The Illeism of Jesus and Yahweh: A Study of the Use of the Third-Person Self-Reference in the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Texts and Its Implications for Christology
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This study explores the relationship between the use of the third person for self-reference by Jesus and Yahweh and suggests the potential for both divine and royal themes associated with this manner of speech. Chapter 1 highlights that this issue has received little attention in scholarship. In order to offer a thorough evaluation, the study offers a comprehensive survey of illeim in the Bible, highlighting its prominence and various rhetorical implications. Chapter 2 surveys the use of illeism in antiquity in order to address whether illeism was a common manner of speaking. Though various Greek historians refer to themselves in the third person, evidence indicates that this was a rhetorical effort sometimes used to give a sense of objectivity to their works. No evidence was found that would indicate that illeism was commonly used in direct speech. Chapter 3 surveys the Old Testament and categorizes the various uses of illeism. The study highlights the similar and prominent use by both OT kings and Yahweh. Chapter 4 explores the ANE literature for occurrences of illeism and notes the relatively prominent use among both ANE kings and preeminent pagan gods. Chapter 5 addresses the illeism of Jesus, the only person in the New Testament to use illeism in direct discourse, and finds a similar manner of use and rhetorical intention as that of Old Testament and ANE kings and that of Yahweh. In each case the illeism serves to emphasize the speaker's unique identity and authority associated with royal and/or divine status. The study also notes the illeism of Yahweh and Jesus share the common characteristics of prominence of occurrences, a shifting between first and third person, a variety of distinct self-references, and similar rhetorical intent. Chapter 6 summarizes the study and highlights the suggestive nature of the evidence. In light of the evaluation of the use of illeism by Jesus and Yahweh, based on the similar usage among Old Testament and ANE kings, and ANE gods, as well as the analysis of the various rhetorical implications of illeism, the evidence suggests that a royal and divine theme may be associated with the third-person self-references of Yahweh and Jesus. Furthermore, in light of the parallels between the two uses, the study suggests this manner of speech may be yet another way Jesus presents himself "as God."