Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 11 (2011) - Review

Jindo, Job Y., Biblical Metaphor Reconsidered: A Cognitive Approach to Poetic Prophecy in Jeremiah 1–24 (HSM, 64; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2010). Pp. xv + 343. Hardcover. US$39.95. ISBN: 1-57506-936-9.

As a revision of Jindo's doctoral work at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Biblical Metaphor Reconsidered: A Cognitive Approach to Poetic Prophecy in Jeremiah 1–24 proposes a cognitive approach to biblical metaphors in Jeremiah 1–24. In this work, as Jindo repeatedly mentions, he intends “not to supplant the conventional understanding of biblical metaphor as ornament, but rather to expand the scope of interpretive possibilities by introducing an alternative cognitive approach to the phenomenon of metaphor” (p. x). In recent published works, the new generation of biblical scholars is beginning to explore the world of human cognition expressed within biblical texts by employing recent theories in cognitive linguistics. Theories of cognitive linguistics focus on the ability of human cognition in the process of reading rather than on the text itself.[1] The application of those theories usually deals with figurative language within poetic or prophetic texts, because the interpretation of the figurative language within poetic texts, much different from narrative texts, requires readers to understand the conceptual world of human cognition that is not often easily recognized in the surface elements of texts. Thus, this work is a good addition to a growing body of literature on various biblical metaphors.

Chapter 1 surveys the previous scholarship on biblical metaphor and presents four basic patterns of research in modern biblical scholarship: theory-oriented, metaphor-oriented, method-oriented, and text-oriented patterns. Jindo usually evaluates previous scholarship negatively because it treats biblical metaphors as stylistic components, not as creative components. He boldly claims “the minority of biblical scholars who do recognize this creative value of metaphor have yet to provide a logical and theoretical explanation for its operation” (p. 21). In chapter 2, Jindo introduces his theoretical framework that derives from the field of cognitive linguistics. He first explains the definition of theories of conceptual metaphor with two domains. He briefly deals with four basic features of theories of conceptual metaphor: conceptuality, systematicity, ubiquity, and fundamentality. Then, he explains, using Alfred Tennyson's poem, how this cognitive approach can be applied to poetic metaphor, because most biblical metaphors appear in poetic sections especially in prophetic books. Finally, as an addition, he introduces an important concept from cognitive linguistics: frame theory. Although he briefly explains this concept, it is a very important concept by which he analyzes the framework of Jeremiah 1–24 and connections between local metaphors. Because this concept has developed with different terms and emphasis drawn from various fields, the concept of frame is variously called, for example, “schema,” “script,” “scenario,” “cognitive model,” or “folk theory.” The term frame indicates “a repertoire of conceptual knowledge” that contains its own constituent elements (p. 50). Thus, the elements of the SCHOOL frame would be “teacher,” “student,” “textbook,” and “classroom” (p. 51). He argues that this frame theory is helpful in identifying a unit of metaphor.

Chapter 3 analyzes the structure of the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a difficult book in terms of its arrangement. Thus, there is no scholarly consensus about the arrangement and partition of the book. By treating the text as a unified work, however, Jindo seeks to legitimize the consideration of the metaphorical units of those images and figures in the text. Using editorial devices such as “inclusion,” “concentricity,” and “transitional patterning,” he conducts a structural analysis of Jeremiah, showing how the book is a composition carefully arranged into an integral structure with a clear logic of progression (p. 57). Following Alexander Rofe's structural analysis, he divides the book of Jeremiah into three parts: chs. 1–24, 25–45, 46–51 (appendix: ch. 52).

In chapter 4, while employing the frame theory that chapter 2 mentions, Jindo proposes a global metaphorical model, “destruction model,” as a concept underlying Jeremiah 1–24. Following past scholarship, he tries to identify each major component of this model by analyzing Mesopotamian city-laments. While his work shares some common elements with Dobbs-Allsopp's book,[2] he distinguishes his approach, which concerns the conceptual framework through which the catastrophic event is perceived, from Dobbs-Allsopp's genre approach, which concerns the verbal forms and literary devices of that literature. He argues that the writers in Mesopotamia and Israel employ this destruction model in order to interpret their historical disasters, such as the destruction of Ur or the kingdom of Judah, because biblical religion emerged within the literary and intellectual matrix of ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Thus, they share not only this same conceptual model, but also the same literary mode of articulating that model. Through an analysis of Mesopotamian laments, he identifies four scenes (judicial decision/lawsuit, destruction/warfare, lamentation/aftermath, and restoration) and six actors (plaintiff, judge, defendant, intercessor/advocate, lamenter, and executioner). In addition, he suggests that this destruction model is based on a conceptual metaphor THE COSMOS IS A STATE, or royal metaphor, wherein YHWH is conceived of as king, the heavenly council as his royal court, and the universe as his dominion. Then, while comparing Jeremiah with Mesopotamian city-laments and culture, he tries to identify each character in Jeremiah 1–24. Thus, through the identification of the destruction model in Jeremiah 1–24, Jindo establishes the interpretive framework of his exegesis.

