386 Review of Books / Journal for the Study of Judaism 41 (2010) 366-438 The ‘Powers’ of Personiﬁcation: Rhetorical Purpose in the Book of Wisdom and the Letter to the Romans. By Joseph R Dodson. (Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentli- che Wissenschaft und die Kunde der ältern Kirche 161). Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008. Pp. xi, 263. Cloth. €99.95. ISBN 978-3-11-020976-1. Dodson has developed his doctoral dissertation into an insightful comparison of a speciﬁc rhetorical tactic used for discussing theodicy in both Wisdom and Romans 5-8. The tactic is personiﬁcation, which he deﬁnes as “the attribution of human characteristics to any inanimate object, abstract concept or impersonal being” (30). Throughout the book any phrase which has an abstract concept as the sub- ject paired with a verb usually associated with human action qualiﬁes as a personi- ﬁcation. Such phrases function as a particular type of metaphor which is more than a simile but less than an independent personality. Dodson proposes that per- soniﬁcations may function rhetorically to decorate or amplify speech, clarify a point, motivate or manipulate the hearers’ response, encourage additional insights into a matter, or deﬂect attention away from an unwanted perspective (41-50). Having set up these propositions in the ﬁrst quarter of the book, Dodson then applies his model in turn to the personiﬁcations of death, wisdom, the cosmos, creation, logos, and wrath in Wisdom . Next, the personiﬁcations of sin, death, law, grace, righteousness, creation and the Holy Spirit in Romans 5-8 are explored. The third section of the book is a comparison of the overlapping usages between the two texts. Dodson concludes that in Wisdom foolish or wicked humans col- lude with personiﬁed death and wrath to bring evil and suﬀering into the world. In Romans, sin and law replace wrath as the partners of death causing evil and suf- fering. In both works these combinations of personiﬁcations serve to distance God from responsibility for evil in the world. Meanwhile creation, cosmos, and wis- dom in Wisdom and grace, righteousness, creation, and the Holy Spirit in Romans, are personiﬁed agents of the deity oﬀering hope for overcoming the metaphorical axis of evil. This usage intends to encourage the aﬄicted pious to look forward to an eschatological resolution of their plight (221-222). The strength of Dodson’s presentation lies in his clear deﬁnitions and transparent methodology. His arguments adhere to the stated terms consistently throughout. One may still argue that a few items are not clear exemplars of personiﬁcation. For example, ὁ νόμος λέγει (Rom 3:19) is translated as the personiﬁed “Law speaks,” rather than the more usual translation of the phrase, “the law says.” (141) One might also question Dodson’s decision to consider the Holy Spirit in Romans as a personiﬁcation. Still, the vast majority of the statements of personi- ﬁcation which Dodson marshals clearly ﬁt his deﬁnition and their cumulative force establish a compelling case. LaBron Chance Florida State University © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2010 DOI: 10.1163/157006310X503720
Journal for the Study of Judaism – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 2010
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