You are on page 1of 30

American Academy of Religion

Dead or Alive? Literality and God-Metaphors in the Hebrew Bible


Author(s): Gary Alan Long
Source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Summer, 1994), pp.
509-537
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1465276 .
Accessed: 24/12/2013 01:43
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Oxford University Press and American Academy of Religion are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve
and extend access to Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Journalof theAmericanAcademyof ReligionLXII/2

Dead

Alive?

or

Literality and God-Metaphorsin the


Hebrew Bible
Gary Alan Long

HOW DOESONE talk about the God of the Bible?' Within the
universityor seminary classroom,discussions attemptto describe
and explain the deity and the religioussystemsin which he2 is venerated. That ongoing dialogue is a facet of God-talk: talk offered
by people not responsible for the writing of Scripturebut who
strive to make sense of its content. I shall look briefly at this facet
of God-talk,but I do so only to set the stage for my main interests
in this article: (1) notions of literalityand (2) the metaphoriclanguage used for God amongthe writersof the HebrewBible.3I highlight that one must be readyto use terminologyfor literalmeaning
precisely, and I consider the metaphoriclanguage for God alongside a frameworkof first-and second-ordermeaning. I turn first to
modern God-talkand spotlight two viewpoints.

Gary Alan Long is Chair of the Departmentof HebrewLanguage,Instituteof Holy Land


Studies,Mt. Zion PO Box 1276, 91012 Jerusalem,ISRAEL.
11wish to offerspecial thanksto Profs.DennisPardeeand CynthiaMillerand to Mr.David
Clemens for their meaningfulcommentson earlierdrafts. They of course cannot be held
accountablefor any of this work's remainingerrors and insufficiencies. Also, responses
from a readingof a draft before the EDSELgroup of the Universityof Chicago Divinity
School assisted me in some reformulations.
2Myuse of the masculinepronounfor YHWH/Godis not offeredas a statementon how
the deity's gender should or should not be contextualizedamong modern readersof the
Bible. I simply follow the writersof the Biblewho referredto YHWH/Godas a male deity,
indicated,among other things, throughpersonaldeictics and verb conjugation.
3Mackyhas arguedthat in additionto metaphoriclanguage,the biblicalauthorstalked of
God in nonfigurativelanguage. As examplesof this, Mackyclaimsthat,amongotherthings,
"negativeassertions"(e.g., Deut 32:4 "[Godis] withoutiniquity"['yn'wl])and the linking of
God with attributesfromsemanticfields of 'mnand hy (e.g., Deut 32:4 "Godis faithful"['1
'mwhl)constitutenonfigurativelanguageabout God (1990:189-229).

509

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

510

GOD-TALKAND CONTRASTINGVIEWS
The student of religion and philosophy can only discover
quickly that scholars have greatly divergentopinions about literal
and nonliterallanguage. JanetSoskicehas drawnattentionto positivism of the sort espoused by A.J.Ayer,positivism that considers
God-talkto be without empirical cognitivemeaning because such
talk cannot escape figuration (68, 142-3). Ayer asserts the
following:
[T]herecanbe no wayof provingthattheexistenceof a god, such
as the God of Christianity,is even probable..... For to say that

"Godexists"is to makea metaphysical


utterancewhichcannotbe
eithertrueor false. Andby the samecriterion,no sentencewhich
purportsto describethe natureof a transcendent
god canpossess
anyliteralsignificance.(1950:115)
Such statementsarise from a view that sees words and mental representations as meaningful only through correspondences to the
verifiable external world. Nonliterallanguage is little more than
fancifuljargon to be avoided in orderto communicateobjectively.
Literal meanings are supposedly clear and precise; nonliteral
meanings are supposedly abstruse and unable to reflect reality
relianceon nonlitproperly.4Ayerobjectsto the "metaphysician's"
eral language to describe the metaphysical,be it God or whatever.
He questions the claims of metaphysiciansand states that "[i]f
what they [metaphysicians]are said to establish does not make
sense or, on any literalinterpretation,is obviously false, then at the
very least the case for theirbeing cognitivehas not been made out"
(1973:4-5).

A substantialand ever-growingcorpus of writing stands in contrastto the frameof mind exemplifiedby Ayer. Within philosophy,
MarkJohnson challengespositivism (1980; 1987), as does the linguist and cognitive scientist, George Lakoff (1987; Lakoff and
Johnson). Within religion and theology, Ian Ramsey(1957; 1964;
1971), PaulRicoeur(1977; 1978-9), Sallie McFague,Janet Soskice,
PeterMacky(1990), and MarjoKorpelare a few who acknowledge
the vital cognitivefunctionof nonliterallanguage,particularlymetaphor, and its importance in understanding the world and the
other-world. Metaphor is meaningful for scientific description,
4This summationis offeredby LakoffandJohnson(186ff) and Lakoff(1987:xi-xvii),who
do not hold a positivistposition.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

511

meaningful for modern God-talk, and meaningful for the talk


about God among the biblical writers.
THE SENSES OF "LITERAL"
Criticism leveled at Lakoffand Johnson's seminal work, MetaphorsWeLiveBy, illustratesthe importanceof understandingwhat
is meant by "literal"when discussing metaphor. Theirwork is significant because they have shown metaphor's pervasiveness in
thought and languageto the extent that positivism or empiricism,
what Lakoff and Johnson call "objectivism,"should be rejected.
The book has invigorateddiscussion in many disciplines, but criticism centers on what some consider Lakoffand Johnson's absurd
notion of literalityand metaphoricity.5EarlMacCormac'scritique
and Lakoff'srebuttalillustratethat scholars must understandthat
"literal"has differentsenses.6
MacCormac contends that Lakoff and Johnson have "no
method of distinguishingbetween metaphoricand nonmetaphoric
utterances ...

[rather] they distinguish between literal metaphors

and figurative metaphors [emphasis his]"-an odd distinction at


face value (1985:59). MacCormacadds, "Muchof the language
that many of us call 'literal'they argue is really 'metaphorical'"
(1985:57).

In 1986 Lakofffocused on the term "literal"and regrettedthat


he and Johnson had not been more explicit in their book. Lakoff
says that people normally assume that "literal"means all of the
following senses:
Literal1, or conventionalliterality:ordinaryconventionallan-

withpoeticlanguage,exaggeration,
guage-contrasting
approximaexcessivepoliteness,indirectness,
and so on.
tion,embellishment,
Literal2, or subjectmatterliterality:languageordinarilyused

to talkaboutsomedomainof subjectmatter.

Literal3, or nonmetaphorical
literality:directlymeaningfullan-

guage-notlanguagethat is understood,evenpartly,in termsof


somethingelse.

51nadditionto MacCormac'scriticismin the followingdiscussion,I point out the following


works: Kittaymentionsthe "confusion"in LakoffandJohnson'swork(20); Coopertouches
on this "seriousproblem"(22-23); Soskice(81); Mackylabels them with the term "radicalism"(1990:7, 141-2).
6MacCormac'scriticismmay be found in the following: 1981(161-62); 1985(53-78).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

512

Literal4, or truth-conditional
literality:languagecapableof "fitting the world"(i.e., of referringto objectivelyexisting objectsor of
being objectivelytrue or false). (1986:292)
Lakoff states that people often make various assumptions
based on these senses so that the four senses converge into a single
meaning of "literal."7 But Lakoff argues against making those
assumptions and stresses that the four senses do not converge. He
looks at the customary way we English speakers talk of electricity
(1986:295).8 We understand it metaphorically, he says, as flowing
fluid and crowd movement, and he offers the following for
discussion:
{ 11 A resistorwill impede the flow of electricity.
{2} A resistoris a narrowgate that will only let a certain number
of electrons get throughat once, and when there is a whole
crowd of electronsthey get backed up at the gate. (1986:295)
These two utterances9 are metaphoric, he claims, because they
describe electricity through something else. As such they are not
nonmetaphoric literal (Literal 3). But they are conventional literal
(Literal 1) because they are conventional ways to talk about electricity. The utterances are also subject matter literal (Literal 2)
because they are conventional ways of talking about the subject of
electricity, yet they cannot be truth-conditional literal (Literal 4)
because "[b]oth metaphors could not both be objectively true,
because fluids are continuous and crowds are individuated"
(1986:295).1o They have inconsistent ontologies. The two utterances are subject matter literal (Literal 2), but they are not truthconditional literal (Literal 4). An utterance, then, can be literal in
one sense and nonliteral in another.

