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Language and Imagery in the Old Testament [Paperback]

By John C. Gibson (Author)
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Item Number 119704  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   166
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.51" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.54"
Weight:   0.48 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 30, 1998
Publisher   Hendrickson Publishers
ISBN  1565630904  
EAN  9781565630901  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Drawing on material throughout the Old Testament, J. C. L. Gibson unfolds for modern readers the ancient imagery and language in the Hebrew biblical texts. Focusing on the extraordinary literary power of the Old Testament, he describes the creative techniques and artful expressions of its authors, and he emphasizes their use of common literary genres for common people. The book will interest not only those accustomed to hearing the Bible read aloud to them in worship but also anyone interested in its enormous impact on language, literature, and culture.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts > Bible > Old Testament   [1338  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Commentaries > Old Testament   [2074  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Concordances   [1693  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
helpful introduction to the Bible as literature  Jul 24, 2005
Even if John C.L. Gibson admits that the OT is "capable of causing not a little embarrassment to the two religions which have adopted it as their Scriptures", he finds it also "seductive", "moving" and "illuminating". His little book is meant to guide the reader to fuller appreciation of the latter qualities and in this he must be judged to have succeeded. His first of seven well-written chapters, entitled "The Energies of the Hebrew Language", presents the lack of abstract terms and the linking together of clauses by "and" as the "two basic characteristics of biblical Hebrew." The picture is filled out by several not unimportant features: prominence of direct speech, cosmological descriptions of heaven and Sheol, the extravagance of Semitic address, folk etymologies, figurative language, hyperbole, personalisation, irony, et al. Throughout this chapter Gibson indicates the considerable distance which separates theological language from that of the OT.

In ch. two ("Language about God in the Old Testament"), Gibson approaches the (non-)problem of anthropomorphism by way of the recognition that all theology is metaphorical. Faced with such incautious expression, the point is to understand rather than to approve. A discussion of the incomparability of Yahweh (closer to heno- than mono-theism) rounds out the chapter. Full-blown monotheistic statements such as Isa 43.10 represent "the exaggeration of faith" rather than systematic theology, since so much of the OT refuses to evacuate creation of other "theologically real" gods.

Ch. three ("The Rhetoric of Hebrew Prose Writing") asks us "Why Prose?", a question occasioned by the paucity of ANE precedent. En route to a tentative answer in terms of narrative theology, Gibson guides us through such features as composite authorship, reticence, the resonance of key words, and characterisation by what the protagonists say, here and there pausing to criticise the "fissiparous tendencies" of "excavatory scholarship", too full of sources and too deaf to accomplished story-telling.

After sketching out the basics of metre and parallelism, ch. four ("The Rhetoric and Melodies of Hebrew Poetry") explains and illustrates the rhetoric of judgement, comfort, praise, lament, confident wisdom, and questioning wisdom. Gibson allows us his own evaluation of aspects of biblical poetry, whether this be his appraisal of Proverbs ("too smug by half"), his suggestion that Christian poetry is more preoccupied with sin and confession than that of the Psalms, or his traditional conclusion that Job's "redeemer" (19.23ff.) must be God himself.

Gibson's ch. five ("The Rhetoric of Hebrew Myth") mounts an apology for the genre, whether its toned-down priestly variety in Gen 2 or the less restrained mythic voice of the psalms and prophets. Israel's mythology has points of contact with that of her neighbours, but Israel's experience of God in her own history produced a unique "standard of judgement". Gibson's reading of the second Yahweh speech in Job is an illuminating attempt to beat back the modernisers and rescue this divine soliloquy for the genre.

The second half of the book's title becomes the focus of its last two chapters (six, "Images of God"; seven, "Images of Humanity"). Sustaining the point that images-like all God-talk-are metaphorical and suggestive, Gibson cites texts which illustrate the principal ones (king, judge, father [and mother], redeemer, et al.). Refusing to be drawn in theological directions-though perhaps not entirely-Gibson concludes that such images tell us how Israel conceived of God, not how he is in himself: "The time for knowing him is not yet, but in another life." Similarly in his discussion of human imagery (e.g. "knowledge of good and evil", "human creatureliness"), Gibson's avowedly empirical survey of OT language and imagery ends with an expression of the chastened faith which this literature so often evokes (p. 154).
A fine intellecutal guide to the Old Testament  Jan 18, 2003
Author J.C.L. Gibson is a fine scholar. To that end, this publication successfully nurtures a better understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament. Moreover, Gibson offers an easy writing style that offers many insightful observations that helps unlock the complexity of the language in the Old Testament.

