Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 10 (2010) - Review

Lemmelijn, Bénédicte, A Plague of Texts? A Text-Critical Study of the So-Called ‘Plagues Narrative’ in Exodus 7:14–11:10 (OTS , 56; Leiden: Brill 2009). Pp. 384. Cloth. € 125.00 US$ 185.00. ISBN 978 90 04 17235 7.

The author, professor of Old Testament at the Catholic University in Leuven and staff member of the Leuven Centre of Septuagint Studies and Textual Criticism, presents a study that has matured over two decades. She provides an impressive revision of previous work on the topic that included two unpublished MA theses (1991/93), her unpublished dissertation (1996) and ten articles (1996–2007).

The book is divided in three chapters and an extensive appendix that contains a synopsis of the extant textual witnesses of Exod 7:14–11:10. A bibliography and indexes of authors and textual references close the clearly structured book. The first chapter (pp. 1–28: “Prolegomena”) formulates a number of introductory remarks relating to textual criticism as a discipline, the textual material at our disposal, the terminology employed, and the methodological approach of the present study.

The second chapter (pp. 29–95) presents the textual variants in the form of a detailed critical apparatus. Verse by verse, Lemmelijn compares MT, LXX (following the eclectic text of the Göttingen edition), SamP (following one manuscript, edited by A. Tal) and six Qumran manuscripts. She gives a short classification of each variant (e.g. “different translation,” “difference in number,” “difference in meaning”).

The third chapter (pp. 96–208), followed by a general conclusion (pp. 209–218), is devoted to the evaluation of relevant textual variants. This section is prefaced by a lengthy discussion of the fundamental problems of the LXX as translation literature and the translation techniques in the Book of Exodus. On this foundation, 48 “relevant variants” (in 54 biblical references) are selected and sorted into various categories. In most cases the MT (often followed by some other textual witnesses) is to be preferred, but in seven cases Lemmelijn prefers the LXX (against all other witnesses). Here the LXX is free from scribal error (Exod 8:13), from secondary harmonizations (9:20, 21, 25; 10:13; 11:1) and from additions for emphasis (9:10). The famous plusses of SamP and some Qumran manuscripts are discussed separately; their secondary and harmonizing tendency points to structural irregularities in the standard literary text.

This book provides an important tool for further study, especially because Lemmelijn's collection of source material is independent from a particular model of the textual history. Its only presupposition is the acceptance that text criticism is an indispensable (and often neglected) basis for all exegetical studies. Due to the nature of such a detailed project, a narrow focus on a short section, namely Exod 7:14–11:10, is necessary. But setting the boundaries of the plague narrative as Exod 7:14–11:10 is somewhat problematic. Furthermore, there is some inconsistency in her use of the textual witnesses: in most instances concrete manu-scripts form the foundation of this study, but for the LXX the eclectic text of the Göttingen edition is used. This limitation restricts Lemmelijn's critical remarks (on p.215) about an eclectic text which did not exist in antiquity.

Notwithstanding these issues, the research community should be grateful for this insightful and helpful study. One can also eagerly look forward to the appearance of her soon to be published redaction-historical study of the same text.

Edgar Kellenberger, Oberwil, Switzerland