The Art of Biblical Poetry


| Robert Alter

A Study of Poetic Techniques Used in the Bible

If you are interested in learning the literary devices used in Biblical poetry then this book is for you. We have to remember that we are reading a ‘translation’ of the original text. So, when we read Psalms or any poetry found in the Bible we are not going to truly see the rhythm and literary devices that the author used to portray his message unless we read the text in the original language of Hebrew. But don’t fear, you don’t need to rush off and quickly do a course in Hebrew to understand Psalms. In steps The Art of Biblical Poetry by Robert Alter. I really enjoyed reading the chapter on Psalms called ‘Forms of Faith’. Alter explains literary concepts that my High school teacher would be ashamed that I have completely forgotten, things like parallelism, antithesis, the Psalmist use of imagery, specific words and patterns. Alter highlights the concepts and devices found in Hebrew poetry to help us get more out of the text, including studies on Psalms, wisdom poetry in Job to Proverbs and love poetry. With all studies of literary criticism, I was concerned that Alter would “recast the Bible as a human creation” as it states on the back of the book a little too far but I found that as I took the good points of his literary genius to expand my understanding it has given me a new dimension in my Bible experience and reading Hebrew poetry.