7The first assumption is conventional literality equals nonmetaphorical literality, that is, the

formeris "directlymeaningfuland thereforenot metaphorical"(1986:292). The second is

conventional literality equals truth-conditional literality, that is, "all ordinary conventional

languageis capable of referringto objectivereality,or of being objectivelytrue or false"


(292). The third is subject matter literality equals truth-conditionalliterality, that is, "there is

one and only one objectivelycorrectway to understandeverysubject;thus the conventional


languageused to speak of a subjectis capableof being true or false"(292).
8HereLakoffis dependenton the work of Gentnerand Gentner.
9Lakoffhas not referredto {l}and {2} as utterances,but simplyas "sentences"(1986:295).
I have called them utterances,and throughoutthis articleI use utteranceto referto an etic,
that is, a physicallyinstantiated(etic) word, phrase, or largersyntagm,be it phonetic or
graphetic.
10Lakoffbelieves that "wehave no objectiveway of knowingwhat electricity'reallyis' "
(295).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

513

Long: Dead or Alive?

Returning to the Lakoff-MacCormacdebate, one finds MacCormac stating that his task is to "define the literal as different
from the metaphorical"(1985:73). He then adds, "Idefine the literal as the use of ordinarylanguageto express concreteobjects and
events" (1985:73). In the first quotation, literal for MacCormac
means at least nonmetaphoricliteral (Literal3). The latter statement seems grounded in empiricism and conflates conventional,
nonmetaphoric, and truth-conditionalliterality,and Lakoff faults
him for not recognizingthat literalhas differentsenses and that it
is not "theory-neutral"
(1986:296).11
That "literal"has various senses is vital to keep in mind. One
cannot prudentlyanswerthe basic questions of whetherliterallanguage is distinct from metaphoricwithout knowingwhich literalis
meant. If nonmetaphoricliteralis meant,yes is the answer;if con-

ventional literal is meant, no (1986:296).12

Those interested in literality and metaphor must be ready to


use terminologyabout literalmeaning precisely. One should keep
in mind and distinguish,where appropriate,at least two senses of
"literal."13I suggest the terms conventionaland nonfigurative.The
conventionalsense/meaning/interpretationof a linguistic unit, be it
11Inaddition to Lakoffand MacCormac'sdialogue,one can look at two other views of
literal meaning. (1) One view equates literalmeaningwith little more than conventional
language(Mackyalreadyhas made this point about the authorsI cite [1990:331). Roland
Bartelhas said that "[l]iterallanguagerefersto the definitionsfoundin dictionaries.... The
definitions[in dictionaries]areliteralbecauseof ... generalagreementabouttheirmeaning
. [which has] become standardizedthroughrepetitionand consensus"(10). Among
scholars in religion, Ricoeur has said the "literal ...

mean[s] . . . simply current, 'usual' "

(1977:290-91). Soskicehas stated,"Asa shorthand. .. literalspeechis accustomedspeech"


(1985:69). Such a view focuses on the conventionalsense of literaland conflatesit with the
nonfigurativesense. (2) Mackyhas arguedthat the literalis "(communicable)independent
use" (1990:39). (Macky'sformulationsappearto be firmlygroundedin speech act theory.
He states the literaland figurativeare"termsused to describean aspectof speech,of the use
of languagein speech acts. Thus they arecharacteristicsof 'speaker'smeaning'not of 'standard,' or 'word meaning'" [1990:32].) This definition is an adaptationof a dependent/
independentdistinctionof worduse explicatedby Bachecited by Macky(1990:35). Figurative language is dependent in that it "require[s]us to understandsome other use first"
(Macky1990:36). Independent"uses of words are those that can be understoodindependently of otheruses"(1990:35). Mackyclarifiesindependentuse as thatwhich "designates
some observablephenomenon"(1990:35) and which "can apply directlyto . . . reality"
(1990:39). Those last statementsappearto link literallanguageprimarilywith what Lakoff
has called "truth-conditional
literality."
12Althoughfigurativeand literallanguageare distinct, the formeris continuouswith the
latter.
13Admittedly,precision is not alwaysnecessary, sometimes the general literal-nonliteral
distinctionis sufficient. Further,a distinctionis not alwayspossible to make,as when one
discusses authorswho make no distinction.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

514

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

a word or larger unit, should include the common, customary


sense/meaning/interpretationthat either transcends or is limited
to subject matter. For the discussion that lies ahead, "conventional" literal includes metaphor,but metaphor that is no longer
novel, it is dead. This anticipatesmy remarksbelow (pp. 523-529).
The nonfigurativesense/meaning/interpretationof a linguistic unit
should be the "directlymeaningful"(to use Lakoff'sphrase) sense/
meaning/interpretationnot understood through something else.14
It contains no metaphorwhatsoever.
FIRST-AND SECOND-ORDERMEANING
Up to this point I have focused on some of the complexities of
literal meaning. Now I turn my attention to a theory of meaning
for understandingthe nonfigurativeand metaphor: first- and second-ordermeaning.
H.P. Grice has offered some helpful distinctions of meaning:
(1) timeless meaning(s) of an utterance-type,(2) applied timeless
meaning of an utterance-type,(3) occasion-meaningof an utterance-type,and (4) utterer'soccasion-meaning(1969).15 I offer the
utterance
{3} Thetoweris crumbling
to illustratehis differentiations.
includes the speci(1) Timelessmeaning(s)of an utterance-type
fication of the meaning an utterance-typemight have. Here one
has a range of possibilities. For example, a lower level constituent
such as the lexeme 'tower'is composed of various senses: as a
noun ("a structurewith a high height: low width ratio," such a
structureused as a "prison,"and so forth) and as a verb ("torise"
14HereI understandfully that I havenot reallydefinednonfigurativemeaning;much more
should be said. Spacesimplydoes not permitan in-depthdiscussion,but furtherinvestigation can begin, on one side of the spectrum,with some of the worksof Katzand Fodor,the
first to propose explicitly the integrationof syntax and semanticswithin a Chomskyan
framework(Katzand Fodor;Katz1977 and 1981). At the "speechact"end of the spectrum,
one can look at the following:Austin(1975; 1963); Searle(1969; 1978; 1980). A "moderate"position is representedby Dascal(1983; 1987). Closerto home in biblicalstudies,one
can look at Barr.
15Toalleviateany possible misunderstanding,the phrase"timelessmeaning"does not suggest that senses and meaningsdo not changeover time. Rather,timeless meaningis timeless in that the current senses and meaningshave not been linked in time to a specific
utterance.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

515

or "standhigh,"and so forth). The timeless meaning of the entire


utterance could be, for example, The tower (composedof masonry
material) is crumbling/ falling to pieces or The prison is falling
apart.
is the specifi(2) Appliedtimelessmeaningof an utterance-type
cation of the timeless meaning to be connected with a specific
utterance. Here one applies a meaning or sense taken from the
range of possibilities. Forexample,the sense of "tower"in {3} is to
be a type of "structure"or, considering the (entire) utterance,the
masonry tower in disrepair.
(3) Occasion-meaningof an utterance-typeis what an utterer
meant by the utterance. For example,an utterermay use the word
towerin {3} with an occasion-meaningof a "prominent,academic
theorist,"not a "structure."
(4) Utterer's occasion-meaningis what an utterer meant in
utteringthe utterance. For example, the utterermeant the "prominent, academic theorist"for the word towerin (3).
Relying on Grice's four distinctions, Eva Kittayhas discussed
first- and second-ordermeaning. FIRST-ORDER
MEANINGoccurs
when the occasion-meaningof an utterance-typeand the utterer's
occasion-meaningare identicalto the "appropriate"
appliedtimeless
MEANINGoccurs when either the
meaning.16SECOND-ORDER
or utterer'soccasion-meaning
occasion-meaningof an utterance-type
divergesfrom the appropriateappliedtimelessmeaning(43-44).
Kittaystresses that first-and second-ordermeaning distinction
is not simply one between nonfigurativeand metaphoriclanguage
(44). Nonfigurativelanguage such as an indirect speech act has
second-ordermeaning. The first-ordermeaning of the utterance
{4} You'resteppingon my foot.
would invoke a response like
{5} I (didn't)know.
{4} is an indirect speech act because of the further message

behind it, namely,

{6} Getoff my foot,(please)!


is the meaningthat cohereswith
16Kittayexplainsher use of "appropriate:"
"appropriate
the linguisticand situationalcontextof the utterance"(43n5).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

