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Old Testament Essays

versión On-line ISSN 2312-3621
versión impresa ISSN 1010-9919

Old testam. essays vol.22 no.2 Pretoria  2009


Listen to the silent voice of the heavens and taste the sweetness of Torah: Reading Psalm 19 from a "body phenomenological" and an "embodied understanding" perspective1



Johan H. Coetzee

University of Johannesburg





In Psalm 19 we come across an interesting inverted juxtaposion of creation: creation acts like torah, and torah performs like creation. Nature silently proclaims God's glory, and torah is depicted in terms of bodily experiences. Coupled with this harmonious glorification of God is the psalmist's strong desire for redemption from sin and his wish that his words and meditation on Yahweh's glory might glorify Yahweh. The tight revelatory relationship between nature as God's creation proclaiming his glory, and torah as his restorative teaching in Psalm 19, reflects Israel's social and cultural definition of the ideal body as a whole body. Israel knew no body/mind dualism and therefore no theological dichotomy of torah as the supreme revelation of God as opposed to nature as the minor mode of revelation. The coherence of cosmic order (creation), religious teachings, and individual obedience to torah is maintained in the psalm. Reading Psalm 19 from a "body phenomenological" and an "embodied understanding" point of view enables us to understand the converting into language of the poet's thoughts in terms of structures of embodied human understanding based on an interaction with his environment, cultural traditions, values, institutions, and the history of the social community of Israel. Both perceptions of reality and the verbalisation of such perceptions through metaphorical expressions emanate from the poet's body, the latter which is a reflection of the social and cultural body. It is argued that his yearning for redemption and whole-bodiedness is the motivation behind the poet's choice of the specific embodied language and metaphors.



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Johan Coetzee
Department of Biblical and Religious Studies
University of Johannesburg
P O Box 524, Auckland Park, Johannesburg. 2006




1 This paper was read at the annual international conference of the Society for Biblical Literature held in Rome, Italy during 29th June - 4th July, 2009.

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