A. Moore, Moving Beyond Symbol and Myth: Understanding the Kingship of God of the Hebrew Bible Through Metaphor

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 12 (2012) - Review

Moore, Anne, Moving Beyond Symbol and Myth: Understanding the Kingship of God of the Hebrew Bible through Metaphor (Studies in Biblical Literature, 99; New York: Peter Lang, 2009). Pp. xiv + 332. Hardcover. €54.10. US$83.95. ISBN 978-0-8204-8661-1.

Moving Beyond Symbol and Myth: Understanding the Kingship of God of the Hebrew Bible through Metaphor is a revision of Moore's dissertation at the Claremont Graduate University School of Religion, originally written in 2004. As Moore's title suggests, the goal of this work is to rethink the conceptualization of the metaphor of the kingship of God as depicted in the Hebrew Bible. While Moore primarily examines the Hebrew Bible and its interpretations in the Second Temple period, the goals for her study are more centred on the discovery of Christian origins, specifically unearthing the foundations for the depiction of the kingdom of God in Jesus' teaching. Moore's work challenges prior classifications and explanations of the kingdom of God in New Testament scholarship by scholars such as Johannes Weiss, C. H. Dodd, Gustaf Dalman, and Norman Perrin among others.[1] She chiefly deconstructs the work of Perrin, critiquing specifically Perrin's misuse of scholarship concerning the metaphor of “God is king” in the Hebrew Bible in terms of his methodology, his use of sources, and his understanding of metaphor. Using a cognitive theory of metaphor developed along the lines of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson,[2] Moore asserts that “the ‘God is King’ metaphor is a relational metaphor within the Hebrew Bible” that is “produced by the different interactions of the semantic fields of God and kingship” (p. 4). She sees this Divine kingship metaphor as having “three relational spheres: God as covenantal sovereign of Israel, God as universal suzerain over the world, and God as monarch of the disadvantaged” (p. 4). She then traces these three metaphorical relational spheres as they are re-interpreted in the literature of the Second Temple period and, then, specifically in “the sayings of the historical Jesus” (p. 5).

In the first chapter Moore begins her book in the typical fashion of a dissertation thesis by examining the past research in the field. After discussing the currents of scholarship regarding the kingdom of God, Moore points to the continuing legacy of Perrin, identifies five problems associated with Perrin's classification of the kingdom of God as a symbol and suggests possible solutions.[3] First, Perrin's argument that the kingdom of God underwent a shift from a myth-evoking symbol prior to the Second Temple period to a static symbol referencing a final eschatological event is countered by Moore through an identification of the diversity of descriptions of the kingdom of God in the literature of the Second Temple period. Second, Perrin's inadequate methodology based on Wheelright and Ricoeur causes Perrin to misunderstand how the metaphor of God's kingship works in a wide diversity of texts, which Moore counters with her use of conceptual metaphor theory in the tradition of Lakoff and Johnson to provide greater methodological clarity.[4] Third, Moore critiques Perrin's collapse of all of God's activity under the symbol of God's kingship as “obscur[ing] the diversity of expression within Judaism” (p. 3). Instead Moore provides a careful examination of the metaphor of “God is king” that moves diachronically from pre-exilic to post-exilic texts, identifying both the commonality of these depictions and their distinctions. Fourth, Perrin's use of “literary-critical” analysis follows a history of religion school's theory about the evolution of Judaism rather than a diachronic analysis of the history of the texts that considers literary elements such as “genre, form, and technique” (p. 3). Moore's approach aims to correct this through a more-careful literary analysis of the individual texts with a diachronic awareness. Fifth, Moore traces the recent developments of cognitive theory since Perrin's work. This discussion leads to Moore's second chapter.

Chapter two of Moore's work provides both a brief history of metaphor theory and establishes her methodology for the remainder of her book. Moore uses the conceptual metaphor theory of Lakoff and Johnson as a means of providing greater methodological clarity to the metaphor of “God is king.” Moore's work builds on the work of Marc Zvi Brettler on the kingship of God,[5] which creates “an initial database for consideration” for Moore's work (p. 64). However, following Gary V. Smith, Moore criticises the lack of clarity and helpfulness of Brettler's section on “The King and Domestic Affairs,” and the lack of thorough analysis of particular texts (pp. 63–64).[6] Moore corrects this problem through her own textual analysis of individual texts throughout her study. Chapters 3–6 follow the development of the metaphor diachronically from the pre-exilic text of Isaiah 6 in chapter three to the exilic texts (Exodus 15, 19, Numbers 23, and 1 Samuel 8, 12) in chapter four, to exilic and post-exilic prophetic texts in chapters five and six. Due to the complicated issues of dating the psalms, in chapter seven Moore studies the “latest redacted layer of the texts,” dating most of the psalms to exilic and post-exilic stages but reading the psalms in relation to one another throughout the chapter and focusing on literary genre as the means of reading the psalms alongside one another. Chapter eight functions as a conclusion, demonstrating Moore's overarching argument and suggesting what her argument means for the study of Christian Origins.

