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

Z. Talshir and D. Amara, eds., On the Border Line. Textual Meets Literary Criticism. Proceedings of a Conference in Honor of Alexander Rofé on the Occasion of  his Seventieth Birthday (Beer-Sheva 18; Beer-Sheva: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Press, 2005).  Pp. xx + 270 (Hebrew with English abstracts).  Cloth, NP.  ISSN 0334-2255. 

Alexander Rofé has been one of the most prominent scholars of the Hebrew Bible in Israel for many years. A volume in his honor was somewhat expected. Since he refused to accept a Jubilee/Festchrift Volume, the present volume is as close as it can be to his well-deserved Festchrift. The volume itself developed out of a conference in his honor held in 2002. Several additional essays on the general theme of the conferences were then added. The volume includes a very helpful bibliography of 120 works by Rofé—the symbolism is obvious, whether the matter is the result of the editors’ design or not. The articles in this volume are all written in Hebrew, but English abstracts were included.

The volume was built around a clear theme, which appropriately touches one of the topics close to the honoree’s heart, namely the relationship between textual criticism and “literary” criticism.  In fact, the title of the volume is derived from one of Rofé’s articles, namely A. Rofé, Textual Criticism in the Light of Literary-Historical Criticism: Deut 31:14-15,” Eretz Israel 16 (1982) pp. 171-76 (in Hebrew). Of course, “literary criticism” here does not point to approaches similar to those of, for instance, Clines, Exum, Brenner, Alter, Landy, Gunn, Fewell or Sternberg, but actually to source, and mainly redactional criticism. (Note the use of the term “Literary-Historical Criticism” in Rofé’s essay that led to the title of this volume, and his use of the term “historico-literary” in other works, including his essay in this book).  It bears note that the presence ("inspiring shadow"?) of Rofé’s scholarship and research interests is felt throughout the book, not only in the choice of the theme of the volume and its title, but among others, in the concentration of articles dealing with the LXX, in multiple references to or constructions of ideational horizons, and even in the presence of a contribution whose explicit starting point is an article by Rofé himself.

The particular contribution of this volume as such (to be distinguished from that of particular essays), rests the cumulative weight of different explorations of ways in which various types of redactional and/or textual critical considerations may (or may not) contribute to a better understanding of the textual and/or redactional histories of texts. The value of the volume is increased by the variety of texts that are studied. This feature serves well the goal of contributing to the development of a larger frame for addressing these matters in a way that is clearly non-contingent on the particular features of a specific genre or singular social or historical circumstances.

The volume opens with Victor Avigdor Hurowitz’s words of introduction at the conference, and includes twelve essays (note also the intended or unintended symbolism), in addition to the honoree’s own contribution, which makes this volume unlike most Festchriften.

The essays are:

Zipora Talshir, “On the Border Line of Textual and Literary Criticism—Do-s and Don’t-s,” pp. 5-11.

Erhard Blum, “The Connection between the Books of Genesis and Exodus and the End of the Book of Joshua,” pp. 13-32.

Alexander Rofé, “The Biblical Text in Light of Historico-Literary Criticism. The Reproach of the Prophet-Man in Judg 6:7-10 and 4QJudga,"pp. 33-44.

Tova Forti, “Developing Proverbs. Ideational Stratification  in the Editions of the Book of Proverbs,” pp. 45-60.

Dalia Amara, “Theological Corrections in the Various Versions of the Book of Daniel,” pp. 61-76.

Zipora Talshir, “Synchronic Approaches and Diachronic Consequences in the Study of Parallel Redactions: New Approaches to I Esdras,” pp 77-97.

Jan Joosten, “Considering the Septuagint’s Theological System,” pp. 99-112.

Ronnie Goldstein, “From Gods to Idols—Changes in Attitude Towards Other Gods in Biblical Literature and the Revision of Isaiah 2:18-21,” pp. 113-53.

Jonathan Ben-Dov, “Treasures of Light,” pp. 155-62.

Ruth Fidler, “'Midrashic Dramatization' or Drama Subdued? The Feminine Voice in the Dispute on the Queen of Heaven (Jer 44), pp. 163-88.

