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Review of Making the Biblical Text: Textual Studies in the Hebrew and Greek Bible

Innocent Himbaza, ed., Making the Biblical Text: Textual Studies in the Hebrew and Greek Bible. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 275. Publications of the Institute Dominique Barthélemy 1. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht / Fribourg: Academic Press, 2015. xiv + 192. Hb. €65.00.

The Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis (OBO) series is a well-established scholarly series specializing in Archaeological, Egyptological, ancient Near Eastern, and Biblical studies; its volumes are currently published with cooperation from the Universities of Fribourg, Basel, Bern, Lausanne, and Zurich. The present volume represents the 275th publication in the OBO series as well as the inaugural publication in the series Publications of the Institut Dominique Barthélemy (Univ. of Fribourg) and is a direct result of a symposium organized by this self-same institute and convened in November 2011. The eight papers that were read at this symposium, and which make up this volume, were read in English, German, and French. As such, this volume represents an almost exclusively continental European treatment of the issues.

The book consists of a short introduction by editor Innocent Himbaza and eight articles on text critical issues relating to the Hebrew Bible (HB). In chapter 1 Thomas Römer begins with the recognition that the sections of the HB known as the Writings and the Prophets both end with the Persian period. Specifically, he is interested in “the last edition of the so-called Deuteronomic History in the first half of the Persian period and its splitting up into Torah and the Former Prophets” (3). Throughout his study Römer focuses on the formation of a Diaspora identity. For Römer, this identity can be characterized by, among other aspects, a transition from a Temple religion to a book religion and the construction of a prophetic history. Furthermore, “the coherence of the new collection is underlined by Josh 1:7–9 and Mal 3:22–24” (18). In other words, these verses serve as a narrative frame for the Nebiim.

In chapter 2 Jan Joosten takes up the tantalizing issue of the Tiberian vocalization and accentuation of the HB. After recounting a short history of these textual markings. Joosten rightly understands that this is a hot button issue in HB textual criticism with many critical editions of the HB in the works and all of them choosing to retain the vocalizations (even the so-called eclectic text of the Hebrew Bible Critical Edition being published by the SBL). In the end, Joosten concludes that this decision to retain the vocalization is wise. He argues that, “The Tiberian pointing and other sources transmit early and valuable information concerning the vocalization of the biblical text. An eclectic edition aiming to reconstruct the oldest attainable phase of the text should not exclude this material but seek to integrate it in a critical way” (31).

In chapter 3 Adrian Schenker offers a German language contribution to the study of the scribal corrections (Tiqqune sopherim) in the final two centuries before the turn of the era. He concludes that these corrections form a special class of literary variants. Rather than mistakes, this class of variant represents literary revisions by authoritative individuals. The inherent authority of these scribes is evident from the fact that “the handed down prophetic word is the word of God to the prophets, and therefore are fundamentally inviolable. Not everyone is allowed to touch them” (46). But beyond the decision to make any correction, Schenker argues that such corrections must meet final approval during public circulation.

In chapter 4 Philippe Hugo presents a German language study of a recension he believes he has identified in the chronological summaries of Kings Saul, Ishbosheth, and David in 1-2 Samuel. Hugo concludes that that this recension is based on an earlier text form represented in the Old Greek. Moreover, this recension, he believes, has strong evidence of a Davidic bias.

In chapter 5 Matthieu Richelle investigates the MT, VL, and LXX textual witnesses to 2 Kings 13:14–21 (MT). The main issue that Richelle seeks to address is the original location of this text, for in the LXX it appears in 2 Kings 10:13–19. Richelle identifies a total of 7 unique variants between the MT and LXX witnesses to this pericope and recognizes that apart from differences constituted as scribal errors the remaining differences are a direct result of the text’s location in chapter 10 or chapter 13 of 2 Kings. Richelle then argues that the data supports the conclusion that the pericope had chapter 10 as its original location. The strength of his argument is his reconstruction of the scenario by which this pericope might have changed locations in the book of 2 Kings and been altered to fit its new context.

In chapter 6 Yohanan Goldman offers a French language discussion of a recension that he believes he has found in Zech 6:11–17. He compares the MT with the Old Greek and concludes that the textual variants were introduced in the early Hasmonian period.

In chapter 7 Innocent Himbaza discusses the important issues of the introduction and conclusion of Malachi. When the Hebrew and Greek texts are compared many and interesting variants become apparent. How were these differences introduced? Himbaza believes that the Old Greek represents the earlier form. This conclusion is based primarily on the fact that the Hebrew text reflects a well formulated and more polished text.

In chapter 8 Armin Lange offers a wonderful contribution to the textual criticism of Jeremiah and Ben Sira and in so doing also provides a coherent example of the study of inner-biblical quotation/allusion. The main interest of Lange is the Jeremiah quotations within Ben Sira and in particular how these allusions and quotations might help the textual criticism of Jeremiah. Such a study is inherently complex because it is difficult to determine where a writer quotes a text directly, where he writes from memory, and where he simply alludes to a text. For this reason, Lange’s study is very important to the field.

On the whole this is a very important volume for HB textual criticism. First of all, Joosten’s argument for the retention of the Tiberian vocalization is very timely as the discussion of this issue is currently raging in the world of textual criticism. Richelle’s discussion of the transposition of the pericope in 2 Kings 13 (MT) is likewise valuable. Richelle’s article discusses a significant variant that has garnered much discussion; his evaluation takes the discussion forward. Himbaza’s article on the introduction and conclusion of Malachi is likewise timely, not because his topic is well-known, but because it discusses significant variants that have been overlooked. And finally, Armin Lange’s article is a welcome addition to Jeremiah and Ben Sira studies.

This volume as a collection of essays makes a strong case for the relevancy of textual criticism of the HB. Moreover, it joins the growing body of work that recognizes the important of HB textual criticism and the need for its conclusions to be incorporated into the critical editions of the HB. It is the belief of this reviewer that this is a volume that will prove a great source for years to come.

– Stephen D. Campbell, Durham University

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