User Guide Included: The Semantic Field of Divine Address and the Intended Use of the Psalter

The persistent, historic impulse to appropriate the language of the Psalter for prayer and praise is difficult to prove to modern exegetical and methodological satisfaction.[1] Toward providing a textual methodology to meet this need, this study will include five parts. First, this paper will propose a semantic field of divine address in the Psalms. Second, this study will plot the distribution of this semantic field in the Psalter. Third, the potential implications for the intended use of the Psalter will be explored, collating the results with major trends in the shape and shaping movement of Psalms studies. Fourth, the study’s implications will be placed in conversation with major arguments against viewing the Psalter as a book with a unified purpose.[2] Finally, hermeneutical implications will be suggested for the canonical context in which individual psalms ought to be studied. The thesis advanced in this paper is that the size and distribution of Psalter’s divine address semantic field clarifies a primary intention of the book, namely, to urge and equip readers to address God.

[1] Harry P. Nasuti, “The Editing of the Psalter and the Ongoing Use of the Psalms: Gerald Wilson and the Question of Canon,” The Shape and Shaping of the Book of Psalms: The Current State of Scholarship (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014), 16-18.

[2] E.g., Eva Mroczek, The Literary Imagination in Jewish Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 38-53; William Yarchin, “Is There an Authoritative Shape for the Hebrew Book of Psalms?” Profiling the Hebrew Psalter,” Revue Biblique 122:2 (2015): 357ff.

4 thoughts on “User Guide Included: The Semantic Field of Divine Address and the Intended Use of the Psalter”

  1. Is this a conclusion in search of an argument?
    If I am reading this proposal correctly, Swale seems to think that he can divine the intention of the Psalter by examining the language of divine address. That appears to me to be a slender foundation for the superstructure he wants to erect upon it. But I could be misreading him, so I am open to what the rest of you think.

  2. Proposal unclear
    What is the semantic field of divine address, and what does that have to do with canonical Psalms studies? His “thesis” statement at the end doesn’t answer.


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