Sources for the investigation of meaning in the Hebrew Bible

Groom, Susan Anne (2000). Sources for the investigation of meaning in the Hebrew Bible. MPhil thesis The Open University.



Many linguistic tools and methods are applied to Biblical texts to gain meaning from them. Such applications do not always take into account the perspective of the investigators, the presuppositions of the method being used, and the nature of the material to which it is applied. These factors all influence the meaning obtained from the text. It is vital therefore to consider the available data in Hebrew, the development and transmission of the Masoretic Text, and the nature of the language contained therein (Chapter 1). The main section of the thesis provides a critical survey of the application of various tools and methods. Chapter 2 provides a summary of the Comparative Method with its presuppositions, a brief overview of Barr’s criticisms of its application to Biblical texts, and guidelines for its use. Chapter 3 looks at the Versions, the influence of the language, theology and motivation of the translators on their production, and the validity of using translations for obtaining meaning from Hebrew. Chapter 4 examines the presuppositions of Lexical Semantics and surveys some applications of this method to Classical Hebrew. Chapter 5 examines Text Linguistics and some applications of Tagmemics to Hebrew narratives, assessing its contribution to the investigation of meaning. The text is like a multi-faceted diamond which can be viewed from any number of angles, both synchronically and diachronically, reflecting potentially innumerable meanings. Each of the tools and methods surveyed here approaches the text from a different perspective and when appropriately applied can be combined to gain as much meaning as possible from the Hebrew Bible. This results in illustration of an integrated approach to the investigation of meaning in Classical Hebrew. Nonetheless, it remains possible to construct a complete linguistic analysis of the text at every level and still not quite understand what it means!

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