516

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

This is second-ordermeaning.17
Perhaps a more significant example that first- / second-order
meaning is not solely nonfigurative/metaphoricmeaning is seen
by comparing simile with metaphor. Without attemptinghere to
define simile in detail, I reserve the term to referto cross-categorical comparisons, comparisons involving two different semantic
fields.18 Nonfigurativecomparisons are inner-categorical,that is,
they are comparisonswithin a single semanticfield. Simile may be
exemplifiedby
{7} An educationis like a stairway,
nonfigurativecomparisonby
{8} A scalpelis like a razor.
Simile, defined (incompletely)as a comparisonthat crosses semantic fields, is regardedas figurativecomparison. (Novel) metaphors
are also figurative. Though both may be consideredfigurativelanguage, simile has first-ordermeaning while (novel) metaphorhas
second-ordermeaning (see Kittay:17-19,140-56, esp. 142-3 and
143nl). Simile, which includes the lexeme "like,"however it be
grapheticallyinstantiatedin biblical Hebrew(e.g., k, kmw,dmh),is
figurativebecause it brings togethertwo (widely) divergentsemantic fields. But simile has first-ordermeaningbecause the occasionmeaning of the utterance-typeand the utterer'soccasion-meaning
are identical to an appropriateapplied timeless meaning. (Novel)
metaphorhas second-ordermeaning.
17ToillustrateGrice'sdistinctionsfurther,we can look at these last threeutterances. The
appliedtimelessmeaningof {4} can be characterizedas a statement that describes to a
receiverthat the receiver'sfoot or feet is/are placeddown on top of the utterer'sfoot. If {4}
werenot an indirectspeech act, thatis, the uttererhad no otherintentthansimplyto inform
the receiverof the conditionof foot on top of foot, and if the receiverunderstoodit only as
such, then the receiverwould respondwith {5}. In that case, what the utterermeantby the
utterance(occasion-meaning
and what (s)he meantin utteringthe utterof an utterance-type)
ance (utterer'soccasion-meaning)
are identical to the applied timeless meaning. But now
considering {4} as an indirectspeech act, the uttererdoes not simply wish to inform the
receiverof the foot-steppingcondition. Rather,in utteringthe utterance,the uttereris telling
the receiverto get off the former'sfoot. That is, what the utterermeant in uttering the
utterance(utterer'soccasion-meaning)
is that the receiveris to removehis/her foot/feet from
the utterer's. Here then, at least utterer'soccasion-meaninghas divergedfrom the applied
timeless meaning,thus second-ordermeaning.
181offer a detaileddefinitionand explanationin Simileand Metaphorin theSongof Songs
(workingtile), which I am currentlywriting.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

517

Kittay also contends that her distinction is more than a replication of a sentence/speaker's meaning distinction embellished to
account for linguistic units ranging from words to discourse. If
speaker's meaning designates the speaker's intentions, Kittay
argues that speaker's meaning is not germane to metaphor (or indirect speech acts for that matter); metaphoric use of language is not
always dependent on the intentions of the speaker (1987:44-46).
For example, if one were to find the single utterance
{9} Youreyes are doves ('ynykywnym,Cant 4:1)
within Jerrold Katz and Jerry Fodor's "anonymous letter," I can
only think that one would suspect metaphoric language.19 One
could construct a situation in which doves were used to refer to, or
represent eyes, such as in a work of art. But the point is that one is
clued into the metaphoricity of {9} without a knowledge of
speaker's meaning.20
Kittay believes that Grice's distinctions of meaning can supplant the sentence/speaker dichotomy. Grice's timeless meaning
of an utterance-type and applied timeless meaning of an utterancetype are akin to sentence meaning, and utterer's occasion-meaning
matches speaker's meaning, but his interjection of occasion-meaning of utterance-type is most important to Kittay. Though Grice
contends that the occasion-meaning of utterance-type can ultimately be subsumed under utterer's occasion-meaning, Kittay
argues for the necessity of distinguishing the two (45-49). After
setting out her argument, Kittay concludes,
My point is that, while the utterer'sintention,that is, the utterer's
occasion meaning, often coincides with the occasion meaning of
the utterance-type,it need not do so.
In speaking of metaphor . .. and, those cases in which we can
distinguish what is said from what is meant in some systematic
fashion, and in which what is meant is dependenton, though not
19The "anonymous letter situation is the case where an ideal speaker of a language receives
an anonymous letter containing just one sentence of that language, with no clue whatever
about motive, circumstances of transmission, or any other factor relevant to understanding
the sentence on the basis of its context of utterance" (Katz 1977:14; the phrase was used in
Katz and Fodor).
20Here Macky has overstated the role of speaker's meaning in nonfiguration and figuration
(1990:esp. 18-19, 31-32). Considering metaphor, I certainly agree that it is a (linguistic)
pragmatic phenomenon, as Macky emphasizes. However, I believe Kittay has successfully
shown that metaphor is also a semantic phenomenon.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

518

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

coincident with, what is said, we ought to distinguishthe occasion


meaning of the utterance-typefrom any applied timeless meaning
and from the utterer'soccasion meaning,that is, fromactualintentions of an actual utterer. These considerationsindicate the need
for a linguistic theory not only to account for how we get conventional meanings, .

but also to account for how we can have

meaning distinct both from the conventionalsenses of words and


from the particularactual intentions an uttererhas when producing the utterance. (47, 49; emphasis hers)
First- and second-order meaning addresses these issues and correctly views the relationship of figurative language as continuous
with, and yet distinct from, nonfigurative/conventional language.

METAPHORICITYAND THE ANCIENTS


The Awareness of Nonfigurative and Figurative Language
A foundational question is whether the ancients were aware
that they used what we today call metaphor.21 Frederick Ferre has
argued that the Greeks were the first to recognize a distinction
between nonfigurative uses of religious language and metaphor:
[T]he aim of the philosophic movementin Greek culture was to
provide rational and (in intention, at least) literal theory for the
understandingof the universe.
Such an aim . . . is ... the logical prerequisite for the discovery

of metaphorin religious discourse. Only when there is a theory


about what is 'literallyso' can there be explicit recognitionof...
metaphorical.... (3.203)
Most of the Hebrew Bible, in his view, illustrates "unself-conscious
imagery" (3.201). Not until the advent of the Bible's apocalyptic
genre were images "consciouslyconstructed with an esoteric significance known only to the initiates" (3.202; emphasis mine). The
Greeks, he affirms, influenced the later writers of the Hebrew Bible
so that "by the time Daniel was being written (ca. 166 B.C.) in
Hellenized Palestine, the conscious distinction between levels of
religious meaning had clearly been made" (3.202).
Critiquing Ferre, Soskice argues,

21Soskicetreatsthe issue in some detail and interactswith other scholars(71-83).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

519

It is difficultto believethat the prophets,althoughperhapslacking


a developedset of grammaticaldistinctionswhich enabledthem to
designatemetaphorsas metaphors,were unawarethat in speaking
of God as a herdsmanor planter[metaphorsFerreuses in his argument] they were using language not strictly appropriateto him.
(77)
Her appeal to experience as a rebuttal to Ferre is a natural
response, and she backs it up with a few biblical metaphors, cited
by Ferre himself, that open his thesis to criticism. One could systematically review evidence of metaphoric awareness from each of
the cultures of the ancient Near East, but that is best left for
another time.22 Instead, I shall focus on evidence within the
Hebrew Bible and evidence from Ugarit, the latter being but one
example of a culture that predates the writing of the former.

Metaphor and Deity at Ugarit


Marjo Korpel's significant and stimulating monograph has
focused attention on the metaphoric language for the divine
among Ugaritic and biblical writers. Korpel addresses whether the
ancients in Ugarit and Judah/Israel knew that they were using metaphors to describe the divine (82-87).
Most telling for Korpel is the Ugaritic description of Ba'l's palace. After building the structure on Mt. Sapan (located 40 km from
Ugarit) with earthly, apparently nonfigurative materials (cedar,
brick, silver, gold, etc.), the god allows a window to be constructed.23 When the window is in place, the metaphoric character
of the palace is revealed: the window appears as an opening in the
clouds (Korpel:82-3, 620; KTU 1.4 VII:15-32; de Moor 1987:62-3 1.
15-32). This is compelling evidence, for Korpel, because it indicates that the myth-teller was aware of the metaphoric language for
Ba'l and his palace. The clouds that gather on Mt. Sapan comprise
the storm-god's palace. The other-worldness of the construction is
22Onemay note de Moor'sassessmentof metaphoriclanguagein Egypt. Lookingat New
Kingdomhymnsto Amun-Re,de Moorstates,"TheEgyptianswerewell awareof the factthat
this theriomorphicexpression[Amun-Reas Bull]was nothingbut metaphor,as was the case
with anthropomorphic
metaphors. . . ."(1990:48-9). Also,Gellergivesevidencethat Mesopotamianscribeswere conscious of theiruse of what we call metaphorand simile, though
his evidence is not restrictedto expressionsabout deities (x-xiii).
23Forthe Ugaritictext see KTU(Dietrich,Loretz,and Sanmartin)1.4 V:10, 11; KTU 1.4
V:18. For a translation,see de Moor 1987:55 1. 10-11, 18.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

520

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

revealed. Further,Ugaritianscould see that no deity, no Ba'l,physdwelt on the mountainin a palace of cedar,
icallyor nonfiguratively
and
other
brick, gold,
material;yet the myth affirms this.
Further, Ba'l, as a storm-god, is associated with lightening,
brq.24But the myth-telleralso seems to describe lightening as an
'arz bymnh "cedar-(lance)in his [Ba'l]right hand.""25Are we to
think that the ancients in observing lighteningcould not recognize
that it was not a nonfigurativewooden lance? The myth-teller
apparentlyassociates Ba'lwith nonfigurativeand figurativelightening (brq and 'arz respectively).26Considering these bits of evidence, I believe it most likely, along with Korpel,that Ugaritians
24RS 24.245:3-4: Ba'lis describedas sitting on his mountainand associatedwith him at
that scene are
9b'tbrqm[1
[
"sevenlightening-flashes...
]
(4) tmnt 'isr r't eight storehousesof thunder,

's brq y[

a shaft of lightening..."

