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An Invitation to Biblical Poetry

Elaine T. James

Publication Date - 10 December 2021

ISBN: 9780190664930

224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches

In Stock


An Invitation to Biblical Poetry is an accessibly written introduction to biblical poetry that emphasizes the aesthetic dimensions of poems and their openness to varieties of context. It demonstrates the irreducible complexity of poetry as a verbal art and considers the intellectual work poems accomplish as they offer aesthetic experiences to people who read or hear them. Chapters walk the reader through some of the diverse ways biblical poems are organized through techniques of voicing, lineation, and form, and describe how the poems' figures are both culturally and historically bound and always dependent on later reception. The discussions consider examples from different texts of the Bible, including poems inset in prose narratives, prophecies, psalms, and wisdom literature. Each chapter ends with a reading of a psalm that offers an acute example of the dimension under discussion. Students and general readers are invited to richer and deeper readings of ancient poems and the subjects, problems, and convictions that occupy their imagination.


  • Foregrounds voice and addresses as principal dimensions of biblical poetry
  • Offers a sensitive and evocative account of the aesthetics of biblical poems
  • Includes both formal analysis and historical contextualization

About the Author(s)

Elaine James is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. She studies the ancient literature of the Bible with particular attention to its aesthetic and ecological dimensions.

Table of Contents



    Chapter 1: Voices
    Ascription and Authorship
    Multiplicity and Dialogue
    Prophetic Voicing
    Psalm 55: A Reading

    Chapter 2: Lines
    Psalm 19: A Reading

    Chapter 3: Forms
    Love Poems
    Psalm 119: A Reading

    Chapter 4: Figures
    Metaphor and Simile
    Personification and Anthropomorphism
    Metaphors for the Deity
    Psalm 65: A Reading

    Chapter 5: Contexts
    Three Worlds of the Text
    Worlds Behind the Text
    Prophetic Poetry's Refusals
    The Poetry of Exile
    Psalm 137: A Reading



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