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Theophany as Type Scene

Theophany as Type Scene

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Published by Rev. Michael Bittle
Biblical scholars have traditionally used a number of methods to analyze theophanies in
George W. Savran suggests the ‘type scene model’ provides a more useful tool for interpreting theophanic narratives than other critical methods.
Biblical scholars have traditionally used a number of methods to analyze theophanies in
George W. Savran suggests the ‘type scene model’ provides a more useful tool for interpreting theophanic narratives than other critical methods.

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Published by: Rev. Michael Bittle on Mar 07, 2011
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03/07/2011

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 Theophany as Type Scene:A Consideration of Abraham and JacobbyMichael BittleSID 8943314From the Beginning: Reading the Book of GenesisOT 3XE3Professor: Dr. Paul EvansJuly 18, 2010
 
1
Introduction
Biblical scholars have traditionally used a number of methods to analyze theophanies inthe Old Testament and, in his book 
Encountering the Divine: Theophany in Biblical Narrative
,Dr. George W. Savran suggests the ‘type scene model’ provides a
more useful tool
(emphasisadded)
 
for interpreting theophanic narratives than other critical methods.
1
Savran uses the term theophany “not in its figurative sense of ‘encounter with the divine’but, in keeping with the Greek ‘to appear’, it implies the presence of a visual component inaddition to verbal interaction ... Moreover, the term ‘theophany narrative’ applies only to thoseencounters in which the narrative framework is apparent.”
2
In his use of the term ‘type scene’,Savran means “a recurrent scene within a story whose repetitions reveal both identity anddifference: identity in the basic plot sequence that is described, and difference in the deploymentof certain motifs in varying fashion.”
3
 Savran notes that “theophany narratives exhibit a set number of recurrent motifs aroundwhich the story is based: the setting of the scene, the appearance and speech of YHWH, humanresponse to the presence of the divine [including] the expression of doubt or anxiety, andexternalization of the experience.”
4
 He goes on to describe four essential indicators common to each type scene of the‘divine-human encounter’. A fifth indicator, location, is an important component of ‘setting of the scene’ and will also be included:
Location
- Savran notes that the location of a theophany is important if it “is connected to anaetiological element later in the story in relation to a specific sanctuary (Bethel, Gibeon, Shiloh)… as the final aspect of the type scene, the creation of structures for the continuation orextension of the experience.”
6
 
2
Setting of the scene
– “In theophany stories, the primary function of such a mise-en-scène is toseparate the protagonist from family or others in preparation for what, in nearly every case, is asolitary experience.”
5
As Savran goes on to note, “this is a highly private experience, eventhough it always has public ramifications. This solitude also increases the sense of mystery andsanctity surrounding the encounter.”
7
 
Appearance and speech of YHWH
– the protagonist experiences a visual manifestation whichprecedes the appearance of YHWH;
8
 
Human response to the presence of the divine
- responses are characterized by an initialdisplay of humility or fear, and once the initial shock of the divine encounter has passed, theprotagonist expresses doubt or anxiety;
9
 
Transformation and Externalization
- the narrative began with the separation of theprotagonist, so it concludes with the return of that protagonist to the world, but in a transformedmanner.
10
 This paper will apply and evaluate the ‘type scene model’ as described by Savran againstthree covenant narratives in which God appeared and changed the names of two patriarchs: onceinvolving Abram/Abraham in Genesis 17, and twice involving Jacob/Israel in Genesis 32 and 35.Each of these three ‘naming’ theophanies will be reviewed to consider the extent to whichSavran’s five type-scene indicators are present: Location, Setting of the Scene, Appearance andSpeech of YHWH, Human Response to the Presence of the Divine, and Transformation andExternalization.The purpose of the paper is to determine if all three theophanic events contain the typescene indicators outlined by Savran and, if not, to determine if Savran’s claim to its usefulness iswarranted.

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