Ernst R. Wendland, ed., Discourse Perspectives on Hebrew Poetry in the Scripture. New York: United Bible Societies, 1994. x +198 pp. ISBN: 0-8267-0457-3. $17.95.
This volume is a collection of essays on discourse analysis of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament. One of the refreshing features of recent literary and narrative approaches to the Word of God is the studied defense of the unity and coherence of the texts. Whether pericopes, chapters or whole books of the Bible, those exploring the linguistic artistry of the divinely inspired writers have renewed our well-founded allegiance to the integrity of Scripture. Increasingly passé are critical approaches which divide, fragment and patch together the words of the Bible. This volume is a superb case-in-point. Wendland's opening essay ("The Discourse Analysis of Hebrew Poetry: A Procedural Outline") is a survey of the discussion. Since exegesis is the analysis of the text, treating the text as "discourse" involves examination of the form (or genre), the semantics (or words) and the rhetoric (or the emotional appeal). While noting that several of Wendland's principles retain "critical" foundations, nonetheless his application of the method to Psalm 30 ("Continuity and Discontinuity in Hebrew Poetic Design: Patterns and Points of Significance in the Structure and Setting of Psalm 30") presents a fresh structural and discourse analysis of "exalting the Lord." The third article by Loren Bliese ("Symmetry and Prominence in Hebrew Poetry: With Examples from Hosea") is a very suggestive investigation of chiastic patterns in the prophet Hosea. "Hebrew Poetry and the Text of the Song of Songs" by Robert Bascom is a defense of the Masoretic Text of the Song of Songs from a discourse analysis point of view. Bascom finds very little grounds for the frequent emendations to the Hebrew text suggested by critics and commentators. Graham Ogden reflects on the interrelation of poetry and prose in Judges 4 and 5 ("Poetry, Prose, and Their Relationship: Some Reflections Based on Judges 4 and 5"). David Clark weighs in on Isaiah 5:1-7 ("The Story of the Vineyard: Love Lyric or Comic Ode? A Study of the Oral and Discourse Features of Isaiah 5:1-7"). "Anatomy of a Poem: Lamentations 1" (William Reyburn) contains a careful reading and structural analysis of the initial reflection on Jerusalem's destruction (586 B.C.). (This reviewer would only note that the chapter is chiastic as well as strophic, i.e., parallel verses.) The final chapter is an intriguing reading of Moses' Song of the Sea (Ex. 15:1-18) by Noel Osborn.
This is a helpful collection which allows the text of the Old Testament to speak for itself. Pastors and students will find it very stimulating.
James T. Dennison,