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Sensing World, Sensing Wisdom: The Cognitive Foundation of Biblical Metaphors
Nicole L. Tilford
AIL 31
Publication Date
April 2017


Examine new insights into the conceptual worldview of biblical wisdom communities

The Bible is full of metaphors. On the surface, these metaphors seem like simple literary flourishes that have been added to the text for artistic effect. This book, however, argues that biblical metaphors reflect more basic, prelinguistic cognitive structures. These conceptual metaphors developed out of common concrete experiences and only gradually developed into the complex metaphors that one finds within biblical texts. This book explores how common sensory activities like seeing, hearing, touching, eating, breathing, and walking developed into the abstract metaphors for wisdom that one finds in Proverbs, Job, and Qohelet. Because it traces the cognitive development of a set of related metaphors across several congruent texts, it provides a model by which scholars can trace the cognitive development of biblical metaphors more generally in the Hebrew Bible and other early Jewish and Christian texts.


  • A synthesis of conceptual metaphor theory that provides a workable theory for examining biblical texts
  • An analytical framework for studying sensory experience and sensory metaphors in biblical texts
  • Diagrams

Nicole L. Tilford is an independent scholar living in Atlanta, GA. She holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible from Emory University. She has published articles on sensory criticism of biblical metaphors, reception history of the Bible, and biblical studies pedagogy.

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