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“Deciphering the Shema: Staircase Parallelism and the Syntax of Deuteronomy 6:4”

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[Abstract The unusual syntax of Deut 6:4 has long puzzled expositors of the Hebrew Bible. None of the many solutions posed by commentators has ever gained widespread acceptance. The continuing, increasingly strained, efforts to unravel the verse’s syntax testify to the desirability of a new approach. In this essay, I show that the key to understanding Deut 6:4 lies in the recognition that Moses’s exhortation is couched in the AB//AC structure known as “staircase parallelism”. This pattern yields a meaning of ABC—in this case, “YHWH our God is one!” I defend this proposal in three ways, establishing that Deuteronomy is a suitable context for staircase parallelism, that at least two solid biblical precedents share the same basic sentence construction, and that staircase parallelism is literarily apropos in Deut 6., AbstractThe unusual syntax of Deut 6:4 has long puzzled expositors of the Hebrew Bible. None of the many solutions posed by commentators has ever gained widespread acceptance. The continuing, increasingly strained, efforts to unravel the verse’s syntax testify to the desirability of a new approach. In this essay, I show that the key to understanding Deut 6:4 lies in the recognition that Moses’s exhortation is couched in the AB//AC structure known as “staircase parallelism”. This pattern yields a meaning of ABC—in this case, “YHWH our God is one!” I defend this proposal in three ways, establishing that Deuteronomy is a suitable context for staircase parallelism, that at least two solid biblical precedents share the same basic sentence construction, and that staircase parallelism is literarily apropos in Deut 6.]

Affiliations: 1: University of Pennsylvania, URL: http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink

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/content/journals/10.1163/156853311x560745
2011-01-01
2016-12-05

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