Parallelismus membrorum. Edited by Andreas Wagner. OBO 224. Fribourg: Academic Press; Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2007. Order from Eisenbrauns.
The title of the volume is in Latin, parallelismus membrorum. The expression was coined by a pioneer in the study of ancient Hebrew poetry, Robert Lowth. The expression relates to the chief hallmark of ancient Hebrew verse: prosodic, semantic, syntactic, morphological, and sonic parallelisms recurrent across versets, lines, and strophes; prosodic parallelisms alone are obligatory. For a brief introduction to the topic, go here.
The essays of the volume are in German, which means they will be read by relatively few. Schade! Until recently German was referred to as the original Semitic language because almost everything worth reading in Semitics was written in it.
For those who stopped reading “die semitische Ursprache” after passing their German exam in grad school, or never learned it in the first place, that’s fine and dandy. But Rummy’s rule applies, doesn’t it? You approach the Bible and the study of theology with the languages you have, not the ones you wished you had. If the Bible or theology interest you, German, like Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, belongs in the category of the languages you have, or wished you had.
Lingamish wants us to believe it’s possible for the richly textured poetry and prose of the Bible to be transparent to us without an intimate knowledge of the language in which that texture finds expression. Maybe so, but when I want to know more about the fine grain of a literature written in a language I know poorly or not at all, I seek out an essay or a book by someone who knows the language well. And if I have a working knowledge of a language, and I want to understand literature written in it, I look for further light from others who know the language as well or better than I.
Lingamish, of course, teaches us about language every time he opens that mouth of his. But he’s sneaky about it, so as not to frighten away the masses. The volume under review is not sneaky at all, but I recommend it to those who are interested in the subject matter it seeks to illuminate.
The volume’s essays are written by people who know languages and language (i.e., how languages work) well. Walter Groß and Martin Mark, both excellent Hebraists, ask what parallelism means, Groß from the point of view of syntax, Mark in terms of theological expression. Another superb Hebraist, Klaus Seybold, discusses some of the finer points of parallelism and outlines a research program going into the future.
Mark and Seybold speak boldly not only about parallelism, but about meter and rhythm. Their doing so is refreshing. Meter and rhythm are almost verboten topics in English-language scholarship after remarks by Kugel and O’Connor to the effect that ancient Hebrew verse is not characterized by meter. I discuss the important contributions of Terence Collins, James Kugel, and Michael Patrick O’Connor to the study of ancient Hebrew poetry elsewhere.
Parallelism membrorum also contains essays on the phenomenon in the Old Greek translation of the Psalter; in Ugaritic literature; as an object of research in Egyptology; in Old Babylonian hymns; in ancient Near Eastern art; and in Chinese literature. An introductory essay by Andreas Wagner opens the volume, and a comprehensive bibliography concludes it.
For the Table of Contents, look below the fold. I will review a few of the essays one by one in subsequent posts.
Der Parallelismus membrorum zwischen poetischer Form und Denkfigur
Walter Groß (Tübingen)
Parallelismus - Satzgrenzen - Satzteilfolgen in alttestamentlicher Poesie.
Jes 5,24; Am 5,11; Ijob 29,7.8
Martin Mark (Augsburg)
Verdichtung und Vernetzung theologischer Aussage.
Zur textsemiotischen Signifikanz der hebräischen Metrik
Klaus Seybold (Basel)
Anmerkungen zum Parallelismus membrorum in der hebräischen Poesie
Eberhard Bons (Strasbourg)
Beobachtungen zur Übersetzung und Neubildung von Parallelismen im Septuaginta-Psalter
Holger Gzella (Leiden)
Parallelismus und Asymmetrie in ugaritischen Texten
Gerald Moers (Göttingen)
Der Parallelismus (membrorum) als Gegenstand ägyptologischer Forschung
Michael Streck (Leipzig)
Der Parallelismus membrorum in den altbabylonischen Hymnen
Parallelismus in Bildern
Astrid Nunn (Würzburg)
Parallelismus membrorum in altorientalischen Bildern
Joachim Gentz (Göttingen)
Zum Parallelismus in der chinesischen Literatur
Bibliographie und Register
Katja Adam, Viktor Golinets, Christoph Schefe, and Andreas Wagner
Auswahlbliographie zum Parallelismus membrorum