Book Notes: TML’s Tops for Twelve in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament/Septuagint

※In these notes, I highlight books that were particularly helpful to me in 2012, even if they were not published in this year.↙

John Barton, The Theology of the Book of AmosOne of my favourite OT scholars, and persons, is John Barton, who gave us The Theology of the Book of Amos this year in the new CUP OT Theology series.  Though doubtless accidental, this was a perfectly timed release in the midst of the collapse of the hope of deliverance that an unbridled capitalism might have brought the world. This message of this prophet (Amos, though yes, one could call John the same) rings loud in the ears of anyone attentive to the abuses of class. Barton is perhaps the most capable scholar to be charged with the task of combining historical-critical concerns with reception and theological interpretation. Thus, historians and ministers should not pass over this book.

We can say confidently that David M. Carr‘s late 2011 release, The Formation of the Hebrew Bible: A New Reconstruction, will be found in numerous footnotes and bibliographies for years to come. Carr’s engagement with the latest scholarship, particularly on the Pentateuch, is deep and wide, and he presents one of the better syntheses of German, French, and Anglo scholarship. It’s a provocative study that places some of the biblical material as early as the tenth century (though some would not see this as provocative), but overall a very balanced and cogently argued presentation of ancient textuality. The Hellenistic and Persian period chapters are impressive in their discussion of so-called non-canonical books and in the recognition of how the Septuagint elucidates some aspects of the Deuteronomistic History, usually passed over by Hebrew Bible scholars (which I whined about here). Those not involved in Hebrew Bible should not fail to read his methodological introduction on orality and textuality, as many of the insights, building on his Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature, would be useful elsewhere. One place this might find immediate traction is in the identification of New Testament authors’ oral and textual sources for citations of the Jewish Scriptures. I hope this becomes a paperback very soon. (Also, on the subject of writing and literacy, one should pick up an affordable paperback of Christopher A. Rollston‘s Writing and Literacy in the World of Ancient Israel: Epigraphic Evidence from the Iron Age.

A book I think deserves a long, hard look is Jennie Barbour‘s The Story of Israel in the Book of Qohelet: Ecclesiastes as Cultural Memory. Barbour’s prose itself is enjoyable enough to deserve a reading (she also holds an English Literature degree from Oxford), but her thesis is challenging: Qohelet is not to be read as a Greek philosophical treatise unconcerned with history, but rather as a work of historical reflection on Israel’s decline and fall. Jason M. Silverman‘s Persepolis and Jerusalem: Iranian Influence on the Apocalyptic Hermeneutic</em><em> has a methodological intro that should be read by anyone doing apocalyptic and eschatological study. Here Silverman helpfully distinguishes between apocalyptic and eschatology, and shows how they have often been combined and therefore confused in previous scholarship. Also like Carr, Silverman criticises the overly textual obsession of previous scholarship and makes a case for the place of orality in the study of Jewish apocalyptic. The study includes an informative sweep through Persian religious history before analysing Ezekiel, Daniel, and 1 Enoch. Silverman, for example, sees the oracle against Gog (Ezek. 38) as a subversive borrowing of Iranian rhetoric. Another case Silverman points to illustrates the textuality by which he says scholarship has been confined: the ninth century CE Zand-ī Wahman Yashn has been compared to Daniel four empires, but because scholars have seen this as a very late text, they have not explored the development of the text that could be traced back to before or contemporary to the time of Daniel. Thus, Daniel’s scheme could very well have derived from or at least been somewhat shaped by the Iranian tradition.

The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls is now available in paperback, and if you only read one article in it, make sure it is Molly Zahn’s on rewritten Scripture. This article is a quick look at the longer argument she makes in Rethinking Rewritten Scripture: Composition and Exegesis in the 4QReworked. There, Zahn argues that the continuum moving from Scripture to commentary, assumed in previous scholarship, is unhelpful, and the distinction between a rewritten work and Scripture is often impossible to prove. Scripture was not static until much later. It is possible that works previously seen as commentary or a rewritten work were meant to be read as Scripture, and perhaps even to replace the previous text as new Scripture. Emanuel Tov‘s Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible is now in its third edition with Fortress, and contains a number of updates. Tov continues to fiddle with numbers, categorising and counting text types, but there are new discussions on the formation of the MT as well. I already mentioned my appreciation for the new T&amp;T Clark Handbook of the Old Testament, and place it here again.

The collection of essays in Deuteronomy in the Pentateuch, Hexateuch, and the Deuteronomistic History (Schmid and Person, eds.) are useful, but they drove me to read Reinhard G. Kratz‘s The Composition of the Narrative Books of the Old Testament, which I heartily recommend, especially for Anglo students. In our part of the world, we don’t read enough German scholarship. In a new series which has just been approved by OUP (more on this soon), one reviewer told us quite rightly we must be sure to engage in German scholarship. I found it a sad state of affairs that a reviewer had to put this in the report. So, if you feel you haven’t disciplined yourself to engage the Continental, particularly German, models of the Pentateuch or Deuteronomistic History, you could start with Kratz’s English translation so that you don’t continue procrastinating until you have fluent German (and good luck with that).