Moore's work reflects one of the recent trends in biblical studies, namely the rising interest and use of metaphor theories from the field of cognitive linguistics. Those using such cognitive metaphor theories within the studies of the Hebrew Bible include Claudia Bergmann, Sarah Dille, Marc Zvi Brettler, Pierre van Hecke, Elizabeth R. Hayes, William P. Brown, Ellen Van Wolde, Zacharias Kotzé, and Christo van der Merwe,[7] and within studies of the New Testament include Nijay K. Gupta, Martin Ramey, Erik Konsmo, Reidar Aasgaard, Jacobus Liebenberg, Bonnie Howe, Jesper Tang Nielsen, and Ruben Zimmermann.[8]

Moore's use of conceptual metaphor theory in her work allows for methodological clarity and precision in determining the extent and diversity of the metaphor of God's kingship in the Hebrew Bible. This analysis also leads to new insight, including the awareness of the relational quality of God's kingship as it is depicted in the Hebrew Bible. Another example of insight is Moore's awareness of the often-overlooked depiction of God's role as king of the disadvantaged. As Moore explains, “Yahweh [is] the compassionate and just monarch upon whom the disadvantaged and the oppressed may depend for their needs and for the resolution of their situation” (p. 270). Moore suggests that Psalm 146 “acts almost as a summary for the various understandings of the “God is king” metaphor” and provides Psalms 5, 22, 68, 102, 103, 145, and 146 as examples of the image of Yahweh as “compassionate monarch of the disadvantaged” (pp. 268–70).

However, while Moore's work follows this growing trend through her use of the conceptual metaphor theory of Lakoff and Johnson, she does not appear to be aware herself of the advances upon this model since the original publication of Lakoff and Johnson's Metaphors We Live By in 1980 or of the recent developments of cognitive blending theories of metaphor developed by scholars like Mark Turner and Gilles Fauconnier that build on Lakoff and Johnson's theories.[9] Nor does Moore appear to be aware of Lakoff's continuing use of his metaphorical theory in the political realm.[10] Examination and use of all three of these developments might prove helpful for clarifying and extending Moore's own examination and for future examinations of the metaphor of God's kingship by other scholars building on Moore's analysis.

Because Moore's work does not reflect the advancements of conceptual blending theories of metaphor, her work often lacks an evaluation of the blending of the metaphorical entailments of kingship. While in comparison to Brettler's individualisation of each entailment of kingship, Moore's work examines how these metaphors work in whole passages (pp. 61–64). Yet Moore's work at times also struggles with the interplay of metaphors, assuming for example, that one metaphor must supersede another or that the kingship metaphor must be non-existent because another potentially competing metaphor exists. For example, Moore sees the Divine Shepherd metaphor when used with the Divine King to be at odds with Divine Warrior metaphor, yet this overlooks the power of conceptual blending through the use of “mixed” metaphors (pp. 122–123).[11]

These weaknesses aside, Moore's work provides a helpful introduction to the metaphor of God's kingship in the Hebrew Bible and suggests an important and potentially revolutionary change to the way the kingdom of God is understood within New Testament studies. While Moore's work could be more encompassing in its awareness of the interweaving of metaphors, her analysis of the metaphor of God as king is both thorough and helpful to the novice and scholar alike. While Moore's metaphorical theory could provide an initial reworking of many scholars' understandings of how metaphor functions, Moore's clear and precise writing style does not make her approach overly taxing to read, but rather often enjoyable and even moving at times. While the cost of this volume may make it difficult for many to include on their shelves, this book is recommended for those who have a scholarly interest in the workings of metaphor in the Hebrew Bible or who have an interest in the metaphor of the kingdom of God in the New Testament. It also marks a necessary advancement upon previous studies in the kingdom of God and its impact on Christian Origins.

