Inner-Biblical Allusions

Here’s the body of a post from Charles Halton with a link to what looks to be an interesting article (haven’t gotten to it yet but hope to eventually) and a nice summary of it that resonates with an approach I’ve taken myself:

Jeffery Leonard: Identifying Inner-Biblical Allusions: Psalm 78 as a Test Case. It’s quite an interesting and helpful study which he divides into two parts: evaluating evidence for textual links and determining direction of influence. Here are the points that he considers under the two parts.

Evaluating Evidence for Textual Links

  1. Shared language is the single most importantfactor in establishing a textual connection.
  2. Shared language is more important than nonshared language.
  3. Shared language that is rare or distinctive suggests a stronger connection than does language that is widely used.
  4. Shared phrases suggest a stronger connection than do individual shared terms.
  5. The accumulation of shared language suggests a stronger connection than does a single shared term or phrase.
  6. Shared language in similar contexts suggests a stronger connection than does shared language alone.
  7. Shared language need not be accompanied by shared ideology to establish a connection.
  8. Shared language need not be accompanied by shared form to establish a con­nection.

Determining Direction of Influence

  1. Does one text claim to draw upon another?
  2. Are there elements in the texts that help to fix their dates?
  3. Is one text capable of producing the other?
  4. Does one text assume the other?
  5. Does one text show a general pattern of dependence on other text?
  6. Are there rhetorical patterns in the texts that suggest that one text has used the other in an exegetically significant way?

Join the Conversation


  1. I read this article a couple years ago. Don’t remember all the details, but there was something very interesting that stood out to me on close examination. He missed something very striking in my opinion. He missed the allusions to creation precisely because there is no shared language between Psalm 78 and Genesis 1. But allusions are still there.

    The plagues passage inself contains a heavy dose of creation language from both Gen 1 and Gen 2. In “Genesis I and The Plagues Tradition in Psalm CV,” Vetus Testamentum, 1990, Archie C.C Lee showed the links between creation and plagues in the 105th Psalm. There is a very close resemblance between Psalm 78 and 105. Yet while Ps 105 uses creation language, Ps 78 does not contain a single word from Gen 1. I think the passage dost protest too much.

    What is happening, imo, is that Ps 105 is using general creation categories and thus Gen 1 language – land, darkness, waters, fish, teemed, tree, plant, fruit – in combination with the specifics – flies, gnats, frogs, locust, grasshoppers, vines, figs. Ps 78 is using only specific examples in place of the general categories, and thus no creation language – Egypt, rivers, streams, crops, produce. The form and content of Ps 78 and Ps 105 are almost identical, yet Ps 105 uses creation language, while Ps 78 avoids using a single word from Gen 1.

    Interestingly enough the 7 trumpets and 7 bowls of Revelation are saturated with both creation language and imagery and plague language and imagery. I don’t believe you will ever find plagues language and imagery without accompanying allusions to creation. God removes the good gift of creation while simultaneously bringing plague judgments. I really like Leonard’s article. I think his rules are very good. Ironically, the one passage he picked actually exhibits allusions that don’t contain a single word from the passage to which they almost certainly allude.

  2. Dr. Hamilton,
    May I recommend to you Dr. Seth Postell’s OneForIsrael Youtube video on Psalm 22. He makes a humble and strong argument for “pierced” based on literary structure. It’s quite remarkable. I am continually amazed that many, if not all, of our challenges with texts are answered by Scripture if we study it well. Also, thank you for “With the Clouds of Heaven”. I learned much and I was very encouraged.

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