An Analysis of a Compositional Approach to Biblical Narrative (Genesis 37)

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Institution Granting Degree

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Cedarville University School or Department

Biblical and Theological Studies


Bible, Old Testament, Genesis, biblical narrative


The first section of chapter one shows that critical scholarship has come to recognize the shortcomings of its processes of exegesis. The traditional source criticism of the Joseph narrative as practiced by early critical scholars such as Wellhausen grew by necessity into form and tradition criticism. Furthermore, more recent critical scholarship has continued to refine its understanding not only of the sources, forms, and traditions underlying the Joseph narrative but also of the possibility of unity thereof. The second section of chapter one surveys how contemporary evangelicalism, which for many years has been reacting to critical exegesis, has yet to come to a consensus about its methodologies for reading the text. The rest of chapter one deals with a discussion of what is meant by a compositional approach to biblical narrative and of how it fits within modern OT study. The task of such an approach is twofold: (1) to explain the types of literary connections made in the process of composition as well as the ways in which literary units have been fit together and (2) to determine the theological features of the composition in order to evaluate the contribution it makes to the unit to be exegeted and to the work as a whole. Chapter two shows that Genesis 37 is a fitting unit to use in evaluating a compositional approach. In beginning to apply a compositional approach to Genesis 37, chapter two defines the boundaries of the unit. Chapter two concludes with a syntactical examination of the chapter, which begins by demonstrating the distribution of clauses. In chapter three, the following compositional features are shown. In Gen 37:2--11, the literary unity of this section is in several ways. The main contribution of Gen 37:12--17, which scholarship has regarded for the most part as a unity, is transitional. The connection of the next section, Gen 37:18--22, with the rest of the chapter is done through the dreams, which become the inciting incident within the narrative. In Gen 37:29--30, the author uses the events of the narrative to bring focus upon Judah, which prepares the reader for the ironic blessing of Judah by Jacob in Genesis 49.