Jan Fokkelman, born in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1940. Ph.D. from Leiden University. Associate Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at Leiden University.
Fellow (1 Sepember 1998 – 30 June 1999)
The inspiring ambiance of NIAS enabled me to write a major book and to prepare two existing ones for the press. I wrote Volume II of my series Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible. This book of about 700 pages contains a prosodical and structural description of 83 Psalms and eleven poems from the book of Job (chapters 4-14). Having counted the pre-Masoretic syllables of these units of Classical Hebrew poetry, I discovered a highly peculiar feature of theirs: the Psalms score a precise integer as the average number of syllables per colon, mostly 8, sometimes 7or 9, and the poetry of Job presupposes the central figure 8 as normative number of colon length. This leads me to the conclusion that the poets did count their syllables. I also argue that they often combined the syllable counts of verses, strophes and stanzas with the structure of their compositions. This approach of prosody is completely new and stands apart from highly disputed metrical theories. Its most arduous task was to establish and account for the correct colometrical division of the Psalms.
Furthermore I checked, adapted and authorised the English translation (entitled Reading Biblical Narrative) of my 1995 book Vertelkunst in de bijbel, which will appear soon on the American market, and I thoroughly revised my 1981 book called Oog in oog met Jakob, which is a literary and psychological interpretation of Genesis 25-35. I inserted some 20 pages with my own translation of crucial passages from the Jacob cycle, and added an essay of 24 pages which probes Hebrew story telling in the light of psychology.