Lowth, Michaelis, and the Invention of Biblical Poetry

Michael C. Legaspi

in The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394351
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777211 | DOI:


Lowth, Michaelis, and the Invention of Biblical Poetry

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This chapter marks the importance of aesthetics in Michaelis’s recovery of a classical Israel. Building on the work of English critic Robert Lowth, Michaelis argued that the psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament could be fruitfully analyzed as “biblical poetry” or “ancient Israelite poetry,” apart from their theological or religious value. Lowth, the inventor of Hebrew parallelism, and Michaelis were important figures in the eighteenth-century turn toward a primitive yet sublime poetics of feeling. As this chapter shows, though, “biblical poetry” was not a discovery but an invention. This new concept allowed scholars to operate independently of scriptural frameworks for understanding the Bible, namely, the canons by which religious communities organize their Bibles. Those grouped as “prophets,” for example, could just as well be classed with “poets” found in all parts of the Bible, thus transforming them from foretellers of Christ into poets of personal passion.

Keywords: Michaelis; Lowth; biblical poetry; parallelism; poetics

Chapter.  11201 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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