Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

Gerald A. Klingbeil, ed. Inicios, Paradigmas y Fundamentos: Estudios teológicos y exegéticos en el Pentateuco (River Plate Adventist University Monograph Series in Biblical and Theological Studies 1; Entre Ríos, Argentina: River Plate Adventist University, 2004) Pp. xxviii + 264. Paper $24.95. ISBN 987-98248-6-5.

            This volume is a collection of 11 essays by scholars connected with the recently accredited Adventist University in the Province of Entre Ríos, north of Buenos Aires, Argentina.  The University is one of the very few universities in South America that offer a doctoral program in biblical and theological studies. This series purports to come both as a response and an invitation to engage in dialogue with critical scholarship from a conservative, confessional standpoint.  Apparently three of the contributing authors are from South America; the others are from North America, South Africa and France. The essays cover different aspects of the Pentateuch: three of them deal with the issue of methodology, five contain exegesis of a selection of texts (Exodus 40; Leviticus 8 and 26; Numbers 15:22-31; Deut 24:10-11), and three deal with theological topics (Yhwh standing before Abraham in Gen. 18:22; the firstborn motif in Exodus; and the cities of refuge). The articles, written in Spanish and English, reject the Historical-Critical Method, although there is some attempt to situate the biblical literature in the world of the Ancient Near East. The not-so-new proposed approach is synchronic; it works with the assumptions of the biblical writers and with a Christological key.

            The first three articles are foundational and somewhat programmatic. They cover different methodological aspects which will be reflected in the other articles. In the first article (in Spanish), the longest, Raúl Kerbs dismisses the historical critical method on the basis of its philosophical presuppositions. Kerbs argues that the  philosophical model made explicit by Kant in the 18th century lies at the foundation and has determined the development of the modern exegetical tradition of the Pentateuch, from the inception of the historical critical tradition to the new literary criticisms and even into the post-modern approaches. The modern philosophical model explains not only the medium of transmission of the biblical narrative through natural categories but its content as well. So ‘miracle’ stories are explained from simple natural facts at their core.

            The next article (in English) studies a new discovered inscription in Egypt which offers support to an earlier dating of the Semitic alphabet and opens up the possibility for Mosaic authorship of some considerable parts of the Pentateuch. The patriarchs could have written their own biographies and handed them down to Moses in written form and not just in oral form. W. H. Shea discusses the Egyptian inscription of Wadi el- Hol (cf. Biblical Archeology Review, January-February, 2000). He reads the inscription as bearing the name of a certain ‘Meqet-Re’ who is then compared to ‘Meket-Re’ of Deir el Bahri. If these two individuals are the same, then Abraham could have entered Canaan in 2095 BCE; and if not, then at about 1875 BCE. According to Shea’s dating of the inscription, and based on 1 Kings 6:1, the Exodus is dated at ca. 1446/1445 BCE.

            The third foundational article (in Spanish) tackles the issue of inset poetry in the macrostructure of the Pentateuch; it analyzes four major poetic units (Genesis 49; Exodus 15; Numbers 23-24 and Deuteronomy 32-33) with three distinct interpretative tools—textual markers, linguistic integration and the narrative function. Christological features are identified in the poems, but Leviticus 16, the Day of Atonement, offers the most complete typological description of the work of the Messiah, and thus constitutes the center of the Pentateuch.

            The articles are well written and engage with German and English critical scholarship, particularly on the critique of the historical-critical method. In the articles dealing with exegesis and theology, a Christological interpretation is brought to bear upon the texts under study without any attempt to explain the hermeneutical processes involved. The articles reflect the conservative, confessional standpoint of the authors as the editor indicates in the introduction. The present volume seeks dialogue with the larger academic community. However, the outright rejection of the Documentary Hypothesis and whatever newer developments within the Historical-critical tradition, as well as the absence of any suggestion regarding alternative approaches to address the literary problems of the Pentateuch, leaves the reader wondering on what ground such dialogue can take place. Moreover, it essentially ignores the context of scholarship in South America. Despite a few contributions from indigenous scholars, the articles hardly attempt to interact with Latin American literature or social realities. For example, no dialogue or critique is intended with the liberation theologies of the Latin continent.

Carluci dos Santos
Wycliffe College