The Catholic University of America

 Adam Plescia Defense

Final Examination of Adam V. Plescia

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

April 14, 2011 at 2:30 p.m., Caldwell Room 125


Robert D.  Miller II, Ph.D.


Biblical Concepts of Divine Protection: A Study of Psalms 5, 91, 140 in Light of the Iconography of the Ancient Near East

Taking a holistic approach to individual psalms as distinct and complete poems, this study explores the topic of divine protection in the Psalter.  Specifically, three psalms are analyzed: Psalms 5, 91, and 140. The study is a contribution to a growing body of research that systematically incorporates iconographic material in biblical exegesis. The contribution is unique in that (1) it compares ancient Near Eastern iconography to whole poems, in contrast to thematic treatments that have not, and (2) it considers modern linguistic approaches to biblical poetics.

The first two chapters review past research on the topic of divine protection in the book of Psalms and introduce comparative research using the art of the ancient Near East. The following three chapters discuss the three psalms under investigation: Psalms 5, 91, and 140. In each of the chapters on an individual psalm, the research unfolds along two lines.  First, there is an examination of the relevant vocabulary and structure. Each psalm is analyzed using the syntactic approach of M. O’Connor in Hebrew Verse Structure. The second aspect of the study in chapters 3-5 explores the concepts of protection in the selected psalms in light of the ideas of divine protection expressed in the iconography of the ancient Near East.  The literary imagery of protection in the psalms is compared with the iconographic imagery of protection as it appears in the miniature art of the Levant as well as the monumental art of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The study provides a new of method of approach and offers a fuller and clearer sense of the biblical notions of divine protection, not, however, in the form of a single overarching theme.  Studying the topic of divine protection offers a complex and multifaceted viewpoint; the findings do not produce a single concept of divine protection. The three psalms separately conceptualized divine protection in at least three different ways; thus, there are concepts of divine protection in the psalms.