I found Chapter one, "The Energies of the Hebrew Language," and Chapter three, "The Rhetoric of Hebrew Prose Writing," helps foster a greater appreciation of the ancient imagery and language in the Old Testament. I must admit to being only a moderate reader of the Old Testament and to having struggled over and over penetrating the secrets of the language. Hence, I found "Language and Imagery in the Old Testament" to be an excellent companion to the Bible.

Admittedly, the Old Testament is deep and open to many interpretations. Consequently, not everyone will agree with all of Gibson's conclusions. However, I have found Gibson's scholarship to be comprehensive, objective, inspiring and a good faith effort to improve our understanding of the many mysteries in the Bible.

God didn't write the Bible  Jan 18, 2002
No serious person actually believes that God literally (with his own hand) "wrote" the Bible. He may have inspired its writing, but the Bible is an anthology of texts, produced over a period of more than a thousand years. Human beings wrote the texts. Human beings used literary techniques to make this book as beautiful as it could be. Some of those techniques include hyperbole, irony, metonymy, etc.

One of my favorite examples of how a study of literary techniques can enhance ones appreciation of the Bible is the merismus: a term used in rhetoric to describe a type of synecdoche in which two parts of a thing, usually the extremes, are made to stand for the whole. So, when, in Genesis, the phrase "knowledge of good and evil" is used, it quite simply means good and evil AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. We can clearly see this if we think of other, similar usages: When Christ says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" he does NOT mean "I am only the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet!" The words must be interpreted metaphorically to mean: I am the beginning and the end AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. When, in our patriotic song, we sing Guthrie's words, This Land is your land, this land is my land "from California, to the New York Island / From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters," we don't mean only California and New york, only the Northwest and Louisiana belong to "you and me." Guthrie was using merismus to say "California to New York" AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN.

So when I read comments like those on this page that this book is "too liberal" because it offers a clearer, better understanding of the sacred text of the Bible, I want to say, "Open your mind; learn something about literary techniques like the merismus and you will be amazed at how profound the Bible really is and at how much you still need to learn about the Bible."

excellent and readable overview from a MODERATE prospective  Mar 24, 2001
This book is a brief and readable analysis of the OT writings from a literary and cultural viewpoint. I would respectfully disagree with the prior reviewer that the author is a liberal. Gibson is definitely a moderate; believing in the truth and inspiration of the bible but yet willing to acknowledge that the printed words are limited by the intellectual resources of those who wrote them as well as by the characteristics of the Hebrew language in which they were written. This book is excellent for those Christians who believe that Scripture IS the word of God - but who need a little more than some of the nonsense explanations given to harmonize what the Bible says with what we see. Let's face it, the OT is a difficult body of writings - neither written as nor meant to be read as a simple bedtime story.
Extrordinarily liberal  Sep 13, 2000
This book is extremely liberal in its view of the Bible. Gibson plainly states that the Bible is filled with imaginative stories, myths, and legends.

Gibson states that the Bible is full of exaggerations as a form of hyperbole. For example, he states that the 600,000 people of the Exodus was an exaggeration and that the ages of pre-Diluvians, such as Methuselah who lived 969 years, were used as hyperbole (p.14).

Gibson then goes on to indicate the story of Baalam's donkey talking is a folktale using personification as a device. He equates this to such phrases as "the trees clapped their hands" (pp 16-17).

Here are some other things that illustrate the flavor of his writing: He states that Isaiah 53 probably does not apply to Jesus (p.17); he calls King Saul "bumbling but hardly wicked" (p18); he calls Satan "God's sidekick" (p19); God lies to and deceives Adam and Eve when He tells them that they would die in the day that they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil because they did not physically die that day (p.23).

The rest of the book is filled with this sort of thing. I cannot recommend this book to anyone who takes the Bible seriously.


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