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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

Typology in Biblical Hebrew Meter: A Generative Metrical Approach
Park, Sung Jin

Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 2017 pp. xiii + 488. $299.95

Description: Scholars have long recognized the significance of typology for the classification of biblical poetry and the development of measurable typological indicators. Yet thus far no one has systematically classified biblical poetry with such indicators. The aim of the present study is to demonstrate the chronological development of the metrical features of Biblical Hebrew poetry by comparing Classical and Late Hebrew poetry in light of colometric and metrical analyses. To achieve this goal, this volume asks three fundamental questions regarding methodology: (1) how do we establish the proper colometric boundaries for cola? (2) what are the legitimate criteria for syllabification rules? (3) how do we crystallize a systematic methodology for metrical analysis of Hebrew verses? Chapter One offers a brief discussion of the typology of Biblical Hebrew poetry, a historical survey of previous approaches to Biblical Hebrew poetic meter (accent-counting, syllable-counting, and syntactical approaches), and then provides the aim and direction of the present study. The first part of Chapter Two takes up the first question on methodology: how to establish proper colometric boundaries. This part examines the colometric divisions of poetic texts according to the Tiberian accentuation system and discusses why the application of this accentuation system to the colometric divisions of Biblical Hebrew poetry is valid. The second part of the chapter deals with the second methodological question, namely criteria for syllabification rules. Utilizing the Masoretic text as the standard text, I will discuss some of the rules affecting syllabification (monophthongization, segholation, the pronuncia-tion of shewa, extrametricality and stress shift) in light of historical linguistics, suggesting a consistent set of syllabification rules that can be applied to Biblical Hebrew poetic texts. Chapter Three examines the final question, that of metrical analysis. The present study adopts a modified version of the generative metrical theories of N. Fabb and M. Halle as a tool for analyzing the meter of Biblical Hebrew poetry. The main reasons for adopting generative metrical analysis are that Biblical Hebrew is a heavily stress-oriented language and that generative metrics attempts to express poetic meter with only a few rules focused on the main characteristics of stress and rhythm in the world's poetic traditions. These main characteristics of stress are well expressed in the Tiberian accentuation system. This chapter briefly addresses the historical development of generative metrical theories over the past few decades, particularly why they have been proposed and how they have expressed poetic meter with a set of regular rules. It also explains how this metrical theory can be applied to Biblical Hebrew poetic texts by proposing a few rules and processes, and demonstrates through metrical analysis that the meter of Biblical Hebrew poetry is loosely iambic. Chapter Four analyzes select Biblical Hebrew poetic texts in light of the colometric and metrical analyses established in the previous chapters. These text selections come from both Classical and Late Hebrew poetry. Chapters from First Isaiah and the entire book of Micah have been selected as representative of Classical Hebrew poetry, and all the poetic portions of Haggai and Second Zechariah have been chosen as representative of Late Hebrew poetry. Based on the fourth chapter's analysis, Chapter Five compares metrical data between Classical and Late Hebrew poetry and discuss what distinctive metrical features characterize the two periods. This will demonstrate the significance of typology for classification of biblical poetry and the metrical development of Biblical Hebrew poetry. Chapter Six, the final chapter, then summarizes and concludes what we have discussed.

Subjects: Bible, Literature, Methods, Linguistics, Hebrew, Literary Approaches, Poetics

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Review by Donald R. Vance
Published 12/20/2019
Citation: Donald R. Vance, review of Sung Jin Park, Typology in Biblical Hebrew Meter: A Generative Metrical Approach, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2019).

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