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Zephaniah: Plagiarist or Skilled Orator?

Author  Pearson, Susan

This dissertation proposes to examine the text of Zephaniah from a discourse-analytical perspective, while taking into account other factors pertinent to contracting a discourse intended to be persuasive.

The subject of discourse analysis is first examined and different approaches considered, with the conclusion that an eclectic approach is desirable. The nature of communication and the importance of context are discussed, following which some related fields are looked at, recognizing that discourse analysis overlaps with many other disciplines such as pragmatics and literary analysis. The importance of discourse analysis in Bible translation is briefly considered.

In chapter two, the book of Zephaniah is introduced with a quotation which denies that the author is a great poet. We venture to disagree and take up the challenge to show that it is a well constructed and unified discourse. We acknowledge that there are many allusions to other parts of scripture but do not accept that this detracts from the literary worth of the book. The background to Zephaniah is briefly considered.

In chapter three the subject of discourse structure is examined, looking at types of continuities and discontinuities. Thematic groupings are considered, and cohesion is explored. The device of embedded evaluations is also briefly introduced.

Eight structural analyses of Zephaniah proposed by different scholars are then presented, following which our own outline is proposed and commented on in detail, taking into account the comments of other scholars. In each case several small units are grouped into larger units, giving a total of nine main units including the superscription.

After this, participant reference is considered, focusing on the main participants, these being Yahweh, the prophet, Israel, the nations, and the remnant. Humanity is also considered as a participant, although it is considered likely that it actually plays the role of a prop as there is no action involved. It is proposed that participial forms in the discourse tend to be linked with negative evaluation, while active verb forms are linked with positive evaluation or with climactic points in the discourse.

Embedded discourse is looked at briefly as there are three examples of this in the text. This is found to be linked with negative evaluation.

Coherence and cohesion are examined, being important aspects of any given discourse. Although Zephaniah is a compilation of different oral oracles, we seek to show that it coheres as a single discourse. Oracular formulas are examined and the major theme of the day of YHWH is considered, looking at the different ways this is referred to in the discourse. A few instances of cohesive repetition in certain sections of the text are then presented.

In chapter four the issue of intertextuality is examined as this is such a major issue in Zephaniah, which is largely composed of allusions to other parts of scripture. The description of uncreation in Zephaniah 1 is discussed, and the references to Deuteronomy in chapters one and three of the discourse are presented as being the backdrop to those chapters, contributing to their coherence for the audience.

Chapter 5 presents the conclusion which summarises the findings and maintains that although Zephaniah has borrowed from other texts or oral traditions, far from being a shameless plagiarist, he has deliberately used these familiar allusions to establish common ground with his audience and engage them at an emotional level, thereby being able to draw a response from them.

  View  whole book display 522 KB, 50 pages
Published  2011
Subject  Translation
Keywords  intertextuality; discourse structure