The Bible is interpreted in a variety of ways and through a myriad of lenses. But how we interpret Scripture depends first of all on how we read it. This handbook focuses on the process of reading itself, taking a cognitive-stylistic approach grounded in recent research on language and the mind.
Through accessible explanations of twelve key stylistic elements, How We Read the Bible provides all who study Scripture with the tools to understand what happens when we read and draw meaning from biblical texts. Rather than problematizing the divide between authors from the ancient world and a modern-day audience, Karolien Vermeulen and Elizabeth Hayes bridge the gap by exploring the interaction between the cues of the text and the context of the reader. With numerous examples from the Old and New Testaments and helpful suggestions for further study, How We Read the Bible can be used within any framework of biblical study—historical, theological, literary, and others—as a pathway to meeting Scripture on its own terms.
Table of Contents
Introduction: On How to Read the Bible and Why We Need to Know It I. The Bits and Pieces of Reading 1. Words in Context: Building Blocks of Meaning 2. Building Categories: The Use of Prototypes 3. Attention and Focus: Playing with Figure and Ground 4. Perspective and Pointing the Way: Deixis 5. Grammar and Cognitive Grammar: Talking about Language II. Mapping Corresponding Dots 6. What Comes Next: The Predictability of Schemas and Scripts 7. How We See the Text: Mental Spaces and Blends 8. Connecting the Unrelated: The Ubiquity of Metaphor 9. Connecting the Related: The Power of Metonymy III. The Process of Reading a Text 10. Reading in Context: The Role of Discourse Worlds 11. Reading as Imagining Different Worlds: The Meaning of Possible Worlds 12. Reading as Process: Building Text Worlds Glossary Bibliography Indexes
Karolien Vermeulen is FWO (Research Foundation-Flanders) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Jewish Studies, University of Antwerp. Her research focuses on meaning construal in the Hebrew Bible and the role of various linguistic-stylistic elements in that process. She has published on the style of the biblical text, particularly on wordplay, metaphor, performative language, and spatial imagination. She is the author of Conceptualizing Biblical Cities: A Stylistic Study.
Elizabeth R. Hayes is affiliate assistant professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. Her research focuses on the interrelationship between author, text, and reader, and how this interrelationship affects meaning construction for the present-day reader. Her publications focus on the style of the biblical text, with an emphasis on the experiential basis of literary features such as metaphor and metonymy.
“Reading the Bible is anything but straightforward. In this marvelous little book, focusing on both the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the New Testament, the two authors share many insights concerning the language and literary conventions of the Bible. As a result, anyone who reads it will become a more careful, accurate, and sophisticated Bible reader.” — Marc Zvi Brettler Duke University
“How We Read the Bible is an accessible introduction to reading Scripture with help from cognitive stylistics. Vermeulen and Hayes welcome the reader to consider how they read the Bible by shedding light on the experience of reading itself. In the process, they have gifted their readers with a lucid and approachable handbook that provides plenty of diagrams, examples, and case studies. I highly recommend this book.” — Jeannine K. Brown Bethel Seminary “This book fills an important niche that has remained unaddressed despite the plethora of introductory works on the Bible. It helps and successfully allows students and anyone interested in these matters to become aware of what comes ‘naturally’ (and thus ‘unseen’) to them in their act of reading the Bible. Since the authors present basic concepts of stylistics, linguistics in general, and cognitive linguistics in particular, and so on in an easy-to-understand way, this volume will be extremely helpful for undergraduate courses and for individuals and groups involved in self-learning. Moreover, what readers of this volume will learn reading this book will certainly be applicable to their acts of readings of any other literary (and non-literary) works, and thus this book will provide its readers with highly relevant skills to be used in a wide variety of contexts.” — Ehud Ben Zvi University of Alberta
“In this book, Karolien Vermeulen and Elizabeth R. Hayes, two internationally renowned scholars, guide readers step by step through the complex process of reading, offering valuable insights to both novice and experienced readers. Beginners benefit from the well-structured presentation, which takes them from the level of words through schemas and scripts, metaphorical language, and different text worlds. The explanations are clear, the selected examples show how these methods help to explore biblical texts, and suggestions for further discussion encourage the readers to master what they have read. For experts in biblical studies, the book provides an excellent insight into cognitive studies of the reading processes. I particularly like the comprehensive compilation of the many facets of cognitive studies that help to explore the texts. The insight into the development of each research question and the references to further literature are also very helpful. I am convinced that this book is excellent both as a reference for scientific work and as a textbook for students.” — Susanne Gillmayr-Bucher Catholic Private University Linz
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