The Catholic University of America

Final Examination of

William J. Buracker II

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy



Abner Son of Ner: The Characterization and Contribution

of King Saul’s Chief General

 Director: Dr. David Bosworth, Ph.D.

The dissertation represents the first comprehensive, academic examination of the character of Abner in the books of Samuel (1 Sam 14:50-51; 17:55–18:5; 20:25; 26:1-16; 2 Sam 2:8-32; 3:6-39), and it examines Abner’s character as it both resembles a real human being and functions as a literary device in the Masoretic Text (MT) and Septuagint (LXX).  Following the examples of Sara Koenig and other biblical scholars (e.g., Robert Alter, Shimon Bar-Efrat, Adele Berlin, and Meir Sternberg), this dissertation gives attention to the ways these texts characterize Abner through direct and indirect characterization, narrative gaps, direct discourse, terminology, and grammar related to Abner, and the dissertation discusses the moral presentation of Abner in the texts and his character development from 1 Samuel into 2 Samuel.  Moreover, utilizing Alex Woloch’s The One vs. The Many, the dissertation examines Abner’s character-space — the encounter between a character’s personality traits and position within the narrative — in the texts.  While Abner’s character mimics a real human being in the way he is described, acts, and speaks in the stories, his character also contributes to their plots, structures, and messages, and he aids the reader in understanding other characters.

The dissertation first devotes significant attention to Abner’s character-space in MT, followed by a discussion of how LXX differs from MT with respect to Abner.  The dissertation concludes that Abner is a minor but complex and generally positive character who is integral to the plot of the story.  Positively, Abner holds a powerful position within Saul’s court, is persuasive and shrewd, relies heavily upon rhetoric and questions, prefers peace over violence, and is widely respected by other characters.  Negatively, he is lustful, presumptuous, callous, and an ineffectual military commander.  The LXX presents Abner as a more powerful, threatening and yet merciful but less rhetorically shrewd character than does MT.  As a literary device, Abner’s character symbolizes Saul and his kingdom, signals negative transitions for Saul’s house, illuminates other characters, and acts as the catalyst for the peaceful transition of power from the house of Saul to the house of David.  


More about Buracker

William J. Buracker II (BJ), originally from Olney, MD, moved to the Pinehurst region of North Carolina in 1995 and graduated from Pinecrest High School in 1997.  From there, he began an extensive career in higher education.  He received a B.S. and an M.S. in Mathematics from North Carolina State University in 2001 and 2002, an M.Div. from Reformed Theological Seminary in 2007, an M.Th. from The University of Edinburgh (Scotland) in 2008, and an M.Phil. from The Catholic University of America (CUA) in 2015.  Here at CUA, BJ served as a teaching assistant for two years, and he has taught TRS 200 Introduction to the Old Testament, TRS 201 Faith Seeking Understanding, and TRS 210 Introduction to the New Testament.  In 2012, he became a Program Coordinator in the Center for Academic Success at CUA where he managed the Academic Coaching and Assessment Program and helped underperforming students develop and implement strategies for success.  In 2014, he became the Assistant Dean of CUA’s Metropolitan School of Professional Studies (MSPS), which serves adult working professionals in the D.C. area, overseeing its undergraduate programs.  In 2016, he was promoted to Associate Dean of MSPS and now also manages the faculty and graduate programs of MSPS.

BJ married Kimberly in 2006 and is the father of Hannah (four), Eilidh (two), and Mary Esther who was born February 4, 2017.  BJ also serves as a Vestry member, Lay Eucharistic Minister, and Bible Study leader at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, MD.  After completing his PhD., BJ plans to update and publish his seminar papers and continue his research into the minor characters of the Old Testament.