Can Hebrew poetic and prophetic discourse be analyzed on the macro level?
Most work on Hebrew discourse has focused on lower levels of the discourse, leaving room for more research on methods for analyzing entire Hebrew writings. But poetic and prophetic writings pose special challenges, such as their compositional histories and anthological nature. These factors make pragmatic analysis especially challenging, if it is even possible. Join us as we explore the problems and potential solutions to analyzing the macro-structure of Hebrew poetry and prophecy.
Co-sponsored by Dallas International University, SIL International, and Fontes Press, this one-day conference will feature a plenary speaker (Benjamin J. Noonan), roundtable discussion, and up to 20 selected papers. Authors of exceptional papers will be invited to contribute to an edited volume on the topic. A light breakfast and full lunch will be provided for in-person attendees.
Virtual attendance via Zoom is an option for both presenters and attendees. Session recordings will be available to registrations for 365 days after the end of the conference. Tickets are refundable through September 18th.
Paul O’Rear, SIL Resources Coordinator
REGISTRATION OPENS SPRING 2023
Benjamin J. Noonan (PhD, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion) is Associate Professor of Old Testament & Hebrew at Columbia International University (Columbia, SC). At Columbia International University he enjoys teaching courses on Hebrew grammar and exegesis, Old Testament introduction, and Old Testament theology. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, Institute for Biblical Research, Tyndale Fellowship, Evangelical Theological Society, and National Association of Professors of Hebrew; he is also a member of the Exploring the Composition of the Pentateuch Research Group.
Noonan’s research interests include the Pentateuch; Biblical Hebrew grammar, lexicography, and discourse analysis; Northwest Semitics; language contact in the ancient Near East; and Old Testament theology. He is the author of Advances in the Study of Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic: New Insights for Reading the Old Testament (Zondervan Academic, 2020) and Non-Semitic Loanwords in the Hebrew Bible: A Lexicon of Language Contact (Eisenbrauns, 2019) and is the co-editor of “Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?” A Grammatical Tribute to Professor Stephen A. Kaufman (Eisenbrauns, 2017). He is currently working on Hebrew Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the Old Testament (under contract with Zondervan Academic).
“How can we approach analyzing Hebrew poetic and prophetic texts from a macro discourse perspective?”
In recent decades, those studying biblical Hebrew discourse have advanced our understanding of the language’s discourse features, particularly at the lower levels of the discourse. Special attention has been given to Hebrew discourse markers, information structure, and the discourse function of the verbal system, among other issues. Far less attention has been paid to macro issues in the analysis of Hebrew discourse.
Though some studies have approached the macro structure of Hebrew texts, these investigations have generally focused on narrative texts, perhaps because of the various challenges that poetic and prophetic texts pose for macro-discourse approaches. While narrative texts have a rather unified final form, many of the poetic and prophetic texts have a more obvious compositional history that cannot be ignored. Prophetic books are generally collections of narratives and oracles from a certain prophet. Psalms and Proverbs are anthologies, and the collected nature of the prophetic books suggests they may also be more or less anthological. (And Job, Qohelet, and the Song of Songs have their own similar complications.) Can the macrostructures of such writings be analyzed as a whole from a linguistic discourse perspective? And how does their compositional or anthological nature affect attempts to analyze their macrostructure from a discourse linguistic perspective? And how would a discourse analysis of the final form of entire poetic and prophetic texts differ from canonical-critical and structural approaches?
The advances in research at the lower discourse levels also contribute to how the broader macro structure is organized and perceived. How might advances in Hebrew discourse grammar on the lower levels of discourse inform our discourse approach to the macro structure of the entire Hebrew writings?
Moreover, how are we to integrate pragmatics into the analysis of these texts? A prophetic oracle is delivered to an audience, recorded, and collected with other oracles. The psalms were written, collected incrementally into larger collections, and eventually finalized into the Psalter we have today. Since pragmatics relies on various aspects of the context of communication, which of these stages of communication should supply the necessary pragmatic information? How much of this pragmatic information is recoverable with any level of certainty? By contrast, if we focus solely on the final form of the text, can pragmatics be integrated at all? And how would such an analysis differ from canonical criticism or structural approaches?
Paper proposals are now closed. See the list of accepted Presentations here.