Fora commentaryon this text and possiblerestorationsin the lacunaesee Pardee(chap. 3).
KTU 1.4 V:8-9 describesBa'las designatingthe time for
(8) wtn qlh b'rpt "hisutteringwithin the clouds,
(9) 9rh l'ars brqm his letting loose lightening-flashesto earth."
25KTU1.4 VII:41;de Moor(1987:64, 1. 41). De Moorsays of 'arz,"Theshaftof his speaklike thunderbolt,"(64n290). Here one may note the limestone stele discoveredat Ras
Shamrain 1932 (LouvreAO 15.775; for a photographand the first descriptionsee Schaeffer:123-24and pl. XVI). In bas-reliefit depicts a standinggod (he wearsa horned helmet)
brandishing,in his righthand, a mace abovehis head and holding,in his left hand, a lance,
with branches,pointeddownwardto the ground. Schaefferidentifiedthe god as "Hadadou
Baalde la montagne,commandantaux orageset aux vents"(123). The lance could well be
the representationof lighteningas 'arz "cedar-(lance)."(Basedon cognatelanguages,one
would fully expect Ugariticymn to mean "righthand." With that in mind, it is interesting
that the god on the stele has the lance in his left hand.)
26Associatedwith lightening,Korpelbelievesthat the wordsfor"thunder"show metaphoric
awareness(83). The writerrefersto thundernonfigurativelywith the word r't, "thunder,"
but also as Ba'l'sql, 'voice'(for r't see RS 24.245:4 [textand translationgiven abovein my
n.24]; forql see KTU1.4 V:8 [textand translationgivenabovein my n.24];KTU1.19 1:45-46
bl tbn ql b'Z"withoutthe goodness/delightof Ba'l'svoice,"in a contextof weatherphenomena). However,I do not find this as convincingas the palace-taleor lightening. If thunder
were the only piece of evidenceat Ugarit,I see little to preventone fromthinkingthat the
Ugaritiansreallydid considerthunderto be Ba'l'svoice and thatwithin this phenomenon's
semantic field was r't, referringto the phenomenon'sshaking,tremblingcharacteristic(if
the root is R'D)or perhapsto its sound (if the root is RW'). (The root R'Mis also possible
but, fromthe perspectiveof Ugariticphonology,is the least likely of the threesince the fem.
sing. morphemeaffixedto a base whose root is RW'is unproblematic[-'(a)t-/], while */dt-/ > /-tt-/, which occurs if the root is R'D, makes a stronger argument than
*/-mt-/ > /-tt/ with the root R'M.) Of course, once it is establishedfrom other evidence
that therewas metaphoricawareness,it becomesmorelikelythat thunderas Ba'l'svoice was
known by the writerto be what we call metaphor.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

521

understood that they were using what we today call figuration,


more specifically, metaphor.
Metaphor and Deity in the Hebrew Bible
That Ugaritiansdistinguished figurativeand nonfigurativelanguage is not an unimportantpoint-it establishes that another culture was aware of a distinction long before the contents of the
Hebrew Bible were committed to writing. But one should not
uncritically assume the same for the writers of the Hebrew Bible
without considering some evidence.
Some writers are explicit about an aspect of their God's otherness-his nonhumanness. In Hos 11:9c one reads, "ForI am God,
not a mortal"(ky '1 'nkywl'-'y?). Here,judging from the co-text,
one sees that the deity's otherness is, in part, the resolve not to
destroy Ephraim. In Num 23:19a-bone reads, "Godis not mortal
that he should lie, or a human being that he should change his
mind" (1' 'ys '1wykzbwbn-'dmwytnhm).
Another aspect of otherness is affirmed by the inability of
humans to contain God in a dwelling. In Solomon's dedicatory
prayerone reads that all the heavenscannot contain YHWH,much
less a temple (1 Kgs 8:27). In Isa 66:1 YHWHsays that since the
sky is his throne and the earth his footstool, humans cannot provide an adequatehouse or resting-place.
Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God is, from the modern
reader's perspective, anthropomorphizedand anthropopathized.
One reads of his eyes, arms, and anger. He is a vine-planter(he
planted(the people of)Jerusalem!)(Jer2:21). In Lam3:13 the poet
says of God that "He shot arrows from his quiver into my vitals"
(hby' bklywtybny 'sptw),anthropomorphicwarriorimagery. Yetin
Lam 3:10 one reads, "He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in
hiding"(db 'rbhw'ly 'ryhbmstrym),theriomorphiclanguage. Here
in close proximity the writer speaks of God as a warrior,a bear,
and a lion. God is also physiomorphized:Deut 4:24 "ForYHWH
your God is a devouring fire" (ky yhwh 'lhyk 's 'klh);Jer 2:13b-c
"[My people] have forsaken me, a source/fountain of flowing
water"('ty 'zbwmqwrmymhyym). Such descriptions of form lead
me to consider the admonitionin Deut 4:15ff. Here, of course, the
people are instructed that since they had not seen a form when
YHWH spoke out of the fire at Horeb, they were not to make
images in any form: not the likeness of a man, a woman, or crea-

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

522

Journal of the American Academy of Religion

tures of the land, sky, and sea. Whetherone sees this passage as a
recordof Moses'speech, as the polemics of religiousleadersduring
Josiah'sreign, or whatever,it revealsan understandingthat YHWH
was Other. YHWHtook no form on this most importantoccasion;
no form, then, could adequately,or should, depict him. Yet the
ubiquity of what modern readerscall metaphoramong the writers
of the Hebrew Bible for their God is testimony that through such
figuration God, the Other,was comprehensible.
Thejuxtaposition of concreteand abstractis not insignificant.27
In Isa 59:17b one reads, "Ahelmet of salvation/victoryis on his
[YHWH]head" (wkwb'ySw'hbr'Sw). The psalmist in Ps 93:1a-b
claims, "YHWHreigns, clothed with majesty;YHWH is clothed,
girdedwith strength"(yhwhmlkg'wt lbs lbsyhwh 'z ht'zr)(see also
Isa 51:9; Pss 65:7; 104:1, 2). The writerswerewell acquaintedwith
a physical piece of armor, and they could speak of an abstract/
intangible notion such as salvationwithout linking it to a physical
item.28 But claiming that YHWH'sarmor or his clothes are composed of intangiblenotions shows the writers'awarenessof figuration to say something meaningfulabout their deity.29
One may note in passing that in Proverbs(1-9), Canticles,and
Lamentations,for example, the writers used figurationknowingly
to describewisdom, a lover,and a city-things that did not directly
involve deity.30 If figuration was used knowingly for topics not
concerned with deity, I do not think it altogetherunlikely that it
was used knowingly for deity.
In the previous section, I affirmed,with Korpel,that the writings of another culture,writings that predateany of the writing of
the HebrewBible, demonstratean awarenessthat what we call figurationwas used to speak of gods. With that established,the same
could hold true for writings of a later time from another culture.
Indeed, I have tried to show passages within the HebrewBible that
acknowledgeexplicitlya thoroughotherness of the deity: an otherness that was not human, that could not be confined, and that at
27Korpel uses this as part of her evidence (86).
281 Sam 17:5 (of Goliath) 'He had a bronze helmet on his head' (kwb' nhgt
'l-r'?w);Gen

49:18 'YHWH, I await your salvation' (lyfw'tk qwyty yhwh).


