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Monday, January 28, 2008
  International Bibical Studies Writing Month: progress?
I have not reported for a while on my progress. Mainly because there has not been as much as I'd like :(

However, I have submitted the article: "The image of the invisible God: (an)iconic knowing, God and gender" and I have made good progress on notes on the poetics of biblical narrative (I am not sure if such textbook-type material really counts though :( and I have an abstract for SBL International (here in Auckland in July), which considering that at the start of the month I had not even a little idea to work on, indeed just a few days ago I was still idea-less, is not bad going. Here it is, though if you want to offer suggestions of criticism (especially constructive criticism) please be quick as the deadline is VERY close ;)

Diagnosing the mortality of metaphors in dead languages: בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל as an example

The term בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל is asserted to be a "dead metaphor", merely a demonym. The term "dead metaphor" is itself a dead metaphor, whose meaning is complex. However, the linguistic study of dead metaphors offers insights into the philosophy of mind and the psychology of language,[1] which have potential benefits for biblical scholarship.

Distinguishing "live" from "dead" metaphor is relatively easy in living languages, one can potentially interrogate native speakers, but correspondingly problematic in "dead languages". As Cohen notes, our language sample in the Hebrew Bible may be untypical, so frequency is perhaps not a good measure of the mortality of a metaphor.[2]

This paper will explore possible approaches understanding the functioning of such language by assessing the metaphorical mortality of the term בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. Is this term simply not a metaphor, rather as a "dead letter" was never alive? Is it, like a dead parrot, beyond resuscitation? Or, can we discern instances where, through interaction with the cotext, the metaphorical import of the term may be being revived by the text, much as I might revive even though "dead" tired?

Biblical uses of בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל will be analysed using Guttenplan's four point ordering of the mortality of metaphorical content.[3] Passages where this (possibly) dead metaphor is used in ways which if it were "live" would create a mixed metaphor, and examples where the metaphor is extended, will offer a means of assessing the liveliness of potentially dead metaphors in a "dead language".

This examination of the biblical term is not comprehensive, or quantitative, rather it seeks, through the use of selected examples, to show how Guttenplan's approach can help towards a more nuanced understanding of the usage of potentially dead metaphors in the Biblical Hebrew repertoire.



[1] Derek Melser, The Act Of Thinking (MIT Press, 2004), 171; Samuel Guttenplan, Objects of Metaphor (Oxford University Press, 2005), 183.

[2] Mordechai Z. Cohen, Three Approaches to Biblical Metaphor: From Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides (BRILL, 2003), 25 n.81.

[3] Guttenplan, Objects of Metaphor, 192-3.


Yes, it is true, I confess. The idea for the paper and the work to check that it is viable all happened in the last few days, as a look at the previous post might suggest, almost... I had been thinking along these lines off and on for a while, but it had never become a "research project" till now.

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