Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hebrew Parallelism: synonymous or no?

Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.

What do we have in the second part of this verse? How should we describe the parallelism here? Someone asked me recently if there was a difference between breath/spirit. Without consulting commentaries (I'm OT poor) I'm thinking this is parallelism, with no real differentiation in concepts here. That is, breath/spirit are more or less synonyms.

But studying up on the possibility of an allusion to Gen 49:9ff in Matt, I noted this in David Instone-Brewer's article, "The Two Asses of Zechariah 9:9 in Matthew 21," TynBul 54.1 (2003), 90 n.31: "Alter...argues that the second line always contributes something which is not present in the first line, so no parallelism is truly synonymous. Alter says that the second line usually adds specificity or intensification." He cites Art of Biblical Poetry, 18-22. I was taught something like this in grad school with "A, what's more, B" being the rough equation expressing this, as opposed to contrasting parallelism: "A, but B" or equivalent parallelism, "A = B".

Not sure about this one. Can we really say that "the second line always contributes something"? Anyone know for sure? Seems to me that Is 42:5c/d are more or less equivalent.

Then there's the vexing question of how NT and contemporaneous interpreters would have read such lines.


Blogger theswain said...

I think I would express it more like this: A, and not just A but A+, synonymous intensification (says the same thing, but says it "more")

11:41 AM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger J. B. Hood said...

sounds good...

4:43 PM, July 11, 2006  

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