Reading Images, Seeing Texts: Towards a Visual Hermeneutics for Biblical Studies Restricted; Files Only

Bonfiglio, Ryan P. (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/rj430504t?locale=en
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Abstract

In the past several decades, biblical scholars have begun to turn to ancient Near Eastern art as an important resource in various avenues of research. Despite this increased interest in visual material, critical questions about visual theory and the nature of visual culture remain mostly unexplored in biblical scholarship. In response, this dissertation offers a sustained engagement of the field of visual culture studies in order to develop an interpretive framework, or "visual hermeneutics," that further informs how ancient art is utilized in the study of the Hebrew Bible and Israelite religion.

The five main chapters of this dissertation explore how prominent themes in visual culture theory apply to particular questions in biblical scholarship, including: What is visual literacy and how does this concept clarify the importance of images as a language of communication in the ancient world? (ch. 2); How have scholars conceptualized the nature of the image-text relationship and in what ways do these theories inform our analysis of visual-verbal interactions, whether between discrete images and texts or within the same artifact? (ch. 3); What differences obtain between the way in which linguistic and non-linguistic sign systems generate meaning and how might these differences be accounted for through particular methods of image analysis? (ch. 4); How do theories about the power and agency of images help us better understand the nature of visual representation as well as the implications of visual response in the Hebrew Bible and the ANE world? (ch. 5); and How might a consideration of visual practices and religious ways of seeing influence our understanding of important topics in Israelite religion, including the study of aniconism and the search for Yahweh's image? (ch. 6). I synthesize my reflections in chapters 2-6 into nine clearly delineated interpretive principles that outline a visual hermeneutics for biblical studies (ch. 7).

The goal of this dissertation is to advance the methods and practices of the field of biblical iconography. In addition, it draws attention to the need for more critical reflection on visual culture studies in related areas of inquiry, including ANE art history, archaeology, and Israelite religion.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction:

A Case for Visual Theory in Biblical Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

1.1. The (Partial) "Pictorial Turn" in Biblical Research 1

1.2. Prospects and Possibilities for a Visual Hermeneutics 12

1.3. The Theory Applied 18

Chapter 2. Visualizing Literacy:
The Importance of Images as a Language of Communication
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

2.1. Encountering Images in a Text-Based Discipline 23

2.2. Visualizing Literacy in Ancient Israel 29

2.2.1. Textual Literacy as a "Minority Phenomenon" 31

2.2.2. Types of Textual Literacy 43

2.2.3. Conclusions on Textual Literacy 44

2.2.4. Alternatives to Textual Literacy: Oral Literacy? 46

2.3. Visual Literacy and/in Biblical Iconography 48

2.3.1. Visual Literacy: Definitions and Relevance 49

2.3.2. Ancient "Mass Media" and the Languages of (Minor) Art 54

2.3.3. Visual and Textual Literacies in Interaction 63

2.3.3.1. Seals of the Persepolis Fortification Archive 63

2.3.3.2. Judahite Seals from the Seventh Century 71

2.3.4. Conclusions on Visual Literacy 77

2.4. Whither Images in Biblical Studies? 78

Chapter 3. Drawing Distinctions:
The Nature of the Relationship between Images and Texts
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86

3.1. Relating (ANE) Images and (Biblical) Texts: A Persistent Problem 86

3.2. The Image-Text Relationship in Biblical Iconography 92

3.2.1. Approaches to Image-Text Congruence 94

3.2.2. Approaches to Image-Text Correlation 101

3.2.3. Approaches to Image-Text Contiguity 110

3.3.4. Conclusions 117

3.3. The Image-Text Relationship in Visual Theory 120

3.3.1. Past Approaches: Image versus Text and Image as Text 121

3.3.2. A New Approach from W. J. T. Mitchell 127

3.3.2.1. The Image-Text Dialectic 128

3.3.2.2. The Metapicture 133

3.3.3. The Image-Text Relationship in Antiquity: 137
Re-examining the Behistun Relief

3.4. Drawing Conclusions about the Iconographic Method 146

Chapter 4. Picturing Representation:

The Meaning of Images and Approaches to Visual Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

4.1. The Aims and Limits of Iconography as a Method of Image Analysis 157

4.2. Picturing Signs: The Languages of Art 169

4.2.1. The Iconographic Method and the Linguistic Sign 173

4.2.2. Nelson Goodman and the Non-Linguistic Sign 179

4.2.3. Conclusions 187

4.3. ANE Art Beyond the Level of Iconography 189

4.3.1. Compositional Design 191

4.3.2. Rhetoric of Display 200

4.3.3. Mode of Signification 207

4.3.4. Caveats and Conclusions: Rethinking the Nature of ANE Art 215

4.4. The End of Biblical Iconography (as We Know it) 225

Chapter 5. Animating Art:

The Life of Images and the Implications of Visual Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234

5.1. What is an Image? - Reviving the Question 234

5.2. Visual Theory and the Animation of Art 242

5.2.1. David Freedberg and the Power of Images 243

5.2.2. Alfred Gell and the Agency of Art 255

5.2.3. Conclusions 265

5.3. The Status and Function of Ancient Near Eastern Art 267

5.3.1. Embodying Presence: The Ṣalmu in Theory and Response 270

5.3.1.1. Evaluation 281

5.3.2. Assault and Abduction: The Life (and Death) of Images 286

in the Context of War

5.3.2.1. Evaluation 301

5.4. The Implications of Visual Response 303

Chapter 6. Seeing is Believing:
The Study of Visual Culture and the "Matter" of Israelite Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315

6.1. The Conviction of Things Seen? A Visual Culture Approach 315

to Religio-Historical Research

6.2. Analyzing Religious Visual Culture 319

6.2.1. The Visual Medium of Belief 321

6.2.2. The Religious Apparatus of Sight 330

6.2.3. Conclusions 345

6.3. Visual Practices and the Study of Israelite Aniconism 348

6.3.1. The Meaning of Aniconism: Definitions and Problems 351

6.3.2. Rethinking the Nature of Israelite Worship 365

6.3.2.1. The Correlation of Art and Practice 365

6.3.2.2. The Iconic Function of Non-Iconic Art 376

6.3.3. Conclusions 391

6.4. Religious Ways of Seeing and the Search for Yahweh's Image 393

6.4.1. Reviewing the Evidence for Yahweh's Image 394

6.4.2. Repurposing Religious Imagery 405

6.4.2.1. The Image-Text Dialectic 405

6.4.2.2. Reinterpreting Divine Imagery 412

6.4.2.3. Repurposing Art in early Judaism 417

6.4.3. Conclusions 426

6.5. Furthering the Turn: Religious Visual Culture and/in Biblical Studies 428

Chapter 7. Towards a Visual Hermeneutics :

Perspectives and Principles for Biblical Interpretation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431

7.1. A Case for Theory, Revisited 431

7.2. Hermeneutical Principles for Method and Practice 442

7.2.1. Principles Derived from Chapter 2: The Importance of Images 444

7.2.2. Principles Derived from Chapter 3: The Image-Text Relationship 449

7.2.3. Principles Derived from Chapter 4: The Meaning of Images 453

7.2.4. Principles Derived from Chapters 5-6: The Nature and 458

Function of Images

7.3. Of Purpose and Use: The Application of a Visual Hermeneutics 465

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 469

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