The Idea of Biblical Poetry: Parallelism and Its History

Overview

Is there poetry in the Bible? Does it have rhyme or meter? How did ancient Hebrew writers compose their works? James Kugel's provocative study provides surprising new answers to these age-old questions. Biblical "poetry" is not a concept native to the Bible itself, he proposes, and the idea that the Bible is divided into prose and verse is merely an approximation of the reality of biblical style. Arguing that the Bible presents a continuum of speech heightened in varying degrees by different means, Kugel sets out...

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Overview

Is there poetry in the Bible? Does it have rhyme or meter? How did ancient Hebrew writers compose their works? James Kugel's provocative study provides surprising new answers to these age-old questions. Biblical "poetry" is not a concept native to the Bible itself, he proposes, and the idea that the Bible is divided into prose and verse is merely an approximation of the reality of biblical style. Arguing that the Bible presents a continuum of speech heightened in varying degrees by different means, Kugel sets out to describe Hebrew's high style on its own terms. He also offers a thorough history of the idea of biblical poetry, starting with Philo of Alexandria and Josephus in the first century C.E. and charting its development through the Church Fathers, medieval Jewish writers, the Christian Hebraists of the Renaissance, and on into modern times. The story of how each age understood the nature biblical poetry, Kugel concludes, is a key to understanding the Bible's place in the history of Western thought.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

By challenging some of scholarship's most cherished positions, this book will undoubtedly become the sine qua non for all future discussions of biblical language.

Journal of Jewish Studies - P. Wernberg-Moller

This book is a truly remarkable achievement.

Journal for the Study of the Old Testament - Francis Landy

A pleasure to read and obviously fun to write, a book which reminds us, through its mastery of critical rhetoric and immense learning, of the playfulness of being a scholar.

Shofar

Consistently erudite, lucid, honest, revisionist, and awesomely comprehensive.

P. Wernberg-Moller
A truly remarkable achievement. -- Journal of Jewish Studies
Shofar
Consistently erudite, lucid, honest, revisionist, and awesomely comprehensive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801859441
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 6/26/1998
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 356
  • Sales rank: 1,037,147
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

James Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Poetry and Prophecy, Early Biblical Interpretation and On Being a Jew, the last available from Johns Hopkins. His The Bible as It Was, an introduction to the Torah's ancient interpreters, was published in 1997.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface
Bibliographical Abbreviations
1 The Parallelistic Line 1
2 Poetry and Prose 59
3 Rabbinic Exegesis and the "Forgetting" of Parallelism 96
4 Biblical Poetry and the Church 135
5 The Meter of Biblical Songs 171
6 "What Is the System of Hebrew Poetry?" 204
7 A Metrical Afterword 287
App. A The Persistence of Parallelism 305
App. B On Syntax and Style, with Some Reflections on M. P. O'Connor's Hebrew Verse Structure 315
General Index 325
Scriptural Index 333
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