Experimenting with Qohelet : A Text-linguistic Approach to Reading Qohelet as Discourse
Is it possible to analyze a text from Biblical Wisdom or Poetry as a discourse? Can this be accomplished by a systematic analysis of the linguistic features observed in such a text? Can we identify the linguistic features that are most effective in signaling to the reader the syntactic structure of a non-narrative? If such an experiment proves successful, can this type of discourse analysis help us in answering the text's most important interpretive questions? Our research sought to answer these questions by applying a thorough text-syntactic analysis to the book of Qohelet. Our approach simulates the reading process by first identifying the text's various linguistic features and then determining the syntactic relationships and the discourse functions of the text segments, utilizing the computer programs developed by professor Dr. Eep Talstra and his colleagues in the Werkgroep Informatica of the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Based on the linguistic features which proved most helpful in signaling connections to the reader a text-syntactic structure, called the clause hierarchy, was systematically developed. This hierarchy proved to be essential for the accurate determination of the function of individual text segments in the overall discourse and served as the basis for evaluating the existing approaches to Qohelet. It was concluded that this type of text-linguistic analysis is not only necessary for proper exegesis but should be the initial step for all exegetical approaches to non-narrative biblical Hebrew texts.