Leeor Gottlieb, “Repetition Due to Homoioteleuton,” pp. 189-208.

Menahem Kister, “The Two Recensions of the Damascus Document,” pp. 209-23.

Yitzhak Dana, “Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. From Manuscript to the Printed Book,” pp. 225-38

A review of a collected essays volume is not the place to interact with the particular arguments advanced in each of the chapters, nor does it seem proper to devote most of the space in such a review to a serious critical treatment of the claims and arguments advanced in a particular chapter. The survey below is meant only to illustrate the contents of the book and to show ways in which each of the diverse contributions sheds light on the main theme of the volume as a whole. Given this illustrative goal, no attempt is made to deal equally with these contributions.

The core of the book opens with Talshir’s (first) essay, which serves, appropriately, an introductory role in the book. The essay also provides some examples (e.g., 1 Sam 1:24 in the MT, LXX and 4QSama) to illustrate the extent and limits of potential, relevant areas of convergence. Among others, she points out that at times earlier books may carry later readings or spellings and vice versa, later texts may attest to earlier readings. In these cases the (late or early) textual features cannot contribute to the study of the date of the text (e.g., later features in the text of Samuel do not make the book, as a whole, later than Chronicles).

Blum’s essay is, as one may expect, a contribution to the study of the composition of the Pentateuch and the Hexateuch. Among his conclusions, “the Patriarchal stories and the Exodus stories were originally independent , and were first combined in the Priestly composition ... Gen 50:24-25 and Exod 1 verses 6 and 8 belong to a redactional stratum whose main contribution is Josh 24. While this redaction posits the transition from the era of Joshua to the era of the Judges inherent in the Deuteronomistic composition (see Judg 2:6-10), its purpose is actually to create a kind of a Hexateuch entitled ‘The book of the law of God (Josh 24:26)'” (all the quotations in this review are taken from the English abstracts).

Rofé raises an interesting example of a potential contribution of source/redactional criticism to textual criticism. The text of Judg 6:7-10 is absent in 4QJudga, which goes directly from v. 6 to 11. Does the shorter version reflect an old edition of Judges? Rofé analyzes the language and contents of the pericope and find in them features “characteristic of the pre-Deuteronomistic, Ephraimite Document” and therefore concludes that “Judg 6:7-10 should be considered as an editorial layer of an ancient Book of Judges which originated about the Eighth century BCE” and that “it is not plausible that 4QJudga preserved a text that preceded that old edition.” (On the author’s position concerning the existence of a pre-deuteronomistic, Ephraimite layer embedded in Joshua 24-1 Samuel 12*--consisting essentially of Joshua 24-1 Samuel 12 excluding Judges 1:1-3:11 and Judges 17-21, see A. Rofé, “Ephraimite versus Deuteronomistic History,” D. Garrone and F. Israel (eds.), Storia e tradizioni di Israel: scritti in onore de J. Alberto Soggin [Brescia: Paideia, 1991], 221-35.)

Forti deals with proverbs that appear in an expanded form in the LXX (in comparison with the MT), suggesting that the expanded form may have been part of the Vorlage used by the translators and points to “the hermeneutical activity of schools of Sages who probably contributed to the continuous ideational development of the Book of Proverbs.” The discussion focuses on Prov. 1:7; 7:1; 18:22; and 26:11, and particularly the latter (cf. Sira 4:20-21 and see Sira 41:14-42:8). Forti’s is only one of several contributions in which the LXX or LXX readings/texts figure prominently in this volume. For instance, Joosten investigates the possible theological system of the LXX and above all the ways in which such a system may be reconstructed by scholars today. The methodological focus of the paper leads to calls for methodological prudence. For instance, he cautions about understanding the well-known LXX reading of Am 9:12 ("in order that those remaining humans ... might seek me out,” which suggests a Hebrew text, למען ידרשו שארית אדם instead of the MT למען יירשו את שארית אדום) as certain proof that the translator responsible for the LXX text wanted to convey a universalist, theological system. The translator may have just wanted to translate faithfully the text he thought to be correct. All in all, Joosten is somewhat dubious of the potential of approaches based on the contents of the translation, but he is far more optimistic concerning approaches that focus on translational techniques. Amara discusses cases in which the LXX Daniel translates terms such as אלהים as angel or idol while Ben-Dov explores the background of an expression in LXX Jer 10:13 that refers to treasures of light within the cosmological imagination and vocabulary of the late Second Temple period. (MT Jer 10:13 reads ויוצא רוח מאצרתיו but the LXX refers to “treasures of light” and suggests a Hebrew texts ויוצא אור מאצרתיו).

