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Holy Lives, Holy Deaths: A Close Hearing of Early Jewish Storytellers
Antoinette Clark Wire
Publication Date
June 2002



This volume guides the reader in listening to Early Jewish stories about holy figures which appear to have first been told between 150 B.C.E. and 150 C.E. Following new translations, the book provides a close hearing of the oral storytelling that generated these narratives now surviving only in literary form. Historical folklore must reconstruct storytelling performance from literary remains. Making use of contemporary folklore methods, the author examines the text, texture, and context of over one hundred stories, including birth prophecies, provision legends, prophetic stories of destruction or deliverance, and tales of martyrdom. A broad range of stories of these four types is presented in a way that reveals and illumines the oral patterns and characteristics of the storytellers. The stories are drawn from apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature, Early Jewish historians, first-century Christian texts, and the Mishnah and early Talmudic writings. The Christian tradition is included here because it was generated within sectarian Judaism, and the first reports about Jesus appeared from Jewish storytellers. This work aims to shift the attention of biblical scholars and historians of religion away from an exclusive focus on the thought and art of writers or authors, and toward a wider recognition of the work of the storytellers, men and women alike, who generated the traditions that ultimately came to be preserved in written form.

Antoinette Clark Wire is Robert S. Dollar Chair of New Testament Studies, San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, California, and the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California, USA.