Stanley Porter on Metaphor in the New Testament

On June 21, 2018, Dr. Stanley Porter delivered a lecture at the University of Otago on “Metaphor in the New Testament: Expressing the Inexpressible through Language.”

Much New Testament studies has been shackled by a limiting and constraining literalism—or at least what purports to be literalism. This has resulted in an emphasis upon the “thingness” of the ancient world and its texts, rather than on the “howness,” that is, how language is used to reflect upon and even create the world in which the ancients existed. The result of such a narrow view of human experience and use of language is the failure to appreciate the nature and complexity of language itself, in particular metaphor. Fundamental to interpretation is recognition of the role that language plays in human experience, and from that grow all of the other helpful means by which we analyze texts. In this paper, I wish to confine myself to the use of metaphor in the New Testament, and its relationship to Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). I will examine theories of metaphor briefly to see what they help us to understand about language. Then I will treat metaphor from a SFL standpoint as it functions within the New Testament. In this section, I think that I can make some new observations regarding metaphor and how it functions in the New Testament.


Robert Alter – 1987 Stroum Lectures: The Invention of Hebrew Prose

Professor Robert Alter (University of California, Berkeley) delivered the 1987 Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies at the University of Washington: “The Invention of Hebrew Prose: Literary Language and the Dilemma of Mimesis”.


Lecture 1:

Lecture 2:

Lecture 3:

A Literary Creation: Literary Approaches to the Book of Genesis

Bar Ilan University provides videos of papers from a conference held in June 2014: A Literary Creation: Literary Approaches to the Book of Genesis.


How to Drive Home a Revolutionary Ideopoetics: First Impressions in Genesis – Prof. Meir Sternberg

Gayle Rubin Meets the Women of Genesis – Prof. Susan Niditch

On the Structure of the Abraham Narratives – Prof. George Savran

Genesis 26: Deep Structure and Meaning – Sarah Schwartz

“A Fugitive Aramean Was My Father” – Prof. Ed Greenstein

To Tell or Not To Tell: The Case of Jacob in Shechem – Prof. Yair Zakovitch

“Call Me Ishmael”: Melville’s Genesis – Prof. Ilana Pardes

A Common Base for Jacob’s Four Masebot – Dr. Joshua Berman

Robert Alter: The Bible Through Literary Eyes

Robert Alter gives a lecture on “The Bible Through Literary Eyes” (2007). The lecture provides an introduction to the literary critical approach to the Bible, and in particular the conventions and techniques used by the ancient authors of the biblical books.

The lecture is available in both video and audio formats.

The lecture was delivered as part of the Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Endowed Symposia in Jewish Studies, and the video was produced by UCTV.

Alter is Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, and author of many significant works concerning the literary criticism of the Hebrew Bible, including The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981).