Fidler deals with a number of ancient versions (including the LXX and the Lucianic recension), but her focus is on midrashic features in textual transmission, and in particular on “midrashic dramatization,” that is, the distribution of utterances among several characters in the story. Appropriately, in a volume honoring Rofé, the cue is taken from his article on Ruth 4:11, in which he discusses this feature and illustrates it by comparing the MT and the LXX readings (A. Rofé, “Ruth 4:11 LXX—A Midrashic Dramatization,” Textus 20 [2000], 129-40). The speech placed in the mouth of “all the people” and the elders in the former is divided in the latter into two complementary speeches, one uttered by all the people and the other by the elders. Fidler raises the question whether the same midrashic process is at work in Jer 44:15-19, since the rendering of Jer 44:19 in the Lucianic recension and the Peshitta explicitly assign the relevant words to the women alone, as does the NRSV today. (Note also the difference in Jeremiah’s response between MT Jer 44:24-25 and the rendering of the verses in the LXX, the latter assumes that the women uttered the words in v. 19). Fidler’s tentative conclusion is that an explanation of this particular case in terms of “midrashic dramatization” is questionable. She suggests that perhaps, the “plus in v. 19 may be the original,” and the MT may reflect an attempt to subdue the drama, and the voice of the women, by embedding their words within those of the men.

Other chapters deal with a variety of issues associated with or touching the main theme of the volume in different ways. For instance, Z. Talshir, a well-known expert on 1 Esdras, interacts with synchronic approaches to the book while keeping her focus on the diachronic character of the transmission process. R. Goldstein reconstructs Isa 2:18-21 to mean “And the gods will slip away like Lil/Night and they will enter caverns in the rock and hollows in the ground like moles and bats before the terror of the Lord and his dread majesty when he comes forth to overawe the earth”; he assigns it to the prophet Isaiah and maintains that the text was influenced by Mesopotamian texts. L. Gottlieb argues that since homoiteleuton—similar endings in two textual units—has led not only to textual omissions but also to numerous repetitions in the MT, which “should not be classified as dittography in the same way that omission due to homoiteleuton is not termed as haplography.” The essay includes some preliminary analysis of these repetitions. For instance, at times the repetition is full (e.g., 2 Kgs 7:13), but at times partial (e.g., 2 Kgs 11:17); at times ancient versions represent a textual tradition prior to the development of the repetition, but at times later than it. Moreover, some of these cases of repetition due to homoiteleuton led to “very difficult readings, sometimes using near impossible language, as in Lev 13:55.” Kister deals with matters of textual transmission from the perspective of the differences between ms A and ms B of the Damascus Document in the Geniza, and  argues that the key for understanding these differences rests on their divergent understandings of מלט ("escape” in ms A, “be saved” in ms B). Finally, Dana looks at matters of textual transmission from the perspective of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, and focuses on the transition from codices to printed versions, and particularly on the drastic changes to the arrangement of the book in the third printed edition (1533), and notes that “[a]lthough nearly five centuries have passed since then, the old division still waits to be re-established” and calls for the “restoration of the original inner sequence of the paragraphs."

It goes without saying that not everyone would agree with the claims advanced in these contributions. Certainly, not everyone would concur with Blum and argue that there is no place for J—the existence of E has far less support—or follow Rofé regarding his proposed Ephraimite document, or necessarily agree with Fidler’s or Goldstein’s conclusions, to mention a few examples. Yet I am convinced that the immense majority of scholars would maintain that the present volume is a very fitting tribute to A. Rofé. The editors of the volume should be congratulated.

Ehud Ben Zvi
University of Alberta