Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 15 (2015) - Review

Adamczewski, Bartosz, Retelling the Law: Genesis, Exodus–Numbers, and Samuel–Kings as Sequential Hypertextual Reworkings of Deuteronomy (European Studies in Theology, Philosophy, and History of Religions, 1; Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2012). Pp. 376. Hardcover. US$82.95. ISBN 978-3-631-63034-1.

In this monograph Adamczewski (New Testament professor at the Cardinal Wyszyński University in Warsaw) sets out a new theory to explain the compositional history of both the Pentateuch and Samuel–Kings. Of course, the problem of the compositional history of these literary corpora has been a classic issue that, despite the existence of rather dominant theories (e.g., the Documentary Hypothesis and the theory of the Deuteronomistic History), continues to attract much diverse scholarly activity. Therefore, a fresh theory tackling this issue is to be welcomed to the scholarly conversation. In this monograph, Adamczewski purports to prove, among other things, that the classic Pentateuchal sources (J, E, D, P) did not exist, and that the books of Samuel–Kings do not preserve history, but invent history. While his would not be the only voice sympathetic to these conclusions, Adamczewski's book is unlikely, in my judgment, to have a significant impact on this area of research. His monograph does not only present several methodological flaws, it fails to interact with prevailing views on the composition of the literary corpora under discussion.

In his introduction Adamczewski sets out the “methodology” for his study. While he avers that sequential hypertextual reworking of earlier materials is “one of the most important procedures” used in the composition of biblical books (p. 17), he never actually defines his terms. What exactly is hypertextualization? The reader is never told, and is merely referred instead to another study by the author. In order to associate his method with scholarly and reputable approaches, Adamczewski considers the work of scholars in the area of intertextuality to be analyses of hypertextual relationships (he cites Fishbane, etc.),[1] though he acknowledges that these other studies “did not refer to the concept of hypertexuality” (p. 17). However, despite his claims of affinity, the “method” Adamczewski employs does not resemble the work of these scholars in any discernable way.

Adamczewski claims to adopt “the method of critical-intertextual research” (p. 19), which necessitates clear, reliable criteria for establishing literary dependence of one text upon another. Further, he seeks to avoid “simplistic explanations” that posit “hypothetical sources and redactional strata” (p. 19). (One may note that this antipathy toward the postulating of hypothetical sources and belief that all sources relied upon in biblical writings are extant is obvious not only in this monograph, but in his previous work on the Synoptic problem in which he attempted to disprove Q.)[2]

In Adamczewski's opinion, the reliance of one literary work on another is most clearly shown if the “criterion of order” is fulfilled; i.e., when two works evince “thematic correspondences” that are sequentially patterned (p. 20). Secondly, if a source is seen to use another source “systematically,” (i.e., where all or most of the source texts were used in the later text) then the theory of literary dependence is even more likely.

While this approach may sound reasonable thus far, how one determines what constitutes a “thematic correspondence” is unclear. There is no discussion of what might constitute a “citation,” “quotation,” “echo,” “allusion,” or any other relevant terms usually considered in an intertextual study. Instead, Adamczewski asserts that hypertextuality is not based on verbal repetition of the hypotext, so it is therefore not limited to the study of “rather literal use of a given earlier text” (p. 20). Instead the interpreter should look for “literary themes, ideas, and motifs,” cautioning that one needs to allow for “a high degree of literary creativity and imagination on the part of the author” (p. 20). While this initially seems to be a sensible approach, the parameters used in his study remain quite vague. How will one identify such an allusion or literary borrowing of a theme, motif or idea? One only needs to read the beginning of the first chapter to realize that Adamczewski's identifications of such themes usually lack criteria and argumentation.

This is despite the fact that Adamczewski further offers several helpful criteria for establishing a literary connection (e.g., “accessibility”: that the earlier work is known to the writer; “density”: that the literary correspondences are numerous enough; distinctiveness: that the literary features are found only in the corresponding sections). However, throughout the rest of the book he does not refer to these criteria or attempt to establish any of these criteria before making far-reaching claims about the literary dependence of Genesis and Samuel–Kings on Deuteronomy.

