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Project Presentation: “On Heart Metaphors and the Individualisation of 'Religion' in the Hebrew Bible (with a Special Focus on the Book of Jeremiah)”

Monday Meeting

CERES Palais, room "Ruhrpott" (4.13)

Picture: John Tuesday / Unsplash

Presented by Nikita Artemov, subproject B03


The questions of individuality, introspection, and the opposition between “porous” and “buffered” self (Ch. Taylor) have dominated the scholarly discussions on Old Testament anthropology in the last two decades. Situating itself within this discursive context, the project B03 focalizes the metaphors of self in the Hebrew Bible, especially those associated with the “anthropological terms” (H.-W- Wolff) leb/lebab ‘heart’, nephesh ‘throat’, ‘life(-force)’, ‘soul’, and ruach ‘spirit’. The key Hebrew term related to moral agency and interiority is leb/lebab ‘heart’, functioning as the seat of cognition, volition and emotion and as the organ “guiding” human behaviour. Heart metaphors play a major role in the Book of Jeremiah including a number of passages that are central to the problem of increasing individualization and interiorization of religion in post-exilic times. Taking as an example the metaphoric expressions describing God as “the examiner of heart and kidneys” (Jer 11:20; 12:3; 17:10; 20:12), I will try to show how the modifications of a (conceptual) metaphor may reflect tendencies shifting the focus away from the nation towards the individual as the subject of moral agency and choice in the religious discourse of early Judaism.  

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