29For more on intangible notions as clothing see Brongers.
301n Cant 5:2 the woman quotes the man as saying, "Open to me, my sister, my dear, my
dove, my flawless one" (pthy-ly 'hty r'yty ywnty tmty). The writer certainly knows that the
woman is not a nonfigurative dove. The desolate city in Lamentations is not a nonfigurative
widow for the writer; wisdom is not a nonfigurative lady in Prov 1-9.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long: Dead or Alive?

523

least on one occasion had no form, the latterleading to an admonition about worship. These passages, particularlythe assertion and
admonition in Deut 4:15ff about YHWHand form, along with a
historical precedent for awareness,indicate that the writers of the
Hebrew Bible were aware that they used language we today call
figurativeand, to be more specific, figures of speech we call metaphors. That being true, I move on to considerwhether their metaphors had first- or second-ordermeaning.
GOD-METAPHORSIN THE HEBREWBIBLE:
FIRST-OR SECOND-ORDERMEANING?
The biblical writers knowingly used (what we call) metaphors
to talk of God. But metaphorsthat are at one time novel become
conventionalthroughrepetition. The more they are used, the more
they become conventional, and this may proceed until their
"death."31 As metaphoric language becomes conventional, it
becomes a sense within timeless meaning so that an applied timeless meaning, an occasion-meaning, and an utterer's occasionmeaning may coincide-first-ordermeaning. Thus a novel metaphor-second-order meaning-as it becomes more conventional
moves towardfirst-ordermeaning. Even a phrase will in time be
treated as a single lexical item with first-ordermeaning.32 Metaphors can become conventional,that is, they may become literal,
remembering,of course, the distinction of conventionalliteral and
nonfigurativeliteral discussed above.33
31Burbules,Schraw,and Trathengive three stages in the "evolutionof metaphoricalinterpretation":"Freshmetaphors(e.g., 'Freudwas themidwifeof silences').... Frozenmetaphors
(e.g., 'Heis burnedup') .... Deadmetaphors(e.g., 'Shekickedthebucket')... ." (106). Ch.
Bally has classified metaphorsaccordingto their "valeurexpressive":"l'image
or "l'imagemorte"(Traitede stylistique
.vocatrice,
imaginatrice,"
"l'imageaffectiveou affaiblie,"
fran.aise,
?? 202ff., quotedby Henry:214). See also Soskice(71-72).
32Forexample,"pushingup (the) daisies."
33In addition to scholars I have alreadymentioned,namely Lakoffand Kittay,Scheffler
states, "Metaphoricaluse . . . fades into literaluse; metaphorsdie" (80). Goodmanalso
affirms that metaphorbecomes more literal as its novelty wanes (68). Dascal, reacting
againstexperimentsof Gibbs,who claimsto show thatthe processingof the nonliteralinterpretationof utterances(with co-text)takes no longer than "literal"interpretation(Gibbs),
states that "allthese experimentsmakeuse of conventionalizedindirectspeech-acts,or idiomatic expressionsor else frozenmetaphors.... [T]heyprovideexcellentevidencefor the
fact that . .. the notion of literalmeaning,namelyconventionality,is ratherimportant....
[T]hese experimentsthereforelead to the conclusion that such conventionalized(wrongly
called non-literal)meanings of many utterances are in fact the literal ones" (Dascal
1987:267).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

524

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

But no matter how conventional, or "dead," a metaphor may


become, it still remains a metaphor. Kittay considers the phrase,
"leg of a table" (89). Few metaphors are as dead or worn-out as
this one. Yet Victorians resuscitated the phrase-tablecloths were
to be long enough to avoid infelicitously exposing a table "leg."34
Death and revivification of metaphors also can play a chief role in
puns and jokes. As Kittay has said, "This is what characterizes
them as dead metaphors rather than as new lexical items" (143;
emphasis hers). Kittay adds the following:
The conventionalmetaphormay, then, be viewed as fallingwithin
first-orderanalysis when its dormant double semantic import is
either fully forgottenby the generallycompetentspeaker(a genuinely dead metaphor) or for practical linguistic purposes safely
disregarded.It requiresa second-orderanalysiswhen it carriesthe
burdenof its double semanticimport,that is, when it is placedin a
setting in which its originalliteralmeaningis highlightedand may
be seen as incongruousin the context of the utterance.35
Did the metaphors for God among the writers of the Hebrew
Bible have first- or second-order meaning?36 An absolute answer is
elusive-such a question can only best be posed to a living informant. But working on the assumption that in ancient studies one
has to work with whatever one has,37 I wish to suggest sets of criteria for determining whether the biblical writers' metaphors for God
more likely had first- or second-order meaning:38
(1) If the metaphoricexpressionin question has parallelsin other
ancient Near Easternculturesand/or in other passages of the
HebrewBible,and it DOESNOToffer a substantiallymeaningful differencefrom its parallels,the metaphoris likely to have
first-ordermeaning.
34Revivicationof metaphorhas been treatedin greaterdetail by Henry (213-227).
351987:89. See also Soskice (73, 74).
36Bourguethas said, "Ladistinctionentre catachreseet metaphoreme paraitparticulierement importantpour ce qui est du vocabulaireque s'appliquea Dieu,"and he offers a
discussion (20ff). Thoughthe focus is not on God-metaphors,
Wansbroughhas expressed
interestin plottinghow alive or dead a metaphorin Semiticliteraturemay be. This leads
him to an analysisof the Semiticroot 'TM(103-16). Mackydistinguishesbetween"artistic"
and "expository"biblicalmetaphors;tie latter,in part, being "standard... not novel,"the
former,in part,being "relativelynovelratherthanstandard,somethingthe authormadeup,
not just a part of conventionalspeech"(1988:168-9).
37Dennis Pardee introduced this assumption to me. A similar assumption has been
expressedin ThomasLambdin'sfestschrifttitle, Workingwith No Data.
38Anotherlist of criteriamay be seen in Beekmanand Callow(133-4).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

525

(2) If the metaphoricexpressionin question has parallelsin other


ancient Near Easternculturesand/or in other passages of the
Hebrew Bible, and it DOES offer a substantiallymeaningful
differencefromits parallels,the metaphoris likely to have second-ordermeaning.
One is able to find some valuable works to assist in determining whether a metaphor meets the criteria of one of these sets.
Korpel, for example, has assembled the metaphors for divinity
used at Ugarit and compared them with the Hebrew Bible. She
states that of 1454 Ugaritic expressions for divinity and the divine
world 711 seem to have a counterpart in the Hebrew Bible (621).
She has grouped these expressions into three major categories:
anthropomorphic, theriomorphic, and physiomorphic descriptions
(88-613). Leo Perdue also has assembled metaphors with biblical
and ancient Near Eastern parallels, grouping them within two
major spheres of cosmology and anthropology (32-72). Also helpful are works by Marc Brettler, Manfried Dietrich and Oswald
Loretz, Helga Weippert, Manfred Weippert, H.A. Brongers, and
Yochanan Muffs.
One must go beyond linguistic parallels, though. Othmar
Keel,39 Silvia Schroer, and Thorkild Jacobsen, for example, have
shown the value of iconography as an avenue of inquiry. Though
far less certain than textual evidence, iconography can provide
insight into the ancients' concepts of divinity, such as the stele
found at Ras Shamra (see above in footnote 25).
The metaphors I have in mind that meet the first set of criteria
involve little more than the replacement of a divine name in wellestablishing metaphors. So, for example, instead of thunder being
Ba'l's voice, it is YHWH's (KTU 1.4 V:8; Ps 29:3; Jer 10:13). God in
the Hebrew Bible has, for example, eyes, a tongue, and fingers like
other deities.40 In set (1) I speak of metaphoric expressions that
do not offer a "substantially meaningful difference" from their parallels. Ascribing to YHWH/Elohim what has been ascribed to
391985. Keelhas also assemblediconographicevidenceforprovidinginsightinto the metaphoric languagefor humans in Canticles(1984).
40Eyes:the clause, "Hedid what was right/wrongin YHWH'sopinion [lit. in the eyes of
YHWH]"(wy'Shygr/hr'b'ynyyhwh),found, for example,throughout2 Kgs,is certainlyone
of the deadest of metaphoricutterances(cf. KTU 1.2 IV:22= de Moor 1987:40 of Nahar;
KTU 1.101:5 = de Moor 1987:2 of Tallay);tongue: Isa 30:27 (cf. KTU 1.5 11:3= de Moor
1987:71 of Mot);finger;Exod 31:18 of Elohim(cf. KTU1:3 11:33-35= de Moor 1987:7 of
'Anat).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