Chapter 5 introduces local metaphors within the overall framework of Jeremiah 1–24, which is dominated by the royal lawsuit model. He focuses especially on plant images. He wants to understand these plant images not simply as rhetorical devices making the destruction scene more vivid, but as key components within the conceptual complex of the royal model describing Israel as God's royal garden. For this examination, he uses Greenstein's three exegetical principles for unpacking poetic metaphors: the consideration of the “ramifications,” “specific concept,” and “intertextual function.” Thus, in this chapter, he first tries to establish the basic concept of the divine garden within the broader context of biblical literature by comparing biblical examples in Genesis 1–3 with mythopoetic concepts widely attested in the ancient Near East. Then, while extending the basic concept of the divine garden to many related plant images throughout the whole Old Testament, he tries to combine various concepts into the royal garden metaphor. Those concepts are the main motifs of the Zion tradition, agricultural images, and vineyard images. Based on his findings of the royal garden metaphor, he analyzes the plant images in Jeremiah 1–24 section by section according to each division. For interpreting each occurrence, he often depends on intertextuality not only from biblical texts but also from other ancient Near Eastern materials.

In the concluding chapter, Jindo gives not only the summary but also some implications of his research. He argues that his cognitive approach can be useful for philological study, genre study and the understanding of biblical poetry and prophecy.

Jindo's work provides important insight into the study of biblical metaphor. First, as he repeatedly mentions, the cognitive approach foregrounds the important fact that a metaphor is not an exceptional matter of poetic creativity or excessive rhetoric. Rather, it emphasizes that metaphor works on the human conceptual level. Thus, this approach makes readers consider the power and effect of biblical metaphors from a different perspective. Second, although interest in biblical metaphors has recently increased from the perspective of cognitive linguistics, there has been a lack of exegetical consideration about the relationship between metaphors within the wider context. However, by using frame theory together with conceptual metaphor theory, he provides the opportunity to consider those metaphors together within a frame. In addition, by employing intertextuality, he tries to reveal the conceptual implications of various plant images. This approach helps readers understand the various implications of biblical metaphors that cannot be known within the immediate context.

However, Jindo's work has some weaknesses. First, the account of his method is not structured well. In chapter 2 he introduces the notions of conceptual metaphor, poetic metaphor, and cognitive frame. However, he does not explain their relationship adequately. In addition, even though frame theory is very important in his work, he does not give a proper explanation for it. Thus, in chapters 4 and 5 there seems to be some confusion between the notions of frame and metaphor. For example, the title of chapter 4 is “A GLOBAL METAPHOR IN JEREMIAH 1–24: THE DESTRUCTION MODEL.” This title gives the impression that the global metaphor in Jeremiah 1–24 is the destruction model. In addition, he even uses the expression “a global metaphorical model” that strengthens the impression (p. 71). This chapter, however, only argues that the destruction model is a frame that underlies Jeremiah 1–24, while the global metaphor THE COSMOS IS A STATE is functioning as the underlying metaphorical concept of this model (p. 81). In his work, this royal metaphor is a kind of frame to which other metaphors belong. Although a metaphor can be a frame in some cases, a metaphor is usually used as a sub-frame within a bigger frame. Thus, in this work this confusion causes some problems that will be explained below.

Second, related to the first point, Jindo's argument that the local metaphor (plant images) belongs to royal garden metaphor which is part of the global metaphor THE COSMOS IS A STATE (royal metaphor) is not convincing. The so-called plant images which appear within a motif of the Zion tradition (i.e., the river of paradise motif), agricultural images, and vineyard images, may share some common elements with the royal garden metaphor, but not all of those metaphors belong to the royal garden metaphor. Actually, the royal metaphor is only a part of the frame of “relationship between God and people.” This relationship is an abstract concept that cannot be expressed in univocal language. Thus, in order to explain this relationship the Bible employs many different kinds of metaphors such as king/subject, judge/litigant, husband/wife, father/child, master/servant, potter/pottery, and farmer/farm (vineyard). Each metaphor has its own focus depending on its context. Thus, some of them can be used together without belonging to one conceptual metaphor. Because those metaphors were popular in ancient Israel, Israelites could understand that those metaphors belonged conventionally to the frame of “relationship between God and people.”

Finally, his intertextuality method needs more refined guidelines. Our understanding of ancient Israel's conceptual world is very limited. Therefore, when we apply a cognitive approach to an ancient work like the Bible, there is always some danger of overusing the related materials. Thus, whenever Jindo finds some connection between his present text in Jeremiah and other texts in the Old Testament or in other ancient Near Eastern literature, he seeks to treat it as part of the metaphor's conceptual world. However, it seems that he is often reading too much between the lines. Although there is some common cultural ground between Israel and other ancient Eastern cultures, it should be remembered that there are also differences between them. Therefore, comparative work should be exercised with care.

In spite of some weaknesses, Jindo's work is very valuable for future study of biblical metaphor. Especially helpful is his treatment of poetic metaphor which gives good examples of how to interpret poetic metaphors and enriches our understanding of poetic metaphors. Furthermore, his approach employing cognitive theories of conceptual metaphor, poetic metaphor, and frame theory provides a good starting point for those who use cognitive approaches. His lengthy footnotes provide extensive bibliography for related subjects and his detailed evaluation provides helpful perspectives about those subjects.

Hyuk-ki Kim, McMaster Divinity College

[1] Cf. W. Croft and D. A. Cruse, Cognitive Linguistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004); V. Evans and M. Green, Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006). reference

[2] F. W. Dobbs-Allsopp, Weep, O Daughter of Zion: A Study of City-Lament Genre in the Hebrew Bible (BibOr 44; Roma: Editirce Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 1993). reference