Beth M. Stovell, St. Thomas University, Miami Gardens, FL

[1] J. Weiss, Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (trans. R. H. Hiers and D. L. Holland; orig. Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiches Gottes, 1892; repr., Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971); C. H. Dodd, Parables of the Kingdom (Digswell Place: Nisbet., 1935, repr. 1961); G. Dalman, The Words of Jesus: Considered in Light of Post-Biblical Jewish Writings and Aramaic Language (trans D. M. Kay; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1902); N. Perrin, The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (NTL; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963). reference

[2] G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980). reference

[3] Perrin, The Kingdom of God. reference

[4] P. Wheelwright, Metaphor and Reality (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962); P. Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil (trans. E. Buchanan; New York: Harper and Row, 1967); Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By. reference

[5] M. Z. Brettler, God Is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor (JSOTSup, 76; Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1989). reference

[6] For Smith's critique, see G. V. Smith, “God Is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor,” HS 32 (1991), 81. reference

[7] C. D. Bergmann, Childbirth as a Metaphor for Crisis: Evidence from the Ancient Near East, the Hebrew Bible, and 1QH XI 1–18 (BZAW, 382; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2008); S. Dille, Mixing Metaphors: God as Mother and Father in Deutero-Isaiah (London: T & T Clark, 2004); Brettler, God Is King; P. van Hecke, Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2005); E. R. Hayes, The Pragmatics of Perception and Cognition in MT Jeremiah 1:1–6:30: A Cognitive Linguistics Approach (BZAW, 380; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2008); W. P. Brown, Seeing the Psalms: A Theology of Metaphor (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002); E. J. van Wolde, Job 28: Cognition in Context (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003); E. J. van Wolde, Reframing Biblical Studies: When Language and Text Meet Culture, Cognition, and Context (Winona Lake, Ill.: Eisenbrauns, 2009); Z. Kotzé, “A Cognitive Linguistic Approach to the Emotion of Anger in the Old Testament,” HvTSt 60 (2004), 843-863; Z. Kotzé, “Metaphors and Metonymies for Anger in the Old Testament: A Cognitive Linguistic Approach,” Scriptura 88 (2005), 18-25; C. H. J. van der Merwe, “A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective on Hinneh in the Pentateuch, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth,” HS 48 (2007), 101-140; C. H. J. van der Merwe, “Biblical Exegesis, Cognitive Linguistics and Hypertext,” A. Lemaire (ed.), Congress Volume Leiden 2004 (VTSup, 109; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2006), 255–280. reference

[8] N. K. Gupta, Worship That Makes Sense to Paul: A New Approach to the Theology and Ethics of Paul's Cultic Metaphors (BZNW, 175; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2010); J. Liebenberg, The Language of the Kingdom and Jesus: Parable, Aphorism, and Metaphor in the Sayings Material Common to the Synoptic Tradition and the Gospel of Thomas (BZNW, 102; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2001); B. Howe, Because You Bear This Name: Conceptual Metaphor and the Moral Meaning of 1 Peter (Biblical Interpretation Studies, 81; Leiden: Brill, 2006); J. T. Nielsen, “The Lamb of God: The Cognitive Structure of Johannine Metaphor,” J. Frey, J. G. Van der Watt, G. Kern, and R. Zimmerman (eds.), Imagery in the Gospel of John: Terms, Forms, Themes, and Theology of Johannine Figurative Language (WUNT, 200; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006); R. Zimmermann, “‘Du Wirst noch Größeres Sehen…’ (Joh 1,50). Zur Ästhetik und Hermeneutik der Christusbilder im Johannesevangelium—Eine Skizze,” Metaphorik und Christologie (Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann, 120; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2003); R. Zimmermann, “Paradigmen Einer Metaphorischen Christologie. Eine Leseanleitung,” J. Frey, J. Rohls, and R. Zimmerman (eds.), Metaphorik und Christologie (Theologische Bibliothek Töpelmann, 120; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2003); R. Zimmermann, Christologie der Bilder im Johannesevangelium: Die Christopoetik des Vierten Evangeliums unter Besonderer Berücksichtigung von Joh 10 (WUNT, 171; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004). reference

[9] For example, G. Fauconnier and M. Turner, The Way We Think (New York: Basic Books, 2002). reference

[10] Lakoff's political works include G. Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); G. Lakoff, Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives (White River Junction, Vt.: Chelsea Green, 2004); G. Lakoff, Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006); G. Lakoff, The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century Politics with an 18th-Century Brain (New York: Viking, 2008). reference

[11] The lack of integration and explanation of the Divine Warrior in relationship to the Divine King is a critique that P. Miller also levels against Brettler. See P. D. Miller, “God Is King: Understanding an Israelite Metaphor,” JBL 111 (1992), 120-122 (122). reference