Hebrew Poetry


Course Objective

The student
1. shows that there are several meanings of the word meaning within
exegesis and reception history (ResMa exit qualification 1; Divinity
exit qualification 5), in casu quo, a Psalm can have a historical
meaning given by the author, but also several other meanings given by
its recipients; moreover, a Psalm can be analysed rationally and have
meaning accordingly, but a Psalm can also give meaning to someone’s life
in an affectional way.
2. is able to establish and work with the genre of religious poetry,
including all ambiguity – think of aesthetics versus piety, and comfort
versus truth expressions (ResMa exit qualifications 1 and 2; Divinity
exit qualification 4 and 5).
3. is able to conduct a literary and an empirical investigation into a
psalm and its possible meanings for modern readers, and to describe all
outcomes in one coherent paper (ResMa exit qualifications 4 and 6;
Divinity exit qualification 1 and 7).

Course Content

Hebrew poetry is more difficult to read than Hebrew prose. The sentences
are tight, while the phenomenon of parallelism gives the idea of
redundancy. Figures of speech are sometimes typically Ancient Near
Eastern and have to be investigated thoroughly in order to understand
their message. We study the book of W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew
Poetry, next to reading and analyzing Psalms.

Hebrew poetry is not only literature from a long time ago. We therefore
also study how the Psalms have been received in our own (sub)culture.
This may be done by interviewing church members, but also by
investigating the metrical forms of the psalms, the use of psalms on the
Internet, or whatever other reception might come up.

In the end, we will see that the word "meaning" in "the meaning of the
Psalms" can have different connotations. The author might well have
meant something else than the reader today receives. That difference
must be dealt with in the final paper for this module.

Teaching Methods

Lectures and workshops.

Method of Assessment

Research plan with a list of specialized literature on the chosen psalm
as preparation for the final paper (10%).
First syntactical and semantical analysis of the Hebrew text of the
chosen psalm and subsequent research questions (10%).
First structural analysis of the psalm and of its rhetorical devices
(possibly in the form of questions) (20%).
Final paper (60%) about one psalm that is fully analysed, but also
combined with a form of investigation into a modern environment where
the psalm receives meaning. The paper must end in some form of
discussion about the function of the word “meaning” in ancient and
modern context. The final paper must be sufficient to pass the course.


W.G.E. Watson. Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to its Techniques
(JSOT.SS 26). Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1984), Chapters 4, 6-11.
Articles via Canvas.

Target Audience

This module is part of the Research Master "Biblical Studies and Digital
Humanities" and can be followed as an elective by all other Master's

Recommended background knowledge

Knowledge of Hebrew, e.g. the BA courses Hebrew 1, 2, and 3 of our

General Information

Course Code G_RMBS06
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Religion and Theology
Course Coordinator prof. dr. E. van Staalduine-Sulman
Examiner prof. dr. E. van Staalduine-Sulman
Teaching Staff prof. dr. E. van Staalduine-Sulman

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar
Target audiences

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