Socio-Rhetorical Criticism

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Innertexture of the Text

A study of the innertexture of a text focuses on the language and rhetoric of the text itself as much as possible apart from other considerations. A text creates a world of its own with its style, structure, narrative discourse, and rhetoric, and these are the primary considerations in an innertextual study. The innertextual study in this thesis is not an end in itself, but rather one of several interpretive lenses used in the investigation of the research question: the characterisations of YHWH in the Song of the Vineyard. Considerations germane to the research question are the primary delimiting factors of the study. Another delimiting factor is the amount of previous work done on some aspects of the text, such as the question of redaction. There is no need to repeat prior work done or expand upon it except as such work might yield new insights to the question at hand. This study of the innertexture of the text, following Robbins,386 explores the repetitive and progressive textual patterns, the narrational development, and the aesthetics of the text, specifically its nature as oral poetry.

Preliminary Matters: The Text

A comprehensive innertextual study should include preliminary matters of textual criticism, but only to the extent that they are relevant to the research question.387 386 Vernon  K.  Robbins,  Exploring  the  Texture  of  Texts:   A   Guide  to  Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation (Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International, 1996), 7-37.


Many of the general commentaries from the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds, both those mentioned in the literature review of this thesis and those not mentioned, considered the textual setting of the pericope in chapter five of First Isaiah. Most of the early commentators viewed Isa 2:6-5:30 as an unredacted block.388. In many cases, their view was based on assumption rather than scholarly analysis. For example, Keil and Deilitsch write:
We may safely enter upon our investigation [of the Book of Isaiah] with the preconceived opinion that the collection before us was edited by the prophet himself. For . . . all the canonical books of prophecy were written and arranged by the prophets whose names they bear.389
Later scholars take a more critical approach to the question of redaction. Gerhard von Rad, for example, holds that the prophet himself recorded his oral prophecies, but that the ordering is the result of later editorial redaction.390 One of the most detailed works on the redaction of the Song of the Vineyard is the 1977 work of Jacques Vermeylen.391 Vermeylen sees the pericope as late in origin from exilic Deuteronomistic sources. He does not view chapter five as an integral whole, but as a redactional creation. Conrad L’Heureux, on the other hand, critiques Vermeylen and rejects his argument that the pericope is not authentic, although he accepts Vermeylen’s view on the redaction of the chapter.392 Yehoshua Gitay, on the other hand, sees the chapter as one rhetorical unit and not the product of redactional replacement. He argues that social criticism is not an end unto itself in Isaiah’s discourse, but that moral misbehaviour calls forth divine reaction. Therefore the Song of the Vineyard is not an end unto itself but rather an element in this greater discourse. Gitay eschews the traditional method of redactional determination by external forms, such as the introductory, hoy, viewing such methods as artificial. Rather, based on analysis by discourse, the entire chapter comprises one rhetorical unit, is one address, and is not the product of redaction.393
While there is no unanimity of opinion on the matter, the tendency has been for later scholars to view the Song of the Vineyard as a redactional unit, independent of the rest of the chapter. Often unstated, this position is yet evidenced by articles on the passage that do not include later verses, clearly not seeing them as integral to the pericope. In reviewing the scholarly debate, I think that the pericope was originally spoken or composed apart from the woe oracle that follows in the rest of the chapter, and I approach it from this perspective.394 Regardless of my personal view, however, a question needs to be asked concerning the other possibility: if the pericope were originally part of the woe oracles, would that fact have bearing on the research question?
The woe oracles are elucidations of injustices perpetrated in Judah. As such, they add detail to the general message of the Song of the Vineyard: instead of good grapes (deeds of righteousness), the vineyard produced the stinking grapes of injustice and unrighteousness.395 Since these woes do not alter the basic message of the Song of the Vineyard but merely highlight it, I do not see that their consideration would have significant bearing on our perceptions of the characterisations of YHWH in the Song. The placement of the pericope, however, points to the redactors’ interpretation and elucidation of the Song of the Vineyard, and it renders a picture of the presumed or depicted world of eighth century Judah. I consider this depiction in the chapter on the socio-cultural texture of the pericope.

