Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review

Gibson, Jonathan, Covenant Continuity and Fidelity: A Study of Inner-Biblical Allusion and Exegesis in Malachi (LHBOTS, 625; London: Bloomsbury, 2016). Pp. xvii + 302. Hardcover. US$122.00. ISBN 978-0-56766-514-0.

This monograph is a revision of Gibson's Cambridge thesis done under the direction of R. P. Gordon. Covenant is obviously a prominent theme in Malachi, but Gibson contends that studying it in relation to intertextual connections will shed new light on its centrality and how it is developed. The first introductory chapter is a review of research, focusing on previous studies of covenant and intertextuality in Malachi. The second brief chapter is devoted to Gibson's methodology of intertextual analysis. Then come seven chapters, each of which deals in turn with one of the seven pericopes that Gibson identifies as the basic sections of Malachi. Each of these exegetical chapters has the same format: translation; text-critical issues, structure and theme; discussion of some aspect of covenant; analysis of inner-biblical allusions and exegesis; and a brief conclusion. The final chapter, which concludes the work as a whole, is followed by a bibliography, an index of references to biblical and other ancient texts, and an index of authors cited. There is a major typographical error: All that is on p. 247 should be on p. 248, and vice versa. Once the reader encounters this problem, it is easily figured out and resolved, but the mistake unfortunately mars an otherwise attractively laid out volume.

At the outset Gibson makes some strategic choices with which one might take issue. He assumes the view that the main body of Malachi, apart from the introductory superscription (1:1) and the conclusion (3:22–24 [4:4–6]) consists of six disputation speeches (1:2–5; 1:6–2:9; 2:10–16; 2:17–3:6; 3:7–12; 3:13–21 [4:3]). This view remains common despite critiques arguing against such generic homogeneity and Gibson goes along with the scholarly consensus without engaging the objections.[1] This does not prove to be problematic, however, because he uses the model of the disputation speech in a flexible way, taking account of the distinctive features of each pericope and thus avoiding the distortions that come with forcing all six into the same mold.

Gibson also holds that “the prophet Malachi composed a unified book from 1:1–3:24 [4:6].” This claim is the basis on which he avoids “postulating compositional layers within the text” (p. 27). Not reckoning with secondary additions runs counter to two trends in recent scholarship. On the one hand, there is the conventional historical-critical approach, which continues to be heavily invested in the redactional analysis of prophetic literature.[2] On the other hand, there is the developing hypothesis that the Minor Prophets constitute a single document, “the Book of the Twelve,” which holds that intertextual connections within these books were the product of redactional processes affecting the corpus as a whole.[3] Although Gibson gives a passing nod to this hypothesis (p. 24), he treats Malachi as a more or less self-standing prophetic book and conducts his analysis of intertextual connections quite apart from claims about Malachi's connections with the rest of “the Twelve.”

The problem is that the question of whether there are secondary additions, and whether they produce intertextual connections, does not turn on the question of authorship. One might hold that there is little evidence of redaction in Malachi, even when it comes to the supposed concluding addition in 3:22–24 [4:4–6], and also that “Malachi” is either a proper name or the designation of a role that plays upon the convention of naming prophetic books after inspired individuals, without supposing that the entire book was actually written by this Malachi. If one takes seriously the form of the superscriptions of prophetic books, they generally show that the books were written retrospectively about rather than by the persons for whom they are named. In any case, despite his confidence in Malachi's own authorship Gibson takes the needlessness of redactional hypotheses as something to be shown rather than simply assumed. Proponents of the hypothesis of “the Twelve” will be skeptical of the results, but they will have to reckon with Gibson's analysis of the way certain kinds of intertextual connections figure in the overall compositional form of Malachi versus their analyses of the way other kinds of intertextual connections figure in redactional processes supposedly affecting the overall form of the Twelve.

One of Gibson's main goals is to put intertextual analysis on firmer methodological ground, and to this end he makes some useful distinctions. He is interested in the kind of connections that authors make explicitly and intentionally with previously existing texts, not the kinds of connections that readers might make between any texts with which they are familiar He would like to limit the term intertextual to the latter sort of correspondences, and prefers inner-biblical for the former sort. I doubt that this terminological distinction will stick, but substantively the distinction is a well-taken clarification. Within the category of inner-biblical interpretation, Gibson distinguishes allusions from exegesis. An allusion is the implicit reuse of keywords or phrases from an earlier text in a way that exerts interpretive significance in the alluding text. Inner-biblical exegesis results from quoting an earlier text, transformatively reworking it into its new context.

In search of further methodological precision Gibson identifies five criteria for distinguishing textual correspondences that are deliberate from the kinds of verbal similarities that texts might show simply because they draw from the same stream of linguistic tradition: (1) lexical coordinates are necessary to establish any point of contact between two texts; (2) frequency and distribution of shared lexemes increase the probability of a connection between texts; (3) peculiar occurrences of shared lexemes, such as rare words or lexical clusters, increases the likelihood of correspondence, particularly if they are exclusive to the two texts; (4) shared phrases may suggest a stronger connection than individual shared lexemes; and (5) the compositional and thematic context needs to be taken into consideration. Gibson extensively elaborates on these and other factors that he considers useful in identifying verbal correspondences that are deliberate, bringing new rigor to the discussion of this matter. Such a conceptual framework enables him to specifically identify a wide variety in the ways one text can make use of another.

The meat of this study is its thorough analysis of each pericope, which is too extensive to report in any detail here. In each case Gibson identifies several inner-biblical allusions and/or exegeses, and shows that they serve primarily to advance the development of the central theme of covenant running through the book as a whole. Some might want to object to particular points, but if so they will have to counter Gibson's well-grounded and multi-faceted arguments. Although some of these arguments are debatable, in my view Gibson has generally defended his thesis well, and in so doing has made a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion of intertextual interpretation and the hypothesis of “the Twelve.” Even so, various issues entailed in the whole business of intertextuality—such as what bearing genre might have on the matter—remain unresolved.

Michael H. Floyd, Austin, Texas

[1] E.g., D. L. Petersen, Zechariah 9–14 and Malachi: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 31. See also the review of research in K. W. Weyde, Prophecy and Teaching: Prophetic Authority, Form Problems, and the Use of Traditions in the Book of Malachi (BZAW, 288; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2000), 24–27. reference

[2] E.g., A. Meinhold, Maleachi (BK, 14/8; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2006), xi–xvi; idem, “Maleachi/Maleachibuch,” TRE, 22 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992), 7–9. reference

[3] E.g., J. Wöhrle, Der Abschluss des Zwölfprophetenbuches: Buchübergreifende Redaktionsprozesse in den späten Sammlungen (BZAW, 389; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006), 255–63. See also the review of research in R. Kessler, “The Unity of Malachi and Its Relation to the Book of the Twelve,” in R. Albertz et al. (eds.), Perspectives on the Formation of the Book of the Twelve: Methodological Foundations—Redactional Processes—Historical Insights (BZAW, 433; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012), 223–36 (223–26). reference