Analyzing the Psalms: With Exercises for Bible Students and Translators

Wendland, Ernst R

Analyzing the Psalms with Exercises for Bible Students and Translators

The purpose of this textbook is to introduce Bible students and translators to the basic compositional structure and literary style of Hebrew poetry, especially the lyric-liturgical poetry found in the Book of Psalms. Wendland follows a "discourse analysis" approach--examining different aspects of the poetic texts as an integrated whole. His primary focus is upon the formal features of the psalms, but elements of content (key terms) and function (psalm types or genres) also receive due consideration.

About the Author

Dr. Wendland teaches at the Lutheran Bible Institute and Seminary in Lusaka, Zambia, and is a United Bible Societies Translation Consultant. He is the author of numerous studies on the Bantu languages of South Central Africa, biblical exegesis, and translation theory.

Table of Contents:


  1. Introduction to the Book of Psalms
  2. 1.1 The origin of the word psalms
    1.2 A brief history of the Psalter
    1.3 The numbering of the psalms
    1.4 Text critical issues
    1.5 “Books” and other groupings within the Psalter
    1.6 Paired psalms
    1.7 Hebrew titles of the psalms
    1.8 Why “sing a new song to the LORD” in your language

  3. Categorizing the Psalms According to Genre
  4. 2.1 The five major functions
    2.2 The five minor functions
    2.3 Conclusion: The importance of genre in the study of the Psalms

  5. Connected Parallelism: The Internal and External Structure of Paired Lines in the Psalter
  6. 3.1 Preparing to study the poetic devices of Hebrew
    3.2 The nature of connected parallelism: Internal structure
    3.3 The nature of near parallelism: External structure
    3.4 A summary of the semantic relations between parallel lines

  7. Distant Parallelism: The Marking of Text Boundaries in the Psalter
  8. 4.1 How separated parallelism reveals text boundaries
    4.2 How convergence and harmony reveal text boundaries
    4.3 Summary of the marking functions of separated parallels
    4.4 Some extended patterns of parallelism

  9. Lower-Level Stylistic Features of Hebrew Poetry
  10. 5.1 Repetitive language
    5.2 Figurative language
    5.3 Rhetorical questions
    5.4 Condensed language
    5.5 Varied language
    5.6 Phonological resonance
    5.7 Multifunctional language

  11. Content: What the Psalmists Pray and Praise About
  12. 6.1 The cast of psalmic participants
    6.2 Topics and themes in the Psalter
    6.3 Key terms of the Psalter

  13. A Ten-Step Method for Analyzing a Complete Psalm
  14. 7.1 The ten steps
    7.2 Sample analyses of selected psalms

Appendix: Organizing a Biblical Poetry Workshop

  1. The nature and purpose of a poetry translation workshop
  2. Choosing a poet to be part of the translation team
  3. Form and function in poetic discourse
  4. The presentation of Hebrew poetry and its features
  5. Poetic composition in the workshop setting
  6. Final artistic touches
  7. Follow-up
  8. A short case study

Recommended Reading

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Second Edition
256 pages
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8.5 × 11 × 0.53 in
1.6 lb
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