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 Variant Versions

The Masoretic text (MT) is the standard text used in scholarly work and for translation purposes; however, it was only finalised in the seventh century C.E. There are two early variants of the text in which the Song of the Vineyard appears: the Great Qumran Isaiah scroll (1QIsaa); the second century B.C.E. Greek translation of the Hebrew, the Septuagint (LXX).396

The great Isaiah scroll, 1QIsaa, column 4

Most of the variations between 1QIsaa and the MT are minor: letters dropped, or the replacement of a final ה with א. There are two variations, though, that may be significant. In 1QIsaa line 12 (Isa 5:1), the enclitic particle אנ and the word ידידיל do not appear. The line reads: תריש הרישא.
One of the issues with which interpreters have struggled is the meanings of the words דוד and דידי, and the relationship between them. This variation does not affect that question, however, since the term דידי appears in the next colon of the verse. The placement of דידי in the first colon has caused interpretive difficulties because of the preposition ל preceding it. Is this a song of, to, or for the beloved? This is just a problem of interpretation, however. The 1QIsaa reading does There is a later text, the Codex Reuchlinianus (CR), which some believe may reflect a pre-Masoretic text. The text dates from 1105, and its main feature is a system of vocalisation that is different from the Masoretic text, which some have argued that the system is pre-Masoretic, but that claim is disputed. For the purpose of this thesis, the important question is the text itself and its relation to 1QIsaa, LXX, and MT texts. The wording of the Reuchlinianus Codex matches the MT exactly, and although the CR uses a different system of vocalisation notation, the reading is not affected. For more on CR see Fred Miller, Column IV, The Great Isaiah Scroll 3:24-5:14. 1998. (accessed February 8, 2012); Alexander Sperber, ed. The Prophets According to Codex Reuchlinianus (in a Critical Analysis), (Leiden: Brill, 1969).
present a number of textual difficulties. First, the absence of the enclitic particle and the word דידי changes the rhythm of the colon. Much of the Song of the Vineyard, including verse one, is poetic.397 (One could make a case, however, that this first colon is an introduction to the song itself and therefore would not necessarily be in poetic rhythm.) Second, the absence of the particle אנ affects the structure of the entire pericope. The major sections of the pericope may be delineated as follows:

  • Verse one: first person s., “Let me sing” (אנ-הרישא(
  • Verse three: third person pl., “Now you judge” )אנ-וטפש)
  • Verse five: first person pl., “Let me tell you” (אנ-העידוא)
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These difficulties suggest that the MT is to be preferred over 1QIsaa. In addition, generally a longer reading is preferred over a shorter,398 since it is more likely that a scribe would drop words or simplify a passage than make it more complex. Finally, the LXX (which predates 1QIsaa) reads, ασω δη τω ηγαπημενω, a translation that is in keeping with the MT reading.

1.0 Review of the Literature 
1.1 Early Commentaries
1.2 Articles 1899-1930. Focus: Text, Structure, and Grammar
1.3 1959-1989. Focus: Structure, Genre, and Literary Approaches
1.4 1991-Present. Diversification of Approaches
1.5 Summary
2.0 Methodology
2.1 Introductory Comments: Research Questions and Methodologies
2.2 Historical and Conceptual Background of Socio-Rhetorical Criticism
2.3 Socio-Rhetorical Criticism
2.4 The Textures of the Text and the Song of the Vineyard
2.5 Summary: Seeking the Sacred in the Twenty-First Century
3.0 Innertexture of the Text 
3.1 Preliminary Matters: The Text
3.2 The Progressive Texture of the Text
3.3 The Emotive Texture of the Text
3.4 Innertextual Metaphor
3.5 Summary
4.0 The Intertextural World of the Text 
4.1 Introduction
4.2 YHWH, the Planter of Israel
4.3 YHWH and Israel the Vine(yard)
4.4 YHWH the Lover/Husband of Israel
4.5 Summary
5.0 The Socio-Cultural Texture of the Text 
5.1 The Israelite Agrarian World
5.2 The Social Values of Honour and Shame
5.3 Honour and Shame in the Song of the Vineyard
5.4 Social Location: Who are the Hearers?
5.5 Summary
6.0 Conclusion: Seeking the Sacred 
6.1 Researching the Hypothesis: The World of Both/And
6.2 The Textures of the Text: Answering the Research Questions
6.3 Theological Implications of the Study

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