Nov 192010

I was listening to Christine Hayes’ fine lectures on the Hebrew Bible today (you can download them at Open Yale) and she was talking about leitwort, the technique of word repetition that is key device biblical writers used. E.g. She made reference to the seven repetitions of “…it was good.” It turns out Martin Buber coined the term. Here is his definition. It’s crucial, I think, to see that he describes the effect of the repetition in physical terms, as “movement.” This is obviously a very useful device in any kind of writing.



  7 Responses to “Leitwort, leading word, word repetition as a technique”

  1. I see this everywhere now, in fiction, CNF, poetry, music…even in visual media. Learned it from the Master. It’s actually quite a fascinating concept.

  2. Thanks for linking to this. Very good!

  3. Thanks for including this description. I also was listening to her delightful lessons and searched the term and found your entry.

  4. The phrase “it was good” is not a real phrase when you look at the Hebrew of the text. It is a single word. It is like the NT translation of “And it came to pass.” That’s only two words in the Greek text. Always be careful when you are reading a translation that the text is not simply composed oddly because there is no good way of stating it in English. The problem in the second example, is that the Greek can imitate Hebrew, with the verb at the start of the sentence, and English cannot. KJV is the best, but it still isn’t perfect.

    • Thank you, Paul. Your comments have the feel of expertise. I wish you had been around when the post was originally published. We could have had an enlightening conversation and I might have asked you for something to publish in the magazine. Wonderful, these intricate insights.

  5. Almost all OT devices have strong examples in the NT Gospels. For example, the first 14 verses of the Gospel of John are leitwort poems.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.