Poetic revelation: The relationship between parallelism and metaphor in biblical Hebrew poetry

Nancy Louise Rogers, Fordham University


Most modern scholars would agree that parallelism and metaphor are the primary characteristics of biblical Hebrew poetry (BHP). What is less noted by such scholars is that these two poetic devices are very similar in the way they work. Almost never addressed is the way in which these devices interact with each other in BHP. This dissertation argues that the recognition of these devices' similarities and interaction has important implications for how one understands the aesthetics of BHP and its theological descriptions of God. The phenomenon of parallelism is a complex linguistic device. Parallelism, particularly binary parallelism, is the relationship of the similarities and differences between two half-lines of BHP set against each other that brings a corresponding order to the poem's structure. The phenomenon of metaphor is literary device that creates a notion of equivalence by speaking of one thing in terms that suggest another. In other words, the dynamics of both parallelism and metaphor are interactive and both achieve their effect in the same manner. Taking note of their similar dynamics, this study proceeded to examine the relationship between parallelism and metaphor using two important metaphors for God, -God as Rock" and "God as Shepherd." After a careful literary and linguistic analysis of selected verses of BHP, which included one of the two above divine metaphors side by side another divine metaphor, this dissertation proved that parallelism does have an effect how metaphors work. It became clear that parallel divine metaphors form a relationship and consequently their metaphorical characteristics interchange and complement each other. Images intensify. Familiar metaphorical meanings are challenged; new meanings emerge. Each divine metaphor appears revitalized and strengthened, expanded and enriched.

Subject Area

Ancient languages|Biblical studies

Recommended Citation

Rogers, Nancy Louise, "Poetic revelation: The relationship between parallelism and metaphor in biblical Hebrew poetry" (2010). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3452808.