literary dependence. That would be that the similarities could not be explainable on any basis other than that of literary dependence.

We have already looked at the similarities of content. To anyone familiar with Proverbs, and with the proverbial literature of the Ancient Near East as a whole, these similarities are found throughout the whole gamut of proverbial literature. There is nothing in the content of Proverbs tying it to Amenemope that would not also tie it to a number of other collections of proverbial literature. Second, the similarity of wording linking Proverbs and Amenemope is not distinctive to the Proverbs-Amenemope intersection. The language used is typical of the whole range of proverbial literature. Finally, there is no similarity of design between Proverbs and Amenemope.

In short, while there are indeed some similarities between Proverbs and Amenemope, they are more likely due to the common style of the literature and the similar cultural contexts out of which the literature arose. It is hardly likely that one was literarily dependent upon the other.


art said...

I wrote a short review/critique of this series and would love to have some conversation about it, if you'd be willing.

fredp. said...

There is an extensive and detailed examination of the relationship between the texts of Amenemope and Proverbs 22.17ff by John Ruffle, "The Teaching of Amenemope and Its Connection with the Book of Proverbs", "Tyndale Bulletin" 28 (1977), 29-68; reprinted in Roy B. Zuck (ed.), "Sitting with the Sages" (Baker, 1995), 293-331.