• The Spirit of Jewish Poetry: Why Biblical Studies Has Forgotten Duhm’s Psalter Commentary

    Paul Michael Kurtz (see profile)
    Ancient Jew Review, Biblical Studies, German Literature and Culture, Hebrew Bible / Old Testament, Historiography
    Judaism, History, Ancient, Germans--Social life and customs, Jews, History, Bible. Psalms, Biblical interpretation, Science, Theology
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    History of Scholarship, Ancient Judaism, German culture, Jewish history, Book of Psalms, History of biblical interpretation, History of science, History of theology
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    This essay addresses the generation and perpetuation of interpretative modalities in academic communities. It tells a story of curbed reception on account of theological interference. In the end, Duhm interpreted the Psalms as a product of Jewish communities under the Seleucids, Hasmoneans, and Romans. This inquiry argues the historicist revisionism of his commentary on the Psalms entailed moral, historical, and aesthetic conclusions unacceptable to most of his contemporaries in Christian biblical scholarship, which restricted the reach of the work. First, it surveys the oeuvre of Duhm, placing his work on the Psalms against the larger landscape of his work on biblical texts: the history of books, the history of prophecy, and the history of religion. Next, it assesses the criticism of his commentary. The critiques of reconstructive efforts, late chronology, interpretative peculiarity, and disciplinary trends prove insufficient as an explanation for the demise of Duhm’s commentary, for the same qualities characterize the rest of his oeuvre, from the history of Israel to the composition history of the Hebrew Bible. Third, it evaluates the moral, historical, and aesthetic problems posed by Duhm’s setting of the Psalms in explicitly Jewish history, given the deep ambivalence towards Judaism in Christian theology. Finally, it tenders two suggestions of method, aimed at cultivating a more robust historiography of Hebrew Bible scholarship and thus a deeper understanding of the discipline itself. To comprehend the history of scholarship, the conclusion stresses, on the level of sources, the insight afforded by contemporaneous review articles and, on the level of research questions, the analytical purchase gained by the study of roads not taken as well as those abandoned. Therefore, this essay not only provides a new explanation for the fate of Duhm’s work on the Psalter but also offers historiographical guidance for further work in the field of Hebrew Bible.
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    3 years ago
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