The Unity of the Egyptian Hallel: Psalms 113-18 -- By: Elizabeth Hayes

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 09:1 (NA 1999)
Article: The Unity of the Egyptian Hallel: Psalms 113-18
Author: Elizabeth Hayes


The Unity of the Egyptian Hallel: Psalms 113-18

Elizabeth Hayes

Fuller Seminary Extension
Seattle, Washington

Discourse analysis provides the paradigmatic techniques that demonstrate the unity of the Egyptian Hallel at the textual level. A stretch of text is recognized as a discourse when it contains elements of cohesion, coherence, and prominence. Cohesion is determined by semantic factors. Coherence is determined by meaningful thematic flow, including evidence of thematic peaking, or prominence. The presence of these three factors supports the unitary nature of the Egyptian Hallel text.

Key words: Egyptian Hallel, discourse analysis

I. Introduction

The “Egyptian Hallel” (Psalms 113-18) has been a significant component of Jewish festival liturgy since the Tannaitic period,1 and it continues to hold a place of honor in contemporary Passover celebrations.2 The historical use of the Egyptian Hallel group raises the question of its placement in the canon. The text of the series of psalms appears in the same order both in the Masoretic Text and in the Septuagint. This allows for the possibility of intentional ordering by the

editor.3 Were these psalms arranged sequentially for the sake of convenience, or did the editor intend to tell a larger story by deliberately creating the grouping? Discourse analysis4 and text-linguistics provide the paradigmatic techniques for a multidimensional approach to the text of the Egyptian Hallel. This approach will demonstrate the unity of the group at the textual level.

Although the term discourse is often associated with narrative passages, there is a tendency on the part of modern linguists to broaden the definition. Discourse, according to Cotterell and Turner, comprises “any coherent stretch of language” structured to exhibit “some measure of development.”5 Or, in other words, a discourse exhibits elements of cohesion, coherence, and prominence.

For this reason, the first step involved in discourse analysis of the Egyptian Hallel is that of inspecting the text of Psalms 113-18 for elements of cohesion in order to establish the discourse boundaries of the macrostructure.6 The second step is that of microexamining the macrostructure...

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