526

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

other deities is meaningful,but these are metaphorsthat offer no


new significantinsight about the deity-a ratherexact adoptionhas
taken place.
An example of a metaphorthat meets the criteriaof set (2) is
The writings from the ancient Near East
YHWH=HUSBAND.41
establish the idea that gods and goddesses could be spouses to one
is a metaphorthat offers a subanother.42But YHWH=HUSBAND
stantiallymeaningfuldifferencefromits parallelsin other cultures.
One first encounters the metaphorin Hosea, where the idea of a
legal marriage between YHWH and his chosen people is established.43 A deity regardedas the husband of a collectivepeople is,
so far as I know, unknownin the ancientNear East. The metaphor
here, then, is a significantadaptationof marriagebetween deities,
and specifically an adaptation of such marriage found in the
Canaanitetradition.44Hans Wolff makes the point that in Hosea's
"eristicappropriation,the sexual aspect [of the idea/metaphor],so
important in Canaanite thinking, was excluded with respect to
Yahweh"(16). Further,marriagein Hosea expresses the covenant
relationshipbetweenYHWHand his people and with it notions of
obedience (Ostborn:80-2;Hall 1983). Those are meaningful and
41Hos 2; Jer 3; Isa 50:1 (mentions'divorcedocument'(spr krytwt]);54:4-6;62:5; Ezek 16,
23. For a recent thoroughtreatmentof this metaphor,based on the metaphorCOVEsee Adler.
NANT=MARRIAGE,
42ForMesopotamia,Jacobsentreatscourtshipand weddingsamong the gods as "4thMillennium Metaphors"(27-47). See Korpel'sdiscussion and bibliographyfor Ugaritic evidence (225-28).
43Butsee Schmitt. Schmitt argues that an "ideawhich I claim as not founded on the
Hebrewbiblicaltext is that the God of Israelis linked to Israelin a relationshipthat is, or
should be perceivedto be, marital. The wife of God in Hosea 2, accordingto this 'careless'
interpretation,is Israel"(5). Schmittcontendsthat the wife is the city of Samaria.Schmitt
does not makethe point, but if he is correct,I would contendthat the city is a metonymfor
the people. What then becomes an issue is how modern interpretersuse the term Israel.
... and Israel,as it occupiedtheland [emphaWolffspeaksof the marriagebetween"Yahweh
sis mine]"(16). It seems to me thatWolffhas in mind the occupantsof a land and his use
of Israelis then metonymicfor the people. It appearsthat Schmittis not pickingup on the
metonymiclanguagefor the chosen people,both in Hosea and in scholarswhose use of the
term Israelwould parallelWolff's.
Also see Whitt,who claims that the marriagein Hos 2:4-15 is not betweenYHWHand
Israel,but YHWHand Asherah(34, 56ff). It is in Jeremiah,he claims,that the "metaphorof
the people as Yahweh's wife first occurs . . ." (34).

44Jacob;see also Emmerson,who speaksof Hosea's"creativeuse of motifs associatedwith


the fertilitycult of Canaanagainstwhich his polemicis directed"(25); Mays,the "portrayal
of the covenantin termsof Yahwehas husbandand Israelas wife . .. is a prime exampleof
his appropriationof themes from the fertilitycult"(9); Ostborn, "Whenspeakingof the
matrimonybetweenYahwehand Israel,Hosea obviouslyalludes to an idea well known ...
that of divine marriagewhich was inherentin Baalism... ." (79); Wolff (16).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?

527

substantial differences. Gary Hall has investigated the development of the marriagemetaphorin the HebrewBible, showing how
Jeremiah'suse, groundedin Hosea's, goes beyond the latter's,and
how Ezekiel'suse "completelytransformed"the metaphor(1980 [I
have only seen the abstractin DAI41/09, 4072]). If Hall is correct,
he has shown that the metaphor probably met set (2) criteria
throughoutits use among the prophets.
I offer a third set, but I do so reservedly:
(3) If themetaphoric
expressionin questionhasNOpreciseparallels in otherancientNearEasterncultures,themetaphor's
first
occurrencein the HebrewBibleis likelyto be second-order
meaning;subsequentuses wouldfallwithineitherset (1) or
(2).
My reservationstems mainly from the difficult task of discovering
with certainty a metaphor'sinauguraluse in the Hebrew Bible.45
("kinsmanLeavingthat aspect aside for the moment,GOD=GO'EL
redeemer")can be offeredas a metaphorwithout known parallelin
the ancient Near East (for example, Ps 19:15; Isa 43:14; 44:24;
49:7;Jer 50:34). The Hebrewroot G'Lhas a cognate that appears
in an Amorite personal name and a cognate in Aramaic.46The
attestations in the latter, though, are based on biblical usage.
Recently,Andre Lemairehas argued that the root is attested in a
recently discovered Phoenician inscription, but elsewhere I have
rejectedhis argumenton philologicalgrounds. So, with the exception of an Amoritepersonal name, the root is exclusively used in
the Hebrew Bible and in literaturedependent on its usage there.
Whether kinsman-redeemerpracticeas representedin the Hebrew
Bible existed in like mannerin other ancient Near Easterncultures
is unclear. Similaritiesdo seem to exist, but directparallelsare not
as certain. What is clear is that no other cultureused a cognate of
the Hebrewroot G'Lto referto the human practice,let alone used
one to describe the action of a deity.47 GOD=GO'EL,then, is a
45Wehave alreadyconfrontedthis in the metaphorof YHWH= the husband of a chosen
people, see Whitt'scommentabovein footnote43.
46Ga-i-la-lum
(cited by Huffmon:179;Jastrow1.202).
47Formoreon how the humanpracticein the HebrewBiblecompareswith the idea of God
as go'el,I referthe readerto Daube(39-61); he demonstrateshow particularfunctionsof the
human kinsman-redeemer
are appliedto God but also concludes that specific nuances in
manycases cannotbe inferred;North(esp. 3-8); Stuhlmueller1970 (99-131): aftertreating
the practiceof go'elin pre-exilictradition(wherehe lists the redemptiveacts as redemption
of slaves, redemptionof property,redemptionfrom harm caused by murder,and redemp-

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

528

Journalof the AmericanAcademyof Religion

metaphor whose first graphic attestation is to be found in the


Hebrew Bible. Yet, to whom does one credit first use? To what
extent can its occurrencein ldwd("Pertainingto David")psalms be
regardedas Davidic in source (Pss 19:15; 69:19; 103:4)? Should
the attestation in Hos 13:14 be attributedto the eighth-century
prophet or to someone later?48J.J. Stamm argues that DeuteroIsaiah was the first to claim YHWHas gd'el(31-44, esp. 41); Frederick Holmgren believes that writers before Deutero-Isaiah
regardedGod as gd'el but that the "fulldevelopmentof this bold
idea was the unique contribution of Deutero-Isaiah"(43-44;
emphasis mine). On it goes!
I return to the question of whether the God-metaphorsof the
biblical writers had first-or second-ordermeaning. To rephraseit,
one could ask whetherthe biblicalwriters'metaphoricexpressions
were still "alive,"having second-ordermeaning.
An expression meeting set (1) criteria most likely has firstorder meaning since it is among the standardizedor conventional
god-talk used within other ancient Near Eastern cultures. An
expression fulfilling the criteriaof either set (2) or (3) is only more
likelyto have second-ordermeaning. Afterall, an expression might
have been used in speech long before it occurred graphically.
When first used, it would have been second-order meaning;
throughcontinual use without meaningfuldifferenceit would proceed toward first-ordermeaning. But the graphic analysis could
offer appropriatelyrestrainedconclusions about an expression's
journey between second-andfirst-ordermeaning. One must keep
in mind, though, that even a first attestation, or an only attestation, could not be provenbeyond absolute doubt to have secondorder meaning. But working with what we have, an expression's
occurrence where it offers a substantially meaningful difference
from other use would much more likely be a candidatefor secondorder meaning than would one meeting set (1) criteria.
tion for a husband without a male heir [p. 101-4], he shows that the kinsman-redeemer
can be classifiedas
relationshipbetweenYHWHand the peopleaccordingto Deutero-Isaiah
(1) YHWHas Israel'skinsmanin general(g'l used only to strengthenthe bond between
YHWHand the people), (2) YHWHas a redeemerfromslavery,and (3) YHWH"according
to the image of the gd'el-spouse"(106, 105-31). For a more theologicalreflectionon the
g6'el, see Hubbard.
48Yeeconsiders 13:14 the productof "R2"(248, 257, 299, 317), the final redactor,for
whom the "exileis alreadya reality"(259).

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

529

Long:Dead or Alive?

