Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum vitae of Dr. Jan P. Fokkelman

Leiden University , Holland

I was born on March 23, 1940, in Jakarta , Indonesia (then called Batavia , the capital of the Dutch East Indies ) as the only child of a Dutch couple. My parents and I survived a three-year term of imprisonment and hunger in Japanese internment camps and in 1946 repatriated to Holland.

I was there just in time to get a regular education. After my primary school (mainly 5 years in Amsterdam ) we moved to Hengelo (in the East of Holland) where I attended the municipal Gymnasium (alpha) in 1953-58. I got a very thorough training in Latin and Greek (six hours each week for 6 and 5 years respectively) and acquired good passive knowledge of English, German and French. My parents gave me a kind of mixed Christian upbringing, as my father was a Catho­lic and my mother a Protestant. This prevented me from developing a fixed or dogmatic point of view.

In 1958 I went to Leiden University to study Semitic languages and cultures. As an undergraduate I concentrated on Classical Arabic and Hebrew; after my B.A. I studied Hebrew (in all four phases of its history), several Aramaic dialects and Ugaritic. I also took as an extra subject biblical theology, under the supervision of the professor of Dogmatics, H. Berkhof, and wrote an 80-page thesis on the anthromorphic appearance of God in the O.T., as an exercise in merging systematic theological reflection with my Hebrew and philological habits. The final examination (the M.A. degree) was passed cum laude , in Sept.1963. Subsequently I took additional graduate courses, most of them for three years, in literary theory, Syriac, advanced grammar and Ugaritic (reading Aqht and Krt with prof. Hoftijzer), Old Babylonian (reading original clay tablet letters, Hammurabi's Laws and Gilgamesh with the late prof. F.R. Kraus) and Sumerian (reading inscriptions of Gudea and other kings, studying the sketch of grammar by Thorkild Jacobsen). I taught myself to read Spanish, so that I could study and review the pioneering Estudios de Poética Hebrea ( Barcelona 1964) by Alonso Schökel. Later on, during my sabbatical in Jerusalem , I attended two courses of spoken Palestinian Arabic, on Mount Scopus .

The department of Hebrew and Aramaic offered me a full-time job as a junior lecturer and assistant of the Syriac scholar who was to become my dissertation supervisor, prof. T. Jansma. Since October 1963 I have lectured on a variety of subjects, including Classical, Mishnaic and Modern Hebrew, the Hebrew Bible, medieval (Spanish-Hebrew) poetry, Biblical and Palestinian Jewish Aramaic, Syriac, and Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud, on all levels, for beginners as well as advanced students. During the period 1962-68 I was also a Hebrew teacher at the Grotius Gymnasium in Delft , for four hours per week.

My research was initially focused on the narrative cycle of Jacob in the book of Genesis, which I thought deserved a modern and synchronic literary analysis. In May 1973 I received my doctorate for the Dutch version of my Narrative Art in Genesis (as the commercial edition of 1975 is called). Since that time I have been a Senior Lecturer.

After my Ph.D. I decided to test my way of close reading and my insights on the literary nature of the biblical texts on a much wider scale. I chose the books of Samuel, which are often considered to be the longest stretch of the best narrative art in the Hebrew Bible. This enterprise of four volumes and some 2400 pages is called NAPS ( Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel ). Fortunately, the National Organization for Scientific Research in the Netherlands provided funds that made professional translation of these books possible. In 1981 vol. I appeared: King David , (over 500 pages, dealing with II Sam.9-20 & I Kings 1-2); in 1986 The Crossing Fates came out (808 pages, on I Sam.13-31 & II Sam.1); in 1990 vol. III (on II Sam.2-8 & 21-24) appeared under its own title Throne and City ; and recently (fall 1993) vol.IV was published ( Vow and Desire , 664 pages, dealing with I Sam.1-12).

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem invited me to stay as a Fellow at its Institute for Advanced Studies (on the Givat Ram Campus) during 1982/83. That sabbatical year enabled me to complete a great deal of vol.II. In 1990 I applied for and was granted a Fellowship at the National Humanities Center , Research Triangle Park , North Carolina . The period of this Fellowship (1990-91) was a wonderful year for me and my family, and enabled me to write the bulk of NAPS IV.

After the completion of the tetralogy on Samuel I concentrated on Biblical poetry. Some years ago I discovered after a lot of painstaking work and counting of so-called pre-Masoretic vowels that the poets of Psalms and Job (and probably others too) did count their syllables. I wrote down my results in 1998-99, when I was a Fellow at NIAS, the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences: volume II of my Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible has 550 pages and contains full structural and prosodical descriptions of 85 Psalms and Job 4-14. These Psalms have a remarkable feature: the average number of syllables per colon is an exact integer, either 7 or 8 or 9. The Book of Job has the number 8 as the hidden norm.

I published the volumes III and IV (on 65 Psalms and Job 15-42, respectively) in June 2003 and October 2004. In May 2003 a standard work in Dutch appeared, De Bijbel Literair, which is an updated parallel of the Literary Guide to the Bible (Harvard UP, 1987) for this language area. The forty authors who wrote contributions on all Bible books worked under the aegis of Prof. Wim Weren and me (the editors; I contributed four pieces myself).

For the public at large (Bible readers who do not know Hebrew or Greek) I wrote two books in Dutch, in 1995 and in 2000; they give introductions into [the creative reading of] biblical narrative art and verse and appear(ed) also in English and Indonesian. The book on prose also appeared in French, Italian and Chinese.

In 2009 a third book in Dutch followed. It is a literary translation of the book of Job, presents all the poems in strophic form and adds a commentary on the basis of poetics. In 2012 I published an English version of which the central part is bilingual: the Hebrew poems in strophic form on left pages, the English strophes on the right.

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