Kenton L. Sparks, The Pentateuch: An Annotated Bibliography.
(IBR Bibliographies 1; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 160 pp. Paperback. ISBN 0-8010-2398-X. $16.99
Reviewed by David Carr
Union Theological Seminary in New York

This is an annotated bibliography of a wide variety of publications on the Pentateuch. As one might expect in a publication from this publishing house, the bibliography includes items from a fairly conservative theological viewpoint (e.g., W. H. Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch [New York: Scribner’s, 1908]), but the bulk of the material comes from a standard historical-critical perspective on the Pentateuch. The author of the bibliography, Kenton Sparks, is a former student of John Van Seters and one of the best informed American scholars on the state of Pentateuchal studies in Europe and the US.

The orientation of the bibliography is clear from the outset. After a handful of pages on “Texts and Versions” and “Introductory Works” (pp. 17–21) the author devotes fifteen pages to an overview of publications on the “Composition, Authorship and Context” of the Pentateuch. This is an unusually competent survey of an often inaccessible mix of publications in various European languages. Most of the important works are there, though some choices surprise this reviewer. For example, one finds A. Hurvitz’s article in Revue Biblique on using language to date the Priestly code (RB 81 [1974], 24–56), but not his subsequent and more detailed monograph on the topic (i.e., A Linguistic Study of the Relationship between the Priestly Source and the Book of Ezekiel: A New Approach to an Old Problem [Cahiers de la Revue biblique, 20; Paris : J. Gabalda, 1982]). Still, this section, along with the bibliography as a whole, provides important guidance to key publications, especially for those scholars who work primarily in English and seek an orientation to literature surrounding the often-mentioned “crisis in Pentateuchal studies.”

As with any annotated bibliography, one must use the annotations with care. For example, K. Schmid’s important recent monograph is included: Erzväter und Exodus. Untersuchungen zur doppelten Begründung der Ursprünge Israels in den Geschichtsbüchern des Alten Testaments (WMANT 81; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1999). Nevertheless, Spark’s description (p. 32) fails to mention clearly the main thesis of the book: that the ancestral and Moses traditions were not joined in a single narrative until the Priestly writer. Or, to take an example closer to home for this reviewer, Sparks includes D. Carr’s Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches (Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1996), describing the book as following “closely the approach of E. Blum” with “a few variations,” despite the fact that the Carr’s/my book differs fundamentally from Blum in its basic model for P, its dating of the linkage of Genesis to the Moses traditions, and other important issues.

That said, the bibliographical information given by Sparks was accurate in those citations which this reviewer has examined, and the descriptions appear generally accurate. And this quality continues in Spark’s overview of literature on specific parts of the Pentateuch. Genesis receives the largest treatment, as is typical of much historical-critical scholarship on the Pentateuch. Nevertheless, Sparks diverges from typical discussions in Christian contexts in giving substantial attention to a range of Jewish and Christian works on the development and shape of Pentateuchal law (pp. 75–92). After this initial section, Sparks surveys writings on each of the four books of the Moses story, starting with “General Discussions,” before proceeding to “Composition, Authorship and Context” and bibliographic sections on specific parts of the given book. The bibliography concludes with a helpful name index.

Here again in the treatment of individual books, Sparks is generally reliable. Though the stress is on traditional historical-criticism, the range of literature from varying viewpoints and methodological perspectives is unusually broad. Of course, any reviewer will find works that s/he would have included as central to the field. One example is the apparent omission of reference to Moshe Greenberg’s classic essay, “Some Postulates of Biblical Criminal Law,” in M. Haran, ed., Yehezkel Kaufmann Jubilee Volume (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1960), pp. 5–28. Like the Hurvitz volume mentioned above, this omitted item is written from a Jewish perspective. At the same time, it must be made clear that Sparks includes a wider range of Jewish scholarship than is typically included in a typical syllabus or bibliography for a Christian context. Hopefully, his work will provide an entry to such scholarship for others to build upon and expand.

Overall, Sparks is to be commended for providing a helpful resource for advanced students and scholars of the Bible. Though it has clear limits, it fills an important need for an English-language entry point to a variety of works on the formation, shape and contents of the Pentateuch.