The writers of the Hebrew Bible spoke metaphorically about


God. It is difficult to know with absolute certainty whether the
metaphoric expressions had for them first- or second-order meaning. But considering the sets of criteria above, I believe that one
can state when it is plausible that a metaphoric expression had
first- or second-order meaning. Where first-order meaning occurs,
the metaphoric expression can be considered literal. But from the
discussion above, I am not saying that it is nonfigurative, only that
it is conventional and even subject conventional.

REFERENCES
Adler, ElaineJune "TheBackgroundfor the Metaphorof Covenantas
1990 Marriagein the HebrewBible." Ph.D.Dissertation,
Universityof California,Berkeley.
In Philosophyand OrdiAustin,John L. "Performative-Constative."
1963 nary Language,22-54. Ed. by Charles E. Caton.
Urbana: Universityof Illinois Press.
1975 How to Do Thingswith Words,2nd ed. Ed. by J.O.
Urmson and Marina Sbisa. Cambridge, MA:
HarvardUniversityPress.
Ayer,AlfredJules Language, Truth and Logic, 2nd ed. New York:
1950 DoverPublications,Inc.
1973 TheCentralQuestionsof Philosophy.London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Bache, "TheLogicof ReligiousMetaphor."Ph.D. DissertaChristopher tion, BrownUniversity.
Martin
1978
Barr,James "Literality."Faithand Philosophy6:412-28.
1989
Bartel,Roland Metaphorsand Symbols: Forays Into Language.
1983 Urbana,IL: National Council of Teachersof English.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

530

Journalof theAmerican
Academy
of Religion

Beekman,John, "TheNature of Metaphorand Simile." Chap. 8 in


theWordof God,124-36. GrandRapids:
and John Callow Translating
1974 ZondervanPublishingHouse.
Bourguet,Daniel Des metaphoresde Jeremie. 1EtudesBibliques,nou1987 velle s&rie, vol. 9. Paris: Librarie Lecoffre; J.
Gabalda;Cie E1diteurs.
Brettler,MarcZvi God is King: Understandingan IsraeliteMetaphor.
1989 Journalfor the Study of the Old TestamentSupplement Series,vol. 76. Sheffield:JSOTPress.
Brongers,H.A. "Die metaphorischeVerwendungvon Termini fur
1982 die Kleidung von G6ttern und Menschen in der
Bibelund im AltenOrient."In VonKanaanbis Kerala: Festschrift
fir Prof.Mag.Dr. Dr.J.P.M.van der
O.P.
zur
Ploeg
Vollendungdes siebzigstenLebensam
4.
Ed.W.C. Delsman,J.T.Nelis,
1979,
Juli
jahres
J.R.T.M.Peters,W.H. Ph. R6mer,and A.S. van der
Woude, 61-74. Alter Orient und Altes Testament,
vol. 211. Kevelaerand Neukirchen-Vluyn:Butzon
& Bercker;NeukirchenerVerlag.
Burbules,Nicholas "Metaphor,Idiom, and Figuration."Metaphorand
C., Gregory SymbolicActivity4:93-110.
Schraw,and
WoodrowTrathen
1989
Cooper, David E. Metaphor. Aristotelian Society Series, vol. 5.
1986 Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Dascal, Marcelo Pragmaticsand thePhilosophyof MindI: Thoughtin
1983 Language. Pragmatics & Beyond, vol. 4, no. 1.
Amsterdamand Philadelphia:John BenjaminsPublishing Company.
1987 "Defending Literal Meaning." Cognitive Science
11:259-81.
Daube, David Studies in Biblical Law. Cambridge: Cambridge
1947 UniversityPress.
De Moor,Johannes AnAnthologyof ReligiousTextsfrom Ugarit. Nisaba:
C. ReligiousTextsTranslationSeries,vol. 16. Leiden:
1987 E.J.Brill.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Deador Alive?
1990

531
TheRiseof Yahwism:TheRootsof IsraeliteMonotheism. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum
Lovaniensium,vol. 91. Leuven: LeuvenUniversity
Press;UitgeverijPeeters.

Dietrich, M., and "Jahwe und seine Aschera": Anthropomorphes


O. Loretz Kultbildin Mesopotamien,Ugarit, and Israel: Das
1992 biblische Bilderverbot.Ugaritisch-BiblischeLiteratur, vol. 9. MOnster:UGARIT-Verlag.
Dietrich, M., O.
Loretz,and J.
Sanmartin
1976

Die keilalphabetischenTexte aus Ugarit: Einschliej3lichder keilalphabetischenText auferhalb


Ugarits. AlterOrientund AltesTestament,vol. 24.
Kevelaer and Neukirchen-Vluyn: Butzon &
Bercker;NeukirchenerVerlag.[KTU]

Emmerson,Grace Hosea: An IsraeliteProphetin Judean Perspective.


I. Journalfor the Study of the Old TestamentSupple1984 ment Series,vol. 28. Sheffield:JSOTPress.
Ferre,Frederick "Metaphorin Religious Discourse." In Dictionary
1973-4 of the Historyof Ideas: Studiesof SelectedPivotal
Ideas, vol. 3, 201-08. Gen. ed. Philip P. Wiener.
New York:CharlesScribner'sSons.
Geller,M.J. "Introduction." In Figurative Language in the
1987 AncientNearEast,Ed. M. Mindlin,M.J.Geller,and
J.E.Wansbrough,ix-xiii. London: School of Oriental and AfricanStudies,Universityof London.
Gentner,D., and "FlowingWatersor TeemingCrowds: MentalModD.R. Gentner els of Electricity." In Mental Models. Ed. by D.
1982 Gentnerand A.L.Stevens. Hillsdale,NJ: Lawrence
ErlbaumAssociates,Inc.
Gibbs, Raymond "LiteralMeaningand PsychologicalTheory." CogW., Jr. nitiveScience8:275-304.
1984
Goodman, Nelson Languagesof Art: An Approachto a Theoryof Sym1976 bols, 2d ed. Indianapolis:HackettPublishingCompany, Inc.
Grice, H.P. "Utterer'sMeaningand Intentions."ThePhilosophi1969 cal Review78:147-77.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

532

Journalof theAmerican
Academy
of Religion
Hall, Gary "The MarriageImagery of Jeremiah 2 and 3: A
1980 Study of Antecedents and Innovations in a Prophetic Metaphor."Th.D.Dissertation,Union Theological Seminaryin Virginia.
1983 "Originof the MarriageMetaphor."HebrewStudies
23:169-71.
Henry, Albert "Lareviviscencedes metaphores."In Metonymieet
1984 metaphore,213-27. Academieroyale de Belgique,
Memoiresde la Classe des Lettres,Series 2, vol. 66,
no. 2. Bruxelles: PalaisDes Academies.
Holmgren, "TheConceptof Yahwehas go'el in Second Isaiah."
Fredrick Th.D. Dissertation, Union Theological Seminary,
1963 New York.

Hubbard,Robert "The Go'el in Ancient Israel: Theological ReflecL., Jr. tions on an IsraeliteInstitution."Bulletinfor Bibli1991 cal Research1:3-19.
Huffmon, Herbert AmoritePersonalNamesin the Mari Texts:A StrucBardwell turaland LexicalStudy. Baltimore:TheJohns Hop1965 kins Press.
cananeen dans le livre du prophete
Jacob, Edmond "L'H&ritage
1963 Osee." RevueD'Histoireet de PhilosophieReligieuses
43:250-59.
Jacobsen,Thorkild The Treasuresof Darkness:A Historyof Mesopota1976 mian Religion.New Haven: YaleUniversityPress.
1987 "Pictures and Pictorial Language (The Burney
Relief)."In FigurativeLanguagein theAncientNear
East, 1-11. Ed. by M. Mindlin,M.J.Geller,and J.E.
Wansbrough. London: School of Oriental and
AfricanStudies, Universityof London.
Jastrow,Marcus A Dictionaryof the Targumim,the TalmudBabliand
1985 Yerushalmi,
and theMidrashicLiterature.New York:
The JudaicaPress.
Johnson, Mark "A Philosophical Perspectiveon the Problems of
1980 Metaphor."In Cognitionand FigurativeLanguage,
Ed. RichardP. Honeck and RobertR. Hoffman,4767. Hillsdale: LawrenceErlbaumAssociates, Publishers.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Deador Alive?
1987

533
TheBodyin the Mind: TheBodilyBasis of Meaning,
Imagination,and Reason. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.

