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Through the ‘I’-Window: The Inner Life of Characters in the Hebrew Bible


This groundbreaking book will stimulate many readers to a new appreciation of characterization in the Hebrew Bible.

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It is often said that the inner life of characters in the Hebrew Bible is inaccessible to us, and that we can know little or nothing about how they felt and thought. In this study, original in both its scope and its method, Barbara Leung Lai shows how wrong that assumption is. She directs our attention to the many places where her chosen characters, Daniel, Isaiah, and Yahweh, speak of themselves, using the first-person ‘I’ voice, and finds those to be a unique point of entry, or window, into the interiority of the characters.

To construct an interior profile of these characters, Leung Lai develops an integrated methodology of psychological exegesis, drawing upon psychological perspectives of personality, Bakhtinian views of polyphony and dialogism, current studies of emotion, self and selfhood, and the empirics of reading under the rubric of reader-response literary criticism.

From these perspectives, Leung Lai can identify in Daniel two primary realms in his inner identity-seeing and emotive experiencing — and can characterize Daniel’s interior world as a world of paradoxes, of seeing without comprehending, hearing without the capacity to respond. Isaiah, on the other hand, exhibits a broad spectrum of emotions, from love, intimacy, joy and empathy to a sense of being under divine constraint, and to mourning, lament, doubt, distress, helplessness and despair. The prophet exhibits a profound sense of selfhood and subtle inner depths. The character of Yahweh is found to be most striking for its inner conflicts, with its frustrations, disappointments, pain and suffering.

This groundbreaking book will stimulate many readers to a new appreciation of characterization in the Hebrew Bible.

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table of contents

1 CHARACTERIZATION AND INTERNAL PROFILE 1. Character Studies of the Old Testament: A Critical Review 2. Psychological Approach to Hebrew Personalities and Biblical Religious Experience 3. Toward an Advancement of Psychological Approach to Character Studies: What a Text-Anchored and Reader-Oriented Approach Can Offer 2 METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS 1. Toward an Integrated Methodology of Internal Profiling 2. Interpretive Tools 3. Concluding Remarks 3 DANIEL: ASPIRANT SAGE OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SEER? 1. Reading Strategy 2. The World behind the Text 3. The Public Daniel (Chs. 1–6) 4. The Private Daniel (Chs. 7–12) 5. From Reader’s Emotive Experiencing to the Danielic Internal Profile 4 UNCOVERING THE ISAIAN PERSONALITY: WISHFUL THINKING oR VIABLE TASK? 1. Reading Strategy 2. The Fifteen ‘I’-Passages: A Textual-Psychological Reading 3. Toward an Isaian Internal Profile 5 THE HEBREW GOD: HEARING GOD’S BITTER CRIES 1. Reading Strategy 2. Reading the Divine ‘I’-Texts 3. Toward an Internal Profile of the Hebrew God CONCLUSION: INTERNAL PROFILE AND BEYOND

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  1. Frank Polak, Review of Biblical Literature

    In short, thanks to the integration of literary theory and psychology, the “I” window into prophetic and divine inner life of the represents an interesting development in the theory of personality in biblical literature.

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Book information

Lai Barbara M. Leung
List Price
£60 / $95 / €70
Hebrew Bible Monographs, 34
Scholars' Price
£30 / $47.50 / €35
ISBN 13 hardback
Page Extent
xv + 194
Publication Date
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