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Friday, October 08, 2004
 
Coherence of prophetic texts: re/search ::

Towards the end of a busy week, in a busy period of the year (here the end of the academic year) it was good yesterday to be reminded of my "ivory tower" research. I did a paper to the Carey Research Seminar (so not just biblical scholars, but a "mixed" audience) on my work on coherence.

It was especially interesting to stand back and view this work as a whole instead of looking closely at the parts. The paper worked like this:

Introduction: why coherence is an issue
How the historico-critical generations were so good at taking the prophets apart that we (= biblical scholars) could no longer see their books as wholes. Even at chapter level we had focused on their incoherence. Von Rad offers an extreme but not untypical case:
...the individual speech units in Amos are in thematic respects in no way attuned to each other....[1]

Rhetorical and literary readers have tended to assume coherence.

Coherence and cohesion
So, my project has been to work from examining signs of linguistic cohesion to then asking about literary and rhetorical coherence.
cohesion
linguistic features of a text which promote or create its sense of being a unity.
Crystal: "the ties that bind a text together".

coherence
not-quite synonym, implies ideas expressed mutually relevant, “makes sense”. Crystal: “the underlying logical connectedness of a use of language”[2]

Amos 3 & 7: cohesion and coherence
After a brief summary of my Australian Biblical Review article (1999), which argued this process in Amos 3 I went on to summarise the papers I've given to ANZABS. Especially the recent one on Amos 7:1-8:3.

Conclusions
This process makes me aware:
(a) I must write them up properly and submit them for publication.
(b) I must do something to get the email group going, perhaps a discussion of terminology or getting others to comment on my draft of one of these...


[1] G. von Rad, 'The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh', JSS iv,2, 1959, 105 n.1.
[2] David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, CUP, 1987, ad loc..


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