In his first chapter, Adamczewski asserts that Deuteronomy is a sequential hypertextual reworking of Ezekiel. In order to support this thesis the following evidence is proffered. Deuteronomy is situated in the wilderness east of Israel (Deut 1:1–5) which is based on the situation of Ezekiel, who is exiled east of Israel (Ezek 1–3). Deuteronomy opens by referring to Yahweh's words directed to the sons of Israel through “the priestly character of Moses” in the land east of Israel (p. 25). This opening is considered to be a reworking of Ezek 1–3, which refers to Yahweh's words to the priestly Ezekiel to the sons of Israel in a land east of Israel. Adamczewski further supports his thesis by asserting that the name Moses is a reworking of the ubiquitous Ezekielian term “son of man” (p. 26). The putative connection here is due to the fact that “Moses” in Egyptian means “child” or “born of,” which Adamczewski views as equivalent to the “semantically imprecise” term “son of man” in Ezekiel (p. 26). So Yahweh's words to Moses (the one “born of”) are drawn from Yahweh's word to Ezekiel (the son of man). Further connections between Deuteronomy and Ezekiel are asserted in the name for the mountain of God in Deuteronomy, “Horeb,” (חֹרֵב), which Adamczewski asserts is reliant on Ezekiel's idea of Jerusalem being laid waste (חרב) in Ezek 6:6; 26:2. What is more, Adamczewski asserts that Deuteronomy's opening narratives of Israel passing through the territories of Edom, Moab, and Ammon (Deut 2:1–23) are reworkings of the oracles against these nations in Ezek 21, 25, and 35. In a similar vein, the narration of the war against Og (עוֹג) in Deut 3 is asserted to be a reworking of Ezekiel's prophecy against Gog (גּוֹג—the putative connection being the similarity of the two names (p. 28).

Based upon this argumentation, Adamczewski finally concludes that Deuteronomy was a literary reworking of Ezekiel and was written c. 500 b.c.e.. Further issues such as, e.g., Deuteronomy's relation to other traditions about the origins of Israel, like the Exodus tradition, are not discussed. Given his eschewing of non-extant sources, it would appear Deuteronomy is understood not to depend upon Exodus traditions of any sort.

Adamczewski's second chapter asserts that the compositional history of Genesis is due to its being a sequential hypertextual reworking of Deuteronomy. At risk of boring the reader in what follows I note a sampling of the parallels which Adamczewski offers as evidence of this literary dependence of Genesis upon Deuteronomy:

I will leave it to the reader of this review to judge whether these putative connections can properly be called intertextual links. In my judgment, most of these have no lexical correspondence, or even a discernable thematic or conceptual affinity. There are numerous such examples in this work, where no textual affinities appear to be present (and none of these have been previously recognized by any scholars), yet Adamczewski believes them to be self-evident proofs for his theory. Furthermore, Adamczewski similarly identifies broader typological parallels between key figures in these narratives. In particular, he asserts that, 1) Abraham corresponds to Moses; 2) Lot and Ishmael correspond to the sinful generation of Israelites; 3) Isaac corresponds to the younger innocent generation of Israelites born in the wilderness; and 4) Jacob corresponds to the generation of Joshua.

Adamczewski thus concludes that the composition of Genesis is the result of a textual reworking of Deuteronomy, and dates it to ca. 400 b.c.e. In chapter three, Adamczewski similarly asserts that the corpus of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers is another sequential reworking of the contents of Deuteronomy. Finally, in chapter four Adamczewski argues that the books of Samuel and Kings also are sequential reworking of Deuteronomy. It may not be necessary to list once again examples of his alleged links between these books and Deuteronomy. Suffice it to say that when one consults these texts, there are in fact very few, if any, discernable verbal, conceptual, or thematic links between Adamczewski's putative parallels which would effectively establish literary dependence and thereby support his theory. Despite the fact that the author himself seems very confident in the value of his own observations (on several occasions, he describes his parallels as being self-evident and proving his theory to the point where he concludes the latter is “fact”, e.g., pp. 180, 282), his suggested links are often problematic and unwarranted. While the topic addressed remains of interest, it is unlikely that the volume will find broad acceptance in scholarly circles due to both the tenuous nature of the assertions on which the proposal is built and the grand scale of the argument itself.

Paul S. Evans, McMaster Divinity College

[1] Michael A. Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988). reference

[2] Bartosz Adamczewski, Q or Not Q? The So-Called Triple, Double and Single Traditions in the Synoptic Gospels (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2010). reference