Katz,JerroldJ. PropositionalStructureand IllocutionaryForce: A


1977 Study of the Contributionof Sentence Meaningto
SpeechActs. The Language& ThoughtSeries. Sussex: The HarvesterPress Limited.
1981 "LiteralMeaning and Logical Theory." Journal of
Philosophy78:203-34.
Katz,JerroldJ., "The Structureof a Semantic Theory." Language
and Jerry A. Fodor 39:170-210.
1963
Keel, Othmar DeineBlickesind Tauben:zur Metaphorikdes Hohen
1984 Liedes. Stuttgarter Bibelstudien, no. 114/115.
Stuttgart:VerlagKatholischesBibelwerk.
1985 The Symbolismof the BiblicalWorld:AncientNear
EasternIconography
and the Bookof Psalms. Trans.
Hallett.
New
York:
Crossroad.
T.J.
Kittay,Eva Feder Metaphor:Its CognitiveForceand LinguisticStruc1987 ture. The ClarendonLibraryof Logic and Philosophy. Oxford: ClarendonPress.
Korpel,Marjo A Rift in the Clouds: Ugariticand HebrewDescripChristinaAnnette tions of the Divine. Ugaritisch-BiblischeLiteratur,
1990 vol. 8. MOnster:UGARIT-Verlag.
Lakoff,George "TheMeaningsof Literal."Metaphorand Symbolic
1986 Activity1:291-96.
1987 Women,Fire and DangerousThings: What Categories RevealAboutthe Mind. Chicago: Universityof
Chicago Press.
Lakoff,George, MetaphorsWeLiveBy. Chicago: Universityof Chiand MarkJohnson cago Press.
1980
Lemaire,Andre "Une inscription phenicienne decouverte recem1989 ment et le mariagede Ruthla Moabite."EretzIsrael
20:124*"-29*.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

534

Journalof theAmerican
Academy
of Religion

Long, GaryAlan "A Kinsman-Redeemerin the Phoenician Inscrip1991 tion fromCebel IresDagi?"Zeitschrift
fir die alttestamentlicheWissenschaft103:421-24.
MacCormac,Earl "Semanticand SyntacticMeaningof ReligiousMetR. aphors." In Theoloinguistics,159-80. Ed. by Jean1981 Pierre van Noppen. StudiereeksTijdschriftVUB,
nieuwe serie, no. 8. Brussels: VrijeUniversiteit.
1985 A CognitiveTheoryof Metaphor. Cambridge,MA:
MITPress.
McFague,Sallie MetaphoricalTheology:Modelsof God in Religious
1982 Language.Philadelphia:FortressPress.
Macky,PeterW.
1988

"Exploringthe Depths of Artistic Biblical Metaphors." Proceedings,EasternGreatLakesand Midwest BiblicalSocieties8:167-76.


1990 The Centralityof Metaphorsto BiblicalThought:A
Methodfor Interpretingthe Bible. Studies in the
Bibleand EarlyChristianity,vol. 19. Lewiston,NY:
Edwin Mellen Press.

Mays,James Hosea: A Commentary. Old Testament Library.


Luther London: SCMPress Ltd.
1969
Muffs,Yochanan "Joyand Loveas MetaphoricalExpressionsof Will1975 ingness and Spontaneity in Cuneiform, Ancient
Hebrew, and Related Literatures: Divine Investituresin the Midrashin the Lightof Neo-Babylonian
RoyalGrants."In Christianity,Judaismand Other
Greco-RomanCults: Studiesfor Morton Smith at
Sixty, Ed. Jacob Neusner, vol. Part 3. Judaism
Before70, 1-36. Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity, vol. 12, no. 3. Leiden: E.J.Brill.
North, C.R. "TheRedeemerGod: The HistoricalBasis of Bibli1948 cal Theology." Interpretation2:3-16.
Ostborn, Gunnar Yahwehand Baal: Studiesin the Bookof Hoseaand
1956 RelatedDocuments. Lunds Universitets Arsskrift,
N.F. Aud. 1, vol. 51, no. 6. Lund:C.W.K.Gleerup.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

535

Long:Deador Alive?

de la 24e campagne
Pardee,Dennis Les textes para-mythologiques
1988 (1961). Ras Shamra-Ougarit,vol. 4. Paris: Editions Recherchesur les Civilisations.
Perdue,Leo G. Wisdom in Revolt: MetaphoricalTheologyin the
1991 BookofJob. Journalfor the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, vol. 112. Sheffield:
Almond Press.
Ramsey,Ian T. ReligiousLanguage:An EmpiricalPlacingof Theo1957 logicalPhrases.The Libraryof Philosophyand Theology. London: SCMPress, Ltd.
1964 Models and Mystery. The Whidden Lectures for
1963. London: OxfordUniversityPress.
1971 "TalkingAbout God." In WordsAbout God: The
Philosophyof Religion,Ed. Ian T. Ramsey. Harper
ForumBooks. New York:Harper& Row, Publishers.
Studiesof
Ricoeur,Paul The Ruleof Metaphor:Multi-Disciplinary
1977 the Creationof Meaningin Language.Trans.Robert
Czerny. Asst KathleenMcLaughlinand John Costello. University of TorontoRomance Series, vol.
37. Toronto:Universityof TorontoPress.
1978-9 "TheMetaphoricalProcess of Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling." CriticalInquiry5:143-59.
Schaeffer,Claude "Les fouilles de Minet-el-Beidaet de Ras Shamra,
F.A. quatrieme campagne (printemps 1932): rapport
1933 sommaire."Syria 14:93-127.
Scheffler,Israel "Metaphor."Chap. 3 in Beyondthe Letter:A Philo1979 sophicalInquiryIntoAmbiguity,Vaguenessand Metaphor,79-130. InternationalLibraryof Philosophy
and ScientificMethod. London, Boston, and Henley-on-Thames:Routledge& KeganPaul.
Schmitt,JohnJ.
1989

"TheWife of God in Hosea 2." BiblicalResearch


34:5-18.

Schroer,Silvia In Israelgab es Bilder:Nachrichtenvondarstellender


1987 Kunst im Alten Testament. Orbis Biblicus et
Orientalis, vol. 74. Freiburg, Schweiz and Gottingen: UniversitAtsverlag; Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Academy
Journalof theAmerican
of Religion

536
Searle,John R.
1969
1978
1980

SpeechActs: An Essayin thePhilosophyof Language.


London: CambridgeUniversityPress.
"LiteralMeaning."Erkenntnis13:207-24.
"TheBackgroundof Meaning."In SpeechAct Theory and Pragmatics,221-32. Ed. by John R. Searle,
Ferenc Kiefer, and Manfred Bierwisch. Synthese
LanguageLibrary:Textsand Studiesin Linguistics
and Philosophy, vol. 10. Dordrecht,Holland: D.
Reidel PublishingCompany.

Soskice,Janet Metaphorand ReligiousLanguage.Oxford: ClarenMartin don Press.


1985
Stamm,J.J. Erlosen und Vergebenim Alten Testament: Eine
1940 BegriffsgeschichtlicheUntersuchung. Bern: A
FranckeA.-G.
Stuhlmueller, CreativeRedemptionin Deutero-Isaiah.Analecta
Carroll Biblica,vol. 43. Rome: BiblicalInstitutePress.
1970
Wansbrough,J. "Antonomasia:The Case for Semitic 'TM."In Fig1987 urativeLanguagein the AncientNear East, 103-16.
Ed. by M. Mindlin, M.J. Geller, and J.E. Wansbrough. London: School of Orientaland African
Studies, Universityof London.
Weippert,Helga "Amos: Seine Bilder und ihr Milieu." In Beitrage
1985 zur prophetischen
in IsraelundAssyrien,
Bildsprache
1-29. By HelgaWeippert,Klaus Seybold,and ManfredWeippert. OrbisBiblicuset Orientalis,vol. 64.
Freiburg, Schweiz and G6ttingen: Universitatsverlag;Vandenhoeck& Ruprecht.
Weippert,Manfred "Die Bildsprache der neuassyrischen Prophetie."
1985 In Beitrdgezur prophetischenBildsprachein Israel
undAssyrien,55-93. By HelgaWeippert,KlausSeybold, and Manfred Weippert. Orbis Biblicus et
Orientalis, vol. 64. Freiburg, Schweiz and G6ttingen: Universitatsverlag; Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht.
Whitt, William D.
1992

"TheDivorce of Yahwehand Asherah in Hos 2,47.12 ff." ScandinavianJournalof the Old Testament
6:31-67.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Long:Dead or Alive?
Wolff, Hans

537
Hosea: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet

Walter Hosea. Trans. by Gary Stansell. Ed. by Paul D.


1974 Hanson. Hermeneia. Philadelphia:FortressPress.
Yee, Gale A.
1987

Composition and Tradition in the Book of Hosea: A


Redaction Critical Investigation. Society of Biblical

LiteratureDissertation Series, vol. 102. Atlanta:


ScholarsPress.

This content downloaded from 193.227.1.127 on Tue, 24 Dec 2013 01:43:42 AM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions