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CHARNEY, Davida H.

SUMMER 2010, 40:3, pages 247 - 268

Performativity and Persuasion in the Hebrew Book of Psalms: A Rhetorical Analysis of Psalms 116 and 22 

Abstract: Recently, scholars have argued that oral poetry helped lay the groundwork for the development of rhetorical theory and practice in archaic Greece. I propose that oral poetry played a similar role in archaic Israel. First, I describe the ritual and rhetorical contexts in which psalms were composed and performed in ancient Israel. Second, I analyze two psalms (Ps 22 and Ps 116) to show that treating the psalms as deliberative argument posed by Israelites to God can explain otherwise perplexing problems in interpretation and translation. Finally, I argue that positing an active locus for rhetoric in ancient Israelite culture raises interesting cross-cultural comparisons with ancient Athens regarding the striving for social status and public influence.

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