A radically different approach to the Pentateuch is outlined by Angela R. Roskop‘s T</em><em>he Wilderness Itineraries: Genre, Geography, and the Growth of Torah. I can bet I’ll be back to read this through a second time. She uses the itineraries to show the limitations of strictly historical-critical Pentateuchal scholarship, and how genre can clue us in to the development of Torah. This use of literary criticism will take some time to settle in because it’s a new way of thinking about the formation of the Pentateuch, but I do indeed hope it gets the traction it deserves. From Peeters, a John Collins-supervised dissertation written by K.-J. Lee, </em><em><em>The Authority and Authorization of Torah in the Persian Period is less original than it is helpful in collecting the material previously published by others. Still, it could be used as a first orientation to this question of how and to what extent the Persian empire was involved in the formation of the Torah.

In the Septuagint, I made it through the whole of the New English Translation of the Septuagint, and while I cannot claim to be its number 1 fan, it will be with us for a long time and should be purchased by anyone in biblical studies since it is a one-volume modern English translation of this very important version of the Old Testament. A multi-volume translation that I find much smoother and enjoyable to read is Nicholas King‘s The Old Testament, a companion to his The New Testament, but one based entirely on the Septuagint. It is a pity more will not know about this translation due to its smaller distribution. I have personally lobbied one major international publisher to buy the rights to this translation, put it in a single volume, and sell it in paperback. I will keep trying, but if any other publishers who read this are interested, please get in touch. I may be selfish here, but not because my essay is of any great value. The others are worth reading in the collection Alison Salvesen and I edited, in Greek Scripture and the Rabbis (more info here). And just in time for the end of the year, Jan Joosten’s years of groundbreaking (a word I use since he loves it so much) work appeared under the title Collected Studies on the Septuagint. A book that could fit in Patristics as well as here would be Edmon L. Gallagher‘s Hebrew Scripture in Patristic Biblical Theory: Canon, Language, Text. Whether one can develop a theory of ‘Patristic Biblical theory’ on the basis of a few patristic writers’ comments is up for debate, but we have to thank Gallagher for a very penetrating study which amasses rabbinic and patristic evidence to pursue a question we haven’t answered sufficiently before. One can contrast Gallagher’s depth and breadth with Lee Martin McDonald, whose work I’ll discuss in another post. Next year should be exciting with 2 new handbooks in English and German, as well as Jim Aitken’s long-awaited study of Ecclesiastes.

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  • Brian Davidson

    Thanks for this post. There are several books here that I hope to make time for in 2013. I look forward to your post on Lee McDonalds’ work because I’m reviewing one of his popular books for the Trinity Journal. Can you provide any more information on Jim Aitken’s study of Ecclesiastes? What’s the nature of it?

    • timothymichaellaw

      Brian, I decided not to talk about McDonald. I agree with his general brush strokes, but think the evidence is much more complex and requires a far deeper engagement. On Jim’s book, I’ll have more on this later, but he’s investigating the quality of the Greek of LXX Ecclesiastes.

  • Joseph Ryan Kelly


    You might also mention Molly Zahn’s JBL article, “Genre and Rewritten Scripture: A Reassessment” (131.2 [2012]: 271-88). It sounds like this article may be similar to or the same article in the OHDSS book.

    Also, I’ve been working my way through Barbour’s book, both because of its relevance to my dissertation and because it sounded intriguing. I’m not going to wholly dismiss what she is doing, but I question her methodology. Her approach to intertextuality is emblematic of the general problem I see in biblical studies. Increasingly, people want to capitalize on the ahistorical or, in Zahn’s case, the non-genetic relationship between texts, but in so doing they want to constrain interpretation, not open it up. In other words, Barbour’s book is an attempt to change the way people read Qohelet by suggesting one reading is wrong and her reading is right. But a true poststructural approach to intertextuality should not be used to delimit interpretive options in the way that she does.

    • timothymichaellaw

      True about poststructuralism, but Barbour’s book isn’t engaged in that project, so it can hardly be judged to have failed to represent ‘a true poststructural approach’. More to the point: this broader comment goes beyond criticism of this particular book to highlight a ‘general problem’ in biblical studies. That problem is that authors want to ‘attempt to change the way people read [whatever their topic] by suggesting one reading is wrong and her reading is right.’

      Alas, I confess I too am guilty. I think arguing one view is a better way of reading a text than another is a good game to be in, though I confess being of the historical-critical mould means I’m almost always in contact with works that argue one view is more right than the other.

  • Sugar Land, TX Federal Defense Lawyer

    Brilliant. I agree.

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