Toward A Theory Of The Poetry Of The Hebrew Bible: The Poetry Of The Psalms As A Test Case -- By: Beat Weber
BBR 22:2 (2012) p. 157
Toward A Theory Of The Poetry Of The Hebrew Bible:
The Poetry Of The Psalms As A Test Case
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.
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).
BBR 22:2 (2012) p. 158
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