Performativity and Persuasion in the Hebrew Book of Psalms:

A Rhetorical Analysis of Psalms 22 and 116

Davida Charney

Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 40.3 (2010) 247-268.


Recently, scholars have argued that oral poetry helped lay the groundwork for the development of
rhetorical theory and practice in archaic Greece. I propose that oral poetry played a similar role in
archaic Israel. First, I describe the ritual and rhetorical contexts in which psalms were composed
and performed in ancient Israel. Second, I analyze two psalms (Ps 22 and Ps 116) to show that
treating the psalms as deliberative argument posed by Israelites to God can explain otherwise
perplexing problems in interpretation and translation. Finally, I argue that positing an active locus
for rhetoric in ancient Israelite culture raises interesting cross-cultural comparisons with ancient
Athens regarding the striving for social status and public influence.


This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of the Rhetoric Society of America  for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Volume 40 Issue 3, May 2010. doi:10.1080/02773941003785660