The Aesthetics of Biblical Poetry

The “Reading Biblical Poetry” essay in the back of the Jewish Study Bible goes to great lengths to describe the form and function of biblical Hebrew poetry.  The chapter appears to be a smattering of information about formal devices and technical terms needed to understand the conventions of reading poetry in the Bible.  We’ve already been introduced to some of these terms in the readings for Amos and Isaiah.

What are some of the formal elements of biblical poetry that Berlin covers in the essay?  That is, how to biblical poets express themselves?  What typical patterns of meter, theme, and style do they employ?

Is being able to spot elements in biblical poetry, like parallelism and binaristic structure, important? How does knowing and appreciating these elements help us to interpret the text more efficiently?

What role does aesthetics and aesthetic appreciation play in the authorship and preservation of poetry like Isaiah and Jeremiah (use examples from these two books)?  Does this question change at all when we look at other sections of poetry (like the Psalms?)

Does a discussion of aesthetics preclude a discussion about politics?  Or does it enhance it?  Are these two categories in tension with one another? Can they inform one another?

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About Andrew Battista

Andrew Battista is Librarian for Geospatial Information Systems at New York University
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