The Catholic University of America

 Dan Hoang Defense

Final Examination of Dan Hoang

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

April 19, 2011 at 2:00p.m., Caldwell Room 125


The Use of Vocative and Imperative Combination in the Opening Lines of Selected Poems in the Hebrew Psalter


Joseph Jensen, O.S.B., S.T.D.  

In the past few decades, studies of the biblical Hebrew verse have made invaluable contributions in the understanding of the complex literary and theological traditions of the Psalter.  The fundamental question of what makes the text poetry has generated many different literary approaches and linguistic models.  It has been long suggested that the hallmark of biblical Hebrew verse is the sense of rhythmic balance that takes place within and between the adjacent lines upon which the structure of the poem unites.  While this sense of rhythmic structural balance might be explained by certain descriptive linguistic correspondences and parallelistic phenomena, the regularities of these linguistic markers across the biblical Hebrew verse have yet to be ascertained.

As helpful as recent studies have been, none indicates what constitutes a line of biblical Hebrew verse other than the lineation indicated by the MT accents or that arranged by the editors of the BHS.  With the latter one finds that in many instances the proposed textual emendations are metrically motivated, and the former is not always free of errors.  Michael P. O'Connor was the first to advance significantly the definition of a poetic line in his Syntactic Description model. 

The vocative and imperative combine in the opening lines of 37 psalms in the Psalter.  Using the Syntactic Description model, the dissertation investigates how such vocative-imperative pattern operates in a poem, especially as a way of opening a poem and the effects it might have on the overall articulation, structure, and theological significance of the poem as a whole.  The dissertation analyzes the syntactical structures of twenty classic Individual Laments and identifies commonalities beyond the opening lines such as content, mode of speech, and syntactical structure of the lines.  Based on these findings, the dissertation suggests a different genre classification for the psalms studied.