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Studies of the oral background to the Hebrew Bible have long been preoccupied with the search for an ancient Hebrew epic. But the fact that many stories are written in narrative prose means they resist attempts to make them conform to expectations of poetic and formulaic composition. The present study takes a different point of departure. Adapting Lauri Honko's cognitive and performative theories of ‘mental texts’, it argues for the existence of cycles of oral folk-narratives in ancient Israel. The parallel stories in which David spares the life of Saul in 1 Sam. 23.19–24.22 and 26.1-25 are used as a case study to test the explanatory power of the model.

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Journal Article

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