Toward A Theory Of The Poetry Of The Hebrew Bible: The Poetry Of The Psalms As A Test Case -- By: Beat Weber

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 22:2 (NA 2012)
Article: Toward A Theory Of The Poetry Of The Hebrew Bible: The Poetry Of The Psalms As A Test Case
Author: Beat Weber


Toward A Theory Of The Poetry Of The Hebrew Bible:
The Poetry Of The Psalms As A Test Case

Beat Weber

Theologisches Seminar Bienenberg and University of Pretoria

This article is intended to be an exegetically useful foundation for a theory of Biblical Hebrew (lyrical) poetry, with the center of gravity in the psalms. I take up the research on poetry of pioneer linguists and literary theorists Bühler-Jakobson and Lotman and its application to Biblical Hebrew poetry by, among others, Alter, Berlin, and Nel. I describe “repetition” (or recurrence) as the basic phenomenon. It subsumes not only parallelismus membrorum but also other forms of poetic and structural equivalence. This characteristic feature of biblical poetry establishes a multidimensional network of intra- and extratextual connections that produces a compaction and polysemy not found in the same density and complexity in other literary genres. Important insights are exemplified by three psalms that I have selected for their appropriateness (Pss 3, 13, and 130). The purpose is to elucidate the theory and make it useful for the exegesis of lyrical biblical texts.

Key Words: Biblical Hebrew poetry, literary theory, Psalms, recurrence, equivalence

Author’s note: This article is a revised and updated version of my essay “Entwurf einer Poetologie der Psalmen,” in Lesarten der Bibel: Untersuchungen zu einer Theorie der Exegese des Alten Testaments (ed. Helmut Utzschneider and Erhard Blum; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2006) 127-54. The goal is to make my reflections on the study of the form and function of poetry (of the psalms) in the Hebrew Bible available in English. I wish to thank Dr. John Hobbins and Prof. Phil Botha for translating the article and adapting it to the needs of the readers of this journal and Dr. Philip Sumpter for proofreading.

What is holy or solemn is put in poetry.

Gerhard Fecht1

It is not enough to receive the text only in “linear” fashion, line by line (the first dimension). Simultaneously, its passages must be read “palindromically,” from the outer edges to the center (the second dimension), and citations and allusions to other places in Scripture allowed to contribute to the text’s meaning (the third dimension).

Martin Mark2

It has been more than 15 years since I noted in my thesis at Basel, Psalm 77 and Its Context,You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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