Encounters with the Divine in the Hebrew Bible
My dissertation demonstrates the Jewish tradition’s significance for rhetoric by analyzing Biblical encounters with the divine—the ultimate Other. Thus, this dissertation responds to calls such as Steven B. Katz’s to continually redefine what “rhetoric” means to us (“Hebrew Bible” 134). In the past several decades, there has been increasing interest in rhetorics that challenge our preconceived notions of what constitutes “rhetoric,” both loosening the Greeks and Romans from a skewed reception history and calling for definitions of rhetoric to move “beyond the Greeks” (Lipsom and Binkley). Both these approaches highlight the need for a more diverse understanding of rhetoric—an understanding that better foregrounds the import of the Other. The still-germinal field of Jewish rhetorics has emerged as one response to these calls to diversify and decolonize the rhetorical tradition. As such, this dissertation is also a reclamation of a Jewish tradition that has been—inadvertently and explicitly—ignored, misunderstood, and suppressed.
I argue that representations of divine encounters in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) offer a rhetorical framework for encountering the Other—human and divine—as holy. Neither appropriative nor obeisant, this framework offers a uniquely Jewish perspective on encountering the Other—one that has not received adequate academic attention. In a moment where the imperative to engage with Others is so pressing, I address that call to action by bringing together a breadth of scholarship in Jewish studies, rhetorical theory, and Biblical studies to develop a Jewish rhetorical framework for encountering the Other—human and divine—as holy, which I call a “covenant rhetoric.”
This covenant rhetoric, I assert, is not reserved for encounters with the divine, but is also applicable to human rhetorical interactions. My dissertation thus offers a rhetorical model for encountering as holy the human Others with whom we share our existence. As our diverse society continues to wrestle with the ethical imperative towards the Other, I show how the Tanakh prompts us to reconsider the rhetorical potential of encountering Otherness as holiness. In the process, I demonstrate rhetoric’s centrality to religion, to spirituality, and to living an ethically-informed life.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- West Lafayette