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Posts Tagged ‘biblical poetry’

The abstract of this article reads as follows:

The purpose of this study is to critique some of the prevalent theories regarding the biblical alphabetic acrostics and to expose a previously unrecognized feature that most of the acrostics share: ‘Alphabetical thinking’ manifests itself differently in each poem; however, one common thread in most of the acrostics is the more prevalent use of the qatalּ form instead of the yiqtol form as compared to other poetry. This is likely a function of the versatility of the qatal to fit both the acrostic artifice and the acrostic style (aspectual orientation in particular). Two psalms, one acrostic and one non-acrostic, are analyzed and their verb usage compared. Three avenues of further study are proposed.

Noting the ‘belittlement’ of the Bible’s acrostic poems as a ‘silly trick’ that has been manifest from some quarters, Giffone attempts to allow the ‘acrostic form’ and the ‘acrostic style’ to speak for themselves.

The article helpfully surveys the absence of unifying form-critical qualities across the biblical acrostics and quasi-acrostics with the exception of the guiding role played by the alphabet itself. His article also brings the reader current with representative views regarding the purpose of the acrostics. These range from the assumption of ideological purpose on the one extreme (for example, the construal of order in turbulent times) through the thesis that ‘alphabetical thinking’ represents a memory aid and on to the minimalist idea that the arrangement is a mere aesthetic artifice. The author probes the higher-than-usual occurrence of qatal forms over prefixed yiqtol forms in the acrostic poems without evidently embracing the simple explanation that the prefixed Hebrew verb severely restricts the alphabetical possibilities and so cedes the artistic ground it normally occupies to the more alphabetically versatile qatal. After detailing various ways in which the biblical acrostics manifest their formal idiosyncrasy (both strictly and messily), Giffone elaborates a ‘test case’ via comparison of Psalms 32 and 34, with uncertain results. To this reader’s eyes, Giffone suspects that an ideological purpose lies behind ‘alphabetical thinking’ but does not find clear evidence in his study that this is so.

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