I'm reading a book titled "Map Is Not Territory" by J. Z. Smith. And in the book, it says "This suggests, without arguing direct LITERARY DEPENDENCE, a community and continuity of tradition." (p.31). Can you teach me what this "literary dependence" mean?

1 Answer 1


Literary dependence refers to the original relationship between biblical texts. The term is often seen in discussions among biblical scholars around the question of how the gospels relate to each other—known as the synoptic problem. Johann Jakob Griesbach's theory on their relationship, quoted from Wikipedia, helps explain the term (emphasis mine):

Griesbach's theory was, therefore, one of direct literary dependence between and among the gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark, or what German scholars came to call a "utilization hypothesis." According to Griesbach, the historical order of the gospels was, first, Matthew; second Luke, making use of Matthew and other non-Matthean tradition; and third, Mark, making use of both Matthew and Luke.


  • I don't think literary dependance is being delimited to Biblical texts only here...
    – Uticensis
    Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 9:18
  • 1
    @Billare: Not delimited to, but inclusive of. I just added a link to the OP. I'm assuming the "Jewish Christianity" there is referring to the New Testament writings. Also, the text in question is described as a "non-canonical Jewish apocryphon" at the start of the chapter. Literary dependence may be a term used more broadly, but I couldn't find examples of it used outside the field of biblical studies and it seems to have been coined there. Commented Apr 25, 2011 at 11:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.