Abstract

Abstract:

Psalm 119’s massive length and curious constraints—its rigorous acrostic structure and use of one of eight torah terms in nearly every couplet—have long puzzled interpreters. Though the poem dwells on pedagogy, the reader who seeks to learn from the text finds not a structured explication of torah but rather a string of seemingly interchangeable terms ([inline-graphic 01i], and [inline-graphic 02i]). Scholars have made several attempts to delineate the boundaries of Ps 119’s concept of torah. However, this search for a substantive definition of torah is misguided because what this text envisions is not sober-minded instruction but delight ([inline-graphic 03i]), to use a term characteristic of the poem. Psalm 119’s repetitions provide a field for playfulness and newness and show that a definition of torah is less important than an account of what torah does. The repetition of the eight terms is to be understood not as a platonic repetition of real and copy but as a repetition of simulacra, in which each individual term is fully an instantiation of torah in its own right. This psalm, in other words, produces a torah that is immanent to the poem. Psalm 119 is a poem of torah whose torah is the poem itself.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-3876
Print ISSN
0021-9231
Pages
pp. 685-700
Launched on MUSE
2018-11-08
Open Access
No
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