Who is the biblical Saul

University of Cologne

Pulm, Thomas (2014). Saul inter prophetas? : The image of King Saul in the Bible compared with his appearance in the pseudo-Philos Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum and in the Midrash Samuel. PhD thesis, University of Cologne.

Abstract

Everyone in the West has probably heard the names of the first Israelite kings at some point. Even if the name "Saul" may not have stuck in the mind like the much better known David, it has at least been heard in connection with this David. We know Solomon as the wise and just king and builder of the temple in Jerusalem, his father David above all as the conqueror of the gigantic Goliath, as the conqueror of Jerusalem and as the creator of the Israelite empire, which has been an ideal in the minds of biblical authors since his time. And Saul? We know him as the rejected king, who in his later career was keen to get rid of David, who surpassed him in popularity and thus became dangerous to him. These ideas are all based on the picture that the biblical text gives us. The uniformity, the original appearance of the text and the relationships between the many different known text witnesses have been lively debates for about 250 years. But even if Saul's picture cannot be put in a more favorable light in the discussion of the biblical texts, at least the views in the rabbinical texts and the legends and sagas of traditional Jewish literature allow a more differentiated picture and show other facets of the figure of the first king of Israel. It should be possible for us, by examining the reception of Saul's character in the later texts, mainly from the rabbinical period, to fathom its effect in subsequent centuries. From the history of Saul's impact or reception, a more positive picture of the king, which at first glance appears to be only very one-dimensional in the Bible, can be drawn. A comparison with the Midrash Samuel and the Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum ascribed to the pseudophilo opens up a different perspective on the first king of Israel to the reader. Even there Saul is depicted cruelly and merciless in some places, but this depiction loses its sharpness through the emphasis that everything happens according to a universal divine plan.

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